A Harmonic Convergence

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via Daily Prompt: Theory

Word count: 452 / Reading time: 2 minutes or less

Thank you, Daily Post, for today’s serendipitous prompt.  I observed something yesterday that made me very angry.  Last night, I was already thinking of what I might write about that event today, and one of the words tumbling through those thoughts was “theory“.

Sadly, like many American cities, mine has a lot of homeless people.  During the day, any given street corner throughout Nashville and its several suburbs may feature one or more people holding up signs asking for money or selling “street papers” like The Contributor.  These papers are sold to homeless or formerly homeless individuals at cost; then, the individuals sell them for a set price, usually one or two dollars.

I am sympathetic toward people much less fortunate than I am, so when able, I contribute money or buy a paper and give a little extra.  I also try to make sure that I always have a care envelope on hand containing a $5 gift card to Wal-Mart, a $5 gift card to McDonald’s, and a current list of local care agencies with address & phone number because I prefer to donate that rather than cash.  I try to help, but I take steps to ensure the recipient can’t go out and spend my donation on drugs or alcohol.

So what I saw on my way to enjoy my daughter’s school strings symphony concert last night really got me riled up.  As I approached her school, there were two men I hadn’t seen there before standing at one of those street corners frequently occupied by people holding up signs asking for help.  But these guys weren’t standing, they were leaning and stumbling and appeared to be drunk.  When I got close enough to read their signs, this is how they read: “Need $ 4 Pizza N Beer” and “Too ugly to be ah prostitute”.  Reading those words, I became so outraged that I got lightheaded.  I thought to myself “What on earth are those men thinking?  Are they operating under a theory of radical honesty, or what? Do they not realize they’re damaging the cause of every other person in need standing at a corner holding up a sign?”

Poverty, homelessness, hunger, and addiction are bad.  Admitting addiction is good, a necessary step in the recovery process.  But telling people you’re going to spend the money they give you on alcohol?  That’s beyond bad.  That’s stupid and harmful.  Unfortunately, the general public already tends to view most panhandlers as lazy alcoholics or drug addicts.  People like the aforementioned men do their fellow sufferers a great disservice.

Am I wrong to think so harshly of those two men?  What do y’all think?  Please let me know in the comments below!

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A Casual Encounter

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via Daily Prompt: Elegance

Hello friends and fellow bloggers!  I hope this post finds you well and prospering.  It’s been 4 months since my last bit of original short fiction, and I’ve been eager to get this story down and share it with you.  This is the fourth short story set in my Copperhead County series.  I hope you enjoy it, but no matter what you think or feel about it, don’t hesitate to let me know.  I am always willing to accept thoughtful constructive criticism.  This story contains links to 2 of its predecessors below in the first appearances of the names Kortnee and Jeriko.

Word count: 1,422 / Reading time: 5 & 1/2 to 6 minutes

A Casual Encounter

From their perch on Privacy Point, a large, triangular, concrete slab overlooking the Cumberland River just behind Loner’s Gas & Grab, Jeriko and Kortnee watched the early-morning steam rise off the water while they smoked their home-rolled cigarettes in relative peace.  On the days they could, this was where they met before walking together to school.  Screened from the worn footpath along the near bank of the Cumberland by scrub oak, prolific blackberry thickets, and lovely copious mounds of Virginia creeper and from the busy Serpentine Highway at their backs by exhaust-stunted pines, it was often the most peaceful moment of their day.  It was only a broken remnant of an ancient and long-ago crumbled concrete bridge, but at that hour, it was theirs alone.

Jeriko heard a rustling in the bushes and saw them quiver.  She blew out a stream of blue smoke and clutched Kortnee’s left bicep.  “Look right there!” she whispered.  Kortnee swiveled her head in time to see an explosion of cardinals burst into the air and three squirrels scurry toward the pines from beneath the blackberries.  She smiled, said “That was pretty,” but then saw what had put the critters to flight.  Her body tensed, and she grabbed Jeriko’s hand then spat out a few flecks of tobacco.  A tall, lanky, disheveled man in dirty blue jeans, a grease-stained leather jacket, and battered work boots stumbled out of the thicket, cursing and staggering.  His hands were scratched and bleeding, and he appeared not to have showered for a week.

Kortnee’s voice trembled.  “That’s Kevin Lantz.  He delivers the smokes me and Mom roll.  I mighta shorted him a few last weekend.  He’ll be pissed if he noticed.”  Jeriko rubbed her friend’s back and giggled quietly.  “I don’t think he’s in shape to notice anything but staying on his feet right now, look.”  Kevin fell to his knees, scrambled toward a nearby rock, and struggled to haul himself upright.  Halfway up, he braced himself, palms on his knees, and groaned, “Ooohh, gawd,” before staggering in the girls’ general direction.  Kortnee and Jeriko leaned against each other and laughed before crushing out their cigarettes.

“That scuzz dates my Momma from time to time,” Jeriko said.  “He’s an asshole, too.  Wanna have some fun?”  She took her iPhone out of her purse.  Kortnee raised an eyebrow.  “What’re you gonna do?”  Jeriko grinned and dialed the police dispatch number.  “Yes, help, there’s a scary drunk man out behind Loner’s.  He just tried to grab me and my girlfriend.  I’m sorry, we gotta run, he’s still trying to grab us.  Hey, stop!  Stop!”  She hung up and returned the iPhone to her purse, and the two girls ran past Kevin, who by then had fallen flat and was wriggling around on the ground, trying once again to regain his feet.  The echoes of their laughter trailed behind them as they headed down the riverbank footpath on their way to school.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Kevin found a broken branch within reach and with it for support managed to stand up again.  After a few wobbling steps, he fished a dented metal flask from the inner pocket of his jacket, removed the cap, and turned it up, Adam’s apple bobbing.  He screwed the cap back on and returned it to his pocket before taking a few tentative steps.  He was still unsteady on his feet, but with the aid of his walking stick was able to get through the front door of Loner’s and eventually to the coffee island.  Hands shaking, he filled an extra-large cup to overflowing.  “Goddammit, shit! Y’all shouldn’t make that shit so hot!”  With considerable effort and some additional spillage, he managed to squeeze a plastic lid onto the cup before shuffling over to the pastry case.

The clerk, whose name tag declared him to be Robbie, watched all this warily, ready to pick up the phone if necessary.  While Kevin tried to decide what he wanted to eat, Robbie rolled a mop bucket over to the coffee island and quickly cleaned up Kevin’s mess.  With his free hand full of his coffee cup and sticky, crumbling Bear Claws and one sticking out of his mouth, Kevin mumbled what might’ve been “Sorry,” or maybe “Sucker,” then began stumping toward the cash register.  Shaking his head, Robbie quickly swapped the mop bucket for a broom and dustpan and swept up behind Kevin before resuming his post behind the counter.

While continuing to cram his first Bear Claw, Kevin set the rest of his merchandise on the counter and removed his antique leather wallet from his hip pocket.  Its heavy stainless steel chain rattled as he opened it and began fishing in it for the right bill.  Robbie rang up his total and said, “That’ll be $7.85, sir.” and noticed that the customer’s eyes kept crossing.  Not wanting to agitate the man further, Robbie tried not to recoil at the customer’s rank aroma of body odor and whiskey fumes.  The customer continued fishing in his thick wallet.  “Ahh,” he smiled, “there’sh a ten for ya.  Keep the change! Shorry for the mesh!”  Robbie accepted the bill.  “Uhh, sir,” he said, “this isn’t a ten, it’s a hundred.”  He held it out for the customer to take.  Kevin grabbed the bill and held it close to his nose, squinted at it, held it farther away, and opened his eyes wide before guffawing and handing it back.  “You’re a kidder, Robbie.  Sherioushly, keep it, you earned it!”

Kevin slid his wallet back into his hip pocket, picked up his walking stick, and turned to leave.  He left his coffee and the remaining Bear Claws on the counter and began shuffling toward the door.  “Sir,” Robbie called, “You’re leaving your purchase behind!”  Kevin didn’t pause but raised his free hand and flapped it around as if to wave off an annoying horsefly as he stumbled out the door.  Robbie called police dispatch.  “Hello, yes, no, I’m not in danger.  No, this isn’t an emergency.  This is Robbie at Loner’s Gas & Grab.  I’m concerned for a customer who just left.  He was very drunk and having a hard time walking.  He overpaid and left his merchandise even after I told him what he’d done.”  He listened to the dispatcher for a few moments while putting the overpaid money into an envelope and dumping the abandoned coffee and pastries in the trash.  “Oh, someone else already called in?  Oh, yes, I see the officer arriving now.  Thank you, you have a good day!”  Robbie hung up and walked to the front door.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Officer Bo Munday exited his cruiser and approached Kevin, towering over him.  Arms crossed, he peered at the drunk man over the top of his mirrored shades and asked, “What’s up, Mr. Lantz?  Tie one on last night, did we?”  Kevin drooled and squinted at Munday’s name tag.  Recognition dawning, he beamed and stumbled forward to hug the giant officer.  “Off’sher Mundy!  How’re ya doin?  What can I do fer ya today?”  As Robbie looked on in mute amazement from the open doorway,  Officer Munday gently but firmly pushed Kevin away, biceps and pecs rippling beneath his Dri-FIT uniform shirt.  “I’m citing you for Public Intox, Mr. Lantz, and I’m taking you home to sober up before you hurt yourself or—.” Kevin swung his walking stick at Officer Munday, screaming, “Oh no I ain’t getting’ locked up today!”  Officer Munday took two swift steps back and ducked out of the way of the wild swing.  With the hood of his cruiser at his back, he warned, “That’s enough now, Mr. Lantz, if you swing at me again I’ll have to arrest you for Assault on an Officer, and you will go to jail.”

Deaf to the officer’s warning, Kevin backed up several steps then charged, swinging the stick with all his might.  In one fluid motion, with an elegance Robbie wouldn’t have believed if he hadn’t seen it himself, Officer Munday intercepted the stick, twisted it free of Kevin’s grasp, then swept him up and pivoted, slamming Kevin’s forehead into the crusiser’s hood.  He quickly handcuffed Kevin’s hands behind him then eased him to a sitting position leaning against the front fender.  Kevin was bleeding profusely from a large gash on his forehead and from both nostrils.  Officer Munday called for an ambulance then retrieved his laptop and started typing his report.  Robbie returned to the desk and began dialing his boss’s number.  He began to think of how he would ask for a raise.

Varnish

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Is anyone else’s mind on everything but work today, or is it just me?  I thank the folks at WordPress for the Daily Post writing prompt!

via Daily Prompt: Varnish

Furnish my tarnished furnace

a glossy coat of varnish, and

burnish its battered surface

to a warm glowing hue.

 

Banish myself from the office.

Stresses of work quickly vanish.

I’ll finish this poem imperfect;

I cannot stop thinking of you.

Makes my gorge rise: a rant

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via Daily Prompt: Gorge

Reading time: approximately 2 minutes.

The phrase “makes my gorge rise” may be an English idiom (sorry, I don’t have time to research it, any wordhounds reading this feel free to enlighten us in the comments), so for you non-native English speakers out there, I’ll explain what it means.   When someone says “_______________ makes my gorge rise”, they mean that ______________ makes them feel like they’re about to puke/vomit/throw up.

Some folks, and I confess to being one of them, have such a profound capacity for anger that they can become so enraged as to feel like they’re about to throw up.  So “makes my gorge rise” can also be used as a euphemism for “I’m sick with anger about ____________”.

Before I proceed, I should say that I learned many years ago to leash my anger and am no longer given to violent outbursts of rage.  In my line of work, I am daily exposed to some of the worst elements of humanity.  If I hadn’t learned to subdue my anger, I would’ve been dead of a heart attack or stroke by now.  Anger is useless in my profession.

Still, there are some things that get my goat.  That really get my dander up.  For the past few weeks, what’s been making my gorge rise is the endless daily reports of privileged, powerful men accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  I don’t think that particular wave has even crested, either; the reports will keep coming.  And they need to, no matter how sick it makes me to hear it, because the public needs to know how bad it is.

For 6 years, I carried a sex offender caseload, and I learned more than I wanted to about the realities of sexual assault in America.  It occurs much more often and to many more victims than the general public would believe if every incident were reported.  It’s such a widespread problem that I can’t believe we aren’t currently hearing more accusations than we are every day.

As a man, a husband, and a father, I am embarrassed by the constant news stories of men behaving as nothing more than walking, talking, engorged, uncontrollable pricks.  I beg you, please, PLEASE, stop.  Just stop it.  You’re making us all look bad.  Next time you’re thinking of making an uninvited pass at a woman, ask yourself:  “Would I want some lecherous fuck behaving this way toward my daughter, granddaughter, wife, or sister?”  And if the answer is “NO!”, then don’t do it.

And teach your sons not to do it.  Teach your sons that a girl or woman is a person with her own wants and needs, not just an object for his lust.  Teach your sons the meaning of consent and how to obtain it.  If you need a handy guide for how to talk about the subject, read Amy Schumer’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo or better yet, listen to her read it in the audiobook version.  Not only will it edify you on the subtleties of consent and the harm done by sexual assault, it will fill you with guilt but gently while making you laugh out loud.

But by all means and for god’s sake, please, stop.

2 Reviews

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via Daily Prompt: Relocate

FHotLG

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich, fiction

I rated this 2 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Louise Erdrich is a fine writer, and Future Home of the Living God tells a powerful and moving story.  The narrative follows pregnant protagonist Cedar Hawk Songmaker, who may be carrying a very rare ‘normal’ fetus in a dystopian America in which most of the few women still able to conceive have begun to give birth to defective infants after evolution has reverses, as she attempts to relocate numerous times in an effort to avoid being incarcerated against her will in  various concentration camps disguised as mandatory care facilities.

There are several points in the book that evoke strong emotional responses.  Particularly, there’s a shocking betrayal at the heart of the novel that, being a man, husband, and father, severely stunned me.  I had to close the book and walk away from it for several hours because I was so shaken by it.  I’m probably being unfair in rating it only two stars, but for me, the story was entirely too depressing throughout and had an unsatisfactory ending, leaving me feeling hopeless and full of despair.

But for a truly bad book, see below:

DtS

Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption Is Worse Than You Think by Congressman Ken Buck with Bill Blankschaen, nonfiction.

I rated this 1 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

I checked out Drain the Swamp because I recently read an unabashed liberal’s account of governmental corruption (Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia) and wanted to see what an avowed conservative had to say about the same topic.  I’ve long known that many of our politicians are, and perhaps the whole system is, corrupt; it is a human institution above all else.  I’m surprised that Ken Buck, who has played the game of politics for much of his adult life, claims not to have realized just how bad it really was before he was elected to Congress.

If what Buck claims here is true, I did learn some shocking new facts about how corrupt and broken our government has become.  Apart from that, though, I derived little of value from this hack job of a book.  Although Buck does cast plenty of blame on his fellow Republicans, he reserves his harshest criticism for Democrats and goes to great lengths to demonize them, especially President Obama.  I became so tired of his oft-repeated refrain “President Obama’s unconstitutional and illegal” so-and-so that it numbed my intellect, and all I could do was laugh at what an obnoxious buffoon Buck appears to be.  At least in this book, he comes across as an intolerant, intolerable, bloviating, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, asshole who’s incapable of accepting any blame or admitting that some of his actions and beliefs have helped to contribute to the current deplorable state of affairs in American government, politics, and political discourse.  If he’s anything like that in person, I feel sorry for his constituents.  It’s possible, of course, that coauthor Bill Blankschaen did the majority of the writing and either intentionally or unintentionally portrayed Buck as such a jackass.  If that’s the case (which I doubt, because that would reveal him to be simply a clueless idiot), I feel sorry for Buck for having allowed this execrable screed to be published.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone except for Tea Party Republicans, Libertarians, and hardcore Trump supporters.  If any of those labels apply to you, you’ll probably love this book.  If I had bought it instead of borrowed it from my awesome public library, I would’ve happily relocated it to the trash can.

Long time no post

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via Daily Prompt: Patina

I’ve been busily chipping away at the patina of work that had accumulated on my desk, and after 3 months of dedicated effort have finally hacked through it all.  I hope in the coming days to add another short story to my Copperhead County series that I’ve so enjoyed writing this year and that has earned me some gratifying response here on WordPress.

Since starting this blog, my first, at the end of April 2016, I have posted to it in fits and starts, occasionally going several months without adding any new content at all.  I’ve noticed, at least among the 70+ blogs that I follow to date, that’s a fairly common pattern.  According to several pages & posts I’ve read about running a successful blog, a consistent tip is to post regularly, and although I have struggled to do so, I feel a little less bad about it since so many others seem to suffer the same problem.  I suspect the main reason is lack of time.

If any of my favorite bloggers, the ones to whose blogs I routinely give likes and post comments, the ones who will recognize me when they see this post, are monitoring your feeds but haven’t had time to share new content, know that I miss reading your unique points of view.  I know we all accumulate layers of distractions that keep us from writing.  I hope you can find the time and will to chisel yours away soon.

For those of you who don’t know me and are just seeing my blog for the first time via today’s Daily Post, I invite your comments.  Are you able to post as regularly as you’d like?  If not, what kinds of things keep you from doing so?  Feel free to peruse my blog and tell me what you think about it.  I’m especially proud of the posts categorized “Original Writing, Fiction, Short Stories”, accessible via my handy “Categories” sidebar widget, which I figured out today how to add to my blog!

Take care, be well, and happy blogging!

Denny