Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beautiful New Mexico

dontravis.com blog post #272
  
Cracked Eggs Formation: Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness
Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
I know! I know! This post is way too long, but I can’t resist taking you on a trip to Taos and the Four Corners areas of New Mexico. These reminders come from the second book in my BJ Vinson Mystery Series.
*****
From The Bisti Business:

Prologue:

A lopsided moon daubed wispy tendrils of scattered clouds with pewter. Glittering pinpricks of muted light smeared the Milky Way while moonshine bleached the barren landscape silver. Sharp-edged shadows shrouded the feet of mute, grotesque gargoyles of clay and sandstone: hoodoos masquerading as monumental toadstools, spheroid stones aping gigantic dinosaur eggs, and eroded clay hills with folds like delicate lace drapery.
         A great horned owl soared above the high desert floor, its keen eyes scouring the panorama below. The plumed predator dipped a wing and veered eastward, attracted by the dull metallic shine of a large foreign object. Quickly discerning it represented no culinary opportunity, the raptor flew in slow, ever-widening circles in search of something more promising.

Chapter 1

I returned to the visual meditation of the landscape outside my window. As nature’s glow dimmed, man-made lights came alive: amber lampposts, white fluorescents, flamboyant neons, yellow vehicle headlights reflecting off wet pavement, and far in the distance a tiny spot moving slowly across the sky—one of the aerial trams hauling patrons up Sandia Peak’s rugged western escarpment to the restaurant atop the mountain.
By leaning forward, I caught the faint, rosy underbelly of a western cloudbank, the lingering legacy of a dead sunset. Was that what had drawn Orando and Dana to the Land of Enchantment? Spectacular scenery and surreal sunsets? Or was it our rich heritage of Indian and Hispanic art? The two were history majors, and Albuquerque had a long history. It was approaching its 300th birthday, while Santa Fe and many of the nearby Indian Pueblos had longer lifelines.
Beyond my line of sight, the city’s original settlement lay to the west where one- and two-storied adobe shops—some ancient and some merely pretending to be—hearken back to their Spanish colonial roots. Now known as Old Town, it was founded in 1706 by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez as the Villa del Alburquerque—some say Ranchos del Albuquerque. In either case, the Spanish colonial outpost was named in honor of New Spain’s Viceroy in Mexico City. The second “R” of the Duke’s name disappeared in 1880 with the coming of the railroad to New Town, located two miles east of Hispanic Old Town, a signal the Anglos had successfully wrested the heart—if not the soul—of the community from its founders.


Chapter 5

We encountered turbulence as the little plane lifted off from the Double Eagle Airport on the west side of town and headed straight up the Rio Grande. The browns and reds and grays of the desert terrain turned a monotonous dun as we gained altitude, broken only by darker wrinkles of dry washes known as arroyos, the double black ribbons of Interstate-25, and the dull sheen of the river—itself somewhat brown. The Rio is classified as a “dirty river,” meaning it carries high concentrations of silt on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The green-shrouded slopes of the Jemez Mountains to the west provided a splash of color, as did the Sangre de Cristos to the north.
With a maximum range of 470 nautical miles plus a thirty-minute reserve fuel supply, the Cessna would not need to set down before reaching our destination. Taos is a 132-mile trip by car, and at a cruising speed of 129 mph, we would arrive in something under an hour.
“Quite a view, huh?” Jim asked. “I never get tired of it.”
Feeling a kinship with a soaring eagle, I took in the panorama. “Is that weather off to the west going to cause us any heartburn?” Bright bolts of lightning strobed the black sky on the distant horizon.
“I checked before we lifted off. It’s moving north-northeast, so I doubt we’ll be bothered.”
“Feel free to put down somewhere if we are.” I glanced down at the river again. “It’s really amazing how the Rio Grande changes character. Around Albuquerque, it roams around in a broad channel made for a bigger river.”
“You can blame that on the dams,” Jim observed. “When the Rio Grande was declared a wild and scenic river, it flooded regularly. Then they put in all the dams. The way I look at it, they put an end to the flooding all right, but the river and the Bosque are paying the price. They’re both slowly dying.” The Bosque was a two-hundred-mile swath of cottonwood forest lining both banks of the Rio.
Above Santa Fe, the water flowing beneath the plane picked up energy, shimmering in the sunlight as it rushed over rocks on its fall from the high country. The farther north we traveled; the wilder the river became. Soon it was white-water rafting country. A few miles below Taos, the true might and determination of the river become apparent as it raced down long boulder gardens to spill out of the black volcanic canyons of the Taos Box. From above, the river appeared to sink, but in reality, the terrain rose on its climb north toward Colorado.
Over the eons, gravity and friction and the sheer power of water molecules had carved a deep crevasse through the hard basalt of the Taos Plateau. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge spanned that spectacular canyon ten miles west-northwest of Taos. We circled over the awesome, 500-foot cantilevered steel and concrete marvel of modern engineering as we lined up for a landing at the town’s small strip.
Taos claims a 6,000-year history based on arrowheads, potsherds, and pictographs left by nomadic hunter-gatherers. The town takes its name from the older Taos Pueblo, a massive, multi-storied, pre-history apartment complex of Tiwa-speaking Native Americans. Both the town and the Pueblo are cultural as well as tourist draws. Dozens of Hollywood films, documentaries, and television commercials have been filmed here ever since the 1940s.
Jim had radioed the tower well before touching down at the small municipal airport, and Officer Delfino met the plane, as promised. He turned out to be a police officer with more than a touch of the local blood. Standing five-foot-six in his boots with coarse black hair not quite long enough to wear in the traditional bun but shaggier than most lawmen, he projected a calm competence as we shook hands. It would not be wise to provoke this man. His hatchet face wore an air of serious determination, an impression reinforced by his extraordinarily broad shoulders and deep chest.

Chapter 12

Forewarned by Dix Lee and Lonzo Joe, we hoisted packs stuffed with water bottles, energy bars and a compass. Feeling like I was provisioned for a week in the wilds, I clapped a broad-brimmed floppy hat on my head as protection against the sun and glanced at Aggie. He looked a good deal more comfortable with the situation than I was, but then he would be. He hiked and climbed mountains and conquered deserts more or less as a matter of course. We set off across the rocky ground, following the map Dix had sketched for us. She was supposed to be trailing along behind with someone from the Farmington BLM office. Almost immediately we were swallowed up in a fantastic landscape—not magnificent like the Grand Canyon, but spooky. Weird. Like a moonscape. Mysterious, as if some omnipotent sculptor had capriciously balanced massive, flat sandstone rocks atop slender necks of eroding clay in order to see how long they would stand.
“Damn,” Aggie said in a near whisper. “I’ve never seen anyplace like this. What the hell’s keeping those damned rocks from toppling over?” He indicated one of the distant capped pink and gray striated clay towers wearing what looked to be an outlandish stone beret at a rakish angle. “I wonder what the Good Lord was thinking when he did all of this?”
“Probably did it to watch all of us stand around with our mouths open.”
We were almost diverted from the gravity of our task by the multi-colored stones, petrified stumps, washes filled with wacky shapes, and the silent menacing hoodoos towering uncertainly over us. In one moment, our surroundings were whimsical; in another, ominous. The Navajo considered this sacred ground, and I could understand why. We trod forbidden territory, or at least that’s the way it felt. There were no footprints in the dry washes or anywhere on the stony ground we traveled, and I felt ours would disappear with our passing, as if we walked an alien planet subject to different natural laws., I glanced behind me to check and took false comfort when I saw my shoe prints still existed.
We had barely started our trek, and already sweat was staining my shirt. Following Dix’s hand-sketched map, we plodded on, taking frequent gulps of rapidly warming water, barely able to resist rushing off to explore some fascinating structural gem: thin spires of sandstone rising toward the sky like frozen tongues of flame, piles of mudstone carved by wind and water into ugly, fascinating gargoyles, specks of amber crystal winking in the hot sun, and those endless columns of sculpted, gravity-defying capped rock.
Eventually we reached our target, a broad wash holding clusters of flattened, broken round rocks streaked with wind- and water-carved wrinkles. I’d seen color prints of the Cracked Eggs, but the startling reality was greater than the image. The stones did appear to be gigantic dinosaur eggs broken open and abandoned to the elements—dozens and dozens of them. They weren’t, of course, they were merely clay and stone fashioned by that same capricious Hand. In the photos they’d appeared in a dazzling array of color, influenced by the time of day, the intensity of the light, the influence of the clouds. Now, as the sun beat straight down upon us, they were a flat gray with rosy highlights.

*****
That should make you want to trade your city shoes for hiking boots, abandon Albuquerque, and explore the Taos and Bisti areas. The trip from Albuquerque to Bisti spins time backward from today to the time of the dinosaurs. Think of all that history lying in between!

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Mexico… My Adopted State

dontravis.com blog post #271

A Forties Era motel on East Central
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Regular readers know that I’m born and bred an Okie. I don’t believe I even left the state until I was sixteen when my family moved just across the border to DeQueen, Arkansas where I graduated from high school. After that, I lived in Texarkana, Texas awhile, graduated from TCU in Fort Worth, meandered around Germany for a year or so with the US Army before being shipped to Colorado. After discharge from the military, I took work in Denver where I met and married my wife Betty. Denver was okay, but I wasn’t enamored of it as many people are. So I wasn’t disturbed when my company transferred me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I still remember topping a hill and seeing the city spread out in the distance.

My reaction was “Wow!” My wife’s? “Oh, crap!”

I loved it instantly. It took her about a year before she lost the urge to return to Denver. Over time, my liking for my adopted state has only strengthened. I hope that comes through in my writing. I try to highlight different areas of New Mexico in each novel. I’ve reproduced some of my treatments showing that respect below.

*****
From The Zozobra Incident:

Prologue:

          The Sangre de Cristos to the north and the Jemez Mountains on the west stood like massive, mute sentinels. An unforgiving sun high in the cloudless sky bleached the desert landscape brown and turned Interstate 25 into twin ribbons of glistening black tar. The white four-door Impala barreling down the highway pushed the speed limit—not enough to attract the attention of passing cops but sufficient to clip a few minutes off the hour’s drive to Albuquerque.

Chapter 4

I picked up I-25 South and exited at Central Avenue, turning left up the long, steady climb to the heights. Central was once touted as the world’s longest main street and had been a stretch of the famous Route 66 before Eisenhower’s interstate highway program did it in. Now lined with one-story brick and stucco antique shops, cheap motels, bars, and adult bookstores, Central was well past her glory days, but she still put on a flashy show of neon lights by night. Inevitably the morning sun exposed her timeworn wrinkles and sagging frame.
I had intended to use this time to think. Instead I found myself examining the venerable old gal. The impressive campus of Presbyterian Hospital showed signs of recent construction, but then it usually had something underway. The University of New Mexico was a beehive of activity. Apparently some sort of musical performance at Popejoy Hall had ended, and cars were now spilling out of the side streets. The trendy Nob Hill Mall, with its boutiques and outdoor cafés in the Midtown area, drew college students and young adults from every walk of life.
I motored past the sprawling and aging New Mexico State Fairgrounds, where a weekend flea market, in-season horse racing, and daily casino operations attracted gamblers, drunks, touts, and prostitutes of both sexes. Back in the days when I was a street cop, this area and the rabbit run a little farther to the west had dealt me more trouble than anywhere else. I’d pinched more than one thief trying to sell his loot in the flea market. I’d faced down a distraught family man who’d gambled away the mortgage money at the racetrack and was determined to commit suicide by cop in the parking lot, but thank goodness, my partner and I talked him out of it.

*****
If you haven't read Zozobra yet, I encourage you to take a look at it on Amazon. I believe they allow you to read a significant portion of the book on-line. 

Central Avenue sounds seedy in the above. But that’s all right. Parts of it are seedy. A wonderful seedy that gives you an insight into the days when it was part of the fabled Route 66 that stretched clear across this nation. Eisenhower’s interstate highway system might have done it Route 66, but so far, it hasn’t appreciably altered Albuquerque’s Central Avenue.

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dead Luke (Conclusion)

dontravis.com blog post #270

How have you enjoyed the story so far? Last week’s episode ended with a question. Why did dead Luke want our hero (have you noticed he has no name) to discover the diary? Today, we’ll find out with the finale to my adaptation of Mark Wildyr’s short story, Apparition.

Here is part three of three parts.

*****
Courtesy of publicdomain.com
DEAD LUKE
Adapted from a short story by Mark Wildyr


The semester started, so I had little time to give to Luke and his deepening love. He soon grew impatient with my inattention. He began to intrude on my nighttime sleep once again. At times, it was the restless stirring in the ink-black corners of the bedroom. At others, I felt pressure on my body as if he were prodding me. Finally, I picked up the diary and began reading it again after I finished homework one night. That was when I discovered two photographs between the pages of the book.
The first was obviously Luke Collins, a fresh-faced, handsome youngster with blonde hair and green eyes. He looked exactly what he was, a college preppie. He was shirtless and obviously posing for whoever was taking the picture. His musculature was good, and he looked masculine, not effete. The photo of Drew Knighton revealed a dark, almost ethnic man with striking, classic features who was totally at ease with the camera.
At this point, the nature of Luke’s writing changed. Some flaws in the relationship began to appear, and they seemed to be centered around the nature of their physical trysts. In the acts detailed in the diary, Luke had been the recipient, I guess you’d say. Maybe bottom is a better description. Now he began to ask for more. He pressed his lover to share that sensation with him. His love began to falter as Drew continued to deny him. The shadows in the corner became more restless as I reached this part of Luke’s story.
I slapped the book closed. “That’s it for tonight, guy. I’m tired.”
A minor windstorm shook the room, but I refused to be put off. I cleaned up and went to bed. I don’t know if Luke sulked or just accepted my decision, but he didn’t bother me that night.
The next morning, a Saturday, I ignored the few chores I had set for myself and took up the journal again. The succeeding entries chronicled Luke’s deepening love for Drew and growing dissatisfaction with... something.
Later that day I went to the U and found a tennis partner about on a par with me. We each took a set and gave up without playing the tiebreaker. The first thing I did on arriving home was strip and hit the shower. The exercise had felt good. I’d become too sedentary and vowed to play more often. As I dried off and stood in front of the sink to comb my curly, brown locks, I eyed the heavy condensation on the mirror and wondered if this was a way to communicate with my local ghost.
“Okay, Luke! You’re a college boy, write me a message.” After five minutes of speaking to the ether while the condensation slowly evaporated, I snorted at my foolishness.
Taking up my toothbrush, I worked on my choppers with vigor. It wasn’t that I was vain about white teeth; rather it was that I feared the dentist. As I bent over to spit out the foam, something touched my bare butt! I jumped! I hadn’t even had the warning of my goosebumps this time. Leaning back down to fill my palm with water to rinse my mouth, my buttocks puckered.
All right, already!” I gasped. “Go away and leave a guy some privacy!"
The night was fairly calm, although I risked stirring things up by studying the journal again that night. The tenor of the daily entries were definitely changing. Luke’s profession of love grew increasingly intertwined with dissatisfaction.
Drew is so wonderful to me. I feel like his wedded spouse, which of course, will never happen in this country during my lifetime, at any rate. There’s just one thing I wish I could change. He makes love to me wonderfully, but he doesn’t permit me to reciprocate. Says he’ll never do that. It leaves me feeling…I don’t know… cheated.
Being unfamiliar with gay-speak, it took me a minute to figure out the obvious. The boy was playing the passive role and was beginning to resent it. Still later:
I almost caused a fight tonight, begging him to let me do him. He left in a huff! Oh, why can’t he understand? But is it worth losing the most wonderful man I’ll ever find?  I don’t know. I just wish he’d treat me more like a man sometimes.
The shadows had started to stir, so I put away the diary and made ready for bed. Surprisingly, he let me go to sleep.
On the Friday after classes, I made me a sandwich, opened all the drapes to let in the sunlight, and sat down to finish the journal. Luke seemed less active during the daytime. The rest of the diary was less nirvana and more real world. Luke’s frustration continued to grow, and with it came resentment and fractures in the relationship. They apparently broke up, but soon got back together. Luke’s happiness at the reunion soon frayed.
He just won’t listen. He won’t hear of me making love to him like he does me. If I could only make him understand!
Even so, Luke apparently continued to pursue his goal, almost causing a breach again. Then I came to the last page… dated the day of the accident.
Tonight I’m going to do it. I’m not going to ask him this time. I know once he has the experience, he’ll treasure it like I do. I’m going to know what it feels like to be a man with a loved one tonight! He’ll love it! I know it!
Later that night, Luke Collins was dead.
Suddenly, it all fell into place…why Luke was here; what he wanted; what he needed before he could rest. He wanted the authorities to know what happened to him.
The next morning, I presented myself at the Crandall Police Department and handed over Luke’s dairy to the officer who had investigated the Collins death. He thanked me for bringing it in.I left tremendously relieved. Luke would have his justice now. He could rest in peace. I’d tell him as soon as I got home.
As soon as I opened the door I knew that something was wrong. The air was hostile… downright malevolent! My goosebumps came back in spades. The room was cold enough to require a sweater. I stood stunned in the middle of the living room while I was buffeted by something like a strong wind. Luke was furious.
Realizing that the apparition had no power over me beyond what I conferred on it, I fought down my fear. Gradually, my body stopped swaying from the wraithlike blows raining down on it. Fear turned to pity. This young man was clearly infuriated, but all he could do to express it was rage around me like a small gale.
“Calm down, Luke. What is it? What’s happened?”
Something gave me a shove from behind. I stepped forward, allowing myself to be cajoled along until I found myself in front of the telephone. The light on the answering machine was blinking. I punched the button.
‘Mr. Hughes, this is Officer Munzey down at the police station. Thought you’d like to that I talked to Drew Knighton. He confessed right away. He needed to, I think. It was eating him alive. He apparently thought a lot of the Collins boy. I’m satisfied it was an accident. The kid made an unwanted advance, and Knighton threw him off. The boy hit his head. Knighton claimed he thought the Collins boy was dead. Broke down when he learned he’d left Collins there to bleed to death. He’ll go down for manslaughter. I thought you’d want to know.”
The wraith went crazy! With no obvious power to lift objects, Luke nonetheless stirred the curtains, buffeted me about, set the recliner to rocking and scattered papers on my desk about the room. Obviously, I had not acted the way Luke intended.
“Sorry, Luke, if that’s not what you wanted. But it was the right thing to do. He deserves what’s coming.” The high wailing sensation came back, filling the room, hurting my ears. “I know you loved him, but he had no right to harm you and then just leave you to die. You could have lived, Luke. You didn’t need to die.”
The room was suddenly empty except for me. Shaken, I picked things up and fixed something to eat. When I went to bed, I was alone. In an odd way, it left me feeling lonesome.
In the wee hours, I woke struggling for breath. The air was thick around my mouth and nostrils. The feather-light pressure on my lips, the tingling of my nipples, the pressure against my groin panicked me. I kicked out violently, just as Drew Knighton must have done, achieving nothing except to send the sheet sailing off the bed. Surprised, angered, frightened, I leapt up and let out a roar.
“Dammit, Luke! I did what I thought you wanted. What else do you want from me?”
And standing there naked in the cool night, my heart beating furiously, I understood. I knew what Luke wanted. He wanted from me what Drew Knighton had denied him. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

*****
Well, a fellow just never knows, does he. A surprise lurks around every corner, it seems. Well, at least we know our hero's last name was Hughes. Wonder what the first one was? Hope you enjoyed the story.

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dead Luke (Part 2)

dontravis.com blog post #269

Sorry, but I can’t help myself! DSP Publication notified me they’ve accepted my novel, Abaddon’s Locusts, for publication, probably in the first quarter of 2019.

This week, we continue the eerie story adapted from a Mark Wildyr short story. He called his Apparition. I labeled it Dead Luke.
Here’s part two of three parts.

*****
Courtesy of infinity explorer
DEAD LUKE
Adapted from a short story by Mark Wildyr

At nightfall, I picked up a book and began reading. At the first pucker of gooseflesh, I stood and faced the darkest corner of the room. Feeling more than a little silly, I announced, “All right, Luke, I know the score. You’re dead, so dammit, go where dead people go!”
An agitated stirring roiled the corner nearest the fireplace. Not noises, not light or shadow, just a stirring. And that high keening filled the room again. It was not exactly a noise, just a sensation of noise. So help me, my flesh puckered again. Every square inch of my body dimpled. My breathing slowed, and I began to sweat. The temperature in the room dropped three or four degrees.
“Stop it!” I shouted. “Dammit, I didn’t do anything to you. Leave me alone!”
There was a noise like a rat scrabbling that stopped my heartbeat. Then from behind me, there was a clink from the fireplace. I whirled, almost falling over. Was that how he fell? Was he trying to engineer an accident for me, too? Was he spiteful? Vindictive?
Nothing stirred on or near the fireplace, but that clink I’d heard was one sound that was clear and definite and real! Not a figment of my imagination.
Irked, I snapped off the light and started for the bedroom but halted when I heard the clink again…once, twice, three times. Until now I had not been frightened. Worried, nervous, anxious, spooked…but not frightened. I turned to face the fireplace.
Moonlight flooded one end of the room; the other was in darkness. At one corner of the mantle, a shadowy, indistinct impression of a form…something cloudy or amorphous hovered over the hearth, clawing at the mantle. Totally freaked, I flipped on the overhead lights. Nothing there.
My heart beating a thunderous tattoo, I was drawn to inspect the mantle. As I laid my hand on a flat rock on the top, something brushed my hand. Frightened, I flinched…and heard a noise. The grate of stone on stone. My mysterious clink!
Swallowing to lubricate my dry throat, I tugged at the flagstone. It came lose in my hand, revealing a hollow with a dusty book inside. A great sigh filled the room. Me or Luke? I didn’t know, but at that point, my nerve failed. I threw on clothes and fled the apartment, spending the rest of the night in a 24-hour diner swigging coffee.
I waited until daylight before returning home. As soon as the door closed behind me, I inspected the apartment from top to bottom. Everything was normal; except for the mantle. The book still rested in its exposed hiding place.
“Crap, Luke!” I whispered. “I opened the damned thing for you. Why couldn’t you just take it and leave me in peace.” The absurdity of my remark was not lost on me.
The book was a dairy. Figuring that he intruded on my privacy, I sat down and stuck my nose into his. Luke Collins started the dairy about a year before his death. I felt like a thief stealing the private life of another, but I couldn’t put it down. He was a bright kid, witty, happy, and homosexual. He was apparently very sensitive about his orientation and had remained virginal. Most of his entries centered on what he one day hoped to find in a man. Then the nature of his writing changed.
I met him tonight!” he wrote. I knew it was him immediately.
Luke Collins met Drew Knighton at a symphony performance at Crandall University. They talked casually at intermission, as strangers do at such things, and arranged to have a drink afterward. Shy, sensitive Luke made no effort to reveal himself that night. That came later.
I can’t believe it! Drew called and invited me to dinner. We got to know one another so well tonight. He’s twenty-nine and an engineer and absolutely marvelous. We talked for hours about philosophy and music and dance, and even sports! He knows about basketball and football and those things. He’s promised to take me to games and teach me things.
A week later, the teaching began. Luke graphically wrote of the way Drew initiated him into a different lifestyle…foreign to him until then. The daily entries went from astonishment to enthusiastic to downright euphoric.
How happy I am! I think for the first time in my life, I’m really happy! It happened, and it was as wonderful as I knew it would be. Drew says it was great for him, too.
I tried to work up some righteous indignation, but instead of being revolted, I found myself strangely aroused. I’ve never been drawn to men beyond an embarrassing tryst with my best friend once in junior high. Nonetheless, I got a charge out of reading this innocent young man’s account of his first real love affair.
I dropped the book to my lap as a thought struck. Why had Luke been so insistent that I discover his personal diary?

*****
Aha! One mystery solved, and another on the horizon. Why did Luke…dead Luke…want our hero to find his deeply personal diary?

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dead Luke (Part 1)

dontravis.com blog post #268

Good news. DSP Publications just notified me they’ve accepted my novel, Abaddon’s Locusts, with a tentative release date in the first quarter of 2019.

My fellow Okie author, Mark Wildyr, wrote a story a hundred years ago (well, maybe not that long) that raised chill bumps on my back. He’s kindly allowed me to adapt it to my own way of thinking about things. My version is shorter than his; nonetheless, it’ll take a serial posting. Here’s part one.

*****
Courtesy of Pixabay
DEAD LUKE
Adapted from a short story by Mark Wildyr

The temperature in the room dropped. Goose pimples crawled up my back. My throat dried up, causing me to try to swallow. My heart raced. The thing in the corner was back again.
A shadow? Reflected light? I knew better. Even before I flipped on the table lamp, I knew there would be no bug crawling up the wall, no undulating cobweb to gather shadows. Nothing. There never was.
How my new apartment was different defied rational explanation; I merely knew that it was. Finding a roomy place at a rock-bottom price within two blocks of the campus was likely a warning, but such a bargain called for action, not investigation. I leased it on the spot.
Green House, a modest old white-painted mansion, had been cut up into four apartments. I shared the second floor with another academic a couple of years my senior, an instructor at Crandall University where I was enrolling for graduate work in Business Administration.
As to the strangeness, on my first night in the apartment, I woke convinced I was not alone, although I was. The next morning, as I studied my schedule for the upcoming semester, I’ll swear someone breathed in my ear. Later, I thought I saw someone out of the corner of my eye when no one was there. It called to mind movies like The Amityville Horror except I had no sense of evil or impending doom. Nor was there a feeling of capriciousness that I associated with poltergeists. God! Poltergeists, yet! My conscious mind insisted these things had a natural explanation. The subconscious? Well, that was another matter. Scratch deep enough, and we’re all primitive.
I woke at 3 o’clock one morning to a high, thin keening that came from nowhere and everywhere. Sweating, I sat up in bed. My heart thumped. Chill bumps literally, covered my body. Then I heard a distinct chink from the other room like something had struck a stone in the old fireplace. It came again.
I slipped out of bed and naked edged my way to the door. My flashlight revealed no one, nothing. I flipped the switch on the overhead and flooded the room with light. Nothing. Was there a bat or something up in the old flue? I returned to bed where I covered myself against a sudden chill and tossed and turned until daybreak.
In the light of day, my nighttime anxieties seemed foolish, yet a week of unexplained sightings or near-sightings or impressions of sightings and seven nights of lost sleep were enough!
My across the hall neighbor, pointed me in the right direction when he said I was the third tenant in the past year. I asked if he knew why there was such a turnover.
“Naw. All claimed it was noisy, but I think it had something to do with what happened a year or so ago. Some people are funny about living in a place where somebody died.”
“Someone died in my apartment?”
“Yeah. Don’t remember much, but it was in the papers. Some guy died in an accident or something. Landlady didn’t mention it?”
“Not hardly!” I said with feeling.
“Oops. Am I gonna lose another neighbor?”
I smiled at him. “No way! The deal’s too good.”
After class, I drove to the town’s only newspaper. They had old issues on microfiche. Without much trouble, I located the news items about the accident the neighbor mentioned.
A twenty-one-year-old student named Luke Collins had been found dead in the apartment. At first, police investigators termed it a death under suspicious circumstances but later decided the boy had fallen and struck his head on the fireplace.
The hair on my neck rose as I recalled the distinctive sound of something striking stone last night. The fireplace was flagstone. When I returned home that afternoon, I inspected the hearth carefully and decided that one dark spot was blood soaked into the porous rock. Uncertain as to how I felt about that, I walked to the nearest café and had a blue-plate special while mulling things over. By the time I finished, my mind was clear. The price was right, the location was superb, and I wasn’t about to surrender that apartment to anyone…living or dead!

*****
Why is Luke…dead Luke…haunting the apartment where he died? And what can he possibly want from our protagonist?

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Fraternal Twin

dontravis.com blog post #267
  
Deep into 2018... and it’s already time for a new post to dontravis.com. I dug down and came up with another piece of flash fiction. Romance seems to have been on my aged and failing mind, so let’s continue the theme with this week’s piece. Hope you enjoy.

*****
THE FRATERNAL TWIN
What… a… life! Eighteen. College frosh. Cool. Handsome and sexy, at least according to my new girlfriend, Doreen Hadley. She’s the best girl I’ve ever had… well, almost had. Getting close. Just t h i s far from home. Should be there before midterms. I can tell Reenie—my pet name for her—wants it as much as I do… and that’s a lot.
I stood outside the Student Union Building after last class and watched Reenie’s fraternal twin brother head my direction. Durell Hadley is a mystery to me. Downright strange sometimes. He’s a freshman like Reenie and me but doesn’t run with my crowd. He’s tennis and swimming; I’m football and soccer. Right now, from halfway across the quadrangle, he’s moving with this unusual grace; nothing girlish, but it’s...well, it catches the eye. Weird! Crap, what did he want? He waited until he was right in my face to speak.  His eyes were big and chocolate brown like Reenie’s. Her eyes were her best feature.
“Kilgore.” He blinked a slow, deliberate blink. “You’re screwing my sister, and I want you to stop.”
I met the moment with maximum casual. “Not yet, but that’s up to her.”
“No!” Durell said in a firm voice with a finger on my chest, his nose virtually touching mine, and those big Hershey’s orbs gazing straight into my eyes. “If you’re gonna get a Hadley, it’s gonna be me!”
My voice rose an octave. I’d braced for a sucker punch, but not this one. “You mainlining, smoking, or popping, man?”
“You want a Hadley, it’s gonna be me. Me or nobody.”
“Screw you!” I put a sneer in my voice.
“Exactly,” he said with a gentle smile before striding away. “We’ll talk about it later.”
Flabbergasted, I wondered if this was his squirrelly way of putting an end to my dating his sister. Weird way of doing it, but like I said, Durell was passing strange.


Looking back, that seemed to be the moment my life went screwy. My next date with Reenie flopped, probably because I was nervous about her brother showing up. One day, I took a shortcut past the swimming gym and paused to peek through the window. Durell Hadley stood at the edge of the pool, casually drying off with a towel as he talked to someone in the water. The bastard had good shoulders and long arms roped with muscle. His deep chest was as bare as a baby’s bottom. Not a hair. He didn’t exactly have a six-pack, but the abs were visible. I could have almost put my hands around his waist…not quite, but damned near. Good hips, cute bubble butt, and long, trim legs like his sister’s. He raised his towel to his head and swiped at a black mop that went curly when wet. Recovering my senses, I moved on, wondering why I had been standing there gawking in the first place. Cute bubble butt? Where the hell had that come from? My laugh echoed down the hallway.
Well, I’d had a personal invitation, hadn’t I?

*****
Has this ever happened to you? Confession time. Hey, tell me your ending to the story. Did Kilgore keep to Reenie or switch gears and go after Durell. They both seem available. That's a thought! Could he have made it with both of the fraternal twins?

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One Pair of Leopard-Skin Briefs

dontravis.com blog post #266



Hard to believe another year has fled into our past, isn’t it? They seem to be picking up speed lately. By the way, I received the galley proofs for The Lovely Pines from DSP Publications a couple of days ago. That means we’re getting closer to a release date for the novel.

Also, I completed and submitted the manuscript for Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series.

Now, how about another flash fiction piece this week?

*****
Courtesy of Bangood
ONE PAIR OF LEOPARD-SKIN BRIEFS
Everything unraveled the day I found a pair of silk, leopard-skin men’s briefs atop a pile of our folded laundry. I wear tidy whites, so it didn’t take a lot of brain power to figure they weren’t mine.
Sharon and I married right out of college before either of us knew who the hell we were. We both had a career—nurse and construction foreman, respectively. We probably were in love at one time but emerged from that exalted state a while back. Not a bad record among my generation: four years of bliss followed by two years of indifference, drifting toward hostility.
“Care to explain this?” I asked coldly, prepared to disbelieve whatever outlandish story she came up with. Our sex life was lacking something—a scrap of fake leopard-skin, apparently—but I never dreamed she’d be unfaithful.
Her neutral look frosted into something more hostile. My wife’s full lower lip, once her sexiest trait, shot out in exasperation. “Do I need to?”
I gave her my phoniest smile. “If you found a pair of women’s panties in the car, wouldn’t you expect an explanation?”
She turned nasty at least five or six caustic remarks ahead of schedule. “Not especially. I’d figure they were yours.”
Low blow. Dirty fighting. “Funny!” I held up the briefs. “Maybe you’ve gone butch and are wearing men’s underwear now.”
She looked down the long nose I once thought so cute. “Might make a functioning sexual unit if I had. After all, it takes two to tango. For your information, darling, I bumped into this man at the Laundromat and we spilled our loads—”
“Define ‘loads’ for me, will you, sweetheart?”
She stamped her foot and sprayed locks like that bratty kid Margaret in Dennis, the Menace. “Cute, coming from the man who has trouble delivering one. Do you want an explanation or not?”
I twisted my face into a frown. “I think I’ve got it. Some guy’s stuff got mixed up with yours. Right? Oh, by the way, define stuff, will you?”
“You argue like a girl, did you know that?” She arched an elegant eyebrow at me. “But my explanation happens to be the truth. Anyway, it’s the only enlightenment you’re going to get. And by the way, if you fixed the damned washing machine, like the man of the house, I wouldn’t have to go out to clean our clothes. From now on, you do it!”
“I don’t have time—”
“And I do?” She spun on her heels and stomped away, leaving a pair of men’s silk underwear decorated with faux feral cat roundels dangling from my fingers.


I ran out of clean clothes about the same time I ran out of marriage. By then we were merely an economic unit sharing living space and expenses. Sharon didn’t speak to me any more than absolutely necessary, and I held my tongue around her. She fixed her own meals; I fixed mine…well, the cafeteria down the block did. She had her bedroom; I had mine. She did her laundry; and I, apparently, was to do mine.
It was late spring and our busiest season at work, so I hadn’t had an opportunity to look at the washer. Consequently, I loaded the clothes basket with my soiled rags, pointedly ignored her dainty things, and headed out the door for the Zia Laundromat half a mile down Montgomery Boulevard from our house. I took along that stray pair of underwear in case I found the stud who Sharon apparently felt was more of a man than a life-long construction worker.
The Laundromat was big and airy and damned near empty this early in the evening. Everything was stark white… walls, machines, tables. A couple of women sat in chairs lining the east wall, probably comparing notes on what wusses their husbands were while washers in front of them chugged and gurgled and groaned, emitting vapors of bleach and detergent and other earthy odors I did not care to contemplate.
I spotted a young fellow fussing around on the west side of the building, so I figured that was the men’s section. I hadn’t been in a Laundromat in ten years, and the machines bore little resemblance to the ones out of my distant past. I must have looked confused because the stranger stepped up and showed me how to set the machines. After swallowing an ungodly amount of quarters, the washers—one for whites and one for coloreds like my mama taught me—pissed and glugged and chugged doing the labor of a dozen washerwomen of yore.
“Hey, you forgot this!” the guy said, snatching the clean leopard-skin from the bottom of my basket. Then he did a double take. The good-looking, fair-haired young stud of around twenty-three or four held up the underwear by the elastic band.
“Man, where’d you get these? I slipped them into a chick’s basket after we bumped into one another. Figured she’d look me up to give them back. But she didn’t.”
I couldn’t decide whether to slug the son of a bitch or go the bar, get drunk, and mourn my marriage. Hell! Why not all of the above?



*****
I hope none of you have reached this point in your relationship. But it does happen, right?

And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. There are a lot of you out there with something to say… so say it.

If you feel like dropping me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


See you next week.

Don


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.