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The Jammer

Over at We Drink Because We’re Poets, I hosted another Seven Day Story Challenge.  In short, write a story in seven days, writing every day.  Each day, a random word selected and posted that must be used in that day’s writing.  The words were:  simpleton, richweed, bobbysocks, judder, extra sensory, hierarchy, and albescence.  Different forms of the words could be used.

Here’s my result.  I started with an idea that wasn’t the same as what I ended with, which is the beauty of a challenge like this.  Each day’s effort is just enough to carry the story a step or two, but not enough to plot the story out entirely.  If that makes any sense.  I did not know until the sixth or seventh paragraph, which was into the third day of writing, where this was really headed.  And even with that, due to the daily word, each day still held surprises.

 

The Jammer

People might say that I am an angry man.  They would be wrong.  It is not anger that drives me.  If it were my heart would be black.  My soul even darker.  I would be incapable of love and desire.  Angry?  Not I.  Can I help it if I occasionally lash out with venom-laced words?  If it is at times easier to choose the mad course rather than the tolerant course.  I love you.

People may believe that I am a pessimist.  They would be wrong.  I do not believe the glass is half empty.  At least not the glass that represents my future.  My situation suggests otherwise.  I should have given up a long time ago.  That glass is full to the brim.  It is overflowing.  Can I help it if the glass started empty and that it has been a struggle to fill it, even to half, drop by drop.  I am filled with hope even from where I sit.

People at times call me a simpleton.  What do they know?  Simple to them may be complex to me.  Don’t we all have different calculations of simple and complex?  You may think it odd that I can’t change a tire.  Simple to you is, well, not actually complex to me.  It’s just not interesting.  It’s not a challenge.  What I enjoy is what I do, not what you do.

People look at me and shake their heads.  They “tsk, tsk” and keep their distance.  Why should they? I wonder.  I am no threat to them.  I … am … not … an … angry … man.  I am no more capable of harming them then they are of me.  They walk by, nonetheless, along the opposite side of the hall, peering at me as though I were a museum exhibit.  Every now and then, I glare back and flex my muscles and giggle as they scurry along.

People ask how I could have done it.  How could I not?  The man had disrespected me.  He deserved it.  Tomas was his name.  He laughed at my woman.  So I slapped him and while he was reeling, I picked up a handful of richweed growing along the side of the road and crammed it into his open mouth.  I turned my back on him.  How was I to know he would choke on it?  And die.

People give me nicknames.  Papa called me Taz like the Looney Tunes character because I never stopped moving.  Mama never called me nothing since she left before my first birthday.  Here they call me the Jammer because of how that man died.  I’ll tell you a secret.  Tomas wasn’t the only one.

People don’t know my history.  Yeah, I’m serving time for Tomas.  The D.A. talked of a death sentence but he didn’t go there.  Death for killing a man with richweed?  Not likely.  He coulda if he knew about the other one.  The girl I caught and killed, jamming her bobbysocks down her throat to stop her screaming.  Chloe was her name.  I was gonna do stuff to her but she died too quickly.  I … am … the Jammer.  They just don’t know the truth of it.

Here’s what I think.  You don’t know me.  Understand me.  There are these moments when things slow down.  The wind stops.  People speak but I don’t hear them, their lips still flapping, hands gesturing in super slo-mo.  I cannot be reached then.  My brain feels all loose in my skull.  And I react.

Here’s what happened with Tomas.  He said hateful words, “who’s the whore you with?”  My lady patted me on the arm and tried to turn me to go, but I felt none of it.  I just heard those words over and over, echoing in my head making the gray matter all juddery.  When it stopped quivering, when the world returned to normal speed, he lay on the ground in front of me doing his own little juddery dance.  His body convulsed, his eyes bulged as he tried to spit the richweed from his mouth.  My lady grabbed me then and pulled me away.  And we ran.  I killed the man without even knowing it.

Here’s another thing.  A bar of soap can kill a man, too.  That’s why I’m in this cell now.  I went all juddery again.  It’s like I … well, it’s like an extrasensory, out-of body, out-of-mind experience.  All I could hear was the shower running.  All I could feel was the cold tile floor.  All I knew was that when I stopped juddering the man lay in the streaming water with a bar of soap jammed in his mouth.  He was past gagging.  He was past dead.  The water streamed down his still face, stretched in agony, rivulets running this way and that.  The smell of Dial on my hands.

Here’s why I’m where I am.  I stood there until they came for me.  Now I’m isolated.  At the far end of a cell block.  Laughing and crying.  Babbling and ranting.  Shuddering and juddering.  When I judder now, there’s nothing for me to do but … I scratch my arms until they bleed.  I try to squeeze my head through the bars.  I … hurt … myself.  Until I judder-on down.  I know why they walk on by.  They hope in their silent stares, their fearful glares, their feigned disinterest that I’ll jam myself.  I won’t.

There will be a time when I’ll be free again.  They can only do so much to me.  Make me serve so much time.  Richweed got me a veritable slap on the wrist.  Heat of the moment, you know.  The D.A. talked tough, but he got nothing.  And I got a maximum of ten.  Out in eight with good behavior.  Only a few more to go.

There is that wrinkle.  The man in the shower.  His name was Arthur.  People called him Artie the Accountant because he was a skinny white boy with glasses and greased back hair.  He looked at me kinda funny.  I don’t like none of that funny stuff.  And then he was dead.  I had soap on my hands.

There is this hierarchy to these things.  Kill a man out in the world and they talk of death.  When a man dies in prison, there’s a whole lot less caring.  A whole lot less effort to prove it up.  Soap on my hands.  Well, hell yeah, I was taking a shower.  They knew though.  Or thought I knew.  Something.  That I refused to spill.  I remained mum no matter their promises.  Their threats.  Artie the Accountant was dead.  Did it matter by who?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I am a man of love, not of anger.  I am no simpleton just because I won’t speak to you.  Just because when I do, I speak slowly and of things that you cannot comprehend.  Like what it feels like when the world slows down and you can see your breath escape your mouth in the smallest of particles.  When the world becomes albescent, like you’re surrounded by this massive blank slate and all you have to do is begin writing on it and everything … could change.

That’s my story and you can’t challenge it.  I’ve told you what you need to know.  I got a mind that gets juddery.  Three people dead.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe there’s more.  Maybe I killed my Papa.  But you don’t need to know.  Maybe I killed a two-bit whore who tried to rip me off, jamming the money down her throat.  That would be too easy.  I don’t go for easy.  I go for richweed and bobbysocks and a bar of soap.

That’s my story.  They call me the Jammer.  My future is bright.  Got a couple more years here and then I’ll be there.  There’s a cup of something that’s rising to the brim.  I’d like to share.  I love you.

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Weekend Update

Maybe I’ll head to a once a week post that wraps things up for me for the week.  Who knows.  At least for this week, that’s what I’m doing.

In one 24-hour period, I got three more reviews on Amazon for One Night in Bridgeport.  All four stars and all good comments.  That brings the tally to 49 reviews (do I have a party when I get to 50?), 28 are five stars, 16 are four stars, 4 are three stars, and 1 is two stars.  I can definitely live with that mix.  Meanwhile, I’ve got five reviews for Weed Therapy.  Need to get at least five more.

I’ve done a really stupid and petulant thing with Weed Therapy.  I’ve moved the Kindle price to $4.99.  Why?  Because nobody was buying it, even at .99.  If nobody is going to buy the book at that price, why not increase the price and not have anybody buy it.  Yes, it makes no sense.  But I was peeved at what was happening.  None of the promotional efforts I tried produced any sales.  So, $4.99 is it for the time being.  Of course, if I get ten reviews and get it featured on ereadernewstoday, the price will be coming down.  But not until then.

Speaking of reviews of Weed Therapy, I don’t think I will ever again conduct a Goodreads giveaway.  I offered three autographed copies.  After the giveaway, I got an email from a Goodreads member who did not win one of the giveaway books.  She begged me to send her one anyway.  She and her husband are poor, you know.  He’s a veteran, you know.  She reads books to him, you know.  The book sounds so wonderful, you know.  We’ll provide two reviews, you know.  Two months later.  No reviews, no comments.  Nothing.  From any of the people who got a free copy through the giveaway.

Sales of Bridgeport have definitely slowed down.  Two-thirds of the way through the month, I’m at 38 for September.  Not bad, but not as well as I was doing for the four months prior.  I’m not sure if the book has simply run its course or there’s more I could and should be doing to promote it again.

As I wrote a while back, Deviation is complete.  Northville Five and Dime is about half way there.  Carlota awaits her future as the third in my series of three longer short stories.

That’s where I’m at when it comes to writing.  Where are you at?

* * * * *

I look at what the House Republicans are doing with funding government and trying to defund Obamacare and wonder if they’ll ever have a clue.  Ever.  Their grip on sanity seems to get weaker and weaker with each year.  I can’t imagine their hoped for shutdown of the government being a successful strategy for them, just like it failed in the mid-90’s.  What the people want is a functioning government, Republicans and Democrats compromising and moving the country forward.  What they’re getting is dysfunction and disaster.

And for my readers who claim that Democrats and Obama aren’t willing to compromise by agreeing to scrap Obamacare, let’s be serious.  This is the President’s signature achievement.  Something that much of the country has aspired to for decades.  Even Richard Nixon supported universal health care.  Demanding that Obama end it before there has been any opportunity to see if it will work is extortion not compromise.  Worse than that, it’s extortion based on a complete misunderstanding of what the law does.

* * * * *

I’ve started running again.  A month before I planned on doing so.  I couldn’t help it.  The bad news is that I’m much slower than I was a couple of years ago.  About two minutes per mile slower.  The good news is that I’ve “run” five times in the last seven days.  Friday night’s run lasted for four miles without needing a walk break.  The ol’ groin seems to be stable, although there is soreness in spots I never had soreness before.  Soreness is OK, it’s when the whole thing collapses and I can barely walk that is problematic.  No collapse yet.  If I can run four miles three or four times a week, I’ll be incredibly happy.

* * * * *

I’ve become addicted to Breaking Bad.  After months of people telling me I look like Heizinger, I started watching season one on Netflix.  I’m now halfway through season two, watching three episodes Friday night.  It’s a story that strains the limits of credibility, but it is definitely a fascinating and intense look at how far a man could go down a very dark path.

Here’s another thing I learned last night when I logged into Netflix to watch Breaking Bad.  Never, ever give your kids your account and password information.  What they do with it is provide it to their girlfriend and her family so they can use your Netflix account to watch movies and TV shows.  When I realized this was happening I changed my password.  I am monumentally disappointed with my son and with her family for doing this.  I realize it doesn’t cost me anymore, but it feels like theft, like being taken advantage of.  How many movies and shows have they watched on my account over the past week?  Sixty-seven.  In one week.  I didn’t go back any further in my viewing history.  That was enough.

* * * * *

I’m spending my Sunday running, writing, doing laundry, watching football, and baking bread.  I have this incredible bread book called Artisan Baking Across America.  It’s more like a coffee table book than an actual cook book.  It’s filled with incredible pictures of bakeries and dough and bread.  Fortunately, it’s got a lot of recipes as well.  As the title should make clear, this is about making bread in a very old fashioned way.  Mix a bit of flour and water and yeast together Saturday night.  Let it sit over night.  The amount of yeast, however, is so tiny as to be almost non-existent.  In the morning, mix that (it’s called a poolash) with more flour and water and maybe some honey and a few other things.  And let it rise.  Because of the small amount of yeast, the rise is 3-4 hours long.  Then you shape the bread and let it rise for a couple more hours before baking.

The end product is this incredible, crusty, airy, bubbly bread with more flavor than you know what to do with.  I’m making two loaves of tortano and two loaves of semolina fiolene.  Pictures later.

What are you doing with your Sunday?

* * * * *

Almost forgot … if you’re looking for a little writing challenge, head over here for the second installment of the We Drink Because We’re Poets Seven Day Story Challenge, sponsored by yours truly.

My Seven Day Story Challenge — A little bit more Deviation

Over at We Drink Because We’re Poets I started a Seven Day Story Challenge for the followers there.  The only required rule was that participants had to write a story that utilized a word provided each day for seven days, without knowing each day’s word until I posted them on the website.  Other option rules included limiting the story to 200 words a day (or some other selected limit) and writing entirely in dialogue.  The objective, produce a short story in seven days in which each day you stop yourself and leave the story open to a change in direction that may be provided by the next day’s word.   The seven words this week were:  Proportion, exponential, donate, pugilism, beanbag, scantily, protocol.  Or any form of those words.

I took on the challenge, but rather than start a whole new story, I chose to continue with Deviation, a story I wrote last September under much the same conditions.  I wrote 200 words exactly each of the first six days of the week and today, I went to 236.  The story now is over 6,700 words and has much more to go.  I truthfully have no idea when and where it will end.

If you’d like to read the first 5,300 words, it’s here.  If you’d prefer a synopsis leading up to this week’s addition, it’s here:  Johnny and Mickey are brothers, having their every Friday meal at a local diner.  They do what twentysomething men generally do on Fridays — they talk about nothing and everything, they curse, they lust after the waitress, and generally are good-for-nothing.  Johnny cares about nothing much more than girls, food, and skating through life.  Mickey’s a little bit deeper.  In Deviation, they discuss the family secret they’ve never talked about before.  Dad physically abuses Mom.  Mickey and Johnny decide to do something about it, but first they have to rescue Mom from the jail, where she sits after getting arrested for assaulting a homeless man with her Bible.  What follows picks up the story as they leave the diner.

“Did dad bail her out yet?” Mickey asked.

“No.  He says he’s not going to either.”

“Why the hell not?”

“He said in his last text, and I quote, ‘I’m tired of her god shit.’”

Mickey started hitting his head against the head rest behind him.  “That is so fucked up.  It is entirely out of proportion.  He beats her up, keeps her hidden away for days while she heals and every once in a while she gets out and wants to share her love of Jesus with others and …

“You got to admit she’s a little overboard with it.”

“Really?  You think she’s overboard with her religion?”

“Yeah.  She gets a little crazy with it sometimes.”  They pulled up to a red light.  The car rumbled beneath them.  Johnny pulled his pack of cigarettes from the dashboard, tapped one out and lit it.

Mickey sighed and opened his window.  “If you’re gonna smoke, could you open your window, too?  You know I hate the smell.”

Johnny grumbled but complied.  “Don’t you think it’s weird that the Bible is the only book she reads?”

“Weird to you, maybe.  But maybe that’s where she finds solace in a life like hers.  Ever look at it that way?”  Mickey coughed, not because he needed to.  “Mom finds a little bit of piece in those words.  They comfort her.  Why does that have to be weird?”

Johnny looked at the cigarette he held in his fingertips, grimaced and flicked it out the car window.  “I’m done with these.”

“Thank you!”  Mickey exclaimed, slapping the dashboard with his hand.  “You can donate the money you spend on cigarettes to a women’s shelter.”

“What?  No way.  I’m gonna spend it on Ally.”

“Johnny, we had a deal.”

“Fuckin’ relax, Mickey.  I was just kidding.  It is so easy to get a rise out of you.”

They rode in silence for a moment before Johnny broke it.  “Where we headed?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.  Go home and kick dad’s ass or head to the jail and try to get Mom out?”  They pulled to a stop in front of a red light.  Straight meant the jail.  Left meant home.  Right meant indecision.

Mickey drummed his fingers on the arm rest.  “We gotta get Mom out of jail.”  He looked over at his brother.  “Don’t we?  We can kick the old man’s ass later.”  Johnny laughed, a sound barely audible above the rumble of the Torino’s engine.

“You got any money for bail?”

“Oh.  Yeah.  That could be a problem.  Do you remember how much it was last time?”

Johnny grimaced and thought about it as the cross traffic light switched to yellow.  “No.  Dad took care of it then.”  Their light flicked green.  “What do we do?”

Mickey looked at the traffic in the lane next to them begin to move past and looked back at the car behind, it’s headlights glaring, the right one brighter than the left.  He turned back as the driver tapped his horn.  “You know, my anger has grown exponentially, but I’m not ready for him yet.  Let’s get to the jail and find out about bail.”  The driver behind them leaned on his horn again.

Johnny began to inch the car out into the intersection.  “You sure?”

“Yeah.  Let’s get this mess over with.  First mom and then we take care of him.”  Mickey slapped his hand on the arm rest and bounced in his seat.  “I need my anger to coalesce a bit.  You know?”

Johnny laughed again.  “No.  I have absolutely no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.  Anger coalescing? Shit.”

“Never mind.”

Mickey looked out the window as they rode in silence.  In the jail’s parking lot, Johnny shook out another cigarette.  “What?” he whined, looking at Mickey before his brother could say anything.  “Just one more.  I’ll be quick.”

“Yeah,” Mickey sighed, settling back in his seat.  “You criticize me for not being able to deviate, but you got your habits, too, you know.”

“Smoking aint like only dating blond chicks.”

“Why not?”

“Smoking’s a disease.  It’s a fucking addiction.”

“Maybe I’m addicted to blondes.  You ever think of that?”  Mickey laughed.  “Maybe there’s an intoxicating scent that emanates from blonde hair that does something to my brain chemistry.”

“Shit.”  Johnny opened his door, dropping his cigarette to the ground and smudging it out with the heel of his shoe.  “Let’s go.”

Inside, Mickey asked about their mother.  The desk sergeant laughed.  “You mean the bible thumper who practiced her pugilistic arts on John Dempsey?”

“Hey, that’s our mother you’re talking about.”  Johnny’s voice raised a notch.

“Yeah?”  The sergeant’s face darkened.  “She gave a beat down to a bum.”

“What are you talking about?”  And it went up another notch.  “She just bumped on the head with her Bible.”

The sergeant chuckled and pulled a file out of the middle of the stack in front of him.  “Let’s see.  The perpetrator was one Emily Anne Santini.”  He looked over his granny glasses.  “That your mother?”

“Yes,” Mickey and Johnny replied in unison.

“According to the first officer on the scene, the aforementioned Ms. Santini was found to be standing over Mr. Dempsey, yelling at him, ‘you better find God, my son, or a whole more shit will be raining down upon your soul.’”  The sergeant began to close the file.  “And that’s when things got a bit more serious.”

“What?  What happened?”  Mickey asked.  “Wait a sec.  Our mother wouldn’t have said that.”

Ignoring him, the sergeant went on.  “A crowd had gathered, refusing to disperse at the officer’s request.  He had to call for reinforcements as they chanted to Ms. Santini for more.  The officer retreated to his car and pulled out a beanbag gun and fired it several times into the crowed.  Meanwhile Ms. Santini leaned over the unconscious Mr. Dempsey.   She thumbed through her Bible, finding a page she wanted and then turned it over and placed the open Bible to cover the man’s face.”

The sergeant leaned back.  “That about do it for you gentlemen?”  Before they could respond, he slapped his hand down on the desk and jerked upright again.  “Hold on a sec.  There was something else you might find interesting.”  He opened the file and thumbed through a few pages.  “Here it is.  The page she left the Bible open to had the following passage underlined.  Matthew 25:35.  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me …’  What do you make of that?”

“Wow,” Johnny muttered.  “I’ve got no fuckin’ clue.”

“Of course, you don’t,” Mickey mumbled back.  “Your mind is so scantily clad with the shreds of intelligence, you can’t possibly understand.”

“Fuck you.”

“Yeah, fuck you, too.”

“Ummm.  Boys,” the sergeant intervened.

Mickey ignored him.  “Johnny, it’s a cry for help.  Don’t you get it?  She’s hungry and needs to be fed.  Your cards mean jack shit to her.  She’s thirsty in the middle of a desert.  Dad’s flowers and chocolates on his good days don’t carry over to the bad.  She is utterly lost and feels unwelcome in her own world.  God, I sometimes wonder if one of us was adopted.  You absolutely cannot be my brother.”

“I … I … I …,” Johnny stuttered, before turning to the sergeant, waving off his brother.  “What’s her bail?”

“She hasn’t been arraigned yet, son.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means,” Mickey answered before the sergeant could.  “Bail hasn’t been set.”

“What?”

“Damn, don’t you watch cop shows?”

“Yeah.  I love Law and Order.”

“Learn anything from them?”  Mickey looked at the sergeant with sorrow-filled eyes.  “Standard protocol is bail isn’t set until the arraignment, am I right?”

“Yes you are.”

“Well, when the hell is that gonna happen?” Johnny demanded.

“Probably Monday.  That’s the problem with getting arrested on a Friday night.”

“Fuck that.  She’s stuck in here over the weekend and there’s nothing we can do?”

The sergeant suddenly could only focus on the file before him.  “Ummm.  Yeah.”  He looked back up at Johnny.  “Sorry.”

Johnny looked at Mickey and then back at the sergeant before returning his gaze to his brother again.  His eyes teared up.  “Mickey?  What are we gonna do?  We gotta get mom out of here.  This sucks.”

Mickey reached out to hug his brother.  “It does,” he whispered in Johnny’s ears.  “But let’s go take care of that other thing then.  We’ll get her out on Monday after they set bail and make sure he’s long gone before she gets home.”

 

 

 

 

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