A Bit (More) About Me #5

Via Sparks from a Combustible Mind‘s Share Your World for 9/24/18.

Q: Last week, Sparks asked a question about favorite beverages and the overwhelming favorite was coffee.   If you drink coffee, how do you like it best?  Hot, cold, iced, with cream, with sugar or black as black?
A:
Black except on the very rare occasions I decide to spring for a cappuccino or Chai tea latte instead.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the greatest invention of our age?
A:
It’s a toss-up between commercial/residential/automobile air conditioning and the microchip.  Bonus answer: The best invention that hasn’t been invented yet is the one that’ll get us to spend less time screaming at each other online and more time connecting face-to-face and person-to-person with the shared goal of making life better for those who are less fortunate.

Q: Global warming?  Reality or myth?
A:
A.k.a. climate change.  Absolute, utterly undeniable reality.  I’m not qualified to speculate about to what extent human activity has contributed to it, but clearly it’s more than not at all.  And I’m inclined to believe that anyone of my own or a similar age who has witnessed or experienced the changes in regional weather patterns over the past 40 years yet chooses to deny its reality is doing so out of either willful ignorance or purely political motivation.

Q: Are you an explorer or more a home body?
A:
I have a complicated answer to that seemingly simple question.  I’m an explorer at heart but too often a homebody due to circumstances.  I do, however, have an active inner life, so you could say I’m a frequent self-explorer.

Q: What were you grateful for this week?
A:
My parents and weekend dinners at their house.  It was the only time in the past two weeks that my little family was able to sit down & enjoy meals together.

What were y’all grateful for in the past week?

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Brief Thoughts on a Bunch o’Books

Hoooo-BOY, my head is spinning!  The Girl and The Boy are currently involved in so many school-related and after-school activities that The Boss and I can hardly keep up.  We haven’t sat down for a family meal in over two weeks.  Shameful, I tell ya!  And I became so far behind on posting my thoughts on books I’ve read recently that I began to despair of ever finding the time to do so.  I’m already almost finished with one more audiobook, one more ebook, and one more book book, but here are my thoughts on the 5 I’ve most recently read or audited.  I already posted these reviews on Goodreads.  If y’all’re interested in reading any of the synopses, just click the linked titles below.  And if you’ve read any of the following, I’d love to read your thoughts in my Comments section.

Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S. A. Corey, audiobook version.  Rated 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it” and shelved as fiction, novel, sci-fi, series, & space opera on Goodreads.

This series gets better with each book. Even though it takes the series in an entirely different direction, Cibola Burn is the best one yet and turns the series on its head.

In Cibola Burn, mankind’s warring factions (Earthers, Martians, and Belters) colonize the first inhabitable planet outside Earth’s solar system and fight for control of first rights. Whereas in the previous 3 books most of the action occurred in outer space, this one is set largely on the planetary surface. Series hero Jim Holden, a crusader for justice and heretofore an outspoken advocate of maximum info sharing, is forced by circumstances to maintain radio silence even though he’s been sent to be the very public neutral arbiter of the two colonies’ dispute.

After suffering an apocalyptic series of catastrophic self-inflicted wounds and environmental disasters, the colonists must figure out how to survive on a planet trying to kill them while those left in orbit on their support ships and Holden’s Rocinante must figure out how to keep their ships from crashing into the planet after humanity’s antagonist, the mysterious ‘Protomolecule’, disables the ships’ fusion drives. All of this while various members of each faction continue trying to kill each other.

This book, this series, are just nonstop action and suspense paired with richly detailed, believable characters, terrific dialogue, generous doses of humor, pathos, and psychological insight and, best of all, a realistic, encyclopedically detailed universe. I can’t say enough good things about The Expanse. If you’re a fan of the SyFy t.v. series and you haven’t read or audited the books, you owe it to yourself to do so. I’m confident in saying they’ll blow you away.

As stated in my review of Abaddon’s Gate, I have come to realize that The Expanse deserves to be on my list of all time favorites along with The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Tower, Harry Potter, and other towering examples of their respective subgenres.

Montaigne In Barn Boots

Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy by Michael Perry, audiobook version.  Rated 5 of 5 stars, “it was amazing” and shelved as favorites, humor, inspirational, memoir, nonfiction, & philosophy on Goodreads.

Within 5 minutes of beginning the audiobook version of Montaigne in Barn Boots, read by author Michael Perry, I was in love. With Perry’s voice, cadence, humor, and delivery as well as the subject of the book itself. I don’t know how I’ve managed not to discover Perry until now, but I am ecstatic about having done so.

Although I’m sure we don’t have a whole lot in common, our lives parallel each other in several ways. We’re both middle-aged, white, American males ensconced firmly in the middle class in largely rural areas, and we’ve both had varied careers. But best of all, when Perry writes or talks about spirituality, personal philosophy, and the rules by which he tries (and Montaigne tried) to live, it may as well be me speaking. Except he’s a shitload funnier than I am.

Montaigne in Barn Boots is an excellent introduction to Montaigne’s philosophy, an interesting summary of his life, and a hilarious, poignant, enlightening trip through Perry’s own life & journey of discovery and copious amounts of research into Montaigne’s life & beliefs as expressed through numerous translators and biographers.

I enjoyed this book way too much and in fact fear I’ve developed a serious author’s crush. I’m going to devour everything I can find by this guy. If any reader out there has a free copy of Montaigne in Barn Boots, audiobook or printed version, just lying around unused, feel free to send it my way!

Being Super

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki with Joëlle Jones, penciller; Sandu Florea, inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, colorist; & Saida Temofonte, letterer.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it” and shelved as fiction, graphic novel on Goodreads.

An entertaining and nicely-illustrated reimagining of Supergirl’s origin story and an empowering message for young women. The fact that the entire creative team consists of women is impressive and, in my opinion, shows they can put the boys to shame with ease. I liked it enough to get a copy for The Girl, who’s almost 13, and she enjoyed it as well.

The True Flag

The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire by Stephen Kinzer.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it”, and shelved as American, government, history, nonfiction, & political issues on Goodreads.

The True Flag is a thoroughly researched, well-documented, easily readable popular history of the origins of the USA’s debate over interventionism and imperialism. Despite its inclusion of plenty of endnotes and a brief bibliography, I hesitate to shelve it as ‘scholarly’ because it’s written in such plainspoken language. It includes several pages of photos of some of the key figures in the book as well as reprints of popular satirical comics from the time, a nice added touch.

I found Kinzer’s book to be timely, relevant, and informative. It really should be required reading for high school and college American History courses.  My only complaint: the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer.  While Roosevelt is an outsized player in this book, Twain features only rarely.

Violent Cases

Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it” and shelved as fiction & graphic novel on Goodreads.

A very nice, slickly-produced hardcover reissue of Neil Gaiman’s & Dave McKean’s first collaboration, which marked the beginning of a decades-long beautiful friendship that has graced generations of readers with a remarkable and varied body of work and art.

Violent Cases is a dark but lushly-illustrated examination of how memory, circumstance, and time conspire to create the stories we tell ourselves about our past. The inclusion of several forewords by industry insiders as well as lots of extra art in the back matter make this slim volume worth acquiring for your own collection.

If you hung in & made it this far, friend, I thank you.  Please let me know what you think or just say howdy in the Comments down below.

A Bit More About Me #4

Via sparksfromacombustiblemind’s Share Your World for 9/17/18

Once again, I’m a day late on this.  But yesterday I chaperoned The Girl’s class trip to the Nashville Islamic Center and attended an evening meeting for a local volleyball club she wants to join, so my day was rather full.  I hope y’all are doing well today, and I look forward to hearing from those of you who have time to respond.

Q:  What is your favorite beverage?  (for those who really dislike “favorite” questions, hey, time to time, one just pops in and will not be denied).
A:
Evan Williams on the rocks, though I’m currently sweating my way through a teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, voluntary forced separation…

Q: What is your interpretation of The Golden Rule?  Are there ramifications to breaking it?
A:
My interpretation is its inverse.  Or converse.  Or reverse.  Or opposite.  Screw it, I can’t keep ’em straight, help me out dear philosophizing friend Steven Williams:  “Do NOT do unto others what you do NOT want others to do to you!”  Yes there are ramifications to breaking it, but not always.  I don’t believe there’s some all-seeing power watching to see who breaks such rules and waiting for the right opportunity to mete out just punishment.  But if you do something mean or harmful to someone, and that person sees what you’ve done or hears what you’ve done from what they consider to be a reliable source, there’s a pretty good chance that, at some point, they’re gonna get even with you.

Q: Are you a sunrise person or a sunset person?
A:
Both.  I love both and don’t have frequent enough opportunity to bask in the  beauty of either, so I cherish every minute of each one time, the universe, or circumstance allows me to observe.

Q: Do people in modern society anthropomorphize animals too much?
A:
I don’t consider myself to have the right to pronounce judgment on the degree to which anyone else should anthropomorphize animals, just like I don’t have the right to tell others what they can or cannot do to their own bodies.  However, if in a given instant I see that someone’s actions, inspired by their anthropomorphicization of an animal, are about to cause a person or an animal harm, then I have not only the right to speak out to try to change their belief in order to prevent that harm, but the absolute duty to do so.

Q: What were you grateful for during the past week?
A:
So many things, but most of all the news the Paul Manafort finally made a plea agreement with Robert Mueller’s team and that the fearful, old, wealthy, powerful, misguided white men who currently control the Senate Judiciary Committee have agreed to postpone the vote on insane clown president Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and give his brave accuser Christine Blasey Ford a public hearing.  American women, please, please, PLEASE get out and vote this November and especially in 2020.

 

A Bit (More) About Me #3

Via Sparks from a Combustible Mind’s Share Your World for 9/10/18.

I’m a day late on this, but I know y’all love me and will forgive me.  I’d be grateful if y’all’d answer these questions, too, either in the comments below or by doing your own Share Your World post.

This Week’s Questions:

Are You A Better Listener or Speaker?
I’m no slouch as a speaker and am unafraid to speak in public, but I listen closely and consider my response before speaking.  Unless something really pisses me off in a hurry, in which case I can be a bit rash.

If You Were Asked To Design A Warning Label That Would Be Tattooed On Your Skin, What Would It Say?
If you don’t care to know, don’t ask. 

(Credit for this question goes to a blogger the host of SYW just started following.  You can read more about her by clicking here. )

What Are You Passionate About?
Many things.  My family, especially The Boss, The Girl, and The Boy.  Reading.  Blogging.  Social justice.  Kindness, compassion, and respect.

If You Could Change One Thing About Your World, What Would It Be?
I would free our politicians from being enslaved by big business, wealth, and the lobbyists who represent the interests of those two evil entities.

And Finally:

What Gave You A Reason To Smile This Past Week?
Family.  The audiobook of Cibola Burn: The Expanse #4 by James S.A. Corey, read by Jefferson Mayes.  The start of the 2018 NFL season.  Martha Kennedy.  TeresaSophEm.

Strikethrough: A Dirge for Acquaintances No Longer Plagued by Addiction

I rarely have cause to feel sad,
if you want to know the truth,
but I’m down today, way down
in the blue deeps with thoughts
as bleak as the tempestuous sky.

Ponderous clouds in endless shades
of gray track as slowly across
the sky as passersby shuffle along
the rain-slick street, shoulders
slumped and feet shuffling.

Everyone’s an Atlas bowed by the world.

I’m binging on Mandolin Orange
this morning, a folk/Americana duo
from North Carolina to whom I urge
you to listen when your heart needs
to break and you’re unwilling to let it.

And I’m compiling my monthly stats,
adding two more names to the list,
people I know knew who succumbed
to fatal habits, who lacked the strength
or will to quit on their own.

One was a lovely young mother of two
precious little girls, the other, some
years older, left a husband and two
teens bereft and unmoored.  Two more
who’ll go unmourned by the world at large

leave me once more feeling

powerless.

Useless.

I’m not even listening to the lyrics,
but every song is in a minor key,
and the singers’ voices haunt me in
melancholy harmony.  And I can’t
help but wonder who will sing the songs
of the ones taken too soon.

35 37 in the past three years, and
that’s only the ones I’ve learned of
through dumb luck.  Word of mouth, or a
periodic random obituary search. Phone
calls from devastated kin the worst.

Don’t worry for me, but spare a thought
for them if you will.  In fact, I’ll be fine.
I’ll be here tomorrow doing what little
I can to prevent the next one.  And I’ll
do it every day ‘til they take me away.

And, tissue near to hand, I’ll tell their
stories and I’ll sing their songs.

I’ll carve their names on the heart of the world.

Via Word of the Day Challenge for 9/10/18, Tempestuous.

Special thanks to Kristian at Tales from the Mind of Kristian for bringing the WotDC to my attention.

A Dream of Flight

My friend Soph at Sophia Ismaa Writes knows how much I love to spin a good yarn and knows I’m almost always a sucker for a good tag.  The other day, Soph tagged me with this awesome new (to me, anyway) storytelling challenge.  Thank you, Soph!  After reading her wonderful story, which I hope y’all will read as well by clicking on the link above, I couldn’t resist adding my own.  My story follows the rules of the challenge.

RULES

  1. Pick your first word, your setting, and your story genre from the list below. As individuals, your brand of creativity is unique to you, so we want to highlight that by letting you choose from a bunch of words and creating something beautiful out of it.
  2. The short story will have a limit of 1000 words. You do not need to write a story with 1000 words exactly. It could be 300, or 500 as long as it doesn’t surpass a thousand.
  3. YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS TO ANSWER THE TAG.You must tag three people to participate.
  4. Link back to Keiko’s Create A Story Tag, so she can collect all the stories. You can’t just link back to her WordPress since she won’t be alerted of the pingback. You need to link back to a post or a page because WordPress works like this.
  5. Use the Create-A-Story picture in the post.
  6. Copy and paste the rules in your tag post as well so others can be clued into the Create-A-Story rules.

CAS table

 

I chose ‘Fall’, ‘Mountain’, & ‘Drama’.  I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.  Regardless of what you think, please let me know in the comments down below.

A Dream of Flight

Fall from the proper precipice, and you’ll fly.

I couldn’t have been more than 7 years old the first time I heard that sentence in a dream.  It’s a dream I remember well and that has recurred, in one form or another, often throughout my 65 years.

In it, I stood atop the roof of my family’s apartment building looking down upon the playground below.  After hearing the statement, spoken by a smoky, whispering, disembodied voice, I stepped off the roof and flew, like a diving hawk, to the grass around the playground, swooping upward at the last second to execute a perfect landing.

At breakfast the next morning, I had asked Mom, “What’s a prep-a-siss?”  She hadn’t known the word, so in her usual fashion, she asked me questions to tease out the context.

“Oh, you’re talking about a precipice, Lindy, pronounced ‘press-uh-pis’.”  She tousled my hair and said, “What a delightful dream!”

I hurried to finish my breakfast, brush my teeth, and leave for school.  Mom held the door open for me and kissed my cheek then patted me on the back as I left.  “Fly, fly, my little sparrow, don’t be late!”  As I ran, I flapped my arms up and down, up and down, trying to achieve lift-off.  I heard Mom’s laughter until I turned the corner out of our neighborhood.

Mom wasn’t laughing a few hours later when she came to pick me up from the school nurse’s office to take me to the hospital after I broke my ankle jumping off the top of the slide.  “I’m sorry, Mom,” I wailed, “I thought I could fly!”

After that, Mom watched me much more closely, forever fearful that I would attempt the stunt again.  Dad found the incident amusing and commended me for my bravery.  Grampa, until the day he died, encouraged me.  “If you put your mind to it, Lindy,” he’d say, in a voice remarkably similar to the one in my dream and always with a half-smile on his lips and a gleam in his eye, “you can do anything you want to.  Even fly!”

I have never been able to shake the feeling that I can do it.

In my dreams, that voice urges me on.

I have lost count of how many mountains I’ve climbed, of how many precarious ledges I’ve stood on, gazing through the haze at the treetops far below, leaning forward, knowing I could do it if I just believed it firmly enough.  Faith the size of a mustard seed, and all.

I stopped counting, long ago, the number of times I lost my nerve.  But I have never stopped climbing.  Never stopped looking for that proper precipice, the one that will serve as my launch pad.

I think I’ve found it.

Up here atop the ridge of a nameless hill above the Stone Door in Savage Gulf.  The autumn wind roars up from the valley below, rich with the scent of thousands of pine trees and tens of thousands of years’ worth of pine needles carpeting the valley floor.

The ledge beneath my boots looks exactly like the ledge in my childhood dream.  The voice I can feel in my thrumming eardrums is the very voice that spoke to me in that dream.  I lean forward tentatively and am buoyed by the updraft.

I remove my backpack and canteen and prop them against a nearby boulder.

I return to the ledge and spread my arms.

I smile, close my eyes, and lift my face toward the sun.

I lean forward into the wind’s embrace.

Now I fall.  Now I rise.

Now I fly.

606 words

Because they are all three seemingly bottomless wells of story, I tag:

Kristian at Tales from the Mind of Kristian

Fandango at This, That, and the Other

Michael at Afterwards

The County Fair, parts 1 & 2

Via The Haunted Wordsmith’s ‘Finish the Story #9

The other day, my friend The Haunted Wordsmith wrote part 1 of a story titled “The County Fair” then tagged me with her “Finish the Story” challenge.  I finally had some time today to respond.  Below are Wordsmith’s rules for the challenge followed by her part 1 then by my part 2.  Finally, I’ll tag one of my followers and challenge her or him to pick up the story.

This was great fun for me.  Those of y’all who’ve been with me for a while know how much I love collaborative stories.  So enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments, please.

Welcome to Finish The Story

The Haunted Wordsmith starts a story, then another has to pick up the story and add to it, then hand it off to another person, etc. until the story is complete. This has proven to be quite fun in a blogging situation since we all have different approaches.

Rules

  1. Copy the story below as it appears when you receive it (and the rules please)
  2. Add somehow to the story in whichever style and length you choose
  3. Tag only 1 person
  4. If you choose to not participate or finish the story, please comment/tag this post so that I know.

The County Fair Part 1 by The Haunted Wordsmith

Ashley and Jacob, Jared and Melanie, and Tony decided to skip school on Friday to spend the day at the Reno County Fair. The Midway didn’t open until noon, so they looked at all the animals, pet the goats and camel in the petting zoo, and felt completely ripped off by the world’s smallest horse. Tony waited and ate a snow cone while the couples went on the Love Canal ride.

“Where do you want to go now, Tony?” Ashley asked.

They all made a point when they went out together to not make Tony feel like a third wheel. While they all thought their fourteen-year friendship was stronger than that, they really didn’t want him to feel left out or pushed away.

“I’ve been thinking.” Tony grew a wicked grin that everyone recognized. He wanted to do something that would either get them kicked out, the police called, or worse — they would call someone’s parent. “Let’s go check out the ….”

Part 2 by Denny McBride

“Let’s go check out the old county jail!”

Ashley looked at Jacob.  Jacob looked at Ashley.  Jared looked at Melanie.  Melanie looked at Jared.  All four were gape-mouthed and wide-eyed.  They all turned toward Tony, who was still grinning like a madman and actually rubbing his hands together, and spoke simultaneously.

“Yeah I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” “What, are you crazy?”  “Um, no?” “Oh hell no!”

“What?” Tony cried, eyebrows arched and shrugging his shoulders.  “Are you all too chicken?”  He tucked his fingers beneath his armpits and started flapping his folded arms.  He strutted in a rough circle, jerking his head forward and back, forward and back.  “Bawk! Bawk! B-GAWK!”

Ashley folded her arms and cocked a hip.  “That’s not even funny, Tony.  That place gives me the heebie-jeebies just looking at it from the road.”

“Yeah,” Jacob added, “and that overgrown field around it’s gotta be full of ticks.  I bet there’s snakes in there, too!”  He shivered.

Melanie had gone pale and quiet.  She drooped her head, and her straight, brown hair fell over her eyes.  She hugged herself tightly, fingertips pressed so firmly into her triceps that the skin around them was white.  “You know that place is…” she whispered, then gulped, her throat clicking, “…haunted.”

Jared hugged her with his right arm.  “Even if we wanted to, how would we get over that fence?  The concertina wire on top would rips us to shreds.  No thanks to tetanus today, man.”

Tony put his hands on his hips, threw his head back, and cackled.  “You are scared!  I can’t believe it!  Haunted?  I’ve been going there every weekend for the past month,” he spat, “and there aren’t any ghosts.”

“Still,” Jacob said, “how would we get over that fence?  If we were interested, y’know?”  He looked at the others, elbows bent and palms up, a silly grin on his lips.  “You don’t really believe the jail is haunted, do you?”

Jared rubbed Melanie’s back in soothing circles.  “Yeah babe, and even if it were, Big J would take care of you!”  He stepped back, flexed his left arm, and kissed his bicep, looking at Melanie and waggling his eyebrows.

Melanie giggled and punched him softly on his left arm.  They hugged.  “I know you would, Jare.”  They kissed.

Tony rolled his eyes.  “Ugh, knock it off.  Anyway, I cut the fence.  We won’t have to climb.”

Ashley and Jacob stood side-to-side, arms around each other’s waists.  “I don’t know, Tone,” Jacob said, “what’s so special about the jail?”  “Yeah,” Ashley added, “what could there possibly be to see?  That place has been empty since before we were born.”

Tony stuck his lower lip out and jammed his hands in his pockets, shoulders up around his ears.  “Well,” he pouted, “I wanted to surprise you, but if I have to tell you to get you there…”

“Spill it, Tone,” said Melanie, “or else I vote we go to Brrr Stacks for mochaccinos.”

Tony stepped toward the couples and put one hand on Jacob’s shoulder, the other on Jared’s.  “Now don’t freak out,” he said, “but I’ve kinda been seeing someone—“

All four of them gasped then congratulated him all at once.

Jacob pounded his back.  “Awesome, dude!”

Ashley clapped her hands and hopped up and down.  “Tony, that’s wonderful!”

Melanie hugged him then stepped back, beaming. “I’m so happy for you, Tony!”

Jared put him in a headlock and knuckled his scalp.  “’Bout time, son!  Hey wait, what does that have to do with the jail?”

Tony blushed.  “—and she kinda lives there.”

End part 2

I tag my dear friend, past collaborator, and fellow earthling Em at Earthly Brain.  Because she was so fun to work with and did such a great job on our last project but also because, as much as I love her recent supercute video posts, I want to encourage her to create some fiction.  It’s been too long.  Em, if you aren’t up for it right now or don’t have the time, please let me know, so I can tag someone else.  Ohh, and, I love your bangs, dear!

A Bit (More) About Me #2

Via Cee’s Share Your World for Monday, 8/27/18

Q:  Do you prefer eating foods with nuts or no nuts?

A:  I am not picky, and I love to eat.  I like nuts in foods in which they taste good, which is most of them, and I don’t like nuts in foods in which they don’t belong.  Like pizza.  Unless they’re pine nuts.  Pine nuts are good on pizza.  Especially if it’s a pesto pizza.  Oh my gosh, I better stop!  I eat a 3-ounce serving of mixed nuts almost every day to keep my bad cholesterol low.

Q:  Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?

A:  It matters not to me.  If The Boss happens to leave the door to the closet open, I sleep with it open.  If she remembers to close it, I sleep with it closed.

Q:  Are you usually late, early, or right on time?

A:  Almost always early, never late unless events beyond my control, like a lane-blocking wreck, cause me to be late, which is difficult to do because I always take that possibility into account.   My parents both worked, Dad full-time and Mom part-time, and I have 3 siblings.  Growing up, I don’t recall my Mom ever getting any one of us on time to a single event.  I grew up resenting that somewhat so resolved to do my best to teach my own kids the importance of punctuality as a sign of respect for others and as a demonstration of personal responsibility.  But Mom, I love you, and I’m eternally grateful to you for always getting me where I need to go.  Eventually!

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Ohmygoodness, SO much!  I do not deserve one fourth of the good things in my life.  To list just one:  Michael Perry’s reading of his audiobook Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy.
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You can click the linked title above to see the Goodreads synopsis, and I’ll probably post my thoughts about it here soon after I finish it.  Perry is a delightful reader, and his stories are terrific.  After I drop The Girl off at school and head to work and again when I’m headed home, I plug the Kindle in, turn the stereo up, push ‘play’, and smile ’til I reach my destination.

Now y’all share your worlds with me, please!

The Parrot Flew West Parts 1 & 2

My friend Viola Bleu at Ideas Become Words started a story, “The Parrot Flew West”, and challenged me and several other Bloggers to take it and run with it.  I did.  I am including Viola’s part 1 here for convenience’s sake, but please mosey over and take a look at her lovely, inspiring, creative blog after you finish here.  Thank you, Viola, I hope you like it!

Parrots

(Uncredited image taken from Viola’s blog)

Part 1 by Viola Bleu

We were driving the route through the Keys when he first mentioned it.

Thinking back now, I recall the sun had almost gone, sinking into a tomato-red horizon, and a faint silver line separated it from the ocean.

‘I don’t think I can go on.’

I spun my sunburnt neck to face him as we crossed the final expanse of water, Key West stretching out in front of us after the long but beautiful drive down from Miami.  Did he mean the road ahead, or perhaps he was tired from last night’s escapades in the bar along the main strip.   Surely he didn’t mean his life?  I hadn’t known him to be the deep, depressive type in the five years I’d known him.

‘I’m sorry?’  I watched his profile.  Straight nose highlighted by the remnants of sunlight, his eye – the one I could see right now – hazel, concentrating on overtaking yet another pickup laden with boxes of papaya.

‘Living a lie.  I’m not happy and I keep trying to ignore it.’  His face gave away nothing further, no movement, only that eye sometimes zigzagging back and forth from the rear view mirror and the windscreen.

His hand reached down to change gear and as my stomach filled with the fire of panic, I noted the tendons of his fingers.  How they had betrayed me when only this morning I had kissed them and they had gone on to touch me gently, then more frantically and ultimately nipping the skin around my nipples in the way only he knew how to do.   Those fingers were attached to his hand, arm, body, mind.   The same mind which was now informing me he’d been living a lie.   I wasn’t sure when I last breathed out, but when a new breath came it brought with it an involuntary gulp of disbelief.

‘What do you mean?’ my question a squeak.

‘I’m sorry.  You can do better than me, I know it.’

‘I don’t want better than you.’ My confusion strangled my words.

‘You will when I tell you about the last two months.’

‘Oh God.  What are you saying? This was meant to be a celebration trip; our five year anniversary.  And you are leaving me?’  The view through the passenger window was spinning.  The edge of land mass to Key West disappeared beneath the bridge, the tarmac rolled away behind us as the yards of progress suddenly represented distance from what had seemed so safe, so perfect.   He pulled over to the side of the road, where rough ground provided a make-shift layby.

‘It’s not you darling.’  He continued to stare ahead at the traffic whooshing past us, including the old pickup we had just overtaken.  ‘I haven’t been honest with you.  Those work trips I was taking last month?’  I nodded in silence  ‘They were interviews.  To set up an office in Los Angeles.  And I’ve been offered the job.  I accepted last week over the phone.   I start next month.’

A parrot flew across the road, green flashes and a surprising wingspan.    An hour ago, I’d have been so excited to see it, but now?   It was all I could do to breathe.  In, out.   In, out.

Part 2 by Denny McBride

When I felt I could stand, I pushed the door open and got out of the car, a dozen questions rising in my throat like bile.  I leaned my butt against the rear fender, legs bent, hands on knees to prop myself up.  My head was still spinning, but I managed to keep from puking by focusing on my two most important questions, the answers to which would determine not only the course of the next few days but also the direction of not two, but now three lives.  Seagulls wheeled and called above me.  I straightened and watched them riding the warm currents in the fading light, hands interlaced across my abdomen.  I inhaled deeply, pressed my lips together, and exhaled slowly then re-entered the car.

Kurt turned toward me, his attractive Crows’ feet crinkled by an embarrassed half-smile, and clasped my left hand in both of his.  His hands were soft and surprisingly warm.  He chuckled, and locked eyes with me, opened his mouth, and inhaled.  “Lura—“

“Do you want me to go with you?” I blurted.  “And have you taken another lover?”  My throat opened and closed as I fought to keep from crying.  My heart was pounding, and I could feel my pulse hammering against his palm.

“Of course I—.”  He laughed, harder this time, then covered his mouth.  We both just sat there a few moments, breathing and looking at each other.  He turned to look out the windscreen again and clapped his hand to his forehead.  “What an ass I must sound! ‘Living a lie’, ‘you deserve better than me,’ was there ever a faithless lover who didn’t utter those words?”

I gazed ahead and laughed tentatively, feeling as if I would float right through the roof of the car to join the birds above.  “Well, I…”

Kurt turned toward me.  His right hand cupped my cheek, and he gently pulled me forward until our foreheads touched.  “Lura, love, you are the singular light of my life.  I can hardly bear to be apart from you for a week much less the thought of living the rest of it without you.”

I pulled him into an embrace and kissed him.  I raised my left hand to cradle his neck and pulled back a bit.  “Then why would you suggest that I can do better than you?  You ought to know by now that you’re my life, my future.”

“I do know,” he sighed, “but I couldn’t bear to ask you to make that choice.  Your family, your career, your friends, hell your whole life is back in Miami.  I’ve been sick at the thought of asking you to give it all up.”

I reached out to Kurt, smiled, and clasped both his hands.  “That isn’t any choice at all, love.  And if it was a month ago, it damn sure isn’t now.  I’ve been keeping something from you, too.”

Kurt’s eyebrows shot up, and his eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.  While you’ve been away, though, I’ve paid my gynecologist a couple of visits.  We’re going to be parents soon!”

Kurt embraced me and squeezed.  His chest started to hitch, and he began to sniffle.  After a few moments, he turned, buckled his seat belt, and faced forward.  Two trails down his right cheek gleamed silver in the dashboard lights and curved chinward past his beaming grin.  He activated his left turn signal, dropped the car into drive, and waited for a break in traffic then merged into the westward flow.

I’ve Been Published!

Hello friends & fellow Bloggers!  I hope y’all’re doing well on this fine Friday.  The weather here in middle Tennessee is damnear perfect today.  It’s a mild, partly sunny 80 degrees with a sky full of wispy white and fluffy gray clouds being pushed along by a gentle, almost autumnal breeze here in my little corner of the world.  I’m on cloud 9 myself right now.

Over the years, I’ve had a few poems published online and in a couple of college literary journals.  Of course each published piece provides a measure of pride.  I think I’m a better short story writer than poet, though, so the fact that I’ve never succeeded in getting any of my stories published has long been a sore spot for me.  Guess what?  That changes today.  Independent publisher Z Publishing House has graciously included my story “Sick Day” in this year’s Tennessee’s Emerging Writers anthology, and I couldn’t be prouder.  I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big a deal, but as a busy and humble husband, father, and probation officer who has very little time for writing, I think it’s pretty damned awesome!

Tennessees_Emerging_Writers

I am not by nature a salesman or a self-promoter, but I am impelled by reflex to do exactly that today.  I’ve read the other works in the anthology, and although there are a few I don’t much care for and one that I’m sure many will find downright offensive, most of the stories collected are really good.  Tennessee’s Emerging Writers is currently available for pre-order.  Both the e-book and paperback formats will be published on 9/20/18.  If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy, please click this link:

https://www.zpublishinghouse.com/collections/pre-orders/products/tennessees-emerging-writers-an-anthology?variant=14876751986803&rfsn=1703784.0369c

May you all have as good a day as I’m having, and may your weekend be wonderful as well!

Love,

Denny

Via Fandango’s One-Word Challenge for 8/24/18, “reflex

Via Ragtag Community’s RDP #85, “fluffy