Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Minute Camping Trip

We were camping when the bombs hit, and not even to try and escape them.  It was a last minute decision.

"What should we do this weekend?"
"I dunno.  Maybe we should go camping."
"In May?  Won't that be a little cold?"
"A little, but we'll take our warm sleeping bags.  It'll be fine."

I checked my email before we left the house, updated my facebook status.

"Going camping with my wonderful wife.  See you all when we get back."

Sometimes I wish I'd known what was going to happen.  Maybe I would have tried a little harder to get my buddy and his wife to go.

"Hey, Cindy and I are going camping this weekend, do you two wanna go?"
"Nah.  I think we're just going to stay in this weekend.  Do a movie marathon, or something."
"Okay.  Well you two have fun with that.  See you when we get back."
"See ya."

But I didn't.  I didn't say goodbye to my family, or my friends.  I didn't tell them how much I loved them, or how much I'd miss them if anything happened.  I didn't think anything would happen.  I was at work on Friday.  Cindy packed us up because she had the day off.  We barely took enough food for the weekend.

We went to our favorite spot:  A little meadow that we'd gone to dozens of times.  It had great ground for setting a tent on.  Almost no rocks and softer grass than you'd ever find in the city.  Almost no one knew about it too.  I don't think there was ever a time when we saw someone else.  Funny, that.  We wanted so badly to get away from everyone, but now we'd give anything to find some civilization.  What I wouldn't do for a coffee.  What Cindy wouldn't do for a dress.

The spot was so far out in the woods that we didn't recognize the bombs for what they were.  We thought there was a small earthquake, or maybe lightening booming over the mountain.  We didn't even think much of it, just put the rain tarp on the tent and kept on with our pick-nick.  Of course, I'm not sure what we would have done if we'd known what they were.  We couldn't have saved them.  We couldn't have saved anyone.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sally, Part 39

Sally, Part 38

A couple of pans strapped to Stacey's pack clanged together as he jogged a bit to catch up.  He took a quick moment to look back at Andrill and realized that he'd never been this far inland.  He already missed the breaking of the waves, the clang of the bells and the call of the gulls.  Where he was now seemed too quiet.  Was there ever a sound out here?

Because of his days at sea, he had a hard time appreciating the beauty that people talked about here in the plains outside of Andrill.  Everything seemed the same pallet of green, and the ground never changed.  Stacey always believed that the sea had its own spirit and temperament, which is why it was calm sometimes and raged at others.  This land seemed soulless.  It didn't seem to care who was walking across it, or what was done around it.  It made Stacey feel alone.  He thought he would at least have one friend on this journey: the land, but without a soul, it was no companion, and he was left with two slavers on his own.

The three men passed by sheep herders and the occasional cherry tree, each one looking alone in a vast plane of grass.  These were planted by the herders at strategic points along their normal paths, so that they would always have a back up supply of food if ever they ran low.  They were also good places to hide from wolves and gave them a better view if they were ever in trouble and needed to find a friend nearby.  Most were well off the road, and Stacey just happened to notice them  in the distance.  The last one they saw before the tree line that signaled their assent into the mountains was just on the right side of the road.  Stacey could smell the cherries as they approached and decided it was the best thing he'd smelled in days.  Of course, those days were spent in the lingering stench of Andrill, so saying it was the best really wasn't saying much, but the smell was welcoming and made him feel better about being alone with the other two.

Syrin and Mattias both slipped off their packs, took out empty sacks, and began filling them with low hanging cherries.  Stacey gladly followed suit.  Syrin was quick to give up on the lower cherries and climb up to find more.  Mattias was closely examining a cherry when he spoke, "Out here's not the same as the ocean is it?"

The way he said it made Stacey unsure if he was being talked to, "No, not really."

"Makes you feel like you've lost a friend, doesn't it?"

Stacey stopped picking.  As usual, he was amazed at how well Mattias knew him.  It really was hard not to like him, "It does."  The words were soft, and hard to say.  He never knew how close he'd felt to water until Mattias asked him that.

"We'll try to get you back to her quickly.  I promise."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Calculated Risk... Twice

It wasn't his decision alone.  He had counsel, friends, family, and some training, but he'd never seen anything like this before.  Sure, there were other patients with some of these symptoms in the medical books, but how could it be concluded that what was done for them would work for her?  It couldn't be.  And besides, he wanted this to be his culmination, his capstone on a career that would keep him in textbooks forever as the man who saved the unsavable, and doing what others had done before would not make him memorable.

So, after weighing his options, after looking at the patient and talking it over with his counsel he decided on the action.  To be fair, he probably should have asked the patient.  Maybe the patient didn't want this.  Maybe the patient knew a little something about her own illness and consulting with her might have been a good idea, but she was never asked about it.  She hadn't gone to medical school, she hadn't been appointed, she wasn't being paid to look over her charts, so she wasn't asked.  Instead, they found a plan of action that they thought might bring her back to full health.  It was risky, but if successful, she would be better than she was before the illness and the doctor would get his name in a magazine, so they went ahead with it.

The scene would have made any common man gasp, a doctor, holding a handgun, slowly raising it, and firing one distinct shot into his patient's leg.  As we'd expect, the shot was followed by a scream from the patient.  Nurses and civilians alike came to see what the ruckus was about to find the doctor standing with a smoking gun, explaining that what he'd done was extreme, but necessary.  He told them it had been a calculated risk, and that he was sure it would make her better.

But it didn't make her better.  She had the same symptoms she had before, but now she was losing blood through a gunshot wound that was supposed to help.  The doctor, his counsel, his family, and friends all studied the bullet hole.  What had gone wrong?  They'd done research, they'd thought out their options, they thought this gunshot would solve everything, but it didn't.

What happened next would be talked about in medical schools the next day, but over time would be forgotten.  It's not that it wasn't a horrible tragedy, or that something couldn't have been learned, but that the doctor had some very important friends, and they wouldn't allow people to remember what the doctor decided to do next.  We could speculate that it was the doctor's pride, or that he'd figured out what had gone wrong with the first procedure, but if I were pressed to give my real feelings about why he did it, I'd say that he didn't know any better.  He'd never dealt with an illness like this one, and he got nervous.  Her family was asking that he do something, she was asking that he do something, and instead of going to a specialist, or admitting that he didn't know what to do, he went forward with his plan.

He'd looked her over before the second procedure.  He examined her gunshot, and her illness.  Checked vitals and without warning, raised his gun again, and shot her in the other leg, explaining, amid her screams, that he'd shot the wrong leg, and that this one would surely cure her. 

She still lies ill on her hospital bed.  And just as expected, his procedures were talked about for a short while, but soon fell silent when other procedures came up.  For most other doctors, this one action would have been the beginning of the end of a career, but not for this man.  He had friends in high places, and this would only be the beginning.

Thank you Dr. Obama, for shooting us with a 'stimulus package'... twice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Big Red Slide

The details are already a little fuzzy.  I didn't go because I wanted to write about, or because I wanted to remember it forever.  I went because the weather was nice and I thought it would be fun for her, for our little girl (Baby J).

We walked from our pick-nick, over to the red slides.  I checked the temperature with my hand (a precaution I'd learned earlier this year on another slide).  It was cool, and slick.  I set Baby J up at the top as she squealed with excitement.  Mom crouched at the bottom, ready to catch.  I asked J if she was ready.  Her gaping mouth told me that she was.  Down she went, my hands ready to catch her, in case she lost her balance, her hair blowing in the wind, and Mom's hands holding her at the bottom.

"Was that fun?  Do you wanna go again?"

Standing up and looking back at Dad was her answer.  Over and over I helped her to the top and over and over she sped down toward the outstretched arms of Mom, giggling in her little pigeon cooing way.

I hadn't thought of it then, as we were just at the park, helping J slide down some slides.  But I hope she knows that even when she grows up Mom and Dad will always be there.  Dad's hands for when she loses her balance, and Mom's to catch her if she goes down.  Or maybe we shouldn't allow it to go that deep, and just hope that she always knows we love her.  We love her enough to help her go down the slides at the park.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sally, Part 38

Part 37

Mattias waited for Stacey to finish and the two of them found Syrin waiting for them just outside the bar, holding backpacks that made Stacey's back sore just to look at.

"Took you long enough."  Syrin handed one pack to Mattias.

"Just needed some breakfast.  Which way are we going?"

"I tried to gather where they thought we were going and who they were exactly, but they've got the usual pigeons payed off too well."  Stacey was amazed at how heavy his pack was, but equally amazed at how light it felt on his back.  Syrin was an expert at weight placement and didn't want Stacey slowing them down.

"Then I guess we take the pass and hope for the best."

"I guess so.  Wish we had time to figure out the safest path."

"If we wait any longer there won't be a safe path."

"True enough."

Without any kind of warning, Mattias and Syrin started walking North, away from Andrill, away from the sea, away from ships and crews and everything Stacey knew.  In the distance Stacey could see two mountains stabbing sharply into the sky.  "The pass."  He help but feel a little nervous.  If even half the stories he heard about mountains were true, he couldn't think of a reason to walk toward them.  Maybe Mattias and Syrin planned to feed him to something there.  The idea of being eaten by something that lurked around the cold hard rock made him shiver.

"Keep up Stacey."  Mattias and Syrin were already several yards in front of him.

"Sorry Mattias.  Just day dreaming a bit."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Josteled from Youtube

I was at my desk watching Youtube when it first happened, surrounded by grey cubical walls, and Monday laden coworkers.  I wasn't supposed to be watching Youtube, but I guess those rules are a little meaningless now.  I've tried to think of what movie I was watching, but I honestly can't remember.  Maybe something with a Sesame Street character... or babies.  I've tried at night while falling to sleep in an attempt to remember what life was like before... well before my attention was commanded away from Youtube.

My workspace was two cubicals and a wide walkway from the window.  The thud against that window was loud enough that I could hear it through my headphones.  I still remember thinking that Mike must have bumped his chair against it again, but then I heard another thud.  Taking off my headphones, I cocked my head around the grey wall to see what the noise was.

I'd always joked about it happening.  We talked about it like it was an inevitability.  We made movie parodies, sang songs, and even read books on how to prepare for it, but it was really more a joke than an actual fear.  Yet, there, at the window, stood what the jokes had all been about.  It had come, and it didn't matter then, just like it doesn't matter now, how it started, or how it's possible.  What mattered, and what still matters, is running, surviving, saving loved ones, and letting go of who you can't save.  There at the thick paned window was a rotting rendition of what was a human.  I ran.  We all ran.  And we haven't been able to stop since.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marble the Fat (Some Writing Advice)

We'll label this under non-fiction (if I labeled anything but my Stacey stories or my dating advice).

I thought up (what I think) is some pretty great writing advice yesterday.

You may or may not, but probably did, have a writing teacher who, at some time, gave you the advice to "cut the fat."  For those who didn't, it's a pretty common way to say that you have stuff in your story that doesn't fit, or isn't helping move the story along, so you need to cut it.

As a nerdy/snarky teenager I once told my teacher that I couldn't cut the fat because it was adding flavor.  We had a really good relationship, so she gave me a similarly snarky remark back and I ended up cutting it, but it was something that always stuck with me, because I had read some stories that had some fat that made me want to cut it (think Moby Dick, the chapters where whales are classified), but other times it just made the story more fun to read (no particular book comes to mind, but there's a reason for that).  But what made the difference?

I went on a mission for my church, where we were allotted very little money, and found 'fun' ways to still eat well.  One missionary and I decided we wanted steak, so we went to the grocery store and bought some that were... we'll came them reasonably priced.  It was pretty awful.  Both pieces had a very thick line of fat going down the middle of them, and the meat that was left was pretty tough.  It was a steak that was too bad to forget

On that same mission experience, this awesome guy took us to the nicest steak joint I've ever been to.  The steak was fatty, but when it came you couldn't tell that it was.  It was three inches tall, juicy, unbelievable, and write-home-about-good.  At the time, I had no idea there was fat in it.  It looked like a very lean, very tall piece of beef, but tasted better than any other steak I'd ever had.  It was too good to forget.

After I got home and got sucked into the Food Network, I found out that the steak was probably incredibly fatty, but that the fat was marbled.  I didn't know it was there, because I never actually found it in the steak, I just had it dripping down my chin.

And so, yesterday, while thinking about those experiences, I came up with a new saying, because my cocky little teenage self was partially right, fat is was gives flavor, but it shouldn't ever be found.  Instead, we as writers should learn to 'marble the fat.'  If someone can find it, we've done it wrong, but if they can't, but they can tell it's dripping with flavor, then we know we've put some fat in, but in just the right places, and with just the right amount.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Missed a Week. Surprise. Surprise.

Well, I've been gone a week and feel I need to explain myself... I probably should have got a note from my mother.

My wife is a high school teacher, and last week was her Spring Break.  It was not a Spring Break for me because I am a dedicated author, but she insisted it be a break for me too.  Naturally, I resisted, and she gave an Indian Burn, and I took a break too.

I must say, Indian Burn aside, I really enjoyed the break.  The first couple of days we spent playing Pandemic with my parents and packing to go visit my wife's parents.  It was really a lot of fun.  We planned a bunch of stuff to do, and did pretty much all of it.  We say Mirror Mirror (I do not recommend it), and The Hunger Games (I do recommend it, but only if you're cool with a shot by shot remake - minus some stuff that makes you care about the characters more - of the book).  We also played an incredible amount of games of Pandemic with my wife's mom, her brother, and her brother's friends.  I got some time to play a little Modern Warfare 3 with my buddies, we slept in, went to the pool for me to do some exercises and to test out the new baby life jacket, and the only thing we really missed out on was a picnic, because it snowed, because we live in Utah.  And, to be honest, I was cool with not going on the picnic, only because we did so many other fun things.

Yesterday had more to do with our little girl.  She had a "I can't breathe, because I'm choking" moment Sunday night/Monday morning which scared her and terrified Mom and Dad.  After some reading, we think she was choking on her own spit because she's teething, but whatever the reason, it took a long time to calm her down and I felt a need to sleep in after getting very little sleep that night, and therefore, did not blog.

I know some of you are interested in my personal life, so I should probably say that our baby is kind of crawling now, though she likes to hold on to fingers and walk more.  She's learned how to do the first part of Patty Cake all by herself (the actions I mean, not the singing).  She knows to put her hands up when we ask her how big she is, so that we, in chorus, can say "so big."  She's adorable... but I'm biased.

And that's it.  I promise more exciting fiction (or maybe non-fiction) tomorrow.  Have a great day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Allow Me to Circle Back

It happened in the same place I eat my lunch every day: the second bench on the right on the jogging path in Hilkadia Park.  The day wasn't extraordinary, nor was the grass, or the trees, or my turkey on rye, but the event has shaped my life for months now, and it's made me think about if there was something I did to help it along.  My conclusion:  there is not.  I've done nothing to make this happen.  It was just fortuitous, and grand, and rough, all at the same time.

I've never been married.  There was this one girlfriend, this one time, who I fell in love with, and who I thought I'd buy a ring for, but life happened, and time happened, and school and jobs happened, and we ended up in very different places, and I never bought that ring.  So, I had a hard time getting close to anyone after that.  I tried to shake it.  Tried to find another person who made me feel the way I'd figured I should feel, but that never happened.  Not for me.

It did, however, happen for her; about two months after we broke up she was engaged.  Five months after that, she was married and about ten months after that she had a baby.  An ugly baby.  I Facebook stalked her.  To be fair, she had an ugly husband, so the baby shouldn't have been a shock to me.  I'm getting off topic.  Allow me to circle back to the day when things changed.

As I said, it was Turkey on Rye Day.  I thought that I should have put more mayonnaise on it, and maybe some mustard, or guac, but like most people, I had no guac in the fridge that morning and so my sandwich was a bit dry.  I was about half way through it, thinking of its sad state, when she walked by.  If I wasn't me, if I wasn't there, sitting on that bench, eating that desert-dry sandwich, I wouldn't believe me.  I really don't blame you if you don't believe me, but I tell you, I fell in love then and there.

It was like butterflies flying through rainbows arching across a burst of sunlight over a lake at 5:32 in the morning that makes you think of glass and Gandhi.  Yes, sir.  Dark curly hair that bounced about halfway down her silk blouse covered back, that pointed directly at a firm, run-every-morning butt, that connected to slim beautiful legs, that ended with red high heels that carried the love of my life.  I was awe-struck.  Thinking back, I'm sure I was quiet a sight, mouth agape, eyes fixed, turkey on rye hanging in the balance.

I often think about going and talking to pretty girls I see, but that didn't even cross my mind.  I never actually thought of it, but I wonder if, subconsciously, I thought that the moment would break like glass if I moved, that she might shatter if I stopped her in her stride to try and talk to her.  So, I just sat.  A man on the edge of his seat eating a turkey on rye, or rather, holding a turkey on rye mid-bite.

And so, just as she walked into my life, she walked out of it, curls bouncing, framing her porcelain, Oil of Olay Commercial Face.  But, I've started to work out now.  I've started to dress better.  I've started to put more mayonnaise on my sandwiches (I'd hate to try and talk to her with a dry mouth).  I've started learning french.  For some reason I think she might speak french, and I hate to try and talk to her and not be able to.  I think I'll learn Portuguese next.  She might speak that.  I also make sure to sit on that very same bench every day.  Not really sure if she'll walk by again, but it's my only real shot.  I'll talk to her next time.  I know I will.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sally, Part 37

Sally, Part 36

Stacey laid in what was pointed out as his bed and tried to sleep.  His mind never stopped though.  At first, he would just watch Syrin's ritual occasionally, not as amazed as when he first saw it, but it was too fluid and beautiful not to pay attention to sometimes.  After Syrin went to bed though, Stacey thought of other things.  He wondered what it was he was doing.  Did he really think he could even slow down Mattias and Syrin if they turned out to be slavers?  Would he have the courage to try in the moment?  Did they really trust him, or were they just stringing him along until they could sell him, or kill him quietly?  This last one made him look over at his sleeping compatriots.  They didn't seem like killers.  Not really anyway.  With this last thought, Stacey finally rolled over for the last time and found sleep.

Mattias roused Stacey the next morning, Syrin was already out of the room, and Mattias was completely dressed, "I thought you'd wake up on your own eventually, but it seems I was wrong.  Breakfast is ready downstairs and our benefactor says a couple of nasty looking gentlemen came back last night looking for us, so we might want to shove off some time soon."

Blinking, and then rubbing his eyes, Stacey finally got Mattias into focus and swung his legs off the edge of the bed.  He sat for a moment, rubbing his eyes some more and then got up and put on his clothes.  Breakfast was better than he thought it'd be, but certainly worse than he was used to.  The smell of blood and vomit permeated his sausage and eggs, but he was grateful to have anything, so he tried to ignore the horrible stench of his food and the bar, and shoveled it in like any other slaving criminal, thanking the bar keep when he was done.