Tagged: creative writing
I’m Twelve. And I Believe Exile is Worse than Death.
My wife responds to my news, with barefaced contempt, “Because he’s black?”
“No. I didn’t say he brought the gun to school because ‘he’s black’. He did it because he’s stupid,” I clarified. “The reason I said he is black is because your son thinks all things black are right and cool, which itself is stupid, but the main point is I want to know what your son, A-, has told you about it. Because it is important that he agrees with me that this kid did something truly stupid.”
“He told me it was stupid.”
“Really?” I wondered, in blunt disbelief.
“Hey. How come you didn’t tell me about W- bringing the gun to school?” I asked A- nonchalantly as we drove home from school ball.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what do you think?”
“I don’t understand why he would be expelled for bringing it.”
“Did you mention it to your mom?”
“On Monday I told her about it, but I thought it was a toy gun then.”
“Did you ever use the word ‘stupid’?”
“I may have said that I thought it was stupid that he was in so much trouble.”
“Okay,” I said. (I knew the boy would not react, ‘W- did something stupid.’ Check.) Then I took a father’s breath. “Here’s the thing. The most famous school shooting happened when I was a senior in high school. That’s over twenty years ago. And they have been happening regularly since then. For someone to bring any kind of gun to school at this point is absolutely, totally, and irredeemably stupid. Understand? Guns destroy. School, in theory, is about creation. The two will never mix. He was stupid. Or his decision was stupid. I don’t really know him.”
“Well,” I answered my own 12 year old, H-, that night on FaceTime, “one of A-’s teammates brought, like, a bb gun to school. He’s probably gonna be expelled. So that’s causing some drama amongst the kids.”
“Why is this shocking?”
“I can see suspended, but expelled? From the entire district?”
Drawing enough air to fill a sermon, “Guns kill people. Kids have been killing people in schools for twenty years now. What are we even debating, my daughter? So what if the kid has to go to another school. His parents maybe should be forced to move and try to live another way somewhere else. What they’re doing so far has failed. No person alive can suggest that ‘they didn’t know’ to NOT bring a weapon to school. How are we even talking about this, H-?”
“Tell me that your father thinks it is absolutely stupid to bring a gun to school and that it is absolutely fair to expel a kid who does.”
“-No, say, ‘my father’,”
Oh, the glare.
“My father thinks it is stupid to bring a gun to school and fair to expel anyone who does.”
Please, dear reader, lament with me. You already know how much I loathe public school. To hear that both my not-so-bright step-son and my I’d-like-to-believe-has-paid-attention-at-least-once-in-while daughter believe that expulsion or exile from the community is worse than being killed by a school shooter only feeds the fire.
Education is supposed to liberate, not indoctrinate. It’s supposed to turn the brain on, not off. Create, not conform.
Choose life, kids. Especially if it means alone.
People are stupid.
Good Writing Compels Writing
Earlier today, while on shift on this day of unflyable weather, I began trudging through the Gateway to the Great Books essay by Friedrich Schiller. I began it back on November 14th. He calls it, On Simple and Sentimental Poetry.
It is a far longer entry than all others in this volume, Volume 5, “Critical Essays.” And it is rather boring. His vocabulary is far broader than mine and he employs it from on high, without looking down, without slowing down. But I wanted to finish the article, so I reread the introduction, re-caged my gyros, and plodded on.
Finally, the relationship blossomed. Check out this criticism of a man (hitherto unknown to me), Klopstock.
His muse is chaste.
Wow. Stops you in your tracks, no?
Got me to smile and want to share the sentence with you all. Hope it was worth it.
Onward and upward.
The World Does Not Need More Children’s Books By Minority Authors
I saw a headline the other day about LatinX and other minority authors. It went on about how, while they are publishing some children’s books, there is still a great deficit and a need for more. Let me be clear: that’s simply not true. The world does not need more children’s books by minority authors.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before, more than once, that I attended an evangelical seminary for three years. It was a fairly robust graduate program, so far as I could tell—though I did not decide to obtain a master’s degree. Why not? Because I’m a man of action. And my professor and advisor could not answer the following question satisfactorily: “I’m a pilot. I wasn’t born a pilot; I had to learn how to fly. Likewise, I want to know what skill I will have by working so hard to get the degree. What skill, that I don’t already possess, will I have?”
He couldn’t answer it. I remember he tried; I remember he talked a lot in the space that naturally followed my question. But I also remember that he seemed to almost be speaking gibberish. There was some kind of mental block or other in that interaction.
Over a year later or so, I finally figured out “the academy”. So I emailed the advisor (I was no longer a student) and told him as much. In short, I said, “Higher education is all about writing the primer for the field. In this case, it’s the Bible. You all want to get on the translation committee of the best-selling Bible. In other fields it’s the History 101 text or the Biology 101 text that is taught at Harvard or wherever is most elite.”
My advisor replied, “So are you ready to come back and finish your degree?”
This is why I maintain and declare that the world does not need more children’s books written by minority authors. It just doesn’t. As always, minority authors have nothing to say. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t need support from the majority. And if the majority, people like me and my old advisor, get them to quit writing, that means they certainly have nothing to say.
I haven’t gone back to finish my degree and I won’t. Like I said, I’m a man of action. I can already do everything those folks can do. But I do not care to write the primer for any field. Except maybe “Bravery”. Yeah. Maybe I’d like to write a book on Bravery.
Here’s my Bravery primer: If you really have something to write, then I wouldn’t be able to stop you no matter how hard I tried.
This Ever Happen To You?
I just had this terrible experience.
I’m finally at the point in my morning where it’s time to shower. Know what I mean? I’ve exercised, taken the kiddo to school, had my regularly scheduled one-on-one phone call with my boss (he was away from his computer so we did just a “phone call” instead of Teams video chat), sent some emails, fielded some calls, and saw the flooding in NY.
I’m not saying it was an ideal morning or the ideal time to shower, but I was there.
Now, there is nothing on this side of heaven so wonderful as a hot cup of coffee after a shower. Am I right? So I head over to the machine and see where it’s at. I’m married, you know, so lots of possibilities await my inspection.
The machine, I discover, is on in the “stay warm” setting. I think, “Oh, how nice. My wife already made a pot.”
Then I squint and see that, no, no she did not. That’s not it at all. I was fully wrong.
The right answer is that she rewarmed the leftovers from yesterday. Kinda gross, but, hey, we’ve all been there. Am I wrong?
So now this is where the panic sets in. What’s the proper process for the situation? I know, instinctively, that rapid temperature changes are recipes for disaster when it comes to physical objects. Luckily, our Ninja Coffee Maker has a removable container that is filled with the new water, so I don’t have to refill the hot pot and risk catastrophe in that sense. But what about the pipes? Where should I pour the warmed coffee?
Can you understand my anguish?
I WAS READY FOR A SHOWER AND NOW THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE IS ABOUT TO BE ALTERED!!
Being a natural hero, I poured out the coffee directly into the kitchen sink drain, only then running some cold water down the pipes to offset the coming darkness.
But before showering I just had to ask, “Has this ever happened to you?“
Helping A Friend: Introducing “Book God the podcast”
Peter Adams is my friend. More than a friend, I would call him a “thematic offspring” of mine—when he’s not listening. Well, like me, he isn’t afraid of books. But unlike me, he isn’t afraid of podcasting. So he finally began the podcast that he has been dreaming up for the past four months. And I had told him, to encourage and taunt him, that I’d throw up a post supporting his endeavor when he finally got three episodes out. You can listen to it here, where you’ll also find links to it on any of the many podcast listening apps: Book God the podcast.
I know Peter, so it’s difficult for me to be objective. But I love the podcast. It’s the only podcast of its kind, and there’s just something about it—maybe his voice—that keeps my hands off my phone as I listen. Episodes are about 30 mins. It’s great to listen to while exercising, or eating, or when you just need to escape. In fact, that’s the best word for it. Episodes of “Book God the podcast” are probably the greatest escape in the podcast-o-sphere.
In any case, I have done my part. (Hope you’re happy, Peter.) Check it out: Book God the podcast.
Guilty Pleasure on A Friday Afternoon
The piano tuner came over today—at my request. He doesn’t have as much personality as my last one, but he is taller by an inch or two.
Picture the scene with me—I open the door. Having only spoken on the phone, and lightly at that, we exchange cordialities and I invite him in. He knows to remove his shoes. But it’s what he did next that I latently long to see—not that I’d ever admit it to anyone. Usually I like to be in control. Usually I like to command the action. But every once in a while, I derive immense pleasure from watching. And today he didn’t disappoint.
He touched…the body of the piano. Mind you, he didn’t just reach out and raise and lower the fallboard. It wasn’t merely—and gently—sliding the music rack in and out. No. He rested his body against its body—nonchalantly. Like he couldn’t hurt her. Like he knew she didn’t mind.
He removed the music rack completely and laid it aside. Then he even rested a tool or two of his on the pins that he would soon twist and turn intelligently.
Understand me here. It’s as if he and my piano were old friends. Intimate friends. As if they had a history. In a sense, you could say that I became an unwitting voyeur. And I loved every minute of it.
You see, I could never do to my piano what he did, no sir. She means too much to me. I treat her perfectly. I only touch a few spots of her body, and delicately at that. I play on her keys ferociously, but that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes I open her lid, but usually I keep it closed. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do more, to go further. But it feels premature. And there’s a mutual respect that comes with waiting. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to watch when I get a chance on a Friday afternoon.
Eating Cheese Curds with Ethiopians in Minnesota
My step-son and I came up with the designation “black haired people” for what in America are generally regarded as “black people”. He’s an immigrant from Ethiopia and, believe it or not, Ethiopians don’t view themselves as “black”. Within the formerly so-called “dark continent”, not too different from the our own “paper bag test” South, our Yahoo brethren see shades, too.
But I digress. That the cashier was “black haired” is not the point. The point is that I’m funny.
I was making a last minute trip to HyVee to pick up snack foods (hence the cheese curd headline) for this holiday. I never, never let my step-son have soda, but today I was feeling an uncommon sensation—which I *think* you all would call “giving”—and so I picked up, not just any old soda, but a four-pack of some locally crafted grape soda. This detail matters because the four cans are packaged together with some sort of homespun, yellow plastic tops. Upon inspection, I noticed that these yellow tops were a bit dirty, but I figured that it just adds character or charm.
Next, keep in mind there’s a mask-mandating pandemic going on, I am checking out and the black-haired cashier advises, “You’re going to want to wash the lids before you drink them.”
Naturally, I become very curious and ask, “Why? Is there some sort of disease going around?”
Her body language leading the near-running retreat, she immediately reduces her initial warning to a casual comment, “Oh, no. They’re just dirty.”
“There’s no disease going around?!” I clarify, cautiously betraying that I believe this fact may be a little bit bigger news than at first glance. After taking a prefatory deep breath, “Hey everyone!” I fake yell, then dramatically pausing to scan for her name tag, I add, “Cindy here says it’s over! It’s over!! We can take off the masks!”
She laughed at the ridiculous life we were apart of. I laughed at the ridiculous life we were apart of.
I then assumed the lady behind me who had insisted I go first (I had fewer items) wondered, “Could this man be The Captain?” And then I went on my merry way.
Once home, I ate cheese curds while my wife fed the baby and my step-son recounted a funny part of a book he knew I had heard him laughing at last night while he read and I played the piano.
I Love My Wife’s KitchenAid Artisan Mixer!
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Today we have a post from a guest blogger. Today, Captain “Is-There-Really-a-Difference-Between-Half-a-Teaspoon-and-a-Teaspoon?”, call sign, “I-Don’t-Care-If-the-Internet-Says-There-Is-a-Difference-Between-Baking-Soda-and-Powder-I-Can-Plainly-See-They’re-the-Same” will be taking controls.
That’s right, Pete. And I am excited! Let me tell you why!
First, I need to set the stage, as it were, for our readers. Picture this: a handsome devil, about 6 foot in height, adorned, from bottom to top as follows. Faux fur-lined, real Native-American-tribute moccasins connect him to the spiritual earth. (Cabelas.) Boot socks add enough insulation to his keep-warm feet. (Cabelas.) An odd type of heavy fleece sweatpants, nylon knee reinforcements and all–Gore Windstopper to boot (Cabelas–discontinued)–keeps two strong legs warm between innings. Up top, a baby blue, v-neck pajama shirt hangs out of a 1/4-zip desert green fleece (Cabelas) and together the core stays kindled.
Now, onto the main course. The recipe for mom’s Peanut Butter Blossoms Christmas cookies calls for mixing 1 3/4 cups flour with 1/2 t salt and 1 t baking soda as the first step. Then, separately, you’re to cream 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter. After this, add a mix of 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar. And at some point an egg, 2 T milk, and 1 t vanilla come to the party. Four bowls for one cookie? No, thank you.
Breaking things into those clean cut groups might have worked in the 90s, sure. But this is 2020. And doing dishes is still a chore. Plus, I have my wife’s new, red, KitchenAid artisan mixer at my disposal.
Segue: Most husbands love this item because they love how their wives finally stop complaining. I mean, what part of life is hard after obtaining the Kitchen-Aid mixer? Not me. I love the item because I get to rebel while baking cookies.
I don’t doubt my mom. I don’t. I need to be clear about that. What I doubt is that she really intended to be so an-, I mean, particular as to limit in which order I add the ingredients. So, in the bowl (before attaching the proper tool), I began with a stick of butter (directly from the fridge) and the peanut butter. I just put them in the bowl, added the paddle-outline looking deal, and set-it-and-forget-it as they say.
Next, I, after only stopping the machine–no other adjustments–added an egg, the milk, and the vanilla. I just cracked the egg on the side of the mixing bowl and plop. Only slightly doubting whether I should have stirred the egg a bit before adding it, I figured introducing the liquid elements now might help cream up the chunks of butter that seemed resistant to my will.
Measure sugar, add. Measure other sugar, add.
Finally, I stopped the machine, and took off the paddle thing. I measured the first cup of flour, not packed, into one cup and then for the other 3/4 cup of flour–instead of using the 3/4 cup line on the same 1 cup cup, I used an entirely separate 3/4 cup cup. Did I tell you how refined I am? (You just have to rinse dry measuring cups to clean them, anyhow.)
Now, here’s where the salt and soda issue unfolded.
Finally, I pressed my luck, because, ‘Why the eff not? It’s Christmas!” and carefully prepared to visually note any detrimental changes to the consistency of the cookie dough as I by feel increased the speed from 2, to 4, and then 6–but only for a second!
In the end, what I am most happy with myself about is that while back in the prison of the index card recipe, as I rolled the dough into balls, I, through some sort of ESP, thought, “Shouldn’t I be rolling them in sugar before placing them in the over?” And, sure enough, I was right. Can you explain that?
Speaking of extra sensory perception, I’m using caramel Hershey kisses this year.
The only problem now is that I feel guilty. No–not for resisting my moms dictatorial recipe. But because my perfectionist personality is pretty positive that with all these changes to order and decor, I cannot claim to have baked my mom’s cookies after all.
What kind of son have I become!?
My Depressing Fantasy
I’ve been following my own advice and spending quite a bit of time watching fantasy movies and reading fantasy books. I should clarify here that I mean romance more than fantasy. All the normal bounds of the time space universe apply. Most recently, I watched the new Costner entry, “Let Him Go.”
These films and books fulfill their purpose just fine. However, as I fancy myself a serious blogger/writer type who could compete with those who perform on the world stage—if only I had the ambition—I often challenge myself to come up with my own take on the genre. What is my fantasy? I don’t mean, “What do I think would sell?” Or, “What do I perceive other people dream about?” No, I mean that I challenge myself to add my own fuel to the warm “good guys win” feeling that I enjoy as I see evil mother-effers reap it and good men be rewarded with beautiful, virtuous women.
Here’s the gospel truth. My fantasy centers on the children I’ve been charged by god with raising to become good men and good women.
The fiction begins with an argument. My character espouses wisdom, in a much too passionate volume. There may even be a hint of what psychologists call “contempt”. My children consistently reply with overly self-righteous bull honkey. Soon after, I kick them out of my house for crossing the line. (I haven’t resolved in which manner they cross it, whether they mindlessly repeat the slander of George Washington, Jesus, me, or one of my military buddies. But I imagine that they say something absolutely retarded and untrue and so they’ve got to go.)
Next, I imagine I resign completely from life. I become a veritable hermit.
Then the world burns.
As for me, I nimbly and deftly survive and do so in style. Eventually, others hear of an older man (they say he was a pilot, back before the Green Skies law) always staying one step ahead of the new troubles brought about by stupid young people. The Captain is suddenly whispered as if the title itself means hope.
Did you hear the latest about The Captain?
I heard The Captain has been planning something big for some time now. He’s got to be getting close.
All the while, in the hands of my children, the world burns.
But then the careful reader and viewer begin to notice new expressions on the faces of The Captain’s, by now, adult children—themselves leaders of the supposed revolution. The faces betray, finally, a wise hesitation. One might almost say the progeny appear, for the first time in their life, uncertain.
Skip to the end, and readers all rejoice as I, The Captain, am unable to outpace my children who are on their way to warn me—themselves being only one-step ahead of their pals who are coming to kill me. The reunion, made all the more compelling by the contrast between painfully slow scenes of family reconciliation and scenes of unabated, furious chase by the enemies, is only long enough for one phrase to pass.
“Father, you were right.”
Having uttered these noble words, they turn to find our mutual enemies have caught up to us. Despite our unified slaying of a significant number of them, they kill us all, saying, “Remember, orders are to kill The Captain and all of his diseased blood!”
Yup. It’s not family happiness that I dream about—that seems utterly hopeless in our current world. Instead, I long for vindication from the mouths of my children before I die.
One Black Future
“…we ought rather to be proud of the fact that American literature can boast of at least one good, decent, Christian author who was cursed neither with self-consciousness not with false modesty, those banes of art.” — William Leigh Jr.
“SAY HIS NAME!!”
I found the bullhorn was more annoying than loud. Worse, for their cause, the mob’s response to the prompt felt forced. And I’d be lying if I described it as “loud”. Rather than lead you to believe that my tale centers on decibels, however, I want to say that what worried me now was the shortened breathing and seemingly even shorter attention span of the man who I just met.
And then it happened, I got slugged.
“Say it again,” he yelled at me. “Hey y’all, hold up! Look at what we got here,” he yelled to the mob.
For a moment, the mob pretended to possess enough self-control to be undeterred from their purpose.
But his second call of, “Hey y’all! Y’all ain’t gonna believe what this white boy just said,” proved as attractive to this crowd as a city block of recently renovated urban blight.
I’d straightened up at this point. And just as my composure returned, unexpectedly, I felt his knuckles against my ear again. I crouched low and stepped back for a second time. And down I stayed as I heard an angry, loud young women ask, “What’d he say?” And then what I could only describe as the voice of a future Southern Gospel preacher boomed, “We being peaceful tonight, brothers and sisters. Peaceful. Don’t hit the man. Someone help him.” In response to this great addition to the annals of stump speeches, some sort of lackey came my way, crouching to look over the extent of damage to my face.
Turning to me, the Reverend Doctor said, “Apologies for that. What’s on your mind?”
I collected my bearings, avoided shaking the battlefield surgeon’s hand, and found that I was newly surrounded by the mob.
“You’re not black,” I repeated.
With a squint that betrayed his true color, Pastor-man sharpened his eyes, hoping that his flock would disobey en masse just this once. Only the initial loudmouth proved himself deaf. And so, for the third time, something I can only describe as a mix between a slap and a wild right hook landed on the top of my skull. As I wrapped my arms around my now hunched over, asphalt-gazing head, I had to admit, my skill at recognizing the start of the contest was improving.
“Boy,” the man began, unable to withstand all temptation to civility, “I’m, ah,” he rubbed his chin and looked around as he measured the feeling of the mob. Somebody in the back shouted, “‘We!’” The future-Pastor took this correction in stride and rejoined, “Son, we,” and at this he drew a lazy circle around his head with a downward pointing finger for emphasis as he turned a circle himself, then continued, “we are gonna give you another chance to speak.” (“It’s only fair!” someone added.) “I’m praying,” he paused to let a knowing chuckle breathe, “that you use it wisely.”
Did I want to die? That’s the question I asked myself. I still don’t know the answer. I don’t think I did. But I was tired. I know I was tired. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when we weren’t forced to listen to this nonsensical bullshit, and tonight, I was simply out of energy.
“I said,” I began, “you ALL,” here I diligently added a minor clarification which I thought might help communicate my intention more clearly, “are not black.”
Not like the modern “Cirque du Soleil”-style circus, but quite like an atmosphere of the circuses of lore, or what I imagined to be how those big tops operated—always on the verge of chaos—a circus erupted.
At this, I definitely avoided what would have been the fourth blow by my initial conversant. The trouble was that my path backwards, as I mentioned, had been filled in by the mob, specifically by tightly—and remarkably scantily (considering the amount of fabric)—clothed heavyset women. Like always, these about-to-be-breaking-out rap-porn, IG Queens were, with one hand, pointing their phones at me and with the other, holding drive-thru cups out of which they sipped some sort of sugary delight through straws. All the while, their purses looked like they were enjoying the break from constant adjustments that naturally occurred while the mob wormed its way around low numbered street names.
In other words, I found my retreat blocked off by what amounted to angry, hi-tech pillows.
So his fifth punch did land. Oh well.
“You blind?! You sayin’ my skin ain’t black?”
He didn’t really leave me much time between punches 6, 7, and 8, but I continued our interview anyhow.
“No. I’m saying, ‘You are not,” I suddenly remembered the earlier point of clarity and so corrected myself, but not before number 9, “I’m saying, ‘You all are not black.’”
I stayed on my back for a moment, thinking to rest and recuperate, but was unpleasantly surprised to feel a kick to my left ear—what was up with this dude and ears?
“Let him up!” I heard a loud too-busy-for-choir-practice-but-too-good-to-not-be-in-the-church-choir-alto sing out.
Like a poor form deadlift, all back and no legs, I stood to the erect position again.
“Thank you,” I acknowledged.
No sooner than these words came out did I discover that she might have had a protein shake in her cup. Put bluntly, not ‘all fat’, as I had suspected, and I found myself pushed down, very directly, to the ground once again.
“Bitch, I don’t speak for no one but me, but I am black!” she announced.
So where are we? Right, a kick again from Don Lemon, this time to the kidney, and that makes 11.
I felt there would be another soon, so I hopped up quickly, covered the ear closest to my lately befriended investigator, and repeated, “You all are not black.”
“And that’s when we showed up?” Officer Jones asked.
“Yup. My own knights in shining armor. Don Quixote,” I said.
“Never mind. It’s a book. Good one, too. So what’s next?”
“I think we have everything we need to finish up the paperwork for tonight,” he said. Then he continued, “Can I tell you something?”
“You’re kinda a moron.”
“Will you do something for me?”
“Will you stop saying, ‘You’re not black’?”
“Because someone needs to tell them the truth.”