RIP October


October was such a strange month for me. Many changes and much stress.

I was “promoted” at my job (and promotion is very much up to interpretation)… more work, more responsibilities, more co-ordination between departments. More pay? We’ll see). It required me to be in LaGrange, Georgia for three days for training, and there’s nothing more depressing than being stuck in hotel, alone, two States away from home.

And the weather has abruptly changed, from lackluster October to what-the-hell-is-this-stuff cold November. Half an inch of snow on the ground Saturday morning. The older I get, the less prepared I am to handle it. But of course I will. I’m a born and raised Canadian, so it’s not like it’s a foreign substance. Just the circle of freaking life, eh?

And then yesterday I finally launched my first ebook on Amazon… the culmination of a lot of hard work, sweat, cursing and anxiety. I swear the writing was the easiest part of the whole process. Editing, sculpting, tossing, re-writing, editing, polishing, editing. And then formatting for a decent presentation. And now promoting. Promotion is not my strong suit, but I push onward because I don’t want “Ordinary Handsome” to die on the vine. It’s been a large part of my life and, regardless of its success, I’m proud of it. It’s good. I hope. I think. Or am I one of those “American Idol” wannabes who steps on stage who think they sound like Sinatra and… well, the grinding screech of a braking train carries a better melody? It’s all subjective. God bless ’em, some people were meant to be shower-singers, and some people were meant to be “maybe my grandma might like this” kind of writers. I hope I’m not the latter, but I don’t know. Because writing is so subjective (as is all art) that I just don’t know. Self-doubt, I think, is part of the genetics of a writer.

But now it’s there. It’s done. It’s waiting to be read.

And now it’s November. A few small creative ideas are flickering around my imagination, but nothing hard and shiny yet. Dust mites. And I don’t want to rest. I’m waiting for that big kaboom idea. I know it’s there, and I’m looking for it. And then I’ll start the whole process over again. And man, I can’t wait!

The Wyoming Coast


(This is the opening of a completed but as yet unedited novel I finished four years ago. I’m thinking of revisiting and polishing it as my next project. Please let me know what you think.)

When did the music begin? It started on a saloon piano, a quick-fingered splay of keys. And then it faded, faded into the wet cup of a respirator. But it was sweet music, and it made my face sweat.

A guy with Alzheimer’s walks into a saloon. I don’t remember the rest, but I think it’s a hoot.

Little Kinsi walks her doll. Her blue dress is faded almost white. She stares like a harlequin, big blue eye. Old tears smudge lines across her cheeks. Face drained gray, the color of smoke. The doll is an old thing, its shoulders bleed polymer. It bounces off her hip, twisted hair done up in a thick bundle. It smells like Pine-Sol and mothballs.
Mister can you help me, she says, and I shake my head, my soft bald head the color of lacquered pine.
She lives the next street over, except she’s not six-years-old, she twenty-six, and the baby is not pretend, it’s real, and it’s dirty, and the stink from its diaper is corrosive. How do I look to her? Like someone capable of saving someone, anyone, or just another phantom wandering the street? Where is Kinsi, she was just here.

“It was a dream,” says Cholo.
“I saw her. She was talking to that man.”
“We were watching ‘Criminal Minds’. Don’t you remember?”
“This was different. It wasn’t a dream.”
“How is it different?”
I thought about it. “Nothing happened. Something always happens in dreams. The man could have been a grandfather or an uncle.”
“Then maybe that’s all it was.”
“No. She was scared. Nervous.”
“That’s how you saw it. Some kids are naturally nervous.”
“This was a different kind of nervous.”
Cholo shakes his head. “Then why didn’t she run away? Or yell?”
“There was no one else. Just me. Just another old man, watching them.”
“Then why didn’t you try to get some help?”
“I didn’t know. It looked… natural. Like he was a grandfather or an–”
“Older uncle. Yes.”
“Is it because of this thing? Because of the ‘A’ word? Just because I have it doesn’t mean I can’t see things as they really are.”
Cholo pats me on the shoulder. “We were watching TV last night. ‘Criminal Minds’. Remember? And before that we watched ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’. And before that we had a light supper. You weren’t anywhere to see such a thing.” He smiles at me fondly, like a grandfather or an older uncle. I hate him for it, but I’m not sure he’s wrong. Maybe it was just…
“A dream, cowboy. You just had a strange dream.”
And I wonder. Am I fading faster than we thought?

A Whiskey Drinking Man

slipping away

Push a narrow slice of sidepork around the skillet with a fork, then drown it with an egg. Cup of Jim Beam coffee, heavy on the Beam. The sizzle and the pop, the grease jumps up, the Beam jumps down and it’s the all-American, how-do-you-do breakfast, every morning, pal. Wake up and slap your face with water and cologne, and let the day open up. Radio in the background, something low, something slow, something from a time when jazz houses were busting open and the gin stayed cold in the glass.
Every morning the same; same dull antidote for the night before. Shaky hands wash away the sleep, the tiredness, but not the grime hiding behind the eyes and underneath the skin. Arms calcified, shoulders hard as planks. A hard night in the Round Table, shuffling goons and serving the dollies, some of them lonely, most of them bored, wanting to break up , break in, or just break clean. The same nickel movies and the same greasy dives, no night life, no flash, just the same over-and-over. The night blurs like a shaggy curtain, and the bed, a dirty cluster of unwashed socks and unclaimed brassieres, leftovers from another damaged night.