Dog Ear
Scared Shitless (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 13 September 2017 19:37

Scared Shitless (DOG EAR)

p until the 50s, heroes were never scared. When faced with a wave a Zulus or an airship unraveling beneath their boots, heroes would clench their lantern jaws (whatever that means), tighten their fingers around their bold-action rifles and think of England. But never, never ever were they scared.

In the 60s, Louis L’Amour would occasionally mention fear in his stories, but it was usually the secondary character chattering his teeth while the blunt hero would tell him it was natural to be frightened. Not that we’d witness the hero’s own fears, just that he would admit to them.

For me, being scared was last Sunday night when Irma came up the west coast of Florida. This super storm was churning its way north, its size spanning the state. No place was safe. The last report we had from the TV was that it’s Northwestern track up the Florida western coast had shifted and now it was closing with Orlando and ready to strike it with that deadly forward-right scythe that all hurricanes have. Then the winds rose outside, blasts that buffeted the house. The power went out, the router went down, and we were cut off in the darkness.

We followed through with our plan to huddle in the center hall of the house, all the doors closed. And what a long night that made as we tried to sleep while Irma tried to tear its way in. Wind came through the floorboards and I wondered if any moment would be my last. At one point I woke up from a haunted sleep to hear that “freight train” noise everyone always says they hear right before a tornado hits. Even the wife woke up and we both looked at the roof, listening to it thunder past.

And that’s terrifying. I remember sweat on my forehead, my heart pounding, my tongue dry. I waited for the boom and crash of a collapsing house but none came. Eventually 3pm rolled past as well as the worst of the storm. We went to the bedroom and collapsed, falling into deep sleeps that the storm couldn’t rouse us from until 8am. Outside of some shingle damage, a dropped section of fence (my neighbor’s concern) and two big chunks of branches I’ll need a chainsaw to cut clear, we’re okay.

But yes, that was scared. Not heroic-scared, but a U-boat crew getting depth-charged scared, the fear of blind helplessness.

I was going to say that nobody every touched on total fear like this. However, I can think of two examples in modern (realistic) literature where they do. Catch-22, with Yossarian as a terrified bombardier in World War Two, flying his ever-increasing mission count with white-knuckled panic. And then, there is Harry Flashman of the Flashman series, who openly admits to cowardice and dies those thousand deaths for our amusement. And yes, it comes across as funny but the main character does relate being scared, as scared as scared can be (and he knows this, having faced everything from Chinese Boxers to Apache warriors). So credit where credit is due – a least some writers still know how to relate to human emotion including the terror of death and the end of everything.

Hurricane Charlie made me write Indigo, a story where crows battle in the face of that storm. But Irma scared me so bad I just want to forget it. I never want to relive that experience again.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 September 2017 21:56
Emotional (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 07 September 2017 00:00

kay, so it’s been a hard couple of months. It started with something at work resembling a North Korean prison, working 140 hours of overtime in five weeks. This was while we were making organizational changes and a toxic person was stirring things up behind my back. Then there was the strange thing with my hand, the little null-spot, which doctors took three weeks to casually examine before announcing that, no, it wasn’t a degenerative disease. We also had a national train convention in town and our club was high on the host list. I had to run ops sessions, greet bus tours and run the layout, doing things for a long week of standing, smiling, and hosting (grin-grin, howya doing). And during that time my cat’s kidney failed. This was the worst of it, the cherry on the cake of misery. We coaxed and pleaded food into her, doing everything we could to get her to eat and drink, even injecting her with fluids and watching my little loved one wither. And finally we had to have her put down. Misery.

Once that was done, once the last spade of dirt was on her grave, I looked to my wife. “Let’s go to North Carolina.” Mom’s got a place up there. It’s quiet, it’s easy, and it isn’t here.

We drove up without any problems, listening to Four Summoner’s Tales, a collection of stories of raising the dead (yeah, I wish). Once we were up, I read, I slept, I relaxed. And at JB’s insistence, we went to a little art gallery in Valle Crucis. Turns out the lady there had written a book, He gave me barn cats, to be reviewed in a few weeks (as I said, I read a lot up there – lots of reviews). It’s her story (how strange to talk to a person, in a place, that you eventually read all about) about her loses in life, of how in a year she lost nine loved ones (her mom, her dog, three cats and assorted other family).

It’s a Christian-theme book, not my usual forte if you look over my bookshelf. But she understood loss. She nailed it. And there I sat on the back porch before the amazing vista of that forested valley, feeling myself cringing, remembering, reliving. Then she hit the written note with one phrase, all about her little lost kitten Jack, that shattered me. I felt my eyes mist, thought Oh fuck and suddenly tears were running down my cheeks. I just sat there and felt myself go, racking with pain over Mookie’s passage, the book swimming and trembling before me. But I could hear others in the house behind me so I gave myself a few scant moments of feeling my emotions drain out. Then I wiped my eyes with my sleeves, sniffed, took a breath. “Now then…”

But it wasn’t a fluke. In attempting to tell friends of this written passage, I still find my voice quavering and that familiar pepper sensation in my eyes and instantly swing onto another track. “And so, well, it’s just good writing.” Yeah, I don’t need to burst into tears, not in front of friends or coworkers.

But what Maria wrote hit me like a blow to my heart. She nailed it. And that’s what good writing can do.


Rest (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 31 August 2017 00:00

t’s been a tough couple of months. I suffered a month of nonstop overtime, only working or sleeping for five weeks in a row. And all this went largely unrecognized. Then there was the scare that I might have a degenerative disorder, something that might lead to my crippling or death. We had a train convention in town and I had to work like a dog to get us through that. And then my beloved cat’s kidney packed up, and we did everything we could (including painful things) to save her but failed, and ended up burying her in the deep soil in her favorite sunny spot. I still tear when I think of that.

So I’m left battered and exhausted, worn out by all the heartbreak and betrayal of everything I counted on.

With everything behind us, we took a break, traveling up to my mom’s cottage in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. And here I can sit (as I am now) with my laptop open, looking down over a peaceful valley, just unwinding and learning how to write again.

And so much to write.

I’ve got a half-dozen books to review – when my cat was sick, reading was my only opiate, and I plowed through book after book with her frail failing body in my lap, just losing myself in other lives. So now there is a stack of reviews I’ve got to backlog through.

Also had a short story I promised for a group. So I finally got off my ass and got to finishing that. And I had an OpsLog (a model train ops session) report to write. And even a Dog Ear (this one).

So I’m sitting in peaceful surroundings typing away, remembering what I’m doing and checking the Windows date because I don’t know what day it is. But yes, this is nice. I’m glad to see I can still write. I was afraid I’d lost it (in the height of my grief, I had).

But it still doesn’t solve my problems. The work orcs are still there, still building their siege towers to assault my professional position. My cat is still gone – I miss her horribly. And there are more train shows coming up, things that will cost me precious weekends.

But at least I can keep writing. That’s what’s important.


Backlogged (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 August 2017 00:00

ne of the only positive things to come out of the last few weeks (while I watched my feline companion slowly wither to nothing, during which time I inflicted pain to hydrate her and endlessly bothered her to eat) was my reading.

There were a number of things I did to escape from the tragedy taking place. When Mookie was awake and about, I’d tend to her and coo over her. But when she slept, I diverted myself.

Writing? Not a chance. I couldn’t put two thoughts together (and the thoughts that I might have put together were darker than the belly of a whale in the bottom of a coal mine (how would that happen, exactly?)). I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even think of writing. Because writing made me think and thinking made me feel and feeling hurt. Excruciatingly.

So I played Spelunky, over and over and over. And I watched anime, dozens of episodes of the stupidest stuff: T&A harems, giant robots, inline skaters. Even shotgunned through The Legend of Korra, which was good – I’ll have to review that someday.

But I also read. I tore into books, looking for any escape. The usual way I do it (since I book review what I’ve just read) is to finish up and toss the book next to the keyboard, just to the right. Usually I’ll maybe have a book there. Sometimes I have to go looking through the stacks for something I read a while ago that could be reviewed. But this time?

I had a stack of books.

I had Razor Girl (which I just reviewed). And The Girl on the Train (up just a few minutes ago). Then there was This Census-Taker. Lamour’s Utah Blaine, I finished in two days (tossed it onto the stack and Razor came off. And last night, How to be Happy, which was a glorious find.

I’m figuring that people in hospital waiting rooms do this. On long flights, sure, you might read (but you also are on vacation so the book goes dormant). I can’t think of anytime outside of lingering tragedy that we might read so much. And to all the authors who comforted me with their vivacious redheads, their troubled mountaintop children, and their don’t-back-down gunslingers, I thank you. It’s not often that the people of the page  can give us so much comfort. I wrapped myself in paper and escaped the realities of my world.

And now she’s gone. Poor cat.

The pain lingers.

I’ve just started Stone Lake.



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