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Landscape of Life


When I think about life events, I’ve considered how they might change a person.  I do this now, more than ever before.  What hits us most hard are the occurrences that mean we must conform to something new.  The death of a family member, friend or pet.  A divorce.  A marriage.  The loss of a job, or the move into a new home.  A pregnancy.  A new job.  All these and so many others permanently affect us as individuals.

With the more dramatic life events, I find death is the most difficult event to process.  In the past decade, maybe a little longer, I’ve had two co-workers and a brother in law commit suicide.  Three people.  It astounds me I know three people who took their life by putting guns to their heads.  I found the body of young man on the beach.  That was back in 2001.  My son and I were walking on the beach, talking.  Up ahead I noticed a strange looking object that seemed, at first, to be lying on the sand.  As we came a little closer, I could tell this brown and black object was in a tidal pool.  I thought it was possibly driftwood, then I had the horrible thought it was a drowned dog, like a German Shepherd.  I began running, and then slowed down.  Oh.  It was a person.  He looked like he was just floating there, for pleasure. Except, a wave came in, a rather large one, and it was the lack of reaction that made me start running towards him again.  A looseness which told me, something wasn’t right.

And, it wasn’t.

Later, I found out from his family he’d been fasting and praying after 9/11 and was too weak to fight the rip current from a recent hurricane.

As many know, in 2012, I lost my job at Nortel.  That same month, I signed the contract with my agent.  Veritable ups and downs.  Then, a few months later, I had to euthanize my dogs, Bella and Kiwi.  A friend’s child passed away at only six years of age when they had to make the horrific decision to take him off life support. He’d developed a fever which triggered seizures. The medical staff couldn’t bring him out of his drug induced coma because the seizures began again.  He had a twin brother.  What did this do to him?

And then there was Dad, who passed earlier this year.  And I watched my mother shrink, actually becoming smaller, frailer, afraid.  The paint strokes for that were broad and sweeping, dark and volatile, grays of depression, the ugly red of anger, all expressions of grief.  It covered me.  It covered all of us.

I am not who I used to be.  No longer am I that crazy, cut-up with a love for unusual shoes, dancing (even though I couldn’t, not really), that spur of the moment sort of person.  Nowadays, sure, I still joke around a little, but I’m more serious, and maybe I need the fashion police because I tend to wear flip flops (year round) and, haven’t seen a nightclub in almost twenty years, because I like being at home.  Some would call this getting old.  Maybe that’s it, but I prefer to just see it as who I am now.

The other day while I was running, the term “landscape of life,” came to me.  It stemmed from the thought we humans are a lot like wet paint on a canvas.  We shift our emotions, and ourselves in order to conform to pain, happiness, or sadness.  Sometimes we become different versions of the person we used to be, before things happened to us.  Like an artist who creates a mood on canvas by using various colors of paint or by incorporating different textures or a new technique, I think humans are like wet paint too.   Our moods, our persona, is the landscape, meaning we adjust and transform ourselves over time.  Maybe some aspect of our old behaviors are simply wiped away as we move beyond what we’ve experienced

I’d like to believe, and I hope, I can somehow use these life experiences when it comes to character development, or capturing a reaction accurately, turning it into a believable rendering a reader can actually relate to and feel.

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Courtesy artistandstudio.tumblr.com

Even though we may have lived it and breathed it, putting emotions into words and onto the page…it still doesn’t come any easier, does it?

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This Is A Movie?


I went to the Redbox outside Walgreens just about a mile away looking for the movie CAKE with Jennifer Aniston.  To my disappointment it was already checked out, and so I stood there a moment debating.  I could go to the other Redbox outside the Hess Wilco gas station a block over, but I was tired.  Instead, I decided to scroll through the remaining movies just to see if anything else caught my eye, and boy, did it.

When had CHILD OF GOD been made into a movie?

COG was the second book I’d ever read by Cormac McCarthy.  The first was THE ROAD.  Both prompted a McCarthy frenzy which sort of petered out before I read the last book I’d bought by him, BLOOD MERIDIAN.  I’ve blogged about this in the past, with this book, and this one. 

I’d come away from those with a bit of burn out based on his repetitious style of writing.  Granted, he can take a situation and for several hundred pages have you following along because sometimes you think, “it just can’t get any worse,” and then it does.  He’s extraordinarily talented with revealing just how corrupt and backwards some individuals can be when forced to live at the edges of society.  He writes about characters who are depraved, ignorant and typically desperate.

At any rate, imagine my surprise as I stood there trying to decide since I can’t have CAKE, (ha) what’s it to be?  And then I saw it,and my curiosity about how they could take a story like THAT and make a movie of it won out.  I rented it.  I figured James Franco directed, I can’t go wrong.

Just like with books, I don’t typically rely on the ratings too much.  It was a little surprising however, when I got home and searched for the movie’s release date (2014), to see that Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it two stars.  And reviewers who use IMDb ranked it at 5.4 out of 10.  I watched the trailer.  I thought it looked pretty good.

Maybe it’s the extraordinarily tasteless acts ole Lester Ballard engages in that has turned folks off.  If nothing else, you got to hand it to McCarthy for going “there.”  No one else has, not that I know of.  I thought certain topics were taboo and he proved that’s not the case necessarily.

CHILD OF GOD

I’ll hand McCarthy this.  He writes as if everyone he knows, or anyone who might judge him is dead.  There is no topic off limits.  As a writer, I’ve yet to learn this.  I think twice before I word something a certain way.  I write a scene over and over and over with the thought, “who might read this?  Oh, yeah, them.”  DELETE.

I want to learn to write like no one’s looking over my shoulder.

Don’t you?

An Open Letter To Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Waggin’ Train LLC


Dear Purina and Waggin’ Train,

You don’t know me.  You don’t know that you forced me to do the unthinkable.  The sort of decision I prayed I would never have to make.

On August 2, 2012 after monumental efforts to save her through fluid therapy, and after much suffering, we “let” Bella go.

On August 23, 2012, after days of aggressive fluid therapy treatments and ultimately significant, rapid decline, we “let” Kiwi go.

Let is such a polite word.  What we actually did was make the decision to euthanize them.  I still get sick thinking about it.  I still cry.  All these years later.

Bella & Kiwi

I realize I’m only one of hundreds of thousands of consumers who bought pet treat products made by each of you.   Great sounding treats like Duck and Venison jerky, and Yam Good.  I was so excited about these products because both of the girls tended to have skin issues, and my vet recommended a diet excluding chicken and beef.  They ate a prescription dog food by Innovative Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin Hypoallergenic, and to find a treat they could have meant so much.  I will readily admit, they loved them.  They begged for them. And I enjoyed seeing their excitement, tumbling one over the other at having a “TREAT!” as I used to squeal at them while rattling the bag.

And that’s part of what made all this seem unbelievable.  After reading article after article of other dogs becoming sick, I thought, “Oh no, what have I been giving them?”  I immediately stopped, only, by then, unbeknownst to me, it was too late.   They’d eaten them for 18 months, and then, just like that, they were gone.

Imagine that.

Think about it.

I sure have.

And, there’s this to consider too.  Bella and Kiwi came from completely different litters.  They began eating the treats at the same time.  They began consuming more water at the same time.  They developed incontinence issues at the same time.  They became lethargic at the same time.  Lost weight at the same time with no change to their regular food.  They developed renal failure at the same time.

Bella was only 12, and Kiwi, was only 11.  Both young by Yorkie standards.

I’m sure by now you’re probably sick and tired of the whole jerky treat saga, considering the latest Class Action lawsuit regarding Beneful, but I’m here and I’m writing this now because the Class Action suit involving jerky treats has recently been settled.  And because, like a strange, twisted reminder, August of 2015 is the possible timeframe for the payout.  How very odd it will be three years to the month since “the unthinkable” happened, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s just how I view it.

They are now, sadly, counted along with statistical numbers tracked by updates written and printed by various news media.  Statistics that seem way off by the numbers in the Class Action suit.  All along the reports said 1,000 dogs killed and 4,800 sickened.  If that’s true, what about the other 5,200 who made a claim within the Class Action suit?  Yeah, 11,000 claims.  250,000 separate views of it.  A quarter of a million people who went out and looked at it.  Not 250,000 combined or collective views – individual or unique views.  Why do I believe that some of these folks (perhaps many?) didn’t file because they figured what difference would it make?  If they lost a pet, it sure wouldn’t bring them back.

I suppose I circle back to the “girls” again and again every now and then because I still feel them with me.  Filing my claim was hell.  Re-reading all of the vet reports which discussed their bloodwork and the BUN, creatnine levels, as well as personal notes like “she’s not feeling so good today,” and, “still not eating.”  Remembering all over again how I felt they’d been cheated of time with us, and that we’d been cheated of time with them.

Some who read this might think I ought to just get over it already.  Some might wonder why I would participate – since it IS true, participating doesn’t bring them back.  It doesn’t matter, and I don’t owe anyone explanations.  Maybe I’m trying to feel “settled” myself somehow.  It hasn’t worked yet, despite the fact after it happened, I wrote to EVERYONE, like my congresswoman.  My senator.  The FDA. The Veterinary Medicine branch of the FDA, CVM.

This was simply one more avenue where I could be heard. To tell the “girls” story once more, no matter how it resurrected the heartbreak all over again.  I still dream about them.

And so, this was my voice, amongst and with the other 10,999 heartsick pet parents.

Can you hear us?

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The Hunter

 

Missed


Low key, easy going, never cussed, rarely drank, steadfast, resilient, calm, even tempered, loving, compassionate, loyal, understanding, mechanically inclined, hard working, quiet, dog lover, reclusive, missed.

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Davis, Claude pic YoungerDad

May 24th, 1934 – March 3, 2015

What Could Have Happened


Last week I was at Mom’s house, where I’ve been going once a week now since Dad died.  Of course I take Little Dog with me.

I mean, what person in their right mind would/could leave this little guy behind?

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He loves to visit her.  He loves her backyard.  I’ve not worried one bit about him while there.  And then?  Last week something happened and I’m still not over it.  It shook me up to the point I just wish I could erase the memory because all I can seem to do is replay over and over what could have happened.

Avent Ferry Road is where my father, his father, and his father’s father lived, all of their lives.  My dad told me when he was growing up, it was a dirt road, and at some point, it was paved and became two lanes.  When I was about twelve, the City of Raleigh came through with a widening project, and under that rule of “eminent domain,” they took over half of the front yard.   The road went from two lanes to five.  During the project they piled up truck load after truck load of dirt, to the point that by the end, the driveway was at a ridiculous angle, and had become this short steep hill alongside the house.  If you aren’t familiar with pulling in, you’d just as soon pass it by rather than drop in for a visit.

Back to last week.  Mom and I were in the front yard.  Little Dog, who’s been there many times, was with us.  He’s been taught not to go up the three small steps which lead to the steep driveway and to the five lanes of cars whizzing by on their way to NC State Centennial Campus, or whereever it is they go.  I was trying to dig a hole to plant a small bush.

The dirt was like cement due to lack of rain and Mom said, “Let me go get you the pick axe.”

I kept chipping away at the soil, realizing it was pretty useless with the shovel, and thinking I doubt I’m getting this bush planted. Mom came back and I started swinging the pick axe (determined you could say) and finally, after a few minutes of useless chopping at red CLAY, I gave up.

Then, I spotted some poison ivy growing on that ridiculously slanted embankment, and Mom said, “Let me get a plastic bag to put it in and some gloves you can wear before you pull it up.”

She came back, snapped the bag open and I pulled on the gloves and began cramming the poison ivy into the bag.  I realize now when I think back on the work, I’d not thought of Mister. I realize I didn’t keep an eye on him.  I know now, that something spooked him in the time she went to get the bag and came back.

I was bent over pulling at weeds, and she said, “Uh oh.  Donna.  Mister’s in the driveway.”

I looked up and sure enough.  He was standing halfway up it, staring at me.  Do you know how hard it is to control emotions, to keep panic out of your voice, to think clearly when the potential for disaster is so, so close.  TOO close.

I did the wrong thing in that split second.

Alarmed, I raised my voice, “Mister!  No!”

I went up the three steps in split seconds, but Mister, sensing some other “thing” in my voice, bolted.  Up the rest of the drive.  Right to the edge of the highway.  My focus became warped as I saw the backdrop of speeding cars, his hair blowing from their passing, and all I felt was absolute gut wrenching panic.

Frantic, my voice high pitched, I yelled at him again – another mistake, “Mister!  Mister!  No!  Come here!”

Cars didn’t bother slowing down.  He’s less than 4 lbs.  Who would see him?  He cut left and ran down the sidewalk.  Parallel to the road.  I waved my arms at traffic, hoping I could get them to stop, hoping they’d see the fear on my face, hoping they’d see this little dog running for dear life.

I couldn’t seem to control myself, “No!  MISTER!  MISTER!  OH GOD!”

I needed them to STOP.  Instead.  I did the hardest thing there is to do.  I stopped myself from running after him.  I realized it was his only chance.  If I kept running after him, he’d possibly dart right into an oncoming car.

I crouched down on the sidewalk.  He was still running away from his human, the one who’d lost her mind, the one who was no longer the person he knew and trusted.

I pleaded with him,  “Ohhh, that’s a good boy.  Yes, he’s a good boy.  Good boy.”

I see this moment as clearly as if it were happening now.  He immediately turned, and ran towards me, towards my outstretched arms, my fingers splayed like I have them when I want to pick him up.

And I got him.  And I cried – all the way down that stupid sidewalk, and down that ridiculously steep driveway, and into the rock hard dirt filled yard where Mom stood frozen.

I had him.  He was okay.  Still frightened, but it was like he knew I was too, because all he did was lick my tears.

I love this little dog.  And I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Mister, a.k.a. The Bundle, on Mom’s back porch.

What If?


Recently, I had something so unexpected happen, I was in a state of sheer panic for a couple of hours.

Last Tuesday I was in front of my laptop doing what I do.  The phone rang, and as usual, when I didn’t recognize the number, I ignored the call.  A couple hours later, I happened to look down at the small cordless handset beside me, and saw the tiny amber light blinking, meaning I had a voice mail.

I dialed in, and heard this, “This message is for Donna Everhart.  Ms. Everhart, this is Lieutenant Terrell with the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department, Warrants and Records Division.  This is related to a court matter.  Please call me at your earliest convenience.” 

A court matter?  I couldn’t imagine what this was about.  I’d not had any speeding tickets in decades.  It had to be some sort of mistake, so, I called the number thinking I’d fix this pronto.  Ha.

“This is Lt. Terrell.”

“This is Donna Everhart, returning your call.”

“Donna Everhart?”

“Yes.”

“At…”

“Yes.”

“Ms. Everhart, I’m contacting you regarding grand jury selection.  And regarding the two warrants I have for your arrest.”

“What?  Warrants for my arrest?  For what?!?!”

“Ms. Everhart, on March 17th, a letter was sent to you from the Harnett County Superior Court in regards to grand jury selection.  It was expected that you would appear in court on April 14th.  You did not appear in court, and Judge Faircloth has cited you with failure to appear, and these warrants have been issued, and are about to be activated.”

“Wait a minute, that’s impossible!  I never received any letter!”

“Ma’am, okay, you can dispute it, but, I have right here, a copy of the letter which was sent.  And now, Judge Faircloth has approved the activation of the warrants.”

(Needless to say, hyperventilating and freaking out begins.  While I try to wrap my head around this, I demand clarification and answers – as if I have any control.)

“Wait a minute, wait a minute.  This is crazy! This is insane!  I never received any letter!  Are you telling me the courts can just send a letter, and if people don’t appear they can be arrested???”

“Yes ma’am.  If they’ve indicated they are going to show up.”

“What do you mean, ‘indicated they are going to show up?’  I never got any letter, how can I have said that?”

“I have your response here.”

“No, no, you don’t.  There’s been some sort of mistake.”

“Well, ma’am, that’s possible, but right now, I’ve got these warrants and this all needs to get resolved today.  I’m trying to give you an opportunity to complete a ‘conditional attachment’ to take care of this, to avoid, if possible your arrest.”

“Wait.  What?  A what?”

“A conditional attachment.”

“What is that?”

“If you’ll calm down, I’ll explain what you need to do.  But, Ms. Everhart, please be aware, these warrants are in the system for activation, and this may or may not prevent that from happening.”

Needless to say, more hyperventilating and freaking out, and NOW, I’m getting emotional.

Sobs, “Oh God.  I can’t believe this.  There’s a big mistake. This is all a big mistake.”

“Ma’am, I need you to calm down.  I  need to be able to tell you what you need to do.”

More sobbing, “Oh God.  Oh God.”

“Ma’am?”

“What!”

“Are you able to write this down?  The instructions for what you need to do to rectify this?”
Sobbing,  “Yes.  I’ve got a pen.  What do I do.”

“I need you to get an envelope, and address it to Harnett County Superior Court House.  Address is….  Did you get that?”

Still sobbing, “Yes.  But, what’s this for?”

“The receipt that will be issued to you, and what you will send once you pay these fines. Bring cash or check, no credit cards, to the Harnett County Sheriffs department at…ma’am, are you all right?”

“No!  I’m not.  I’m upset!

“Ma’am I need for you to calm down.  I’m just doing my job.”

Still crying, “Okay, all right, but I need to talk to my lawyer.  Something’s wrong.  This doesn’t seem right.”

“Ma’am, you can call your lawyer if you want.  That’s not a problem.  If you do that, I can’t guarantee I can stop the activations.”

“Can’t you give me five minutes?  I’ll call you back in five minutes.”

“Okay.  Five minutes.”

***********************************************

I call my next door neighbor – who just so happens to be the city attorney.  I explain to him as best as I can without having a major meltdown what’s going on.  He asks if the guy wants a credit card number.  Which is what I was on high alert for during the entire conversation.  If he had wanted my credit card, I’d have been all like, “Uh, hell no, and hell no.”

I tell City Attorney he said cash or check only.  I tell CA the address he’s given me of where I need to take it.

CA said, “Well, that IS the sheriff’s department address.  I guess you better go and see what’s going on.”

OH GOD.

***********************************************
I call Lt. Terrell back.
“This is Lt. Terrell.”
“Okay, I can be on my way to the sheriff’s department in 30 minutes.  (as usual, I’m still in my running clothes.  No shower.  I want to take a shower before I go out in public)
“Ms. Everhart, these warrants are about to be activated.  I’m afraid any more delays, and I won’t be able to prevent this.”
“Okay, okay, fine.  I’ll leave now.  Wait, what will paying the fines do?”

“That will allow Judge Faircloth to set a court date.  The matter will not be held in open court, but in chambers, where you’ll be able to dispute the matter.”

“And how much are they?”

“One if $1,498.00 and the other is $998.00 both for the failure to appear.”

I swallow hard, and tell him, “Okay.  I’m on my way.”

“Ma’am, before you come, I need your cell phone number to establish a link with GPS.”

“Uh, okay, why?”

“Like I’ve been saying, these warrants are about to be activated, and I’ll need to have an open line to you in case, between your house and here you’re stopped.  You don’t have to talk to me.  It’s just an open connection, where I can prevent an arrest if they see your vehicle and initiate the arrest.”

“I don’t have a cell phone.  I have OnStar.”

“That’ll work.”

“I’m on my way now.”

“I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”

In the meantime during the last five minutes, my husband has come in, seen the state I’m in.  He only understands the basics which I scribbled down on piece of paper and flipped up for him to see.  *FAILURE TO APPEAR*

He and I go to his truck in silence.

I call Lt. Terrell’s number and it goes to voice mail, which states, “This is the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department Warrants and Records Division.  Leave your name, number and message and someone will call you back.”

I give him my husband’s cell phone, and tell him my husband is bringing me.  I call the number a couple more times while on the way and get vm.

We arrive at the Sheriff’s Department, I go in and up to the glass window where a young woman is sitting.

“I need to see a Lt. Terrell.”

She shakes her head, “There is no Lt. Terrell.  It’s a scam.”

Guess what I do? Yeah.  Boo hoo.  This time in relief.  I have a lily white reputation to maintain, don’t you know.

And…, that’s when my husband starts cussing.  And that’s when we are taken into a REAL Lt.’s office where we file a report.  Turns out I was the third victim in Harnett County, while Wake County (my home county) has something like 400 cases similar to this.

After it was all said and done, I began to play the what if game.  What if he wanted to know where I was (via GPS) so buddies of his could back a truck up and clean us out?  What if he was watching the house?  Saw me leave?  What if he fell in behind me and all along I’m “linked” to his cell phone, and on some stretch of Hwy 421, a car with a blue light in the dash pulls me over?

What if I said, “Oh no, they’re pulling me over, what do I do?  Can’t you stop this?”

What if he played the part and said “Sorry.  I tried to prevent this.  Just go with them, and it will be straightened out.”

What if the call then disconnected and I’m under the impression I AM being arrested.

What if the “sheriff,” came to my window and said, “Ma’am, please step out of the car.  You’re under arrest.”

What if I did as he said, and he put me in the back of his “squad” car and took off?

What if…? 

Thinking beyond that…, well, it’s too scary, too real, it hits too close to home.

What’s the strangest thing to happen to you lately?

One Small Mourning Dove


I love watching the neighborhood kids play because they go about it like my brother and I used to, riding their bikes like the hounds of hell are on their heels, tearing up the alleys, ducking in and out of yards, or streaking down sidewalks.  Animated voices arrive well in advance of their actual bodies, and lingers in the air after they’ve disappeared.

Sometimes they jump on the trampoline, or into their pool.  Sometimes they play fetch with their dog, or tag football in their front yard. Sometimes they shoot baskets, and…, sometimes they bring out their air rifle b.b. guns and target practice.  That’s when I get a little nervous.  The other day as we sat on the porch, we could hear their voices rising in pitch, excitement boiling over.  A long dark gun was held by the eldest and it was obvious something in the trees had been spotted.

I heard someone say, “shoot it, shoot it.”

Quietly, I said, “Oh no,”  while my husband remained silent, watchful, probably hoping like me their aim hadn’t improved.

There was a sort of pop.  I saw a dove launch itself out of a pecan tree, heading straight for our yard.

Then a chorus of:   “You got it!  You got it!”  “Where did it go?”  “I don’t know!”

Me, again, more distressed:  “They’re shooting at the birds!”

I thought they’d missed.  Thank God.

You see, I feed the birds every day, and it’s as if they’ve come to recognize me.  I can hear them in the trees when I go outside in the mornings, and it’s not only the dove, it’s purple finches, goldfinches, sparrows, wrens, redheaded woodpeckers, a pair of cardinals, a couple of catbirds, and a few thrushes.  Their calls and whistles, and chirps and cheeps grow louder as I strew the seed about.  They seem to know why I’m there and as soon as I’m done, and before I can get back inside, they swoop down to eat.

The kids came out of the backyard to investigate.  They saw us, and grew quieter, but kept searching, declaring amongst themselves they’d seen feathers fly.

I spoke to them from where we sat, “It’s not dove season, right?”

The eldest, a great kid whom I’ve known since he was born, replied in a quiet voice, “No ma’am.”

They returned to their backyard and shut the gate.  It was then I looked to my right, and there, on the pine straw, below a bush was the dove.  Not even five feet from me.  And of course, it was dead.

To say I’m tenderhearted over such things is an understatement.  As I gathered it up, ignoring the blood and the lolling head, all I could focus on was the warmth still there, the plush feathers, and the soft gray and browns inherent to a mourning dove.  They are often called Carolina turtle dove, or rain dove as well, and amazingly, they are monogamous.  Funny, delicate seeming birds, with a head much smaller than their body, they can fly up to 55 m.p.h.  They are breeding now, which is why they aren’t in season.  It’s possible a nest has been compromised.  I can’t help myself, but I’m half crying, and feeling a bit silly for doing so.

Like I said, tenderhearted.  What can I say?

I took the bird to the back gate, and as I expected, the eldest when he opened it and saw what was in my hand was more than sorry.  His face expressed genuine concern and real worry, yet, I too am worried because this is one of those awkward situations where, as an adult, I have to handle it appropriately yet make my point.

I shook my head, and said, “I just can’t handle seeing anything get shot.”

He replied, “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.  I won’t do it again.”

I said, “Well.  Now you have it, what are you going to do with it?”

He said, “eat it.”

Which is, of course, the right answer.

I handed it to him and he took it from my hands carefully.  I came back over to our porch, up the steps and inside to wash my hands.  When I went back out, within seconds, he came out of their back gate, across the alley, up our steps to stand before us, to apologize again.  At that point, still sort of teary eyed, I began to feel like a real jerk.  His parents are stellar.  They’ve taught all their children to respect adults, mind their manners, and I would bet money, he’s the most considerate thirteen year old I know.

He said it again, “I’m really sorry, Miss Donna.  I won’t do it again.”

I said, “I know, and I know you hunt, and your dad takes you, and you know about responsibility.  For me, it’s just that…, I feed them, you know?  And, I’m such a rule follower.”

He stood there, hands folded in front of his shirt, so contrite and clearly disturbed.

I wish it hadn’t happened.  I don’t want him to think he can’t play, run or ride in that free and spirited way like before.  I want him to know I trust his word, and that even though one small mourning dove is gone, he IS a really good kid.

And that we all make mistakes.

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Me and Mom


Since my father passed March third, I’ve been making a weekly trip to Raleigh to help Mom with everything from estate finances to dragging her trash and recycle bins to the curb.  Before my father’s death, I’d always made an effort to go see the both of them, just not every week.  Usually it was about once a month, sometimes twice. depending on how I felt the writing was coming along.

Now, no matter what, I go.  (Remember the self imposed writing challenge?  It’s actually helped me stay on track.)

Mom will be seventy nine in August and she’s never been on her own.  This “new normal” for her (and me) is going to be an adjustment.  In truth, that’s an understatement.  It’s going to be a reckoning, a realization, because there are some things about Mom I never knew.  Of course I do know she married Dad within five weeks of meeting him.  Right from her parent’s house to his, she never experienced any sort of independence except what came from her being a controlling sort while Dad was laid back enough to let her feel she was calling all the shots.

The thing is, I think all along my dad must have been something of a buffer.  I think he caught the things she did (and does) and held onto them quietly.  Like her need to do what I call her daily brain dump.  Like how she’ll call me and will explain everything she’s done from the moment she wakes up to the very minute of our phone conversation.  She’ll then move on to what she’s going to do next, how she’s going to do it, and what she’ll do when she’s finished.

She dumps. I listen, like Dad.

This past Monday when I was there, we went back to the funeral home to pick up an item.  We didn’t know what it was, and when we arrived, we went into the office area where we were handed a memory book.  It’s very nice, with the pictures of dad, and the online memorials given by some folks, and pages to write down his hobbies, interests and all that.

Mom looked at the on site pastor and the office manager who’d passed it along to her, and said, “Oh, I just can’t read it.  If I do I’ll cry.”

They said, “Well that’s fine, you don’t need to read it now, just read it later.”

I said, “Yeah Mom, best not read it now.”

Well, of course she opened it, began to read and of course she cried.  They handed her Kleenexes, and pats on the back and murmured words of condolence, and I think she needed it.

Soon after, with Mom feeling a little better, we left.  I’d already purchased a bouquet of flowers beforehand and I said, “Do you still want to go put these flowers on Dad’s grave?  Are you okay?”

“Oh, yes, I’m fine.”

Off we go.  When we get there, it’s hard to believe it’s been only six weeks because the process of grieving is a relentless, and all consuming past time.  We can barely manage the fragile steps we must make towards trying to heal and as I watch my mother totter along the uneven ground towards her husband, tapping the ground delicately with her cane, I worry.  Our frayed and ragged emotions which have only begun to feel less sharp are suddenly razor edged – again.  We don’t dare speak as we ease our way across the pollen covered grass to where Dad lies.  We circle and walk and stare at the granite and bronze plaques looking for DAVIS.

Thirty minutes goes by.  No DAVIS. I broaden my search.  Mom’s face has gone red, and she’s hobbling about, back and forth, minute by minute becoming more anxious, more distraught.  Neither one of us wants to admit defeat.

Finally, I say, “We ought to call them.  Maybe the plaque hasn’t been put down yet.”

She hands me her cell phone silently and begins to walk again, refusing to stop.

She tells me with a shaky voice, “I’ll find him, by God!”

She’d always known where Dad was, each and every second of their lives together.  This is unfathomable for her and I see this, and I quickly make the call.  Sure enough, the plaque is due this Friday, and they will call when it’s in place.  We’ve brought flowers and probably walked right over him who knows how many times. Why do I picture him laughing at this?  At us?

I can sort of see the humor, and I go and tell Mom, expecting her to laugh with me.  Instead she starts fuming.

She says “Oh this is absolutely ridiculous!  It’s been six weeks!”

I said, “Mom, there’s no reason to be mad.  It’s just not here yet, these things take time to get right.  I think it’s kind of funny.”

“Well, I don’t.  Not after what I paid!   It ought to be here!”

I said not a word.  Like Dad.

What The Heck Is This?


When I finished my last project I realized I was in a bit of a dilemma.  Based on what I’d read, it wasn’t an unusual spot to be in.  My dilemma was, what genre did my book fit in?  I hadn’t written a mystery because a reader would know certain things up front my MC didn’t.  My MC wasn’t trying to solve the crime, she was simply trying to find out what happened to her parents.  It wasn’t a thriller because although I did try to make things suspenseful for her, I didn’t have her hanging by a fingernail out of a plane door, nor did I have her standing on the ledge of some mountain about two thousand feet up with a knife wielding maniac taking swipes at her torso.  I didn’t have my bad guy constantly thwarting every attempt she made to figure things out.

I simply wrote it (ha! simply wrote = eighteen months of hair pulling and angst), tried to make it good, typed THE END and then I admit, I sat back and wondered, what the heck is this? 

Was it so out of line, so off the mark of anything marketable it was doomed from the get go?  I’ve tried not to worry about that.  Then, one day, without me trying to figure it out, I was practically handed my answer on a silver platter because I honestly can’t tell you how I land on the sites that answer my questions.  I traverse the internet the way a monkey traverses treetop canopies.  I cavort here and there without paying attention to what I’m linking to, flip flopping around like a spider on a web.  (no pun intended.  Well, okay, there is, because it’s a pretty good one if you’ve ever seen a spider spinning a web)   Hither thither I go, reading this and that.

I somehow found myself on the Algonquin Redux site and landed on a list that clearly stated the difference between a mystery and a thriller.  Here’s the short of it:

MYSTERY                                                                  THRILLER
A puzzle                                                                       A nightmare
Curiosity motivates                                                   Victim story (at top)
Protagonist has skills                                                Protagonist must learn skills
Thinking is paramount                                             Feeling is paramount
Action is offstage                                                        Action is onstage
Small circle of acquaintances                                  Thrust into larger world
Clues                                                                             Surprises/twists
Red herrings                                                                Cycles of mistrust
Information withheld from audience                     Information given to audience
Audience a step behind                                             Audience a step ahead
Mostly single Point of View                                      Up to four Points of View
Whodunnit?                                                                 What will happen?
Suspects                                                                        Betrayers
Ending intellectually satisfying                               Ending emotionally satisfying
Closure a requirement                                               Can end ambiguously
Series expected                                                            Often stand-alone
Usually 300 pages                                                       Can be longer

Here’s the link if you want to read the article in it’s entirety.  It’s actually pretty short.  This was all fine and good but it still didn’t quite nail the way I handled my story, or maybe I should say the way my characters handled the story.  Therefore, I still didn’t have a clue.  But, lucky me, I subscribe to various blogs and am never at a loss for something to read.  And just over a week ago I found my answer here.  Hallelujah, what I wrote actually fits nicely into this!  Crime fiction!  Whoop!

On what constitutes crime fiction:

“I would say that crime fiction is less about the whodunit than about the protagonist’s dilemma in a criminal milieu. The protagonist may not have all the information—so there is a mystery in that he is trying to find something out—but the story is really about how he solves his problems, which are often as much about his lifestyle as about the particular crime that spurs the plot. For instance, in Ray Bank’s brilliant Saturday’s Child, Cal Innes is forced by a local mob boss to find a former employee and the money he stole, but in many ways the story is about Cal trying to find a place for himself and form an adult life within a socioeconomic stratum that offers very few options.”

—Stacia Decker (Donald Maass Literary Agency)

This was such a relief because “crime fiction” isn’t listed very often.  If you do a search on it you can find some resources, but mostly you get thriller, suspense and mystery and often all of these are lumped together.  When I was trying to buy books so I could read “in the genre” I was writing, suspense was the one I searched under.  And oftentimes I ended up giving up because I just couldn’t seem to pinpoint a similar story.  (Saturday’s Child above would have been good to know about, for example)

Now I know.  A day late and a dollar short maybe, but my book fits somewhere!  Clearly!

Have you ever written a book, only to have no idea what the heck it is?

Chuck’s Challenge


Chuck Wendig challenged his readers this week with a one hundred word flash fiction contest.  Well shoot.  I just happen to have a few of those from the Shark’s very own one hundred word contests.  How convenient.  And besides, Chuck threw down a double dog dare, and that means I have to do it, right?

Some of you might remember this one:

The blush of dawn came. Summer stretched before them, along with the thought of endless, monotonous hospital treatments. She watched a sandpiper scurry after a crab, one hand over her chest where evil grew, virus like, insidious.

She said, “Promise?”

He nodded, “Promise.”

Helpless, he watched her grow weaker, until one day, she said, “Today.”

He carried her to the beach, waded in and lowered her down. She struggled, only a little, but he could see her smiling through his tears.

Later his cell rang, interrupting his anguish.

He answered and her doctor said, “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

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