The Miracle Focus

Cars can surprise me. The Miracle Focus did. Gather ’round, o’ peers of the ‘net, and let me share the short tale.

We have two cars. One car ‘belongs’ to my wife, with the connotations attached that this is the car that she primary drives, and that I slip behind the wheel once in a while. This is a 2003 Ford Focus that we bought new that year. It was replacing the Nissan 200 that was my wife’s car then. Rear-ended, they declared the Nissan totaled.

Saying the Focus is my wife’s car implies the other car, the 2015 Mazda CX-5, is my car. That’s not true. My car was a 1993 Mazda RX-7 R1. I traded it in on the CX-5 at her behest in 2014. The Focus was then going to be traded in on a new sports car for me.

She reneged on the deal.

All that is beside the point, and just lengthens the story without adding to the plot, as did this sentence. The Focus has 105,000 miles on it, not bad for a fifteen-year-old vehicle. My wife drives it around town.

I take care of the maintenance.

I don’t do a good job.

Trying to make up for that, I took the Focus to an Oil Stop to have it’s oil changed, its fluids checked, air put in the tires, and so on. I did that last year, too, actually in January of 2017. It was supposed to be returned for maintenance somewhere in May of 2017.

That didn’t happen.

The maintenance this year, August, 2018, was well-overdue. I wasn’t too worried because no warning lights had come on, and only twenty-five hundred miles had been added since the last oil change.

When I took it into the same Oil-Stop as last year, they wiped out the dipstick and showed it to me. “It’s a little overfull,” the tech said.

That was surprising. I didn’t add oil to the car. No one else had, either. Oil Stop was the last place where anyone had added oil. As is their custom, once they changed the oil filter and put new oil in last year, they’d showed the dipstick to me to prove it was full. Now, a year later, it was overfull.

I was impressed. This car not only wasn’t using oil, but was apparently creating it.

That’s why it’s the miracle Focus.

That, plus I think it’ll be a miracle if my wife ever really does let me get rid of it.

Not that I’m bitter or anything. That would be petty. I’m just saying…

You know.



Editing & Rewards

I’ve learned more about myself, again. I’m happy to report this. I think it’s important to recognize that we’re always changing. That means that we always have some mystery about who we are that we need to confront and resolve. (At least I do, but I suppose others like to leave some mystery to themselves.) Some changes are as slow to witness as a snail’s progress across a patio. Other changes can be seen like a meteor’s flash in the August night.

One thing that I’ve learned is why I like editing, a lesson learned and forgotten. Writing like crazy in my finest efforts is primal, immersive, and intense. It’s also rewarding. Reward is associated with solving problems that are created as part of exploring the plot and understanding the characters. Reward also comes from the tangible progress of putting words onto pages until hundreds of pages are done and a novel is completed. That’s very tangible and satisfying.

Editing, though, lacks that sense of progress and reward of writing like crazy. I miss both of those things. But I’ve found that the editing process grounds me. As it’s more relaxing than writing because it’s less intensive, it has a gentler and more reflective quality in it.

Writing like crazy is also exhausting. That might seem strange to people who don’t know how much thinking is involved in writing. Editing, being less exhausting, leaves me with more free energy. Weirdly, I don’t know how to use that energy. I end up reading more. Conversely, reading more triggers the write-like-crazy impulse in me. But I’m editing, so I need to shun that. It’s a frustrating dynamic.

There is a sense of progress inherent in editing. It’s measured in the number of pages and chapters read, the number of notes made to check on this, and the number of those items that become resolved and checked off. But creative writing is problem-solving; editing isn’t, to me, so different areas of my brain are engaged. When I’m editing, I’m mostly reading. Remembering, I’m reading and editing my own work. I’m familiar with it. That’s exactly why others need to edit it for me when I’m satisfied that the draft is sufficiently complete to hand it off to someone to edit.

Done editing for the day. Not a great deal was accomplished in the sense that I didn’t cover many pages. (Ten, actually, when I go back to see how many I read.) That was because I discovered a name was spelled incorrectly. I was surprised to find that I’d spelled it wrong in the manuscript and in my bible of information. Global find and replace was needed, but to reach that point required research and decisions about which spelling to use.

That’s editing though, finding and correcting the mistakes, along with revising the story to improve flow and clarify.

At least in my mind.

Always In Threes

David Michael James finished his third cup of coffee as the third hour of writing ended. Standing, he stretched for three seconds. Then he saved his document, closed it, and turned off his computer, one, two, three. 

Everything was done in threes. Multiples of three were sometimes acceptable. David Michael James recognized his inconsistently about this, sometimes agreeing with the multiple of three rule mod. Then he’d determined, why, he’d done that three times, which drove such a spike of sheer joy through him that he’d celebrated with three glasses of wine that night instead of three different beverages, which was his norm. But then, he’d been forced to do that three nights in a row, buying three new bottles of wine to satisfy his need for libation. Life was so traumatic and complicated.

He lived in a three story, three-bedroom, three-bath home, the third house he’d owned (and he was the house’s third owner). He’d bought the first house with his first wife, ignoring all the rules of three, because Sheila convince him that it was silly, which was wrong. He’d thought about killing her (murdering her, doing away with her) because they’d argued so much (probably, he saw, because she’d eschewed doing everything in threes, even joking more than once (two times?), “Let’s do everything in fives, because we have five fingers and five toes on each hand,” foolish logic, and he’d soon pointed it out to her (“But we only have two hands and two feet.”)), but had calculated that he’d need to marry three times and if he did, he’d need to kill all three women if he killed his first wife. He wasn’t a criminal at heart (just a writer), so he chose not to do that, even though he knew that he still had a problem with the threes. If he married three times, he’d need to divorce three times. It was his sad destiny. He’d understood that if he had children, he’d need to have three, so he’d nipped that with a vasectomy as soon as possible (having his appendix and tonsils removed at the same time). No sense in taking chances.

Each of his first two marriages had lasted three years.

The roots of his governing principles in three were traced back to three events, a fact that awed him. One, a Bible school teacher had told him about the holy Trinity of the father, son, and holy ghost. That same day, someone else had told him that celebrities always died in clusters of three, and third, according to his mother (who was a junior high school English teacher), the best descriptors were always used in threes. Threes crystallized as a magic connection. The next day, he’d made three great catches, had three hits, and scored three times in a baseball game.

His affiliation to everything in threes had been blessed in threes, establishing his destiny. He acquired three degrees in college — Literature, English, and Philosophy — and then pursued a writing career, managing to write and sell three short stories to three publications in just three months.

His first novel soon followed, and then, three years later, his second. Both were best-sellers. This one, that he’d worked on today, was in the final stages of polishing, and then he’d send it off.

That left him at a crossroads. This was already his third occupation (he’d worked in three restaurants as a server in his teens, and a sales clerk at three different furniture stores, including the family business, where he’d worked for three straight years). After writing three novels, he couldn’t be a novelist any longer (could he?), which meant he’d need to find a new occupation.

His cell phone rang. (He had three, for business, personal, and just because.) After letting it ring three times, he answered, “Hello, hello, hello.”

“Hello, hello, hello to you, too,” his agent said. David Michael James had had the same agent for six years, although he’d terminated their agreement twice. This was another dangerous intersection that he needed to navigate. David Michael James was still rasslin’ (wrestling, struggling) with that dilemma (problem, challenge) and potential solutions (resolutions, fixes).

“Great news, great news, great news,” his agent, Mary Beth Johnson, said. It was to her credit that she had three names, but she’d explained to him that she was born in the south, and three names were expected. She also had two sisters, Jo and Barbara (Bobbi) who shared the same middle name, Beth. Mary Beth Johnson was also on her third marriage. She had a lot going for her.

“Tell me, tell me, tell me,” David Michael James said.

“One, I got a call from a producer. Two, they want to make a movie out of your first book. Three, they want to know if you want to write the screen play.”

David Michael James was delighted. Just like that, Mary Beth Johnson had earned three more years as his agent. “That sounds fantastic, wonderful, great,” he said.

Mary Beth Johnson had more details, but, “One, I’d like to meet you for lunch, two, so I can give you the details in person, and three, you can hand over your latest manuscript.”

After three questions (and answers), David Michael James agreed that they’d meet next Friday, which was the third Friday of the month, at three P.M., at the third restaurant suggested.

After ending the call (which had lasted three minutes), David Michael James jumped up and down in joy three times, and then hummed three bars. Things always worked well in threes.

Then it hit him (struck him, came to him). He could use another name (pen name, nom de plume) to continue his career as a novelist, which would effectively start a second career (even though it remained his third occupation). Perfect, perfect, perfect!!!

With that, he brushed his teeth for three minutes and changed into his third set of clothes of the day.

Time to go look for wife number three.

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