Friday, May 22, 2015

Honeysuckle

The backyard again. We’re outside, pushing around the mowers, watching planes drift by and otherwise just enjoying the evening. Suddenly, Simon rushes over to the fence and snatches a fistful of honeysuckle.

He looks like he knows what to do with it too. He runs up and hands me a sprout.

“You know about honeysuckle?” I ask him and he nods with a big grin on his face. It takes me a second, because it’s been years and years since I’ve properly drawn out a honeysuckle stem. But I get it, and my son waits patiently, his mouth open and hanging tongue stifling his giggle. 

“Okay, ready?”

“Uh huh.”

I slide it out, just so that little droplet of liquid pops out of the end. I set it on his tongue and he squeals with excitement. Then he takes off running around the yard, around the bush and through the swing set. A couple laps and he’s back, tongue out, waiting for more. The second time we both have some, and then we both take off running and laughing.


It’s one of the best parts about being a parent, is reliving that magic of childhood. Honeysuckle, fireflies, the morning dew of the grass on barefeet. It’s a good time, for sure. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nana's Car

Sometimes I feel the need to embarrass myself, so here I present a completely true and highly humiliating story from my awkward teenage years...

Fresh out of high school, I was seventeen and living with my mom--sharing a bunk bed with my eight-year-old brother. I didn’t have a job or car, or much of anything else on the horizon. The real world I’d been preparing for was proving to be a fog of daytime reruns and late nights out with friends.

I had few worries as I drifted through those long summer days. My main concern was whether there would be enough milk left for my cereal and ducking that Navy recruiter who’d gotten a little too pushy after all of my waffling.

With so little going for me it was quite the amazing feat how I’d stumbled upon a girl. She was still in school, a shaky driver, and finding ways to see each other usually entailed a series of coordinated efforts that would befuddle any decent NASA comptroller. 


Most of our time was spent on the phone, and this was the mid-nineties so by phone I mean a real phone with a line in the wall and everything. This took some deft maneuvering, because my girlfriend, who we’ll call Allison, wasn't allowed to take calls after eleven.

To further complicate matters, by eleven my hyperactive little brother was finally sleeping off the demons, and as stated, this was before cell phones, so I couldn't risk waking a sleeping beast with a ringing phone. Never to worry, I came up with a work around.

Around eleven I would dial up the Jenny Craig hotline, (yeah, I’m not kidding here, there was no limit to my affection for this girl, and sitting through testimonials while waiting for that sweet, wondrous call-waiting beep tells you all you need to know about my dedication). The plan was nothing short of genius, so I thought. Then one day—and again, this is completely true—a concerned “weight loss consultant” called the house to discuss the desperate cry for help reaching out at 11:06 every night. Would that person like to speak to a representative? Mom shot me a look. It was on to the Flowbee hotline after that.


But through it all our relationship progressed, or progressed as far as a bus pass and a bike would allow. Each and every very weekend carried with it the thrill of a rendezvous at a dead end street with bored friends who were growing tired of being used.

I was quite inexperienced when it came to girls. In every way. Emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Especially physically. And with all of our plans involving other people, it seemed destined to stay that way. But desperation inspires ingenuity, and as any Jenny Craig consultant could tell you, I was desperate. So I put my underutilized and hormonally amplified brain to use. I came up with a plan that didn't’ involve weight consultants or hair products.

My grandparents were church-going, respectable people. But more importantly they owned two vehicles. A vehicle meant freedom, and freedom was ringing.

My grandparents agreed to lend me Nana’s car for a date. It makes me shudder now, thinking back to Nana picking me up in her unassuming little Ford Tempo for my date with destiny. Papa had it cleaned to a shine, although I don’t think that was for me, he just kept it that way. The interior was as spotless as ever. Grandma’s breath mints, a pen and notepad, maybe a bible study guide in the backseat. Did that give me pause? Please, I was devoid of pride or shame. I was a guy planning to get lucky in the backseat of his grandmother’s car.

I set off on my journey, adjusting the seat and mirrors. My grandparents waved from the bay window. Maybe I waved back, maybe I was mortified. Either way I was an idiot.

Even without experience, I knew that I needed…you know, something. So my next stop was the grocery store. Along the way my mind shifted with nerves and anticipation. My heart raced, my palms moistened—actually I think that was just Papa’s Armor-All on the steering wheel. But I was a mess of nerves by the time I pulled in the lot.

How did this work? The whole buying condoms thing? Later I would learn to scope out gas station bathrooms—finding the ones that sold those and all sorts of other blush inducing things out of vending machines mounted on filthy walls scrolled with some grammatically horrendous messages.

But back then I wasn’t privy to such discretion, so after a pep talk in the Tempo, I summoned the courage to enter the store. Like I said, I’d worked myself over with embarrassing scenarios. What if I saw someone I knew? A teacher or preacher or an aunt or uncle? I guessed that an uncle would give me a wink and a light punch to the shoulder, but still, why hadn’t I gone to the outskirts of town for this little quest?

Inside, the store hummed with Friday evening activities. But I may as well have worn a t-shirt that read: Where are your condoms? I stood stock-still, like someone who’d just landed from Virginopolis. But where would they be? Medicine? Maybe. Household Supplies? Not likely. Feminine Hygiene? Gulp.


After a few shaky laps around the store I found them in an aisle crammed with Friday night shoppers. I wasn't about to just waltz on over and scoop up a box like I had any idea of what I was doing. Instead I staked out the aisle, thumbing through a magazine until it was clear. Time crawled. My forehead grew sore from worry. Then, just as the coast cleared, I made my move.

There was no time for browsing. I strolled past with a whistle, snatching the first box of Trojans without breaking stride. I tried to blend in, play it cool. But I couldn’t just put them up on a counter for all the world to see. I needed cover. The magazines. Yes, that’s it. I went back for the Sports Illustrated. Nothing sinister going on here, nope. I rolled the magazine over the condoms and headed for the front.

The wait was torturous. And every time I saw a familiar faces enter the store I found something mesmerizing on my shoe sole. Days passed. I neared the cashier praying that there wouldn't be a price check.

When I set the box down, under the magazine, the cashier hardly paid attention. Or maybe she did, or he did, I was so rattled by then that a Yeti could have been ringing me up and I wouldn't have known the difference. I wasn't making eye contact or even acknowledge that other human beings were in the store or existed at all.

Sweet Success. All that was left then was the deed itself. My steps quickened, my pulse raced. I would soon enter the territory of Man. I would no longer blush when guys talked about, you know, stuff. I would naturally relax. My brain would work normally. I had a lot hinging on that night.

I jumped in the car and turned the key. My mind was a kite in the wind, floating between euphoria and adrenaline. I put the little Ford in gear, the car that took my dear Nana to church and to luncheons and fellowship meetings but tonight would become a vessel of immorality.

I hit the gas, looking ahead and away as I drove over lines of empty parking spaces, closing the fertile ground between me and my fate at the shortest possible route. No more waiting. I had to get there…

The impact jostled me from my glorious visions. Everything was lost in seconds. Well, not everything, my virginity stayed intact. But my planning, my courage, my timing, all of it evaporated in a wrench of metal.

I don’t remember the make or model that smashed into Nana’s car. That so abruptly changed the course of my evening. I can’t recall the person who came around the corner, following the traffic laws, perhaps thinking of a grocery list or how they needed more skim milk when a madman in a gold Ford Tempo shot out like a comet of lust.


I hopped out of the car, stammering and reckless. Maybe if things hurried along I could be on my way.

Yeah yeah, insurance information, address, Nana’s good for it. Now look, if you don’t mind disengaging your bumper from the fender I need to be on my way...

But there was damage. Headlight damage, fender damage, the other car’s front grill was hanging off the bumper. An officer arrived and I stood there, pimple-faced and slumped. The condoms in my pocket a burning reminder of all that was lost. Any hopes I had with that back seat were off to the salvage yard.

I made two calls. The first to my girlfriend. The plan was off. Yes I'm fine. No, I don’t mind if you make other plans. Then I called my grandparents.

Papa arrived. I apologized. He understood. Insurance would cover it, he said. We rode along in silence, an absorbing silence that amplified the inner nuances of the engine and the sharp clicking of the turn signal. I turned to the window, sinking as we passed houses and traffic on the way to my mom’s house, my excitement swallowed up in the muggy warmth of the night.

At home, I shuffled towards the townhouse. It was dusk and the sun lent a sort of jaundice glow to the apartment. Through the kitchen window, I saw my mother at the sink, shouting over her shoulder at my brother making a fuss in the other room. She was getting tired of our arrangement. Of my lounging around. Soon she’d get cranking with the get-a-job talk. She’d start small, passive aggressive-like. A bus schedule carefully placed on top of the classifieds. But I still had a month until I was eighteen, so I headed up the stairs, where I climbed into my top bunk to sulk.

I still had a few hours to kill before it was time to call Jenny Craig.


Faking it


So this is my all new, grown up blog template. I hope you like it...it was either this or robots.  I've been doing some thinking, and it's time for some changes around here, some more, uh, adult content. 


It’s been a good run, all this faking like I'm a grown up stuff...but now, nearing forty years old, I've decided to join the ranks of adult society.



For over twenty years I’ve been able to slide through undetected, passed over as eccentric or “funny” when in actuality I was performing. I was playing the lead role of Me, The Adult.

And no one's been the least bit suspicious. Well maybe a few people, like the cashier at the grocer store when I slap down an industrial-sized bag of Fruity Pebbles on the belt and avoid eye contact. Or maybe a few of the neigbors when I head down the street to go shoot hoops until my wife calls me for dinner. And at the bank, but, then again, why put the suckers out if you're just going to shoot me a look for taking one...or three?


But my love of candy aside, I've had everyone fooled. I paid bills and even got the hang of that smile/grimace thing people do in passing at work. So what I have an affinity for toys and or poop jokes that never morphed into something refined or mature. At least sometimes I do manage to tame or at least fight off the impulse to fall on the floor kicking and screaming when told I have to do something that I really really don’t want to do.


I've gotten scary good at faking adult conversations, nodding and uh-hushing, all the while thinking about those little plastic pizza topper things they stick on pies as my favorite pizza places while unknowing adutl yammers on about  budgets, plans, insurance, or maybe even gulp, vegetables or politics.


And for years it’s worked, getting pegged as an eccentric when I’m really wondering how I’ve managed to fool all these people into thinking that I’m really an adult. I mean, I even drink coffee, albeit loaded with sugary creamer so that it resembals liquid caramel, but still, coffee+adult.And even on the occasion that I get caught, stuffing my face with chocolate at work, or hopping up and down after getting free ice cream. Most people laugh it off as a joke anyway. Oh yeah, I was joking.  


But now we reached the dreaded but portion of this post. (See, no butt jokes?) Now that I have a kid, one who's vocabulary seems to be multiplying faster than a Gremlin after midnight, I realize that I have to be a uh, father figure. and it might not be best for my son to see me behaving like well....an adult. It's time I acted my age.


I mean, I'm not going to start wearing a watch or smoking a pipe or anything. But maybe I can work on toning down some of those knee-jerk reactions. No temper tantrums, and  I’m adjusting to saying no. Because as much fun as it's been playing Tom Hanks Big, it’s more important, I suppose, to set a good example.


But back to this blog, I'm going to start posting more stories and other kinds of stuff, whatever I feel like really. So for all of you readers out there, and that goes for both of you guys. Sit back and enjoy...






Friday, May 15, 2015

One Of Those Weeks...

It was the axle. On my car. I broke the axle on my car. And that was good news because it’s significantly cheaper than a new transmission. I picked it up the other day and it's as good as new.

Back to that day without a car. So I hate waiting on people. And I’m not good at making plans. Add the two of them together and I ended up walking home from work.

It wasn’t bad. Four or five miles maybe. I started off thinking that as soon as my wife called I’d let her know where I was and she could pick me up. So I just kept huffing it. It was ninety degrees but there was a nice little breeze in the air, and it was a nice way to clear my head.

I’m just glad this week is hurling towards an end. Broken axles, lawn mowers…Oh and my dog’s got worms. I'm going to the vet today to take care of problem number three. Now if that isn’t just the kicker.

But what are you going to do? Just keep on getting it. The weather is nice, the car if fixed  and my kid is happy. 

Bcause what could be better than a brand new lawn mower?




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One Of Those Days...

Every now and again a great day thrust itself upon us. And while it can be said that the days are what we make of them--that it’s all a matter of perspective--it seems to me that sometimes the morning sun beams just a little brighter, it's golden rays are a bit more promising, and the whole day seems ripe for an adventure.

Just before car grinded to a halt...
But then there is today. Where sure enough the sun is out, but only to shed light on the array of hurdles and difficulties that lay before you. Not to be a downer here, but it has not been a banner day.

Actually, I guess it all started on Mother's Day when I broke the lawn mower. Long story, but lawn mowers are relatively cheap—at least the ones I buy, (which may be part of the problem). 

But back to this morning, I was running late because my son declared it pajama day and flat out refused to get dressed. So I did what any parent would do, I bribed him. Actually it was more of a negation, one that he clearly took control of because I found myself stuffing his little toy lawn mower in the backseat.

Bad idea.

I got him situated and we were off, backing out of the driveway. But trouble came early on this ghastly depiction of a day. Simon began yanking and tugging and making a fuss about the mower in the backseat. Okay fine, I thought, out with the mower. It wasn’t exactly the safest way to travel anyway. So I stopped the car. We'd travelled maybe eighty feet, give or take, but something sprung…or popped….or groaned…or something.

The car wouldn’t move. Not forward or backward. Well, I guess it did go backward because I had to drift back to let the neighbor out of his driveway just before he plowed into us. But I guess that was our fault for being in the middle of the street with a toy lawn mower in the car.

My bad.

So I had to drift back and leave the car in the middle of the street. My kid, being a creature of habit like his dad, did not take a liking to this sudden change in the flight plan. And getting him inside I felt my shirt snag on the door.

Well this might as well be happening.

It was all happening. I called my boss to let him know I was running late. Then the tow truck guy told me it would be $80 bucks to drag my car less than a mile up the road. And now I’m just hoping I don’t need a new transmission for my car. 

But really, none of that's the biggest deal out of the whole thing…

Now for the corny conclusion to this post!

The morning was bad—even by my standards—but the worst part about it was that I was so caught up with everything happening that I forgot to say goodbye to the little dude. He probably had no idea why I’d handed him off to Mommy and then headed out to the street on the phone. I should've done a million things different. As always...


So as I hammer out this little post out on my lunch break, waiting for my phone to ring with what I’m hoping for will be good news, two things are on my mind. One, how am I going to get home from work? I'll figure out something. And two, how I can’t wait to see my little boy and hang out. Maybe we’ll even get the mower out.

Oh wait, it’s broken.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

No Big Deal

Yesterday I was out in the backyard with my son. He was pushing around the big mower, making the engine noises, while I just watched him go. It was warm out, and upstairs I could hear my wife clinking around in the kitchen. The dog was freshly walked and just kind of hanging out.

It sounds like nothing. But it’s my life and I love it.

Inside, the television was only a button click away from announcing just how scary the big bad world is. The computer was booted up and ready to let me know about the newest trends and fads and what people I haven’t seen since high school were eating for dinner. But out back, my son had found a caterpillar.

He squatted. I love the kid squat, his dirty knees spread apart and his head bowed, he pointed to the furry little guy wiggling across a rock. Then he looked up to me with that great big smile.

“Caterpillar.”

“That’s right.”

And that was it. We pushed the mower around some more, examined some sticks, played with the hose, and then it was time for dinner. Later that night as I put him to bed he reminded me that he had pushed the mower all by himself. Because what didn’t seem like anything special to me, was a pretty big deal to him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Dinner Debates

https://www.authonomy.com/book/295259/
I write mostly middle grade/young adult stuff. I've written maybe six or seven novels, anywhere from 40-90k words a piece. With each one I've improved, I hope. And one day I hope to actually write one worth reading.

In middle grade, it's best to move the parents out of the way and let the kids solve their own problems. But in this book, the parents are the problem.

I've posted The Dinner Debates over at Authonomy for review. You'll have to sign up to read it, but I'd love for anyone who has the time or likes boy books to give a read/review.

Here's the blurb:


When a Mega More Super Store plans to open up shop in the small town of East Ridge, Virginia, twelve-year-old Marcus Hawthorne has no idea that it will change the course of his summer—even his whole life. 

His father is a foreman for the construction company that lands the gig for the build. But his idealistic mother worries that the store will desecrate the little nearby cemetery known to most folks as Squabble Creek. At first, Marcus sees both sides of the history-versus-progress debate. But an eye-opening trip to the build site opens his eyes to what’s at stake. Marcus joins the cause, and along with his mother and feisty new neighbor, they form a rag-tag team of resistance. Posting flyers, pulling pranks, even taking on the mayor, soon Marcus is having the time of his life. But also feeling the pressure. His old friends think he’s lost his mind. His dad catches heat from work. The town wants their store. And with the ground breaking ceremony looming, the sacred land seems destined to be sandwiched by heavy traffic and retail. But seeing that majestic blue heron perched stoically on his father’s ripper, Marcus knows that the battle of Squabble Creek has only just begun.

Set against the backdrop of the 1992 presidential campaigns, THE DINNER DEBATES is a middle grade story of one incredible summer that changes the way one boy sees his parents, politics, and most of all, himself. 


If you're still interested, here's the link:

https://www.authonomy.com/book/295259/#

And yes, I know the cover is terrible, I made it myself!