For Who Corona Tolls

“No one wants another lockdown,” is what I keep hearing people say, as well as “We can’t stay locked down forever” as if what people want, and how long it takes, is something where personal opinion means anything at all. Social media has trained us all to be squalling infants, where the loudest, shrillest, and most ceaseless voice is the one in the room who gets the most attention. I have some news for you people: The Plague does not care. 

Politics drove Gov. Brian Kemp to open Georgia up, to lie about how bad it was, and to ignore how bad it’s getting, and he’s still doing it, even as people die. That’s also happening in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and more and more other states, as the economy, a political entity, gets preference over saving lives.

In countries where all lives matter, like Germany, New Zealand, Italy, and most other places where the virus is on its way down, the government and the people are working together as a team to quell the outbreak and to help keep one another safe. In America, it’s all about personal freedom and getting your hair and nails done. 

It took years to get people to stop smoking in public buildings. Some people were just simply going to smoke because “I have a right to smoke” but eventually, most of them gave up trying to force themselves on other people, or cancer got them. The problem with trying to wait those people out now is they’re capable of infecting many other people each day. 

The Plague has revealed a stunning flaw in American culture, actually it’s revealed two, but they are very closely related. The first is middle America is closer to the brink of poverty than anyone imagined. Three months of lockdown and we lose the middle class. Think about that for a moment. If there was some terrible natural disaster, like a plague, and America was forced into isolation for three months, people would starve, lose their homes, lose their jobs, and they would become homeless. Or the government could stop throwing taxpayer dollars at airlines who are laying people off, and help the taxpayers. We’re willing to give money away to corporate giants but not people.

The next surprise is how little America care about their children. Sandy Hook and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting taught is that Americans care more about their guns than their kids, but the Corona Plague has taught us people are willing to, dying to in fact, send their children to schools, without any guarantee of their safety, just so the parents can go back to work. 

American Public schools have been transformed into socialized daycare. 

That actually explains every bit of this, if you think about it. Americans, for many years, have told teachers to pass their kids, just don’t bother me after work about it, and don’t expect me to talk to you about my kids’ grades, and just pass the damn kid, and leave me alone. So kids have been in day care, not an environment they could learn. What they did learn was work was more important than family. 

The utter failure of our leaders to lead is not an accident. They know damn well American are dying to get their nails done, to go out and drink and eat to excess, and will toss their children in front of bullets at school to make a political statement. We wonder why factory farms work, why animals can be trained to just eat, sleep, and then be killed, we wonder how this works, but we fail to see that it has worked very well on us. We live to work. We exist to provide money to CEOs, and there is nothing more important in our lives than to consume products that we are told to consume.

The leadership of this country will teach us the young and the old are expendable. Our children can be murdered, and our grandparents can sicken and die. The one true love and fealty of our lives is to work. We must pay taxes to the CEOs. There are no other considerations. 

Take Care,

Mike

July

There’s no coolness in the air, even before dawn, and the heaviness in the air is palpable. It’s the heat of the Summer now, that part of the year where there will be no relief in any shape, fashion, or form, outside a house where there is air conditioning. It’s seventy-six degrees as I search the sky for a comet. It’s not there, but the mosquitoes are. I go back inside and contemplate calling in for health reasons; I am totally sick of the heat. 

The drive to work is like commuting into a furnace. The sun rises quickly, and it blasts away hope and the wane clouds defending the sky. These are the bones of clouds, eroded and empty, devoid of any rain, or shade now. They’re the dinosaur bones in the sky, the reminder that any possible reprieve is being dealt with unmercifully, and early. Like a lost man finding a skull in the desert there will be no hope found. There will only be the memory of cool days and nice breezes. The forensic evidence of anything less than July will be hard to collect. I drive straight into the sunrise, and I can feel the heat beginning. 

The men who work outside can feel it coming. Swarms of gnats, harbingers of misery, crowd around faces, searching for salt or moisture, and finding enough of both, are as relentless and enteral as the heat. Stinging flies and mosquitoes are there to remind everyone that July means misery, and there’s more than enough to go around. Everyone can have a second helping, not a problem. 

I wear long sleeves, even in this heat. My arms need the protection from the radiation of the star that is far too close right now. The young men strip down and the older guys cover up. I wear gloves, light cotton things, to cover my hands, and everyone thinks I’m crazy. It’s so incredibly hot. But the extra layer of cloth collects sweat, doles it out slowly, and I am cooler for it. Cooler, being a relative term. There is only suffering, and degrees, no pun intended, of suffering. 

By ten, we know the day will be very long. The nearby woods offer a buffer from a breeze, not real shade. The flies and other pests live there when they are not feasting on our blood. We’ve donated more to the insects than we’ve given to the Red Cross. 

There’s a dead hog in the creek, and it looks managed. It smells even worse. We’re hoping an alligator will drag it away and eat it, but that doesn’t happen today. The stench is as omnipresent as the heat. One of the younger guys recommends we try to burn the corpse, but a forest fire would take off running. He wonders aloud if it would smell like bacon. One of the older men tells him to shut up so the young guy starts talking about smoked ham. HE may be murdered before the end of the day, but that is quite some time away. 

About two it rains for thirty-three seconds. The ground and pavement is wet, and the sun comes out and turns it all into a mist, like the smell of the dead hog, incarnate. The heat was unbearable, but now it’s almost like a poisonous sauna. Breathing has that same feel as drinking water that has been sitting for too long, stagnant and dead. The air feels like it’s contaminated with death and disease. Malaria. 

Sweat oozes from the body like a billion gunshot wounds. The face, neck, chest, and shoulder sends rivulets of seawater down the back and front of the body to form pools, and to dampen clothes. The pig isn’t the only thing that is going to be stinking soon, but no one here cares. We’re all trapped on an island in the sun, and no one is spared. 

Steel becomes too hot to pick up and carry. Concrete radiates heat as if it has an internal generator. Exhaust from machines feels like it might kill. Each and every movement by a machine, and every footstep each man takes, means a little more dust in the air. Boots create small clouds, and those become larger, until there’s a flinty smell, the odor of a mountain’s blood; rock deduced to its smallest visible atoms. 

The dust and sweat mix, slip down inside of clothes to produce a unique irritant. We’re being drawn back into the earth, and it covers us as if we are already being buried alive, somewhat. The gnats persist, the flies dive in and land on a face, and the threat of death means nothing to these winded devils. Welts appear and itch. The sun is along in the sky except for the moisture, and the bugs. It is three in the afternoon and we know sundown is at least six hours away. 

The drove home is straight into the sun, again. The heat is unbearable, even with the AC on. There is no relief at all from the radiation, the skin killing rays, and even sunglasses are impotent. Home means the boots come off, water, and unlimited supply, and cool air from the vents. 

Tomorrow will be just like today, except it is supposed to be hotter. 

Take Care,

Mike

The Moon and Me.

At four in the morning, I’ve already been up for two hours. It’s good writing time, this part of the morning, none better, but there’s also a bridge in the southern part of Echols County that needs one hundred eighty-five cubic yards of concrete before the sun comes up and the heat rises. The balance between two worlds, one with concrete and steel, and the other with writing, swings towards hard reality, and I’m on State Route 94, heading east, and watching the moon rise.

If you ever go to Statenville Georgia, and you’re on 94 heading east, the moment you cross over the Statenville city limits, you’ve started the journey into The Big Empty. Until Fargo is reached, twenty-five miles away or so, there’s very little but trees and trees and trees. There’s a house here and there, one paved road going to the left, two going to the right, and everything looks smaller or further away in The Big Empty. Deer, wild hogs, open spaces, planted pines, and ditches full of water, for the Okefenokee is near but damn little else. If you need some time to think about something, you will find it here.

 

The radio is off as I streak through the night, speeding for me, because I always drive slowly. The Crescent Moon is flirting intimately with Venus. It’s easy to see why the followers of Islam love the crescent moon, and why they might be compelled to add a star near it, if you’ve ever watched the sliver of the moon rise with Venus. In a time without unnatural lights, at least not the ocean of them we have created, it would be glorious for a religion to associate itself with the sight before me. Despite why the news tells you, and contrary to the recent history you might read, Islam had been a civilized religion for many centuries. True enough, there have been many wars, but the art, the architecture, and the appreciation of beauty by the adherents of that religion speaks to the soul of humanity, like all artwork will at this time of morning.

 

It’s easy to be a peace in The Big Empty, with Venus, and a Crescent Moon. I wonder if it was Venus, the Goddess of Love, who put the star on the flag of Islam, and maybe more people should wonder this. Please, don’t try to start a debate about what this side did or that side did, let’s just enough natural darkness that had a great light show with planetary objects, shall we? Just this once?

 

The radio is still off, I’m listening to the road, and the sky. The moon is huge, slung down low, and I can tell it has risen slowly since I began. How do you think it felt to watch this sight, thousands of years ago, with nothing but the sound of the world around you? The yellow orange moon, with just a slight touch of silver around the disk, a start or a planet blazing in the sky as the moon rises, who could not feel something supernatural here?

 

The real world intrudes, and harshly so. The artificial glare from the works lights blast out the night sky. There’s enough men here to form football teams with substitutes, and the concrete will arrive soon. Thousands of years old, concrete is still fickle and tricky. Heat, water, and a thousand other variables haunt each pour, and every mistake will be permanent, perhaps even catastrophic. I must return to the world of brought lights, and steel, and stern men who fear the loss of money, and thrive on the work that few understand.

 

Yet as the work begins, the concrete pours into the forms, the steel is buried for a hundred years or more, and sweat becomes the more important ingredient of the morning, I take time to watch the moon rise higher and higher, and Venus is subdued by the starlight of the rising sun.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

The Deer and the Snake

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Cottonmouth photo of one I relocated out of my yard several years ago.

 

Today I saw the twin fawns that I first spotted six or eight weeks ago. They are still hanging out with their Mom, but the spots are gone, and there was another older deer with them. They’re getting wary of humans, and bolted before I could get a good photo of them. But at least I know they made it this far. After they leave their Mom’s side and get off on their own, or with a herd, I won’t know it’s them anymore. It’s very rare when I don’t see at least half a dozen deer, and not uncommon to see a dozen or more.

 

Animals get used to human activity, especially when the humans aren’t shooting at them. It’s against federal law to carry a gun on a federally funded construction site, and not too many guys want to be fired, then arrested, for shooting a deer out of season, at work. Fewer still employers will put up with that sort of behavior. But guys are stupid sometimes, when it comes to guns, and the deer are wary about getting too close. I whistle at the deer, so they’ll get used to the sound I make, and they’ll know it’s me. “Sit still, look pretty” is my tune of choice, and the deer seem to like it.

 

I’m deer watching today, eating my sandwich for lunch, trying to get them to come close enough for a good photo, when I see the snake. There’s a sizable Cottonmouth that hangs around a low place in the woods that’s flooded. I think it’s the same snake because, one, it is big, and two, for a big Cottonmouth, it still has a very distinct pattern, and most do not. The darker color is a deep olive green, and the lighter color is brownish. I think this is one of the most beautiful snakes I’ve seen, and as I ease my phone out of the pocket, two of the guys from the project come to see what progress I’m making with the deer.

 

This ruins the progress I’m making with the deer, and infinitely worse, it means they might try to kill the Cottonmouth, unless I stop them, and if I stop them, it’s going to cause friction. But this is a beautiful snake, and I’m not going to stand around and watch someone beat it to death in front of me. The snake is made entirely of the stealth. The scales of a Cottonmouth are what is known as “keeled” which means there’s a ridge running down the middle of the scale, and this refracts light. Snakes surprise people sometimes because of the way their scales scatter light, and so the snake seems to just appear out of nowhere. You have to see the right kind of light, or the lack of it, to see the snake. To me, the difference between the shadows cast by trees and the dark figure of the snake is clear. Neither of the guys has seen the snake, but the snake’s body language tells me it has seen them. Right now, it’s staying put, pretending to be the shadow of a shadow, and it’s working.

 

Throughout the years, I’ve learned the hard way people will kill snakes for no good reason at all. Toss in the snake is packing and they’ll hurt themselves trying to kill it. My theory is people feel inadequate when they’re in nature, and killing something makes them feel more in control and stronger. Which explains why so many people can’t handle being in the wild. The truth is, the ability to blend in, and survive with the environment, is the only way to live. Yet here they are, talking about shooting deer, even if they are unarmed, and there’s a venomous snake less than six feet away.

 

It’s an act of treason or sorts, a violation of man code, but while they’re standing there talking to me, friendly like, and we’re being social, I send their foreman a text and ask him when we’re going to be ready to pour concrete again. This prods him into looking around and realizing two of his men have wandered off. It gets them both into a little hot water, nothing serious, but he recalls them with a few words about wandering away from the project. I get to wander because I’m inspection, not construction, but my time on the fringe is limited, too. Slowly, ever so slowly, the snake begins to move. It eases back towards the woods, and the water, and I still cannot get a decent photo of it.

 

The temperature is mid-nineties, and the heat index is pushing everything into triple digit heat. The bridge deck’s bare steel skeleton radiates heat, and it becomes an oven. This is where it matters, where what I do makes a difference, and so I endure the heat, and make sure things are as they should be.

“So what in the fuck was that all about?”  the foreman asks.

“What?”

“You text me while those two guys are over there talking to you? They piss you off?” he asks.

“Not especially,” I reply, “but I was trying to get the deer to come closer.”

“Bullshit.”

“What?” I ask.

“You were looking back into the woods when I called them, there a moonshine still out there?” he laughs.

“If there is do you really want to know?” I reply. No one in their right mind walks up on a still in the woods. Oh yeah, it sounds like fun, like getting shot is fun.

“No, really, you got a reason for us not to be over there?” the foreman asks. “I can put a stop to it,”

“Do that,” I say. “And don’t ask why, okay?”

“You got it.” And the man knows that this far out in the woods, whatever it is, he doesn’t want to know, and he doesn’t want his guys messing with something out there. They have a job. It is not in the woods.

 

The Cottonmouth and the deer get a little bit more protection. I get another chance to photo the snake, and the deer. The snake gets a chance to live another day, and maybe have babies in a couple of months. That would explain the girth, actually.

 

If it sounds strange to you for me to go to that much trouble to save a snake, a Cottonmouth at that, you just met me. I get stranger, but at the end of the day, I’m closer to nature for it.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

All You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Response You Can Learn in Traffic

I worked in traffic for over twenty-seven years for the Georgia Department of Transportation. There were many times in my career where I had a lot of be proud of, with the bridges and roads that I helped build. There were times I was nearly hurt, seriously, because of traffic, and usually it was because someone behind the wheel of a car or truck wasn’t paying attention, or was speeding, or was drunk.

2018 was my last full year with the department, and 2017 was the last year I spent most of my time in harm’s way, and on I-75 at that. Night work on I-75 was enough to convince me that getting out while the getting was good might just save my life.

 

Traffic is different these days. People are more determined not to yield the right of way, not to surrender what they consider “their” lane, and they’re more distracted. People have gotten more aggressive, and they’ve gotten a lot more rude. They’ve become dangerously infected with the idea things on the road have to be the way they think they should be, at all costs, and that cost is paid by people like me, and the men and women under my management. In good conscious, I could not tell new people it was worth the risk, because I stopped believing it was. The traveling public became too dangerous to work with anymore.

 

Social media has created the idea that all opinions have real worth, and that worth has to be defended. People have become aggressive about what they believe, and it’s gotten dangerous in many ways. Drivers believe what they read online, and they believe it’s important enough to be engaged online while driving on the Interstate at speeds that can kill in an instant. That’s reality. What someone says that you either agree with or disagree with isn’t worth your life.

 

It sure as hell isn’t worth mine.

 

In the last few years, I’ve witnessed more people blocking traffic by positioning themselves to the left, and behind a slower vehicle on four lane roads. They’ll let other people get clogged up in traffic, back up a dozen cars, and they’ll maneuver so no one can get past them. This is new to me. I’ve never seen it until a few years ago, and to pull something like that on the Interstate is insane. But it speaks to the idea that someone wants to be in control of other people, other people must fall in line with that drive thinks is funny, or give that person power or purpose, I have no idea. I do know it is exceedingly dangerous.

 

Sometimes, on social media, I wonder if some people actually have a point, or an idea, or if they’re just getting in the way of other people because it’s their idea of fun. I asked for a recommendation on FB and got a half a dozen people who tossed out stuff that had nothing to do with what I asked. It wasn’t mean, or malicious, but it was a knee jerk reaction to get in the way because they could.

 

I think social media asks that we respond. We can be creative, or obstructionist, or we can even be angry. But we are trained to respond, not think, or consider, or even simply read and move on.

 

Those emoji buttons aren’t there to express thoughts but to give us some way to respond, and feel like we have made some sort of contribution, like screaming at a character in a television show.

 

When Covid-19 began to creep into the American consciousness, I assumed this would play out like it did in 1919. People would do the right things for the right reasons, and eventually, we would come out on the other side, more united, and stronger. But the dialog was driven by politics, and there were far too many people who say the plague, and the response to it, as political. The deaths and suffering of those who were infected, their families, and those who might succumb to the disease were not relevant. Any action, no matter how small or how large, was met with screaming and hostility, because it wasn’t about life and death, it was about politics, personal or national. It was about opinion and what was repeated in the echo chamber of social media posts. People became even more dangerous to other people than they had been in traffic, and for the very same reasons.

 

Americans have become a splintered collection of self-centered, selfish, uneducated, ignorant, self-righteous and highly opinionated self contained media centers that puke out whatever each of them feels best about, once they hear that two hundred and whatever many characters that can be tossed out in less than twenty seconds of typing.

 

The elderly and the children be damned. Social media is the new family now, and it is driven by nothing more complicated than a chicken pecking at a button that delivers a snack.

 

Over the last three years or so, I’ve watched people I thought I knew, and thought I respected, become seething bodies of hatred and mistrust, believing conspiracy theories that are downright laughable. These people will attack in mass, and viciously, anyone who dares ask them to cite a source, or to produce an honest source for what they preach.

 

The reaction to the plague, how people drive, and how they treat other people has become a nearly religious event. The right to a lane, the right to an opinion, and the right to treat people poorly is given to them by the Gods of social media, the support of like minded responders, and the never ending belief that if it can be repeated often enough, it must be true.

 

Can we honestly be surprised the Nazis are back? This is their playbook. People are recruiting themselves for the most assertive groups out there and what they actually stand for is totally and utterly irrelevant because it’s the response mechanism, not the philosophy, that counts these days.

 

And it’s getting people killed.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

The “Problem” With Black People

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The first kidnapped people held as slaves arrived in North America in 1619. Slavery remained legal until 1865.

That’s two hundred forty-six years. We Americans gained our independence from England in 1776, which was two hundred forty-four years ago.

 

Black people were slaves longer than America has existed.

 

During the time black people were held in chains, working for no wage at all, there were many American, that’s white people, families who created wealth for their descendants. Some of those families can trace the wealth they hold today back to the times their ancestors used slaves to gain their riches.

During that 246 years, black people, who were not considered citizens, were not allowed to create great works of arts,  or write epic volumes of literature, they were not allowed works of art, could not invent world changing machines, did not have the ways and means to discover new medicines, and they certainly did not have a voice in their government, as to how they should be treated. They were not allowed to do any of these things. And if they had, their kidnappers would have taken the credit for any and all of it.

 

A vast, terrible, and unfillable void exists in their history, where there is only misery, depravation, and suffering without end.

 

In 1865, slavery was outlawed after a lot of rich white people talked many more poor whites to wage war to keep slaves. Some slave owners were given compensation for losing their property. Slaves were given nothing. Worse, it had been illegal to educate slaves, so any employment they might possibly get, would not pay much more than being a slave.  Even worse, there was a system called “Peonage” where black people in general, and black men in particular, could be arrested for any imagined offense, and made to work for free for anyone who the sheriff allowed. This went on until the second world war, and ended, more or less, about 1940.

 

Along with Jim Crow laws, lynching, and a host of other laws enacted by white led governments, black people spent 75 years not only with nearly no representation in their government, but they also had little or no means to gain enough wealth to leave to their children, who would grow up with the deck stacked against them, and have little to leave to their own children.

 

After World War II, there was still very little access to education, legally enforced segregation, and still nearly no black people as lawmakers, judges, business owners, college students, teachers, and certainly none who had any chance to leave very much at all to the next generation.

 

During the sixties, the Federal government began loaning money to white people so they could buy houses, and these loans were insured, so if the white person who took out the loan fell upon hard times, at worst, they would receive some sort of equity for their investments. This same program did not ensure the loans of black people. This meant if they missed one payment on their home, they would lose everything they had paid into that house.

 

Meanwhile, the number of people, and in this case, people means white people, going to college was rising. White families, who had homes that raised their ability to obtain credit, could afford to send their children to schools, and this increased their ability to make money, which was handed down to the next generation.

 

At no point, from the time the first black person was dragged off a ship and began a lifetime of forced labor, were black people given the same opportunities as white people. At no time were black people free to make their own destinies without interference from the laws white people created to keep black people from being truly free.

 

This has led to black people living in poverty at rates far exceeding those that white people have seen. This has led to rampant drug use among the poor communities, alcoholism, single parent homes, and an incredible about of mental stress suffered by an entire race of people whose only sin was being born black.

 

When Richard Nixon was president, he engineered the “War on Drugs” and the sole purpose of that legislation was to punish black people for being black. This began a system of mass incarceration of black men, which is still an epidemic today. White people who commit the same crimes as black people are jailed at a rate of about ten percent as those black people suffer.

 

Today, a white person posted on Facebook his long and incredibly ignorant opinion on why black communities are poorer, why black students score lower on tests, why so many black people are in jail, and why it seems like black people simply do not live as well as white people do.

What I have written, what you have read, are the facts. This is all readily available for anyone who wants to do the research.

 

If you want to know why black people are not as successful as white people, generally speaking, you have only to go into your bathroom and look in the mirror. Even if you’ve never done one thing in your whole life to hurt anyone, you’ve still supported and lived within a system with mechanisms in place whose sole purpose is to keep black people from owning homes, from living in certain areas, from becoming educated, and to make sure if there is half a chance, to put them in prison.

 

That is the entire problem in America today. If you want to know why all of this is happening, now you do know.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Sleep? Where!?!?!???

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Sleep has abandoned me, as it is wont to do, and even as I write this I wonder how many times I’ve sat down next to the bed to write instead of sleeping. It was a burden, to write late at night, when I worked for a living, but retirement brings a sort of timelessness to the day which allows writing without the feeling of regret late in the work day. To write or to work? To write or to sleep? To write or do mow the yard, or go out and socialize. There doesn’t seem to be an unclear choice, for as much work as writing might be, it’s less work than the world outside the human mind, no?

The blender is on tonight. There’s no clear image or scene in my head, nothing coherent, and the imagine of a story, new or old, is blank. This doesn’t mean I can’t write or there isn’t anything at all there, but there’s no sign of a plot, or a storyline. There’s a question in my mind in regard to a character, if I should make her evil, or even more evil, or create her in the image of someone who is as evil as she has to be in order to survive.

Feel like helping? Reba married Seth Johnson, the youngest Johnson son, and yes, there was this idea she married for money and security. She was older than he; she was twenty-three, and he only twenty, but times were desperate. Monsters stalked the human race, nearly to extinction, and the survivors in small county in South Georgia banded together, and formed a camp. They fought off the monsters, survived a coup attempt by the Johnson family, mainly because Reba’s husband had been killed, and she left the family for the second in command of the camp, and warned him of the Johnson’s plans. The Johnson’s are executed, and the camp survives. The fields produce crops, the monsters are vanquished, and life, while hard, is pretty good.

The issue that pops us is everyone knows the Johnson family had their own place for a while. And everyone knows the Johnson’s used slave labor. A few people at the new camp came in with the Johnson’s, but they were locals who simply quit and walked away. There were rumors, persistent rumors, the Johnson’s kidnapped people who came in from out of town, people stranded by the monsters, who were worked until they killed by monsters or starved to death. The locals weren’t treated well at all, but they did survive the experience, and they never saw any of the atrocities that may have, or may have not, went on earlier.

A few months after the execution of the Johnson family, a group of survivors are rescued from a camp in Tallahassee some fifty miles away. They’re nearly starved, dirty, and they were held in their camp as prisoners and slaves. Five of them, four women and one man, are escapees from the Johnson place, from the previous year. They all tell the same story: Reba was one of the people holding them at gunpoint.

What does management do, if anything?

 

If someone showed up and had evidence that a camp member was a murderer, would there be consequences?

You’d have to read the entire story to get a real feel for who is who and how people feel about a lot of things, but at the same time, it’s an interesting subject once existing government, and therefore existing laws, disappear. In a camp with just one hundred people, theft would be nonexistent because everyone would know what belonged to who. And after all, what would be a prized possession in a world where there would be so much just lying around?

 

Take away property crimes, and what’s left is people who would be punished for not working, or getting drunk while on the job. Maybe a fight here and there over a woman’s attention, and that’s where the pressure would really lie. A married couple in the camp has a wife who wants to leave her husband for another man, and the husband doesn’t want her to go. Who grants divorce? On what terms?

 

I invented a character named Daisy Cutter, who before everything ended, was a prostitute. In a camp where there are fewer women than men, does management allow Daisy to stay in business? Can they stop her? And what if she’s carrying some nasty little virus that’s permanent and spreadable?

 

And in the early days of the camp, when food is scarce, work is very hard, and life is exceedingly dangerous, what’s to be done with those too old, or too infirm to work? For the people who are running the camp, those who vote on how much food is allotted to which task and what punishment is handed down for infractions, once a decision is made on a subject, let’s say what to do with someone who is physically unable to work, then precedence takes hold. What to do with someone who is severely injured on the job? What to do with someone who is caught faking an injury?

 

But let’s get down to a personal level here. If Reba in the current time, was in a relationship with a man, and he discovered she helped keep people as slaves, how would he react to this news, if she admitted she did? Would this forever mark her as some sort of criminal, even if management of the camp didn’t punish her? How would her partner feel if he discovered this after Reba became pregnant?

 

We have it easy in our world, mostly. I think that might change sooner than later, but at the same time, it’s not like we live in Syria, or in a place where food is scarce or there’s impending doom, or a virus infecting everyone. Again, that may change, and if it does, I’m not likely to be any more prepared than anyone else. But who knows? Maybe if interdimensional creatures appear and begin wiping out the human race, I’ll be ready.

 

Take Care,

Mikeclock

Writing

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It’s been brought to my attention I’ve neglected my blog. While I once posted at least once a week or so, sometimes more, in the last couple of months there’s been more time spent on writing fiction than posting online. There’s a few things I’ve been working on:

Pine View: The story of a group of survivors in Brooks County Georgia trying to rebuild a society after the human population has been all but wiped out by creatures from another dimension. A tale of hardship, farming, and how things are going to be, if civilization ends. It’s a novel sized story, and I’ve been working on it for a while now.

Laster’s Bridge: A Bluegrass band from Valdosta Georgia heads to Canada to crash a party for the very rich and exclusive, hoping to play one good song in front of a well to do audience. A sudden storm strands them on a bridge, and a bear shows up. Deep in the Canadian wilderness, who can survive in a lonely cabin with few supplies?

Switch: A frat boy with a lot of money and toys, and a penchant for drugging women in order to rape them, gets cursed by a witch. He now has her body and her life, and she had his. How does it feel to be a poor woman in a society ran by men? He’s going to find out, and he isn’t going to like it much.

Then there’s the long range, long term projects that I’ve had around for a while that I won’t get into right now.

 

Overall, I’ve been writing more these days. I’ve been spending less time online than I once did. However, this blog has been operating since 2006, and I guess I ought to keep it updated more than I do.

 

Also, I am experimenting with the old Bondi font. It’s from the 1700’s and you’ll notice the difference right away.

 

To me, writing has been a constant companion. When I was a child, I read many books, as many as I could, and as I grew older I recognized good writing and better writing, versus that which might have been placed to page without any real thought. It’s not easy to write, and it’s hard to write well. Writing is work. It’s an effort to translate thought, smoothly and coherently, into words other human beings might be able to understand in a manner  the writer was attempting to convey.

 

In the beginning, I suspect writing was instructive, or used in accounting. This is the way that is done, or this person had that much barley put into the royal granary. But writing then evolved into this sort of thing, with one person drawing from the human mind words and thoughts that others might understand for its own sake. Writing had become part of the human experience as well as reading. If someone were to sit me down and tell me I could only have one hundred book for the rest of my life, it might take a while to decide which ones, but I could come up with one hundred that would last a lifetime.

When the internet became what it was, early on, I really and truly thought it would be a haven for writers, and those who liked to read. I never foresaw it would become a shouting match for the ignorant and the downright stupid, and popularity depended not so much on skill and content, but volume and noise.

Writing was once a revered skill, practiced and protected, by those who loved it. The keyboard has released many whose handwriting might be less than perfect, my own is barely legible, yet it has also made poor writing easier. It’s made writing errors more acceptable and I cannot help but wonder why. The tools are available to ensure writing is cleanly written, yet there are those who blow right past style and usage in the name of brevity.

When a person sits down to write, they should engage the same sort of intent used in building a bookshelf or a birdhouse, at a minimum. The edges should match, it should be level, and the design should be given some thought. Any fool can nail boards together in a manner than suggests carpentry but can a book rest upon wood and settle there with grace? Can a bird nest and bring forth generations of their kind? Writing should inspire others to read, and to write, and therefore it is very much like a birdhouse, where the egg of the craft is nested.

These days, it’s more popular to write like a drunken five year old with a substance abuse problem. Writing is use to provoke rather than to lead to thought. Writers now try to tell people what they are thinking rather than to lead them to think. Worse, in modern fiction, the leaning is towards so much dialog, most fiction might as well be written as plays. Gone are the vast swaths of text that describe in detail the setting, the scene, the mood, or the journey within the minds of characters.

Yet the New World of the internet is new. There is still time, and still hope, that a tool used as a bludgeon, might yet be refined into a stylus, to begin the new craft in freshly formed clay. There is still the dream of young people escaping not into the world of electronic games, but their own minds, where they might bring forth a generation of writing from the perspectives of those who will inherit the earth.

Nothing ever is born or dies, but is changed in some way, perhaps unrecognizable, yet it still exists, if nowhere else but the human mind. Reading will always be with us, certainly, but it has to change and be changed, by the idea that thought can be critical and must be. Writing, forever altered by the screen, will evolve also, in what form I cannot guess, but perhaps there will be a Renaissance of sorts, where there are great books written, and read, for an audience suddenly hungry for intelligent thought.

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

 

Abernathy

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Someone I once met bought a huge roll top desk for five hundred bucks at an estate sale. Took four grown men to get it out of the house, and back into his. The thing was a monster, a small cottage could have been built out of the wood in that desk. I’ve always wanted one, but at the same time, I’m not sure a desk, any desk, is worth five hundred dollars. No, I tend to drift towards going to estate sales at homes that might have a hardback copy of “Dune” in great condition. Or a box full of paperbacks for a dollar.

I’ve tried, really, truly, I’ve tried to stop collecting books, ever since 2006, when I gave about three thousand of them away. I had stacks of books all over the damn house, and finally released them back into the wild, giving them all to the Brooks County Library. But I’m drawn to books. They are the only source of manmade magic to believe in. Everywhere there’s a journey there’s a search for books. Who cares what a woman looks like, really, if she’s read the right books. If you can sit across from a woman at a table and she tells you that “Stranger in a Strange Land” changed her life, you can go anywhere with her, and be happy.

The hand painted sign read, “Estate Sale”, and who paints a sign for an estate sale, and that’s enough for me to go in. All of the stuff  on the screened in porch, which is dipping forward just enough to tell, and there isn’t much of what there is. Clothes, that will be eventually donated, a stack of vinyl records, mostly very old R&B and gospel, and a collection of kitchen knickknacks litter the porch. There’s a pair of boots older than I was at the time. A worn copy of some book without a cover has a tag on it reading “5 cents” and it is time to go.

There’s a suit, and the material looks good, really good, and I stop to examine it. It’s old, very old, thin, and it had seen its better days decades ago.

“Abernathy,” the man sitting in a chair at the door says, and for a moment I didn’t realize he was speaking to me.

“Oh?” I encourage him. I shouldn’t, but why not?

“His mama named him that, wanted him to be a preacher, but it never took,” the man tells me. “She bought him that suit when he got out of high school. Gave him that suit and a bible and told him that God would speak to him.”

“Did God speak to him?” I ask.

“If’n he did, Ab didn’t hear, and if he heard he didn’t listen, Ab liked to play drums but the drums didn’t like Ab,” and the man laughed. “Didn’t have a musical nut in his sack.”

“How old was he?”

“Ab lived to be eighty, but mostly he died ten years before that,” the man stood up and stretched, keeping on hand on the door jamb to balance. “because them doctors had him doped up on pills and things. Ab couldn’t remember his own name, forgot about music, he weren’t never no good but he sho liked to listen. Had him a band he played in once, and they never was good enough to charge money. Background noise, something to hear, but nothing to listen to a’tall, is how I called’em.”  The man sat down and stared at the wooden floor. He could hear the music now, through much younger ears, and even though it wasn’t great music, or even good music, it was something that glued his past together.

“They played in this very house, had all the drums jammed in so tight Ab could hardly move, not that it hurt’im none. They played loud, and we drank to help, and it did some, and he always wore that suit. Made him look like he was gonna go to a funeral for the music, I said that one night, and everybody laughed so hard Ab stopped playing, and he never picked up a stick again. Never wore it again, that suit, never put it back on. Took his drums, and all that shit that went with it, to the pawn shop, and drank it away in less than a week.”  The man stared back into the house now, and I could hear it; terribly play music played far too loud, for drunk friends who were just trying to find an excuse to be there.

“Folks kidded Ab, they were mean about it, and said he once got arrested for playing music too loud, but the judge had heard Ab play, and said it wasn’t music,” the man laughed hard at that, and slapped his knee. “Ab took it hard, he did, he ain’t played a lick since that night, and he ain’t listened to no music like he once did. But the day he died his ex come over and played them records over there one by one, until Ab passed. Then she put’em down where she found’em and she walked out, again, and didn’t never come back no more.” The man stopped speaking for a while, and looked up, to see if I was still there.

“Good woman, Dorothy Ann was. Ab and her had two young’ens and they didn’t grow up to be preachers either. Both dead before they was old enough to drive. Wild things, went off and stole a car, wrecked it and burned. Dot’Ann done left after that. Came back to see Ab die, but it was more than that. She saw the last of her babies that day, too, both of’em spittin’ image of their daddy.” The man was staring at the warped and twisted porch wood now. It was time for me to leave, and I knew it.

 

End.

Switch, and Where I’ve Been

It’s been a while, I realize that, and a lot has gone on. I’m retired. As of October the first, that was it. I no longer have a full time job with a steady paycheck and health insurance. Pretty good thing the health insurance carried over; I was hospitalized with perforated diverticulitis a month ago and underwent major surgery to have part of my intestines cut out and the gap sewn back together. I no longer have the whole nine yards. I’m a foot short.

I spent the first month of retirement in a state of I’m-on-vacation mode, and it just seemed like that. It didn’t really start to sink in that by career was over until November. But, by the middle of November, I knew something wasn’t right inside of me, but I thought it was just my hernia acting up. I could not have been more wrong.

 

The good thing about all of this, and you have to think it’s all good, is being infirm has forced me back to the keyboard. For the last two weeks I’ve been working on a short story and got it finished. I’ll rewrite it at least once, maybe twice, but I like the story, and I like the ending.

 

“Switch” is the story of a nineteen year old frat boy from a wealthy family. He’s going to college in Valdosta Georgia, and has the world at his feet. Conner is arrogant and predatory, and he knows he can get away with doing anything he wants to women. He preys on the wrong woman, who happens to be a witch. She’s been stalking him for a while, knows who he is, and what he does. Conner tries to rape Glenni by drugging her drink, but she’s already slipped a potion into Conner’s beer. The world goes black, and Conner wakes up in Glenni’s body, and in Glenni’s apartment. She’s switched bodies and worlds with Conner, and now he has to live like a woman working for tips at a bar, while Glenni goes forth to live as a frat boy in college. She looks like she’s in her early twenties, but Glenni is eighty-five. The frat will never be the same.

Meanwhile, Conner is freaked out. Without his cell he can’t call anyone he knows, and Glenni has warned him she’s gotten a restraining order to keep him away from the frat house. Besides, no matter what Conner tells anyone, he’s still in the body of a woman. No one is going to believe him.

Things get worse. Conner has no idea how to put on makeup or how to deal with his hair. Glenni’s hair is a black mane of thick curls that have a mind of their own. His first night at work at the bar ends with Conner getting fired, and then sexually assaulted in the parking lot by a customer who Conner pissed off. Conner discovers no one cares. So what? So a man stuck his hand down your pants and he squeezed your breasts? Minor stuff, kid. No one cares. Conner is stunned by the indifference. But he remembers he’s done things like that, many times, and nothing ever happened to him.

Rent, bills, food, a flat tire he’s unable to fix by himself.  Glenni’s left him with an ancient cell phone, a lap top that’s ten years old, and a bank account that’s nearly dry. There’s food in the refrigerator, but it’s healthy vegan type stuff and a very little to Conner’s liking.

 

Conner gets help changing his tire from a guy living in the apartment next to his own, and one part of the curse Conner never considered kicks in; Conner isn’t just a guy stuck in a woman’s body, oh no, Conner is a straight woman, with a guy trapped inside of her. After a few beers and a watching football with his new pal, Conner’s body starts interacting with the pheromones in the air. And true to so many stories, just as Conner heats up, his period arrives, and because he’s never really thought about what women go through once a month, every damn month, for about five days, Conner handles it as poorly as you’d think.

I’ve had some very interesting conversations with a couple of women I know about how it feels to be attracted to a guy. Like the first signs, and then as things heat up, the first real issues with the female body and sexual attraction, especially when the woman is trying not to be attracted to a guy. It’s been very educational.

 

Conner, despite the fact that he’s a straight guy, falls for the boy next door, and terrible things happen. Well, terrible for Conner. The guy next door simply leaves.

 

Glenni shows up and is somewhat tickled at what’s happened to Conner, but she’s also concerned. The curse wasn’t supposed to go this deep, or to change Conner’s sexual orientation, but curses have a mind of their own, sometimes. She’s unable to change anything about the curse, because the very essence of the spell is that Conner has to learn how to break it himself. Considering the mess Conner has made in a very short time, she now doubts he will survive as a poor woman in South Georgia.

 

Will Conner be able to pay his bills? What do very poor women do when they have no money, no job skills, and they have no real friends or family? Conner finds out.

 

 

 

In the end, will things switch over? Hmmm, we’ll see.

 

Take Care,

Mike