Covid Days: The Hardware Store

I just needed a couple of keys cut, but these guys needed everything. I couldn’t tell if they were drunk, on heavy meds or just done with the whole Covid Thing. They had masks on, although the older guy’s mask barely hung over his disheveled beard while his younger companion pulled his mask down every time he talked. That’s a weird pattern of many people during these trying times. Makes you think they don’t understand what the purpose of the mask is in the first place.

Anyway, drunk, drugged or just weirded out by the Covid days, neither of these guys used an inside voice nor seemed to care about the others in the store.

“I need a chair!” The older guy half yelled, almost like he was in pain. “I got to sit down.”

His companion, maybe in his early 30’s, pulled his mask down and went up to cashier. “I need a chair.”

She frowned. “You need what?”

“You know, one of those folding chairs, for camping. A chair.”

The older guy sat down heavily on the stairs. “I don’t need to buy a chair! I just need to sit!”

“Oh, okay.” The companion wheeled back and forth. “We don’t need a chair then.”

“I need a lock!” The older guy slumped forward, his hoodie cloaking much of his face, an exhausted Obi Wan Kenobi. “Come on!”

“What kind of a lock?”

“You know! A lock!”

“Okay.” He turned back to the cashier. “We need a lock.”

“What kind of lock?” She asked nervously.

“What kind of a lock do you need?” The companion asked the older guy.

“When I get home, I need to lock my stuff up so no one can get in, right?”

“He needs a lock.”

“Do you mean the cylinder?” The woman asked.

The companion looked back. “Do you mean the cylinder?”

“I need the damn lock, man! Get me the best one!”

“The best one you have, all right?” He repeated to the cashier.

The cashier wandered off, unsure of what to do, while another cashier came available for me. I gave him my keys. “Three copies of each, please.”

The other cashier returned. “What kind of lock do you need?”

“I need a damn lock to keep people from taking my stuff, man!” The old man was really yelling now. “Like you have when you come home? I need that!”

“We don’t have that. I’m sorry.”

The younger guy didn’t seem to care about any of it, like it was all a long and winding game. “They don’t have it.”

“What about a pressure cooker? They got that?”

He turned to the cashier. “Do you have a pressure cooker?”

“They don’t have it.”

“Pots and pans. I need pots and pans!”

“Okay.” The young guy was smiling crazily, like he unsure of where he was and what this was all about. “Do you have any pots and pans?”

“I’m sorry.”

My keys were cut. “Thank you.”

“Soups! You got any kind of soups? Jiffy Pop! I need that.” It didn’t look like they were going anywhere soon.

Reverence for Novelist Notes

Like most writers, I make a lot of notes.

Notes for science fiction aspects in Anori. (2009)

Most of my notes focus on the background of the story, derived from research, conjecture and reflection. They help me sort out my thoughts, especially in relation to the setting and tone of the book.

Notes for novel, All In (1998)

I write on anything I can find and then transcribe the relevant material to my computer when I get back home.

Notes for novel, The Sacred Whore (1987)

However I rarely, if ever, throw out my notes. I like them too much. My affinity is great as to be a misguided reverence, as if I believe they might be needed one day by researchers and archivists for the McPhedran Research Institute.

That or I’m just like my mother, who never threw anything out, including my letters home when I was nine years old at camp.

Letter home from Hurontario (1973)

Words XXIII: Inertia

It is defined as “A tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged” but seems to offer some promise at the end.

It’s not like you didn’t already know what this word meant, but still it’s a hell of a word that belies what we are supposed to be and seems our Achilles Heel in the end.

Editing Mantra: Don’t Muddle with Drivel!

The story has to be simple. That’s all there is to it. Kill all extraneous characters. Kill all unnecessary settings. Kill all musings. All of them. Kill them all, Kurtz! Get to the point. What is the bloody message? Stick to that and only that. Don’t muddle with drivel! Nobody cares. That’s the only mantra of the edit. And so Uncle Ralph is gone. He does not exist anymore in this book. The Dakota Roadhouse has been trashed too.

The trip down the west coast has been dumped. No visit to the Devil’s Churn. No game at Dodger Stadium and no climactic scene at the porn house up in the Hollywood Hills, as good as I might have dreamed it was.

Onward to Greenland.

Killing Babies: The Hell of Editing

The thing that I love about this scene from Anori is the senseless of it. Dee takes Apollo out for a walk in Lower Manhattan three days after a hurricane has ground the city to a halt and is stopped by a lone police officer for not having her exotic animal license; she is arrested and Apollo impounded.

The problem with the scene is that not only does it not help develop Dee, but it doesn’t move the story forward. And at page 10, that is a major issue. And so her release from custody, another baby of mine, is dumped too.

It is almost painful to have to kill a scene. Actually it is painful. It’s a damn shame. I mean, to have made something that works so well, and then to kill it? What a complete waste. That’s how it seems. And the book is the thing.

First Page Hell: Writing “Anori”

It’s one thing to face the blank page. It’s totally another to face a page that has been edited for ten years. A conservative estimate would be thirty versions, with hundreds of edits and switches. And so, yes, the blank page is nothing compared to that.

I began Anori in 2009. It was my leap into the world of speculative fiction, a challenge to myself. The initial first scene – which lasted over the first few drafts – was of a rocket ship launch, establishing theme, tone and perspective. I mean, the story was headed into outer space. So here we go. But it didn’t work. There was no hook. And so I moved that scene into a snippet on the television in Dee Sinclair’s living room. The book now begins like this…

The perspective remains distant but it is now Dee’s point of view, revealing an deserted world, a place from which she is clearly removed.

The prose are terse. Hopefully ominous too.

Dee, akin to the police car, is isolated and alone.

Immediately upon entering her world, her pet serval Apollo appears, who is the key to the story. Servals are felines from the African savannah. They are meant to be wild but have been domesticated as exotic pets. Apollo is a rescue animal who Dee spends much of her life with alone.

The story carries on: Dee takes Apollo out before the worst of the storm and meets the mysterious Och. It’s how it all begins. I’m just trying to get past all of this and continue on to page three. Fingers crossed.

Biden-Trump: Round One

Why so much outrage about Tuesday’s debate? Was someone expecting a sensible discourse on policy? Really? Moderator Chris Wallace expressed his own surprise. “I never dreamt it would go off the tracks the way it did.” How could he have forgotten all the staking and name-calling in the Clinton/Trump debates?

No matter what the format, no matter what the rules, Trump will insult, badger and bully. That’s what he does. (“Don’t ever use that word smart with me. Don’t ever use that word.”) His strategy is clear: put a phrase on repeat – “far left radicals”, ” three and a half million dollars”, “Antifa” – like an angry Alzheimer’s patient.

In other words, it isn’t hard for Biden to beat Trump with words. All he has to do is shake his head at Trump and deliver a zinger or two. Not “clown” or “shut up”, but “Behave, Donald” or “Your wall is a swamp.” Trump’s racist rants will do the rest.

New York Subway Scenes: The Days of Covid-19

Hassidic Elder: I hate these masks.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: I hear you.

Hassidic Elder: In the street! Even in the street.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: It will pass.

Hassidic Elder: Next they’ll be strip searching us.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic: All things will pass.

Hassidic Elder: I hate it.

Middle-aged Non-Hassidic returns to reading his paper.

It’s a half-crowded train on the AM rush hour. Everyone wears a mask. The train pulls into Fulton Station where more people get on, masked except for a slight black woman. A policeman comes to door of train. She looks up, ready to argue. The policeman offers her a mask. “Would you like this?” She smiles sheepishly, takes it and puts it on.

Rosie Perez comes on the intercom as the train pulls out. Wearing a mask shows respect to others. And it’s the law. Come on, New York, we can do this.

Hairy Bug Adrift

I was in the bath, almost in that place between sleep and wakefulness, my book drooping close to the water, when the thing drifted into my periphery. I thought it was a clump of hair (a small one) and wondered where it had come from, but it wasn’t that. It was worse. It was a bug – a giant hairy bug.

I contorted away, dumping the book to the floor, thrust my hand in the water and watched in horror as it twirled around lazily, drifting deeper. It had to be dead. I waved at it from below, trying to get it to the surface, but it slid away, its hairy body grazing my fingertips. I was on the verge of losing it – my brain and the giant hairy bug – as I tried to catch until I had the thing and flipped it into the sink.

I tried to settle back into the half awake world and think about nothing, but there wasn’t anything but visions of that horrible hairy bug. I tried to read. I tried to play Fishdom, all in vain, and finally got out of the tub to examine the dead hairy thing. But it wasn’t there. It had vanished, back into the pipes, waiting for its next swim in my water.

Writing Jobs

Looking for writing work is a disappointing muddle. Posted positions are as follows: Digital Advertising Technical Writer, Principal Regulatory Writer, Direct Response Writer, Shoppable Content Business Writer, Security Technical Writer, Content Writer for Real Estate Professionals, Customs Entry Writer, Order Writer for Food Chain and Legislative Bill Writer.

In other words, no postings for novelist, screenwriter nor poet.