Thursday, April 29, 2021

MIASMA, a Novel (Guest Post) blog post #495

 Courtesy of Dream Time

Thanks for your comments regarding last week’s post about a computer scam I fell victim to. Apparently some of you have had similar painful experiences.

 This week, I wanted to give you a second peek at Donald T. Morgan’s novel, Miasma. As was I, Don was raised in Oklahoma, and his writing certainly revives memories of my birthplace.

On November 5 of last year, we gave you a peek at the prologue and first chapter. Same warning as last time: some of you might take offense at some of the language, but it sounds true to my ear as a reflection of those times. In this selected reading from Chapter 2, the little girl confronts the old White man who lives on the hill. She doesn’t know it yet, but at that moment, her life takes a dramatic turn.

 To give a little background, ten-year-old Miasma has gone downtown to the white part of Horseshoe Bend, Oklahoma to pick up the mail and go to the library where she’s previously discovered the librarian Miz Loring doesn’t object to occasional Colored patrons. On her way home, she is loaded down with the mail, a Montgomery Ward catalogue, and a magazine from the library. As usual, she sings as she walks, partially because she likes singing and partially to hide her fear of being outside the confines of the more familiar Colored Town. The Tizzie mentioned is her best friend Letitia Dean, more commonly called Tizzie or Tiz.



By Donald T. Morgan 

Miasma was puffing a little and not singing at all by the time she approached the big white house. The old man was still there, but he was sitting in a rocker on the porch. For the first time, she realized the house didn’t face the road, it sat facing the side street. She glanced around. All of them did on this stretch of her journey, presenting a side view of the houses.

She saw the very minute he spotted her. He sort of started in his chair before getting up and tripping down the steps to wave her over.

Miasma’s stomach did a funny little dip. Maybe she oughta play like she didn’t notice, but then he called out, and she had no excuse. Butterflies replaced the empty feeling in her gut as she altered her steps. If The Man told you to do something, you did it or you bugged out and made sure to never see him again.

She stepped onto the side street and walked along the verge between the man’s fence and the embankment that dropped down to the road she’d been walking. She halted in front of him with the wire fence between them.


“I wanted to tell you that you have a marvelous voice. Don’t ever stop singing. It gives me a great deal of pleasure, as I’m sure it does many others. Sunday mornings, I sit out here on the porch and listen to the choir in the church at the bottom of the hill. Lovely music. At times I imagine I hear your voice among them. Do you sing in the choir?”


“What’s your name, child?”

Miasma Elderberry, sir.”

The man looked startled for a moment before smiling broadly. “Lovely name for a lovely young lady. My word, that looks like a heavy load you’re carrying.”

She shifted the cumbersome book to the other hand, almost dropping the February edition of the library’s magazine. “Yessir.”

“Is that a Montgomery Ward catalogue?” After she nodded, he went on. “Ah, Monkey Ward’s wish book. Do you look through it and dream?”

She shook her head. “It’s for my mama.”

“Does she buy from it?”

“Uh-uh. She just looks and wishes. Don’t know why.”

He tapped his nose. “Let me take a guess, Miasma. You’re a reader, aren’t you? I see you have a National Geographic there. Do you read that?”

She nodded.

“And why do you read it? Are you looking for places to go?”

“No. But maybe someday.”

He smiled. “And it’s like that for your mother. She reads the wish book because for a few minutes she’s in another place.”

Her mouth dropped. That made a lota sense and raised the fine hairs on her arms. Mama escaped their little house just like she did.

“As to your awkward load, if you’ll wait here for a minute, I think I can help. Will you do that?”

“Yessir. Uh, what’s yours?

“My what?”

“Your name.”

He doffed his hat. “Excuse my rudeness, Miasma. My name is Horace Parsley. Most people call me Ace. Can you do that?”

“No, sir, but I can call you Mista Ace.”

He beamed. “How wonderful. I like that. Mr. Ace. I surely do.” He hesitated. “How old are you?”

“Turned ten last month.”

“A May baby. Delightful.”

She studied him as he walked to the house. Nice looking man despite the wrinkles. ‘Bout as tall as she imagined her daddy would be. How old was he? She shook her head. Could be fifty, could be eighty. She could never tell about a Whitey.

A few minutes later, he came out of the house and handed her a green canvas satchel with a strap that went over the shoulder. “Put everything in this, and it’ll make it easier to carry.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll bring it back when—”

“It’s yours, Miasma. It’ll make your books easier to carry when school opens next fall.”

“Yes, sir. It will.”

“And now,” he said. “Here’s something in honor of a very important birthday. Everyone’s tenth birthday should be special.” He held out his hand and opened it.

Miasma’s breath deserted her. She felt like she was drowning. A piece of jewelry rested in his palm. A pin fashioned as two musical notes, one white and the other yellow. Clear stones and green stones alternated down the center of each, catching the light and glistening when he moved. When she finally drew enough air, she whispered. “I couldn’t.”

“Of course, you can. It’s Age’s gift to Youth.” He clasped her hand and placed the pin in it. “The green stones are emeralds, and the white stones are diamonds. Emeralds are your birthstone. Every girl should have something with her birthstone on it.”

“Diamonds? Emeralds.”

He laughed, and it was a good sound. “They’re chips. Not worth much except as sentimental value. But one note of the pin is sterling silver and the other eighteen carat gold. I ought to know. I made it myself.”

She examined the glittering pin in her hand. “You made it?”

“Oh yes. I’m a jeweler, you know. Or was. Sold my store a year or so ago.”

“You had a whole store full of jewelry?”

“Yes, indeed. But all that’s in the past. I have a few pieces left to remind me of my former life, but I’m retired now.”

Her heart about went crazy. “Thank you, sir!”

“Now, now. No more sirs. You know my name, use it.”

“Thank you, Mista Ace. Thank you again and again.”

“Now put it in your satchel and take good care of it. Whenever you wear it, sing your heart out.”

She left feeling like she was going to faint. One side of her head fought with the other. Was it all right to take a gift from the man? Nobody did something for nothing. What did he want from her? She wrinkled her nose. Liked her singing, he’d said. She shrugged. Oh well, she had a good feeling about the old man. He had a good heart. She was sure of that. He didn’t leave her cringing on the inside like when she talked to most Whities.

At least her load was made easier by the satchel. The bag was great, but the pin! It was wonderful. She bet most of the White girls—those that stuck their tongue out at her downtown—didn’t have nothing so fine. Tizzie was going to be jealous. Miasma smiled and broke out into song. Tizzie would get over it.


Voices and people from my own past. I can hear them and see them clearly. I enjoyed the read. Hope you did too.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Scam, Scam, SCAM! blog post #494

 Photo courtesy of

For the second week in a row, today’s post is not one I planned on writing. But sometimes I need to write about things in order to expunge them. This is one of those cases.



Scam, Scam, SCAM!


The morning of Friday, April 16 opened like many others. Get up, clean up, eat a bite, and then check the email messages.

The day ceased to be “normal” at that point. I opened one email in my inbox (not the Spam box) that shook me. I’ll reproduce some of it below:


 Dear User,

 Thank you for using the Geek Squad Services.

 This Email Confirms That You’ve Renewed Your 3 Year Subscription To Greek Squad For $499.99 On April 15th 2021

 This Subscription Will Auto Renew Every 3 Years Unless You Turn It Off, No Later Than 48 hours Or Before the end of Subscription Period

 To Cancel The Subscription You Can reach Us at 1-(833)-721-2338.

            Now there were red flags all over the place: the sending address didn’t look right, the unusual capitalization, something in the message (which I didn’t reproduce above) referenced a computer.

But I immediately focused on a couple of things:

·       I had a legitimate Best Buy Geek Squad contract on a television set I purchased from them, and

·       $499.99

 So I promptly lost my head and let common sense fly out the window. I didn’t read those warning signs, didn’t even bother to read the message carefully or stop to consider that my contract was only a few months old and not up for renewal. No, I set out to set those cheeky SOBs straight and dialed the number given.

Then started an hour-long song and dance I will never forget. The male voice on the other end (slight foreign accent) skillfully led me down the garden path so smoothly that I left all my native suspicion, over-caution, and common sense lying in the gutter of this road we were taking.

After having me fill out forms to cancel the service, we eventually ended up in my bank account. Yes, that’s right. This normally super-cautious dolt got talked into going into my online bank account in order to see the repayment into my bank account (forget the fact that I always pay for such service with credit cards). He even talked me into entering the first of the two-part repayment, $350 and $199.99, into a form. I did so, and he said to now check and see if the funds had hit the bank. No, but there was a deposit from The Geek Squad substantially in excess of $350.

He went ballistic. I’d entered the wrong number (I hadn’t) and had to return the excess immediately… right this minute. And then my printer started spitting out details of my checking account, showing that excessive deposit. At that point, some small part of my common sense returned, and I called him a scammer. He indignantly asked why I was calling him a scammer when I was the one who had his money. I told him I would return it when the bank verified it was there. He was threatening to freeze my entire bank account when I hung up on him.

I immediately went to the bank and talked to a financial consultant (a very personable young lady who had seen and heard it all before). She printed out both my saving account and checking account, and the heart of the scam was revealed. My savings was reduced by the amount the scammer had demanded. But lo and behold, there was an equivalent amount deposited to my checking account.

The consultant changed my bank account number while informing me the scammer did not have the ability to remove money from my account, but they could move it around inside the account. They took the amount they wanted to scam from my savings and moved it to the checking account, and then made the deposit read as if it came from The Geek Squad. If I had “returned” the funds as demanded, I would have been out the money. Fortunately, I came to my senses in time.

I spent the remainder of the day alternating between relief that I hadn’t lost any money and anger at myself for being so gullible. But the story wasn’t over yet. The bank told me not to do any more online banking until I had my computer checked for malware. Otherwise, any malware they installed might give them my new account number. I wasn’t able to get that scan accomplished until the following Tuesday. Then I spent the remainder of the day, changing the banking information on credit cards, utilities, and the like. The scan cost $135; the updating, hours.

Still, I was lucky.


I chose to do this post to warn that anyone is vulnerable to gifted scammers, even a reasonably bright guy who’s suspicious by nature and never opens emails he doesn’t recognize… well, almost never.

 Next week, I’ll try to get back to some storytelling.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Living Drama blog post #493


First a word of thanks to all who expressed sympathy and understanding on last week’s post about the death of my son Clai. Each day comes a little closer to restoring me to normalcy, so I’ll eventually get there. I used to call February through April my blue period because my wife Betty died on February 12, her birthday was March 13, and our Anniversary was April 2. Now I’ll have to expand that period by a month to include January 22, Clai’s date of death.


Today’s post is not one I had planned on writing. But events sometimes dictate intentions, and this is one of them. Last Monday was one of those times. I’ll let the following tell the tale.



            Intent on a brunch of English muffin slathered with cream cheese peppered with—well pepper of the black kind—and two slices of turkey bacon, I became distracted by cries of anguish outside my patio door, which faces the front of my apartment. Unloading my lap—I eat on a tray in my recliner since the dining area is my office—I stepped outside to see a young man of about twenty crying into his cell phone and moving a jerky, almost spastic manner. He’d speak a few words and then give a loud, prolonged cry of anguish. He was seemingly oblivious to a couple of police officers standing nearby, one cradling a shotgun. I could not clearly understand everything the young man was saying, but sometimes he sounded as if he were pleading and at others like he was confessing dark deeds.

You often hear stories of police brutality and ineptitude, but I must say I was favorably impressed by what went on over the next hour and a half. Eventually there were four policemen and two EMTs on site. They never pushed the distressed youth to the breaking point. They stood off at a distance, each of the officers engaging the “subject” in conversation, one after the other. They slowly and patiently worked themselves around so that the man, who was now sitting on a small wall 30 feet directly in front of my door was discretely surrounded. As one talked, another would take a step forward so that they were gradually moving closer.

The young man at the center of attention was very tall, very slender, had black hair, and appeared—from a distance—to be quite neat and attractive. But he was obviously distressed. He put away his phone and concentrated on the officers. As he sat on the block wall, he would alternately hug himself and lift his arms while his legs moved constantly, knees scissoring in and out. Dressed in black trousers and t shirt of a very elastic material, when he sometimes stood, it was apparent he had no weapon on his person. The clothing fit too tightly to conceal anything that bulky.

The officers talked; he blubbered and moved away when they got too close. The blue circle moved with him, always patient, always calm. The shotgun had disappeared by now.

At one point, he allowed one EMT to approach to take his vital signs… and a finger stick for blood. Then the kid went skittish again, moving to another side of the yard. Next, they talked him into voluntarily emptying his pockets, placing the contents on the block wall. He even permitted one officer to come scoop something into his hand, and while I couldn’t see what it was, I figured they were pills of some sort.

After another demonstration of patience and a lot of talking, the kid even put his hands on his head and allowed an officer to frisk him. At that point, I figured they would handcuff him, but the officer immediately backed away, and the subject resumed his jerky, erratic gestures.

After an hour and a half of this, the kid voluntarily followed an EMT to the ambulance and entered the vehicle. A few minutes later, the ambulance left the complex, followed by a string of police cars.

Once everyone had left, the place went eerily quiet for a few minutes, and then every dog in this end of the apartment complex—unusually quiet until then—started baying, howling, and barking. This went on for about ten minutes, putting a finale to the long, harrowing incident.

Well done, APD.



That’s my tale for today. Every bit of it is true… a piece of living drama. I said a prayer for that young man, as I hope you will.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Death of a Son blog post #492



The following says it all, so lets get right to it.




Goodbye, Clai

 This is the most difficult writing I have ever done, and it has taken me four different tries over better than two months to accomplish it.

Had you asked me, I would have said I handle the deaths of those close to me pretty well. I grieve—as we all do—then assign the event its proper place in my life. I call up occasional recollections of those gone and enjoy the remembrances—or suffer through them—and then move on. In that manner, those I have lost who were dear to me become “escapes” from the daily rigors of life, people to be treasured and enjoyed, and who sometimes show up in part or in whole in my short stories and novels. That was the case with my wife, parents and grandparents, brother, other relatives, and cherished friends. Not so with the man in the photo above. This one was much harder to face.

On January 22, 2021, the elder of my two sons Clai, died in Christus St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana, Texas of “sepsis.” The lady beside him is my mother.

I don’t want this to be the typical “obituary” type of piece. Rather, I prefer to use this time to pay honor to a man many would consider a failure. In the sense that he died without an estate, living on disability in a low-income housing unit without spouse or issue, perhaps he was. His immediate family was a little dog named Buddy who loved him as devotedly as he was loved. But there was another side to Clai.

First, a little background. Ours was the typical dysfunctional family, and I use those two words deliberately—as I’ve grown to believe that when you really take a hard look at them, the dysfunctional family is the norm, not the extreme. I bear a significant share of the blame for that situation in our little clan. I came out of a time and culture where the man worked, and the wife bore children and saw to their upbringing. So I became a workaholic, believing that providing for them was a sufficient contribution. Thus, I wasn’t around enough to understand my wife—now gone for 12 years—was having problems of her own. Willful blindness or deliberate? I honestly don’t know.

Clai arrived in this world on May 14, 1960 in Denver, Colorado to face an uncertain future after a twelve-hour battle to see the light of day. His health was frail in early childhood. He had an operation before he was six months old. Let’s face it because of this he grew up a coddled mama’s boy. That ended shortly after he graduated from Menaul High School in Albuquerque. He had an increasingly contentious relationship with his mother, and consequently with his family. The one constant in his life was his grandmother—my mother—in far off Texarkana, Texas. By now Clai was a mechanic by profession—and a good one, I’m told—but his problems, social, emotional, and physical, mounted. He became an alcoholic, developed learning and social problems, He was always the guy standing on the outside, looking in. And then a chronic back problem—only partially corrected by an operation—and a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (what we used to call Multiple Personality Disorder) rendered him disabled. He could do a job for a short period but couldn’t hold a job.

One day, he called us from Texarkana, Texas to let us know he’d moved there—no warning, no planning. He simply pulled up stakes and left to get away from his mother, or so he claimed. The only place he knew to run was to the woman who always seemed to be there for him (at least in a long-distance relationship), his grandmother. She remained his rock until her passing just shy of the age of 97 not long after the photo above was taken.

By the way, I also think he considered his name a disability all its own. The spelling of his name with an i instead of a y was taken from his mother maiden name of Claiborne. He complained he always had to deny he was “Clair.”

Now let me share why I consider this as an honor to his memory. When he died, Clai had his medallion from Alcohol Anonymous for 23 years sober. He had been a sponsor for many years in the program. Living on fewer than $950.00 a month isn’t easy, but Clai learned to budget and managed to do so—after kicking a lifetime habit of lusting after every car he ever saw. Despite his back problems, he kept his 2000 Ford Focus running. Even on his tight budget, Clai was always willing to give someone a ride, and in doing so, developed a few good friends. He repaired his relationship with me and taught me a lot about vitamins and supplements. He was increasingly successful at keeping his six or so other personalities at bay for longer periods of time. Addressing a growing weight problem, he battled his way back down to 180 pounds, until the sepsis added 40 pounds of fluid in his last weeks. He dealt with two heart operations essentially alone. No matter how ill he was, he always made sure Buddy was taken care of. An agnostic for years—acknowledging only the AA’s “higher power”—Clai became a believer. In recent years, he often said he’d have to “pray over that.”

To many, this might not appear to be much of a life, but to me, it seems as if my son overcame immense adversity to end up a decent man. I commend you, Clai. I miss you. I love you. Know that when the weather turns warmer, your brother and I are going to the Jemez Mountains to spread your ashes near our old summer cabin  where you and Grant played and dodged half-wild cattle and waded in the Ria Jemez… where you grew up. Not sure how close, because after all these years, neither of us can remember exactly how to get there. But at least you’ll rest among God’s splendor.

God bless and goodbye, my son.


There’s nothing more to say, except I weep for you, Clai.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Deeper Look at The Cutie-Pie Murders blog post #491


Can you tell I’m moderately excited at the upcoming release of my 7th  B. J. Vinson mystery book? You probably can, because I want to take another look at it this week. Remember guys and gals, it comes out next month. You can preorder it now, if you wish.

 For this week’s look at the novel, I’ve chosen a scene from Chapter 8. By using old-fashioned shoe leather, BJ and Paul have located the place where BJ’s client’s son was murdered, a new apartment complex on Central east of the University New Mexico. They go to interview the apartment manager, a young UNM student they’ve discovered is the nephew of one of the owners of the four story building. The Barkley Pierson mentioned is the murdered youth’s lover. The others…. Well, you’ll just have to buy the book to find out.



 Quinton James looked no more like an apartment manager and no less like a college boy than the last time I saw him. He shook hands, first with me and then with Paul. We took seats opposite his desk in a nice office. I scanned the beige-and-burgundy walls. Commercial reproductions of paintings. Nothing personal. Quint probably didn’t spend much time here.

I tried to view him as I imagined the cutie-pie killer would see him. Early twenties, slender but with definition, cute… but not cutie-pie. No ring, no photo of girlfriend or wife and kids evident. He pinged on my gaydar. The blip grew stronger when he smiled at Paul.

I directed his attention back to me. “Quint, what can you tell us about the former tenants in 4201?”

“There’s only been one,” he said without referring to any records. “Fellow by the name of Burton Neville. He was one of Park House’s first tenants.”

“What was his occupation?”

“Engineer of some kind at Sandia Labs.”

“When did he leave?”

He fingered the keyboard of his computer a moment before answering. “Tuesday, September 13, of last year.”

“About six months ago,” Paul said.

“Right. Broke his lease, paid the penalty, and moved out.”


Quint repeated what Willow and Wally had told us about a new job in California, but it wasn’t wasted effort. It was corroboration. After Quint ran down, I questioned him about some of the other tenants of the building, but he needed to refer to his records to answer those queries, confirming—at least for me—that he took more interest in tenants who might have been gay.

“Have you heard from Neville since he left?”

Quint shook his head. “No. Although I should have. He has some money coming back on his deposit and was going to call with a forwarding address when he was settled.”

“Has anyone called for a reference, like another apartment complex in California or a Realtor?”

“Nobody. I’m still holding a check for him.”

“What can you tell us about some of the roommates Neville entertained while he was here?”

Quint averted his eyes. “No roommates. He was the only one on the lease.”

A silence built until he buckled. “You must mean his guests. He had a few overnights.”

“Lady friends?”

Quint’s cheeks reddened enough to notice. “Boys… uh, men.”

“Some of them stayed for quite some time, I understand.”

“You can have guests for up to two weeks.”

I opened the folio I’d brought and spread five photos on the desk in front of him, the killer’s four recent victims and the copycat, Pat Aragon. “Were any of these his guests?”

I’d provided snaps of the men while they were alive and attractive. Quint took his time studying them. So far as I could tell, he devoted the same amount of interest and attention to each before looking up and shaking his head.

“I don’t recall ever seeing any of them.”

I tapped Zapata’s photo. “This is the man who died in 4201. Sure you’ve never seen him before? With Neville or in the lobby or on the street?”

He shook his head again, his eyes back on the photos.

“None of them were Neville’s guests?” Paul asked again.

“No. At least I didn’t see them.”

“Ever seen them with Willow or Wally?”

His flush was different this time, signaling anger, but he swallowed it. “Nope. Like I said, I’ve never seen any of these men. Anywhere, anytime, with anybody.”

“Do you know if a young man named Jules spent any time in Neville’s apartment?” I asked.

“No. But like I told you, I never saw any of Mr. Neville’s guests.”

Paul looked quizzical. “Then how do you know there were any?”

His mouth firmed. He was having trouble holding on to his calm. “Just talk. I heard people mention he had guests.”

Paul pushed the issue. “People. Willow and Wally, I imagine.”

Quint’s complexion turned a deeper scarlet. “Among others. Look, I’ve told you all I know. I’ve got work to do, okay?”

“One more thing before we go,” I said, handing over Barkley Pierson’s photo. “How about this man? Have you seen him in the building?”

As Quint studied the image his face crumbled into a frown. “Yeah. I’ve seen this guy.”


Wow! Have they discovered something? Could Matt Zapata’s fellow student and lover he his killer?


Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 Here's a link to pre-order The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.


 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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