Going Retro

Yea, verily, I’m struggling.

I’m dissatisfied with an aspect of my novel in progress, “Incomplete States.” I love its sprawling sweep, but it sprawls too much. The sprawl dilutes focus on the characters, and I don’t think the typically reader will care about them.

Which, in thinking about writing this novel’s first draft, is understandable. Its concept consumed me, as did trying to understand and convey the concept to readers through the story. Thinking about it during the last several days was at first depressing. Then, I thought I began to more fully see the issue. I let my imagination off its leash. Ideas about what to do began streaming in.

Still not satisfied with the process, I pulled out a pen and notebook. I’ve done that several times while writing this novel, so the notebook is already in place. It’s a rawer and simpler way to process information for me, and that makes it faster.

I’m, of course, partially just disappointed. I wanted to be done with the damn book so I can move onto other projects. Yes, I’ve entered the stage when my beloved novel has become the damn book, a thorn in my side as much as a joy of creation. This is like that D.I.Y. project, like putting down new floor tile, that is progressing well until, halfway through, you realized you made a major error. You know it must be fixed, but first, a little venting and stewing is in order. Those who are more stoic would probably just begin fixing it immediately, but that’s not how I roll. I must simmer in emotions first.

But, issue thought out, choices considered, and decisions made, I’ve bounced back up. Here I go again.


After the Eclipse

It started a few days before the eclipse, with cats.

Cats and I are positive and negative magnets meeting. My ex-wife claims felines have secretly marked our house as a place for a nap and a meal. They’re always coming around, and often stay. But, two days before the eclipse, the cat count increased from seven to ten. The next day, the congress of cats doubled. Another eleven arrived on the day of the eclipse.

All were healthy and none fought, spooky, given how my four boys typically war with interlopers. The situation fed my imagination that cats knew something was happening. Sure, something was happening; it’s called an eclipse. Humans had been talking and writing about it, but none of my floofheads seemed concerned about the impending event.

That would be weird enough, but it wasn’t the weird, scary aspect of the post-eclipse day. Afterward, actually, that night….

I was in my study, as is my habit, imbibing a glass of tawny port, and watching a television show. Noises outside caused me to mute the sound, and then pause the show to investigate. Grabbing the flashlight, I turned on the front porch light and slipped out. It’d been a hundred and five degree day. Though we were slipping past ten P.M., the temp still shouldered eighty. Yet, it felt refreshingly cool.

The cats were on the front porch and yard. Every foot seemed to hold a cat. None watched me, or moved, but a few made soft mewling noises. They all stared outward. I turned my light in that direction.

Something was in the street past the rock rose.

The something stared back with large amber eyes. They narrowed as they watched me.

Not a raccoon or deer, I decided. Wolf? The shape behind those eyes were uncertain. Sweat dripping down my face and body, I crept forward with the flashlight. The amber eyes rose higher. I realized they were in a head on a neck as thick as my torso.

I realized it was a fucking dragon.

I realized that was fucking impossible.

I realized I was completely motionless.

I realized the fucking dragon was moving toward me.

I realized that I had no fucking idea of what to do. Some part of me seized the situation by the balls. I said, “Well, aren’t you a pretty dragon?” My tone suggested seeing a dragon was as common as seeing a cat.

Crawling forward, the dragon issued a creaky growl in response. The creature was bigger than my circle of light. My testicles climbed up into my body for protection. I tried swallowing, but there wasn’t anything there.

The cats all began meowing. The dragon shuffled forward, parting the rock rose like it was grass. My light revealed wings, scales, claws, a snout, and teeth. Yes, those were the primary dragon parts. I didn’t think running would do much good. I figured a dragon could probably take me, and that if it wanted to, I’d already be gnawed on like a bucket of chicken wings at a bar.

Stopping, the dragon thrust its head toward me. Taller than me, it lowered its head until our eyes were at the same level. Then it looked me over like a John sizing up a hooker. I did nothing but sweat and breath. I’m not positive about that latter, but I felt the sweat dripping off my hair onto my neck.

The dragon snorted. I jumped. I think I pissed myself a little. Realizing it was moving, I stumbled backward. With the cats meowing more loudly and intensely in a way that I’d never known, the dragon crawled forward into their midst on my front yard. Stopping, it curled up, drawing its tail around its body, and folding its wings against its sides. The cats swarmed over it. Many sniffed and licked the dragon.

He or she allowed it.

Finding body control and reasoning, I went into my house, brought out my cell phone, and took a photo.

The photo showed nothing there but the yard. Not even the cats were visible in the photo.

The felines were all settled against or on the dragon. All, dragon and cats, were looking at me. A chorus of purrs thrummed the air. Uncertain of what the fuck else to do – call animal control? – I stole back in the house. I left the front light on, opened the blind, and spent the night hours alternating between watching the dragon, searching the net for news about dragons, and trying to get a photograph of it.

It was still there in the morning, as the first people began their daily routines of biking, walking, jogging, and driving to appointments. None made it past my house. All drew up to stare, as I did, and try to photograph the beast and the felines on my front lawn. Dogs seeing the dragon, though, turned and fled.

I think this might be the beginning of a new era on Earth. Or maybe it was the return of an old cycle. You know.

Round and round.


Today’s Theme Music

As I’ve aged and semi-matured, I’ve developed fondness for certain performers. (Semi-matured; sounds like an adjective for a wine or cheese.) For example, when I used to hear Dame Judi Dench’s or Helen Mirren’s name attached to something, it automatically dialed up my interest level. I thought they were sensational actresses, and I thought they were more adept at selecting scripts and projects. Same with books and music.

In music, Billy Preston was one of those names for me. No matter the venue or music genre, I always enjoyed Preston’s performances. He had several high-charting songs, including this one, “Will It Go Round in Circles.” He has co-writer credit on the song with Bruce Fisher. Bruce and Billy also co-wrote, “You Are So Beautiful,” and “Nothing From Nothing.” A talented guy, but he seemed to deliver an energy to his music, and I admired that.

For your Monday listening pleasure, streaming from a television appearance recorded in nineteen seventy-three, Billy Preston.


The Wide Receiver

I once met a man who’d been a wide-receiver.

We’d gone through a new acquisition. Marketing asked me if I wanted a job. He was the Director of Marketing, and my new boss.

Our business was coronary and peripheral catheters. I was just learning the business. He took me to hospitals. We’d watch procedures. He’d explain things and introduce me to people.

We spent a lot of time on the road, and learned things about each other. He’d been a wide-receiver in high school and college. Small, he’d been fast, quick, intelligent, and disciplined. Good route runner. But as he progressed, he encountered competition from other wide-receivers. They were faster, bigger, and stronger, and just as intelligent and disciplined.

Eventually, he left that field, but he loved football, so he became a high school football coach. Through it all, from the first spark of desire, running was what kept him going. He ran five miles every day. One night, while sharing a bottle of wine with our dinner, he confided, “I run every day, because I’m afraid to stop. I’m afraid that if I stop, I won’t ever run again.”

I think of Jon tonight because I thought, I need a break from writing. Like Jon, I’m afraid, that if I take a break, the seed that defines the essence of who I believe I am will dry up and crumble.


April Into August

April trickles into May.

May flows into June.

June bursts into July.

July explodes into August.

Time accelerates throughout the year, racing past itself in a star-spangled red-blue shift, catching itself to devour its tail, squeezing the breath out of those of us trapped in the middle.

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