Doctor MacGyver

So, I had an ear blockage.

Big ol’ gunk of wax far beyond the reach of my fingers.

Gross, right?

It was even more uncomfortable than it was gross. It had me feeling like my head was going to split open. Made me feel like I’d never be happy again.

Something I should take to a hospital? Make a doctor scoop out? Get drops for? Well, boys and girls: fuck that.

I’m smart enough that I can make any stupid idea sound brilliant.

So I cut out the bottom of a bulb syringe, fixed it over the end of my shop vac and cleaned that sucker right out. It was heavenly.

This is the kind of character defining moment that caused NASA to give me a scholarship to go to college. Also, probably, the reason I was so culture-shocked by being around normal people who will admit to human frailty that I couldn’t stand to be there. But my ear is clean. How do you like them apples?

I am incredibly ill.

I am working on things.

Buy my eBooks

And my old BC Woods stuff.

Excellent Media I Have Consumed

TV

 

Galavant

Are you aware that I mythologize my own personal history and feel that I have fallen from a state of grace? That I sit for days on end with forlorn frown and yearn for times gone by when I was strong and mighty and felt the fire of being alive? That I have been brought low by lost love and have forgotten almost everything that makes me who I am?

Do you know that I am a man in need of a mission and a quest and an enemy to vanquish?

What are you… fucking new here?

So I love Galavant and have decided that the only thing that will ever restore me to my old powers would be a noble princess requesting my aid. You should watch it too. I’ve been watching it for a couple of weeks and still find myself singing “Gaaaalaaavaaaaaant!” at random times.

Streaming on Hulu.

Black Mirror

Are you aware that I am a cynical, broken and fucked up human being? That anytime I hear of someone doing something heroic I immediately try to debunk it, and if I find out it is real that I feel an emotion too big and powerful to feel all at once? That I always wait for people to fail so that I can sigh, affirm everything I believe about humanity, and continue to slink further toward the gaping abyss in my own soul?

Black Mirror contains stories of true human ugliness. Stories about seeing authentic, aching, human beauty and turning not toward darkness… but toward the gray. Toward the blah. Toward passionless haze and goo. Stories where you confront your demons and instead of fighting, you lay down and learn to live with them.

They’re fucking amazing.

Streaming on Netflix.

Books

I hate being happy, feeling positive or believing that anything I do will have a positive impact on the world. Which is why I despise when Bryn recommends good books to me and I actually like them. Every time I refuse to like something she recommends, I get another arguing point where I can say “See, the world is a shit place, full of shit people doing shit things!”

That way it’s okay to be a shut-in, reclusive misanthrope.

Well, she did it again. I’m sitting here, minding my own business, being the single father of five cats and waiting for death to hurry up and give me my final rest and then she shows me this link to a book by an author who was so uncomfortably handsome (especially for a science fiction writer), that I was sure his book was going to suck. So, I felt safe reading it. Then it was awesome. And I was like “Goddamnit, this is amazing.”

Red Rising

Is the story of a social uprising set in a space-faring society in our own colonized solar system. It starts slow, so I was hopeful that it was going to be awful. Then I could yell at Bryn and win all future arguments. While it does have a few problems, namely that a teenage man (the guy grows up on a medieval time scale, so he’s sixteen but a man at the start) has the natural aptitude to be a master politician and military tactician because drilling is very difficult. I’ve worked on a drilling rig, and I can assure you that is not true. So, I was prepared not to like the book and then…

This is a book that needs you to give it about a hundred pages of breathing room.

If you let it breathe, the book does that remarkable thing that books occasionally do, where the parts that aren’t as good become a part of why the book is great. Truly great. I ended up loving this book. You feel the oppression of a class of people. You take the “noble hero fights evil in the name of true love” plot and let it expand. You invest in the main character’s journey to hold onto himself while he simultaneously assimilates to the very Society that has oppressed his people. I felt like I was reading Pierce Brown find Pierce Brown. And there is a lot of good brilliant stuff there that I feel is just starting to be actualized.

Highly recommended.

Golden Son

The second book in the Red Rising Trilogy, Golden Son takes the story established in the first book and expands upon it exponentially. I really can’t stress that enough. This is an author who is getting better and better with each word put down on paper. And that is an uplifting and wonderful thing to witness, to the point that it almost makes me feel the world might not be such a shit place. Paradigms shifted again and again, but in a natural and poetic order that lent itself to a coherent story. The story was just masterfully done.

There’s a lot here, if you’re looking to sink your teeth into a new author and a new universe. I have a feeling Pierce Brown is going to get bigger and better with each new story. I’m definitely going to read the next one as soon as it comes out, and I’m honestly excited to see what he does next which is something I don’t feel too often.

So go read it and get out of your head for a while. Changing the world is hard, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Every now and again you find something excellent.

The Pancake Family

How’s my complexion? That pale, huh? Jesus, I bet I look like a ghost. I’m still in shock, I think. I feel like I’ve bled out two gallons.

 

I’m sorry to ramble. It’s just that I’m… what’s the word for it?

 

Detached?

 

Strange feeling. Seen it enough times in the field. After all I’ve been through, I figured if I was ever going to experience it myself then I would have experienced it by now. I feel like I’m floating outside of my body. Just cut the cord and I’d float away.

 

Did you see the crime scene?

 

INTERVIEWER: No.

 

Do yourself a favor. Don’t. Don’t even look at the pictures. Don’t even touch the file. You’ll thank me later.

 

I can’t get my knees to stop rattling. Is that why you’re holding onto your coffee like that? I’m shaking the table, aren’t I? Hold on a second, let me back up my chair. There, that’s better.

 

INTERVIEWER: Thanks, Hob. Can you confirm for the record that you’re waiving your right to an attorney?

 

No, I’m still not interested in an attorney. I mean, yes, I’m waiving my rights. Sorry.

 

INTERVIEWER: Are you sure?

 

Yes.

 

INTERVIEWER: Let the record show that Detective Hobson Milgate, retired, has waived his right to an attorney.

 

I won’t need a lawyer after the DA stops puking and considers taking it public. There’s no way they’re showing that to a jury. There’s nothing harder than mercy, sometimes. I did what I had to do. It just happened to be hard and ugly.

 

INTERVIEWER: Are you hungry?

 

No. No, I think I’d just puke again if you gave me anything.

 

INTERVIEWER: Are you ready to begin?

 

No, but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

 

INTERVIEWER: What led you to the crime scene on the night in question?

 

Would you believe I was planning a fishing trip before all of this started?

 

Nevermind.

 

It was a reporter. Name of Stacy Bamer. She contacted me a week ago by email and claimed she had new information on the Driscoll murders. I was the lead investigator and I’m sure you know the case had gone unsolved for twenty years. Case was cold as ice.

 

I thought it was a gag at first. You know how that can be. Most of the time it’s not even on purpose. Everyone thinks they know something that will crack a case wide open. The Driscoll murders were a big story around these parts. Over the years, I must’ve gotten a couple hundred fake leads.

 

I handed the investigation over to Detective Warren Caroll when I retired, but I didn’t want him to be bothered with any fake bullshit. I know he’s busy with all that new gang activity that’s going on. Since she contacted me, I figured I’d check it out for him as a courtesy. I wasn’t expecting it to go anywhere.

 

I met her for lunch at Puryear’s Cafe. She was a good-looking blonde gal, so she didn’t fit the typical profile of a hoaxer. Not that I put too much faith in profiles, after forty years. She also might have been one of those creepy gals that gets off on death. God knows I’ve dealt with enough of those.

 

She seemed normal enough, but I still thought she might be pulling my leg, or maybe she had been fooled too, but she had a file with her. It contained what appeared to be a confession by the Driscoll… well, he wasn’t a murderer was he?

 

I really do wish he had been, you know.

 

It would have been so much better for everyone.

 

INTERVIEWER: Can you please fill us in on the relevant details of the Driscoll case?

 

Let’s see, it would have been twenty years ago now. As I’ve said twenty years ago there was a disappearance. Thinking of all those years… I mean, twenty goddamn years. That’s a long time…

 

INTERVIEWER: Take your time, Hob.

 

Thanks.

 

[Throat Clearing]

 

The Driscolls were a family of six out in the suburbs. Upper middle class. Father was an attorney, mother ran her own business selling pottery out of the house. Even had her own kiln. Four children, all high school age and below. Good kids. Honor roll. No criminal records to speak of. The oldest son was caught smoking dope at his high school once, but nothing much besides that. Just the typical stuff you find when you look at people too closely.

 

They disappeared October 13th, 1994. No trace was found of the bodies. That’s why it made the press go crazy. You still see it show up on some of those unsolved mystery shows. A whole family disappeared and no one saw a thing. No one knew where they went.

 

A neighbor lodged a sound complaint, which is how we found the scene. There was an alarm going off and the neighbor called it in. Figured it might have been a fire. When no one answered the door, the patrolman went in to investigate. There were obvious signs of a struggle in the youngest daughter’s bedroom. The bed had been flipped over and the sheets were torn. We found elevated concentrations of carbon monoxide in the fabric of all the bedspreads except the youngest daughter’s. The alarm was a carbon monoxide detector, which is how we knew to look. The neighbor indicated the sound had been going on for over a day, and he’d been unable to get anyone to answer the door during that time. We also found several aluminum canisters and some hoses in a dumpster a few blocks away. At the time, we assumed the Driscolls had been gassed and disposed of at a different location. Excepting, of course, the daughter who woke up at the end and put up a struggle.

 

The investigation gave no leads. Of course, our first thought was that the father did it. We checked it out but he didn’t have motive. No leads to check out. Same with the mother. Surviving family checked out clean, too. The father had a few clients who might have had motive, but the means weren’t there. He was a divorce lawyer, but not for anybody who could have taken out an entire family without leaving evidence. There was a chemistry teacher who lived three blocks away and we investigated him for a while because of the canisters but he alibied out. Same with a dentist who lived nearby. The wife had an online flirtation with some kid out in England but nothing adulterous and he wasn’t even in the country at the time of the murder.

 

We settled, unhappily, on the idea of a random killing. Hardest pieces of shit to catch. We must have sunk tens of thousand of man hours into this case, tracking down leads.

 

The canisters had been stolen from a laboratory ten miles away. There was no security footage. We couldn’t find any leads on the thief. After more than six months the investigation went cold.

 

The Driscolls had been knocked out and abducted. Like I said, no one ever found the bodies. Who was to say they hadn’t just run off?

 

Until, well, you know the rest of that. I’d rather only talk about that once.

 

INTERVIEWER: What can you tell us about how the confession wound up with Miss Bamer?

 

She’d been following the case for some years, both personally and as a reporter. Like I said, it captured the imagination of a lot of people. Even seemingly normal folks thought it could have been aliens, ghosts or demons. Miss Bamer published a retrospective on the murders given the twenty year anniversary. It caused a renewed interest, which happened from time to time. As usual, I declined to comment citing lack of new evidence. I remembered her asking for my quote though, which is why I accepted the lunch meeting.

 

After publication of the article, Miss Bamer claimed that she had been sent a file. She wished to have me authenticate. The most pertinent part of the file was a confession. I assured Miss Bamer that such false documents are not uncommon, especially on older cases like this, and that I’d personally heard two dozen confessions of the Driscoll murders. She was insistent. Once I felt she wasn’t trying to pull off a hoax or getting off on the idea of talking about a murder, I agreed to the meeting.

 

She stated it had been mailed to her in the same envelope she showed to me when we met for lunch.

 

INTERVIEWER: Can you describe its contents?

 

Old newspaper clippings outlining the progress of my investigation. They seemed appropriately yellowed, so I’d guess they were from the trophy book of the perpetrator. There were also six photos alleging to be of the individual members of the Driscoll family, as well as several other photos of the… facility where they had been taken.

 

My hands won’t stop shaking, see? I’m trying as hard as I can and I just can’t make it happen. I’ll have to ask the paramedic for a sedative when I’m done with the statement. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, otherwise. No, I’m fine for now. I don’t want anything to interfere with my recollection for your recording.

 

Just carrying it around in my head is like… sorry, I’ll stay focused.

 

The photos were of the Driscoll family, of course. At the time I didn’t know that. The photos had aged poorly and they could have been of anyone. It was very hard to distinguish features. However, given the elaborate nature of the file I figured it did warrant a further look.

 

As to the confession letter, well, it was brief. It gave an address. That’s the first thing I noticed. I couldn’t locate the address online, which meant it had to be old. The confession letter said, ‘Stop printing lies. I never killed anyone. It just took a while to get them ready for breakfast.’ There was no signature included.

 

I just remembered something.

 

God damnit.

 

We got sent a breakfast menu a month after the disappearance! Someone had drawn a red circle around a picture of pancakes. The letter said ‘They’re not dead, they’re getting ready for breakfast!’ We put it in the junk lead file.

 

Oh God.

 

INTERVIEW: Detective Milgate, do you need a moment?

 

I’ll have to ask the paramedic for a sedative when I’m done with the statement. Can you, uh, make sure they’re ready with one? This is going to be rough.

 

We did try to track down that menu. We could never find out where it had come from. It wasn’t any place local. The identifying information had been cut out.

 

INTERVIEWER: Why did you decide to personally investigate the location mentioned in the letter?

 

I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a hoax. I still wasn’t convinced. I’ve had twenty years of people sending me fake evidence. I guess maybe the case captured my imagination too. I always imagined one day I’d think of something I’d overlooked and solve the whole thing. Felt unbelievable to have someone dump the whole thing in my lap. I needed to see with my own two eyes.

 

Miss Bamer had pinpointed the location with city records, but neither of us was sure if it was still there. It was an abandoned industrial building. The last time it had a valid mailing address was fifty years ago. It might have caved in for all we knew.

 

I think I also wanted to be the one to crack it. Whether or not it was dumped in my lap. That case has hung over my head for twenty years.

 

Miss Bamer and I agreed to meet there the following morning.

 

INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the crime scene?

 

Yes.

 

It was an industrial building, as I stated. Approximately one hundred twenty feet long by maybe forty-five feet wide. It was a wooden structure and at first the condition seemed to match the neighboring buildings, however I noticed the facade had been recently patched in a few locations. Further investigation also revealed that the entrance had been chained and locked. My understanding was that it used to be a sheet metal shop. At least… excuse me, is there a bucket? I might vomit.

 

Thank you.

 

We.

 

[Gagging]

 

Sorry.

 

I thought I was empty.

 

No, I want to get this done with. Then I’m going to want that sedative.

 

I could smell something from inside the building. Very faintly. I figured that would count as probable cause, not that I need it as a civilian, but you never forget the way a corpse smells. They were… bad enough they had that same smell.

 

I hadn’t forgotten how to pick a lock, so I let myself inside.

 

You know, I really do wish they had been corpses. I really do wish he had been a serial killer. I really do.

 

Do you believe me?

 

Please say you believe me.

 

INTERVIEWER: I do. Can you describe the interior of the building?

 

I’m trying to focus through this. I really am. I’m sorry, it’s just that I’d like to go to sleep after this for a very long time. Is the paramedic here? Is the sedative ready?

 

Thank God.

 

The warehouse had not been as abandoned as we were previously led to believe. The interior had a hallway with six rooms. The construction was old but visibly newer than the rest of the building. The walls between each room had been soundproofed. There were no windows to the outside or doorways between the rooms themselves. The only access was through the hallway.

 

I tried to make Miss Bamer leave at that point. The smell was stronger, inside.

 

The rooms, uh, the rooms contained presses. Hydraulic presses. Four foot by eight foot custom presses. I couldn’t figure out what they were at first, because they were hovering over what looked like hospital beds. There were IV bags in each room as well as other medical equipment.

 

That’s how he kept them alive for so long, of course.

 

I think I might be seeing black spots.

 

INTERVIEWER: Do you need to take a break?

 

The idea of having to start this again is worse than the idea of finishing it.

 

INTERVIEWER: Then please describe your next course of action.

 

The building was obviously an active crime scene. I had no doubt at this point. I was in the lair of what I believed to be a serial killer.

 

I tried to tell Miss Bamer to leave several times. She refused on the grounds that it would not be right to leave me on my own. There wasn’t much time to make an issue out of it. My opinion of her was that she was a bit nosey but basically alright and I didn’t think she’d be a liability if she stayed out of my way. I had to make a judgment call as to whether or not I should proceed on my own in case the family was somehow, impossibly, still alive and perhaps in danger or if I should leave and call for back-up. I had told my wife where I was going previously so I knew my absence would be noted and reported if the worst happened. Neither of us could get cell phone reception.

 

Sorry, I’m rambling.

 

It was then that I heard… not even a gasp. It was like a gasp, but not really. I don’t want to describe it anymore than that. There was a sound. It drew my attention further on. I had to act. That’s all the matters.

 

There were some stairs at the very far end of the warehouse descending into a basement. I told Miss Bamer to remain behind and pulled my service revolver. I had a flashlight on my person as well, and turned it on as I descended into the basement.

 

The basement had been hand dug. Maybe even over the course of the entire twenty year disappearance. I don’t know. The floor was dirt and there was a tunnel that retreated back far enough that it had to be supported with struts at regular intervals. When my flashlight first illuminated the… stack…

 

I wish they’d been dead.

 

I wish he’d been a serial killer.

 

INTERVIEWER: Please take a moment.

 

After I… after I recovered my first thought was ‘Thank God, they are all dead.’

 

[Gagging]

 

How am I supposed to go on with my life after this? I’m sixty-four years old for Christ’s sake. I’m not a young man who can forget things anymore. When you’re young you have this sense that you’re invincible and that you’re never going to die. I don’t have that to protect me anymore.

 

Look at me whining, when they had that done to them.

 

It’s my fault. I should have found them. Saved them, somehow.

 

INTERVIEWER: I’m sorry, Hob, I’ve got to ask. Can you describe the scene?

 

Yeah-

 

[Gagging]

 

I can.

 

I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. Hell, I still don’t. It was… well, it was a stack. Maybe two feet thick. From the stink and coloring it was obviously made of flesh. I thought maybe he’d hacked them up and stacked them up in pieces. That would have been bad enough. The first thing that alerted me to the truth was the eyeball. On the top of the stack was a perfectly round eyeball in the middle of a socket that had been distorted to the size of a saucer. That’s when I realized what I was looking at was…

 

Twenty goddamn years of torture, basically.

 

He had the entire Driscoll family under those presses for twenty years, keeping them alive on an IV drip, increasing the pressure on them so very slowly that their bodies had time to adapt, until they’d been flatted like… well, like pancakes. He squished them by about a quarter inch every year for twenty years. Then he’d pulled them out when they were too broken and wretched to move, without any chance of recovery and stacked them on top of each other. I’ve got no idea what for. I don’t want to know.

 

And I was still thinking “Thank God they’re all dead” when the one on top started gasping again.

 

INTERVIEWER: What did they say?

 

Nothing at first. It couldn’t speak without help. I think… it would have been Avery Driscoll. Not that I could tell much about the gender or the age. But the hair was blonde where there was hair. The head was a mess of scars. I think the son of a bitch who did this must have removed parts of their skulls. I’ve got no idea how he got their heads so flat, otherwise. Not as flat as the rest of the bodies but flat. Who the hell knows how their brains handled that. Their lips were punctured by teeth everywhere, after the presses had flattened out their noses, I guess.

 

Avery was fourteen when he disappeared.

 

I’ve stopped shaking.

 

Goddamn weird the way our bodies work, isn’t it?

 

What else?

 

There was a machine. A sort of pump. I followed a hose with my flashlight and realized everyone in the stack was hooked up to the pump. I don’t think they could breathe on their own, you see. Not after a while. There simply wasn’t enough volume for their lungs to inflate. There was some sort of opening cut right into each of their chests. There was a switch on the pump. I don’t know why I pressed it. I was in a panic. I wanted to do something. Maybe some stupid part of me thought that it I switched it on they would inflate and be okay.

 

I switched it. It increased the volume of air to the topmost hose. I could hear the pump working harder.

 

Which is when Avery Driscoll started to scream.

 

He begged me to kill him. He said other things too. He didn’t make much sense. He was in pain and I would hope he had gone insane several years previously.

 

INTERVIEWER: Oh my God.

 

My thoughts exactly.

 

I didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t stop screaming. I believe he was convinced I was his torturer. A closer look at his eye revealed that it was mostly a mess of white scar tissue. He was as blind as a bat. You know, I spoke with some burn victims once. They told me that they managed to find meaning and purpose again after a while. I don’t know how anyone in the Driscoll family could have done that.

 

I stated my name. I told him I was a detective. I told him I was there to help. I repeated it over and over again, knowing of course there was nothing that anyone anywhere could do to help.

 

Miss Bamer arrived, drawn by the sound. Before she saw the stack she told me that I had screamed and she had come to help, but I do not remember having done so. Nevertheless she arrived. Then she saw the stack and screamed but I was intent on Avery Driscoll. He was able to hear. He became lucid for a few moments. It was a strain to understand what he said, but I will never be able to forget it.

 

“Please kill me. It hurts. I don’t want to be a monster. Please kill me and tell my family I died a long time ago. I don’t know if they’re still looking for me. Don’t let them know what happened to me. Please kill me.”

 

He could still cry and he did, although his tear ducts were too deformed for it to be noticeable.

 

I should have forced Miss Bamer to leave. That is the only action in the matter which I regret more than failing to solve the case twenty years ago. Not just for her own sake, but for what she did next. I don’t think she could have wounded them anymore deeply if she’d tried. She took away the last comfort any of them in that stack had. You see, they had not been able to speak to one another for twenty years.

 

She said, “That’s all of them isn’t it? That’s the entire Driscoll family. They’re all alive in there. The whole family.”

 

For twenty years, each member of the Driscoll family had been unaware their fellow inmates were the other members of their family. They’d all been holding out hope their family was okay. All been dreaming someone out there loved them and was free from suffering.

 

Do you know what the screams of six people tortured over two decades, smashed down to a width of four inches sounds like when they’re all stacked on top of one another?

 

It sounds like the gates of hell swinging open.

 

INTERVIEWER: I think that is enough, Detective Milgate.

 

Not yet.

 

I shot them. Mercy is hard, but I owed it to them. I am the one that failed to save them. It only took one bullet to go all the way through. I emptied my revolver, though. To make sure they didn’t linger. To give them that final peace.

 

It was the only kindness I had to give them.

 

We left and called for back-up after that. Neither Miss Bamer nor I wished to remain with the bodies. I elected not to follow the crime scene investigators back into the basement. I asked if I could make my statement and leave and after one of them saw what I had seen they agreed.

 

May I have my sedative now?

 

INTERVIEWER: Yes… yes, of course.

 

Thank you.

 

Please show in the paramedic. I’ll roll up my sleeve. My wife has diabetes so I’m well aware of the routine. Oh, and please make sure you have the same courtesy available for Miss Bamer. She seemed to have it worse than me, after. Poor woman couldn’t even throw up or cry.

 

INTERVIEWER: Of course. Do you know where she is now? She told the lead at the crime scene she was going home but we haven’t been able to reach her.

 

Did you try the paper?

 

INTERVIEWER: Which paper?

 

The Daily World.

 

INTERVIEWER: Are you sure? There is no Stacy Bamer on staff with the Daily World.

Making it Fun… for Everyone

So much of what I write these days tends to be sad. Or in the vein of “You want to hear some hard shit? Well, I’ll fucking tell you some hard shit.”

What if it wasn’t sad, though? What if it was funny and sounded like I actually enjoyed being alive, instead of my steely attitude of “I really don’t care whether I live or die” which no one finds entertaining?

So I’m going to rework some of what I’m working on right now. My job is to entertain you, after all. Put that mission first and everything else will work out.

I’m thinking I’m going to bundle together three Tide World stories and make one of them a purely thrilling adventure. “The Last Land” is pretty fun but kind of bittersweet. “Nightly Knocks” is just melancholy although somewhat funny at the start. Maybe I’ll do a Tedi Hightower story.

Just so you know.

EXERCISE AND BEING SICK

I really need to choose a fitness level and stick with it. I either lay around for days on end, staring listlessly at the ceiling, contemplating eternity or I’m running daily half-marathons and doing kettle bells. Two days ago, I decided to run eleven miles and do kettle bells. Just did it. The next day, either because someone was sick behind me at work and coughed at me, or because my body was wondering what the fuck I was doing, I got sick. I drank a coffee and then my stomach felt like the swamp on Dagoba when Luke goes to meet Yoda. Lots of slithering creatures splashing around in fog. I didn’t puke my virtue of not eating.

I think I’m okay now, which will hopefully lead to me actually being productive over the next few days.

ADDENDUM TO PREVIOUS POST

There’s so much goddamn suffering in the world, isn’t there? So many bullies needing their faces punched in. Many more people needing strength so that they can stand up on their own again. Infinitely many errors and falsehoods that need to be exposed and corrected.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff about the need for forgiveness and sympathy. Forgiveness and sympathy are extremely important, especially for those who are our enemies. They also have a time and place.

Boko Haram forced a ten year old girl to be a suicide bomber.

Just a kid.

A little girl sent by a bunch of cowardly men to die.

It makes me fucking furious, and there’s nothing I can do.

I don’t really care about a lot of things. Most of the parts of me capable of caring are dead. I try to go through the motions when I’m in public, but privately I mostly just sit around, not knowing what the hell to do, because nothing feels like it matters. Except kids. I don’t have to pretend at all to get pissed off at bad shit happening to kids. Forgiveness and sympathy for people who hurt kids can come after they’re some place where they can’t hurt kids anymore.

Forgiveness, understanding and empathy can come once the people doing the harm are behind bars. I’ll spend the brain power trying to forgive and sympathize once they’ve been put down or stuck somewhere they can’t do harm. I don’t care how much some asshole’s knuckles hurt when he’s punching in someone’s forehead. There’s no reason good enough to hurt a kid. None.

Also, another thing about being big. Charlie Hebdo is big. I know a lot of people keep making a point about the cartoons being racist. Maybe there’s a point to that. I think I see where those people are coming from, and I still think they’re wrong. But there’s just no goddamn way you can say the people who staff that magazine aren’t big. Their latest issue has portions in it about forgiving the murderers.

That’s being big when it really counts, and I respect the hell out of it.

I also get angry when people can’t focus their anger on, at least what I think, are the right targets. I’ve been accused of having very low standards for what I think constitutes a good person. In my eyes, all you have to do to be a good person is try to do what you sincerely think is right in a way where you’re not bullshitting yourself to do what you wanted to do anyway. I can disagree with your beliefs and argue with you about that, but it’s all you’ve got to do. To me that means whatever you believe that there is at least a common ground where I can meet you to change your mind that isn’t just theater.

To me, beliefs are like bricks. I said that before, but I’ll elaborate. Some people use their bricks to throw at other people. That’s not believing in something. That’s believing at someone. Some people build palaces. Some people turn their beliefs into a wonderful piece of architecture to hold out the night. And I’m much more interested in what your palaces look like then what you used to put it together.

As a society we put too much importance on bricks, when they mean almost nothing to the final product. Of course, there are things I really can’t imagine you building anything good out of, like National Socialism, but that’s a bit different than where you rank ” Rugged Independence” versus “Social Welfare.” I’m rambling here.

I just feel agog when I see people, who must sincerely believe they’re doing the right thing because I can’t imagine why else they would do it, trying to justify Boko Haram. From the first moment, every other moment has been impacted by the moment before. For all of history, there’s been a history and people have been impacted by it. But most people don’t go out and blow up other kids.

To me, the sides have always been “People who want to quietly go about the Business of Being Alive” and “People who would like to measure their value by destroying things of value.” Sometimes those people get regular people all riled up and confused. Sometimes good people fight just out of confusion and miscommunication. But when someone blows up a kid? Fuck those people. We can all agree that people who hurt kids should be put down, right?

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough.

On the Importance of Tolerance and Kicking Ass

I hate when terror intrudes.

Never seems right or appropriate.

You shouldn’t have serious thought-pieces next to over the top jokes about the awfulness of Yellow Tail wine. Terror doesn’t care, though. Terror comes when it will. When you’re doing something else. When you’re trying to live your life. When you’re focused on your goals. Because terror wants you to stop thinking and start being afraid.

That’s the whole point of terror.

Terror counts on you being too surprised to respond. Then it counts on you getting into a habit of compliance. Above all, terror counts on you not looking too closely or fighting back. Until you’re so afraid and beaten down that you don’t even think about fighting back.

This is about the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

There are thousands of people who can explain the Free Speech issues involved better than I ever could. I believe strongly in Free Speech, but I’m not a practiced advocate. Neil Gaiman’s twitter feed has been an amazing stream of information and rational argument. So I’m going to talk to you about what I know. And that’s being afraid, being hurt and the use of violence.

First off, I want to talk to you about cowards.

Three times in my life, I’ve physically intervened in confrontations involving men battering women. Several times when a parent was abusing a child. Lots of people talk about what they would do in those situations, but almost everybody freezes up because they’re too shocked to respond to what’s going on until it’s over. There’s no shame in that. It’s natural. The only reason I respond when I see it is because it’s what I always expect to happen in the first place, so it’s almost a relief when it does happen.

It’s why I don’t too well in public and am useless at parties.

I feel this is related, because it comes from the same wellspring of human hate. You can’t do a lot to help most times. That’s just the way people are set up. You might be able to stop something for that one occasion but odds are it will happen again. That’s probably the most discouraging thing I know.

You’ve got to try, though. Even knowing that it probably won’t make a difference beyond that moment, it’s necessary to try. When you give up that’s when fear has won. When you give up fear reaches out and starts making territory grabs. When you give up that’s what allows the dark to smother the stars. One chance of winning has to beat out all the losses. We have to choose that stars redeem the night, or what else is there?

I’m a big man. I’m also strong. I wasn’t always. Once I was small and larger people hurt me. That’s why I know what cowards look like. I’m calibrated.

Terrorists are cowards.

I promise you that.

They’re the biggest cowards in the world.

I’ll explain because maybe you don’t have a personal history with violence.

I struggle to watch portrayals of murderers on television. I get uncomfortable reading about murderers. Almost every murderer in entertainment today is some deeply insightful and misunderstood artistic genius. Every murderer has got some valid point of view that justifies what they’re doing. Sometimes that ends up making a pretty great show.

But it’s also bullshit.

It’s not true. That isn’t real life. Even inside of the murderer’s head, it’s a damned lie. No one so mentally disturbed they don’t know right from wrong somehow magically does exactly all the things that a sane person finds horrific. No insane person has a completely sane vision of terror to make manifest. They do it on purpose, because they’re a piece of shit.

It has a sort of dark romance to it, though, doesn’t it? What terrible greatness allowed these few individuals to step into a darkness no one else would step into? What happened that made them do something so unthinkable? Aren’t they the real victims because they were so damaged that they saw no other recourse?

That’s bullshit too.

I’ve been beaten, I’ve been raped and I’ve known murderers.

Not one of them was acting out of a sense of injured artistic genius.

Not one.

Not even fucking close.

I’ll tell you what happened to make them do it. It’s always the same thing. No matter who they are or what they’re doing. It’s the same.

They felt small. Then, instead of doing something actually hard and making themselves big, they went out and decided to make someone else feel even smaller. When you’re small, making other people feel smaller than you is the only way you’ve got to feel big. Except being small and making other people feel smaller isn’t courage. Feeling big isn’t being big.

When I was a kid, my step-dad beat the shit out of my mom and I’d go up and try to stop it and get brushed aside. He’d laugh at me. How dare I, some stupid boy, think I could stand up to him? He was the biggest man in the world, didn’t I know that? I think he liked how small I felt, crying and telling my mom to leave and him knowing that she wouldn’t. Biggest man in his little world.

I’d criticize him or flip him off when his back was turned or just try to do things that made me feel like he didn’t completely own me, and he’d flip out and throw all my books away or throw all my food away or hit my mom to punish me. He’d wipe boogers on me, or chase me with used toilet paper, or fart in my face. The worlds of small men are too small to handle criticism. Make one joke and a small man’s tiny world can come crashing down.

When I was a man and my step-dad started beating the shit out of my mother again, this time I finally got to lay my fist across his jaw and have it mean something. I got to reach into his personal fantasy bubble, pop it, and pull him out. You want to know what the look was that went across his face?

I mean, other than the most satisfying expression I have ever seen in my life?

It wasn’t angry defiance about his world view being misunderstood.

It was fear. And complete and total surprise that someone hit back. It was the realization that he was a coward, had always been a coward, and that the real world was so much bigger than the world he’d lived in before.

In the world he’d made, there was no one bigger than him. In that world, he was the strongest and biggest man alive and my mom had wronged him and needed to be punished. In that small world he never even considered leaving and working on himself and becoming someone else. Nope, in that small world he got to sit and stew in poison and whatever he did to someone else was justified because there was only enough room for one person to hurt, and that one person was him.

It never even occurred to him that other people mattered or could hit back, so when I picked him up and threw him to the ground and pounded on his fucking skull until his eyes turned red with blood he was as confused and fearful as if I’d tried to explain quantum physics to him while transforming into a werewolf.

It was more than he could imagine.

I didn’t kill him.

I didn’t threaten his life.

I just hit him until he knew how small he was.

I keep going back to read that passage as I’m editing this and it makes me feel uneasy. It should. I don’t get off on violence even if it’s sometimes satisfying. But not everything that’s necessary to live is enjoyable. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Sometimes you especially have to do things you don’t want to do and wish had never happened.

Don’t think violence ever accomplishes anything? I’m glad you were so lucky. I really am. The world wouldn’t work if it was full of people like me. I don’t mind you thinking that. Except you’re wrong. It’s hard to accept it, but some people won’t stop hurting someone until someone else makes them stop. Some people won’t respect the word “no.” Go physically defend someone who is getting the shit kicked out of them by placing yourself in peril and tell me that it was wrong.

You can’t.

I don’t care how you vote or what God you believe in, every neuron, myelin sheath and electrolyte pathway knows that it’s right to defend the helpless.

Someone, somewhere has to be the one that draws the line and keeps it. And when they keep it, they should be thanked. Because that is a responsibility that all of us share and only some of us keep. Everyone always wants it to be someone else and that’s understandable. I don’t seek out trouble, either. I’m happy there are people who are willing to take that burden. But I think that sometimes that lets us forget that the price of living in a free society is courage.

I’m a weird guy. I will tear up if a bunch of people ask me how my day was or express that they care about me. I don’t know how to accept affection. I just don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t even like being happy, to be honest. I’m afraid of going to new places. Being in crowds makes me sweat. But if you use violence or threats of violence against someone who wasn’t doing anything to you? I will personally beat the ever-living fuck out of you. I have no problems with that. And if you’re bigger than I am, I will do the dirtiest most under-handed shit to make sure that you’re the one on the ground with their teeth knocked out wondering what the fuck just happened as I alternate between stomping on your genitals and punching your throat.

Sound harsh? It is. I don’t like it either.

But you’ve got to be brave when you don’t want to be, because otherwise it’s not being brave.

I’m done talking about cowards now.

I want to talk about violence and where it’s appropriate to use violence. Because that seems to be the thing people are struggling with today. That and speech. I don’t think the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are racist but that’s neither here nor there. I want to tell you how to be big. Really big. Hopefully, I’m calibrated for that too.

Everyone’s concerned about a misguided backlash against all Muslims. I’m concerned about that too, except not in the same way. I’m concerned because Muslims are under attack. Not from cartoonists. But from the same cowardly pieces of shit who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo massacre. So if you know someone who thinks it’s time for retribution against Muslims en masse, then they’re the same kind of human shit as the pieces of shit that shot up Charlie Hebdo. Just little men trying to make someone else feel small so they can walk away feeling big.

The first person killed in the Charlie Hebdo massacre was a Muslim cop walking his beat. A regular guy trying to do his job and do what was right. Then the pieces of shit came up on him and killed him. Remember that terrorist attack in a Pakistan school that some other pieces of shit thought would make them look like big men? Killed over a hundred kids and all those kids were Muslims. Remember those girls that were kidnapped and sold into sex slavery? All Muslims. More than half of all journalists killed last year were Muslims fighting extremism. Muslims are getting killed by these same pieces of shit all the time.

Everyone who goes to school, to their job, who laughs at jokes: We’re in this together.

That’s the real side we’re all on.

We’re all angry. I’m fucking furious, and I almost never feel anything at all. But we should all strive to be angry at pieces of shit. Our anger is an important tool and it has a proper place. Some pieces of shit happen to be Muslim. Some pieces of shit happen to be white assholes who are trying to blow up NAACP buildings. Yesterday, some pieces of shit blew up a car outside a police college in Yemen.

Pieces of shit don’t have a nationality.

I want to punch all of them in the snout, watch them cry while blood pours into a mouth full of their own broken teeth, and then drag them away to face trial because fuck them if they think I’m not going to do everything business as usual just because they’re a piece of shit. They don’t get a say. Pieces of shit don’t get to make me live my life any different. Pieces of shit get to be thrown in a cell as small as their world, so I never have to think of them again.

The conflict in the world has never been one nationality against another. It’s been small people trying to feel big using whatever means and excuses are available. The conflict has always been tiny people trying to make the world smaller. And that needs to be fought.

Pieces of shit are everywhere. I don’t care what color or orientation you are or what you think is the supreme power in the universe, we’re on the same side if you hate pieces of shit. If you just want to live a quiet, dignified life and leave the world better than you found it, you’re on my side. So, let’s punch these pieces of shit in the snout while they’re in the middle of talking about how fucking dangerous they are. I’m so goddamn tired of the celebrity status we give these fucks.

None of us are likely to be at a terror attack. They’re surprisingly bad at killing people. I missed being at the Gabby Giffords shooting by about twenty minutes because I was looking for some tape and I’d been up late reading a novel. I don’t know that I would have been able to do anything if I’d been there. But I think what we can do, day by day, is live our lives unafraid and when someone asks us to do something out of fear we can say no. When someone says they’re doing something in our names that’s done out of fear, we can say we don’t approve.

Fuck these guys, is what I’m saying.

Fuck fear.

Fuck letting them have a moment of our consideration.

We should be ready to kick ass if necessary.

This message has been brought to you by Tolerance and Kicking Ass.

I love you all.

UPDATE: I want to express a couple of things in addition to this. I see a lot of very well-meaning people afraid to call people pieces of shit because they’re worried that somehow they’re being racist by doing so. I also see a lot of concern for a backlash that doesn’t seem to be happening. I don’t know why we all get so worried about diversity and then forget that diversity exists within other cultures and inside of individuals within those cultures. For every kind of white person you know, there is a corresponding kind of Arab person. Just the paint job and the location change. Isn’t being unable to distinguish people from one another the fundamental definition of racism?

Ahmed Merabet, who I mentioned above, was a Muslim police officer killed in the Charlie Hebdo shootings. I respect the hell out of the writers of Charlie Hebdo. I respect the hell out of this guy even more. This was a guy who was trying to do his job and keep the line and ended up dead for it. He was attempting to defend people who were poking fun at his religion. That’s big, however you look at it. Bigger even than creating under death threats, which is also pretty goddamn big. So it makes me really goddamn angry when people act as though somehow hating the pieces of shit who did this to him is somehow smearing his sacrifice. It isn’t. This guy was a hero. I feel we owe him the respect to distinguish between him and the people who killed him, and get pissed at those who killed him, don’t you?

And lo and behold, the shooters turned out to be losers who failed at everything. Don’t think this excuses what they did. Or caused it. I know plenty of people worse off who would never dream of doing something like this. It’s just like I thought. Small guys who couldn’t sing, couldn’t hold down a job, couldn’t do anything except try to hurt someone else to feel big. Fuck them.

Every Day I’m Shufflin, Shufflin and It’s Okay for People Not to Love Me

The high of having sold some books has now ended (but thank you! And thanks to those who are continuing to buy!), and I am left in the dark desert of feeling like I never did whatever it was I did a couple of weeks ago that made me worthy of being alive. The great cycle continues, and now I’m hungry to prove myself again. The ravenous writing beast stirs and begs to articulate…  something.

Here are the somethings I’m trying to articulate.

The Commercial Fantasy Tide World Novel

The commercial fantasy novel is terrible, presently. We all want hot shit on silver platters, but so often we must settle for lukewarm diarrhea on paper plates. Perhaps with heat, compression and time I might transform that lukewarm diarrhea into something worthwhile. I feel solid edges are possible. Or so I hope.

The outline is about 12k words. I’ve also got some character bible stuff, but it’s all handwritten and covered in doodles. I’m in the middle of the second chapter (the first two chapters are waaaaay longer than I outlined and should probably be four chapters), and I think I’ve realized what was wrong with the opening sequence (there were about five things structurally wrong) and I think the only way I might be able to push through is to do what I promised myself I wouldn’t do and go back and fix the things I know are wrong. I’m worried they might compound, otherwise.

I think I might be okay with a shit middle and shit end if I have a solid start. I want a foundation to stand on, is all. Something where I can look back and think “Well, that part is okay at least.”

I’ll probably just go to the coffee shop with my power cord on Wednesday and channel my social anxiety into an epic day of work. I think the less time I spend on the first draft, the better. There will be lots of time to hate myself in the revisions.

Two Tide World Shorts

I have two Tide World Short stories (each one would finish out at about 10k words) in pretty rough shape, but drafted. “The Last Land” is about an old lady miner who is fighting in a revolutionary war in Shen Anrath and ends up having a sea voyage. It would be a prequel to a Tide World novel I’ll eventually write called “Fimble Famble.” The main character is Handsome Sue Stover. She’s the most fun I’ve had writing a character since Nana Zebula in “Making Deals with Devils.” She had fourteen children because she killed fourteen men in mining duels when she was younger and took an oath to replace them. She also talks like Joad Cressbeckler.

“Nightly Knocks on the Door of a Doctor” is about a doctor’s life in Tall as told through a series of vignettes of well, people knocking on his door at night. We follow him from the age of about twenty-four to eighty-four. I know how it ends. It’s a perfect ending. I’m still sussing out exactly what it means, though. I suspect it has something to do with that feeling you have where you love something a lot and work really hard to help it along… only it still ends up being something other than what you had hoped. And how it’s sad to not get what you wanted but also good and needful. I need to figure out how to show that, though.

Soul-Shaped Atoms

I think I might pump this out as a one-off story. It’s a love-story. I wanted to make people cry. It’s something I’ve been poking at very slowly for a few years. I was running the other day and it hit me what was wrong with it. I thought “Of Course!” and everything clicked together in much the same way everything clicked together when I added the video game storyline to “Rock Bottom.”

It’s about how love will make you do impossible things, especially those things that you’re terrified of that you never thought you’d be able to do. It’s also about how who you really are, who you can be, and who you seem to be are all the same person even if you can never quite believe that.

I just need to put the words down, now.

Magical Americans

This is the Gingerbread Cookie that comes to life and becomes the president story. It’s written as a presidential memoir. Sort of a cross between Forest Gump and the autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt. I want to just put it out a chapter at a time. Or a piece at a time. But another part of me thinks maybe that isn’t correct. I have several different bits of it written. It makes me laugh every time I work on it. Everyone I’ve sent bits of it too is surprised at how well it works. I can’t decide if this is something I’m supposed to write as a sort of conversation with my political beliefs in serial form, or something I’m supposed to put together like a manifesto.

My rules for writing it are that everything but his biology has to be super, super real and he’s only allowed to solve problems if he can actually solve them by being sincere, straightforward and honest. Any problem in American society you look at and think “If only someone would make a sacrifice, be earnest and put the nation ahead of their ambition” he can fix. His super power is earnestness and making people reach for their best self.

I’m using the Labors of Hercules as a rough outline. But basically, Mitchell John Ruskin solves all of the worlds problems (not really, but the world’s problems would not be solved without him and I’ll explain that in the story). I’ve often felt we live in a listless society without a vision for the actual future and that we’ve forgotten that strength isn’t necessarily in your muscles. I want to write this to provide that kind of vision. Or at least attempt to. The world decides its own vision of the future. But I think this is my piece of it. I can sense the edges, at least.

Two Reviews

I have two reviews I’m poking at as well. One is about an independent author named Will Wight and the other is about Larry Correia. It takes me a long time to write a review because I want to make sure I’m being 1. Positive and really championing the work because my mind is like a grind wheel and me not being positive is the same as me being cruel and 2. Clear and focused. One of the reviews I want to write touches on all of the cultural revolution stuff going on in the SFF community.

I really like SFF and even write it, but don’t consider myself a part of that community. I don’t have a problem with it, I’m just not much of a community person. I suppose hermits are always “part” of a community but not really in the same way that other people are and I’m still figuring out what I have to say about it that would also be helpful and productive.

One a More Serious Note

As I push myself more and more “out there” and try to recover from my breakdown a few years ago, I’m liable to attract some criticism. If you’re reading this you’ve probably been with me for a long time. I’d guess you like me (at least I don’t think I’m big enough to have “hate readers” anymore) and probably care about me. So it’s natural to get defensive of me.

I’ve seen this in a few places, so I wanted to say it now in case it becomes a bigger issue later. If someone says something negative about me or my writing, or even something that’s just lukewarm, please respect their opinion. I know I will sometimes get teary in public if someone asks me how I am, and that I sometimes have several day spans where I find it impossible to leave my house… but I don’t get that way because people are critical of my writing. I welcome criticism. I even kind of love criticism. One-star reviews look like legitimacy to me. One-star reviews mean someone took you seriously enough not to care about your feelings.

I respect that people might not like something I have to say, or something I make, or even me. Writing does not make me feel insecure or afraid. Even if it did, I don’t think it would be right to hold blame against a critic.

If you want to know what makes me feel insecure or afraid, it’s that I am incapable of trusting people I don’t know very well. I mean very basic trust like “I don’t expect this person to stab me in the face” trust. Even then, the thing that makes me freak out is more of an autoimmune issue of “I know up top that this feeling is insane, what is wrong with me that I feel it, will I ever be a normal person, how can I ever in good conscience have people in my life, am I going to hide who I really am forever” than the distrust. That has nothing to do with writing. Writing is one of the few ways I can interact with people where I’m completely confident and safe.

So I love you all, but I also love people who don’t love me.

Yellow Tail Wine is Weaponized Merlot

I have written a couple of million words in the course of my online musings. I’ve talked about a lot of things, from child-abuse to books. Perhaps, no words I have ever written are as important as these:

Yellow Tail Wine is poison.

Every few months, when I’m buying groceries, I’ll pick up some wine. I didn’t consume any alcohol until I was twenty-seven so it’s my way of being an adult and trying new things. I’ve lived a life separated from the mainstream and have only recently started to work against that. I want to try new things and make the most of my time on this rock. Yesterday, I bought Yellow Tail Wine.

I started to make some spaghetti. I got some Italian sausage. I got some sauce. I got some noodles. I was also cleaning my house and doing dishes. While doing these various chores, I had two glasses of Yellow Tail Merlot. Two glasses.

Just two.

While scrubbing some dishes, the world went a little bit… fuzzy.

I felt like I was experiencing diabetic shock. I don’t have diabetes but suddenly my brain went “It’s the sugar, you fool! V was right all those years ago when she made that bet with you! You should have listened! It’s the goddamn sugar!” My grandfather had diabetes. I haven’t seen a doctor in years. I sat down and prepared for diabetic coma and eternal slumber.

I’ve never been “poisoned in the sense that an evil Queen needed to get me out of the way, or a vizier became worried about my influence with the sultan. But now I feel like I know exactly what it’s like to be poisoned. Whenever I watch a spy movie now and the villain starts gloating that “Now you’ll never be able to tell your bosses what you have seen here” I’ll immediately think “I know that feel.” It was that awful. I was prepared for the end and and I couldn’t think clearly enough to figure out what to do about that. I didn’t even have time to reflect on my life.

I stumbled into my bathroom, because by striking my two working neurons together like flint-and-steel I got the idea that maybe if I made myself vomit I might survive this somehow. Well, it turns out I didn’t need to try that hard to make myself puke. I was waiting to burst and did so as soon as I got over the toilet. A big purple chili-chunk stream of Yellow Tail Merlot came out of my body with the force of a fire hose. I’d consumed two glasses of Yellow Tail wine. Through evil devil magic, I vomited up four bottles.

I posted about this on facebook and one of my good friends, who is shall we say not a stranger to alcoholic substances, said she’d had the same experience. Another person said the same. So it wasn’t me being a lightweight or having diabetes. It was just because Yellow Tail Wine, as all of its consumers know, is the Devil’s Piss.

If you put Yellow Tail Wine under a microscope you’d see that it is made of the fall of man, the void between the stars and the broken part of every human being that can be seduced by hate.

Do not ever, under any circumstances, drink Yellow Tail Wine.*

 

2014 Year in Review

What a year, eh?

The last couple of years haven’t been altogether “Good” by most definitions. “Shitty” might be more on point. But that’s not a helpful way to think about a life, especially your own. I prefer to think the last few years have been a learning experience, a transition that helped me grow into something stronger than I was before.

In any case, those years happened.

I am who I am now, and I am where I am now.

This year, or rather the middle of this year, was a turning point where I got back to being productive. Not as productive as I might have liked, but I’ve written things. Dipped my toes back into the water.

Let’s review some of that stuff, shall we?

Coin Toss

Posted 2/14/14

This was a post about my rock bottom day. The day I flipped the coin. March 11th of 2012 to be exact. I had to double check the year, because it seems like it was longer ago. My first thought was “no fucking way that was only two years ago.” Seems like that happened 20 years ago, but I guess it hasn’t even been three years.

Jesus.

I include it here because it was my most popular post before that book review that got linked to by Pat Rothfuss. I did it without any big push but it was shared by all of you all on facebook. It was the first time in a while that I felt like I’d said something that connected. So thank you.

A Love Poem

Posted 2/24/14

My first attempt at a love poem. I think it went well. I wrote it when I was feeling like I’d die alone, and after reading a novel’s worth of love letters I’d written but never sent. I tried to summarize all of those love letters in a few lines and made this. After I wrote this, three women asked me out and four others tried to fix me up with someone. True story.

I declined all of them, because I refuse to ever become involved in another online romance and I don’t know anyone that well in real life.

Another Poem

Posted 3/7/14

This is a shouty poem. For screaming at the dark. I wrote it, because I knew I had to make a choice to wallow in despair or get better. I was in the middle of my “Group of Sadness” where I’d go to talk about terrible things with other people who’d survived terrible things, in order to work on healing all of my bullshit. I’d leave those meetings wanting to cry my eyes out (sometimes I did, but only afterward when I was alone in my truck like a goddamn man) and feeling like I needed prayer except I don’t believe in God.

The line “when falls the sun and fades the light, I choose that stars redeem the night” occurred to me out of nowhere. I think that’s what God and prayers are for. To help you find another little nugget of shit to give when all the shit has been kicked out of you. I didn’t feel like I had a nugget of shit to give.

I wrote this to remind myself to keep on pushing. Keep leaning forward. Keep on reaching. It had to get better, eventually.

Just Finished Writing a Novel

Posted 4/3/14

This is in reference to Rock Bottom, the novel I completed the day after my birthday. It was a project I’d been poking at for a while. I’d had a very vivid picture of a man trapping himself in a hole in the ground and then wrote about two-thirds of a story about him getting into the hole. Then I realized that I didn’t know how to get him out.

I’d just had one of my best friends over for a visit and was feeling like maybe I’m not the piece of shit that I think I am. It’s good to have people you care about, who also care about you. I’d also just turned 29. I woke the day after my birthday, looked at my life, and thought “that’s about e-goddamn-nough of that, thank you” and went to Starbucks.

I realized the person in the bottom of the hole was me and had always been me and what would save him and move the action forward would be his art. So I wrote 12k words and by the end of the day I had a first draft. I cut a lot of it later. But that was probably one of the best days of my life. I felt invincible for a week after. I gave my therapist a hug and she commented that we might be ending sessions soon.

Of course, that feeling of “being on top” only ever lasts for about two weeks and then I need to go prove myself again.

My Shitter Pipe Broke, but it did Not Break Me!

Posted 5/27/14

Life has a way of intruding, doesn’t it?

I don’t like to go outside. I could live my whole life in a dark room with a book and a laptop. Then my shitter pipe collapsed and I had to fix it. So I had to go talk to people. I had to get a shovel. I had to get a pick-axe. And then I had to go outside and dig.

It was pretty disgusting and after I finished, I was so sore I couldn’t move for an entire day. But I did it. I pushed through and eventually I could run my water again and flush my toilet without fear of some terrible regurgitation.

I also graduated my “Group of Sadness.” I never missed a session. That was the hardest goddamn thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was actually nice to go there toward the end, but for the first few months it was like walking into a dark alleyway knowing in advance that someone was going to beat the shit out of me.

But I did it.

A Cup of Joe Abercrombie

Posted 7/27/14

I like my friends to be different than I am.

I am a morose, sullen recluse. Sometimes I make jokes because jokes are the anti-body that gets generated when you are a morose, sullen recluse. But I’m not outgoing and while I’ll make jokes about someone if I feel it serves some kind of point, I do have a very strange sense of propriety where I try not to bother people on a personal level. Unless it seems absolutely necessary.

I wrote a several thousand word short story once about the adventures of Joe Abercrombie’s penis. I felt this was okay because it was positive and I was trying to get people to read his books and because it was awkwardly funny. Mostly, I felt okay because I never had any intention of bothering Joe Abercrombie in real life.

Then my friend Bryn came along and asked him to meet us in Seattle without telling me she’d done so. Then I couldn’t figure out a way to make it not happen that wasn’t a huge dick move. Then Bryn yelled at me and my therapist yelled at me for making things awkward that didn’t have to be awkward. Then I met him and he was super nice. Like “maybe he’s trying to charm me into a cult” nice. And I did not puke all over him or anything, although I did get a bit weird when were taking pictures and again when I was actually at the signing.

He also gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received, which is that you should make an outline because when you’re in the middle of drafting and you hate yourself and the world and the imaginary world in the book then at least you’ve got a plan to get through. As he’s my favorite living writer and I got the visceral sense that he also actually hated his drafts, then I figured it wasn’t so crazy for me to feel the same way.

Zoe Quinn Once Did Something Nice for No Reason

Posted 10/7/14

I hate twitter and most of the internet, these days. Everyone talks over everyone else, no one is listening and everyone thinks they’re the “chosen one” who is going to beat someone over the head with their righteous justice. Including me, which is something I’ll never be able to forgive myself or the internet for.

Well, without even wanting to know about it, this thing called “GamerGate” happened. And as much as I tried to avoid hearing about it, it was everywhere. I don’t even play video games. I kept trying to read through my tweets to find interesting articles about new discoveries. Except it was always there like a canker sore on the tip of your tongue, irritating the shit out of you whenever you speak.

Everyone involved seemed like this larger than life force let loose to destroy the internet… until I realized I actually sort of knew one of the principle characters. And that she once offered to buy a Christmas present for my niece without receiving anything in return. Just to be a nice person.

So that humanized the shit out of the whole thing.

This Pretzel is the Worst Lasagna Ever

Posted 11/6/14

You have Bryn to thank for this one too. This was a conversation I’d had with her via Messenger that I was going to keep to myself. I don’t write a lot of “thought” pieces these days. Then she yelled at me. Then I wrote it. Then I got an enormous traffic spike. So that was nice.

I read a book about someone who was, more or less, me. I loved it. Some people didn’t like it, primarily because it wasn’t a different book. And I thought that was crap and made a joke about it.

Or, in the words of a person who commented about it on reddit:

I’ve watched pornos with less knob slobbering than that blog post, holy shit

Which did make me laugh pretty hard, to be honest.

Merry Christmas and Thanks!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

And thanks to you all, I’ve managed to move over a hundred ebooks in the last few weeks! And that’s at a fraction of my old site traffic! I never even moved that many when I was getting thousands of unique hits a day, so take that image-of-my-past-self-being-better-than-me!

I’m not going to do any kind of shameless self promotion for a while now. I figure your eyeballs deserve a rest. I’m also exhausted by it and I’m sure everyone else is too. I’ve got several short stories in the works. I’ve decided to put a lot more focus on quality rather than quantity. Still chugging along on that first draft of the commercial fantasy novel. I know I’m going to have to toss the first third but oh well. It’s just dreadful right now but I’m in the boring set up part, so I think when I have more clarity about what I’m setting up it will be more exciting.

I’m revamping the site. This should load better on all the different things people view websites on these days. Going to act like I give a shit. Because I do. Also working on my touching phobia in therapy, so that’s fun. Lots of good things coming up.

Merry Christmas again! Hope you enjoy yourselves! And have a happy December 25th if you don’t celebrate!

Regards,

Andrew

The Day my Fourth Grade Teacher Dropped Dead… and No One Cared

It was a chilly autumn morning. I wore a puffy red coat that made me look like a blood-soaked marshmallow, and a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small. My only possessions, as I opened the door to the front office, were a gaudy fantasy novel with a hot pink cover entitled “The Heart of Valor” and a sacked lunch. I was then, and in some ways, still am a walking bully magnet.

I was tardy, as usual. School had started fifteen minutes ago, so Mrs. Raburn made sure to give me a full dose of the stink-eye before she signed my slip and let me go to class. On average, I got to see Mrs. Raburn about three out of every five school days. She used to ask me why I was tardy, until one day, I responded with “because I’m too young to drive.” For some reason, she still felt compelled to lay on the stink-eye.

I was eleven, so it’s not as if I had any great expectations for the day. I figured recess would be a plus. I was finally going to show that little prick Sean what happens when you use Black Magic on the four square court, when the server explicitly states that Black Magic is illegal. I wondered if maybe I could get half of Kyle’s Twinkie at lunch, but other than that I had just intended on going with the flow. I certainly wasn’t expecting to look up during silent reading time to find that my teacher had dropped dead of a fatal congenital heart defect.

Everyone was already reading when I arrived, so I quietly took my seat and read “Heart of Valor.” I found that it was as crappy and engrossing as I had expected it to be. As I read a story about heroes, completely unlike any of the people I had grown up with, I gradually lost all sense of the world around me. For the fifteen minutes of reading time, I was gone from the room, and therefore I missed the tragedy. Somewhere between the hours of nine and ten my fourth grade teacher’s time simply ran out.

Tick.

Tock.

Stop.

I have no recollection of the sound his body must have made when it hit the ground.

Finally, the murmurs became too loud for me to ignore and I looked up from my fantasy world. Mr. Greeber was laying face down on the ground, his arms close to his sides, in a position I knew at once was not natural to a living being. I realized that everyone else had been staring at him for the past five minutes.

Seeing my fourth grade teacher laying face down on the ground, his death murmurs still rattling away, was “interesting.” It was so interesting in fact, that for a brief while, I could do nothing but sit at my desk, hold my book, and think about just how “interesting” it was. My stomach, like a fist, clenched in on itself. I was simultaneously overcome with the desire to vomit and pass out. I felt like a balloon tethered only loosely to the earth. At any moment, if the wind became strong enough I would simply float away. I dropped the “Heart of Valor” on my desk without realizing that I was no longer holding it.

For the few seconds that everyone sat there and did nothing, time distorted beyond all meaning. It flowed like molasses. It petrified and caught us like bugs in amber. That being said, in reality, I probably only sat there for thirty seconds. Inside of my own mind, however, I had been looking at him for the lifespan of a universe. His hair, not that different from the carpet his face was in, seemed to lack the luster it had held when he stood.

I was just about to get up and get help, when someone else beat me to it. I was relieved. I had no idea how I was going to go articulate to someone that Mr. Greeber had fallen over and stopped moving and that he needed help. It’s not something that four years of grade school had prepared me for.

Mr. Magellan, the teacher next door to us, suddenly ran in and started to shout “Michael! Michael!” Mr. Magellan was white eyed with panic when he finally shouted “GET UP! YOU’RE SCARING THE CHILDREN!” Mr. Magellan was so wise. What we really needed at that point was some full out screaming to shock the terror right out of us. At this point in time, none of us had moved for about seven minutes. Looking from side to side it didn’t seem like anyone was going to either.

Following Mr. Magellan very quickly was Mr. Seabold, our principal. Without yet having taken any of us out of the room, Mr. Magellan and Mr. Seabold turned over Mr. Greeber, in an attempt to “give him some air.”

I would find out later that Mr. Greeber had some sort of rare heart condition that more or less caused all of his blood vessels to explode. I could see every vein on his face, as if it were drawn on with a purple marker. His eyelids looked like they had been stuffed with cotton balls, and his entire body had taken on the color of a plum. Yup, he was one dead son of a bitch all right.

For a long time I had trouble remembering exactly what he looked like. In sixth grade it came back to me.  I saw the latest Star Trek movie and nearly shit my pants. Mr. Greeber looked like the Borg Queen from “Star Trek: First Contact.” Exactly. When that satanic bitch made her first appearance on screen, my heart actually skipped a beat because the resemblance was so strong. I didn’t know if that woman was going to try to assimilate me into the collective or teach me long division.

Now that we’d gotten a good eyeful of a death and gore, Mr. Seabold decided the best thing to calm us was to shout again “EVERYONE OUT OF THE CLASSROOM! NOW!”

I can’t really blame the guy. This wasn’t a situation they cover in your Masters of Education. So, after having seen my teacher drop dead in the middle of the class, been yelled at, and wondering exactly what the fuck was going on, I was hustled out into the hallway with everyone else for about five minutes before another teacher thought to grab the class and take us into their room.

It was decided the best way to help us cope was to call our parents and send us home. While we waited we were given crayons and paper. I drew a dead body. Mrs. Raburn gave me another full dose of the stink eye. I think now that I’m an adult I can safely say that Mrs. Raburn was a pretty shitty school secretary.

Predictably, I was the last child to be picked up. My sister had had Mr. Greeber the year before and when she heard something had happened to him she decided to freak the fuck out about it. This was typical Rachelle. My parents were with her trying to calm her down. Not that I knew any of this until later. They left me to color while they took care of the chosen one.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I had just seen my fourth grade teacher fall down dead in the middle of class. Not heard about it: SEEN it. And my parents were taking care of my screaming sister. I only became aware of the fact that my parents were in the building when I heard my sister yelling at the top of her lungs. It’s a very distinct sound. I hope you never have to hear it. It starts out like Roseanne Barr’s voice, a little whiny but perfectly tolerable. Then at some point it gets under your skin and worms its way into your sensory neurons. From there it begins a vicious attack up through the spinal chord and into every part of your brain that registers annoyance, hatred, and disgust.

Upon hearing it, I sighed.

YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!!! HE WAS MY FAVORITE TEACHER EVER!” then, because my sister is a conniving evil genius she screamed “I WANT TO CUT MYSELF!” I put my plump cheeks into my hands and sighed more deeply. I hate my sister. I finished the puffy eye-lids on my picture as my parents told my sister that they would buy her something really great for Christmas so that she didn’t have to cut herself anymore.

That’s when my Dad’s head peaked into the room where I was sitting and coloring a dead body. I excitedly raised the picture I had drawn to show my father what I had just seen, but put it down again when I saw him.

He was loudly chewing a piece of bubble gum, wearing a grease stained sweatshirt, and scratching his left ass cheek with his right hand. Why he scratches his left ass cheek with his right hand, I do not know. All I know is that he looks very much like a crab on its back when he does.

He did the fatherly thing at that moment and offered me some words of comfort in the form of his cocking back his head in a signal meaning that he had places to go and people to see. I put my crayons away, and threw my picture in the garbage before going with him. It wasn’t a good picture anyway.

While my sister cried and moaned at the tragedy that had befallen her, my Mom and Dad looked at each other in order to decide who was going to be elected to “deal with this shit.” Meaning, who would get us something to eat, drive us home, and turn on the television. No counseling or anything like that. Counseling is for pussies.

I’m fucking busy, Gary. I don’t work in a saw mill. I have to be at work. I’m in MANAGEMENT.”

GODDAMN IT, Darla! I have to run the fucking cut-off saw.”

My sister continued to scream and wail at the top of her lungs. Her voice is like mustard gas. There’s no such thing as acclimation. I looked at her ruefully for a moment, and caught her eye. She stopped crying just a bit to stick her tongue out at me and wink before she resumed.

As there was never really a quiet time during my childhood, I learned to ask questions even if people were yelling. “Umm… Mom and Dad, is Mr. Greeber going to be okay?” I had my backpack held in the front of me, as a shield between myself and my parents.

They both looked at me, and in unison said “He’s dead” before they went back to arguing over who was going to drive us home.

While I had been relatively certain that Mr. Greeber had passed away, there had still been a tiny sliver of hope that my magical vision of childish immortality might survive the day intact. I was wrong. I started to sniffle a little. Then I began to full out cry.

My Dad realized that I was crying when he heard me pop a snot bubble with one of my heaves. He then did the correct thing by turning away from my mother long enough to get before me on bended knee and, grab me by the shoulders, and say “Don’t be a pussy, it’ll be okay.” He gave me a hard, consoling slap on the back, and then he started to argue with my mother again.

I guess he lost, because he ended up taking us both into his car.

In my father’s defense I would just like to add that he did take me to McDonald’s. I got to eat about a third of my Happy Meal. Before I could finish, my sister ate all of hers and wanted more. My Dad took it from me and gave it to her to “shut her up.”

That night I dreamed of my dead teacher and awoke in a cold sweat.

I hate my sister.

Lots of thoughts on this one. Too many to write down. This is the first story I ever wrote that was autobiographical. I was twenty-one. I’ve got problems with it as a result. It’s raw. It’s unpolished. I’ve got myself standing in the center of the universe.

It’s also a very honest examination of my thought processes at that time. Conflicted thoughts on that. All of this stuff is harder to talk about now because I’m more aware of how these experiences have shaped me. I sometimes think about who I would have been if none of this had ever happened. It’s like being haunted.

There’s about eight hours left in the promotion.

Dunce Upon A Time: The Complete BC Woods Non-Fiction