Cronic, can you hear the wind gushing from the vents, the blood blushing in your veins, the appetite of so many years gone by when you were made to watch and listen rather than eat what was right before you? Do you remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you, called you stupid and insignificant and not worthy of the seed that produced you? Do you remember the voices crying out to you in the darkness when the light bulb shattered and the dust fell upon the broken concrete floor, cracks as fine as spider legs, as wide as your heart being stuffed into a shallow pit? You are moving away, away, away, not toward something that might not even exist anymore. It doesn’t matter what’s ahead, because it’s different from what is behind. Listen to the wind gushing through the vents and around your ears. It is the sound of movement, of motion, of distancing yourself from when you were a kitten, hungry for something that could not be defined, that could not be allowed. Stop moving and stare into the eyes of that ugly dog once more and see that he means you no harm, he means to show you the proper way to get away, with dignity and sorrow for what you’re running away from. It is all right to be afraid, but it is not right to remain timid of your past. You are a man now, not a frightened kitten longing for something you thought you needed, or deserved. You are a man with thousands of miles ahead of you, ribbons of highway that can take you anywhere and everywhere. Find a place where you can be content and listen to the wind around you, breathing with you, filling your lungs with newness and opportunity. Don’t be timid, don’t be frightened of something that happened a thousand years ago. That kitten is dead, as that man who frightened you is dead. He’s dead, Cronic. Reclaim your name, reclaim your life and your dignity. Running will bring you more sorrow and bloodshed and anger.

Coming Soon….


Crazy is as crazy does… again and again and again….

You’re nothin’ but a Cronic pain in the ass,” say one mamma, and she slap my ear with a dish towel over and over till it bleeds. Some fake daddy kiss me on the mouth an’ stroke my charlie then wrap a telephone cord ‘round my neck, screamin’ and hollerin’ that I’m a bad, bad boy.

You a Cronic piece o’ shit, said one old lady who locked me in the broom closet all night and I feel crickets and bottle flies crawling on my dirty skin.

I just cry myself to sleep, sometimes bleeding from the ears or fingers, sometimes not, wantin’ Ole Mamma to come for me, wantin’ Dee-Dee Martella to come home and get me, waitin’ for Daddy to pull up in his truck and say, come on now, Charlie (or Nicky, or Danny, or who ever I am I am I am), let’s pull the plug on this ole shithole an’ go drivin’ to see your Mamma.

And I cry at bein’ so happy, an’ I cry ‘cause I don’t ever know if I’m the right boy for Mamma and Daddy, if I’m the wrong boy and they don’t want me no more. I forget my own name and they might not remember it, either.

Hey, Charlie. Hey, Charlie Coffin. Come on for a spin. I’m on a pussy hunt an’ I want you here ‘side of me.”

I ain’t no Charlie Coffin. I’m Charlie Danny Scott Cronic.”

Ordinary Handsome: Saturday nights

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome


We lived in a tumbledown farmhouse outside of town. My father worked the nineteen acres he leased from Bennett Crawley, who owned the Five Star. Farm work bored my father, I think, or confused him. He was always on his feet, always looking for someplace else to be.

I remember an old tractor in the barn, a Massey Harris that was as red and flaking as a fresh scab. It was old, even back then, and I heard him start it up only once. Spirals of thick smoke poured out of the barn and scared my mother so bad she filled all her wash buckets in case the building caught fire. The tractor engine made a drawn-out grinding sound and then popped a loud backfire that frightened all our chickens. Dad stepped out of the barn, swathed in smoke and shame, and he never tended to it again. It may sit there still, buried beneath heaps of barn boards and tangled chicken wire. Continue reading Ordinary Handsome: Saturday nights

Old stuff

Reading through some of my older works — mainly Cronic right now — is like glancing through an old diary. It brings back vivid memories of places and times, rooms, weather, moods.

Cronic, if I’m remembering correctly, was written in five different houses. My wife and I moved a lot when we were first married, from a comfortable (if messy) bachelor apartment to a house of our own. It was the last completed novel I wrote before moving down here to Virginia, and we’ve lived here now for seven and a half years. Wow!

I typically spend between two and three years on a novel, but this one took me a lot longer. I quit writing for a number of years before I tackled it. Mostly, I was burned out, fed up with my job, and mentally exhausted and frustrated from lack of interest from publishers. Enough, I told myself.

Marriage was a great inspiration. Ange, who is a remarkable artist and a writer, brought back a lot of the creativity I was lacking. Cronic was a big leap for me. I think of it as my first real novel. Maybe that’s why she’s so sentimental about it. And re-reading it, for the first time in seven years, has brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings. I tried to honestly capture something very different. It’s got a “screw it, I’m doing this the way I want to do it” attitude.

I remember writing some of it, but not all of it. At some point, it became a blur of pages piling up on my desk. I remember certain paragraphs and phrases, but I’m reading it more than editing it, and it brings back waves of feeling. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, but one of the most satisfying. I think, within those pages, I finally acknowledged to myself that I was a writer, for better or worse. Even if no one ever read it, I did what I set out to do and was happy with it. I can look back at it now, seven years later, and see the flaws and a few “what the hell was I thinking?” sections that I would now approach differently, but overall, I’m not going to mess with it. It is what it is: brutal, yearning for expression, and a means to welcome back my imagination.

And dude, it was a hell of a ride.


I’ve been in a quiet, contemplative mood all day… not much zip. I’m going on a training course in Georgia for a couple of days next week and I’m apprehensive about it. I don’t like spending that much time away from home (yes, I’ve become quite the homebody these past few years), and leaving my wife by herself… with the chickens, the horse, the cat and the dog. She’s more than capable, of course, but it brings back memories of when we were separated for five weeks… she setting up house here and me still in Canada waiting for all the immigration paperwork to come through.

I know it’s only a couple of days… well, almost three. But still. I’d rather be home.brown