Messed Up

First off, a weird thing. Or a cool thing. I’m not sure.

My friend Bryn loves her dog. It’s almost a religion with her. Every part of her life is planned around how it will impact her relationship with her dog. I’m just grateful that there aren’t any kind of violent associations with that love, because Bryn could make ISIS seem reasonable if something came between her and that dog.

Anyway, Bryn posted a picture of her dog, Nixie, on imgur and it went to number one on reddit and as of now has had 2.8 million views. A few hours ago she made a facebook page, and it already has more likes than my facebook author page.

This means Bryn is now a more successful creator than I ever was for any single piece of culture I have ever produced. Which makes me feel… *sigh.* A picture of a dog? Really?!? Do you know how hard I’ve worked for years and years to perfect my voice and craft?!?

I’m actually very excited for her.

Speaking of pieces of culture I have produced, thanks again for everyone who has purchased any of my stuff on Amazon. Your readership is appreciated as always. Next month I’m planning to put up my first short novel, Rock Bottom. Toward the end of this month, I hope, I will have between three and four short stories all gathered together for sale on Amazon. I’m calling the collection “Fear Fang and Family.”

One of the stories is based on a nightmare I had recently, which is the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. I wasn’t intending to include it, but I woke up sobbing and gasping and I thought “Oh, that would be perfect for what I’m doing right now.” It’s one of those stories where as I’m writing I keep thinking “this is screwed up, people will judge me for having made this.” It’s called The Pancake Family. Everything in the collection makes me feel like people will have problems with me. The other stories are Family of Fang in Claw, The Door of the Dark and hopefully The Glass Tongue.

All the stories are about families and how they hurt as well as support us.

 

 

Zoe Quinn Once Did Something Nice for No Reason

I used to call myself BC Woods and I used to write on a couple of different websites under that name. I also used to be somewhat entertaining and popular.

This will become relevant, shortly.

I wrote stories about my bizarre, white-trash disaster of a family in a way that was probably a bit too open and a bit too sensationalized. In my defense, I was twenty-one and started with a bigger voice than I really deserved. You can probably find something I wrote pretty easily and you wouldn’t have to try very hard to find something wrong with it. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people could relate, so I got a lot of email from a lot of people.

One of those people was a blue-haired young lady, who I now understand to be Zoe Quinn. I didn’t realize that until a few days ago. I kept reading about some person on twitter who was, apparently, Basically Hitler. I don’t know anyone who is Basically Hitler so I didn’t care. No matter how much I didn’t care, though, everywhere I looked I saw something like “Basically Hitler is even more Essentially Hitler than Previously Assumed” or “Basically Hitler is Not Even Kind of Hitler” and blah blah blah.

I rolled my eyes and ignored those things and moved on. I’ve seen enough shit in my life that I like twitter for jokes and articles about things that I would never have thought about. I feel no shame for this. I don’ t go out of my way to get bummed out. Except twitter is now less about interesting bits of humanity and more of a funnel for self-righteous bullshit that has been welded over my eye.  So the other day I found out that Basically Hitler… was a person I knew.

Not a person I knew well, to be honest. But a person I knew as a person. Imagine my surprise. I hadn’t even recognized the photos of her face until put into the right context.

You know how you walk into the same grocery store or laundromat or gas station enough times and you get to know the people there in a passing sort of way? I’d say I knew Zoe Quinn about one level above that. We talked about writing, mostly.

She was nice, personable, funny and driven. She never tried to do anything sneaky or underhanded or be anything other than be upfront. She never asked me for anything and I did have some minor amount of popularity at the time that I could have helped her with. She was a touch eccentric, yes, but I’m crazy so who am I to judge?

We had completely appropriate regular person conversations.

I’m pretty boring these days, so I don’t know how compelling this line of argument is going to be. I’m hoping this might persuade some people to my way of thinking which I don’t think is the same thing everyone else has been trying to force people to think. I’m writing this right now and thinking “Man, this blows.” And also “This part about how much this blows, also blows.” Also “Does this even matter? Do I have the right to say this? I don’t know that anyone gives a shit.”

I’m as tired of the self-righteous bullshit as anyone and I don’t want to be piling on. I try to be earnest. I go to a lot of therapy and I read a lot of books and am quietly trying to put myself  back together after I fell apart a few years ago. I’m a fuck-up, is what I’m saying, so maybe I’m way off base here.

So, my point:

I’m not saying Zoe Quinn is the greatest person who has ever lived. I think telling people that can be as bad as telling them they’re terrible. People fuck up. That’s part of being a person. If you haven’t fucked-up, live a little longer. If you still haven’t fucked-up, it’s because you’re not trying to do anything that’s worth doing. But fuck-ups are still fuck-ups. I’m not trying to be morally ambiguous. It’s just that fuck-ups aren’t all you are. You do good things in between fucking up, no matter who you are. And you’re just as much the good things as the bad things.

But, imagine if someone put all of your fuck-ups in a neat little line and took out all the good stuff and said “that’s all of you that matters. You’re just all of these fuck-ups, you fuck-up.” Now imagine literally hundreds if not thousands of people engaged in this activity.

Did you fuck up?

Yeah, probably. It’s all right there in a little line.

Except, how can you even begin to reflect on what you may or may  not have fucked up on and grow as a person when you’ve got that kind of shouting going on? Especially when the shouting is probably even more of a huge cultural fuck-up than whatever you fucked-up? There was probably an appropriate response in there at some point that would have helped you grow and become a stronger person but the appropriate response got blown up by the nuclear punishment of everyone weirdly hating their mother and never having faced that.

And dudes, who may be reading this, thinking I don’t understand the motivation: I get it. I soooo get it.

I get super annoyed with internet feminism all the time. I’m a rape survivor. You can’t imagine how often I have to roll my eyes and bite my tongue when someone tells me I’m contributing to rape and somehow responsible for rape (which is them basically calling me the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, which is awesome).

I get it.

I’m just not much for mobs. Any mob. If I ever find myself running wildly in the same direction as a bunch of other people… I don’t even know what I’d do.

Has anyone ever convinced you of anything by screaming in your face? I’ve told people they’ve convinced me by screaming in my face because it was the only way to stop them from screaming in my face. But I wasn’t ever really convinced and I don’t know how good that is for society. I’m also not much for reducing people down into the best and/or worst things they’ve ever done and acting like it’s not attached to a living breathing person.

(Also, so far as I have seen, the people in whom public trust was actually vested and who allegedly didn’t live up to it don’t seem to be getting their fair share of the shit.)

The only person who could ever convince me of anything was my grandmother and she did it by knowing how much I deserved to be loved and loving me more, and by knowing what kind of person I was and thinking I could be better. “I know you’re better than that,” she’d say, and then I’d have to apologize to my cousin Timmy for punching him in the side of the head. What was I supposed to say? “No grandma, I am that big of a piece of shit.”

I think almost everyone is a better person when you give them the chance to be.

I’m pretty sure that when people get into mobs that nothing good ever happens.  I don’t like mobs ganging up on people, even if I disagree with those people. I came to the defense of a conservative author a while back because I felt I saw the same kind of thing happening (I did it anonymously, because who I am was not important then, while it is important here).

So, I guess in summation:

People fuck up sometimes, but they also do the right thing sometimes. And you’re every bit as much the good things you do as your mistakes.

I have a niece whose mother was a drug addict and sold her parental rights for less than $500. I wrote about her on my website. Zoe Quinn sent me this email:

Hi, not so sure you remember me, but I’m that purple haired girl that’s been reading your stuff since DDHM.

If it’s not too creepy I was wondering a few things…

1 – Is your family celebrating xmas?

2 – If so, could I have your address?

3 – Would it be totally out of line for me to send something for Natasha anonymously? I don’t want rachel to give her shit for it or anything, but I was kind of in the same place when I was her age… Minus having an uncle that gave a crap about me.

I can’t do a whole lot or anything, since I was homeless for a few months and am now getting myself back on my feet, but I want to do something. As long as it’s not creepy, out of line, or counterproductive.

Anyhow, if it’s faster to talk on AIM or whatever, my screen name is [Obviously Not Sharing].

Hang in there.

I haven’t talked to Zoe Quinn in years. I didn’t run this by her. She didn’t ask me to write it.

Ask yourself:  Do you really want to keep screaming at someone who didn’t have much to spare and still wanted to buy a Christmas present for a little girl whose mom sold her for drug money and didn’t ask for anything in return?

 

Excelsior

I hate waiting.

Almost as much as I hate not being able to do anything to correct a problem. But sometimes all you can do is sit down and twiddle your thumbs and check your watch every five or ten minutes and wait to see what happens next.

And sigh. And rub your forehead…

And maybe try to get on with your life. I think that’s something I’m rotten at. You’re supposed to live your life while you’re waiting for that event far off in the background to transpire where you CAN take action and make things right. You’re supposed to LIVE between those moments.

I’ve been something of a hermit the past few weeks. I’ve been afraid to leave the house for fear that something will transpire while I am away and I’ll miss my shot to make things right. But well, where does that ever get you?

You have to go out and strangle the life out of the day and breathe in its departing essence.

I’ve made myself go out for walks. I went to a grocery store in the middle of the night and there was a man outside playing his guitar next to the used bookstore. It made me feel like I was in a movie about my life. I decided to go in and browse the shelves. Found a used book by an author I never read before for cheap. The man with the guitar was still playing when I left. It was dark and I couldn’t see him. I’m taking it on faith that he was there.

I also had the delight of finding a book in the mail the next day sent to me by my great and dear friend Diary of Why. There is nothing like a shot of pure consideration right in the arm to help you out of a funk. It’s nice to know people are thinking about you and caring about you when you’re off in your own little world and something all of us could probably afford to do more often. I actually teared up a little.

I changed the site theme again. The old one wasn’t working. I’ll probably change it yet again.

Thanks to those who purchased the newest story. I thought it was okay, but probably not my greatest work. Making Deals with Devils seems to be getting mostly positive reviews on Amazon (with one positive’ish review) so please do check that out. All the old stuff is also linked over to the right.

I wrote a bit for the horror stories I’m planning to have done for the end of October (I’ve scheduled some time off work to make that happen) and commissioned the cover art this time. I think you’ll like these a lot better. I’m finding my voice again. It’s not the same voice but it’s mine.

I chucked a bunch of stuff the other day because it just wasn’t working. Honesty is the key. Don’t try to be Stephen King or Neil Gaiman or whoever else you’ve read who writes short horror novelettes. Be yourself. And if your weird fascinating hatred of certain people in your life shines through, maybe it’s fascinating for a reason and it should be out there. I think people liked my family stories because they were written honestly. So I’m going to keep pulling at that thread and see where it leads me.

What else?

Oh, in the interest of sportsmanship (or the equivalent word), here is the story that beat me out for that contest. It’s easy to see why they won. Clean, straightforward and just enough familiar and strange. I look forward to reading more by KD Julicher.

Lastly, I think I’ve found my Sherlock Holmes. I regret to say that he is a giant Gingerbread Man Cookie that becomes president of the United States and that his name is Mitchell John Ruskin. I realized there wasn’t anyway around this when I spent an entire session in therapy talking about him and his administration and how it solves every problem in America through bipartisan leadership, common sense, scientific genius, and inspiring the American people. Whenever I think about it, I just start having a million ideas.

My favorite part was when I told my therapist that there was a giant talking Gingerbread Woman Cookie, and she asked “Oh, do they get married?” and I said “No, she’s a lesbian.” Then she got very quiet for a second and asked “What do you think that means?”

The answer? Will be coming in December probably when I start the series.

There will also be a Buffalo Supreme Court Justice and a Skyscraper that reforms the banking industry and Wall Street. I”m calling the universe “Magical Americans.”

Halloween Stories

I’m exhausted as you might expect and working lots of overtime. I’m going to be publishing something in October still but it will have to be toward the end of the month. I’m going to shoot for three horror stories all bundled together and I’m pretty excited for these in a way I was not excited for the last story.

Nothing makes me want to write a good story like writing one I wasn’t as happy with.

I do creepy, weird, and funny best.

These are all scary as shit.

Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon

Tesla_Cover

 

People with Human Bodies, presumably, I don’t know, maybe an alien reads this and is hiding from humanity: (because professionalism)

I wrote a new story. Who cares? I don’t know. It’s getting late and I’m pretty tired. I don’t care. That’s true. I am pretty loopy and epically exhausted.

I wrote this story. About Nikola Tesla and pigeons and unicorns and maybe his life maybe having a happy ending that’s a trick. Some people liked it. I really liked one passage. Didn’t sing to me. Then again, when I do a lot of editing that kind of kills things for me.

Here’s a link. I love you. Be strong. A thousand points of light. If I owe you a free story an didn’t get it to you, let me know. If you just want it, let me know. I try not to be presumptuous. If you seriously want it say something. Seriously.

I’m making a very serious face right now.

Don’t be bashful. I understand if you can’t be bothered with the whole kindle thing. Just please consider reviewing somewhere, although I won’t ask you to and again whether or not you love it or hate it or trash it I still won’t care.

Here’s a link.

Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon

 

 

“What is love?” the scientist asked the Cosmic Unicorn Pigeon machine-god.

Tesla had scaled the largest mountain of New Mars to find this creature. Three questions could be answered here, as though to a djinn in the old stories. Very few machine-gods bothered with these sorts of affairs. Tesla had traveled over a year to find this one.

The machine-god appeared before Tesla as a giant pigeon with glowing eyes, brighter than any he had ever seen in his laboratory and with a unicorn’s titular horn. The machine-god opened its mouth and breathed data-fire into the Martian sky.

“THE CHEMICAL EQUIVALENT OF LOTS OF CHOCOLATE! THE INCALCULABLE PURPOSE OF ALL BEING! THE FLAME IMPERISHABLE!”

Tesla dropped to his knees and cowered.

“How may I find it?”

“WEBSITES AT REASONABLE MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS AND A LITTLE WILLINGNESS TO EXPERIENCE REJECTION! OLD PEOPLE WHO CAN’T MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS, USUALLY FEMALE RELATIVES! MOSTLY BY KEEPING AN OPEN MIND!”

The pigeon-unicorn-machine-god reared back its wings and flapped them until Tesla clung to the ground to avoid being blown off the mountain.

“I’ve come a very long way and I was looking for something more specific!” begged Tesla.

The pigeon ceased its flapping and pecked at a breadcrumb larger than Tesla’s entire body. It swallowed it whole and breathed a beam of fire so focused and pure that it nearly blinded Tesla to look upon it as it broke through the atmosphere of the planet.

“VERY WELL. ADA MARIE ABERNATHY. DIED MAY 7TH, 1863. PRACTICAL, OLD FASHIONED AND A LEVEL HEAD. WON’T PUT UP WITH YOUR NONSENSE AND MELODRAMATICS. A GOOD BRAIN, AS WELL. I’D START THERE. YOU’RE THE SORT OF MAN WHO CAN’T BE LEFT ALONE WITH HIS THOUGHTS TOO LONG.”

Tesla lay on the ground, panting.

“Thank you,” he said.

“YOU WERE KIND TO PIGEONS. GOOD CRUMBS, NO EXPENSES SPARED. OTHERWISE, I WOULDN’T HAVE BOTHERED,” the machine-god cooed.

My Sherlock Holmes

Sorry this is late.

Been very busy with lots of driving back and forth to places. Getting children where they need to be and so forth. Had to wake up early to get this done.

I’ve got the next short story edited. Title is “Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon.” I’ve decided I don’t really like it very much, aside from the giant cosmic AI pigeon part. Enough of the people I sent it to liked it, however, that I’m still publishing. It will be up and available on the 15th. I rate stories on the following 13-point scale:

OMGWTFBBQ

Excellent

Really Good

Good

Well Done

Decent

Competent

Workmanlike

Readable

Difficult

Unreadable

Fuck You for Asking Me To Read This

Fuck You for Writing This

In the interest of making this useful to you, I’ll associate it with things I’ve actually written. I wrote a story I’m sure you don’t remember called “Who’s the Boss?” on my old site about the first time I realized I was smarter than my parents. It is the worst and most uninteresting thing I’ve ever written and I hated myself for writing it days after. That’s probably at the bottom of the scale.  I’d put “Run, Run Judy” or “Lights Out” as I retitled it at the top of the scale along with “All the Lovely Wicked Words” which doesn’t hold up as well as the first but seemed to resonate with people. I’d put “Out of Work Legends” at “Really Good.” “The Crucifix Factory” would probably be somewhere toward the bottom half again. Cormac I would rate as “Good” along  with “Making Deals with Devils.” I’d put “Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon” right at Decent.

All of these stories are available in my eBooks (hint hint).

Sometimes when I write, I find what I call a “Crease” in my head. I didn’t always call it the Crease. It’s what I started calling it when I realized I wasn’t able to find it anymore when I got thin and crazy. I wrote “Making Deals with Devils” inside the Crease. It was the first time I’d found the Crease in a long time. I knew it wouldn’t be a story for everyone. For some reason, I thought it was really funny to conceal the gender of the narrator until the very last moment. I have a touch of what I call “Kaufman’s Disorder” where I am sometimes guilty of caring more about my entertainment than the reader’s. In fact, I agree with a lot of what this review has to say about it. It was a story I had to write, though.

I’ve been getting better at finding the Crease again. Not as good as I once was, but better. I know I can get back better than before if I keep pushing.

Which brings me to the second bit of what I wanted to talk about. Due to recent events, I really need to start writing things that people will buy, which maybe means I should redirect the weirdness. My plan is to release “Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon” this month, finish up possibly a few horror stories for October (I’m thinking if I try real hard I can finish four which are half written on my Google Drive), and then release my first novel (which is a shorter novel) “Rock Bottom” in November.

I’m still chugging along on the Fantasy Novel. I realized I wanted to tweak the outline a bit more to give me less wiggle room. I’d strangle myself on wiggle room.

I think I can probably finish a first draft of that in six’ish months. As for monthly stories, I need to find my Sherlock Holmes. Something I can write in short bursts that stand on their own that nevertheless connect as a cohesive whole. I’ve got a few ideas that “pop” out for me, but they don’t have the feeling that they’re quite done cooking or “of a piece.” I’m thinking I might start writing Tide World shorts exclusively. I’d rather not write about my life again, although people always seemed to connect to that. I guess maybe I’m tired of having an interesting train-wreck life, because it makes me feel like I exist in some kind of state of perpetual victimhood.  Maybe I can find a better and more mainstream approach though.

Not sure. I’ll have to go on a lot of long walks and excavate the Crease and see if I have a Sherlock Holmes, Conan or a Cthulu inside of me somewhere.

Hope all is well.

What I Am Up Two

kitty

I’m watching a really really bad movie called “The Room” while I am writing this.

If this sucks, I blame that movie.

It is that terrible.

Here is a cat.

MAKING DEALS WITH DEVILS

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who bought my last short story and/or left a review. I super appreciate that and for a while there it was in the top  one-hundred Native American stories on Amazon.*

(The Booger is based on a Lumbee myth and Rusty is part Lumbee but I didn’t want to beat anyone over the head with it, since I usually don’t describe what characters look like anyway. I decided it was okay for him to live in West Virginia because one of my dad’s best friends is full Cherokee and lives in Seattle. People move. That’s something people do. No one is ever completely what you expect in real life, so I hate it when that happens in stories.)

If you wanted to read it but don’t have an Amazon account, email me or leave a comment and I’ll send it to you for free. You can also read things on your computer if you have an Amazon account but no Kindle.

I will send you free stories and continue to send you free stories even if you leave one star reviews. You just have to ask. All I ask from people is that they’re honest in the reviews. Don’t try to email me and ask for feedback on what you want to leave. What I want you to leave is your feelings and I don’t have a say in those.

But thank you.

I appreciate it even if you considered and didn’t buy it.

*Apparently it’s not that difficult, which is kinda sad

I LIT MY YARD ON FIRE

fire

My backyard has been stressing me out because I’m being consumed by vegetation. Hauling it to the dump would have required a huge trailer I don’t have. So, I got a permit and lit it all on fire. With flint and steel.

I guess I have more paranoia about the apocalypse than matches.

It took four hours to do just the backyard and by the end I was super dehydrated.

I WENT TO A FARM

A couple of weeks ago I divorced my mom (which is to say I mediated her divorce, but it’s funner to say that I divorced her) and now she’s trying to move in with me forever and I can’t figure out how to stop it because of course my little brother and sister become involved and I actually want them to live with me. So my eye has been twitching and I’ve been getting super stressed out over that as well and been a general grumpy Gus.

I needed to do something to relieve the pressure.

So I went to a farm yesterday and I almost ended up crying because it was so wholesome. The only thing I ever get any sense of inadequacy about is seeing people who have strong family bonds and this farm had been in the same family for four generations.

I got there and an older lady came out and greeted me and shook my hand. Everyone on the farm shook my hand, as a matter of fact. I got taken on a tour, shown all the local crafts and all I could think was “this must have been like the Kent farm when Superman was growing up.”

I bought goat cheese made by a farmer and it’s delicious. I bought milk right from a cow. I bought jam made, literally, by an old monk.

It took them a while to check me out, and the older lady kept apologizing and getting a bit flustered because she was having trouble with the computers. I got so reminded of my grandma I almost got teary again.

Here’s a poem I wrote about crying, by the way:

I was raised to keep emotion curbed

and never show my feelings

but oh how, when a noun just verbed

Can I not cry to soak the ceilings?

But I am not that crazy, so I just said “Wait, let me help YOU” and I handed her things and let her do it at her own pace and she ended up giving me a hug and five percent off. I didn’t even mind the hug she was so sweet, and I am a person crazy enough that I couldn’t even briefly put my arm around Joe Abercrombie to get a picture taken.

I sometimes feel our country is a bit down in the dumps and everything you see is bad, but this was purely good and clean and nice. I’m sure other countries have farmers not unlike these but they did give me a distinct pride because they were my farmers and they were wonderful.

I’m definitely going back there. I shook the hand of a farmer who made the stuff I was eating. What’s better than that?

SPEAKING OF JOE ABERCROMBIE

First off, although I’m much diminished in terms of traffic and let’s face it, kind of boring, and this probably won’t move any paper Joe does have a new book out and it’s awesome. You can purchase it here.

Half a King is “aimed” at the YA market and you can tell it’s paced faster than his previous works with a tighter focus and scenes not being given the same breathing room… but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel natural. For someone who thought “Red Country” was merely really good (at the time I didn’t really want any messages about not being able to run away from yourself), I’m glad to read something new from Joe that I can call “Embarrassingly Superior.”

Some people say that Joe Abercrombie is one of the best writers of Fantasy. These people are mistaken. He is even better.

As the single father of three cats who lives alone in rural Idaho across from an abandoned slaughterhouse, down the road from a buffalo Ranch, and a three minute drive away from a strip club with less than six hundred square feet of floorspace who has more authority to judge Fantasy literature than I?

SPEAKING OF MY CRAZY ASS

In the interest of now making this about me, I decided I’m going to classify anything I write into two categories.

These categories are “commercial” and “I had to write this so I don’t have another psychotic break and start seeing things that aren’t there.” The former category I will forward to agents, submit, etc while the latter category I will self publish to Amazon which is honestly where it belongs, anyhow. I don’t really know of anyone chomping at the bit to get a twelve step allegory, video-game driven, doomsday bunker setting, junkie hero story.

A fly keeps dive bombing at my face and I can’t seem to kill him.

That’s a crazy sentence to insert here, but I’m leaving it.

The longer more serious works I write have tended to turn to shit about  a quarter of the way through. Then I poke at them every once and again and eventually abandon them on my google drive. I’ve decided to try being an outline writer since I’ve never really done that before. I wrote a 10k word outline for a new novel set in the Tide World. I’m still revising the outline because I want to write something at a scale I’ve never attempted before.

I figured since a guy I consider one of the greatest living Fantasy writers literally looked me in the eye and said that the feeling that your book is shit when you’re in the middle never ever goes away and that he has to rely on a plan to get through, I should probably maybe consider that I might not be above that.

My Id Writes Hack Message Fiction

I’ve been unable to sleep for the last two nights because of the following dream.

My brother gets some stomach cramps and collapses at work. He goes to the hospital where they find out that he’s had a uterus and ovaries all along and is a hermaphrodite (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but he also finds out that what is causing his pain is that he’s pregnant by himself with the baby Jesus. Which, I think we’d all agree, whatever our gender, is totally fucked up.

His wife leaves him. He’s hounded by the media. He can’t go to his job anymore and becomes a recluse.

I go to his house to find him crying on the steps, with five o’clock shadow and a five month bump. He tells me he’s going to go to an abortion clinic and I tell him he can’t, he’s pregnant with Jesus.

He gets a really twisted up sob face and cries that he feels like a freak and he’s never wanted to be a freak. And I put my hand on his belly and say “This is a good thing, however it came to be” and he pushes my hands away and tells me to fuck off. Nobody should have to feel like a freak just because they’re the doorway for something good to enter the world, and how would I feel if my penis was going to be exploded to give birth to Jesus?

I talked about this in therapy today. We decided it was a metaphor for creativity. My therapist did a great job of acting like this was all totally normal. I don’t pay that woman enough.

As an aside:

Remember when I talked about professionalism?

New Story: Making Deals with Devils

 

At long last, I have written a new story!

It is available for consumption by the kindle owning/Amazon account having public. Or you can email me. I’m not going to be a dick about it. Also, it’s less than a dollar.

See that cover? I made that shit. You can probably tell I haven’t used photoshop since middle school. I’m practicing drawing every day so that they will be less embarrassing in the future.

This is the story I wrote for that contest I didn’t win. With that ringing endorsement, here is a sample.

 

MAKING DEALS WITH DEVILS

 

Everything feels like horseshit.

I’m adrift in an ocean of horseshit.

Turn on the news? Horseshit. Listen to people talking in restaurants? Horseshit. I called up my brother the other day. We both saw action overseas. If anyone could understand what I’ve been going through, he would. It was right there at the tip of my tongue. All the terrible stuff I’d been going through. You know what we wound up talking about instead?

The fucking weather.

What kind of horseshit is that?

I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about it for six months. I got drunk. That was easy. Didn’t work, of course. I even took some of Nana Zebula’s mushrooms and videotaped myself. Didn’t work, though it did scare the hell out of me. For about six hours I was convinced it had come back and I sat there not even being able to scream. Nothing I can do to my brain makes it any easier to talk about. I gave up on talking altogether when I found myself trying to yodel what had happened and I started laughing so hard I thought I’d go nuts.

There’s other ways to communicate than talking.

Morse code didn’t work. Neither did braille or sign language. I got to wondering if I maybe sort of accidentally did flag semaphore near a naval base without intending for anybody to see it, if that might work. As soon as I felt that someone was watching the flags kept slipping out of my fingers.

I can write it, a bit: Them.

That’s the most I can write: Them them them.

I saw one of them six months ago. I feel like I’ll give myself a seizure if I say more. Nana Zebula said her sister didn’t give up trying to speak and one day they found her in bed with blood gushing out of her ears and she never woke up.

I can talk about not being able to talk about it just fine.

It’s when I try to say more that my whole throat sort of seizes up or I think I’m saying something and it turns out I’m saying something else. I hate the idea that the words I end up speaking come from them. It’s like they’re back and fucking with me all over again. It’s easy to see why they have been able to stay hidden for so long. You can’t fucking talk about them.

Maybe I found a trick though. I’m going to give it a shot and see. Every contract, even magical ones, have got to have a loophole.

I’m going to write about what I saw six months ago. But maybe it’s just a story. Maybe it’s not. If I say that, then I think I can write it. Maybe this is all just a story. Maybe it’s not. Maybe this is real and dangerous and you need to prepare.

I’m so tired of living with this that I want to puke it out of me so that the rest of my life doesn’t feel like horseshit anymore.

I’m sick of devils.

 

*****

 

“You shooting slicker than shit, Abby!”

I set the rifle back across my lap, trying not to preen too much that I’d barely even had to line up the sights. Target must’ve been a good fifty yards out. I hadn’t held a gun since the shrapnel got put in my hip, but my fingers still knew what to do.

“Rusty, you could charm a swamp water witch into a fairytale princess!” I laughed.

Rusty and I had been shooting bottles since his aunt had guilted us about killing the nutria in the bog behind her house. She did that every summer, when all creatures under the sun were creations of God. Every winter, when the creations of God started crawling into her house looking for food, she’d change her mind and declare them rat-devils. Then Rusty and me’d go back to sipping beers on the porch with our rifles on our laps waiting for something to stir in the muck.

“They should have kept you on. Doesn’t matter about your leg. Nobody on this mountain shoot like you.”

I coughed and nodded, sipped my beer, and looked away.

“Shut up and shoot, Rusty. You can’t walk in that muck any better than I can if I win and you have to set new targets.”

He shut up and took his time lining up a shot. An empty Corona blasted apart. The glass sounded like the tinkling of wind chimes through my earplugs.

Rusty was a good guy. Poor and everyone but me said he was stupid as fuck, but a good guy. We’d known each other since grade-school. I’d been a rich kid and he was that kid that came to school every day in matching sweat pants and sweatshirts. Once, I swear he had the same piece of pepperoni stuck to his back for a month.

In second grade, my mom twisted my arm and I invited him to my birthday party. People cold-shouldered him so he wandered off after a spell. I found him in the kitchen by himself. You know what that goofy fuck was eating? Cinnamon Toast Crunch in Ranch Dressing. I shit you not. I about puked, but he kept chomping it down. Even sort of grumbled in contentment. He was the kind of thin you don’t get to be by exercising, if you take my meaning.

I’d sat down across from him, amazed. Maybe it was because of the influence of my grandma, ol’ Zebula, but I’d never been like the other rich kids. I liked spectacle and movement and difference. I liked knowing there were parts of the world I hadn’t never seen before. And I’d never seen a body eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch in Ranch Dressing.

I wanted to know what he’d eat next.

Herring and blueberries with ketchup? Yep. Tuna and whipped cream? Not a problem. He told me that peanut butter, pickle and mayonnaise sandwiches weren’t half bad, and I’d gasped when he dared me to eat one. I took a bite. It wasn’t bad at all.

We laughed.

The other guests heard and came in. They laughed too. But they weren’t laughing with Rusty, they were laughing at him. I’d hated that. Pretty soon they started putting things in front of him and calling him names when he said he was full and it weren’t fun at all no more. I hadn’t meant to be cruel. I’d been amazed by that boy.

The next day, when Rusty came to my house with a couple pistols and asked if I wanted to help clear his aunt’s field, I decided even if he couldn’t tell his letters from numbers, he could tell someone laughing with him from someone laughing at him, and that was the kind of mind almost nobody had.

We’d spent damn near every day together after that until he hadn’t been able to pass the basic skill tests to join the army. He couldn’t read much at all and had no head for numbers but he was only stupid in those very particular senses. He’d wished me well when I got on the bus to leave for boot camp and he’d picked me up from the airport when I got back. Some of the smartest folks I know wouldn’t have had the mind to do that.

“Let’s see if I can’t put a slug through that can out there in the crook of that tree. No scope.”

He snorted.

“That’s got to be a hundred and twenty yards.”

Half of the fun of the game was drunkenly stumbling through his aunt’s bog setting up targets. I’d promised myself when I got back home I’d do that again. I took aim, found my calm center and squeezed the trigger.

I felt my leg spasm.

“You hear there’s going to be a knife show coming through town?”

I’d missed.

I tried not to be offended that Rusty wasn’t trying to offend me, or when Rusty handed me another beer from the ice chest just outside of my reach. He’d been doing all kinds of little things like that. Trying not to let me on to what he was doing.

“Anyone told ol’ Zebula yet?”

He missed his next shot.

I think he did it on purpose.

Couldn’t do his timetables. Couldn’t tell you much about history. But he had heart enough for a hundred men.

“Nah, I only heard this morning. Seems last minute. Ain’t no one had time to go up there and tell her, probably.”

In the end the contest was a draw, which meant we went out in the field together. Rusty knew, I think, that leaving me be in my chair while he set targets would have been the worst thing he could do. So we went out into the field together to set the targets and we both fell on our asses and laughed.

And when we laughed my leg didn’t hurt so bad.

He was only dumb in book ways.

I miss him so goddamn much.

 

*****

 

Ol’ Zebula wasn’t exactly a witch but she also wasn’t exactly like everybody else. She believed in the Almighty and would slap your mouth if you suggested otherwise… but she also wasn’t exactly averse to a deck of Tarot Cards, lighting candles and all other manner of hexes and jinxes. Her cabin was about a mile further up the mountain than her nearest neighbor, and getting to her nearest neighbor required driving on dirt roads for at least twenty minutes. But there was a knife show. And ol’ Zebula was always to be told about knife shows.

No one knew why.

She was peculiar to say the least. I wish I’d thought to suspect. I had no way of knowing she was caught in the same predicament in which I’d later find myself.

Though half the population of West Virginia was likely to call her “Nana Zebula” she actually had given birth to my father. Though he didn’t like to acknowledge it much except on holidays. You can’t wear suits and practice the law if folks know your mother’s off somewhere rattling chicken bones around in a cup. She’d had fourteen children. Three of them were doctors. Five of them were lawyers. One was an archaeologist and the rest did stuff too crazy to believe.

“Child!” Zebula said, answering the door. We hadn’t seen each other for three years, “You look hungry!”

She hugged me and ruffled my hair and asked after my health. All the while putting her finger in my mouth to better examine my teeth and plucking out a few strands of my hair. It was only a part of her being her.

As always, Rusty stood by the door looking at his feet and only said, “Ma’am.”

I allowed that I was fine as a body could be when deprived of her cooking and if she had any fresh pies I’d be happy to tuck them away for her.

There were definitely trepidations to Zebula’s kitchen. While Rusty had lost none of his appetite and didn’t mind eating the occasional opossum pot pie, I’d grown accustomed to MRE’s and more conventional fare in the last three years. While the woman could cook up a mean pie, and no one with a tongue in their head would dispute it, I was in a minority of people not generally willing to brave meats of unknown age and origin to achieve such sweet deserts.

“There’s a knife show in town, Zebula.”

We heard plates drop and clatter in the kitchen. Luckily nothing broke, because all of Zebula’s plates were microwavable plastic affairs with the faces of presidents on them.

I sighed.

If my mom’s mother had lived close, or for that matter been alive, I’d be having a much more conventional conversation about my experiences overseas and what I’d seen and what my plans were. But with Zebula you sort of had to deal with her eccentricities up front or else she’d stay sore with you for months.

“Where at? When?” she asked, coming out of her kitchen. She had a hex bag clutched in her bony old hands. Probably full of tobacco and lizard bones. I’d opened one up when I was a kid and it still made my stomach turn to think about it.

I looked to Rusty.

“Tomorrow at the church, around noon I think.”

He still wouldn’t make eye-contact with ol’ Zebula. Most folks thought she was a haint. Seeing what I’ve seen, I don’t know that they were far off. I also wonder now if maybe Rusty had a notion of what had driven Zebula batty.

“Big companies? Gerber? United Cutlery?”

“No, seems more like an independently run thing. Re-sellers and collectors.”

I got a bit of multiculturalism in the army. Or least enough to know that not everyone takes the same things for granted. For those of you who don’t know, a knife show is like… a bunch of people get a bunch of knives and put them on tables, basically. You walk around and you can buy one if you want. When I was twelve, I’d gone to a Knife Show and bought a sixteen inch Bowie knife in a leather sheath with a picture of a deer on it for fifteen dollars while Lee Greenwood was singing “God Bless the USA” on the church speakers. The seller hooked me when he explained that I was getting more than an inch of knife for my dollar, although the damned thing broke a week later.

It’s a normal thing if you live in West Virginia, okay?

“You’ll drive me tomorrow. I must prepare my things. Rusty, I have some pickled hog’s knuckles for you. It’s getting late, sleep here.”

Rusty and I helped ourselves to Zebula’s foodstuffs. She didn’t have a refrigerator, although my father kept trying to buy her one, so she had a tendency to have a lot of things that needed eating up. Zebula hadn’t ever had a regular job, so far as I know, so she traded in favors and food and she always had plenty of both held in reserve. Seeing as how I was her grandchild I got my fair share of each. An opportunity like this where you could pick and choose without her forcing some kind of snapping turtle something or other on you was a sacred event.

Rusty heated up something that looked like a bucketful of snot in the oven. Zebula had given in and let my father buy her one of those when she got too old to split wood for her Franklin stove. I took a jarful of snickerdoodles and some pie.

“At least she didn’t ask about your leg,” said Rusty.

We’d been concerned on the drive over that she’d make me strip in her living room and say chants over me.

“I think my mom may have come out and let her know she wasn’t supposed to talk about it.”

Rusty spooned what I’m pretty sure may have been part of an eyeball into his mouth and nodded.

“That’s right. It’s not something to be talked about. Much better to leave it inside making a mummock in your head. Show you’re tough.”

His sarcasm wasn’t hard to catch.

“Another few days, I think. But you won’t tell no one. You understand?”

Rusty nodded, grumbling in contentment with his stew the same way he’d done all those years ago.

I’d been home three days and that was as close as Rusty had come to asking me about what put the shrapnel in my hip even though I’d promised him I’d tell. My leg started to spasm but I ignored it. The same way I ignored how it flared up and twitched when I walked so I wouldn’t have to use a cane. Denial is a powerful thing. Not as powerful as what devils do to shut people up about them, but powerful just the same. Strong enough that I can force out this next part without my head hurting. It’s all just a story. It’s all made up.

Or maybe it isn’t.

Maybe you need to keep your eyes open and look out.

When I went to say goodnight to Nana Zebula she was reading out of one of her diaries. Up top there were three lines with bigger writing than the lines below. They said “Little People, Haints, Boogers.”

I like calling them Boogers most.

Because a booger is something you can pick out and flick away.

Making Deals with Devils $0.99 for Kindle

ShawShaw (who you may recall is one of the most heroic human beings who has ever lived) drew the following picture of the Booger.

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little things become big things