My yard work season opener…

IMG_1683.jpgYesterday marked the beginning of that time of year which means that it’s time to break out the “tools of spring/summer” once again, and pick up right where we left off back in the fall: Yard work!

To some, it’s something to be dreaded, or at least not something one eagerly looks forward to. I guess I’m just happy to be outside again, doing “summer-y” things in late March, even if it’s nothing more than getting the mowers ready and tidying up the garage from winter’s debris.

A week ago, I put down the first lawn fertilizer/crabgrass preventer, which actually signaled the beginning of the yard work season. Yesterday, with the grass having grownIMG_1685.jpg enough, and the temperatures hovering around 60, I mowed our palatial estate.

Riding along on the bright green John Deere, I basked in the sunshine and realized how great it felt to be doing this all again—this being out in the fresh air and doing good things for the lawn!IMG_1681.jpg

I also realized that there is a lot more to be done in the days ahead: All of the chicken wire we put up around the bushes to thwart the bunnies this winter needs to be taken down and rolled up and stored away. There’s lots of edging to do along the driveway and sidewalk. And the trusty weed trimmer will need to come out of mothballs very soon in the days ahead.

IMG_1687.jpgBut these are all wonderful “problems” to ponder while easily cruising along my course of cutting the grass for the first time this year.

Yep, there is something special about the start of a new season, even if it’s yard work! Anyone else agree with me? Disagree?IMG_1682.jpg

Back to that very first time…

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week.

Earlier this week, I spent a few hours watching several episodes of my  Ken Burns’s Baseball CD, something I tend to do every year right about this time.  Taking the nostalgic journey back through baseball’s past—full of players, teams, and stadiums—seemed like an appropriate thing to do, given that the start of another Major League Baseball season is right around the corner.

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(Photo courtesy of theclio.com)

 

And anyone who has read my blog posts for a while knows that I’m a life-long Chicago White Sox fan, old enough to remember many wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) moments at old Comiskey Park.

 

From the time my grandfather and uncle took my cousin and me to our first ballgame back somewhere in the late ’50s, I have rooted and cheered, lived and died, with the Sox.

Going to White Sox games was always a special event for one reason or another. From my very visit to Comiskey Park, to the last time I was there before it closed and the team moved across the street to their new ball yard in 1991, the first thing that always hit my senses was the delectable aroma of hot dogs and onions grilling in the concession stands along the lower concourse. Believe me, there was—and is—nothing finer than to have that greet you upon entering the ballpark!

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Lower Concourse (courtesy of flying sock.com)

Seeing the playing field for the first time, as my grandfather held my hand, edging us up the short flight of stairs to the seats behind home plate, was a spectacular image I’ve never forgotten: Green! Perfectly coiffed infield dirt! More green way out there in the outfield! Thousands of dark green seats! And a monster of a scoreboard, sitting quietly, waiting for the action that would follow along soon!

Batting practice and pre-game infield was happening all at once right out there in front of my impressionable self, and my wide-open young eyes couldn’t take it all in fast enough—nor my ears.

The loud crack of the bats connecting squarely with pitched balls. The thumps and pops of the baseballs slamming into the catcher’s mitt or the fielders playing catch out on the distant greensward were new and exciting parts of watching a big league ball game I’d had no previous experience with.

The colors! The White Sox in their classic white and black pinstriped home uniforms were just as I had imagined from the pictures created over the radio. And the few times I had been able to see them on TV (it was black and white then) and now seeing it all in person was almost more than this young boy could manage.

Being able to pick out—in the flesh—my heroes was probably worth the price my grandfather had paid for the ticket that day. We could have walked out of the park right then and there and missed the whole game itself, and I wouldn’t have cared. I had seen Nellie Fox and others warming up and batting just a short distance away, and nothing else really mattered from that point on.

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Nellie Fox (courtesy of baseball hall.com)

I remember that the Baltimore Orioles were the visitors, and they were clad in traveling gray with orange trim. The players seemed so old (I was 8 or 9) and they all went about their duties very business like, with that certain confident air that seemed to make them a cut above all the players who hadn’t made it to the big time—yet.

Soon, the game began, and I don’t really remember who won that day. I’m pretty certain it was a pitchers’ duel, though, since that’s what all Sox games tended to be.

I made it through a very long day at Comiskey Park, and I readily fell asleep once we were on the train back to my home in Indiana afterwards. I’m not sure, but if I were to wager a guess as to what went through my sleep-filled head that night, it would be that someday I wanted nothing more than to be just like those White Sox I’d had the pleasure to see in person for the very first time, playing the greatest game in the world!

Until next time, that’s one good thing…
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(courtesy Pinterest.com)

 

My foray into flash fiction, oh my!

My blogging friend Luanne over at Writer Site posted about a free online program that generates writing prompts for flash fiction. It’s called The Story Shack Writing Prompt Generator.

Curious, I checked it out and found it to be pretty cool. And the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt, either!

How it works

When one presses the “Generate” button, five things pop up: Genre, Character, Material, a Sentence to Use, and Word Count.

Like Luanne, I like some basic “constraints” on getting my writing started, and this appears to be the perfect tool for doing just that.

Yes! I thought I would like to tackle this head on for my first blast into flash fiction.

I tried it out, and the first one that popped up was as follows: Romance, Fat Baker, A Painting, “He can change” & 600 words.

What follows is my first effort into flash fiction and using Story Shack Writing Prompt Generator’s criteria. It was fun, and I plan to hit that “Generator” button frequently each week.

What kinds of “constraints” (if any) do you prefer when beginning a writing project? If you try Story Shack, let me know your opinion of it. Happy writing, all!

The Baker’s Tale

 He was slowly steering a tall cart of pastries on their way to the glass showcase in the front of the bakery when he saw her after so many years. He was overcome with a sort of panic. God, what if she recognized him?

Sweating, something he did frequently, he stopped. Was it nerves? Morbid obesity? A combination of both? All he knew was that the pastry cart wasn’t tall or wide enough to shield him from her view as she waited nonchalantly, browsing the baked items.

Cringing behind the aluminum cart, he recalled how they’d once loved and shared and just how lovely she was—her smile, especially—and never an unkind word toward anyone—especially to him!

Life had been good, dreaming young dreams and promising young promises. He, the debonaire and handsome guy in her life, had dropped out of college to pursue his love of painting. But a severe lack of confidence in his own efforts had been the great barrier.

The manager was busily serving customers and would soon spot him in the middle of the place, like a stranded shipwreck victim, clinging desperately to the last bit of flotsam. He had to do something.

He’d tried like hell to be the person she’d first thought him to be—the one she’d fallen in love with one rainy summer weekend at an old cottage in Michigan, where he’d gone to paint rustic scenes in watercolors.

She’d loved his first creation at once, even wanted to buy it from him. But he didn’t feel it was very good at all.

Trying to hide now, sweat stinging his eyes, he mentally kicked himself. If she hadn’t been so nice to me and hooked me right off, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now.

He glanced her way again and saw that she was blithely scoping out the peach coffee cake, another of his creations he’d finished baking less than an hour before. Great!

Worse, he still didn’t know how to proceed without causing an obvious scene. He’d been hiding behind his cart much too long, and he had to get the baked goods to the front as the bakery was filling with hungry, early-morning customers.

Having no other option, he heaved himself up from his bent over posture and felt his heart nearly jump out of his thick chest. The exertion was killing him, he knew, but he had to move forward, unload the baked items onto the empty shelves, and get back to his baking. 

If only she’d pick something and leave! He knew that wouldn’t happen before it was too late. Karma is about to rear its ugly head. He sighed, resigned to his fate, and resumed his cart-pushing directly toward where she was standing, his heart hammering wildly. A 350-pound person isn’t designed for this sort of thing!

Just then, her number was called and she pleasantly asked for two cherry-filled crescent rolls. A quick exchange of money for the white bakery bag the manager handed across the showcase, and she smiled that smile. He saw this and felt like running to her (as if he could!) and taking her in his arms again.

But he didn’t. He watched her step out onto the busy sidewalk, carrying her white bag of crescent rolls, and disappearing from his life all over again.

He then remembered what she’d told a friend once who wondered what she saw in him: “Not much, but he can change.”

But he really hadn’t.

Out of Florida & off to “Big D”

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week.
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The end of a long day calls for a cold drink!

As all things do, our time in Florida drew to a close on Monday, and we were on to the next stage of our marathon journey, logging many, many miles between Fort Myers and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Having our comfortable hotel ready and waiting upon our arrival made for a relaxing evening.

We were up and out the following morning, en route to Dallas, Texas, where we would spend the rest of the week. The drive up through a great portion of Louisiana to Shreveport took us through large stretches of open land. The sunny weather we’d grown accustomed to all week in Florida had changed to gray and overcast for our travel. It would turn very angry later on as we entered East Texas.

A couple of heavy downpours, with solid sheets of rain and wind, forced me to pull over on the interstate to wait for it to lessen and clear up enough so I could see where I was going. At last, we drove out of it the closer to Dallas we were, and the sun actually made an appearance to welcome us to the area.

As always, we had our little friend, the Garmin, working wonderfully to get us to places with which we were quite unfamiliar. The only glitch was when she instructed us to take a certain ramp in the heart of Dallas that was no longer available due to massive road construction. Fortunately, we found a quick alternate route that took us exactly to where we needed to be.

Once more, we found our hotel reservation to be all in order and we couldn’t have been happier with the location to all that we had planned for the days ahead. The first-floor room was comfy and well maintained.

Now we were ready for our son and his family to join us, flying in from Chicago on Thursday evening. We would all be going to the Chicago Blackhawks hockey game against the Dallas Stars Friday night.

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Waiting for our Hawks to take the ice in Dallas.

But first there was an important tour to take. We made the short drive into Dallas and went to the historic site of the JFK assassination and hopped aboard a trolley for a one-hour, fully narrated tour of the events of the tragic day in Dallas.

Our driver, Mike, was outstanding and made everything about the trip interesting, and he clarified much of what I’d only ever read or heard. Being there at the actual site, driving the route of Kennedy’s last motorcade on that sad day in 1963, when I was an 8th grader, was quite stark and surreal. I could almost feel myself back on that November day, when life as we knew it changed forever. (More on this in a future post)

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Oswald’s view on November 22, 1963

After Mike’s tour brought us back to where it had begun in Dealy Plaza, we headed to the JFK 6th Floor Museum in what was the infamous Texas Book Depository. We enjoyed the audio self-guided tour of the exhibits, full of vital information about the whole event, culminating with a visit to the actual sniper’s nest Oswald had created in the corner of the 6th floor. I must say, it was very moving to be exactly where the greatest crime in American /World history took place!

To say that the whole tour was sobering, would be an understatement. By afternoon, we were ready to head back out in the direction of our hotel where we could find a nice place for lunch and to make plans for our remaining time in Dallas.

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The museum in the Texas Book Depository

Once our son and wife and grandkids arrived, there were many laughs and fun times. Our trip wound down, and they would be flying back on Sunday, well after Carolyn and I would be pulling away for the long thirteen-hour drive back to northern Illinois.

Some final thoughts on this marvelous trip will be the subject of my next post once I’m back on home turf.

Until next time, that’s one good thing…

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It happens every spring…

One Good Thing…
It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 

As usually happens, my week has been filled with plenty of “good.” What stands out particularly for me this week, though, is that major league spring training is under way. For non-baseball fans, that bit of info probably doesn’t mean too much. For those who are fans of America’s greatest pastime, however, it’s one of the happiest events of the year!

I must confess, I’m a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan. When I say lifelong, I mean lifelong! I have some upcoming posts regarding just how that all came about. For now, though, all thoughts are on spring training and the beginnings of a brand new season.

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photo courtesy of digitalballparks.com

Last season’s depression has been shunted into the never-want-to-think-about-it-again vault, replaced by nothing but happy, positive thoughts of maybe…just maybe!

Promises of fun times once again at the old ballpark brighten winter’s gloom and transport me back to so many wonderful days of summers spent riding the waves of my White Sox fortunes–or lack of same.

Growing up, I would forget about my White Sox during the winter months. Not because I didn’t care about them, but because I was too caught up in playing hockey and doing school things.

Then, as February got going during those years, I began to see small stories on the sports pages and perhaps a brief mention every now and then on the evening TV sports that Major League spring training camps would be opening pretty soon.

And I would begin to think about those wonderful spring days ahead, and winter wouldn’t seem so long.

Spring training in those days always seemed so very far away. Sarasota, where the White Sox trained and played their spring games at Payne Park, was way down in Florida, as were most other teams’ camps.

Having never been to Florida, or anywhere else in the South for that matter, I was quite unfamiliar with the lay of the land, other than it must be vastly different from my home in Huntington, Indiana.

Places like Sarasota, Pompano, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa, Bradenton, and Vero Beach sounded like sunny villages far, far away. And, I guess, to a young boy of 11, they probably were!

In my mind, I tried to picture and imagine what these remote, out-of-the-way Florida outposts looked like. Were there palm trees in the outfield? Or the blue Gulf of Mexico just over the outfield fence?

Did White Sox players spend hours every day shagging so many fly balls in the outfield under the hot sun? Were there orange groves all around? What did the players do when they weren’t working out or practicing? Oh, so many youthful questions! And since there wasn’t any TV coverage then, my young imagination was in overdrive.

Remembering the innocence that was my youthful imagining of White Sox spring training all these years later, has me eager for the new baseball season.

The White Sox haven’t been in Sarasota for several years, moving spring operations to Glendale, Arizona, in 1997, but I’m pretty sure spring training in the Arizona sunshine has created vivid images in the minds of young Sox fans the same as they did all those years ago for this not-so-young-anymore fan!

Until next time, that’s one good thing…

Road trip…half the fun is getting there!

This time of year has always been special for me. The hardest part of winter is behind us—usually—and thoughts begin to turn to spring and all of the good times that will follow.

Suddenly, I’m struck by the urge to “drive south,” as I did annually for countless years as a rite of spring. Older and wiser (?) now, I still get that restless feeling, as though Florida’s spell once again persists in tugging me to her.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
-Ernest Hemingway

And so, unable to resist the siren call again, this coming Friday morning, we’ll be setting images-2.jpegoff early for points south, our ultimate destination being Dallas, Texas–via Florida.

Unlike the “young and foolish” days, when we’d drive straight through to Florida for spring break, we’ll be breaking this year’s sojourn into smaller segments.

We’ll spend Friday and Saturday night in Nashville, a place we’ve visited a few times before and passed through enroute to Florida numerous times.

Since we have the extra time there on Saturday, we plan to make the short drive to Carnton Plantation and the historic site where the Battle of Franklin was waged during the Civil War.

After that, we’ll visit the Grand Ole Opry and see the show that evening. We attended several years ago and had a great time and are looking forward to the fun of attending this year.

It will be an early wakeup on Sunday morning as we’ll hit the road to Saint Augustine, Florida. There will be good, long walks and leisurely browsing and nosing about through the historic sites on Monday. Without a doubt, we’ll be making a concerted effort to lose the lily-white winter complexions, too!

Tuesday’s drive will be much shorter, since we’re only going down as far as Titusville, near the Space Center. We’ll hook up with good friends, Richard and Sandy, who live there, and enjoy dinner out and spending the night at their home.

images-3.jpegIt will be good to return to our old neighborhood with them for a brief time and reminisce about the year I taught at Astronaut High School before moving back to Illinois following the Challenger disaster.

After what will no doubt be a quick evening, we’ll bid our good friends farewell on Wednesday morning and set sail once more to Naples, over on the other side of the state. There, we’ll meet up with another couple who have recently moved from Illinois and have graciously invited us to spend the night at their new place.

Naples is a place neither of us has been before, so this part of the adventure will be new and exciting. We told our friends we’re not expecting to be “entertained,” only a quick orientation of the area, with a nice walk followed by plenty of poolside sitting!

Our next port of call on Thursday will be a short jaunt to Fort Meyers where we’ll spend the weekend with our daughter Laura. It’s a long and involved story as to the “how” and “why” she lives in Fort Meyers, so I won’t get in to any of that. But we’re eager to see her and to learn the lay of the land of another place we’ve not been previously.

Our plans are to stay at her apartment through Sunday before pointing the Chevy Equinox northwest for a very long day’s drive to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On this next leg of our grand tour, we’ll eventually meet up with our son’s family who will be flying in to Dallas on Thursday.

Why Dallas?
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hockeypuck.goldeninternetmarketingllc.com

Here’s the scoop. For the past few years our son and his wife and our two grandsons have gone to see our favorite hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks, play at an out-of-town venue.

This year they chose Dallas. Thus, this past Christmas, Santa left game tickets for us all for the Friday, March 11 game there in “Big D.”

Carolyn and I had the crazy idea that we could tie a Florida trip in with the Dallas one, and so our winter travel plans were formed!

After Carolyn and I depart Baton Rouge, we’ll arrive in Dallas a few days ahead of the rest of the folks, and we plan to tour the Kennedy assassination sites and maybe meet some other friends from the Dallas area for lunch.

There will be plenty of time to spend with the grandsons on Saturday before they have to fly home to Illinois, and we have to pack the car again for our drive home as well. It will be fun beyond belief, I’m certain.

On paper this all looks like a piece of cake. Of course, the reality of the many miles between here and there is something else altogether. Nevertheless, I’m eagerly looking forward to getting the whole thing started this Friday morning and clicking off those abundant miles. It’s a good thing I enjoy driving.

Like Hemingway,  I always remind anyone traveling with me, that half the fun is getting there. 

Let the journey begin!Unknown-1.jpeg

 

 

The Day the Heat Came

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 
(Note: Yesterday, I posted part one of a story I’d written back in the 80s titled “The Day the Heat Came.” Here is the conclusion of the tale that was a lot of fun to write.) 

The old, shady maple-lined street was now a river of pitch-black sludge, tar, asphalt, and crushed stone—now liquefied beyond belief!

Good old Maple Street had seen its share of weird things, but this was the doozy to top all doozies! Not even the rain of bowling balls a few years back, or the monsters coming to Maple Street out of the Twilight Zone, could top this.

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Photo courtesy of  olmparish.org

A minute later, Mr. Beasley, the mailman, floated by in his mail truck as though he had set sail on a voyage on the rushing torrent of black goo.

Florid faced and hair wild, Mr. Beasley was desperately trying to get the truck into gear, but there was no more street left on which to maneuver. He was losing the battle quickly as the vehicle of the United States Postal Service began to cant and tilt and was soon swallowed up by the roiling river that had been Maple Street.

Not far behind was patrolman Nace Wimbish, frantically trying to extricate himself from his police cruiser that had begun its river-like journey. Seconds later, he and the blue and white squad car met the same fate as Mr. Beasley and were suddenly sucked under the whirling and swirling flow of asphalt and tar–gone for good.

As this was happening, all of the trees that lined the once-peaceful street began to droop and wilt and turn to sodden piles of vegetation.

Boz Corndexter, the town drunk, was next! All that remained of his 400 pound self was oozing and sloshing around in Mable Froom’s rain barrel, into which he had stumbled when the heat came.  Ol’ Boz’d had the misfortune to be sleeping off one of his mean drunks in the shade of the old widow’s back porch. Wrong place, right time!

Witnessing all of this, Eve and Tommy began to feel trapped and afraid and alone. Aunt Gert had gone off to her weekly poker game at the Ladies League of Elkville, so chances were pretty good that she wouldn’t be home soon–if at all–as things were developing.

“Do you think we’ll die like them?” Eve was trembling now, more worried than before, staring out at the chaotic scene outside.

“Let’s hope not,” Tommy said, moving closer to his little sister. “I have big plans for my life.” He glanced at his book of Jack London stories he’d been reading on the porch and imagined that he’d be able to overcome whatever this evil force of nature was that was causing all of this mayhem.

Tommy and Eve stayed at the window for the rest of the afternoon, looking out at more and more of the craziness enveloping everything about the place. The thermometer on the porch had reached its highest calibrated marking and then, without any warning, burst and cracked and splashed itself into oblivion. Almost at once, the pungent odor of burning wires and metal crept through the vents. The temperature outside was now beyond measurement!

At that exact moment, the porch swing that had hung on the same rusty chain for forty years, suddenly screeched and screamed, seemingly in agony, and then crumpled and gushed into a puddle on the battleship gray porch floor.

Eve and Tommy were stunned as they stood and watched things melting all around them, realizing that it had been only a short time ago that they had been reading Jack London stories and playing make-believe with dolls and otherwise whiling away a summer’s day on that same swing. Now it was no more!

There was silence in the house now, except for the grinding and throbbing of the air conditioner that still seemed to be trying to right itself, and Aunt Gert’s tiny fan that kept at it like The Little Engine That Could.

Despite the terror that was going on outside, the air inside was strangely fresh and very comfortable. The curtains fluttered ever so slightly as the coolness wafted up from the floor vents below. The acrid hint of smoke that had been drifting in moments before had as quickly disappeared without a trace.

Outside, the sky was a fierce red, and the steam and heat all around their neighborhood continued to take its toll on things. A few houses like Tommy and Eve’s had managed to avoid whatever miserable force the deadly heat had brought, but most of the others were gone or soon would be.

Tommy realized at that moment that life as everyone had known it had quickly descended into the furnaces of hell and would probably never be the same again. He wondered, too, if others were watching in horror behind their windows? 

Nothing was moving out there now, other than the flowing Nile that had been Maple Street just a short time before.

Poor Boz Corndexter! Going out in a rain barrel was no one’s idea of a classic exit from the here and now. And Nace Wimpish would be hard to replace as the town’s best cop–that is, if there would ever be a need for a cop again! Whatever was happening, a future in this town seemed pretty bleak.

Tommy could see something lying on the far corner of the next door neighbor’s steaming yard near the flowing street. It was Mr. Beasley’s mail pouch, which at that moment exploded and hurled its contents soaring, scattering them high into the heated atmosphere where they immediately became engulfed in flames.

Tommy and Eve felt as though they couldn’t watch any more; they’d seen enough of the horror that had come their way. But despite their efforts to turn away from the morbid scene, they couldn’t force themselves to look away from the nightmare outside their window. 

After a time, though, and after they’d seen all they cared to see, the two young people turned away from the window and slumped down to the floor and knew that life as they knew it would never be the same again. The whole apocalyptic inferno had pushed them both past any sort of rational sanity.

The air conditioner, finally having worked the kinks and gremlins out of its system, steadily hummed away now. Aunt Gert’s tiny fan whirred gently on and on. And the heat kept on coming and the river that was Maple Street oozed and slurped its way forward, intent on swallowing the rest of the town.

Until next time, that’s one good thing!

My vault of forgotten short stories

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 

Earlier this week, as I was delving into various cabinets, file boxes, and folders (with the intention of “cleaning house”) I happened upon a thick and worn notebook that I hadn’t seen for years. Inside were bits and pieces of things I had written a long time ago.

Looking through them squelched any thought of “cleaning house,” and, instead, I spent a good portion of the morning reading—and remembering—the time of my life when I first wondered what all it would take to become a writer.

Once in a while we come upon unexpected remnants of our past, and they often serve as reminders of dreams and goals we’d once had. For this weekly feature of One Good Thing, I thought it might be a fun thing to share one of those “first efforts” from my “forgotten archives.”

One such lost “treasure” was written sometime in the early 80s for a short story writing class I was taking. Because it is a bit lengthy, I’ll break it into two parts. Part two will be posted tomorrow.

The story, based on a prompt we were given, was lots of fun and whetted my appetite to write some more. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since those “early days” when I thought seriously of being a writer. Regardless, I had an extremely good time writing this one.

The prompt: Write about a day that begins in typical fashion but for some reason takes a very different direction.

Without further ado, from my vault of forgotten short stories, never before seen by anyone else, here is…

THE DAY THE HEAT CAME

July 23—The day the heat came…

Tommy Edgeworth and his sister Eve sat rocking gently back and forth on the weathered swing that hung on the wide front porch of the old white clapboard house, where they lived with their Aunt Gert, when it came.

Tommy, reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” and Eve, carrying on a conversation with her Barbie doll, never saw it coming. Until that very moment, nothing was unusual about this typical summer day.

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photo courtesy of weather examiner

It was exactly 11:53 a.m. when the mild, gentle morning breeze ceased completely, replaced by an oven-like atmosphere. Exactly one minute later, the neighbors’ chimney melted.

The orange-red bricks all ran together and oozed down the steep pitch of the eighty-year-old house and plopped over the edge to the ground far below, as though some careless kid had spilled a super-sized ice cream sundae all over the driveway.

Tommy and his ten-year-old sister were spellbound! She began to whimper a little but stopped because that caused too much discomfort in the increasing heat. Tommy took off his shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his body, which by now was beginning to look like he had just stepped out of the shower.

“I think we better go inside and crank up the air conditioner,” he said, his voice weak and drained from the rising heat that was  now radiating all around them.

In they went, just as the Wupperman’s TV tower across the street suddenly bent limp like some wilted iris in the garden out back. There wasn’t any crashing or rending of metal, merely a quick squishy sound—like molding clay would make…or silly putty…in a kid’s clenched fist.

Tommy and Eve raced through the house, slamming windows shut and drawing shades and curtains closed for added “protection.”

Precisely two minutes later, Tommy clicked the thermostat on the living room wall to start the air conditioning unit that had reposed quietly out behind the lilacs alongside the house for most of the pleasant summer—until now. The old A/C compressor seemed to awaken with a startled, wrenching groan.

“Eve, run quick, up to Aunt Gert’s room and bring her little fan down!” 

Beginning to worry just a bit more, but without saying anything, the young freckle-faced girl dropped her doll and chuffed up the eighteen steps to the second floor.

By the time his sister had come back down with the small General Electric table fan, its cord trailing off behind, Tommy had established his lookout post at the front window directly above a floor vent, which was trying mightily to crank out cool air.

He grabbed the small fan from his sister and set it on the highboy chest next to the window and plugged it in and turned it on. The little fan whirred gently but didn’t do much to provide any real relief, other than moving the air about.

Looking out and down the street, beyond the melted burnt orange steaming pile that had been the chimney of the house next door, Tommy could see Mr. Cloon’s Buick crumble into mega zillions of dust particles on the street in front of his house.

No one was in the car, thank goodness, but what startled Tommy most of all was that there wasn’t a trace of oil, gas, or any other motor fluid of any kind—anywhere! A once healthy automobile had now heated to the extent that it had simply turned to dust.

A split second later, old Mrs. Clechmeyer, who was out for her late-morning stroll, suddenly became a boiling mass of goop and glop. For one brief, desperate moment, she tried to shout, but no sooner had she opened her mouth when her face completely melted away. One second she had been walking upright; the next she was diminishing into a non-human puddle of muck and mire!

In a most bizarre sort of way, this wretched scene reminded Tommy of his favorite moment from The Wizard of Oz. He could almost imagine Mrs. Clechmeyer’s words—had they been able to be vocalized just before she melted away—to be, “I’m melting, my little pretty!”

“Tommy, do you think we’ll be ok?” The fright in his sister’s voice drew Tommy’s attention away from the morbid scene outside.

“I don’t know, Eve, but it sure is weird. Nothing this strange has happened since the time it rained bowling balls for three days. Remember?”

Eve thought for a moment, continuing to stare at the wicked tableau outside.  “Yeah, I remember that. Uncle Mavis really got nailed when that happened.”

Tommy said, “And we would’ve gotten nailed, too, if we hadn’t ‘ve been down in the root cellar with Aunt Gert, helping put up canned tomatoes and pickles.”

Eve shook her head and said, “At least this time it isn’t so loud—just way too hot!” She had moved over beside her older brother at the window. The air conditioner and the whirring of the little fan were the only sounds they could hear, and, fortunately, the house seemed to be holding its own against the inferno outside. 

Neither spoke for a long time, each wondering when their house would meet a furious, fiery fate. Nothing much happened for the next few minutes, until a loud, gurgling sound out in the street erupted, sounding like a giant drain being unclogged. What they saw, as they peered once more out the window, was that the gurgling from the street was the street itself!

To be continued…

Until next time, that’s one good thing!

 

When an old friend asks…

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 
Scrivener talk

Earlier this week, a writer friend asked me what I thought about the writing program Scrivener and if I thought she should try it out or not. And since I enjoy sharing things about Scrivener, I realized that I had my One Good Thing to share with everyone.

Yes, I have written about Scrivener in the past, and about how much I really feel comfortable using it to do all of my writing (blog posts, short stories, novels). Although in the beginning I wasn’t too sure about it due to my comfort level in using Word for all things writing.

Plus, like anything else that is vast and complex, there is a pretty fair amount of time required to invest in understanding Scrivener. Like so many others who became frustrated and overwhelmed by it, I thought I had to know everything about it in order to make it work for me.

Consequently, because I was unsure about most things about it, my grasp of the powerful writing program was nearly nonexistent, even though there’s a pretty good tutorial built into the program. In short, I was ready to forget the whole idea and scurry back to the familiar world of Word.

Fortunately, before giving up completely, I found Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies, followed by her online courses in Scrivener “basics,” and things began to look less daunting and frightening! A simple truth revealed itself, finally: One need not use every feature of the program to accomplish one’s writing goals! 

After using Scrivener for four years now, I still use very few of the wide array of wonderful features or parts of it. What’s good for me, may not be good for another. And various things others find useful in their writing may not be good for my needs.

And that’s one of the real strengths of Literature & Latte’s Scrivener: One can pick and choose and put to use any parts that make writing work for him or her.

Here are some of the Scrivener features I like and use most often:

  • “Compose mode”-Allows me to write without distractions.
  • Binder organization-I can move scenes or chapters around as I see fit.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.50.39 PM.png
  • Writing Progress Targets-I can set a desired word count “target” and will be notified whenever the word count is reached.
  • Compiling-Although it’s a bit tricky to understand and fully use without some really good guidance from folks like Gwen Hernandez, it’s a very powerful way to get my work formatted and “out there” in the form I want to publish. (E-book, paperback, etc.)

I learned a long time ago that whatever makes one comfortable in the creative process is the best regimen to follow. Some like to write things out longhand or use an old typewriter or voice their words or type away using one of the zillions of writing programs available.

Whatever mode best helps one get to the finish line of a piece of writing is the best mode for that person. As for me, I’m most comfortable with Scrivener, and I’m always happy to have the opportunity to talk about things I like. Glad my old friend asked me about it this week!

Until next time, that’s one good thing!

 

Checking out the week ahead…

IMG_1415.jpgMonday has rolled around once more, ushering in another week of opportunity to get things done. As such, today’s post will be a checklist of five things I want/need to accomplish by the close of “business” on Friday.

The items on the list are not arranged in any particular order, so I can pick and choose at my discretion as to when I want to get them done—Before Friday evening.

Here goes…
  • My novel, Birchwood’s Secret, still has “miles to go before it sleeps” (thanks, Robert Frost!) and patiently awaits my attention. A couple hours each morning would be a good step in getting it finished—sooner than later.
  • Write my post for my blog’s weekly feature, One Good Thing. This has been rather easy for the first two installments, since there is always something good in my life to share, and I’m sure this week will be no different.
  • Read the newest posts on the blogs I follow and comment appropriately. After all, I enjoy it when my own followers “like” and comment on my posts. If nothing else, it lets me know that I’ve reached some living, breathing person “out there!” But, seriously, I really do appreciate the words left by readers.
  • Increase my daily twenty-minute walks on the treadmill to at least thirty minutes. Of course, if our current mild weather continues, I can take it to the streets where I’d much rather spend the time walking. However, walking on the treadmill allows me the opportunity to watch American Pickers, Moonshiners, or a TCM movie I’ve recorded.
  • Clean up the litter that has accumulated along the back wooded area between our property and the farm field beyond. I have to do this several times during the year, particularly after the winds have blown the stuff our way. It gets caught up in the tall weeds and becomes rather unsightly. When we have snow, it’s all buried and out of sight.  Looking out there as I write this, there is no snow, and it’s pretty ugly! (I think this may be the first item on this checklist I’ll take on!)

And that’s my list of five things I want to work on and get done this week. I know that my life will not be limited to just these five things, and I’m certain that I’ll be building my week around them.

IMG_1411.jpgNow, without further ado, I suppose I’d better put on a coat, grab the trash bag, and make my way out back and collect the debris. What a way to start the week!

What’s on your checklist for the week?

Daily Prompt: The Satisfaction of a List