Drop or release

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I’m still planning on a January 5 release for A Very Tall Summer. All that’s left is for for my beta reader to finish, and then give me her comments/suggestions. That would be my wife Angela. I completely trust and value her opinion.

Baring any oversights or plot threads I’ve failed to connect (entirely possible), it should be good to go. Ange is a careful reader, and she catches all my glaring errors and mishandled sentences. She intentionally did not read any of the excerpts I’ve posted because she wanted to approach it fresh, without any preconceptions. She’s also an amazing writer, so she knows what’s what.

She knew about Ordinary Handsome, of course, because it was such an important project for me… twenty-plus years in the making. This one, though, came out of nowhere and I grabbed it before it could  escape.

Speaking of which….

I am releasing this book, not dropping it. That’s a word I’ve come to dislike in that context. An artist should not drop their work, whether they be novelists, poets, singers, actors, etc. The use of that word, to me, sounds lazy and irreverent. Releasing one’s work is a monumental thing. It’s both frightening and amazing. If the work was done with passion and curiosity, then it’s best to let it fly. Dropping it? Whatev.

And so I am not dropping this like a pad of butter on the floor. I’m releasing this caged animal of mine into an unsuspecting world. It might be a rabid skunk, or it may be something that will fly, I don’t know. But I did my best, and I’m proud of it.

Pardon the rant. I guess I’m slowly turning into a get-off-my-lawn-you-whippersnappers kind of  guy.

Thanks to all who have patiently — and dare I say, enthusiastically — read the excerpts, liked them, and commented. Positive feedback for a writer is pure gold. So thanks so much.

As Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” 🙂

Stay sweet

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It’s all a guise, you know. Staying sweet. Where did I get that? Why was it bestowed upon me that I be the sweet one? If a person has no voice, they must be filled with sugar. Any complaint is sour, and they think you have an unkind disposition, a bitter outlook. Sweet is better, silence is preferred. But what if I wanted – needed – to talk back? You’re not being very sweet, honey, you need to stay sweet. Peace is over the next hill. What hill? Show me these hills and I’ll climb them, if only to get away from the aggravation and isolation. I never asked for a tall sky. Maybe I wanted a short box of a sky, with trees and rooftops I could see. Maybe I wanted clouds I could reach and pull down like curtains. This grand, tall sky lends no perspective to who I am, or could be. I feel swallowed by Leviathan, digested every day, until the sweetness is gone, like a depleted piece of candy.

– Excerpt from A Very Tall Summer – Coming soon

The maple

Twenty years, more, moss has been climbing that tree, a dirty velvet skirt. It’s the only tree in the backyard, and I’ve yet to see it flush with leaves. The other plants are fine: day lilies and daisies, bulky hydrangeas and powder puff chrysanthemums. Those are the only organic things not recovering from self-infliction. The tree, though, an old maple, is this dead stalk in the middle of the yard, and the moss climbs in patches, frothing green, embracing the dead. There’s a metaphor there, kind of obvious, but everyone here is healing and the tree is just another reminder that there is always death in the midst of simple patterns. We aren’t expected to thrive, and none of us do, but to recover. The cobblestoned yard is another reminder. A step at a time.

The cynical me wonders if they killed the tree on purpose. Fuck, it’s part of the logo on their sign, and would be on all the brochures if they could afford them. Coop, the janitor, sweeps the cobblestones every morning, and I’ll bet it’s hard on his old feet, all those uneven surfaces and dirt between the cracks. But he does it every day. Then he takes the hose and washes it clean. Every goddamn day.

Or maybe I see signs in everything: a dead tree, grubby puke-stained cobblestones, people like me who sit on a bench and watch it all happen. I’ve been here before, two-or-three days at a time, and it’s always the same. Even the visitors are the same, and the sickness. Do we go to other places in our head, to salvage something inside us, something better, something noble, or are we all wandering between the spaces? Am I a cowboy? It’s there, I feel it. I feel the hard dirt under my boots, and a vast beige land that flows past the horizon. Or is this me, staring at a dead tree, watching the moss give it some semblance of life?

Dunk’s

My old man used to say you could tell the worth of a man by how much crap was on his boots. If there was mud on the toe, he was probably a farmer; greasy laces, a mechanic. Wingtips, a lawyer.

He ran Dunk’s Barbershop on Oldfella Road, right across from the laundromat. The place is long gone, of course. It became a beauty salon, then a used bookstore, and is now a Hallmark outlet in case you ever need a ready-made apology in a colored envelope.

Dad hired me on when I was five-years-old. I swept the floor-hair and dumped it into an old ash bucket. I must have been a sight then. Five years old and ponying around the floor with a broom twice my size. The locals got a kick out of it, and some of them gave me pennies for the gumball machine. Dad paid me a dime for every day I worked, which was usually Tuesdays and Fridays after school, and Saturday mornings. Doesn’t sound like much now, but it added up. And Saturday noon, after he closed the place, we’d go over to Donny’s over on Marshall Street, and he’d treat me to a gypsy dog, loaded with cheese, onions, pickles, and sauerkraut. That, my friend, is a kid’s version of a sirloin steak with all the trimmings.

He was basically a good guy, my dad. When he had his final stroke at fifty-three, I stopped breathing for a minute or two. I knew it was coming; hell, we both did after the first one. Even so, it cut me hard. To this day, I’ll take care of my own damned hair before I let anyone else touch it with a pair of scissors. Funny, that. I haven’t thought about Dunk’s in a long time. You don’t think about haircuts until you see someone coming towards you with long hair. It gives a man pause, makes him think about where his heart used to be. I’m twelve years older than he was when he passed. Doesn’t seem fair.