Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sometimes Life Just Gets in the Way

Once again, I’d planned to do something on The Bisti Business this week but ended up letting life get in the way of my plans. That seems to happen more and more often of late. In the first place, my new computer continues to act up. The screen occasionally burps … meaning that it will suddenly jump up a couple of inches and then fall right back where it was. That should technically qualify as a burp, right? Or perhaps a hiccup. It doesn’t do any damage or cause me to lose material, but as I get older (which is happening at an increasingly rapid pace), I become more paranoid. So I tend to view this as something analogous to a volcano. These little “interruptions” are likely precursors to a building “eruption.” So I’ll be taking the machine to the fellows who helped me obtain it in the first place to see if my fears are well founded.

However, that is not exactly what sent me off the track this week. It was something much more personal. I tend to wear plaid, Wal-Mart trousers around that house that my friend E calls “pajama bottoms.” They aren’t (and I won’t shock her by showing her the actual garment), but I like them because they are comfortable and easy to slip into. Even so, I’ve allowed her interpretation of the trousers to intimidate me to the point where I only wear them in private.

This morning, after rising earlier than usual and cleaning up, I donned a pair of these casual pants and went about my usual routine. I noticed that something wasn’t quite right, but didn’t actually realize what it was until I tried to slip my cell phone into a pocket. I had the blessed things on backward. Now think about that for a moment, folks. I walked around for half an hour with my pants turned bass-ackward without knowing it. That bears repeating: Without knowing it. This should tell you more than you want to know about the state of my aging and shifting physique. I’m not even sure you can call it a physique any longer.

Now I have friends who will say, “Aha, a wake-up call. Start watching your diet and (wait for it now) … exercise.”

There are others who will take the attitude of “so what. So long as you’re not obscene, who cares?”

I have no idea of how obscene I appeared as I felt absolutely no compunction to go check it out in the mirror. I just removed them, turned them around, and donned them the proper way. Something that took all of fifteen seconds thanks to the stretchy elastic waistband.

What is obscene, at least in my dictionary, is the word “exercise.” A shiver runs up my back every time I hear the word. (By the way, does that qualify as a form of exercise?). I’m a reasonably proficient writer, and I don’t think the word appears in any of my sixty short stories and seven published novels except to “exercise caution” or “exercise patience,” both rather non-physical applications of the word.

My friend J wrote a post to her Farther to Go blog the other day extolling the benefits of her physical exer… uh, physical exertion program. Toward the end, she said something that caught my eye. She found that sometimes sitting and imagining going through a particular routine actually helped in the physical performance of that routine. Sort of a One-Two approach.

Well, as of today, I’ve progressed to Stage One.

Check with me next month to see how much that’s helped.

Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.


Next week: I’ll really, really try to get to THE BISTI BUSINESS.

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

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Enough is Enough…and Sometimes Too Much

I’d planned to do something on The Bisti Business this week, but my new computer (did I mention I got a new one last week?) occupied too much time to organize and get rid of a glitch to get any writing done. So I succumbed to a need to write something fresh, which means we’ll have a bit of flash fiction for this post. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that what follows is in no way autobiographical.



     “Harry, get your fanny in gear! I told you to take out the garbage five minutes ago.”
     He flinched at the sound of his wife’ voice coming from the kitchen. He swiped ineffectually at the cigarette ash collected in a neat little pile on his undershirt. Sometimes Hilda couldn’t stand the idea he might actually sit still for a moment. At least, that’s the way it seemed to him.
     “Are you smoking in the house again? I smell cigarette smoke.”
He took a quick drag and then pinched out one butt while he heaved the other one from his chair and lumbered into the kitchen.
     His wife stood at the sink in a faded pink housecoat that looked like an out-sized Vienna sausage hugging her paunch. The tightly coiled hair curlers on her head reminded him this was Wednesday…prayer meeting night. Well, he wasn’t going. He’d put his foot down this time.
     She paused in the act of washing the supper dishes to glance at him through thick spectacles that made her eyes too big for the rest of her face. “You reek of tobacco. Get your chores done and go take a bath. But don’t use all the hot water. I still have to clean up before we go to church.”
     “Not going.” He hefted the sour garbage bag and started outside, imagining he could taste the liver and onion scraps through the plastic.
     “What was that? You’re not going? Of course, you are. It’s Wednesday night. Wednesday nights we go to prayer meetings. Have for twenty-five years.”
     “Been smoking in the house for twenty-five years, too. But can’t do that anymore.”
     He skedaddled out the back door before she had a chance to react. Harry snatched a minute to enjoy the warmth of the dying sun on his face and savor a whiff of his pink-petaled roses before going back inside to march straight into the bathroom for a tepid bath. God help him of he used too much hot water.
     At church later that evening, the preacher uttered the same words he had last Wednesday and the previous Wednesday and all the Wednesdays before that. Harry was in the row directly behind Hilda because there wasn’t room in the front pew where she sat with her friend, Goldina Frussman. Arthur Frussman occupied the pew beside him, but Harry didn’t much care for the man. From the other’s expression, the feeling was mutual.
     Harry studied the back of his wife’s head and discovered a few things he already knew but hadn’t given much thought to recently. Her shoulders were fat. Which made her neck fat. Which made… He almost snickered as he wondered what her head looked like underneath the meticulously blued hair. The mole behind her left ear had grown. Looked like a big wrinkled bug that climbed up there to die. He resisted the urge to flick the thing.
     He wanted to go straight home, but Hilda and Goldie decided to discuss Reverend Hospers’ sage comments at Burt’s Diner on the corner of Roosevelt and Third. Halfway through the second cup, Harry made as if to get up and go outside for a smoke, but Hilda firmly quashed that idea. No telling how long the coffee klatch would have gone on if Arthur hadn’t decided he’d had enough. Harry blinked when Goldie rushed to accommodate her husband.
     He almost choked on his gorge as Hilda extolled the virtue of Arthur Frussman on their three-block walk home. So firm, so decisive. Prerequisites for such a successful haberdasher, she claimed. Harry halfway hoped they’d be mugged on that long, tree-shrouded block just before they turned down their own street. He’d happily give up his wallet, his watch…anything to put a scare into his wife. But, of course, they arrived home unmolested.
     He was abed a good half hour before he was sleepy because she decided it was time. He tried to protest, but she insisted he simply wanted to sneak another cigarette. That was true, although he protested the idea.
     She nodded off  before he did, which was usual. He lay on his pillow, eyes wide open, awaiting the inevitable. Within five minutes, it began as a soft mewling sound. Then it took on a distinctive growl. Within minutes, it grew into a loud, raucous, full-throated snore that soon turned into a snorting gasp as she came awake. Hilda turned over and slapped his shoulder.
     “Harry, your snoring woke me from a sound sleep.”
     “But I haven’t been asl—”
     “Don’t argue. Go get another pillow and elevate your head. I don’t want to be awakened again.”
     Stifling a sigh, he crawled out of bed and went for the thick throw pillow on the sofa in the den. The couch looked inviting. But as he considered the idea of bedding down out here, she called out.
     “Harry, come back to bed. You know I can’t sleep with you prowling the house. Get the pillow and come to bed.”
     Harry hefted the pillow and pressed it to his nose. It cut off the air sufficiently, but she was bigger than he was. As he prepared to return to bed and accept one more humiliation, his eyes fell on a pair of scissors jutting out of his wife’s sewing basket. He carefully extracted the long-bladed shears and looked from the pillow to the scissors. After a moment, he straightened his spine, dropped the pillow, and marched resolutely into the bedroom with the shears grasped firmly in his right hand.


Well, what do you think? Did Harry finally get his fill and use the scissors, or did he just throw a scare into Hilda? Or maybe he returned  to the bedroom only to revert to form.

Have you ever met someone like Harry? Can you identify a Hilda you’ve known? I hope not.

Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.


Next week: I’ll try to get to THE BISTI BUSINESS.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Suspicion Can Mess With Your Head!

Establishing new relationships—especially ones that have the potential to become significant—can be difficult under the best of circumstances. When the one who tugs at your heartstrings might possibly be mixed up in a blackmail scheme you’re struggling to unravel, the task becomes infinitely more difficult. That is the position BJ Vinson, the confidential investigator in THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, finds himself at the beginning of Chapter 11.

BJ has spent a celibate year recovering from both the gunshot wound which forced his retirement from the Albuquerque Police Department and a wrenching breakup with his life partner. When he meets Paul Barton, his interest is stirred again. He is falling for the handsome young man fast when APD Det. Eugene Enriquez, points out Paul closely resembles Emilio Prada, the chief suspect. BJ struggles with his personal desires versus his professionalism. As you can see from the following excerpt of the book, professionalism seems to be winning.


     Early the next morning, I polished off the bagel, cream cheese, and lox Paul had prepared and watched him push his plate back from the edge of the table. He glanced up and smiled when he caught my eye.
     “I’ve been wondering how you dealt with being gay in the Marine Corps? That’s supposed to be the ultimate man machine.”
     I laughed. “It’s like anything else. It’s got a little bit of everything in it. But to answer your question, mostly I did without. There was one guy, another lieutenant, who helped me come to grips with a few things.”
     “Like what?”
     Fifteen minutes later, I realized Paul had been conducting an interview. He got me started talking about what interested him, and prompted me with a “who, what, when, and why” whenever I flagged. That was the first time I realized a journalist did much the same thing I do every day of the week. And Paul was very good at it.
     After he left, I dawdled at the dinette with a second cup of coffee while my restless mind seesawed between Paul’s departure and Del’s stubborn problem. Worse, I couldn’t avoid thinking about the possible connection between them. There are times my brain seems hard-wired toward the suspicious. The connections my devious head made were both inevitable and odious but they wouldn’t go away.
     James Addleston, Steve Sturgis, Paul Barton, Emilio Prada, and Del Dahlman. One way or the other, they all tied together as the two lawyers battled it out over a coveted partnership position potentially worth millions. Of course, it could all be happenstance, but one thing preyed on my mind more than anything else. This new scholarship of Paul’s to one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country came in the last semester of his undergraduate career. Was Sturgis the Medill alumnus sponsoring Paul at Northwestern? The professor was a client of Emilio’s. Did Paul and Emilio know one another? It was possible, of course. Both of them frequented the C&W Palace on East Central, and two such extremely attractive guys might well have gotten together, especially with a mutual friend to introduce them—someone like Sturgis, for instance.
     I set my cup down so hard the coffee dregs sloshed onto the table. Ignoring the mess, I mentally recoiled from my thought processes. Paul fit the description of the man who rented the post office boxes as readily as Emilio.
     With dragging footsteps, I went to my bedroom and took a snapshot of Paul from a frame on my nightstand, glancing at it fondly. It was one of several I had taken last week. Dressed in black jeans and a red form-fitting pullover shirt, he stood in front of the fireplace in the den with a broad smile on his face. His black hair was slightly long and unruly, like a kid’s. I reluctantly slipped the photo into my pocket along with the one of Emilio and Estelle.


Life is tough sometimes. Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.


Next week: Maybe a little more from THE BISTI BUSINESS.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


When my wife died, she was occasionally taking care of three or four dogs for friends of ours, and I continue to sit one of those critters, a white and black Papillion named Gizmo. I happen to think Gizzy is one of the most intelligent animals around, but I love him and cannot be considered an objective observer.

However, the following is something that actually happened with two very likeable dogs I’d never met before I took care of them for a few days. Since I had no prior attachment to the dogs, I can represent myself as an absolutely unbiased observer. I got a big bang out of what happened and hope you enjoy reading about it.
Dogs don’t think; they don’t reason. Everyone knows that. Their actions are dictated by a pack instinct and by rote training, right? At least, that’s the cachet. My education came a few year ago when I was cajoled into dog sitting for two families who were going on a joint vacation. The dogs were strangers to me and had only a passing acquaintance with one another.
Ursa was a loveable chocolate miniature Poodle whose primary mission in life was to sit on someone’s lap…anyone’s lap…for as long as possible. Sparkie, a West Highland Terrier, was far too independent for that sort of thing. If I plopped down on the couch, he might sit beside me, but that was the extent of his bonding.
About five days into the dog-sitting caper, I was watching television with You-Know-Who sprawled across my legs. During a commercial, I glanced at Sparkie lying under the dining room table and noticed him observing us carefully. A few minutes later, Ursa hopped down and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. The Westie immediately came over and climbed into my lap. When Ursa returned to reclaim her seat, she was clearly annoyed at the new situation. First, she leveled “the stare.” That didn’t work, so she did a little pacing, a little sitting, and periodically gave what I can only describe as a moan. A few minutes later, she tried out a yip.
When Sparkie ignored all of her tactics, the Poodle suddenly ran to the front hallway and began barking furiously, something both dogs did when anyone walked near the house. Sparkie came off my lap like he’d been goosed and raced to the door, adding his manly bark to her feminine voice.
As soon as he reached the front door, Ursa trotted back and jumped into my lap. When the Westie finally figured out no one was outside, he came back into the den. Now it was his turn to stop and stare. He’d been snookered. Ursa, the little dickens, had planned and executed her plot to regain the lap she considered her private property. I laughed myself to sleep that night.
The next evening, events played out more or less as they had the day before. As soon as Ursa went to get a drink of water, Sparkie scurried over and wanted up. The Poodle wasn’t so patient this time. Within a couple of minutes, she headed for the front door, barking as if she were fighting off crazed intruders. Sparkie came halfway out of my lap, froze for a moment, and then settled back down.
I’ll swear Ursa looked absolutely shocked when she returned to find Sparkie still taking his ease on my lap.
Don’t tell me dogs can’t think.
Hope you enjoyed my little tale (no pun intended). Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


Next week: I’m getting a new computer tomorrow, and I’m sure that will provide a few oopsies to tell you about.

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014


My computer crashed last week. Talk about panic time! I couldn’t check my emails. Okay, calm down. Just sign into my blog, instead. Oops. Can’t do that, either. Edit my novel. Nope. So I sat frozen in front of a useless keyboard while the realization sank in. I was helpless. Emasculated. Rendered less than human by the failure of a piece of electronics.

A tragedy! Or is it? Perhaps it's a wake-up call. Get a life, Don! Wean yourself away from the computer. Go take a walk down in the Bosque. Skip a few stones in the Rio Grande. Check out the wildlife. Count the birds. Breathe some fresh air.

Air. Oh, yeah! There's plenty of that. The wind is blowing. It’s springtime in New Mexico, so the wind is really blowing. “Lean into it” blowing. And a cold snap has set in. Better start my new life some other way.

Go to a movie. Haven’t been to one in a while. Great. Wait. Nothing I want to see at the $2.00 theater, and nothing I’ll pay $8.00 for at the other houses.

Okay, read. I haven’t kept up with my reading properly. I pull out a James Lee Burke novel. He’s one of my favorites, so that’ll distract me for sure. But Dave Robicheaux and Creole Belle just couldn’t compete with my sense of loss. I’m off the internet, man! Disconnected from the Big World!

Oh, sure. I get news on the TV. But I can’t interact with it. What if some movie producer has sent an email desperately begging me to sell him the rights to The Zozobra Incident or The Bisti Business? What if a reader has attempted to get in touch through my blog, and I’m falling down on my promise to answer each and every contact? What if … what if … what if ….

Reality sets in. I'm a twentieth-century man caught in the twenty-first century. So I start my new life by running out and buying a new computer. Talk about pathetic!


Next week: I’ll try to stop whining.

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