10/14/10: Way to shame me into updating again by commenting, people who comment! (Seriously, though, hi, welcome, and pull up one of the splintery old orange crates that we use for seating 'round these parts seein' as we can't afford no fancy chairs.)

The rules from
here still apply.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not Hip

The old man turned off the radio
Said, "Where did all of the old songs go?
Kids sure play funny music these days --
They play it in the strangest ways."
Said, "It looks to me like they've all gone wild.
It was peaceful back when I was a child."
Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys
Are trying to be heard above your noise?
And the lonely voice of youth cries, "What is truth?"
-- Johnny Cash, 1970

Come on, Reed. The Man In Black told you what-for forty years ago. Yes, the world is a complex, changing, and often scary place, but if you're willing to see good things among all that scary newness, you'll actually find a surprising lot of them! Even in the music that young people listen to these days! For instance, one of my favorites over the last few years, Iron and Wine, is a fella singing softly alongside little more than an acoustic guitar. Sometimes his music feels as though it is coming from a sort of sweet and gentle world that never actually existed but that I think would be comforting to live in, at least for a while. I think you would like it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Obituary Page

That morning Charlene Whitcomb sat down after breakfast to peruse the obituaries, just as she did every day.

"Hmm, hmm, let's see," she muttered to herself, pulling her chair up to the old card table that her computer sat on. She set her mug of coffee down beside the keyboard long enough to sign on, then had a drink as the modem issued its regular set of beeps and screeches. At last it finished, and she was online.

"Let's see," she said again. "'Ilsa D. Jackman, age 83, of Beetown, died peacefully surrounded by her loving family...' ah, that's good, that's good..." She scrolled down a bit. "'Leonard E Brouillette, age 60, of Fitchburg, crossed over to his eternal world'... how sweet!"

She reached out for her coffee mug with one hand, and continued scrolling with the other. Her eyes flitted back and forth over the top of the mug as she drank, reading one obituary after another... and then pausing.

"'Charlene Whitcomb,' she read aloud. "'Age 58, passed away at her apartment home in Black Earth on Tuesday, October... nineteenth...'" Abruptly she lowered her coffee mug back to the table. Some of the coffee slopped over the edge onto her hand, but she paid this no particular mind. "But... that's today," she whispered.

Charlene looked blankly around the room for a week, as though expecting to see some sort of explanation there. "This must be a joke," she muttered to herself. "I'm obviously not dead, so..."

She turned back to the computer, except it wasn't there. Neither was the card table; she was standing in the middle of what should have been her living room, except there wasn't a stick of furniture in it. Her curtains were gone, too, which meant any old lookie-loo could see through the windows, and... was that new paint on the walls...?

The front door opened suddenly, admitting the landlord and a young couple Charlene didn't recognize. "...since last month," the landlord was saying, "ever since the last occupant passed away."

"Mr. Ewers?" Charlene called to him. "I don't -- "

"This is a nice living room," the strange woman interrupted. "I love these huge windows -- they let in so much light."

"I'm -- " Charlene started again.

"Oh, and check out the skylights," the strange man said, pointing up.

"Nice!" replied the woman.

"Excuse me -- "

"You said the last tenant died, though?" the strange man asked Mr. Ewers. Charlene was right in front of him, waving her hands wildly before his eyes, but it was like he didn't even see her -- just looked right past her at the landlord.

"Y... es," Ewers replied hesitantly, "that's true." Charlene whirled about and stalked up to him, repeating the hand-waving experiment on him. "She was an older lady," Ewers went on, "and, well. She just passed away one night in October."

Charlene hauled off and slapped him.

And her hand passed right through his face.

"Oh," she said softly. "I see." She looked over at the young couple -- who were talking together now, obviously discussing the apartment -- and sighed. "Well, I do hope they'll at least put up some nice curtains in here. I don't want to have to haunt a place that looks slutty."

I pulled most of the obit text from what was on my local paper's website between the day this comic was published (October 19) and the day I got around to writing the fic (October 22). Scrambled the names, but not the locations, because seriously, "Beetown"? Awesome.

Friday, October 15, 2010


What, seriously, Brookins? Seriously? You're just taunting me now, aren't you? Fine:

"Y-yep! Pistachios! Boy, I sure do love 'em!"

He could feel the sweat beading on his forehead, hear the roaring starting in his ears, and she still wasn't letting go of his hands -- his hands that were still stained, he'd scrubbed and scrubbed but still the stain was there...

She let go. "Well, don't spoil your dinner," she replied with a little smile, before walking away.

His eyes narrowed. He knew he'd been sloppy, worn out after his work out in the woodshed; he should have kept scrubbing, should have cleaned his hands until no trace of blood remained. But there was so much work to do, and he was just so tired...

But that smile. That smile she had given him, as she released his hands.

Had she been out there to the woodshed? Had she seen his work, or the signs it left behind -- the remains that had to be disposed of, the bodies dumped in the woods, or burned and scattered out by the old gravel pit? Had she seen something there? Or had he left other signs for her to discover?

Did she suspect?

His red hands flexed.

Did she know?

There you go, Gary. I took the bait and addressed the obvious, and, frankly, only interpretation of that dog-man's expression given the situation. I hope you're happy.

Also, I should figure out a way to distinguish italic me-comments from italic fic-text. Let's try a different font and color, see if that works. Any color-deficient folks out there? I wanna make sure this dark reddish is clear enough for everyone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Used To

Of course, I knew that wasn't the right thing to say as soon as it was out of my mouth; and if I hadn't already realized it, then Danny's reaction would've clued me in pretty quick. All the happy went out of his face, so fast that it was like I'd slapped it off of him. He bowed his head low as if something very interesting had just sprung out of the mossy ground between his bluejeaned knees. His knobby little eight-year-old shoulders slumped. I've never been what you'd call good with words, but this was downright apocalyptic.

I waited a few seconds before clearing my throat. "I'm sorry, Danny. I know how much you must be missing him." Then I reached out and laid a tentative hand on his shoulder. "If you want to quit fishing and go back up to the house..."

"Nuh uh," he muttered. He swiped at his eyes with one hand, then looked up at me. He'd been doing a lot of crying these last few months -- which was good, because if an eight-year-old loses his father and doesn't cry about it, then there's something pretty wrong with him -- but he wasn't crying now. Misting a bit, maybe, but not crying. "Grandpa, was he good at fishing? My dad?"

That threw me for a loop briefly; Danny had been living with his grandma and me since the accident, and in all that time he'd never actually started a conversation about his dad. "Well, now," I said in a thoughtful tone, stalling for time until my brain could kick into gear. "Well, now, let's see... what do you think it would mean to be good at fishing?"

"Like if he caught a big fish," Danny answered promptly. He dropped his fishing rod to the grass and stretched his arms apart. "Like thiiiiis big."

"Nope, can't say I ever remember him catching a big fish here. Lot of smaller ones, sure, but none as big as you're asking for!" Of course, I had my doubts that this stream could even handle a fish like Danny was asking for -- he'd measured out a span big enough to fit a deep-sea tuna, while as far as I knew all that'd ever been caught here were minnows, perch, and the occasional bad-tempered catfish. Not that generations of boys hadn't tried otherwise, of course.

Danny was looking out at the stream, and I wondered whether he was still thinking long thoughts. A second later he unknowingly answered me. "Was he better at fishing than me?" he asked softly.

Which, of course, was a question about more than just fishing. "Danny, your grandma and I loved your dad, because he was our son." He looked back down at the ground, and I went on in as firm a voice as I could manage. "And we love you, because you are our grandson. Nothing will ever change that."

We were both quiet for a moment, him likely thinking about his dad, and me trying to think what to say next. Finally I decided to try to bring back some enjoyment into his day, so I picked up his fishing pole and handed it gently back to him.

"Now, come on, how's about you show your ol' grandpa up?" I smiled at him, not expecting him to smile back, though I thought I saw his mouth twitch ever so slightly. "After all, those big fish aren't going to catch themselves."