I Am in a Movie, Starring Me.

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about people. Working in sales and customer service for the bulk of your life is an excellent way to study what makes people tick, what motivates people, and why they are the way they are.

However, as much as I enjoy people-watching and observing, at times I will turn my observational eyes inward and observe myself. In the process of doing so, I have come to the conclusion that I am the star in my own movie.

You don’t need to look any further than to see me when I am in my car and left to my own whims and ideas to find proof of my decidedly self-centered and wholly ridiculous belief. When I am in my car, I am king of my universe. I control the velocity, direction, and interior temperature of my speedy steel land rocket and that is enough for some, but not for me. No. Not for me.

The reason I feel like I am a star in my own movie is because I can also control the sounds that fill the air with the ridiculous thumps of bass or shrieks of guitar and drive accordingly. Because that’s a movie. Soundtracks make or break scenes, take the action to a new level of awesomeness, and make many soil their skivvies when employed well. As it is with driving for me.

I joke with friends and family that my car is more of an investment in my mental health than an investment in transportation, although I am not really joking. I am never more at home than when I am behind the wheel. No matter my mood and no matter the day, I have a playlist and a full tank of gas that speaks to it.

Case in point, this morning I was feeling empowered and walked to my car with an extra degree of swagger, which means something like this will be playing in my Fortress of Automotive Solitude:

Like it or not, it’s got a raw power to it. Sure, it sounds like a choir girl singing vocals over machine gun fire during a seven car pile-up, but that’s kind of my point. It sounds like something you’d expect during a car chase in the most awesome movie ever made. I am in that car chase. I am that driver.

Give this a listen and tell me you can’t see a stubbly-faced Bradley Cooper, driving in the rain, scruffy hair matted to his head, possibly blood oozing from his bloody knuckles as he slow-mo maneuvers through the downpour en route to pummeling his last enemy and then collapse from his injuries. *roll credits as the police and ambulance lights flash over the scene* To answer the question you’re undoubtedly asking in your head right now, yes. I am comparing myself to BraCoops. At least I am when I hear that in the car and I put my aviators on. Boom.

Give either of those songs a whirl when you’re in your car and see if you don’t feel instantly more cinematic. You will. In the meantime, I’m straight-arm steering my way around my suburb listening to this. Because this is my movie. 

The Christmas List

I have an excuse for not posting much within the last few weeks or so (OK, maybe more than a month) and I think it's a good one. 

I've been hard at work on my first collaborative effort with a fellow author and friend, L.B.Scott. We were talking about our writing and discovered that we both enjoy one another's writing and the styles are similar enough that it might be fun to try a collaboration. 

After a throwing a few ideas around and shooting most of them down, we decided on a Christmas story. In talking it turned out that both of is have a deep fondness for the Christmas season and the feelings it brings, so here we are. Presenting our first collaborative effort and launching it out just shy of a week before Christmas. 

It's an original short story that we wanted to write for all ages and one that people would want to share with friends, children and loved ones. We hope we have achieved that to some degree, and we hope you enjoy it as well. 

It will be up on Amazon shortly, so please  check it out and give it a read. From our families to yours, we hope this holiday is filled with happiness and joy. 

Here it is:

 Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

And here's the hook:

It's Winter, 1957. The snow is piling up, the days are getting shorter, and children all over the world are eagerly anticipating the night when Santa comes to visit. Except for the children at the Happy Heart Orphanage. No, the children there don't expect visits from the Man in Red. The Matrons who run the orphanage make sure each child there knows that they don't deserve such love from Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.

Santa or no, Johnny is determined to make this year's Christmas something special for the rest of the children. While executing his Christmas plan, he is caught by the Matrons and thrown in the scariest part of the house on Christmas Eve. Will Johnny escape? Will the orphans of the Happy Heart Orphanage ever have a true Christmas?

Find out in this heartwarming story of friendship and the Holiday spirit by L.B. Scott and Douglas B. Wimmer.

Today's Accomplishments

The water rolls slowly toward me, then bounces off my body and the next wave rolls in. The faucet drips every few seconds; a repair I haven’t fixed despite it being leaky for a matter of months. Years even.

The stubble on my face is soothing as I run my fingers across it, although those miniature tree stumps will be gone in a matter of minutes when I drag the razor’s edge over my skin. It’s not that I like shaving, but I don’t like myself with a beard either, so I lather up and let it sit. I have no idea if it really does anything to let my man mane marinate before the shave, but I’ve got a few minutes so why not, right?

There are a few things I could be doing rather than sit in my bathtub, but I’m not worrying about them today. No. Not today.

I have a few books to finish writing, I have a few books to finish reading, and I have a few items that need editing but I will not do any of those. I have a blog to update, a faucet to fix, and as you already know: a beard to shave. That’s six things and I only plan on doing one of them. Lazy? Maybe. So I’ll end up doing two of them, because I could always post this rambling train of thought online for my blog. In fact, I will do that. So count that as two out of six. I accomplished 33% of my goals today. It’s not even daylight and I have yet to put on clothes so I’d say I’m winning at life today.

VICTORIES FROM THE BATHTUB!

A tiny black spot invades my vision. From the relative darkness of my watery wonderland I spy a minuscule harbinger of doom. It could be a trick of the eye. My laptop is bright and the room is dark, so there’s really no reason that it could be anything but- dammit it IS! It’s a tiny little vampire of blood and enjoyment: the mosquito! First ants and now this? Why has God forsaken me and Mother Nature allowed to have her way with my humble abode? I am but a man, soaking in his circa 1994 bathtub, and waxing poetic about how much stuff he’s not going to get done today.

Why now? It’s coming up on the holiday season. How evil are these little gnats of destruction that they don’t respect my sovereignty?!

Oh crap! He’s coming at me! Dive! Dive! Dive! He’s powerless under the water! Maybe it’s a she… it doesn’t matter! I can’t laptop while underwater so if you’ll excuse-

. . .

I’m back up. After staying under the water for as long as my untrained lungs could muster (around 20 seconds) I’m above surface. I wish I had bothered to lather up my hair before dunking myself into the warm watery bastion of safety; that would have been fortuitous. Productive even. No matter now.

It’s on the tiny Wal-Mart table I use at my tubside. Does it think it’s a thing it can bite? You can’t get blood from my $15 table, you stupid bug! Hahaha you think you can get blood from- OH! It’s airborne again! Come at me needle-face! I’ll drown you in my bathtub of emotions! I’m ready…

It lands again on my Wal-Mart table.

 The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

I will no longer be a victim. I refuse to let this insect dictate my life. I will not sit back and wait for his or her inevitable attack on my person. I will go on the hunt! The hunter is now the hunted! How does that feel, itty bitty Hans Gruber? I will not tell you where the detonators are. But I will smear your blood… although I suppose it’s not his blood, because when you squish mosquitoes it’s usually someone else’s blood, but anyway. I will smear the blood inside of you and you will no longer disturb my baths!

I catch him as he takes flight, no doubt aware in some animalistic sense that the tables have turned, and I pulverize this tiny flying needle of a bug. Restoring calm to the world once again.

Make that three things I've accomplished this morning.

As writers, why are we so reluctant to seek out and find other good writers?

When I first started on Twitter, it was to find an audience.

I was writing, albeit not volumes, but I was writing and was eager to show at least a few people what I had done in the hopes that they might gain some enjoyment out of it. (If you've read my blog posts going back a year or so you already know the ups and downs and how that went.)

Once I had a handful of followers, (Whom I religiously followed back, because how else does one get followers, right?) I expected to have people finally checking out my work and gaining an actual reader base. To my surprise, that was not the case, at least not to the level I was expecting.

I didn't let it get to me, because I had heard these things would take time to happen. People would find my work, enjoy it and hopefully tell other people about it. In the meantime I was told that it would be best as an aspiring author to build an "author platform" so when my books are finally published I'll have a built in audience. That makes sense and it would help me kill two birds with one stone: build a platform and get more people whom I could entertain with my wordery. Perfect.

As the numbers on Twitter grew, I found a few bright spots. Made a handful of good friends. Even one or two great friends whom I still have even now, so there are definitely some things I can't complain about. What I didn't find was more people checking out my work. Even with the increasing numbers, I found it rare for one of them to have read my work or even be aware that I had a body of work to be read.

Why is that? As writers, we want people to read our work. Even if not for monetary reasons, just to have our unique voice heard. So why are we so unwilling to check out another writer's work? We shout out our blog posts, we participate in hashtag events, we posts links to our books, and we post links to our websites in the hopes that people will just READ what we have to say or buy our $.99 book... but by and large we don't provide that same courtesy for others in our same position.

What good does it do to have 3000 followers when they do nothing but post links... and never follow others' links? What good does it do to pour your blood, sweat, and tears onto the page, edit it, shop it or push the self-publish button... if you, yourself do not do what you hope everyone else will do and JUST F**KING READ? Take a chance on the product of someone else's blood sweat and tears and buy that book, read that blog post, visit that website. Why? Why is that so difficult for so many of us when it's what we really want from everyone else.

As a collective we love to post quotes. We love short snippets of wisdom from those who have been where we are and have felt our struggles. Not a day goes by that I don't see a quote that flies in the face of our reluctance to read others' work:

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
"Good writers read. Great writers read a lot."

There are countless more, but the point is, we, as writers, can change it and we should change it. We should stop acting like writership is a one-way street. You're not Stephen King. He writes a book and once it's published, it just immediately starts crapping money. That's not you. You aren't that famous. Even still, though he could just treat it like a one-way, he doesn't. He is a voracious reader, and advocates that everyone who wants to write needs to read.

So I propose after you read this (Thank you, honestly and sincerely.) that you go out into the world and DO SOMETHING about it. If you want to find that treasured book that no one else knows about; that undiscovered masterpiece that touches your heart, soul, and mind... take a chance! Click on that link and if it interests you... buy that book, read that post, visit that website. If you find someone has created something amazing, then tell them. Then tell someone else. Tell EVERYONE else, because that's what you, as a writer, hope they will do when they find your work.

I Never Wanted to Write a Book.

I am neck deep in writing a trio of novels right now. (No, it’s not a series.)
However, I haven’t always had the desire to write. I don’t know what that says about me in general, but I do take note of so many writers, both young and old who say they caught the writing bug early on in life and haven’t stopped since. I had no desire nor drive to write a novel when I was younger, and why would I? I had bigger dreams, higher aspirations, and I was going to be rich and famous. What would I be rich and famous for? Well that depends on what stage of life we are talking about.

Plan #1 – Become a famous musician


When I was a young boy of eleven years old, the plan was to be a famous singer/songwriter. I even went so far as to record myself singing into my little tape recorder the somber and forlorn lyrics of an prepubescent boy. I do not know where this tape is. However, I do remember a snippet of the lyrics, because genius never forgets genius. This was an actual line from the song that was to make me famous:

Because I’m lost!
Lost in a twisted maze.
Without anyone to hold me.
Or to love meeee!

At this point I think it’s best to play it safe and tell the women in the reading audience to refrain from mailing me their undergarments along with proposals for marriage. This isn’t me anymore. And eleven-year-old boys still think that girls are mysterious cootie factories, so if someone had tried to hold me or love me, I’d have ran as far and as fast as my scrawny boy body could take me. Needless to say, despite my best efforts to write the quintessential love ballad, my musical career never took off. This was due in large part to it never leaving my bedroom. I would revisit this plan again in my late teen years, as I sung lead in a basement band who covered mostly Green Day and The Clash; once again destined to fail as we never left the basement.

 
Plan #2 – Become a famous movie director.


When you think about ultra-famous people who have more money than many small countries, it’s hard to not think about celebrities in general and for me, directors specifically. Some would lump my #1 plan and #2 plans together, but no. Those people are wrong. Becoming a famous director is an entirely different animal. Not only do you get to showcase your vision and tell stories (either your own or those of others) you get to tell those spoiled primadonna actresses and pompous actors what to do every day all day. Heh... and get paid literal truckloads of money to do so. Where’s the downside, right?

With those thoughts of grandeur in mind, I set out to film my first indie film on my parent’s Hi-8 camcorder. Somewhere in a shoebox at my parent’s home exists footage of me recording while driving in my parent’s car, recording nothing more than the streets in my hometown. That’s it. First-person shakycam view of the quiet suburban streets clipping by at 35-45 MPH. I don’t even think there are any people on the streets I filmed, because who walks in the Phoenix area? No one, that’s who. Next, I took to my ancient computer and overlaid ridiculously crude credits over the riveting passing-street scene. Yes, in my teenage mind, my first thought for my epic movie was to do the credit roll. Given, this may have been yet another exercise in vanity, as every single credit had my name by it, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve known me for very long.

Again, this avenue would not yield the fruits I so desperately wanted. 

Plan #3 – Become a doctor

Clearly my attempts at fame were not going so well. It was at this point I decided that becoming a medical doctor was the way to go. If I couldn’t have fortune and fame then I would settle for fortune. It’s no secret that medical doctors in the U.S. are highly paid, particularly if they are in a specialized field. This plan differed from the previous two in that it would rely more on learning and acquiring a certain skill set and applying knowledge to achieve the desired goal. I’m a smart guy, that much I know. So my thought process was that as long as I apply myself, I could make it. There would be no need for luck or waiting for my “big break” because I would create my own opportunity. At the same time I would be enabling myself to help others in the most fundamental of ways: improving their health.

Those who know me for any length of time know that I am always looking to help others. Whether it be by being there for someone emotionally or lending a physical hand, I try to find opportunities to do so. I love helping others in any way I can, so this method of making a name for myself would allow me to become relatively rich (not small-country rich, but not-wanting-for-money rich) while sating my need to help others. As I went through the required coursework to prepare for the MCAT and continue on to medical school, I would find this road to success would not come to fruition either for a number of reasons I won't delve into now.

Plan #4 – Just write

Until I started this blog post today, I didn’t think my past aspirations held any bearing on where I am right now. Right now I want to write. I truly enjoy writing and the sense of accomplishment it provides, and I also enjoy entertaining others even if I am not aware of everyone that sees or will see my work. I love creating characters, places, and stories to transport myself along with the reader to a different time and place. Come to find out those are not too different from the other three goals I had. 

For Plan #1 and Plan #2 one of the goals was of course to have mountains of money; however, the underlying theme was one in which I could entertain and provide something memorable for others. Even though I wouldn’t get to yell at actors and actresses, I found that I could position my story’s characters to do what I want and say what I want them to say. Do they do it all the time? No. There’s definitely some improv going on in my writing, just as there would have been had my Hollywood dreams been realized. Sometimes my stories veer off course, but as the writer, director, set designer, and producer of the whole show, I can correct if needed. It’s not so different it seems. 

For plan #3, the underlying goal of being well-to-do was secondary to helping people once again. Making people happier, helping them to enjoy life more, and being a force for good in their lives is what a good medical professional does. 

In my mind, this is also the same goal I am striving for now (minus the fame and riches) when it comes to writing. I should have caught the idea sooner, because others were more than encouraging when it came to my literary skills, but my fame-seeking self wasn’t having any of it at the time. I’m now older and relatively wiser, and here I am, in the middle of three books and trying to make a name for myself in the world of books. I’m a late-comer, but I’ve never felt like an outcast, and for that I say thank you.

Barry and Godzilla

Barry rubbed his bald head as he looked at the long checklist of items to pick up from the grocery store and then glanced out of the living room window at the glory that was his 1976 Scout II. He usually reserved Godzilla for more exciting adventures than getting foodstuffs from the local Fry’s. However, the weather was a beautiful sixty-seven degrees and as he spent the morning removing the white steel top, he felt it would be a shame not to take the girl out for a spin on a day like today. 

He pulled on his boots and grabbed the keys from the hook near the kitchen whiteboard. The unique tinkling sound of antique keys alerted his wife, Marie, of his intention to fire up the green beast.
 
“Ahem.” She announced her awareness of his escape attempt.

“Hey honey. Heh. I- was just gonna go grab some stuff from the store,” he said with a nervous smirk. 

“Oh. How nice! What kind of stuff?” she said, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Uh, groceries. I thought I would-“

She cut him off before he could finish. “You were going to go grocery shopping for me?”

“Yeah. Of course! Anything that I can do to help ya know.”

“You’re going grocery shopping in Godzilla . . .”

As he scanned her expression for approval, he rolled the keys in his hands, the metal of the keys clicking against the old keychain. “Heh, yep! That’s was what I was thinking.”

“Is it going to make it?” she chuckled. She uncrossed her arms and returned to the stove, where she was cooking up a fresh batch of the children’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. 

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been working on her all morning. Of course she’ll make it,” he assured her as he inched toward the door. 

She smiled and stirred the cheesy meat and pasta. Implicit approval in his book. 

He trotted out the front door and climbed into the rusty piece of America’s automotive glory days. He inserted the worn key into the ignition and turned. The solenoid clicked, the battery gauge twitched, but the starter remained silent. Barry turned it back and then forth again. Again, nothing but lonely clicks came in reply. He tried a third time. The starter replaced the solenoid’s click with the sound of an angry pit-bull springing to life, spitting clouds of carbon monoxide out of its twin tailpipes, and earning a grin from Barry’s chubby cheeks.

Barry donned his aviator sunglasses, shifted the nearly forty-year-old transmission into first gear, and drove the three miles to the neighborhood Fry’s Grocery Store. Within thirty minutes, he emerged from the store and loaded his prized booty into the open back end of Godzilla. He slipped back onto the tattered driver’s seat upholstery, turned the ignition, and the old truck growled to life. 

He shifted the transmission into reverse and toed the gas pedal, but the engine did not respond with more than its regular idle-speed burble. The once cool weather turned warm as the sun beat down on his hairless head. He toed the pedal again, this time noticing the pedal was resting flush with the floor. 

Something was not right. 

He pushed the gearshift into neutral, turned off the engine, opened the driver’s door, and crouched down with his head under the dashboard. The gas pedal moved freely forward and back, exposing a cable that once extended from the carburetor under the hood to the pedal itself. Frayed and black, the cable was now useless as was the gas pedal. 

Thinking himself defeated and his frozen goods becoming less frozen by the minute, he turned the engine off and dialed AAA. While on hold, he rummaged through the glove compartment. His eyes glimmered and he squealed as he withdrew a spool of car stereo wire he threw in the glove box months ago for a future project. 

“This is AAA, are you in a safe-” came the woman on the other end as he clicked the end button.

Barry popped the hood, sprang over the side of the vehicle with his spool of green wire in hand, and located the throttle lever. Threading one end of the wire through the hole in the lever, he ran the remaining wire around the windshield into the driver’s side and fashioned a loop for his hand to grip. 

Saying a silent prayer in his head, he closed the hood; leaving just enough room for the bright green wire to actuate.

He closed his eyes, turned the ignition, and the engine began its familiar low rumble. Wrapping the loop of wire around his left hand, he pulled toward his chest. The engine roared and rumbled in approval of his ingenuity. 

Barry triumphantly drove his makeshift grocery-getter home, resembling an old west stagecoach driver, and holding the reins of his pungent green stallion full of groceries as he went. 

“Everything go okay?” Marie asked as she helped him bring the groceries in from the truck. 

“Of course! I told you she’d make it!” 

 

So about my overwhelming self-confidence...

It's been said that I am kind of a cocky bastard.

I like to think I'm simply confident in my abilities and not ashamed to show it. My friend and fellow writer, Mia, has commented on my unauthor-like self-assured demeanor on more than one occasion. Until recently (read: yesterday) I was under the impression that my healthy ego was a relatively new thing. Something that I developed as I grew and matured as an adult. 

While digging through some old boxes my mother had set aside (that my father was about to toss), I found evidence to the contrary. I present to you the cover of what may very well be my first published work. (Publishing in this instance means simply putting into a book-like form.)

Nope. No confidence here. 

This autobiography was written when I was a proud 8 and a half year old. I'm sure that yesterday was the first time I have seen it since then. Even I am amazed at the ridiculous amount of ego that is displayed on this cover. A cover that I illustrated with remarkable skill for such a young guy, if I do say so myself. 

I mean- wow. 

After the Doug W at the top and the name of the assignment, it's a tour-de-force of boldness. Take note of the way I placed my own (much more appropriate) title in the middle of the page and relegated the instructor-supplied title of All About Me to the upper corner.

I even drew a big gold star on the front to further establish my cover dominance emblazoned with an emphatic "Awesome!" on the side as if that weren't clear enough already. At this point the ego train is well off it's tracks so why not draw a picture of myself with a unequivocal BEST scrawled diagonally on the page, the "t" even touching my cheek as if to point directly to the BEST! In case there was any doubt, I made sure to indicate that the BEST one was "me" with an arrow. 

The rest is just further establishing my awesomeness with a gigantic hand displaying the universal sign for "number one!" in the bottom center, and a numeral 1 (written backward to show the "establishment" that I won't be controlled with their "rules") to drive the point home.

I don't remember being this confident at age 8.5, so I couldn't tell you why I was this way. I am a middle kid, I was always kind of introverted and quiet, and so to see such bravado in my young self is surprising and hilarious. 

I write this and share it with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I had an inordinate amount of confidence then, and I do have confidence in myself and my abilities now. However, I spent my junior high and high school years wallowing in insecurity and self-doubt just like most of us did.

I had a good laugh at my own expense when I found this and I thought you might get a kick out of it as well. If not, then just write me off as a cocky little bastard and I'd be fine with that.

Bathroom Bobby and the Kingman KFC

For the most part, my trips to Las Vegas are pretty uneventful. It’s a long, boring drive that I can almost do with my eyes closed; which explains why I have the time to create dramatic readings for my site from profoundly silly literature. Like this one. The level of crazy I am driven to on these trips is evident in the tone and timbre of my voice in those recordings. I do this trip twice a year. I’m used to it, boring as it is. 

When I tell people it’s a business trip to Vegas, many give a nod and/or a nudge and say something like, “Business, eh? Riiiiiight. Vegas for business.” 

Yep. Twice a year, the clothing industry (the one I currently work in) holds a massive group of trade shows there and I am required to go as part of my company. It’s anything but glamorous, despite the locale. I am in meetings from 8am to 1pm and then on the show floor from 1pm until 6pm, and then many times I go to dinner, then go back to work on presentations and spreadsheets until I crash at around 10. No time nor energy for clubs or shows or even gambling. It’s why Vegas is forever ruined as a vacation destination for me despite visuals like this:

It's like Megamind and the T-1000 had a fashion-forward child.

Or this:

Because even furry-legged, light-up-shoe-wearing, nearly-topless girls need their pizza and Diet Coke.

The interesting part of this trip was in a KFC bathroom. An experience I will never forget, no matter how much I would like to.

It’s not unusual for me to stop in Kingman for dinner on my trip up to Sin City. As a matter of fact, I stop there more often than not just because it’s usually close to dinner time when I blow through. It’s simple timing for the most part. 

Having imbibed the bulk of a 44oz Dr Pepper Polar Pop plus a can of Monster energy drink, my bladder was beyond full. So full that all someone would have to do is accidentally bump into me as I made a break for the bathroom, and the need to reach the bathroom would have been negated as I would have burst like the world’s largest toddler on his first day in real underwear. As such, I pulled into the parking lot of the Kingman KFC and knock-knee pinch-walked my way through the red double doors and back toward the men’s room as fast as possible. 

I made it, but with only seconds to spare. The men’s room was dirty. Toilet paper in various states of use were strewn about the floor and nearly everything looked . . . wet. The toilet appeared to have been cleaned on a quarterly basis and I was greeted by a mirror with graffiti, telling the reader that a former patron had conjugal relations with another patron’s mother in this single toilet/single sink bathroom. I have no reason to doubt that the tale on the mirror was a true one. The room couldn’t have measured more than 5 feet by 6 feet, leaving little room for much more than what was already in it.

I turned to lock the door and was faced with yet another sign. This one was handwritten on a recently moist piece of paper and written by a staff member. In bold letters it admonished, “DO NOT LOCK THE DOOR! IT WILL NOT UNLOCK AND YOU WILL BE STUCK IN HERE!” Having no desire to live out the rest of my days in a Kingman KFC water closet, I left the lock undone.

Needing to ease the immense pressure on my bladder but well aware that sitting down on the provided seat may give birth to a new catchphrase: “What happens in a Kingman bathroom, stays with you forever,” I chose to use my God-given right as a man, and remained standing as I relieved myself. No sooner did I start my business when the handle on the door started turning. 

I assumed whoever was attempting to use the bathroom would open the door a bit, see me in there shaking the dew from my lily and close the door out of embarrassment. He did not do that. He only paused for a second before opening the door all the way, coming into the tiny bathroom with me, and closing the door. 

I froze. My entire body tensed as this man stood two feet behind me. What the hell was he doing? This is against every single tenet of the Man Code! You stay as far apart as possible when someone else is draining his pipes. It’s a Man Code Felony to do otherwise! 

I didn’t dare glance back for fear that my worst assumptions would be confirmed and that he’d be standing behind me, trousers around his ankles, with a grin revealing all three of his teeth.  With a snicker, he’d lock the permanently locked door, and then it’d be all over. Twelve hours later, the police and fire department would resort to using the Jaws of Life to pry the door open and find my battered and used remains.

Desperate to vacate the den of filth and fear that the tiny room had become, I finished my turn at the toilet early and eschewed the sink (hygiene be damned) before bolting from the bathroom door and making a beeline for my car. I’ve never been more thankful for a key-less push-button start on my car. I punched the button and was out of the parking lot, back on the road, and away from Bathroom Bobby in a matter of seconds.

That may be my last time stopping at the Kingman KFC. Or . . . Maybe I’ll just hit the drive-thru next time. 

I Am Bigger Than The Burj Khalifa (And I Hate Ants)

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep.

I crashed at around 11PM, optimistic that I’d get a decent night’s rest and wake in the morning at the usual 5AM as rested as that time span would allow. Instead, my eyes popped open at 2:30AM and I found myself unable to convince my brain that it needed to shut back down.

Rather than toss and turn all night in an unsleeping stupor, I slid out of my bed and went downstairs to the main room. I fixed myself a snack, sat down on the couch and fired up my Xbox One with Witcher 3. 

As I played what is arguably one of the best games I have ever played, I felt a little bit of a pinch on my knee. I didn’t think much of it until I felt a similar twinge of pain on my other leg. I paused my game and reached down to see if there was something actually there or whether my sleep-deprived mind was messing with me.

I was surprised to find a tiny dark ant on each of my legs. The little bastards had bitten me. Being a member of the top of the food chain and peeved that such small creatures would even try to nibble on me, I squished them both then put my feet up on the ottoman to prevent further breaches to my personal sovereignty.

After a little while I grew drowsy and decided to try my hand at sleeping again. I headed upstairs and as I lie in bed, my mind was drawn back to those ants (or more exactly, former ants.)

Proportion-wise, I am a gigantic mountain of a being compared to those ants. I am, by height comparison alone, approximately 592 times bigger than either of these little ants that bit me. Using another comparison just to drive the size disparity home, a being 592 times bigger than myself would be 3650 feet tall. The Burj Khalifa in the UAE is only 2700 feet high. This fictional me would be just shy of 1000 feet taller than that building, which is the tallest in the world, currently.

So now that all of that is established and you are up to speed, one question still remains.

Why in the blue hell would an ant bite me?

Now before we get too far, I know that ants aren’t the brightest species on the planet. But they aren’t the dullest either. They have a complex hierarchical structure, they can lift and transport many times their size and weight, and they create complex tunnel systems where they live, work, and reproduce.

Why are they biting me?!

They can’t possibly think an opponent the relative size of a skyscraper is something they can take back to the anthill. I’m clearly not a viable food source. I’m not even very sweet. As a matter of fact, I’m as close as you can get to being a human salt-lick. I’m beef jerky level salty. I may be a pretty sweet guy, personality-wise, but even mosquitoes say no to a drink at the DBW Cafe. It's science. 

So why are the ants attacking me?

Surely in their tiny little stupid ant brains they don’t think they can slay me and then invite their little family of millions of ants to each take a piece of me. Maybe they do though . . . maybe they are searching for the weak spots in the human anatomy and testing them. Like the raptor in the original Jurassic Park. However, unlike the Clever Girl Raptor, I don’t think these little asswipes of the insect kingdom remember much of anything like that.

It makes no sense why they’d dig their pincers into me!

Screw you bug! You little waste of protein and… and… FLUIDS! Yeah, so you bit me. Guess what I did? Took my thumb and forefinger and popped your little exoskeleton like a tiny little gross piece of crap grape! Three grapes actually. Head, thorax, abdomen: all less than a speck of dirt between my fingers. That’s you, ant. You’re dead. Your stupid little mission to scout out and collect food ended in you smeared on a deity-sized thumb. How’s that feel? Was it worth it? WAS IT??? Hope you took a good chunk out of me because it was your last frikkin' meal! HA! Judge, jury, and executioner right here!

HAHAHAHAHA I GOT YOU ANT! I GOT YOUUUUUUUUUUU!

So… in any case. I bought some ant traps...

 Eat LIQUID DEATH!

Eat LIQUID DEATH!

The Waiting Room

Jake fidgeted in the vinyl chair of the doctor’s waiting room. The magazines strewn across the table were old and outdated, an unfortunate byproduct of the digital age. In an era when people read more than ever, they do it while staring into screens they move using their thumbs rather than turning pages.

    “Fulmer? Jacob Fulmer?” the nurse called as she swung open the door to the examination rooms. Jake lifted his hand and flashed a crooked smile before pushing himself out of the chair and following her through the doors. “Please, this way,” she said, leading him back into the rooms. The smell of disinfectant permeated the air, reminding him of weeks spent in the hospital before his mother passed away last year.
 
    They reached the end of the hallway of closed doors and opened the last one on the right. Sitting on the standard butcher paper was his wife of two years, Lexie. Despite her best efforts to hide them, saline trails outlined by mascara betrayed the fact that she had been crying. The doctor sat expressionless on her stool, typing on her laptop until she saw Jake enter the room with the nurse. 

    The doctor closed her laptop and placed it on the counter beside the sink. “You must be Jacob. I’m Dr. Shane.”

    “Yeah, that’s me. What’s- what’s wrong, doctor? What’s wrong with my wife?” he replied, a twinge of nervousness in his voice.

    “Alexis? Do you want me to tell him?” Dr. Shane asked, removing her glasses and placing a hand on Alexis’.

    Alexis’ voice hitched and tears resumed their course from her eyes to her jawline. “No.” She sniffed. “I can tell him.”

    “Baby, what’s wrong? Tell me,” he pleaded, moving closer and cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand, brushing her lip with his thumb. 

    Her voice hitched again as she tried to speak. “I’m- I’m pregnant Jake.” She tried to smile, but looked into her hands, ashamed. 

    “Pregnant?” he said, the words feeling foreign on his tongue.

    “Please don’t be mad, Jake!” she sobbed, the doctor rubbing the back of her hand. 

    “Mad? Why- Baby, why would I be mad?”

    Alexis’ sobbing abated and her lips trembled as she tried to compose herself. “Because now I’m gonna be fat and ugly and you won’t want me anymore!” she exclaimed as she broke down again. Jake wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into him as she buried her face in his chest.

    “I’d never leave you, baby. We’re made for each other, remember?” 

    “Even if I get fat and ugly?” she said, sniffling what mucus hadn’t already escaped to his shirt and looking up at him through blood-shot eyes.

    “Even if you get fat and ugly,” he replied before adding, “Now . . . if you get fat, ugly, and mean. Then all bets are off. Ain’t nobody got time for mean, baby.”

    She laughed and he wiped her tears away with his hands before pressing his lips to hers.

 

Things I Learned In College Writing Classes

About six months ago I decided to take a few college writing courses to gauge my skill as an untested writer. Having never had my work evaluated and graded in any professional manner, I took the classes to see if I really had the chops to make it as a writer or if I was just delusional in thinking I had any business in the realm of writing. 

These two courses, Creative Writing and Fiction Writing, were the first courses I had ever taken that focused exclusively on the craft of writing. I was nervous because despite my outward confidence level being high, the inner me whispers, "Everyone else was just being nice, these professors will laugh at the crapfest you call writing! BAHAHAHAHA!" 

Although I learned much about the things I was doing right or wrong when it comes to grammar, structure, and the art of writing fiction, that is not what this post is about.

Before I started these classes, I hadn't ever been tied to a deadline. Never had someone said, "You must sit down and write X number of words about X topic and you must submit it by X time." No, up until that point in time, writing for me was a thing that I had to feel "inspired" to do. It was an endeavor in which if I didn't "feel" the words flowing through my mind and hands, it just wan't meant to be. In effect, I'd give myself an out if I wanted to dink around on Twitter, play games, or Netflix the night away because I just wasn't inspired to write. 

My thought when I turned in these pieces on a deadline was that they were going to be terrible. The low marks would prove that inspired and quality writing couldn't be held to any arbitrary time frame! I needed the proper drink, the proper snack, the proper lighting! I needed to be seated at my desk, with the right music on, and wearing my writing sweatpants to create these worlds! Without all of those elements in place, writing... would simply be sub-par if not impossible. Expecting confirmation of my belief, I waited for my papers to be graded.

The grades came back. With instructor comments.

When the first grades were in the 95 percentile and up. I wrote them off as flukes. The instructors' notes were complimentary, but what does that even mean on an introductory paper? Surely they were just playing nice to keep students enrolled long enough to get past the drop/add deadline so their class size would remain large. 

So I turned in more papers, sure they were garbage and would be graded accordingly. Because deadlines

They came back with similar scores, with comments much more enthusiastic in addition to being helpful. 

As it turns out I am not delusional with regards to my writing ability. I have a strong skill set that I can now verify with scrutinized and graded coursework that says as much. The professors (one of whom has a masters degree in Creative Non-Fiction, a field I did not even know existed until I saw her credentials) are now friends who are active in encouraging me to get out there and write all of the things. They have had no problem telling me where I need to improve and where I excel, but enjoy my work on an academic as well as a personal level and that's a good feeling. After finishing the course, I now consider one of them a friend, and am unsuccessfully attempting to convince her to start up on Twitter.

As I wrote under soft deadlines each week, I found that the idea that I needed the proper time, place, and inspiration to write was obliterated. When the deadlines came, I had to turn these pieces in, come hell or high water. (Though to be fair, I did turn in a couple of things a day or two after deadlines.) 

So what does that mean to me now? Well, it means that I need to change my mindset. I can absolutely write whether I'm in my suit or in my jeans. I can most certainly write when I don't have my refrigerated Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups and ice water. I can definitely write when I'm having a bad day. I can write whenever and wherever I choose.

If I can crank out 16,000+ words on a schedule and deadline in a matter of weeks as I did with these classes, I need to stop making excuses and as my good friend Debi would say, "finish that shit!"

Shall We Play A Game?

“Please!” she pleaded as he held her hands behind her back, pushing down on the handcuffs. She arched her back in response; he drew a deep breath and filled his nostrils with the scent of her perfume. She bent her knee up and then drove her four-inch heel backwards; missing his knee. She crashed, face-first, into to the floor of the luxury apartment. 
 
Her arms wrenched back as he stood above her, his hands still gripping on the cuffs that now cut into her wrists. She shrieked in pain as he chuckled at her attempt. “I’m sorry but you did that to yourself,” the man said, wiping sweat from his forehead with his hand then wiping it across his grey button down shirt, leaving a wet smear in its wake. As she flailed her legs, her short black dress crept up toward her waist.

“Please! Just let me go,” she begged, her face still buried in the carpet; her wavy red tresses splayed out around her head. “I won’t tell anyone, I swear!”

“Oh, of course you won’t. I will,” he purred with a voice as smooth as soft Italian silk.

He released his hand from the cuffs, her arms dropped onto her back, and he circled around to her face. A professional shine gleamed from his leather-soled shoes; nary a single scuff visible on the stitched leather upper. He used the tip of one shoe to push the hair from her face. She flinched and tried to turn away.

He laughed again, louder this time. “I am not going to step on your face. Who wants to see that? That wasn’t one of the requests. Well, not from tonight’s audience at least.”

“What!? What audience? What are you talking about?” she said, her chest heaving and her head pounding; keeping pace with her racing heart as she wriggled on the floor. 

He placed an electronic tablet a few feet in front of her head, then clamped his leather-gloved hand on the nape of her neck and climbed onto her back. Keeping one hand on her neck and twisting the other’s fingers in the curls of her flame-colored hair, he yanked back. She screamed as the tension drew her head up to look at the black screen. 

He leaned in, his mouth millimeters from her ear. “Them of course,” he whispered, his voice both sinister and sultry. “Say hello to the fans,” he urged before lifting his head and speaking to the screen. “Everyone, say hi to this evening’s entertainment.” He wrenched her hair back. She winced and yelped. Dozens of small green squares lit up on the device, more than sixty in all, blinking in response.

“Help me!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, her tears mixing with mascara and eyeliner, blackening her eyes. The squares turned a unanimous red. 

He released her; her chin hitting the plush carpet with a thud. “I’m afraid they aren’t going to offer any help tonight,” he said as he sat on her back. She flung her legs backward again, this time her stiletto heel scraping down his back. A trickle of blood underneath his grey dress shirt. A dark crimson flower spread underneath the material. He arched his back, grunted in pained surprise, and chuckled. 

A handful of the squares went from red to green.

“Oooh, she’s a fighter.” The squares flashed a unanimous green. “What say we tie our little tough girl up and play, hmm?” he teased.

He untied the silk tie from his neck and planting a knee in the small of her back, wrangled her flailing feet; subduing them with the pink makeshift restraint. He unbuckled her black heels and removed them from her feet, throwing the heels to the side. 

“There,” he breathed, “that’s much better.” He stood and turned, announcing, “On tonight’s marquee is a triple feature! These fine folks have each paid a handsome sum of money to watch this . . . to see you,” he said, winding his leg back, “suffer.” He slammed the tip of his wingtip shoe forward and into the side of her stomach. She screamed in agony and rolled onto her side. The squares remained green.

“Stop." Her voice shaking and filled with fear. "Please!”  

He continued; his voice now a low husky tone. “To see you bleed.” He removed a small credit card-sized knife from his rear pants pocket and flipped open the blade. She squirmed and tried to roll away but he was to quick. Kneeling down beside her, he drug the razor sharp tip under her chin, a small cut opening and spilling red down her neck and chest. 

She sobbed. He looked back at the small cameras hidden around the room and at the screen, still green but now speckled with red squares.

“And in the end . . . to see you die. That will be the grand finale!” he triumphantly shouted just as the doorbell rang. 

“Well, shit," he whispered; his shoulders slumping in disappointment.

Her eyes widened and she shrieked, "Help me!" He pushed her head into the carpet with one hand and threw the card knife onto the coffee table with the other and grabbed a dirty sock from the floor, forcing it into her mouth. He put his finger to his lips in a silent shushing gesture and went to answer the door. 

After only a few moments, he returned to the living room to find only a small pool of blood on the floor, but she was gone. He turned to the hidden cameras and seethed. “Where is she?!” he roared. The squares glowed red. He felt his pockets for his knife, but found nothing. 

He glared at the pool of blood, finding a trail that went into the bedroom. It lead him into his large master suite, the trail arcing around to the opposite side of the bed. He opened the nightstand table closest to him and pulled out a 9mm pistol. Grinning, he pulled back the slide, releasing it with a click and following the red line until it disappeared underneath the bed. 

As he knelt down and pulled up the bed cover, he aimed the barrel underneath and put his head to the ground to get a better look.

She screamed; bursting from the nearby closet. Running at full speed, she landed on his back, her knee digging in; knocking the wind out of his lungs. She threw her cuffed hands over his head and then under his chin. She pulled back towards her, his arms flailed; dropping the handgun under the bed. His hands groped at his neck, scratching at the metal cutting off his air. 

She brought her face down and growled in his ear. “I asked you to let me go . . . you laughed at me. Now get up!”

She yanked him backwards onto his knees, his face red and drenched with sweat. She stood up, pulling him to his feet from behind and they walked to the living room. The tablet on the floor showed only red at first. Then slowly the lights turned to green until it was hard to tell which color was dominant. 

He choked on the chain as it dug into his windpipe. She jerked downward, bringing him to his knees. Looking at the tablet, she breathed out a question. “What do you say, freaks? Should he live?” 

The squares turned red.

“I’m sorry, but you did this to yourself."

Savannah (Sakura Softworks)

Author's note: This is a short piece that comes from the world of my work-in-progress, Sakura Softworks. I don't want to give too much away, but for those who read the final book, this material will give you a little insight into the story behind the story. 

Twelve-year-old Savannah thumbed the screen of her phone with one hand while her other arm remained wrapped around her backpack. With her yellow polo shirt neatly tucked into her jeans and her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, her mouth opened wide in an eye-watering yawn. 

Her mother craned her neck, pushing up onto her tiptoes in order to peer over the line of people ahead waiting to deplane. The look on her face was one of worry, and one that did not go unnoticed by her daughter.

A glance through the oval windows of the 747 provided limited views of men in white uniforms escorting passengers into white plastic tents set up on the tarmac. Idling Mitsubishi trucks flanked each of the tents, with a handful of armed guards at each.

“Mom, what’s going on? What are we waiting for?” Savannah asked, eyes still heavy with jet lag from the sixteen-hour flight.

“I don’t know, baby. I’m sure everything is fine. Just be patient.”

“Everything’s not fine. Stupid phone isn’t even getting a signal.” 

“That’s not the end of the world, Savannah,” she replied, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “I know it was a long flight, but-”

“It took like three days! It was soooo long!” Savannah blurted. 

Through clenched teeth already sore from hours of grinding, her mother responded. “It hasn’t been three days! Dammit, sixteen hours isn’t even one day, Savannah!” 

Savannah rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her phone. She pulled it so close to her face it almost touched her nose, attempting to lose herself in the glass screen.

Her mother’s scowl softened and shoulders drooped as she realized she had lost it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you,” she said, touching a hand to Savannah’s neck and caressing it, providing the healing touch of which only mothers are capable. “I promise, once we get through this queue, we won’t even check into the hotel. We’ll take a cab right to Dad’s work and surprise him there!” she said, smiling at her daughter through tired eyes. “Deal?”

Savannah nodded her head in silence as the two of them shuffled toward the flight attendant at the front of the plane. She was slipping her phone into her bag when the lavatory light on the bulkhead switched from green to red and then quickly back to green. She paused for a moment before the flight attendant urged them to continue deplaning, waving them toward the stairs.

Savannah’s mother gripped the handle of her carry-on and motioned with her head for Savannah to follow. She picked up her bag, made her way down the rest of the aisle, and exited the plane. The sky that hung over Chubu Airport was typical of a summer day in Japan: overcast and sticky. 

They stepped foot on the concrete and stood under a portable awning while awaiting their turn to enter the tents.  After a few moments, the flight attendant emerged from the door of the 747, walked down the stairs, and spoke to a nearby guard. The soldier tapped on his tablet and questioned the attendant, the content of which neither Savannah nor her mother could hear.

The soldier then made a swift motion and another two soldiers came running. They turned, marched up the stairway, and boarded the plane.

A man in a white uniform came up and assured the queue in stilted English, “There is nothing to be worried about. Please remain calm.” Although the rifle slung around his back told a different story. 

Savannah and her mother entered the tent together after what seemed like an eternity. The man inside the tent was a Japanese man, heavy-set, with a headful of thick black hair. He wore a lab coat left unbuttoned in the front and an empty plastic name placket hung from the grungy lapel. He sat on a stool next to a small, portable lab table.

“Hello,” he said, wiping his hands on his already damp trousers before dragging his right hand across his forehead and through his hair, slicking it back for a second before locks of it popped back up like obstinate weeds. “I’m Aki,” he said with an uncomfortable smile. “Please. Sit.”

Savannah looked around and noticed two armed soldiers standing just outside the tent. She squeezed the handle of her bag and turned her head back to Aki. Her mother was already sitting on a hard plastic chair and silently motioned for her to sit beside her. Savannah sat, her knuckles turning white as she clutched her bag in front of her chest.

“There is no need for alarm,” Aki said in monotone. 

“With everyone telling me not to be alarmed, it’s becoming more and more difficult not to be alarmed,” Savannah’s mother replied, her agitation apparent in both the tone of her voice and in her glare.

Aki’s head cocked to one side as he replied, “Of course. I’m sorry.” He looke down at the names on his sheet. “I only am here to help, Mrs. Miller.” His broken English more obvious now that he was off script. 

“Great,” she said, rapidly blinking as she forced a smile.

“Yes. It is, Mrs. Miller. I only need blood sample.”

“What? I’m not giving you a blood sample!” Mrs. Miller screamed. 

Savannah took one hand off her bag and slipped it around her mother’s upper arm just as the soldiers came in from their guard posts and stood at the corners of the interior, weapons at the ready. 

Mrs. Miller stood up, her eyes aflame. “Who are you people? I’m an American citizen! This is bullshit! I know my rights!” she yelled, facing the soldiers as Savannah’s eyes grew wide with worry behind her.

“P- p- please Mrs. Miller. Please calm down,” Aki stood up, pleading; his hands outstretched toward her.

She thrust a hand into her purse and yanked out her smartphone. Before she could unlock it, one soldier snatched it from her hand while the other gripped her by the elbow. 

“What the- You can’t do this!” she shrieked as Aki approached her from behind, unsheathed a syringe, and plunged it into a bulging vein, filling the vial with crimson. Mrs. Miller flailed and bucked but the moment the test tube was full, two soldiers dragged her from the tent.

Savannah screamed for them to let her go, jumping up from her chair and attempting to follow. She met with the muzzle of a soldier’s rifle, forcing her back from the lab tent flap.  

“Please. Sit," Aki repeated and gestured to the chair once again. Tears welling in her eyes, she backed toward the chair and sat, her hands crushing the handle of her bag. Aki smiled and returned to his stool, placing the blood sample in an electronic device on the tabletop. The device whirred to life as the sounds of the soldiers dragging Mrs. Miller away screaming evaporated into the background. 

Savannah grew silent, her eyes now glassy and distant. The soldier retained his aim on her while attempting to relieve her of her bag. She refused to relent and let out an eardrum-piercing scream.

“No! Stop, please! It’s okay. You can keep your purse. Sh- sh- she can keep her purse,” Aki said to the soldier as he swept the sweat from his forehead again with a trembling hand. 
“I’m sorry.” He paused, glanced at the device and then back to her. “Your mother is fine though. See?” he said, pointing to the device, now displaying a green light. “They will not hurt her. She is not sick.” He nodded his head at Savannah and smiled. “It’s okay.”

Savannah did not respond.

“I just need to test you. Okay?” Aki pleaded.

When the two guards returned to the corners of the tent, Mrs. Miller was not with them. 

Aki hesitated, drew another syringe from the tray and slid it into the clammy flesh of Savannah's arm. After filling the syringe, he covered the needle mark with a bandage and returned to the lab table, placing the sample into the testing device. It whirred to life and returned seconds later; the indicator light flashing red. 

Infected.

David's Trial Run

Author's note: This is a short piece that comes from the world of my work-in-progress, The Fame Machine. I haven't decided if it will make it into the final book, but I wanted to get a better feel for the character of David, who is an integral character in the book, and at the same time give the reader a better feel for the tone I am striving for. It's a little dark, a little silly, and I hope you enjoy it.
~

“I hear her heart beating, loud as thunder,” David purrs in a seductive English accent as he shoves the tip of the knife into her chest. The blade sliding in between her ribs, puncturing her left lung and driving deep into her heart. He maintains pressure on the knife to ensure a swift kill.

Her eyes wide, she gasps for air, attempts to scream, but no sound comes out. “Oh baby just you shut your mouth,” he coos as her body relaxes and the light leaves her eyes. He pulls the weapon from her chest, and lays it on the pillow next to her porcelain face. He washes his hands, runs his fingers through his blonde locks and then exits the room.

A man passes by. David quickens his pace toward the end of the hallway. The man’s shouts indicate he has discovered his wife’s body. David enters the elevator and presses the button. He straightens his suit coat as the doors open and he walks toward the gold doors of the exit. Police radio chatter punctuates the air, security guards scramble, and David slips through the commotion.

David enters a waiting taxi which takes him to State Street. He heads toward the back of the building and enters an office with a heavy steel door.

“You’re a goddamn idiot! Have you any idea what you’ve done? You-”

David enters the room and closes the door behind him.

“Oh look! There’s your golden boy now! Heyyyy David! Did you enjoy that? Was that fun for you?”

David’s half-grin still present. “Hello, Dr. Ellison. No, not particularly. Did I do something wrong?”

“Leave him alone!” a balding, chubby, bespectacled man yells. “He was just doing what we told him to do!”

David’s expression goes blank as he takes a seat in a steel reclining chair.

“What we told him to do? Gordon! Your psychopath killed an innocent woman!”

“David is not a psychopath! He was able to get in, perform his task, and escape without even so much as a single person questioning him. That’s a rousing success!” Gordon replies, clicking on his tablet.

“He may not be a psychopath, but someone in this room is!” Dr. Ellison says as he swipes the cordless phone from the wall and begins to dial.

“Put the phone down, Doctor,” demands Gordon.

Dr. Ellison’s fingers tremble as he punches the numbers.

“David. New target: Adam Ellison. Time frame: immediate. Program name-”

“No, Gordon! Don’t!” Dr. Ellison shouts. “David! Cancel all directives.”

David rises from his perch on the steel chair.

Gordon continues, “Program name: Spiders from Mars.”

“David! Cancel all directives! Why isn’t he responding to my commands?”

Within seconds, David is on the floor with Dr. Ellison’s head lodged in the crook of his arm. David’s other hand is palming the doctor’s head like a basketball. The tips of his fingers clamped tightly to his head, Dr. Ellison screams as David’s fingers grow and extend, digging into first the flesh, then into the cranial muscles; pulverizing the underlying bone and lacerating the brain before David takes his second life of the evening.

March 14th, 2015. 11:35PM

First field run successful.

Infiltration, assignment completion, and exfiltration accomplished.

Note: BowieBot may need slight recalibration before next trial run.

People Hate My Books

Ever since I was a little boy, I have loved films. My tastes and ideas of what constitutes a good movie have evolved and changed over the years, as has my idea of what kind of films I enjoy. (Note that those are sometimes two entirely different things.)

With that, let me present to you one of my favorite movies from my childhood. It is a movie indelibly etched in my brain matter. I will love this film until my dying day, when I demand to have it on an endless loop in my bedroom while wearing a Napoleon hat and accusing the nurse of slowly murdering me by poisoning the vanilla pudding.

That film named is MegaForce:

MEGAFORCE

Megaforce starred a man whose hair and headband defy criticism, Barry Bostwick:

Barrys Thumb

 If you’re still unconvinced, you leave me no choice but to pull out the big guns:

ShimmerSuit

By most accounts, this film is just as astoundingly terrible as it looks. From the acting and directing, to the costume and set design, everything about it is hilariously bad. Reviewers hated it and so did audiences. I’m fairly sure that even the studio behind it hated it because after they threw $20 million in Megaforce’s direction (clearly spent on dune-buggies and hair stylists) it earned a paltry $5.68 million at the box office; ensuring the end of many careers and killing any hope for a shiny-suited sequel.

Regardless of the ample evidence that indicates that this movie is so bad its own mother would disown it, I loved it. I watched it on VHS so many times I think I wore out the tape. Either that or my mother got tired of me watching it and then terrorizing (or was it saving *winky face*) the neighborhood on my bicycle as a member of my own Megaforce and it she disposed of it. Either way, I don’t own a copy of it at present. The point I am trying to make is that despite it being by most measures a terrible movie, I thought it was the best thing ever. During the climax, Commander Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) misses the last plane out of the battle zone. Undaunted, he uses his motorcycle (which is equipped with missiles and guns, naturally) to catch up to the plane and escape . . . While it is in flight. Watch this and be forever changed:

Some have argued that this movie was intentionally cheesy and campy. That may be true. However, my brain at the time didn’t process “cheese” and it didn’t understand “camp” but it absolutely knew what it was seeing was something amazing.

So why am I talking about this and what does it have to do with this post’s title? (You’ve likely forgotten it by now due to Bostwick’s mind-boggling jumpsuit, so I’ll remind you. It’s People Hate My Books.)

To be clear, I haven’t released any books. I plan to, but none have officially been released yet. When I do release my books, I sincerely hope people enjoy them and love them. I am sure there are a good number that will appreciate the stories I have chosen to tell and love the characters I have brought to life. It will feel amazing that I played even a minuscule part in their lives.

However, what I have had to come to terms with and what this post is attempting to convey, is that there will without a doubt be people who do not like my work. There will be people who actively loathe my stories and characters and will say as much on blogs and review sites. There will be those who snicker at my attempts, and I have to accept that.

I know that despite that being an inevitable part of publishing any work publicly, it will be a horrible feeling. It will make me rethink the whole idea of writing at all. I will take it far too personally and denigrate the writers of the reviews in my mind as “not understanding the work.” I will discount their review, as they are “total and complete idiots.” I will mentally spar with the content in their review and top it off with an “I hate you, because you suck.”

I console myself with the idea that I loved Megaforce more than some of my siblings. I loved a piece of work so objectively terrible that the only person to escape with their career intact is the Commander himself.

No matter how skilled of a writer I become or how great of an author you may become, there will be people out there who think you are terrible at it. There will also be people who, no matter how objectively terrible you or I may be at crafting stories, will adore what we have created. There is a certain amount of awesome in that either way.

So if you read my work and decide to write a negative review, it’s ok.

I’m not your Megaforce.

You’re just a stupid-head who wouldn’t know a good book if it hit you in the face, objectively speaking.

On Second Thought...

“Yes, room 17-034. Eight o’clock is fine. Great. Th- Thank you.” Steven pressed the end button on the phone and shoved it into his pocket. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his right hand and dried it on his khaki dress slacks, leaving a dark handprint behind.

He grabbed the hotel card and headed out the door toward the elevator. The doors dinged and slid open, and he stepped inside them. As he waited for the seventeen floors to pass, he glimpsed his reflection in the polished gold trim of the elevator interior. His face was flushed and glistening. He ran his fingers through his thinning hair, straightened his collar, and avoided eye contact with himself for the remainder of the ride.

He wound his way around the slot machines and tables to the lounge, taking an isolated stool at the end of the bar while a group of college kids did karaoke at the opposite end.

“What can I get for you?” the girl behind the counter asked with a generic smile.

“How about a Jake-Knife?” he replied, head sunk down into his shoulders, arms wedged against the bar. He pulled his phone from his pocket and pushed the home button. It said it was 7:33PM.

She turned away from the bar. Her red hair hung from a clip on the back of her head and swayed as she reached for the bottles and poured. “That’s strong stuff,” she said, turning back around. She grabbed the bar nozzle and pushed the button, dribbling Coke into the glass. “Most people don’t order those unless they’re trying to forget something they did, or hoping not to remember what they’re about to do.”

She picked up a white square napkin from behind the bar, laid it in front of Steven, and placed the martini glass in the middle. She wiped her hands on a rag and tried without success to meet Steven’s eye. “Are you staying here at the hotel?” she said, rubbing the surface of the bar with the same rag despite there being nothing to clean up.

He glanced up at her face then sipped his drink. “Yep,” he replied, wincing as he felt the alcohol sear his throat.

“You in town for business or pleasure?” she inquired as he took another gulp, taking the entire glass down in one shot.

“Another please,” he croaked through watery eyes. She turned and began mixing another round. “Business,” he replied once his throat had stopped burning.

“What kind of business do you do?” she continued as she placed another drink in front of him, refusing to let him sit and marinate alone.

He pinched the stem of the glass in between his thumb and forefinger, spinning it around as the napkin twirled beneath it. “What’s your name?” he asked as he peered into his drink.

“Roxy.”

“Hi Roxy. Do you always ask so many questions to people who clearly want to be left alone?” he asked before pressing his lips to the rim of the glass and taking a sip.

“No,” she said as she let out a chuckle, “but a man doesn’t make a beeline from the elevator to my bar and down two without something on his mind.”

He smiled and looked at Roxy over the top of his glass before tipping it up and taking the drink in one gulp again. “Just loosening up before an 8 o’clock appointment,” he muttered through the haze.

She glanced at the television at the end of the bar, then back to him. “Well . . . it’s 7:49 by my clock.”

He picked up his phone. “Shit! Can you bill the drinks to my room?” he blurted as he stood up from the barstool and darted toward the exit.

“What’s your room number?” she called back.

“17-034!”

“You got it,” she said, taking the empty glass behind the counter. “Don’t forget your ring!” she called out just as he cleared the wooden doorjamb.

His shoes squeaked as he came to a full stop. Walking back to the entryway, he cocked an eyebrow at the girl behind the counter. “My ring?” he said as he looked down at his left hand. “I’m not wearing a ring.”

“Right. I just saw a tan line of a ring and thought you might have dropped it . . . or maybe taken it off,” she said with a nod, Steven’s full attention on her now. “I wanted to make sure you got it back if you did.”

He didn’t say a word but stared at her with glossy, confused eyes.

“Wouldn’t want to be late for your 8 o’clock,” she said with a soft smile. A faint smile crossed his lips in return and he sprinted toward the elevator.

He slid his hand into the crevice in the nearly closed elevator doors and triggered the release. The door reopened and he slipped inside, joining a young woman dressed in a small black dress and an older gentleman already inside.

“Sorry- sorry,” Steven said, out of breath from his cross-lobby jog. The two occupants didn’t reply.

He saw himself in the reflection of the gold trim again, this time he looked himself in the eye and didn’t look away. He smiled, rubbed his eyes, and pulled his phone from his pocket. The floors passed as he scrolled down his contact list, clicking on “HOME” just as the doors slid open at floor twelve and the gentleman exited the elevator.

Tears blurred his vision as the other line continued to ring. He leaned against the back of the elevator while he waited for the other end to pick up. His lone elevator partner fidgeted with the straps of her dress and checked her makeup.

The voicemail chime rang in his ear and he smiled as he listened to the greeting he had heard a hundred times before. The young woman fished her phone from her satchel and opened a text with a single number in it: 17-034.

She slid it back into her purse and exited the elevator on the seventeenth floor.

Steven pushed the button for a few floors up and left a message on the voicemail. “Hi honey! Just- just giving you a call to tell you I love you and . . . I’ll be home soon.”

Ellie

The cold steel table rattled as Ellie attempted to wriggle free from the zip-ties holding her wrists. The only light left filtered through a single basement window and faded by the minute. It wouldn’t take long this time of year for it to disappear. Then she would be alone in the dank basement of the downtown warehouse.

Rivulets of tears had flowed back past her ears and dampened her hair as it had matted itself to the table. “Everything is going to be alright,” said a voice in her ear. Her eyes opened wide, startled at the voice despite the familiarity.

Jerking her head left and right, she strained to see where the voice came from. “M-m-m-mom?” Her voice creaked. For a moment there was no reply.

“I’m here.” The voice finally returned. “Shh, shh, shh, baby. It’ll all be over soon.”

“Mom! How did you get here?”

Her mother’s warm hand came to rest on her cheek, her smile still as beautiful as ever. “Don’t you worry about the how, Li’l Rabbit. Momma’s right here.”

“I’m so scared, Momma.” Tears began to gush as her chest heaved. “They said they were gonna kill me.”

“Oh I know, Lil’ Rabbit. Those men can’t hurt you anymore. Momma’s here,” she said as she cupped her daughter’s face in her hands, gazing into her tired eyes.

“Can we go home now?” Ellie pleaded, her voice almost a whisper.

“Of course we can. Of course,” she replied, reaching up to the steel handles where the zip-ties held Ellie’s wrists; releasing them.

Ellie’s arms weakly wrapped around her mother’s neck and breathed in deep. Home.

After a moment, Ellie opened her eyes. She saw another figure in the room and screamed. Her mother held her tighter.

The figure cowered for a second before its face became visible in the dim moonlight.

Ellie squealed as she realized who it was. “Daddy! Oh, I can’t believe you’re here!”

“Where else would I be, Lil’ Rabbit?” he replied, his scruff looking like sparkles in the moonlight as he lifted her from the steel table and put her feet down on the wet concrete.

“They hurt me,” she sobbed, clinging to her father’s midsection. “They-“

Yelling and gunfire erupted from the floor above. Muffled threats followed by more gunfire, then silence.

“Carson! Take Phillips and check the basement!”

Heavy boots clomped down the stairs. The steel door burst open in a shower of sparks. Tactical lights surveyed the room. The floor covered in a sticky red fluid, the sight causing the uniformed men to gag and cover their mouths.

The larger of the men tugged on a string connected to a bare bulb near the door.

The bulb flickered on, revealing a half a dozen tables including the one Ellie had been laying on.

The other spoke into his shoulder. “We found one more. A little girl.”

The radio squawked in reply. “Is the area secure?”

“Affirmative, sir. Area is secure.”

“Roger that. Return topside and wait for further orders.”

“Yes sir! Returning to ground level,” he replied, moving toward the door and motioning for his partner to follow.

“Wait!” Ellie yelled as the two officers lowered their firearms and left. One of them turned to face her, then pulled the door closed behind him.

Her father smiled. “Don’t worry ‘bout them Li’l Rabbit. Let them do their jobs. Let’s go home and I’ll tuck you in to your nice warm bed.” He nestled her under the crook of his arm. Her mother followed close behind. They moved together toward the door.

They walked up the concrete steps and past the bodies sprawled out on the kitchen floor. Ellie’s father shielded her eyes as they shuffled past the remains of the man who had promised to take her life and they continued down the front steps.

They walked all of the way home without saying a word. Father carried her in his arms the whole way. The leaves did not crunch beneath their feet and the cool fall breeze didn’t cause them to get a chill. They trudged up the front walk of their apartment and finally into the place they called home.

“I’ll have to call someone to fix that in the morning,” father said as he glanced at the splintered wood of the apartment door.

Ellie was asleep when he laid her on her small bed; The paint was peeling from the headboard.

Her body remained in the basement until the coroner came to take it away. She was buried next to her parents in the city cemetery three days after her passing.

Coffee Shop

Frank Holloway walked into the coffee shop. The antique bell on the back of the door rang out, signaling his arrival to the other three patrons nursing their morning caffeine. He sat down, opened his satchel, and pulled out his ancient laptop. As it whirled and clicked, going thru its laborious boot process, he grabbed a bundle of folders from the bag and smacked them onto the stone tabletop.

“Professor?” an unfamiliar voice came from the table behind him, which he ignored as a comment unrelated to himself.

“Writer then?” The voice persisted, louder this time.
 
“Huh? No. I- were you talking to me?” Frank responded, covering his papers as he turned to see a twenty-something brunette addressing him.
 
“Yeah. Sorry. Just- I talk a lot when I’m nervous,” she said, a momentary uneasy smile crossing her lips before she tucked her hair behind her hair with her hand.
 
He smiled, accentuating the perpetual bags underneath his eyes. “No. It’s fine,” he replied, turning slightly toward her table. “What made you think I was a professor?”
 
“I figured either a professor or a writer. Your shoes are way too,” she paused, choosing her words carefully before continuing, “comfortable . . . for you to be much other than an intellectual type.”
 
He looked over his square-lensed glasses at the girl. “I could be a hipster. These glasses-“ 
“No. Not with those slacks,” she chuckled, “and a hipster wouldn’t be seen in public with that antique of a laptop.”

The server uttered an exasperated “ahem” drawing his attention for a moment. “What can I get for you, Frank?”
 
“Green tea, please.” When the server dropped her notepad into her waist apron and shuffled off behind the counter, his attention returned to the topic at hand. “Do you make a habit of analyzing strangers in coffee shops? . . .” 

“Beth, and like I said. I get chatty when I’m nervous.” She took a sip of coffee from her styro-plastic cup. “Don’t read anything into it.”
 
“Fair enough,” he replied. The server returned with a cup of hot tea; he thanked her and she disappeared once again. “What are you nervous about, Beth?”
 
“This could be my last cup of coffee as a free woman.”
 
“Getting married?” he asked; his eyes shifting downward. 

Bethany laughed. “No. I’ve got a date with the public defender in about an hour.” 

“What did you do?” he asked, his interest piqued.  

“Kneed an asshole in his balls.” 

“Did he deserve it?”  

Her eyes flared wide, “Of course he deserved it.” 

“It shouldn’t be you worrying about going to jail then,” he quickly added. 

“You don’t know much about how these things work then, Frank,” she replied, heavily accentuating his name as she spoke. “Justice is blind, unless you have an expensive lawyer.” 

“There are a few good lawyers that aren’t that expensive,” he paused, sipped his tea and then continued, “I know of one at least.” 

She cocked her head and squinted at Frank. “You’re a lawyer. Like, a real lawyer.” 

“Yes. I am.”

My First Car

I was eighteen and a senior in high school. After much nagging and begging, my parents agreed to help me finance a first vehicle I could really call my own and so I wanted to pick something that spoke to me. Many of my friends had acquired or were getting cars of their own as well and they were kind of all over the map. 

Some of them were practical and had been saving money from part-time jobs to purchase a responsible, reliable car to take to college. One of my best friends had decided to purchase a Honda Accord, which he most likely still has to this day. (Hondas are hard to kill.) Another girl I dated for a little while had bought a Toyota Corolla. Gas-efficient, reliable, and the epitome of boring. (No. You can't argue that a Corolla is anything but boring. It just is.)

My best friend inherited an old Chevy pickup truck that came with two full size gas tanks. Why two? Because otherwise the big engine would only get you across town and back on a single tank.

But for me, a lifetime of watching The Dukes of Hazzard taught me that a car the size of a yacht with an engine that burned leaded gasoline at a rate of single-digit miles per gallon was the way to go for me. It needed to be loud, it needed to be fast, and it needed to be cool. With those parameters in mind, I set out to find my first automobile. 

Back before Craigslist or the internet existed, there were two standard ways to find a used car. You could grab a newspaper and flip to the "classified ads" and systematically peruse and circle ads for cars. You'd then call the number, go over to look at the car, and then either make an offer or keep on looking. The other option, and the one I used, was a big black and white, pulpy, weekly magazine called The Auto Trader. It still exists today but for most people it's strictly an online affair. For me it was scouring the paper Auto Trader to find that perfect ride. 

One Tuesday morning (The Auto Trader mags were always delivered on Tuesdays) I grabbed my copy and turned straight to the Dodge and Plymouth sections. Because as anybody worth their 10W40 knows, that's where the muscle lived.

This day my eyes were drawn to a beauty. The picture was in black and white, but I could have sworn I saw the bright red paint of the Fury anyway. A Plymouth Fury III with a bright white power convertible top and all white interior accented with shiny chrome. As shapely as a brick and wide enough to seat three across each bench seat, it would need all of its 318ci V-8 to push the heavy Detroit steel up to highway speeds.

The seller was asking $2500 for the brawny beauty. My allotted budget was firm and non-negotiable at $2000. I know this because I tried to negotiate with my dad for more to no success. Even still, my little muscle-car-lovin' heart wanted to see it anyway. After more than a few attempts by my dad to dissuade me from the car, he agreed to take me to give it a test drive. 

We called the seller, and the car was still available, so we set up a time to see the car the following Saturday morning before I went to work. 

It was just as glorious as I imagined. Some of the chrome was missing and the paint was chipped in places. The dash was cracked from years of Arizona sun and it did not come with an air conditioner, only a heater, but I didn't care. If it meant being able to drive this beautiful piece of automotive history, my clothing and the white vinyl would pay the sweaty price. 

After the test drive, I reluctantly gave the key back to the owner and told him that while I did want to buy it, my max budget was $2000 and so I'm sorry I wasted their time. The man and his wife looked at me as I looked to my dad with my big sad eyes and said, "$2000 will be just fine."

I was ecstatic. I drove the car the few miles to work as proud as I could possibly be. I felt impossibly cool with the top down and my butt suctioned to the vinyl in the hot Arizona weather. No one could do or say anything to ruin this perfect day.

After work, I was eager to show off my new ride to my girlfriend, Alison. I dropped the power top on the car and went directly to her house after work rather than home. After extolling the virtues of the Fury III to her as well as getting a smile and nod from her father, I offered to give her a ride in my red and chrome chariot, which she accepted.

We rumbled through the neighborhood, on to a main street, and eventually toward the freeway. Assuming my significant other would rather not have a mad tangle of blonde locks smacking her in the face for the duration of the freeway ride; I pulled the car over and raised the white vinyl top before hitting the on-ramp. The strong V-8 muscled the Plymouth's fuselage gracefully up to sixty-five miles per hour and we slipped into evening traffic.

It was less than a mile before a family sedan pulled up beside me and waved for me to open my window. I figured the car would score me some points for the car being so awesome, and by extension, make me even cooler than I had any right to be. So when I rolled down my window, I smiled and waited for the inevitable thumbs up from the sedan's driver.

He did not give me the thumbs up (nor the middle finger, thankfully) but began pointing at the bottom of the car. Being eighteen and still in a state of euphoria, I hadn't noticed that the interior of the car had become hazy. Smoky would also be an accurate way to describe it. I wrote the initial smoke off as just being "normal" as it was an old car and well... old cars smoking isn't really out of the norm. I waved the man off as if to say, "Yes, I know my awesome car is smoking a bit. So what? Jealous?"

He was not jealous.  Within seconds, the cabin filled with more thick black smoke. Before I could slow the vehicle to pull over, hot yellow flames burst from underneath the dashboard on the driver's side, licking at my shoes and ankles. Alison appeared to be in shock, so I shouted at her to get out as I attempted to wrestle the steel behemoth to the side of the road.

The tires hit gravel. Alison opened the door and hit the ground running at a near ninety-degree angle from the now flaming car even before I could bring it to a stop. The old drum brakes finally brought the car to a halt. I pushed the gearshift into park and flung the door open, running faster than I ever had before away from the Plymouth and toward where I last saw Alison.

Within less than 90 seconds, the entire car was engulfed in flames. From the engine bay to the back of the passenger area, it was a literal fireball.

I found Alison roughly fifty yards from the flaming car. I ran toward her and called her name but she did not respond. "Alison! Are you alright?!" I shouted, but still she stood with her arms folded in, covering her chest, her hands clenched underneath her chin. I stretched my arms out to hug her but she immediately pushed me away. Bewildered at her response, I tried again to pull her into my arms and tell her she was safe now, but she pushed me away again and told me not to touch her. I didn't try again. 

The fire department appeared within five minutes, but by then the car was gone. They doused my dream car until the flames were out and gave both of us a ride home and red plastic fireman hats.

When I arrived home, I was still in shock. I held the red fireman's hat in my hands as I walked down the hall to my parent's bedroom. My mom hadn't seen the car yet. With a smile, she asked if she could go for a ride in my new car. I told her she couldn't because it wasn't here, but on the side of the freeway in ashes.

They laughed at first, because that would have been an excellent joke; tell them I totaled the car dad had seen me buy and drive off only hours before. But I retold what parts of the story I could before heading to bed. They had no idea how close I came to losing my life (and possibly Alison's) until I showed them the pictures I took when I went to the junkyard to release the wreckage.

And that, is the true story of my first automobile 

Mrs. Casillas and The Early Recess

This is a true story. As a matter of fact, it's one of my earliest vivid memories. It's pretty funny too. Enjoy.

I didn’t want to interrupt. Mrs. Casillas was in the middle of teaching us about some kind of math. I didn’t mind math normally. In fact, I really enjoyed math under any other circumstance but this one. I couldn’t concentrate on what she was teaching right then because my bladder was in the red zone.

Once I got over the idea of being away from mom for the first time, the next challenge was not wetting myself. In kindergarten, I learned to hold it like a pro since I only had to worry about half a day. First grade was different from kindergarten; it was a full day. But there was no way I was dropping my Brittania brand corduroy jeans to my ankles in some cold concrete excuse for a bathroom; there was a drain in the floor for crying out loud! Therefore, my other option was to hold it.

So there I sat in my molded plastic chair, squirming while I attempted to hold my urine until Mrs. Casillas finished teaching us about addition. Or subtraction. Or something. I couldn’t concentrate so I didn’t know what she was teaching. She just kept going. I was just hoping she wouldn't call on me to answer a question. I didn’t want to answer a question. I just wanted to run home and pee.

What if she never stopped talking? What if I had to hold my pee forever? What if I couldn’t hold it until she was done and I unleashed my lemonade all over my new corduroy jeans? Mom would’ve been so angry at me.

It’s doubtful the blonde girl in pigtails would have been very happy either. She and I had shared a desk since first grade started. She always seemed to want to borrow my pencil. She was using my pencil right then, as matter of fact, and oh my goodness I had to pee!

Crossing my legs seemed to make it worse, and the girl next to me was glaring at me fidgeting, so I had to do something. Then the perfect idea came to me.

Every time I went to the bathroom at home, no matter how well I used the toilet paper or how many times I shook my Optimus Prime, I still had a little bit of pee get into my underwear and sometimes even my pants. So my idea was to let a tiny little bit come out at a time and my clothing would absorb it just like it would that little bit of pee at home!

Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It was genius! Now it was time to put my plan into action.

I waited until I felt like I was going to explode before I attempted to relieve myself in short, controlled bursts.

However, upon releasing my bladder I discovered two things:

1.      I grossly overestimated my underwear’s ability to absorb urine.

2.      There is no such thing as short, controlled bursts when it came to peeing.

The concavity of the plastic chair contained the initial wave of the flood. However, I had a feeling the small chair was not likely to contain the second. As I sat in a rising tide of my own making, I had another brilliant idea. If I leaned back in my chair, the chair would probably be able to hold all of the warm yellow liquid I was expelling from my six-year old bladder!

I leaned back and prepared to savor my victory, forgetting entirely about the sizable hole in my plan. That hole being the rectangular one in the back of my chair. The one that was now eagerly creating a spectacular sunflower-colored waterfall that attracted the attention of Mrs. Casillas.

She stopped her lesson, sent the other children to an early recess, and tended to my needs as the newly saturated and now fully relieved first-grader I was.

At least I didn’t have to use that dirty, cold, concrete bathroom.