Writing and nostalgia

Finally, a day to relax and write.

My wife and I have been taking it easy all day, resting our poor legs. She’s still recovering from a punctured foot (from an errant garden rake… like Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons, but not nearly as funny), and I’m still hobbling around with sciatica. Between us we still have two good legs. We’d be no good in a three-legged race as they’re our left legs so we’d be running in circles. Again, cue The Simpsons. Continue reading “Writing and nostalgia”

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Ordinary Handsome: Angels

There were days – years, even – when you were bitter and lost. You moved around a lot, small towns, big cities, trying to find the perfect place to disappear. Your hair got long and you spent a lot of time wondering when your life was supposed to start. You panhandled, you slept in places not meant for sleeping, and you woke up in places where most men went to die. You moved on.
And what does this have to do with anything? You moved on, you went ahead, you followed your feet more than your heart and you ended up on the brink of holding up a liquor store. But you stopped yourself.
It was a biting cold night and you were camped out in a park in Milwaukee, wondering if it could get any worse. You sat on a bench and watched the sky fill up with ribbons of winter colors.
And then you saw your angels, silky tangled clouds that bore all the lightness you could handle. Your angels. You ended up tossing the handgun in a trash can.
You never drank, give yourself that. Not even a taste of beer or swallow of wine. You wanted to puke if you even smelled the stuff.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Ordinary Handsome: Akron

Daddy, where’s Akron? Is it in Arkansas?

I had to think on it a while. I used to know a lot of cities and where they were, but a lot of time has gone by since I had to know that doggerel.

It’s in Ohio, I think. It’s the capital city, maybe.

Oh.

Why? You planning on moving there tomorrow?

He smiled. Nah. Missus Cornell said she was from there. She’s new here and said the winters in Akron were especially cold and wondered how we fared down here. She didn’t sound like she was from Arkansas, but it’s hard to say, because she teaches math, you know.

Math teachers have their own accent, do they?

I don’t think so. She just sounds so… smart. Like she’s from a big city or something. But Akron sounds like an Arkansas town, don’t it? Or maybe Missouri. She don’t sound like she’s from around here at all.

You should Google it, I said.

Huh?

I said you should look it up in the encyclopedia. Your school still has encyclopedias, don’t they?

Yessir.

And I wondered where we would go next.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Ordinary Handsome: Roadside

So you wake up to a myopic glare of smoky light, dull and hot and raw, shapeless drifts and textures. A pounding in your ears, your guts, a harsh wet throbbing pulse in you and around you. Crushed bones and spilled heartbeats, a thrumming drum of pain. All your thoughts scrubbed away, memories blanched, self-awareness boiled out
and then something that used to resemble sleep but feels deeper and more primitive, and not even the rain feels cold because there is nothing outside of you that feels real, a tumble
down a well of darkness, of muddy thoughts and screaming voices
Me. Who is the cypher sinking in this swamp of churning thought? Blood-flow dampness, sensations of grim wandering and peeling back layers of tissue and marrow.
Days and years and moments and fragments pass, the smell of rain and moss and rotting dirt, they pass, bones crumpled like old linen, scarred flesh fills in the wounds and time becomes a moth-ridden blanket that covers you and then unravels meager threads and abandons you naked in the darkness
***
How long. The mud-stream washes away the grit and the absoluteness of nothing-thought, pieces of lights and color, sensations too vivid to be arbitrary. You are remembering who you are and who you were and none of it makes sense. Trundling beetles and curious spiders and crickets hop and study and hop, and birds cry out (widgee-widgee-widgee, three short bursts of artillery fire), and you lay there observing everything, everything out of context. Bits of radio music and soft singing voices and droning bees pass by unaware, scraps of scripture and huckstering and idle conversation flow down sticky drainage pipes, and you can’t hold onto any of it, it’s as elusive as the cycles of wind, as untouchable as darkness, needing to pry onto something, something to give it all substance and meaning.
Two. Three. Five. Seven. Eleven. Thirteen. Seventeen. Nineteen. Prime numbers. You used to know the first thousand primes, but they were all illusions of significance. And/but they helped you heal. The scream of a doe as a coyote bares its teeth; the rasping papery sound of unfolding insect wings; a vagrant wind tossing pine needles and gray plastic bags with the same indifferent breath. These are real things, things of significance. But there’s comfort in those prime numbers, a logic that propels your mind forward, a self-sustaining sanity in spite of the pain.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Ordinary Handsome: Driving in shadows

It’s still dark, and there’s still a dead body in the back of the pickup. We have to do something before sunup, and time’s running out. Time is greasy and melting like candle wax. The lines on the road are skewed, angled pell-mell. The sky is a thunderous canopy, blackened and bruised and moving like smoke. The wind smells sour and wet, and the road looks hand-drawn. Tree branches are too close and too low to the truck, and they scrape against the sides, sounding like scratched tinfoil. Continue reading “Ordinary Handsome: Driving in shadows”

Rebranding

I’m thinking of rebranding Ordinary Handsome… yes, I’m still flogging this tired old horse of mine. Because that’s what I do when I’m not writing something new.

When I first published it, I had to decide on a genre or category, and I honestly didn’t know what to call it. It’s part ghost story, part mystery, part desperate-men-doing-desperate-things-in-a-dying-little-town kind of a story. So I called it a ghost story. Which is accurate, but not quite complete. It has very little to do with the supernatural. I think, at its bare-bones core, it’s about love. The love of a father for his son. The mistakes he made, the disappointments he had to endure. A man doing the only thing he could to give his boy a future. And how it all went to hell.

I still believe in this little book. So I’ll keep running the excerpts until someone tells me to stop. I think of the excerpts as quilt pieces, arranged haphazardly but with a distinctive pattern.  I’ve omitted the threads. And it does all fit together.

So it’s a love story. Okay, I’m good with that.

OrdinaryHandsomeII Ordinary Handsome: Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Ordinary Handsome: Night sounds

The wind had picked up a little, but I didn’t feel it. It was pushing the dry leaves around, moving the workshop door back and forth without sound.

I wanted to see if the floor was still stained. I don’t know why. In all suffering, there is blood, and I wanted to see if it was still there. I knew it wouldn’t be. Men like Kincaid always cover up their stupid excesses, and then trip over their vanities.

I heard a pickup truck rumbling a couple of blocks away and almost lost my nerve. But then it faded off, its engine misfiring, its muffler full of holes.

I walked over to the workshop. The sound of the old truck managed to calm me down. There was still life in Handsome, though it was fading out like a radio signal. I wasn’t all alone.

The grass was overgrown and I heard it rub against my shoes. The ground was spongy like a soft linoleum floor. There was enough dew on the grass to leave images of my footprints behind.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Ordinary Handsome: Burial grounds

When he tripped over what appeared to be a ribcage, Ricky clutched his Nikon close to his chest. He saw the bones and wondered if a ground angle shot would work best. Maybe a shallow focus. The light was thin and the shadows were heavy, but….

And then he realized these were human bones. His first thought was that he had discovered a deer carcass. Up close and at ground level, he understood.

A few feet away, there were even more bones: a femur, a dissevered pelvis, a skull. The skull had been shattered, and the remaining bones were weathered and splintered, stained an ugly corrosive brown. They were scraped and punctured by teeth. The ground around him was a makeshift burial circle.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

Family Anatomy: The fire

Granny’s house burned down back in ’62. Great licks of fire swallowed the back bedroom and spit out glowing chars that spread to the outhouse and briefly touched the old pines that split the property from the Poulson’s. Bright orange-red embers floated onto the front porch like snow and started in on the old dry wicker chairs. Soon, the whole front of the house bloomed a rose of fire. I saw Grandpa Watson evacuate the outhouse with a newspaper in one hand and shit dribbling down his haunches. His mouth was a perfect “O”, toothless and baby-pink. He hitched up his drawers and ran to the back, helpless and hopeless. Granny didn’t rise until 10, and it was only half-past eight. The whole place roared open and we stood a safe distance away on the scraped-earth driveway, waiting for either firemen or the rest of the world fire-up. Continue reading “Family Anatomy: The fire”