Saturday, April 23, 2011

So Close...

...torrents of rain guided my approach to David's mainstreet office. Doused within seconds of leaving the car, my shirt now clinging to my chest like a second skin, I thought, "This is Good Friday...really?"

My editor's office looms above a narrow staircase only a bookworm could appreciate. A steep incline reminiscent of its Victorian roots, alerting its upstairs occupant of an approaching guest with moans and echoing creaks, as if the weight of my shoe has rendered the ancient timbers unfathomable pain. I breathed a curse for not remaining loyal to my treadmill as promised, and continued on.

I was beckoned by David earlier in the day. A text message... "Stop by. Need to talk."

On other occasions, when having received such an invite, my evening becomes marred with the news of further delays on publication. "We should consider this..." or "We need to dwell on that for a while..." or some other form of maddening gibberish leading to another month of ruthless editing and the like. Therefore, the brooding cloud had followed me into David's office, no longer spitting upon my shoulder, but hovering like a spirit nonetheless.

I entered the office, more like a studio apartment, and studied a coagulating mess of paperwork randomly scattered about over his antique mahogany table. I'm sure at some point during its life, holiday gatherings had been shared upon its bruised top. Feasts of ham and turkey, festive drinks shared by loved ones sitting around the family heirloom. Now in its twilight years, the table hefted the weight of papers by the ream, manuscripts scribbled upon in red ink, a Mac desktop placed near the window at the far corner, and the top of David's scalp peeking out from above the monitor.

He knew I was standing there, and yet continued to type. Finishing up an important email, or what have you. I considered what was left of his silver hair dancing to the rise and fall of his shoulders, and figured that if Merlin would've been granted a computer while under Arthur's care, the scene would've no doubt looked similar.

I sat across from him, listening to his fingers pecking away, the rain pounding overhead. This was common. No gracious hello, or festive handshakes. Just a quiet entrance, not to disturb a mind rendered swollen from thought. And so I awaited my turn at the table. My reason for being there.

It took another minute or two before he noted my presence. The pecking stopped. He issued a belch under his breath. Then managed to say through a grunt, "This came for you today."

From behind his Mac, a book was tossed into the air. It hovered above the table for a moment, as if deciding whether its predetermined destination was really where it wanted to be just then, before landing with a dull thud in front of my place at the table.

I looked down, and stared at my cover. My title. My name. My story.

Memories of long hours spent hunched over my keyboard, scribing a tale worthy of being read, nipped at my conscience. Still more time battling exhaustive edit work. Years. Unending tribulations. A major re-write. Then another.

And now...

"You can touch it," David's gravely humor jerked me back from my state of shock. "It won't dissolve into dust."

I ran a forefinger over its glossy cover, breathed in the scent of fresh paper and lingering glue. That new book smell, urging its handler to turn the page and discover what lies inside.

With both hands, I opened it to a random page. Reading a paragraph, and recognizing the voice as my own.

"...I found Katie and my father sitting side by side on the sofa, dressed for church. Dad was wearing the same navy-blue polyester pants and white button down shirt that he'd worn the week prior. Katie was absently picking at a runner in her tights, which started just above her knee and disappeared under the hem of her blue floral dress..."

"I held onto the receipt in case you weren't interested," David kidded.

I looked up, realizing he'd finally stopped typing. Had in fact, rolled his chair away from the monitor, casting me a playful grin. A mental image of the troll from under the bridge danced about in my head, urging a smirk.

"Is there just one?" I asked.

"I thought I'd better hang onto a few extras," he said. "You know, in case somebody out there actually wants to read the thing. But that one's for you. And a few more you'd like."

I nodded, still a bit numb, then asked, "So is it available?"

"Not for a couple of weeks yet. We have much to think about. Reviews. Posting it online. Luring the big fish in for a nibble. It'll be ready in May as promised."

"Who's getting copies?"

David cleared his throat, a sound reminiscent of sawing timber, then, "We'll stay mostly local to start. Then, if I hear back that it doesn't suck, we'll spread our wings a bit and go from there."

"Amazon?" I asked.



"In a couple weeks, give or take."


David snorted. "You haven't a prayer."

"Okay," I said. "Spielberg then."

"Take a breath, kid. Your heads beginning to swell."

We shared a laugh. Then he stood and offered his hand. I rose to my feet and accepted.

" like it?" he asked.


"Then, congratulations."

"Thank you."

"We're close now. So very close..."


I hefted the book, cradling it under an arm.

"Gonna read it again?" he asked.

"I've read it enough. This one's for my son. I promised him the first copy."

I glanced out the window. The rain had stopped, the sun struggling to make an appearance.

"Not so bad a day afterall, eh?"

"It's finishing up well," I said.

"South of Charm"-May 2011

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

All's well, and then...

...the oldest son carries the tag-name, "Rocket" on his sleeve like a top dollar tattoo. Armed with raw strength from his mother's side, a spiked dose of athleticism from his father's genes, and simply put, the boy can make things look easy.

My daughter brags of the same talents. An eight year old gymnast who shines in the classroom.

And while he struggles to keep up with his siblings on occasion, younger son leads the pack in my favorite pastimes...he's an insatiable book worm, and can sink a twenty foot jumper from anywhere on the court, despite a defender wheezing spittle upon his brow and screaming obscenities to thwart his concentration.

They spoil my wife and I with grade cards worthy of being framed under glass and hung above the mantle.

Following a lifetime of failed attempts, the countdown to my book's release is but weeks away. The fulfillment of a dream.

When I looked to the skies, regardless if met by a splash from the clouds, or plumes of frost, I saw the sun.

...and the world continued to spin, oblivious and unaware.

Then one day it happened. A routine maneuver on the balance beam, something she's incorporated down to the ease of retrieving the morning paper at the end of the drive...when a tremble ran its course along her spine. When vertigo caused for a moment, her eyes to roll back in their sockets. When my eight year old daughter lifted a bare foot no larger than a smart phone, lost her balance, and crashed to the floor.

The headaches began thereafter. Migraines rendering her incapable of lifting a spoon to her mouth.

A few weeks later, following a battery of tests, my wife and I watched, helpless, as our daughter was rolled under the incandescent lights and vibrating rumble of an MRI exam.

The platform was designed for an adult. Lying prone, under the embrace of a woolen blanket, her thin stature resembled that of a cocoon in a bathtub, trembling and hidden.

The procedure was routine for those in white coats. A numbing tale of distress for our family.

...and the waiting began. Scowling at the telephone, the thing just sitting there, taunting us in silence.

I looked up to the skies and felt the rain. Pellets of ice and lightning. Released from clouds shaped like gunships. Somber and indifferent.

...and I was angry at how the world continued to spin. Without hesitation. Remaining oblivious.

A day passed without word. And nearly another.

But then the call came, the results a blessing. Nothing to report. Hereditary migraines. We were offered a prescription. Informed to keep an eye on her. That she'd most likely be fine.

My wife cried. My daughter and I shared a laugh. And while the boys would never admit to it, I caught them each releasing a sigh.

...and now I look to the skies, feel the rain upon my cheek, the ice under my feet, and realize how quickly things can change.

Yet the world will not slow down, allowing us to catch up. She'll keep spinning, brutally unaware, oblivious to what may happen.

If lucky, we'll succeed. Perhaps we'll fail.

...but that's okay. We're built for this. Getting back up. Trying again. It's what we do. Who we are. And whether the rest of the world knows it or not...all's well again :)

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Charming in May"

...anyone up for a spirited read over Spring Break?

"South of Charm"- ...Alone in the dark, one arm hugging the other, I studied the knee-high ocean of wheat billowing in the breeze. A field butted up to our backyard, the year's crop still green, their stalks thin like rye grass.

And as I sat, I thought of Richie Frank's laugh, like the boisterous call of a blue-jay. I wondered if Brad had caught me in height, or perhaps passed me by. He'd been gaining on me the summer past.

And while I knew I'd be seeing them in less than a day, I felt certain that my friends were long gone.

Then as I watched the darkened silhouette of a field moving as one, I spied a pair of golden eyes shimmering amongst the harvest, and realized an old friend had returned.

Dad had scoffed at the idea of bringing the cat on moving day. "That old thing?" he'd said. "He won't make it through the winter no matter where he lives. Leave him be."

The wheat parted, and the cat sauntered into the yard. He walked with a limp, his coat no worse for the wear, but covered in burrs and field dust. He made his way to my side, where he rested his haunches, regarding my shock with disinterest. As if a cat making a ten mile trek across the county to reunite with a friend was common practice.

"It's you," I said. "You're here."

I reached behind a mangled ear and with thumb and forefinger, massaged his scruff. He managed a purr, broken and laced with phlegm. A moment passed before he lifted a paw to his tongue and started cleaning. He had his work cut out for him.

"You're the first visitor I've had out here," I said.

Satisfied, the tabby moved to its thigh, a sheet of sandpaper caressing the rough spots.

"She's sick again."

He started working on the back of his head with a moistened paw. Poor thing needed a bar of soap.

"I hate it here. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. We don't even go to church anymore."

Giving up on those hard to reach places, he started in on what was left of his tail.

"Now I get to play my old team tomorrow, and probably get slaughtered."

At this, the tabby stopped bathing and faced me, as if considering my dilemma. His whiskers, one or two bent at an angle, others broken off completely, twitched in the breeze, the air smelling of rain. He flattened his ears, lifted his striped tail, and whipped it about like a festering snake. I couldn't decide if he was displaying concern, or trying to tell me something like, "Calm down, kid. At least you've got a healthy set of thumbs."

The one-sided conversation lasted well into the night. And as I spoke, I feared at some point he'd start talking back. I was my mother's son, after all.

But as the conversation ended, and the cat departed for the field, my only regret as I rose from the dewy grass, was that he hadn't said a word, when I'd hoped he would...

"South of Charm"---May, 2011 :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Eagle's View...

...for a rare treat, courtesy of Mother Nature herself, link over to the live video feed of a once in a lifetime peek at the hatching of baby Bald Eagles at a fish hatchery in Iowa. (not to be confused with that famous line from the stalls of most every Men's public restroom...'for a good time, call... ;)

The first youngster was born earlier this morning...the second of three eggs is due to hatch any moment.

Enjoy :)