Writing

After having written a number of short essays (which were read by maybe five or six people if I count myself) it became easy to think about continuing the exercise.  Why not, the subjects I had chosen were familiar to most people and the words seemed to come easily.

When I thought about writing something new I ran into a problem that I find is rather difficult to solve.  I don’t have a subject.  I wrote about retirement because that is fast approaching.  I wrote about technology because you can’t seem to escape its reach.  I wrote about babies because I like babies and there are three new ones that I especially like. And, I wrote about cell phones because I don’t like them, they bother me and writing about them was part of my cell phone anger management program.

I couldn’t believe that those were the only subjects that came to mind but they were.  I know how some of the great authors found their subjects but that doesn’t help me much. I can’t volunteer to drive an ambulance in the Great War or run off to become a correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War like Hemingway.  I suppose I could look for adventure, tell Jeanie goodbye and join the army but I didn’t particularly like my previous military experience and that was just in the reserves plus I’d probably have to get in better shape.  It might be interesting though to be an Army Ranger or a Navy Seal and it would give me lots to write about.  She’d probably get upset.

There just didn’t seem to be any excitement in the subjects that came to mind. Running out to get the oil changed is not exactly the same as running with the bulls.  But, maybe that’s okay.  Even if I ran with the bulls or joined the French Foreign Legion it’s possible the stories I would tell would not match the great authors in the way they described their adventures or developed an underlying theme. 

I can either write stories about subjects I know nothing about or write stories based on my own experiences.  I should probably bring those personal experiences to life and concentrate on making the writing itself exciting.

Action

He could see the change coming.  He could feel September in the air. The wind howled and the angry waves crashed on that late summer afternoon as the old man reached down and pulled out the nightcrawler that would ride the number 4 crappie rig to the bottom of the lake where the jumbo perch roam. 

Historical

His wife of over 40 years looked out over the back grasslands that had been a big part of her home and her life for so long. The sun streamed down on the old homestead as she thought about the way it used to be, the way it used to look, the way she remembered it. How could she get it back? What could she say that would get him to mow the lawn? 

Suspense

The other times darkness had cloaked my activities. This time, it was broad daylight and instead of darkness I was trying to be transparent by being out in the open.  There were people all around but I knew that they were busy with their mundane lives and other than the young man in the blue shirt who glanced my way I didn’t think that I had been noticed at all.

I had gone through it in my mind probably a hundred times yet I found I still had my doubts about whether I could pull it off and just disappear before their eyes.  A little sweat started to form on my forehead and I adjusted my baseball cap as I began my work.  The entries had to be right and in the right order. They had to be right.

I clinched and then released my fists and forced myself to relax.  Start, start now or you’re going to raise suspicion, start now.  It all seemed familiar but so different.  The codes were entered slowly.  Nobody seemed to notice and blue shirt was busy in his own little world.  More information was fed in and then more. Good.  A few more entries and then a response which had to be exactly right.  My mind is screaming, “hurry up” at the same time I am telling myself to stay calm, slow down.  Click, click and I’m in. A few more miscellaneous whirring sounds, a click and I’ve done it. 

I leave slowly and feel a smile forming on my face as my nondescript late model sedan heads east and disappears. I did it.  I made an ATM withdrawal——in Spanish.

That’s it. I had found my subjects. After thinking about it for awhile it just seems to me that subjects based on personal experience sound real because they are believable and ring true. What do I know about the CIA or Mt. Kilimanjaro or hang gliding through the Rockies?  My stories will be based on my experiences and I’ll try to make my writing bring those experiences to life for others.  I’ll tell what happened, I’ll keep it believable and I’ll keep it real.

The late afternoon sun of October sparkled off the water and shown through the bayside windows of the conference hall as I entered the room and prepared myself for three long, dreary days of listening to people I didn’t want to hear tell me things I had heard hundreds of times before. As I walked across the room I could feel eyes, beautiful blue eyes, looking my way.  I glanced up and saw her over at one of the exhibits smiling at me.  Young, blond and beautiful.  Why did they always have to be young, blond and beautiful?  She was young, blond and beautiful and she was coming my way.  I know I should have turned and walked out of….

Wait. I am going to tell believable stories about what really happened and then I go and tell something like this? What is that?  She was young, blond and beautiful and she was coming my way at the October conference?  It was May, not October, the conference was in May.  There that’s better.  Now it’s accurate, now it’s believable.  Lesson learned.

 

 

 

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A special day

When I was a child one of the happiest days of the school year was Valentine’s Day.  I can remember bringing a lunch bag to school, taping it to my desk after lunch and then lining up and marching around the room dropping valentines in all the kids’ sacks.  After I dropped my card in “her” sack (“I’m NUTS about you, Valentine” with a picture of a big peanut) I got back to my desk and raced through the cards to see if she gave me one and she did (“You’re a cutie pie, Valentine” with a picture of a girl holding a pie). What a feeling and so what that everyone got a card from everyone else, she gave me a valentine. We were all so excited to pass out and receive the little cards and laughed each time we read them until Sister told us to put the sacks in our desk and enjoy the cards when we got home. 

It’s not the same when you become an adult and that’s too bad but I guess you really can’t pass out valentines at work. It would be nice to create that joy again but then you’d probably be called into a meeting with Human Resource to discuss sexual harassment charges.

I started to think about long ago Valentine’s Days and decided to tape lunch bags on all of the houses in the neighborhood and then pass out those little valentines (“Could you CARROT all about me, Valentine?” with a picture of a talking carrot).  This year all of the neighbors will be getting my cards and I’m sure that they’ll be thrilled and just maybe next year I’ll have a bagful like I did all those years ago.

I should have had more faith in my neighbors because this morning when I looked in the bag I had hanging on my door there it was, a little valentine just for me from one of my neighbors, a picture of a smiling little cherublike policeman twirling a night stick “Hey, Valentine, I  must insist you cease and desist”.   I guess it’s true,  you can’t go back.

Set yourself a goal and follow through

I’ve never ski jumped or played hockey or snowboarded or figure skated or done that one where you ski and then stop and shoot so even if I had been able to get away from work I probably wouldn’t have added much to those events for the US Olympic team. 

But curling? Sliding a stone shaped like a tea kettle across the ice? See, what you do is there’s this forty pound stone with a handle and you slide it across the ice toward a bullseye target and you try to knock your opponent out of the target area and when the stone is sliding along you sweep in front of it and your teammates scream.  I’ve lifted things with handles, slid on ice and used a broom.  I can do this.

So, I’m watching it on TV and thinking that it could have been me. It could have been my kids watching the Olympics, “USA, USA, USA, hey look, Dad’s won a silver” and they would have been so proud as I’d stand there on the podium during the medal ceremony while my fellow Olympians who performed triple axels or skied down almost vertical mountain slopes or rode a luge at 325 mph looked on and cheered for me, the guy who never got cold or tired or fractured. 

And then when the games were over I’d come home and after a round of interviews and TV appearances I’d make some commercials for Chapstick or Coke or some manly products and the children would cheer and the ladies would swoon and I’d bask in the glory of the Olympics—Daa- daa, da-da-da-daa. But nobody ever called about joining the team so you won’t see me in Sochi.  That’s why I decided that I had to do something now about 2018 and that’s what I did Monday morning.

“Mr. Martin, do you have a minute?” and he smiled and waved me into his office and said “Sure, what can I do for you?”

I asked him if he’d been watching the Olympics and he said yes and I said something about how great they are and then I asked him if the company would sponsor me and release me from my work duties so that I could train to make the 2018 team.

He asked me if I was insane and I laughed and said, “Oh, it’s not dangerous. It’s the curling team.  See, what you do is there’s this…” and that’s when he told me I could have all the time I needed starting now.

You’ve got to set yourself a goal, which I’ve done, and now that my boss has given me time off to train for the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea I’m almost there:  ”Ann-yeong—Hello, South Korea .”  I should probably look up the members of the 2014 team and let them know I’ll be joining them.

Set yourself a goal, follow through and go for the gold.

“USA, USA, USA.”

 

Noon

Every work day at noon the siren on the tall pole in front of the fire station would sound for about 15 seconds.  My grandfather, working in his machine shop, would stop, pull out his watch to make sure that the siren was right on time and then wash up before heading home while at home my grandmother would hear the siren, glance at the old mantel clock sitting on the cabinet in the kitchen and finish preparing the mid-day meal.

The trip home meant a stop at the post office to pick up the mail along with the other men heading home for dinner.

“Hello, Abe.”

“Hello, Tom”, and then he’d walk into the post office to pull the mail from box 134. From the post office it was just a couple of blocks to his space in front of the small white house on O Street.  Before he got out of the old green Chevy a pickup truck passed and pulled into the space next door.

“Hello, Al.”

“Hello, Abe” and the two would walk up to their houses on parallel sidewalks like they did every day.

As my grandfather came in the house my grandmother would step out of the kitchen to greet him with a, “Hello, Dad’ and then take the mail to see if there was a letter from the kids as he took off his hat and coat and went to wash his hands.

The table was the same family table that had been in the dining room for years and as they sat together at one end he told her how good the meal was just like he did every day and she, like she did every day, touched his hand and said, “thank you”. The same people, the same house, the same meals, just as it had been for most of fifty four years. 

After eating he always went into the living room to lie down for a few minutes before heading back to the shop while she cleared the table and took the dishes into the kitchen.  Wash the dishes, dry her hands, hear him get up off the couch, glance at the clock and then kiss him before he headed back out but today after she dried her hands she listened for more than a few seconds frozen in front of the clock.

Fifty four years is a long time, a string of years where every day can seem like an endless extension of the day before.  Fifty four years but tomorrow when the siren blares at noon she won’t glance at the clock.