Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Almost Writing About What's on my Mind

So as I post this, R&A has had 9999 page hits.  Incredible.  Thank you.

I wasn’t late for the train today BUT it was raining so hard I was still tempted to run for it.  Never fear, there is still a bit of pride left in me.  I walked.  Then I wrung out my socks.

I plan on entering the Palm something or other screen writing contest today.  I was going to do it last night but I forgot.  Midnight tonight is the deadline.  Why am I entering a contest that I don’t even remember the full name of off the top of my head?  Easy.  I have an amazing script that doesn’t fit into most contests (35 pages), there’s a cash prize, and remember the first paragraph?  Pride.

I made the finals in last night’s 5 minute fiction.  Amazing to me how in just 4 paragraphs I was able to go from fairly normal and funny to weird and dark.  Feel free to vote for anyone.

I have a new favorite TV show.  I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.  Today it is time to look at Wash’s journal.

June 9, 1979 – New York City
As I wrote yesterday, I’m visiting my friend Frank in New York.  Today he had to go into work to proctor an exam and invited me along.  It’s been a few hundred years since I set foot in a high school so I readily accepted his invitation.  How bad could it be?

It could be bad.  But it was nothing like Guadalcanal or France despite the best efforts of popular media to convince you otherwise.

We were set up in the gymnasium of the Mount Jefferson High School for Rapscallions, Hoodlums, and N’er-do-wells where rows upon rows of desks had been hand carried from the various classrooms and painstaking placed in ordered rows.  At the front of the formation stood a folding table with two chairs, a pot of coffee, the instruction booklet, and a stop watch.

Many of the students who came in greeted my friend warmly, comrades rather than indentured servants, and the air was filled with such pleasantries as “Good morning Mr. McCourt.” Followed by his unmusical, “Morning Phillip.” Or “Morning Jennifer.”  I believe that for every Phillip there were seven or eight Jennifers.

He got the test started and we spent the next two hours giving everyone the evil eye.  It was great fun.  When the test was over the students tripped over themselves to bring the booklets up and escape into the city.  Except for one young man who was still hard at work.
Frank reminded him that time was up and he said, “Yes, yes.  I’m almost finished.”  Frank said, “You have to be finished now.  The time is up.”  The student raised his hand for silence.

This was interesting.  Frank went to the desk of the student and said, “I really have to take this now.  I’m sorry.”  The student scratched out several more answers and then put down his pencil.  “No worries.  I’ve finished.” he said.

Frank told him that he couldn’t take the test now because he had cheated and taken more time than was allowed.  As we walked to the proctor’s table, the student agreed that normally that would be a problem.  “But, this is different.”

“How so?” asked Frank.  The student looked at him, serious as could be, and said, “Don’t you know who I am, Mr. McCourt?”

“I do not.” said my friend.  “Nor do I care.  The rules are the same for everyone.”  The student shook his head.  “You really don’t know who I am?”

Frank said, and quite smugly I might add, “Young man, I don’t care if you are the son of the president.  You’ve taken too long and I can’t accept your work.”

The young man said, “Don’t worry.  I’m not the son of the president.”  He shoved his test booklet in the middle of the pile on the table.  “I’m nobody.” he said and turned to walk out.

I began to work on the pile.   Surely I could figure out which test had just been added.  I was interrupted however by the belly laugh of my friend and his arm on my shoulder.  “Leave it.” he said.  “He’ll be just fine in life even if he needs a little extra time.”

I wish that were true.  I wish it didn’t matter how much time we given and that we could get a little extra if we really need it.  Maybe it would make a difference.  Make the difference between getting by and being alive.  Make the difference for those of left afterward who just want to know why.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sometimes you have to write about something other than what's on your mind.

When I was little I had book about a duck named Ping who lived on the Yangtze river.  He worked for a fisherman and it was his job (and the job of the other ducks) to catch fish.  They even had rings around their necks so they couldn’t swallow a whole fish.  At night the fisherman would blow his whistle and they would climb back into his boat on a long gangway and sleep comfortably on beds of straw.

The last duck would always get a solid thwunking from the fisherman with a thick cudgel.  That was to make sure that every duck knew to hurry when he blew the whistle and not tarry.

Ping was a young duck.  He liked to tarry and would often wait until the last minute to return to the boat.  One night he wasn’t going to make it in time and would be the last duck.  He chose instead to wander in the reeds.  It was scary but the next morning was full of exciting adventures with lots of river boats, long necked loons, and something I’ve forgotten.

The point is that at the end of the day he heard a familiar whistle and scrambled to find the boat so he could be reunited with his mother.  Of course he was the last duck and got thwunked.  Of course he didn’t mind because he deserved it and he was now warm and safe.

I always liked Ping.  When my mother was in graduate school and we would visit her and go to the library, I always wanted Ping and something by McCloskey – preferably One Morning in Maine.

This morning I felt a bit like Ping.  I parked my truck in the lot and heard the train whistle.  I’ve been proud and spent the extra half hour sitting around but it was raining and I have a meeting so I ran for it.  The conductor didn’t hit me with a big stick but I got the glare and the “Next time I won’t wait” speech.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Teacher Becomes the Author

The baseball games went well this weekend.  Both boys got to pitch.  Both spent some time on base.  It didn’t rain on us (very much) while we were out watching.  I got bored with baseball very quickly when I was a kid.  One season was enough for me.  I think that #3 feels the same way.  #4 however, seems to have been bitten by some sort of bug and I suspect that if there was a baseball cereal he’d ask his mother to buy it for him.

It’s good to find something you love when you are young.  You have the rest of your life to enjoy it and, if you have the desire and discipline, to get good at it.  But what about those of us who are only just getting started?  You know, those of us planning retirement from our careers who can’t pick up baseball and hit in the majors for $237, 883 per swing?

If you are writing, I offer Frank McCourt.  I started his book, “Teacher Man” this weekend and like it.  He has a distinctive voice and his story, while personal, is not like the commentary that generally accompanies vacation slides.

The thing is, Frank didn’t publish his first novel until he was 66.  Admittedly, he was as surprised by his success and everyone else, but… 66.  If you have a story to tell, tell it.  Find someone else to help you tell it, whatever.  You’re not as old as you think.

Seriously.  Pop an Advil, stop complaining, and do it already.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Does sitting in a field make you profound?

I’m sitting at the park on a beautiful Saturday morning listening to birds chirping and old men yelling at young boys to hurry up.  What I don’t understand about baseball is the rush of it all.  Nothing happens fast in baseball except moving the players from place to place.  So they can wait.

I remember being in boot camp and double-timing it the long way around to the other side of the post so we could sit in an empty building for half an hour.  It’s the same with baseball.  Run, run, run so you arrive fifteen seconds earlier and can stand in line longer.

I see the same thing on the road.  Light turns green.  Zoom, zoom, zoom 500 yards to the next red light.  Cut and weave for a car length because the light will change and after 20 such maneuvers you might be first in line and have the chance to cut though on a fresh red.

I’m not saying my way is best, but rather if you see my truck, or lawn chair, you should probably switch lanes because I’m just not in that big of a hurry.

For some reason, nobody interrupts me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Caller Identity

We had a very successful trip into the city yesterday.  It was a bit chilly with the wind by the time we passed into the afternoon everything was very nice.  I saw several people I knew in rather odd places along the way and it fed into the legend that my children have about what it is, exactly, that I do.

I haven’t corrected any of their imaginings.  After all, as my dear great aunt used to say, “Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?”

Hopefully this will be a good story.

“That Call”
by Jon Stark
April, 2014

It had been years since Nicky’s heart had raced at the sound of her phone ringing.  At first it had always been a mix of hope and terror – that she had been found alternately by him or them.  Then the seasons went by and, although she was disavowed, no hit squad ever showed up at her door step.  She stopped moving as often.

She faced the only truth left.  Nobody cared about the secrets in her head.  She was a loose end that didn’t matter.  It was a little bit of a relief that her former employer didn’t seem care though she knew from personal experience that what didn’t matter Monday was a matter of national security on Tuesday.  What bothered her was him.

She wasn’t exactly waiting but she wasn’t hiding as deeply as she should be and on those mornings when she woke up after feeling especially sorry for herself, she always wished it was him there and she wouldn’t have to take the walk of shame.

When he escaped them in New York she had thought it a matter of weeks before he reached out to her.  He’d found Marie just a month after Paris.  But that wasn’t what happened and as the years went by she found it harder to believe that it was amnesia that kept him away rather than choice.

Maybe she didn’t want to be with him anymore.  She still woke up sometimes remembering how cold his eyes were that afternoon in Berlin when he would have killed her and never given it a second thought.

Yet here she sat, alone at a table outside L’Asino d’Oro staring at her mobile as it rang.  Unknown number.  Him or them?

She answered.  She knew the voice.  Would never forget the voice.  “Who is this?” she asked.  The most important question in her life.  Who was calling her?  What did this mean?  Her hands trembled.

“It’s David.” he said.  She looked around.  Every face.  Who was on phones? Cars nearby?  She was exposed.  It was habit.

“David?”  Was it really?  Or was it still Jason.  Was he playing her.

“Yes.  May I join you?”

She saw him.  In the doorway of the restaurant.  He looked like Jason – haunted, tired – but he looked at her like David.

She put her phone down.  She should run.  She should watch for bag man in the other direction.  She should go to him.  She should dive to the street.  She should…

But it was too late and he was there and she was in his arms and it was David and it had all been a bad dream and it was over and they were together.

“You told me on the way to Morocco that it was hard for you.  With me.” he said.  “I wanted to give that back to you.”

“You were someone else in Morocco.” she heard her voice say.  His arms were strong around her.  He was warm against her.  She knew she was crying.  “Who are you now?”

He kissed her.  “I would never have done it if I’d known there were going to make me forget you.”

“David.”  She melted against him.

“We can’t stay here.”  He guided her to the street and through the plaza.  “Nobody is looking for you.  I made Pamela promise.”  He turned her to look at him.  “But they can’t let me go.  Especially now that I know.  That I remember.”

“Don’t leave me again.” she said.

“Are you sure?”  He watched the Polizia gathering at the other side of the square – talking together, gesturing wildly.  Pointing at him.

She nodded.

“Do you have car?”

She led him to her Alfa.  Handed him her keys.  He was Jason now but she wanted it that way.  Jason was their only chance to be together and, in a dark corner of her soul, she loved him too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"What're you, crazy, that's lemming talk!"

We’re off to the big town.  A couple of weeks late a few metro cards short of the cherry blossoms, but it’s still spring.  #4 doesn’t understand why anyone would want to go to a botanical garden.  I had a similar thought when I was his age but that first visit – in the midst of Prince Charles marrying Dianna – convinced me that being able to walk from desert to rain forest was cool enough to visit any garden out there.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on the concept for the next script.  Found a new idea that really bolsters one I’ve been kicking around for a year.  Might be go time as the next project, when this draft of Falling Star is finished.  Hopefully in a week.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Walking the earth like Cain."

April is sort of like Friday.  It’s a fine month in its own right, but really, everybody is excited because the next month is May and it will be summer.  Not because they actually like the idea of getting up early and fighting traffic to the train station just like every other work day.  So which month is like a Wednesday?  That depends on the week.

My mother-in-law made me an apple pie and it was very, very good.  Got me thinking how lucky we are to have apple trees everywhere.  Reminded me of this entry from Washington Orville Hampton’s diary.

May 7, 1804 – Venango Couty, PA

I was fishing along French Creek this afternoon with Edmund Torrence and Archibald Montclaire when out of the scrub emerged a Bostoner dressed as an injun.  Edmund went for his musket but I stayed his hand.  The stranger noted our fresh catch and offered to trade a jug of his hard cider for some dinner.  We were agreeable, especially when our new companion began telling stories.

The afternoon passed quickly due to the quality of both the conversation and cider.  At one point Archie commented that it would be nice to get a jug of that cider in any town he traveled to.  One thing led to another, as it always does with Archie and by the time the sun had begun to set, Archie and Edmund had established and funded the “Appleseed Cooperative” with John Chapman as manager and employee specifically tasked with planting tart orchards everywhere that we were likely to travel during the next few years.

Naturally this was done for the purpose of a wager on the success of Chapman’s venture with Edmund convinced that he would succeed and Archibald thinking that the Mohicans would get him before we drank another gallon of his liquid ambrosia.  I don’t much care about the wager but I like Johnny and plan to travel with him for the summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Writer's on the Wall

I happen to catch the Bamboo Killers blog entry (some strong language) about being a writer – specifically E.B. was saying that she wasn’t a writer and was wrestling with getting on with her life.  Bastante.  It was a very honest post and I’m glad that she hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.  But I disagree with her a little.  Or do I?

She wrote that despite validation and winning a major contest, she wasn’t a writer.  Her basis?  She isn’t making a living writing.  It’s the same discussion I’ve read a dozen times in the last year.  What makes you a writer?  I have an opinion and it isn’t tied to the money.

But what does everyone else consider a writer?  We have labels based on occupations – teacher, sailor, soldier, spy – so it’s easy to know who fits in.  But what about me?  I teach a lot even though I’m not called a teacher.  I can juggle too, but I’m not called a juggler.  Of course the guy on stilts at the beach isn’t a juggler either even though we call him one.  He’s a creative writing major at the local university trying to earn tuition money so he can become a teacher.

So what gives?  I suspect it has to do with the idea that we all learn to write and so many people have ideas for stories and wrote poems in love letters/texts.  What makes you so special that you can be called writer while I can’t?  For too many people the only proof is the paycheck.

For me it’s far simpler.  If I don’t write, I explode.  Ergo, I’m a writer.  Just not yet a commercially successful one.
For a dog person, Emily sure has a lot of cat pictures on her blog

Monday, April 21, 2014

A watched bulb never bloom

The kids are on spring break.  I hope they have a good time.  I’m not on break, a fact which still confuses the youngest of them, but there are some perks.  I pass a big high school on the way to the train station.  Today I made the station 10 minutes earlier than usual.  We have a 30 gallon hot water heaters.  Today my shower was hot.

It may be Monday, but so far it’s a pretty good day.

When I pulled back into town Saturday evening I noticed that the leaves were out.  They had still been working on that when I left the weekend before.  It got me thinking about writing.  Sure, everything gets me thinking about writing, but this was about the process of writing, not a specific story.

You sit there, struggling to bring your tale into focus, or bloom, and nothing happens.  You’ve got the basic framework (branches) and some ideas (buds) but you can’t get it together.  So you go away for a week and when you come back – boom!  (Or should I say, “Bloom?”)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Goodbye, Denver.

I’m sure that you have been wondering about the pictures this week.  They haven’t really been especially related to the posts and seem sort of random.  If you haven’t been wondering that don’t tell me, I have this fantasy that you, my faithful readers, carefully analyze my work and seek hidden meanings and such.

Let’s review, shall we?  What’s the commonality between Good Luck Charlie, Last Man Standing, Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman, and Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead?  (Mork and Mindy wasn’t really a good choice, but is still sort of connected.)

I’ve been on the road.  And today, as I write, I’m sitting at DIA waiting for my plane so I can say, “Good bye.” to Denver.

Hey, look!  Denver is saying Good bye back.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mose and Sally

Mose leaned against the stone fa├žade of the Bank of the West building on the corner of 16th and Champa.  It had snowed the night before but now, closing in on sunset, it was near 80 and promised the first comfortable night of the spring.  No fighting over street vents tonight.

He opened the black case, lined with velour, and drew forth Sally.  She was the only thing he truly owned.  The only thing he’d brought with him from the old life.  Even the clothes on his back were someone else’s.  But not Sally.

It was a little early for the real Friday night crowd but there were plenty of tourists, drawn to the “life style” stores on 16th that sold gummie bears and chocolate chip cookies with kick.  Aside from the tax revenue for the state, the legalization of marijuana had also increased trade for all of the businesses along the open air mall.

He moistened the reed – more of a kiss, really – and began to play.  Sally was a bass saxophone and Mose had once been a great.  You wouldn’t have heard of him, honest blue jazz isn’t the sort of music people listen to anymore, but if you heard him play you would stop what you were doing.  A cobra to a charmer.

And the people – commuters and tourists – all stopped when Sally began to sing.  Mose had killed a man with a plastic fork one night to keep her from being stolen.  He had gone hungry for almost a month rather than pawn her.  Sally was special to him.  She was his only tie to before.

It had been a hobby first, in the days  before Capital and Virgin and MCA.  He’d been born able to play a reed but he never took it seriously until chance and fate went on a date where he was washing dishes.  The sax player was picked up on his way into the club with an 8 ball.  Clyde had panicked until Mose said, “I can play a little.”  “Let me hear you.” said Clyde.

Mose played 5 nights a week after that.  He made 6 figures a year through the 80s as a sessions player.  He played with Kenny a couple of times and probably could have gotten his own record, but Mose wasn’t that sort of man.  For him it was about the music.  It was about being in the groove with Sally.  It was about jamming.  And six figures bought a lot of blow back then.

The drugs nearly killed him.  He fled L.A. and the money in his pocket stretched across the Rockies but no further.  He landed in Denver in 1993.  He’s seen a lot since then.  Has even had paying gigs since then (he’s Lisa Simpson’s sax) but he never went back to the big time.

He lived in the Bermuda Triangle until the city fathers fenced it up and sent the bums scurrying for cover.  There’s not a mission in the city that won’t squeeze him in if he shows up at their door.  But he doesn’t go usually.  He doesn’t want to take the bed from someone who needs it more.  And they make him play.

It isn’t that he doesn’t enjoy playing.  He loves his time with Sally.  It’s more about the pressure of the performance, the need to be amazing.  On the street he only plays when he wants to.  Like tonight.

I get chills thinking about it.  The longing.  The sorrow.  The love and loss.  When Mose and Sally are together everything else stops.  And on the corner of 16th and Champa their voice echoes and you are drawn into a secret world.  If you could turn away, if you could look west, you’d see the Rockies leaning in closer.  Remembering eternity past.  Drawn to the song of a man’s suffering, of his penance for a candle burned at both ends.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"She's 35. She doesn't have alot of time left!"

I had a very early and very busy morning.  I always confuse this show with the other one that was on about the same time -- Paradise maybe?  I can't even think of it right now.  More coffee.

Seriously.  I need more coffee.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Listen my children and you shall hear..."

Washington Orville Hampton remembers when North America was an unsettled wilderness and there were no giant sporting goods stores anchoring malls where buffalo once grazed.

I had the misfortune of discovering a dead man this evening while walking through North Boston.  As I passed Christ’s Church I heard a shouting from above and looked up to see two shadows fighting in the bell tower.  I couldn’t see them very well as only a single lantern was hung and my feeble light didn’t extend that high.

While it is not generally my purpose to interpose myself into the business affairs of others, it seemed that one of the men was wearing a red jacket and with the “Sons of Liberty” so active, I was concerned for his safety.

I rushed into the church and made for the bell tower.  While climbing the ladder – no mean feat for one of my stature – I heard to most horrible scream and then the struggle stopped.  I reached the top and steeled myself for the worst.

I found the corpse of a man who had been recently stabbed to death but there was no sign of his assailant.  I came all of the way up and raised my lantern into the air and cast about.  There was a rope dangling and I saw the chap in the red jacket running off.

I am not a doctor and there was nothing I could do for the poor dead man, so I shut off his lantern lest it caught the church on fire, and descended with my own light.

I went to the barracks to report the incident only to discover that the garrison had been rowed across the river and were on their way to Lexington at that very hour.  This cannot be good.  I must book passage back to Europe first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Don't blink."

I’m really liking this new ultrabook vs. the iPad for writing.  Being able to work directly in Final Draft and Word is nice.  Being able to use Power Structure on the go is very nice.  Being able to use them all at once is… slow.  It works, but I think the machine that was twice the price would handle it better.  When I am writing in FD but fast switching back and forth with PS for reference, I can end up a couple of sentences ahead of the application.  There’s a good buffer so as long as I’m accurate it isn’t that big of a deal, but it does slow things down.

I type quickly, but not that quickly.  Unless you hunt and peck you’ll have the same issues if you do what I did and buy the cheapest, smallest machine you could find.  The one that was twice the price probably doesn’t have the same issue.  In the old days I’d worry about battery life with the faster processor but it advertised 8 hours.  That’s impressive.  I’m impressed with the 5-6 I’ve been getting from this one.

The good news is that I don’t have any issues at all running a single application and that usually how I roll.  The really good news is that my concerns over the larger footprint are completely unfounded.  I didn’t think an extra inch LxW would be that big of a deal but I didn’t expect it to actually be better!  This little computer is far more stable on my lap than the iPad was.

That’s very convenient when you are switching to a siding to go around a broken down freight train.

Completely unrelated, I watched the “Weeping Angels” episode of Dr. Who last night and I have looked over my shoulder about six times while writing this post.  It’s been a long time since TV has made me jumpy.  Maybe I should cut back on the coffee.  I absolutely love how the show runners are able to switch between laugh out loud silly and pull the covers over your eyes scary using the same premise and characters.  Brilliant.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ducks, balloons, getting up early, and the blank page.

I woke up early this morning.  Thought I’d get up.  Then I thought better of it.  Why get up if you don’t have to?

I’ll tell you why.  Because when you wake up early you are awake and getting back to sleep isn’t worth the trouble.  I had an idea for a story.  It started running all over the place.  I worked out the introduction.  Considered a few plot points.  Decided it would probably run about 2500 words.

Then I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t.  I was thinking about the changes I want to make to “Gray Ghosts” from months ago.  Clearly I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping.  So I got up and made some notes and got ready.  It’s going to be a full day.

But it will be a full day with writing in it and I’ve already got the jump on the blank page.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Saturday as summer becomes just visible over the horizon.  Baseball.  Ikea.  Dogs and horses that roll in the dirt just so you have to clean them again.  Birds are trying to use the netting that held our sod from last summer for their nests.  It isn’t working for them any better than it did for us.

This is a different sort of April.  It’s the April that #1 is a senior.  I’m picturing a man in a kayak shooting rapids on a river in Idaho.  He can’t stop.  He can’t go back.  And it’s a blast.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Get out of here!"

The train is a bit musty today.  Hmm.  Can’t wait for the new rolling stock.  Should only be another 14 months or so.

As I was getting ready to head out the door this morning I heard my daughter say, “Mom!  It’s our cat.” To which my wife responded, quite correctly I might add, “Get out of here!”

The cat has been “missing” for a couple of months.  We even got rid of the dishes and left over food.  Yes, I was footloose and fancycat free.  But now it seems the infernal creature has returned to eat my food and let the moles, voles, and turkey buzzards destroy my lawn and the finish on my cars.

I can’t say that I hope their attempts to coax the cat back to our porch failed after I left, that wouldn’t be very nice.  But I do wonder if bringing an animal that has been stray since FY13 back into the household is really the correct thing for the children.  What if something tragic happens?  I worked in IT for years and we had a saying about intermittent system bugs.  “A problem that goes away by itself comes back by itself.”  It seems the same came be said for cats.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"They weren't expecting me."

This week has been a bit off for my blogging.  Today appears to be no exception – I’m late getting to press.  It’s been a full morning.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me this week.  I lost in the last fifteen minutes but it was encouraging to have so much support.

We tried a new show on Netflix this week – Continuum.  Its logline made me cringe, a time traveling cop from the future hunting terrorists from the future in our present.  They pull it off.  Surprisingly.  Time travel can be very good when it’s done right but my goodness it so hardly ever is!

There’s a bit of language and the fighting is brutal.  It’s a Canadian show and is either cable or they have different rules.  Either way, it watches a lot like a movie.  Lots of action and great use of technology.

The writing is very good.  The characters are well drawn, unique, and memorable.  The two worlds have been created efficiently.  You know just what you need to know for it all to make sense.  It doesn’t beat you over the head with anything and the setting is NOT a character.  This is a show about people.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When Right is Left

I’ve been away for a couple of days.  Sorry to have missed the posts, that isn’t how I like to roll.  I can see the argument for preparing posts in advance and then scheduling them to be published instead of doing everything “live.”

Yesterday was more interesting than Monday.  I went on a field trip with #3’s class to an old manor house.  It was nothing like Highcliffe Castle but it was still trey cool.

And I made the finals in the 5 minute fiction contest.  Please vote.

A reader asked, “Why do the English drive on the wrong side of the road?”  I’ll let Washington answer.

4/28/1924 Brighton, England.
I had the great fortune of encountering Sir Willem Henry in the pub this evening.  I had just started in the mash portion of my bangers and mash, a fresh pint of bitters at hand, when the door blew open to reveal my old friend.  He spotted me at once and soon we were engaged in stories of the old days.

Eventually talk got round to current events and I asked him what he was up to.  “You won’t believe me,” he said.  I assured him that I would but he, as usual, turned out to be right.  It appears that the crown is still trying to win back their dominance from the Americans.  I assured Sir Henry that ship had already sailed and he nodded, but retorted that, “There is always room for folly on a ship of fools.”

It took two more pints each for him to get through the whole of it but apparently the plan is to do everything the opposite of the Yanks when it comes to cars.  Make them leak constantly, hand assemble each one so they take forever to build, and make every intersection a circle.  (He had plans with him for several such circles in Brighton.)

The coup de grace, he said, was the global expansion of British influence in the form of a head-to-head battle over which side of the road to drive on.  I shook my head.  “That’s like the American’s refusing to go metric.”  He nodded.  “The only thing crazier would be a unified currency for Europe!”

We both enjoyed a good laugh at that and then spent the rest of the night brainstorming ways to make English cars the most unreliable in the world.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Who is Honi?

I’ve put off the writing today.  Not because I don’t want to write but because there have been other things calling louder.  It is a glorious day outside and chores that usual seem like… chores have the allure of warm sunshine and fresh air.

My wife picked up a book this week that grabbed my attention immediately.  It’s called, “The CircleMaker” by Pastor Mark Batterson.  Something tickled my memory.  Then she said it was about somebody named Honi.  I wrote a story about Honi in 2006.  I had never heard of him until I researched the story, nobody I talked to had heard of him, and I haven’t seen a reference to him since.

Until Mr. Batterson’s book.

The world is full of material for art – and odd connections.  Look everywhere.  Remember everything.  I’ve added the text of the story I wrote to this post.  If you read Batterson’s book you’ll find they have nothing in common except Honi.  There are still a million different stories to be told about Honi.  What's yours?

No Rain
by Jon Stark, 2006

I was blessed by Honi at my birth that no rain should fall upon me for the length of my days.  He drew a circle in the sand, took me in his arms and danced, whirled me above him and laughed.  The sky opened and rain came to the parched desert but I was not touched.  Once the Passover had come and he was killed, my mother took me and returned with the spice caravan to her own land far to the east.

The Poet told me rain is like a lover’s kiss.  Its gentle caress eases care and worry.  The cool touch of it upon your skin is a balm against the intrusion of the world.  He said that the rain would make things new, wash away the pain and sins of my past.

My mother chased me away whenever the rain would come and then stood in it, let the falling water soak her tiny form, shivering and shouting to the Naga that she was not cursed like her son.  She warned me that Honi had kept me from the Celestial Kingdom with his curse and that the Dragon would never come for me.

The Musician told me rain is like a symphony.  It is quiet and soothing.  It comes in a violent wave that crashes against the world and make a noise like the singing of angels.  It is percussion and strings, winds and voice.  He said that the opera of nature would reach into my very soul and I would be awash in the chords of life.

I have begged Tianlong my entire life, haunted by my mother’s prophesy of damnation, to let me know the touch of rain.  I have longed for the experience of it myself, for more than just lusting after it as a parched voyeur peering at Eden through lush shadows.  I have hungrily consumed the aromas of petrichor and geosmin, searching the world for the purest essence to feed my obsession.  I have wandered the earth inhaling the scent of that which I cannot feel and imagining the sensation of droplets running down my skin.

Now, as the rain falls gently upon my face I am disappointed.  Not with the rain which is all they said and more than I have ever dreamed it could be. I am disappointed with myself, with what I have not done with my life, what I’ve left unfinished.  I was blessed by Honi at my birth that no rain should fall upon me for the length of my days.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Logan's Dig

We’ve got baseball this evening and tomorrow.  It got rained out last week and the boys were very disappointed.  There’s a chance it will be rained out this evening too.  I hope not.  I’m not very good at teaching baseball at home.  I’m not very good at teaching it anywhere else either.  That’s why I didn’t volunteer to coach.

I wonder if I could be a sports writer.  How hard can it be?  Emminson hit a line drive down the third base line, wobbling, and the bounce was fair.  Jannich scrambled but was too late to stop the winning run by the Canadian powerhouse, Eh-Rod.

Logan’s Dig
by Jon Stark
April, 2014; 227 words

                Logan ran back and forth for a minute, totally unsure of what he should do.  Everything had happened so fast and now he was stuck.  And alone.  He was in a courtyard of sorts, surrounded by a high fence on three sides and the building to the south.

                Logan slowed his pace to a trot and took measure of his predicament.  The fence seemed too high to scale but the only way know for sure was to go for it.  So he did.  The fence was too high and he was stuck in the courtyard.

                Next up were the gates.  He knew of at least two, both of which had locks he couldn’t open.  After running back and forth between them for a moment he set out to carefully examine every inch of the fence on the chance that there was another gate he hadn’t noticed.  Or that a section had broken offering him a new path.

                There were no such treasures to find.  He was without a portal through the fence.  That left only the least desirable action.  Logan hated digging but if it was the only way out, it was what he had to do.  He attacked the dirt and grass with the gusto he usually reserved for chasing tennis balls, his paws tearing through soil and stone oblivious to the pain.  Must. Get. Out.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"I worry about our daughters and the men they choose."

First things first, we crossed over 9k hits this morning!  Thank you.

I have had a chance to spend some more time with two TV shows that I covered a few months ago – “Leverage” and “Last Man Standing.”  Both improved dramatically after the first couple of episodes.  LSM actually makes me laugh out loud which is quite a feat for Tim Allen, I was never a “Home Improvement” fan.

There is no depth to LSM.  It’s a sitcom.  But there is also no pretention.  A solid entry along the lines of “Home Improvement” (obviously – you might even consider it a reboot), “Rita Rocks,” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  There are children in it, but it’s about the adults.
“Leverage” does episodes rather than chapters.  There are occasional hints of recurring characters and storylines, but the show doesn’t run on them (as far as I am in the first season).  It’s like the “A-Team.”   Or “Airwolf.”  Woot.  I like that the characters are well drawn and the world rules are pretty consistent.  It’s a far-fetched show but isn’t that why we used to watch TV?  Before “reality” shows became the norm?

One thing that both of these shows have is a great cast.  The actors really bring out their characters.  That’s important.  I read the pilot script for “Glades” and it’s funny.  But it isn’t the show and as I read it I thought about how important casting (and directing and camera work and post production…) is to the finished product.

I’m hoping that my work gets a great cast.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"What's the matter Colonel Sanders? Chicken?"

I made the finals in the 5 minute fiction contest lastnight.  Please stop by and vote.  You can read the stories too, if you like.  They are all very different.  It was a good prompt.

I have to make a decision about whether or not to stick with the new train station.  I’m actually a day overdue on that decision and will probably get in trouble with the conductor this morning.  Wish me luck.

Decision is made.  I will keep the new station.  I’ve seen several other people from the old station showing up the last couple of days and the parking lot is fuller.  I think things might be worse up north.

Found an interesting entry in Washington’s journal last night.  Thought you’d enjoy it.

August 8, 1958.  Mickyhollow, MS
Wonderful news.  I’ve sold the farm and am now officially out of the chicken business.  If someone ever comes to you and says, “You can make a million dollars with a chicken farm,” then you should look that man in the eye and say, “Balderdash.”

There are few creatures as vile and repugnant as a chicken, be they living or dead.  I for one will consider it to be too soon if I ever see the gizzard of a fowl again.

The young man that bought it from me – Frank Perdue’s boy, Frank, jr. – says he’s got plans that will change how America eats chicken.  Says he can make the million that eluded me.  Maybe he can.  And if so, good for him.  As for me, if I need to raise chickens to make a million I’d rather beg on skid row.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


April 1.  I should probably make some sort of joke or play a trick or something today, but I’m not really in the mood.  The sun is shining, I have a good seat, and tricks aren’t very nice.  I played a doozy once, about 17 years ago.  My wife worked with a very nice lady who had gone out to the post office during her lunch break.  When she came back to the office she was complaining about the poor service and how much trouble she was having shipping a package overseas.  She told my wife that she had said to the clerk, in a burst of frustration, “That’s right, I’m mailing a bomb to Poland!”

Obviously she wasn’t sending a bomb.  I was given the intel and then called to speak with this very nice lady who didn’t deserve what happened.  When I called her, I said I was a postal inspector responding to a report that she was a terrorist.  That’s impersonation and is against the law, but I didn’t know that then.  She became quite upset, naturally.  As I said, she was a very nice lady.  I still feel bad about that.

I can’t say that I haven’t played any jokes on people since, but it’s a big part of why I don’t any more.

Remember yesterday's post?  Guess what?  I met another writer (Harmony McGuire) shortly after posting!