Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crazy People and Hernias

You will have noticed my dwindling postings and comments. I'm afraid my schedule and energies are pulling me elsewhere at this time. I will be spending time focusing on work, writing, and other activities.

This won't be a long vacation. I shall still be visiting some blogs, though nowhere as faithfully and as many as before. I will also hopefully be exchanging emails with people.

Perhaps when Easter rolls around, I'll return to my old ways.

Until then, I'll be around. Just not so much.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


At a writers group meeting some years back I was surrounded by Christian ladies who wrote inspirational work. God bless them. When they read my work though, I could tell some of them found it a wee disturbing. One lady leaned over and put a hand on my forearm.

"Must you always write so darkly?" she asked.

I smiled, thanking her for her feedback. Darkly? I hadn't even shown her the story about the adulterer who is tied to the bed while a woman pulls a razor blade from under her tongue and promises him unimaginable delights. I hadn't shared the one about the old reprobate who haunted topless bars and manipulated young women into suicide. I hadn't given her the tale about the lumberjack who, cursed by a dryad, finds his sex organ changing with the seasons, withering in the fall and eventually falling off come winter.

So I wrote them a story. A special tale for the Church Ladies in writers group. It was called: GOD.

I would love to share it with you here, but instead you'll have to wait for its publication in the online quarterly: Mytholog. I imagine it will make an appearance sometime in the next couple months. I'll let you know.

In the meantime I will break with my tradition of not serving up my published work for perusal and instead give you the link to Susurrus Magazine. If you follow the link you'll find another of my stories, "Fishing With The Little People", something I wrote last summer after having read the Hemingway Nick Adam's stories. I hope you enjoy it. I'll let you know when GOD arrives...or for some of you...rearrives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


It's always Spring, it's always Fall. Renewal isn't about a season, it's about a state of mind. It's about being. Below are short stories and poems dedicated to this theme. Please visit them and offer feedback. If you care to critique, make sure you phrase feedback in a constructive manner. You may find something fun, or something disturbing in the offerings below. One never knows. My own contribution will be up later today, but for now, here are some fine efforts. Enjoy.










Assignment: Renewal

Molly Baumgarten looked down at her hands, the hands of an eighty year old woman. They were red thanks to the hot water in the sink, with blue veins showing through the thin skin stretched over knuckles exaggerated by rheumatoid arthritis. These weren't her hands. This wasn't her face. This wasn't the way she sat, nor the way she walked.

She turned to a chair at the kitchen table, needing to rest a few minutes before changing into the summer dress she would wear to do errands today.

A key worked at the front door lock. Her eyes shifted to the clock and a worried frown crossed her face. Why would Michael be home so early, she thought? She felt a stab of panic, then a sense of annoyance that her husband would be back to violate her privacy. Wednesdays he went to the Krupp Center, there to meet with old friends and cheat at cards while talking nonsense.

He entered, stepping through as though dancing. She lifted her face, gasping at the sight of him. His eyes, rich blue, blinked back at her. The eyes of a twenty year old man.

"Mikey?" she asked. "Mikey?"

He laughed, rushing into the kitchen to stand over her, his forehead clear of wrinkles, his chin firm. Strong. He put a hand on her's, but she pulled away.


"It's me, Molly. It's me," he said. His laughter was light. The sound of it made her ache inside.

Tears flooded her eyes. She buried her face in her hands, shoulders trembling.

"How could you?"

Michael winced at her question.

"You could have come with me," he said.

"I didn't think you were serious. Who would have thought that?"

Molly used a table napkin to daub the corners of her eyes. She heard Michael's voice, but it was all wrong. She saw his face, but it wasn't the face she loved, not the face beat up by time, scored by experience. This face belonged to a young man who had too much to learn, who didn't understand what was important in life.

"I begged you to come take the treatment with me," he said.

"So I could be young for one day? One day? Tomorrow the treatment will be over and you'll be dead. I'll be alone. One day. Is it worth it? Is it fair to me?"

"I needed to do this," he said. Michael danced across the room, showing her his reclaimed youth. He spun on a heel, bending over to pull her to her feet. His arm encircled her waist, and as he stepped with her, humming into her ear. She couldn't help smiling, she always smiled when he hummed this tune, and it had been many years since he had done that.

When they stopped moving, Molly had to rest against the kitchen counter. Her heart beat too quickly and she felt lightheaded. Michael stood watching her, his eyes at once filled with pain and impatience.
"I have to go," he said.
"Go where?"
"I have less than twenty four hours now. I have less than that to run down the block, to drive a car once more, to eat things I haven't been able to eat in years, to feel things I haven't been able to feel."
Molly nodded, feeling resentment. He had always been a selfish man. She loved him, but she knew his flaws. She should have known when she refused his pleas to take the treatement, to abandon whatever time they had left so that they could enjoy one last day of youth, that he would go without her. Selfish. Foolish. She hadn't thought it worth it, but looking at him now.
"Go, " she said. "But in a few hours you'll start glancing at the clock. You'll start resenting that you only have a little time left."
"I won't resent it," he said. His voice had an edge to it.
Yes, you will, she thought. As the time grinds quickly by you'll start feeling the shallowness of forced experience. You'll start working harder to recapture something that can't be recaptured. Not really.
"Okay," she said. "Go, go run. But, Michael, promise me something."
"When your time is almost passed, come back to me. Here. I'll be waiting."
For a horrible moment it almost seemed as if he wouldn't make that small committment. At last he nodded and dashed into the late morning. Running.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Teach to the Test, Teach to the Culture

She looked at me when I told her I taught for a living and that I administered a small alternative education program.

"What do you think the problem is?" she asked. "Why are the schools doing so poorly?"

I looked her way, responding automatically: "The schools are fine."

"Then why do the kids' test scores keep dropping?"

She didn't want to know the answer to this. None of them do. Not really. I mulled over my response, then casually responded: "Parents."


"Parents. The culture. Our society. Test grades won't improve until the culture starts to value education and learning. They don't."

"I disagree, I spend a lot of time with my kids..."

"You're one parent. The majority of parents spend little to no time working with their kids. We live in a culture when kids are bombarded by all sorts of media. They are bombarded by videogames, internet surfing, music, etc. It's about values. If students are given a hard work ethic, then how can they be expected to do well in class? They do what is easy. "

"So, you're saying teachers bear no responsibility?"

"There are good and bad teachers. More good than bad." I thought about my answer for a second. "There are good and bad parents. More good than bad."

"So what's the answer?" she asked, sounding frustrated, wanting to hear a quick fix.

"Maybe to stop blaming one another and to work together. We've got to change the culture or we change nothing."

She walked away. I looked after her and thought about the testing we're doing this week and how it seems curriculum has been molded so that kids improve test performance. Teach to the test. Teach to the culture. I turned back to what I had been doing.
RENEWAL assignments are due tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Farewell to a Console

The XBOX died this fall. No problem. I still have a PS2. So, I went and purchased the new major league baseball game, a Spring ritual. I played for about an hour before the PS2 died. What the heck!!! My laptop won't let me play games because of a faulty disc drive. Thanks Dell. So, the good news is that I have less distraction for writing.

Financially hard times here prevent me from going out and buying a new console. But one can't complain, there are so many other things going well. Or at least not going wrong. Sometimes not going wrong is about as good as it gets.

I just thought I would throw in a reminder here. I've already received about six links for this upcoming assignment. The deadline is Wednesday. I will be posting all the links and whatever my creative self manages. Send any links to satori@arenet.net Probably just as well that my PS2 died.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Toys A Plenty

How do you know when you've achieved greatness? When you've been made into an action figure, of course! Don't believe me? At talkingpresidents.com you can purchase such heroic figures as Dennis Miller, Dr. Laura and Ann Coulter.

According to the copy on the website: The Ann Coulter figure is dressed in a single piece black dress, black high heels and gold earrings. The articulated figure bears a striking resemblance to its namesake - even down to Ann’s striking green eyes, long blond hair and determined look. Just like Ann, if you press the right button it will tell you exactly what it thinks, and it has plenty to say. “What are you Liberals afraid of? Let me talk.

If contemporary political action figures aren't your cup of tea, how about an old standby? Adolph Hitler!!! I can think of some interesting expressions of surprise around the Christmas tree, or Hanuka bush for that matter. Ann and Adolph, a match made in heaven?

Speaking of Heaven, maybe you want your kids to enjoy some religious action? They can always replay the Original Sin with Adam and Eve religious figures (fig leaves not optional), or maybe change the outcome at Golgotha with a Jesus Christ action figure (complete with bendable arms).

Never went to Woodstock? You can easily create your own music festival by bringing together Jimi Hendrix, Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, and The Man In Black, Johnny Cash. Keep them off the smack with the smooth psychoanalytical stylings of Carl Jung.

I remember the good old days, when the only action figure was GI Joe.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oh...Wise Guy!!!

The Marx Brothers or Three Stooges?

Marx Brothers, of course. As a lover of the lowest form of humor, and I'm speaking about the PUN here, the spoken word always gets me above slapstick. Which is funnier, Moe stabbing Curly in the eyes with his fingers or these quotes by the Groucho?

--Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

--From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.

--Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. [read this one again and think about it]

--Groucho: You know I think you're the most beautiful woman in the world?
Woman: Really?
Groucho: No, but I don't mind lying if it gets me somewhere.

On the other hand let's look at some of the witty repartee of the Three Stooges and then you tell me which. And I don't want to hear women say that men like The Three Stooges because they are juvenile and crude. Maybe it's true. I just don't want to hear it:

---Curly: I'll be back in a quack with a quack and I do mean quack.

---Moe: How'd ya want your eggs?
Curly: Sunny side down and don't turn them over.

---Curly: Roses are red, violets are blue, drink four of these, then woo-woo-woo-woo

---Curly: Are you casting asparagus on my cooking.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Journal Entry

I am now journaling. I am sitting at the computer writing whatever comes into my head. No editing. I am giving myself about fifteen minutes to half an hour to complete this task.

Three men on horseback broke the treeline and thundered across the field. Amos, who had been mending the small stone wall that seperated his property from Abernathy's, stood up, bending first to the left, then to the right, to ease a knot developing in his low back. He took a bandana from around his neck and ran it over his forehead to wipe away the sweat and grime there.

He recognized the lead rider. Sam Sheperd. A traveler from the southern colonies who had stayed in Massachussets to court Wayne Salle's daughter, Ezzie. A hopeless courtship, that. Sallee was strict, religious, and a man of property. He would never consider Sam as a proper husband. Sam had nothing and most people felt it was only a matter of time before the no-account returned to his traveling ways.

"Amos!" Sam cried. He reared back on the reins, trotting up to the wall.

"Hello, Sam. Hello, Karl. Michael." Amos nodded greeting to the other two men as well. Karl was a slow, but gentle man who worked hard under Salle's skinflint management. Michael was a Quaker who spoke little, but who seemed to have many connections in the community.

"They've gone and done it," said Sam. "Yessir."

"Gone and done what?"

"The British. They fired on us. We were gathered over at Concorde. We stood our ground, but there looked to be a thousand of the lobster backs on the march."

Amos leaned back against the wall, his stomach jumping with nervous excitement. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. The militia had organizing for some time now, but no one took them seriously, not really. It was a way for the locals to feel better about themselves, a way to blow off steam. Yet, if Sam was to be believed, and Amos wasn't sure he could believe him, the British were firing on them, treating them as if they were foreign fighters and not citizens of King George.

"Who fired first?"asked Amos.

"The British set fire to the town. They were stopping, questioning people demanding to know where we were storing our weapons. Parker made us fall back because he didn't want no trouble, but when we saw the flames, we knew we had to do something."

Amos studied his farmland, thinking about the planting he had planned. He thought about the soil, thinking about what omens the winter had given him that this Spring would be mild. It hadn't been. Winter hadn't let go until March stubbornly pulled itself into April. He looked at the wall.

"Well?" asked Sam. "What do you think?"

"Did anyone die?"

Sam considered the words, looking uneasily from Karl to Michael.

"We don't know," answered Sam.

Amos considered the meaning of those words. It meant that when the shooting started that Sam and the others had lit out of there at a quick pace. No shame in that, thought Amos. The Redcoats weren't playing games like the militia. They were soldiers. The militia were farmboys.

"Grab some rocks and help me finish this wall," Amos responded. He nodded toward his house. "When we're done here, we'll go relax over an ale and decide what to do. I suspect by then there will be more to hear about what happened today."

"I thought we should ride and tell people," said Sam. Michael and Karl had already dismounted.

"Tell them what?" said Amos. "Let's finish this wall."

Monday, March 05, 2007


I'm going to push myself to do another assignment. As usual, if you're interested in joining me, the deadline is a week from Wednesday. So if you decide to join me, send me the link to your story in email on Wednesday and I will put all the links on this blog so that people can read, share, and possibly critique one another. If you want to see how it works, then check out Seduction, a previous assignment.

March's assignment? Spring is here. It's a time of renewal. And that's the theme. RENEWAL. It can be any genre, it can even be a poem. If you are an artist, then it can be a sketch, or a photograph.

Each assignment has a purpose. In the past assignments have been crafted to develop character, point-of-view, and setting.

For RENEWAL..just make an emotional statement. Have something to say. Reach into the creative pool and bring forth something inspired or something to inspire. And do it all with a limit of one thousand words.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I don't know what made me think about this. It's been close to seventeen years.

Late afternoon and a girl calls in from a public phone; she's got our number off a card that lists "crisis lines". She sounds scared. She's fifteen, hanging out in a rough part of Detroit, across town from where I am. She's a runaway and wants to come in off the street. We talk for a while and I hear voices.

"What's that?" I ask.

"There's a couple of guys bothering me."

She argues with them for a moment, one of them wants her jacket. I manage to get her attention. "Don't argue with them," I say. "Listen to me...don't argue. Is there a store around you somewhere?"

"Yeah, I'm outside a party store."

"Okay, go in the party store. Tell the manager who you are and ask to use the telephone. If he won't let you, then give him the card you have and ask him to dial it for you. Or ask him to call the police."

She's arguing again. Things become heated. I feel the situation becoming more serious. I get her attention once more, convincing her to go immediately into the store, hoping she'll be safer there. The girl agrees. As soon as she hangs up I call 911. The 911 operator tells me that since I am calling for a location across town that she can't help me. I will have to call a police department where the problem is occuring. Disbelieving, I identify myself as a crisis worker. She's unmoved.

Several minutes later, after figuring out which precinct she is in, I call the police and ask for assistance. The man answering the telephone doesn't sound too concerned. "She went into the store?" he asks.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well, I'm sure she'll be okay. Look, we'll send a car over there. She's a runaway, so we can pick her up."

I hang up and dial a runaway shelter closer to where the runaway is at. No one is ever allowed to go and pick up a teenager. The shelter worker and I discuss a way around this. The van can go to the party store, then wait there until the police arrive. Then, they can get the police to transport her to the shelter. It's not a perfect plan; the worker and I know we are both on shaky ground.

As I hang up the phone rings again. It's her.

"Are you in the store?" I ask.

"No, I'm at the pay phone."

"Why aren't you in the store?"

"The guy there wouldn't let me use the telephone."

"Did you tell him what was going on?"

"Yeah, but he still wouldn't let me use the phone."

"Did you ask him to call the police or to call me?"

"Yeah, he wouldn't do it."

The voices again. She is arguing. This time I can hear the situation becoming tense. Yelling. I hear her shouting and then nothing. The phone hasn't been hung up, but she's no longer there. I call for her repeatedly, but there's no response. I call the precinct again, talk to the same police officer. The other telephone rings. I hit the line and a man is calling, he has a deep voice and sounds nervous.

"The girl told me to call this number," he says.

"You're the store manager?"

"Yes. I didn't want her to use the phone. I just didn't know. I didn't want to get involved. I didn't know what was going on. "

"Where is she now?" I ask.

A long silence follows. I can hear him breathing.

"I watched her get on the pay phone," he says. "I watched her through the window. Then she starts arguing with these two guys. Next thing I know a car comes up and they force her in. The car drives away."

He hangs up. I hang up.

The telephone rings again. This time it's a teenager asking for information about the emancipaton laws.

Friday, March 02, 2007


"Ah, sweet pity, where would my love life have been without it?" ---Homer Simpson.

Sometimes I sits. And sometimes I sits and thinks. And other times I sits and thinks about things of whimsy. This morning, as I drove to work, my mind wandered and I asked myself: "Self, when did you first tell a woman or girl, that you loved her?" The question surprised me, but not my dog Bernie. He expects such nonsense from me.

"Do you remember the days when you would ask a friend to ask one of her friends if there was the possibility that if you approached her that perhaps she would be receptive to your overtures?" I asked myself, thinking of middle school. My mouth curled into a broad smile.

"But what about the first real admission of love? Working up the courage to overcome that sinking sense that you were closing the door on a trap?"

Bernie looked out the window.

I remembered a story David Steinberg used to tell. He would relate how an older friend, a burly individual whose body hair took on a life of its own, would give advice about romance.

"Whatever you do," the friend related, "don't ever tell a girl you love her. Don't ever do that. Never. You'll be sunk without a way out."

And in the story Steinberg ends up at a school dance, paired with a Shirley Pearlowitz, a teenager with breasts the size of Ethiopia. And as the music played and they snuggled closer to one another, Shirley leaned forward and whispered in his ear: "My parents are out of town.....and I'm a nymphomanic."

To which Steinberg stated he replied: "Shirley, I love you."

Me? I don't remember. I recall holding that word in awe. I remember a young girl once saying she loved me and my non response becoming an awkward silence. But I don't recall my first expression of love, although I had experienced many sleepless nights in love unrequited. I became an expert at it.

"I'm such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own." --- Woody Allen