Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mr. Sigmann

...the story was originally published in Saturday's edition of Mansfield's News Journal, and has since fueled an angry backlash of readers, including myself.

While at work one night, a man by the name of Dale Blamer, discovered an aging dog trapped in the bowels of a large pit. Using a ladder, he managed to rescue it, and later took it home in order to nurse it back to full health.

A few days later, his roomate, Toni Barger, spotted a plea for a "lost dog" in the local classifieds, with a perfect description of the hound they'd rescued. They responded, and later returned the dog to it's rightful owner, Paul Jones.

A short time later, Mr. Jones showed his appreciation to the couple, by presenting them a pup sired by the same dog they'd rescued a few months earlier. While that act of kindness may not seem like a monumental gesture at first, once everyone learned of the dog's breed, the matter changed entirely.

The dog who's life Dale Blamer saved, and later returned to it's rightful owner, turned out to be a fullbred Hungarian Vizsla. A rare breed of European hunting dog, often sold for as much as $4,500.

The rust-colored, floppy-eared pup given to Barger and Blamer was named Mr. Sigmann, and was roughly 18 months old in the evening of November 18th, when Barger let the dog outside to do his business. Mr. Sigmann never returned.

Vizsla's are a short-haired, people-oriented, breed of hunting dog, known for their outgoing personalities and sharp IQ. Much like their German cousin, the Weimaraner, which I own, Vizsla's are not fond of cold weather, or rain. Most importantly, they are attention fiends. They simply can not be left alone for long periods of time. It will literally drive them into depression.

That being said, when Mr. Sigmann didn't return home within a few minutes on that rainy, November evening, Toni Barger immediately knew something was wrong.

Later that evening, after returning home, Dale Blamer walked his five acre property in the dark, searching for his missing pup. He found him only a few minutes later. Mr. Sigmann had remained true to his breed. He had not run off and gotten lost. Having never left his owner's property line, the dog had been shot with a bow and arrow. Worse yet, whoever commited the crime, then pulled the arrow out of the dog, tossed it aside, and left Mr. Sigmann to die alone in the rain.

The couple believes their dog was shot between 10-15 minutes of being let out of the house for it's potty break. It had been around 5:30 in the evening, nearly nightfall. Seeing well enough to get off a shot would've been difficult after dark.

Authorities have been called in, locals hunters questioned, and little turned up. A reward has been offered for any information leading to the culprit, with no calls thus far.

The couple's other dog, a black lab, has since stopped eating, and has been diagnosed with canine depression. According to their vet, the lab has decided to "will itself to die," over losing it's best friend. For anyone who's ever read "Where the Red Fern Grows," by Wilson Rawls, knows these symptoms all too well.

I guess the obvious assumption would be that since the dog's coat was an off-brown, rusty color, similar to that of a deer, one could mistake a Vizsla for a small doe standing out in a clearing. The problem with that theory is that Mr. Sigmann was still considered a pup, and weighed only 47 pounds. Even a small doe normally tips the scale at 150-180 pounds, and that's considered frail.

I'm betting that wasn't the case. I see an impatient hunter, spending his day hidden in the nearby thicket, moody from a day spent under an icy drizzle, having seen no sign of deer, and cursed with an itchy trigger finger. Action is yearned for. Then a dog is spotted, brownish in color, standing waist high, trotting timidly, much like a fawn. And following a lousy day spent in the rain, the hunter simply can't resist.

And that's a best case scenario.

Sad. So very sad...what some people will do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Bear Necessities"

...sometimes you win, and sometimes you're left with your ass hung out to dry.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

...Rambling's an honest truth, something which may be a surprise to some of my friends, those beer guzzling, football crazed, grunting-farting-friends whom I personally feel every man on the planet needs in order to, well, continue to feel like a man. I can soak up a good novel like a politician can rattle off lies to the public.

It would be best to check this number with my wife, but I'd be willing to guess that I've tackled upwards of forty best-sellers this year alone. Usually after work, late at night, long after everyone else had called it a day, and normally while waiting for some sign that I was actually starting to feel sleepy myself. Droopy eyelids, head nodding, those little hints that have been failing me lately. Could be a form of depression, I've been debating on that for quite some time without an answer.

So one night I'm reading a John Sandford novel, one of my favorites, and I come across a phrase that I haven't been able to let go...

"If you look in the mirror while shaving in the morning and ask yourself what you've become, would you like the answer?"

The thing is, you can lie to your parents, you can lie to your boss. If you're morals are askew, you can lie to your spouse. Some can even lie to their kids. But when you stare at that face in the mirror, what comes out, whether spoken or not, has no choice in the matter. And what you see looking back at you is what you've become. I guess the question is, was it worth it? Is it what you've always wanted?

Twenty years ago I smuggled a handful of cold beers out of my father's not-so-hidden stash, and met up with the best friend I'd ever had on the edge of a small pond one summer night to stare up at the stars and act like we were far older than our mid-teens. We'd pulled this stunt often during that summer. Not so much out of boredom, or even as a mischievous act. But more so because, while unspoken between us, we were running out of time. My parents had divorced, and ugly partaking, and I was moving away with my father. Changing schools. Changing everything. And while it's difficult to understand when you're seventeen and fearless, time had become precious to him and I.

And so on this one particular night, while lying back on the soft earth, listening to frogs across the shore and staring upward, the question was raised of our futures. I'm no longer sure by whom. My buddy since kindergarten felt quite positive he'd be heading to college, then on to a teaching career. He'd mentioned it before so I wasn't caught off guard.

As for me, well I wanted to follow the sun and travel south. And more than anything, I wanted to be a writer. A novelist. Not necessarily one who would need to hire a team of analysts in order to math out my finances, but a comfortable income would've hit the spot.

Twenty years ago.

And now I look in the mirror. I see a face looking back at me. A face deemed impossible of anything but the truth. And what do I see?

I have a son who's in the top of his class. He takes his school work seriously. He creates goals and strives for them. He yearns to succeed. And I tell him to march on where I have stumbled. And I think to myself that this world will be okay with people like him in charge. But he looks up to me in awe, and listens to my every word. And I wonder if I'm deserving of such a privilege.

I have a wife who's become my new best friend. She's had this lifelong goal of adopting a child in need. Most recently her focus has been on international adoption. Bringing a child home from Africa. Saving a life otherwise doomed. And I've agreed. Let's make a difference. Let's create change. And then I think of a select few in my family who are openly racist. I picture the grimace on their faces when they hear the news. And I wonder if anyone can still be saved. If anywhere in this world can still be considered safe.

I have a job I can't stand. Working with machinery I couldn't care less about, on a work schedule I find nearly intolerable. And I'm told I should be happy I even have a job. That I can pay my bills and keep that roof over my family's head. And I think to myself how we've only got one life on this planet. One shot at making a difference. And yet everyday I clock in, and I watch that press go up...I watch the press go down...I watch the days go by...

My best friend of twenty years prior did end up going to college. Then he dropped out a year later. He moved south, found a job tending bar, and since then we've lost touch. We always knew we'd run out of time...

And I wonder what he sees when he looks in the mirror.

I look in the mirror and this is what I see... If asked, I'm a dad. Hopefully one worthy of being looked up to. Of being remembered. If asked, I'm a husband. Not a great one. But one willing to listen, willing to give in, hopefully one worth remembering. And if asked, I'm a writer. Twenty years in the making...and counting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Election Day"

...a married man straining toward middle age, dashes into the neighborhood poll booth in order to "exercise his right," before heading off to work.

His hair is kept short, but has lately begun showing signs of wear, with a graying tint. An old grease-stained work T hangs from his shoulders, and an aged pair of denim carpenter's hide the tops of his ancient work boots.

While he grew up in a strictly Republican household, with age he's come to realize that he can no longer claim loyalty to either party. He considers himself a "tweener," casting his vote for what he feels would be best for his family rather than remaining true to some political cause or fattened agenda.

He quickly slides his identification card into the machine, hoping to be back on the road before his car's engine has a chance to cool, when his finger hesitates over the touch screen.

A school levy asking for additional funds generated through an increase in everyone's property taxes in order to make improvements to the local high school. Having a couple of kids enrolled at the school, he had anticipated on voting "yes" on the issue.

Then he thought of his elderly neighbor. A couple nearing seventy and in jeopardy of losing their home. They can't afford to pay their taxes as they are. An increase would no doubt force them to leave.

That neighbor of his is the nicest man he'd ever met. He'd borrowed countless tools from him over the years without the batting of an eye. And now...

His finger hovers over the touch screen, trembles, then lowers. The machine makes a clicking sound and the screen changes.

A group of people up north want to build a casino by the lake. The jobs, the money, a chance to right the ship in a state wallowing in debt.

Again his index finger lowers, then stops. Gambling is an age-old sin. It brings with it crime in every shape and form, like a pair of inseparable mobsters, both weilding tommy-guns under their knee-length trenchcoats.

But the money. A hundred million dollars leaves the state and get pushed into slot machines in states above and below us every year. So why not keep it here for a change? Why not help ourselves for once?

But the crime...our children.

A minute passes. His finger comes down. The machine clicks, moves on.

Voting on city officials. Republicans and Democrats. Ancient rivals with deep lines drawn in the sand. One can almost pick them out of a lineup at this point.

He thinks of the Vice President of the company he works for and his brow lowers, his jaw clenches. A sixty-something finger-pointer who liked standing behind or on top of machines while in operation, in order to keep an eye on his employees. To make sure there was no mischief on the shop floor. Never mind figuring out who the culprit was who repeatedly stole everyone's drinks from the refridgerator in the break room. Or that guy who takes pleasure in drawing racist graffiti behind the closed stalls in the lockeroom. Let's ignore them in order to make sure the machine's continued to hum, and products shipped, and money pocketed.

A Republican. No doubt.

Then he thinks of the owner of an impressive collection of boogers which have been smeared upon the walls of the restroom directly above each urinal, naturally at eye level for proper convenience. The simple foulness of the act causes his head to shake from side to side, and yet he couldn't help but grin. The level of maturity somewhere down below the crumbling leaves in his front yard.

Had to be a Democrat.

He glances at the names. Recognizes a few, squints at others. Then makes his choices.

He retrieves his card, pockets it and leaves.

He surprised himself on a few decisions, stuck to his guns on others. He doubts he'll be cast into the pits of hell over what he's chosen, or be issued a golden key at the Pearly Gates. But he did his best. Did what he thought was right. And in the end, he hopes maybe that's enough.

And he prays that the owner of all those boogers used a different voting machine whenever he showed up and made his selections...

Update... "Broken" is currently being read by a local publishing house, and a well-known agent from Los Angeles.

"Maji" will be entered into a short story contest in hopes of publication.

The second part of "The Fall" is on draft number two, and will be sent off to an E-magazine for publication when complete. Feeling confident over that one.

And "The Fellas" is currently being hammered out in between mortgage payments and overtime in the pressroom.

Still hoping...ever waiting.