Monday, September 29, 2008

Feeling Grumpy

Hey all,

I'm currently in a piss-foul mood and generally feel like telling the world to go screw itself!

Nothing any of you have done, so please don't wonder if it's something you said. I just figure if I write anything right now it'll come off as bitter and nasty at best. Better off to just say nothing for a bit.

I may come by and visit over the next few days and then again, I may not. Thought I'd let you know in case you don't see my bright shining face for a little while.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is It Saturday Already?

After taking a short break, I've surfaced again. Funny how four or five days without posting feels like so much longer. It was a busy work week, which is always a good thing, but as far as creativity, I was flat. Don't know why, just was. Anyhoo, the list of words that Raven gives us each week seems to help get those creative juices flowing again, yeah! Definitely not my best stuff this week, but hey, the price is right.


The Mini: crocodile, special, sleep, droll, turn around

The Ten Word: exacerbate, leotard, path, tomato, Jungle Book, vagabond, parade, limber, storage, Maharajah


The Mini

Brent and Robert were standing at the window of the nursery looking in at all the sleeping babies. Both of their wives had recently given birth and they were comparing notes on how special it was to be fathers for the first time. That was, until they looked at the baby in the very last crib. Brent turned around, and with a droll tone said, "Good Lord in heaven, did you see the face on this one? That poor kid's mother must have mated with a crocodile!"

Unamused, Robert replied, "That baby's mother is my wife ya jerk face! She had non-identical twins."


The Ten Word
"Holy Baloney"

"The path to enlightenment can be gained only after you achieve oneness with your inner being." touted a small well fit Indian woman.

The leotard clad women in the class were trying their best just to "achieve" the various positions that were being shown by the instructor, the part about "oneness" was still a ways off for most of them. One of the women, Susan wasn't just having a hard time with the exercises, she was downright frustrated and miserable. She simply was not limber enough to contort her body the way she was being told to.

"Where's that damned assistant with the extra mat from the storage locker I requested?", Susan thought. Her face was as red as a vine ripened tomato now, with her head on the flimsy little mat that was provided, and her feet up in the air, Susan was really growing tired of this whole charade. To compound her exacerbation with the entire process, the little toothpick sized woman in the front of the room kept parading back and forth with an enlarged photograph of the Maharajah as if that was supposed to be some type of motivation to all the ladies.

"He looks more like that character from the "Jungle Book" movie than any sort of enlightened one," Susan thought.

What she, and the other ladies in the room, didn't realize was the man in the photo was Ted Washington, once a vagabond who had concocted this little scheme along with a half dozen other transients. Together, they had scraped up enough money to get their plan off the ground, and now a year later were traveling the countryside charging women a hundred bucks a shot for their game that consisted of nothing more than some made up stretches and a promise for eternal happiness.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Yang to my Ying

Yesterday I posted a list of ten things I've learned. I thought in order to keep the world spinning properly on its axis, I would offer up a list of ten things I haven't learned.

1. How to speak Spanish with any amount of fluency.

2. How to drive on the freeway without wanting to rip the face off that guy driving like a moron in the other lane.

3. How to write things beyond my own name without the aid of spell check.

4. That beans are not my friend.

5. Why anybody would want to watch "The Sound of Music" more than once.

6. That not everybody enjoys my sense of humor.

7. Why TV reality shows are so popular.

8. When to keep my big mouth shut.

9. How to program the VCR.

10. Why the prize money on Jeopardy ( a game show that actually requires some intelligence to win) is so small, while other shows in which any idiot can win is so large.

and the list could go on...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things I've Learned

Here is a short list of a few things I've learned:

1. No matter how much I yell at the TV, it won't change the outcome of the game.

2. Laughter is good for the soul.

3. Children hear everything you say, and at just the wrong time will repeat the things you wish they didn't.

4. When someone asks, "Does this smell bad?" it is not necessary to oblige them with a whiff.

5. The real reason dogs lick your face is to get rid of the butt taste on their tongues.

6. Poultry tastes like chicken.

7. The price of gas never goes back down at the same rate at which it went up.

8. I've never had a hangover from drinking too much Dr Pepper.

9. Unfortunately, one of the candidates for president will win come this November.

10. A fair amount of people walking this earth could learn much about unconditional love from the family dog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Few Words

How about a couple of short stories known as Wordzzles? What's a Wordzzle you may ask? It's the creation of the talented Raven in which she gives us a list of random words each week to weave into a paragraph or short story. Click here to visit her site and find the other writers.

This week's words:

Ten word group - budget, news, outer space, gargantuan, brass band, Purple Rose of Cairo, polar bears, insight, innovations, mute

The mini group - investments, purring, death penalty, mercury, convalescent home

In honor of our lovely host I didn't separate any of the words/phrases this week. hehehe

~~~The Ten Word~~~
"Political Incorrectness"

Having worked at the Purple Rose of Cairo over the past year gave Lacy a unique insight into the gargantuan mess that was unfolding. The news vans were lined up one after another like a group of hungry polar bears going after a defenseless baby seal. The man inside the seedy little strip club however was no cute and cuddly seal, and he sure as hell wasn't defenseless. He was none other than Congressman Dobbson, who like so many other politicians had managed to disenfranchise the voters in less than a year of being in office.

Big "D" as he became better known by, had of course promised such lofty innovations as a balanced budget, better health care for all and a smaller military presence over seas. All of these things the voters wanted to hear, but none of them had he delivered on. Instead he'd taken thousands of dollars from big businesses and squandered the majority of it away on expensive cars and cheap hookers.

Anytime the press would bring up these allegations you'd think he was a mute. It was funny, a man who was always long on words during his pre-office campaigning speeches would suddenly turn silent. Something else about these press releases that wasn't so funny was his wife of twenty years would have to stand next to him with their three children in tow and all the while display a plastic smile and vow to uphold the name of her faithfull and honest husband.

Well it was now time for him to face the music, and little did he know it, but the woman who had just been riding his groin during yet another lap dance was the one who had called the local and national media an hour earlier. She may have been considered red hot by most men entering this hot bed of lust, but the revenge she was about to serve was ice cold.

Big D was now hiding out in one of the "massage" rooms in the back of the club with her and was all to aware of the media circus that had formed outside. Pleading with lacy for help in discovering a way out of this mess, he promised her anything this side of outer space if she would only help him in his plight. Looking him square in the eyes she said, "I guess you should have thought about that when you decided to stop tipping me last week for my services!"

"It was. . . it was you who called. . . but I thought you had enough of my money already. . ." he stammered.

Breaking his yammering, she said, "Oh what's that I hear? Sounds like a brass band playing outside. Now start marching mister!"

~~~The Mini~~~
"Saving For a Rainy Day"

The investments in mercury free thermometers he'd made earlier in life had his bank account purring like a content kitten now. It also had him relaxing in a condo on Maui instead of the Shady Acres retirement home where some of his less fortunate acquaintances were residing. How fortunate he was. Without the sizable nest egg he'd acquired to see him through his old age, he might have ended up in that run down convalescent home too. A fate that would have been nothing more than a death sentence in his book.


And now for the shameless plug portion of the post. The photos for the upcomming writing challenge "Portrait of Words" are now posted. Scroll down to the next post to see them and join the fun.

Friday, September 19, 2008

October POW Photos

Here are October's pictures for our Portrait of Words writing challenge. Due date for the stories will be Oct 13-15 (Mon-Wed)

I won't go into all the guidelines for putting your story together on this post, but if you are unsure about any of them or are participating for the first time, please click here and it will take you to the information you need. The quick version is this: Look at the pictures, get an idea and write a story.

One clarification though. My intention with the Wild Card options is for you to select only one of them to use in your story. Still. I'm certainly not going to get too hung up on the rules, so if you decide to use them all anyway so be it.

I've got some updating to do on my sidebar over the weekend too. A few names need to be added, so if you don't see yours up there yet, I should have you included soon. If Sunday rolls around and I've inadvertently left you name off the list, please let me know and I'll be sure to get it taken care of.

I'll post the POW icon on my sidebar with a link to this post so if you need to reference these photos again, it should make it easy to find.

Happy Writing all!


Contributing photographers this month are from Flickr's creative commons:

Main Character - Michael Brenton
Backdrop - Unknown
Purpose - t_a_i_s
Item - David Roessli
Wild Card 1 - Winter-light
Wild Card 2 - Erin is a star
Wild Card 3 - bunch of pants

All photos licensed as Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike

This basically means that as long as credit is given to the photographer the photos can be used provided it's not for profit. At least that's how I understand it. I'm trying to respect the photographers work and not infringe on any copyright laws. If anyone has other information that I should know about in regard to this, please let me know.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Auto Pilot

Man I'm beat. Beat like a red headed stepchild! We're doing an epoxy floor coating in a restroom at Intel today and tomorrow. today involved removing the old sheet vinyl and mastic and then applying the epoxy primer and color flake to it. The first day (today) is always the hard part of the job. The second day is generally a breeze. Anyhoo, it's good money and they are really good about paying quickly, so hard work or not, I'm not complaining.

And now...a break from the post to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who took the POW writing challenge and put such amazing stories out there for my/our reading pleasure. I was hoping for a few people to join in on it, but was truly wowed that there were ten of you who made the time to write your words down. And what gifted writers you are too! THANK YOU!!!

Also a thank you to any and all who came by this site or any of the others and read these wonderful stories. You are every bit as important to the cause. Your comments and feedback are an inspiration for me (and I'm sure the others too) to want to keep it up.

I'll have Octobers pictures posted tomorrow, (Friday) and as I did before, the POW icon on my sidebar will link back to them to make it easier to find throughout the month.

OK, back to the it were.

Spending eight hours in a bathroom tends to make a person look at this room a bit differently than normal. At least is does with me. I noticed that nearly everything is automated these days. Motion sensors activate the various items and do for us what we used to have to do for ourselves. Long gone are the days of touching that nasty handle on the toilet. This I like. I mean who wants to touch one of those things when you know darn good and well the last person (and who knows how many others) have just released bodily fluids and before they've had a chance to wash their hands, they're grabbing a hold of the thing. YUCK!!!

Another thing I like is the automatic water at the faucet. The ones that used to be so popular I didn't. They were the ones that you would push down and it would give you about ten seconds of water before it shut off. They never seemed to be in sink with what I needed for water. They would inevitably shut off about three seconds before the last of the soap was washed off, thereby making you push it on again and watching it run considerably longer than it need to. It also seemed that about every tenth one would stick in the on position. Gallon after gallon of water wasting away down the drain as I would feel compelled to try and pull the damn thing back up to shut it off.

Next up, the soap dispenser. This item tends to irritate me more than it does help. Generally I stick my hand underneath it and nothing happens. So what do I do? Move my hand closer to where I think the motion sensor is. Nine times out of ten when I do this, I end up with soap at about my wrist. I guess it could be worse, but if their going to call it hand soap it should darn well land on my hand, otherwise change the name to wrist soap please!

Now it's time to dry my hands (or wrists, or elbows, or wherever the soap managed to land). It seems more and more places are giving us a choice these days. Blow dry or paper towels. Now I admittedly like a blow job as much as the next guy, but not under these circumstances. No, I'm more of a paper towel kind of guy in the bathroom. What I want to know though, is who gets to decide how much of the roll gets dispensed when I wave my hand in front of the electric eye? Did the powers at be for the Paper Towel Dispensers of America have a wash off and create some magic formula for this?

Well, I haven't seen it yet, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if there are automatic toilet paper giver outers too. If they haven't yet figured out the proper ratio on this one, then I want to be a part of the study group. Can you imagine the round table discussions for this? On a related issue, who the hell is the cheap SOB that keeps putting single ply butt wipes in the dispenser? Do you really think this is going to save your company big dollars? I've got news for you, It doesn't. We just use twice as much!!!

If you'll excuse me I have some business to take care of...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Portrait of Words #1

It's finally here! I've been looking forward to getting this project into action for a while and now it's time to see what you've all come up with for stories. There was a pretty good amount of interest in this when I posted the pictures a few weeks ago, so I'm curious to see how many will end up participating on this, the inaugural challenge.

I'll list this month's photos and the "rules" of the writing challenge followed by two stories I came up with for this go round.


The Categories:

Main Character(s): Your story can be told through or about this person(s), i.e. first or third person. Either way you go, their involvement in the story should be a focal point. Have as many or as few additional characters as you wish, but at least one of the ones pictured should be central to the overall story.

Backdrop: This will create the setting for your story. It can take place at the location depicted, be a destination to it, or be a journey from it.

Purpose: This is what drives or motivates the main character(s) to action. It can also be viewed as the objective of the story.

Item(s): The object(s) should have a significant value to the main character, backdrop or purpose of the story.

Wild Card: Writers choice here. Choose one of the three options to use in your story anyway you see fit.


General Guidelines:

Your story can be of any length or style. Long or short, comedy or tragedy, fact or fiction, etc,etc... it's up to you.

Use each of the picture representations in your story. (one from the wild card options)

Whether you're a seasoned writer or just beginning, everyone is invited to join in!



This month's stories should be posted between Sept 15-17. (FYI - It will be the first Mon-Wed on or after the 15th of each month) Knowing we all have busy schedules, this three day "posting window" should give everyone a chance to submit their story without feeling like they've missed the only day it's due.

I will post the pictures for the following month's challenge on the Friday after we submit our stories. This will give us approximately four weeks to create our next story.

Read the other participants stories only after you've posted your own, and please remember to leave them comments about their writing.

Sign in on Mr Linky so others can find and read your story. (I will have this at the bottom of my story post each month)


There were a couple of comments about this sounding too complicated, for that I apologize. I've tried to figure out a way to slim this down and still get all the information out there. So far I haven't made much progress in that department. I also received a couple of "I don't think I can do this" comments. Please know that there isn't any pressure here. If this isn't your cup of tea, don't sweat it, just enjoy reading the stories. If you're sitting on the fence about whether or not you might want to give it a try, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and see what happens. You'll likely be surprised at how well you do.

This first month, I decided to do two stories. (no I won't be doing that every month) The first is very short and was done that way intentionally. I did this to again, encourage those that are wondering if they want to tackle something like this. I thought it would be fun to do a micro version to let you/them know that any and all stories are welcome. You don't have to go novel length to feel it's worthy of writing. The second story...well, I did get a bit long at the finger on that one. It's a bit of a different type of story than I generally write, but hey, that's the beauty of this thing. Imagine, explore, create and have fun with it.

OK, enough set up already let get on with the show shall we?


#1 "Olfactory Overload"

She figured the smell must be coming from the dark musty mansion they were staying at. Glancing over she then determined the armpit that was so close to her nose was the culprit. Turning over and placing a pillow on top of her head, she tried to form a photograph in her mind of a soft medley playing. Perhaps this image would displace the stench she was picking up. Little did she know the real spot where the odor was coming from was underneath the bed where an old pair of extremely well worn sneakers was lurking.


#2 "Symphony of Death"

"Can you believe this place?" McKinsey stated more than asked, "It's magnificent!"

Her husband Malcolm Donahue, couldn't agree more. They had already investigated most of the run down mansion oohing and ahhing over every little detail and were now standing in the grand ballroom. The sunlight dappled through the large wood clad windows that lined the eastern side of the room, illuminating many of the features that hadn't been viewed by anyone in over forty-nine years. From the hand carved moldings and ornate solid mahogany doors to the intricate patterns of the crystal chandelier, no detail was overlooked. There was an enormous fireplace situated between the arched windows that was large enough for McKinsey to stand upright in and as they made there way across the room their foot steps revealed a beautiful Italian marble floor that had been disguised by years of settling dust.

There were two items in the room of particular interest. One being the long golden banners that hung on either side of each window. In any other setting they would simply be viewed as elaborate window treatments, but in this room their bright color and near flawless condition was a sharp contrast to the dingy unkempt condition that was the remainder of the room. They also knew that one of these banners was supposed to have been used in the murder that took place in this very room years earlier. "But which one was it?" they thought.

The other item the two had hoped would still be there was the black-lacquer finished grand piano that majestically sat in the far corner of the room. Spying it, they eagerly raced toward their prize with the anticipation of a small child entering a toy store. Malcolm extended his hand and glided his long slender fingers across the dark exterior shell. It truly was an impressive work of art and craftsmanship, but what really amazed Malcolm was the fact that there wasn't a single speck of dust on it anywhere!

"McKinsey, this is it!" he exclaimed, "This is where we'll meet the great Stravanko."

The infamous composer, Adriano Stravanko, that Malcolm spoke of was in fact the real reason he and his bride had come here and spent so much time and energy on. Connecting with him had become their passion of late and now it looked like all of the effort and money they'd spent on this pursuit would finally pay off.

This passion and inquisitiveness that drove the two of them was not as eagerly shared with by the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside estates. To those people, this musty old mansion was no more than a haunted refuge to the spirit of a man who had brutally murdered his beloved wife and then turned his wrath on himself, leaving their only daughter parent less and alone. These locals were so spooked by what had transpired nearly a half century earlier, that they had demanded the place be demolished. The authorities were sympathetic to their plight, but as long as there was still a living relative in the bloodline, there really was nothing they could do. As the months passed, this house of evil served only as a constant reminder to the residents of this quite village to the horrors mankind was capable of. Curious onlookers began arriving by the car loads too and this only intensified the locals desire to see this place removed from the landscape. Stories of a figure seen in the windows and music coming from the piano deep within the walls of the mansion late at night began to surface. With each tale of mystery another wave of spectators would surface. This pattern would continue for months until the novelty of it had worn thin. Still, every anniversary of the murder-suicide, a small contingent of would be ghost hunters would gather at the gates hoping for a glimpse of the spirit that was trapped behind the stone and brick structure.


During all of this time, the daughter of the late Adriano and Catarina Stravanko, Belinda, sat in silence at an institution less than a hundred miles away. She had been the only witness to the grizzly scene that fateful night and from that moment until now she hadn't uttered a single word. The therapists had hoped her emotional digression that caused her to withdraw inward would subside as time progressed, but it was obvious that some fifty years later, that was not going to happen. Now at age sixty-eight her body was giving up, just as her mind had done so long ago. She was likely only days away from passing into the next world and leaving the details of what had happened that gruesome night a mystery forever.

This is where Malcolm and McKinsey came into the picture. The Stravanko mansion had unassumingly brought them together nearly a decade earlier and now they were hoping to unlock its most covenanted secret. Malcolm had always been a follower of the paranormal and had discovered the legend of the home's chilling past. He, like so many others, disparately wanted to get inside of the front door to see first hand if the spirit of Adriano Stravanko still roamed the empty mansion. He'd tried nearly every conceivable way of gaining access to the home, but to no avail. As long as Belinda was still alive she would be the only one who could authorize his entrance. From countless attempts to get her to speak to him about the incident with no luck, he knew his chances of her coming through were likely non existent. That's when he arrived at the office of Robert J. Weston, Esq.

Malcolm determined if he couldn't gain access to the mansion by conventional means, he would petition the court system to remove Belinda from her rightful inheritance and place him in the position of interim guardian of the estate. He had done a fair amount of research on the subject and was confident that there were enough legal loopholes in the system for him to accomplish his goal. After years of negotiations and court appearances, Weston had won Malcolm's case and in turn Malcolm Donahue had won the heart of Weston's daughter McKinsey.

McKinsey knew of the mansion's history and when Malcolm, a devilishly good looking young man, became a part of the equation, she was all the more interested in it. The two instantly hit it off and in a matter of month's had become engaged and subsequently married a year later. Together the newlyweds began a career chasing ghosts and other unexplainable phenomenon around the globe successfully documenting dozens of sightings and strange encounters.

It was now time to see if the Stravanko mansion would become another one of their success stories.


After what must have been the better part of the day, they were ready. With thousands of dollars worth of cameras, meters of all sorts, motion detectors and enhanced video equipment in place, all they could do was to wait and see if the great composer would appear once again. The hours dragged by without so much as a hint that they would be visited by the spirit world this evening. "Would all of this time and effort be for naught?" they wondered.

With the first hint of sunlight poking its head above the eastern horizon, dawn signaled that their first night would be ceremoniously uneventful. Feeling a bit dejected, they began the process of shutting down all the electronics for the day. If there was one thing they'd learned throughout the years, it was spirits rarely if ever showed themselves during the daylight hours. As they continued around the room powering down the various instruments, they both stopped at one of the windows and stood there gazing out at the sunrise. Watching the sun begin its march across the hills and valleys before them, they tried to stay optimistic and encourage one another.

"It was just one night," McKinsey whispered, "Perhaps Adriano needs more time to warm up to us being here."

"Perhaps." Malcolm said with a sigh.

They went back to the task at hand and just as Malcolm was about to shut off the last device, something caught his eye.

"McKinsey!" he shout-whispered, "This was not here before!"

Racing toward him she now spied what he was referring to. There on the bridge of the piano was a lone piece of sheet music and the words that were scribed at the top of it were definitely Russian. As McKinsey picked it up she and Malcolm both felt a cold chill dance up their spines. In the same instant, the gold banners by the windows fluttered wildly, and then as quickly as it had happened, everything became still and quiet again.

They looked at each other an immediately a huge grin came across their faces. In unison they both said, "He's here!"

Suddenly, the fatigue and disappointment they'd been feeling earlier was gone. They frantically began checking all of the equipment and reviewing the data. Something of this magnitude had to have been caught by at least one of their instruments. . . or did it? They quickly realized that during their encounter with the other side, the majority of their equipment was already shut off, and the ones that were still on hadn't picked up a thing. With noon rapidly approaching they had exhausted all the possibilities of finding any visual evidence.

"Damn, I can't believe we came up empty."

Reaching for the sheet music, McKinsey replied, "Well. . . not completely empty!"

She was right, "but how on earth could a spirit actually produce a physical object out of thin air?" they wondered. They'd seen plenty of extraordinary things over the years, but this? Even they couldn't explain it.

For the next two-plus weeks the same pattern would repeat itself night after night, and always with the same result. A solitary sheet of music would appear with a few hand written words at the top penned in a language neither of them understood. The other constant was the missing evidence. Even with all of the most sophisticated equipment money could buy, they hadn't recorded a single thing that would lend credibility to their story. The sheet music they'd collected was impressive, but without some type of audio or visual confirmation to back them up, the skeptics would just dismiss them as a forgery.

There was one thing that was changing each evening however, and that was Malcolm's general demeanor. With each passing night he was becoming more and more agitated at their apparent lack of progress.

One more week passed and again seven more sheets of music appeared. They'd been at the mansion for nearly a month now and although they had compiled quite a collection of music, they were still missing the crucial piece of evidence to substantiate their story. Unfortunately, their chances to gather any more evidence would now have to wait until they returned from their trip.


The ten day Caribbean cruise was supposed to be a relaxing get away and a time to celebrate their latest discovery, but the recent events made taking it easy or being exuberant impossible for either of them, especially Malcolm. It seemed that what had once been a genuine interest in finding a story, had now become an obsession that was tearing him up inside. Every waking moment was spent pouring over any information he'd been able to bring on board and his unilateral fixation with Adriano Stravanko was starting to take its toll on his relationship with McKinsey.

Ignoring the obvious signs, Malcolm continued his pursuit for information. When he wasn't starring at video frame by frame, he was on his laptop trying to decipher the words that were written on the pages of music. He'd visited all the translation sites he could find, but the dialect the words were written in was making interpretation nearly impossible. The one thing he had been able to accomplish though, was to put all of the compilations into a musical rendering software he'd downloaded. He played the music constantly now and it was driving McKinsey absolutely mad.

By the fourth night out at sea, McKinsey could take no more of this ghost hunting business. Between the hours and hours of research Malcolm was doing and that haunting music he kept playing at all hours, she was about to lose her mind. He was becoming too obsessed with the whole thing and his violent mood swings that he'd never exhibited before, were quite frankly beginning to scare the hell out of her.

Wanting to break this destructive cycle, she slipped into her favorite teddy and walked over to where Malcolm was sitting trying to entice him away from his laptop. When he gave her nothing more than a casual glance, she reached over and lowered the cover to his computer playfully calling him towards her with her fingers.

That's when Malcolm snapped. The rage in his eyes told McKinsey that something was terribly wrong. As she reeled backwards Malcolm lunged forward throwing her on the bed. Grabbing the bed sheet and wrapping it tightly around her neck, he began chanting in fluent Russian, the words that had been scribed on each of the sheets of music they'd collected. She kicked violently raising her arms to try and force him to release the grasp he had around her small neck. It was of little use though. Even if she would have had the strength to fight back, he was being powered by a force stronger than any of this earth. A few moments later her body stopped convulsing and she fell limp. It was only then that Malcolm realized what he had done. The words he was so desperate to translate had been spoken from his own lips and he now understood them perfectly. The demon that had taken over the body and mind of Adriano Stravanko nearly fifty years earlier was now residing within Malcolm Donahue , and it would do what it had done for centuries before. Without thinking about his actions, Malcolm wrapped one end of the bed sheet around the light fixture above the bed and the other end tightly around his own neck. With one quick jump his feet dangled below his body as the life slowly ran out of it.

When the Coast Guard chopper was summoned the next day to retrieve the bodies and investigate the murder-suicide, they found no evidence that anyone other than Malcolm and McKinsey had ever stepped inside their cabin. They also found none of the sheet music, nor did they see any traces of it or anything else on Malcolm's laptop.

That same day, Belinda Stravanko got up from the chair she'd sat in for the better part of forty-nine years, walked to the nurse in charge and declared, "I'd like to go home now."


Remember, if you're participating, please sign in on the link box below so others can find your story. You can either type in the link directly to your story or to your blog in general if you prefer.

For those that are unfamiliar with this process here's how it works: Type in your name in the name box and type in your web address in the URL box. For example if I was signing in I would put Jeff B in the first one and in the second one.

Happy reading all and be sure to visit the others. I'll have next month's pictures up this Friday.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wordzzle Time

It's Saturday, and what do we do on Saturday boys and girls? We Wordzzle! After missing last week I'm back at it again with a couple of short offerings. To find out who else is writing and/or to get all the details, go see Raven.

Our list of words to be used in a paragraph or short story for this week:

The ten word group (which was really only nine until Raven noticed it was missing one and threw in cactus at the last minute): spam, problematic, flower girl, splurge, milk, orphanage, lyrics, politics, ice cream cone, cactus

The mini group: drag race, poppy seed, swinging from a star, John Denver, diagram


The Ten Word - Get Some Rest

"No more splurging on deep fried Spam sandwiches and ice cream cones for late night meals." Brian thought to himself. "My insomnia is already problematic and that food combination just turns my few moments of sleep into nothing more than a bizarre dream fest." First it was a flower girl swimming through a pool of milk in the middle of the local orphanage, then it was the lyrics of that David Bowie song playing over and over in his head. "Turn and face the strange, cha-cha-changes..." He knew the second dream was was brought on by the continual political adds that were running on the television while he slept, but the first one still baffled him. "Man, could I use a good night's sleep. Maybe a nice warm cup of cactus tea will help."


The Mini - Party Time

There once was a man named John, Denver born originally, who now lived in Hollywood, CA. Since moving out west, he'd learned about swinging from a star named Poppy Seed Sprinkle. One of his favorite ways of showing up at these parties with Sprinkles was in drag, racing from one couple to the next in his heels and feather boa. After leaving one encounter he looked down at the floor and exclaimed, "Hey, I think your diagram fell out!"

"Oh bloody hell," Sprinkles chimed in, "he's drunk again. He meant to say, diaphragm!"

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm Affraid I Failed

Just got back from watching the new De Niro and Pacino film "Righteous Kill". I'd like to tell you it was the greatest movie of their careers, but if I did, I'd be exaggerating. Don't get me wrong, overall it was a good flick and if you like either (or both as I do) of those actors, I would recommend seeing it. I won't ruin it for anyone by giving out any of the details, but I will say it was well written and the acting was quite good. There ya go. that's my lame movie review of the day.

Now for the real excitement of the evening. While driving home I was approaching an intersection at about 50mph when the light turned yellow. I probably could have hit the breaks hard and come to a stop at or near the line, but I decided to avoid the screeching tires and proceed through. Sure enough as I was about half way through the intersection, the light in my direction turned red. There is something to be said for timing, or in this case, the lack there of. Ya you guessed it, sitting and waiting to make a left turn onto the road behind me was a city cop. He pulled up quickly behind me and we both proceeded to the next traffic light, which, I made sure to stop at well behind the limit line!

I tried to be cool and glance at the eyeballs starring back at me in my rear view mirror. The look I got in return was not one of, "Hey buddy, how ya been? Long time no see." It was more of the dead pan one that said, "I know that you know that I know what you just did."

But wait, he hadn't turned on his red and blue lights yet. Maybe I misinterpreted the look. Yaaaaa...riiiiiight, As soon as the traffic light turned green he lit up my back windshield like it was the fourth of July. I believe my next quote was, "Oh joy! He wants to have a visit. Yepee skippy!" Yep, that's exactly what I said.

I pulled into the supermarket parking lot and waited for the enevitable. "Good eveng sir. May I see you licence, registration and proof of insurance?"

At this point I already had my licence in hand. Giving it to him I began rifiling through Lisa's car for the other requested items. "Um, please bear with me a minute officer. This is my wife's car and I'm not sure where those items are." He had the look of , "If I had a dollar for everytime I've heard that line."

Then it came. The classic, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" I really, really wanted to say, "I thought you guys only said that in the movies or on television." Thank god common sense prevailed and I just fessed up to what had happened. Highlighting (gently and politely) the fact that the light was yellow when I entered the intersection, but perhaps it would have been better for me to try and stop. This my friends was a wise move.

Back to the search. I did manage to find the vehicle registration, but it was the one that expired two years ago. (Hmmm, wonder if the hand cuffs will leave a mark while I'm sitting in the back of the squad car?) "Here you go officer, I'll keep looking."

"You do that sir. I'll be back at my car. If you find your insurance card, just hold it out the window and I'll come get it." (I wonder if my new cell mate Bubba and I will get along?)

A few minutes later the officer came back to the drivers side window. "I'm not going to issue you a citation for a moving violation. I will ask you to be careful at that intersection though. There have been a lot of accidents there because drivers are pushing the yellow lights. Try to be a bit more mindful of that next time." (The heavens opened and I heard trumpets and angels singing) "I am going to have to give you a fix-it ticket for failure to carry proof of insurance and failure to carry current registration." Man, I felt like an idiot.

Whew! that I can live with. Monday I can take both of those items to the courthouse and have the ticket waived. For the record, we do have both items that are current, but just not in the car. (insert frown here) Also for the record, my heart rate has returned to normal once again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Finished Product

As promised, I wanted to share with you the completed deck/steps project that Anthony took on a couple of days ago (Part 1 is here.) The determination that he showed going into the job didn't diminish one bit. In fact, as he got closer to the goal, he pushed himself even harder to obtain it in the time line he had set for himself.

He easily did 95-98% of the work by himself. Just enough instruction to get him started, then he took over. At ten years old, I'd say he did a fantastic job. Heck, I've seen professional painters that didn't have as nice of results.

I did appreciate your comments about the parenting that Lisa and I have provided, but I've got to be honest, I was a bit blown away by it too. I really did not intend for that post to be a "look what great shining examples of parents we are". It, like this one, are and were meant to display how proud I am of my son. Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I'll tuck them away for the teenage years when they come. (If anyone has a time machine to skip over those hormonal years, please send it my way!)

Here are a few pics. This first one is Anthony starting the staining process.

The next two are a before and after shot. What a difference eh?

The Darth Vader Costume is on order!

Be back tomorrow with another "What is It?" ...Haven't done one of those for a while.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Linky Test

This is a test. It is only a test. In voluntary cooperation with the local broadcasters in your area the computer 'not so savvy' are conducting a test of the "Can I figure out how to use this feature" network. (Insert obnoxious beeping noises here) Had this been an actual emergency you'd see smoke pouring from the top of you monitor and you'd likely be cursing up a blue streak right about now. We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

So here's the deal. We are less than a week away from the posting of the first in a series of writing challenges called "Portrait of Words". Most of you are already up to speed with what this is all about, but if you've stumbled onto this blog and are wondering what this is, please click here for the details. One of the things I'm attempting to do is to use an auto link feature so we can all find each others stories. Problem (maybe) I haven't done this before and if you know me, I'm about as computer savvy as a bar of soap. Thought it might be a handy idea to give this a dry run before it's really show time. I've got the code from Mr Linky and will be inserting it into the bottom of this post. If by some miracle, when I hit publish and the link box shows up as planned, I'd like for a couple of you to sign in on it so I can see if I've done it correctly.

If you see a couple of names on it there's no more need to sign in unless of course you just really enjoy seeing your name highlighted in the little box. Thank you in advance and I'm looking forward to reading what you've come up with next week.

FYI - The posting dates for the POW stories are next week Mon 15 - Wed 17. Post anytime during those days (or later if you are too damn lazy...I mean, need more time) sign in on the link box and happy reading.


Monday, September 8, 2008

I Didn't Kill Anyone!

Yesterday was my second attempt at making a beef brisket on my smoker. When I say attempt, please understand that the first time was about two years ago when I spent about 10 hours turning a perfectly good piece of meat into what could have easily been used as shingle material for a house. The poor unsuspecting chunk of meat started off at about two inches thick and weighed probably nine or ten pounds. By the time I finished mutilating it had cooked down to probably one inch thick with around a half inch of crust on the bottom and a half inch of crust on the top and could probably have been measured in ounces. In case you're not terribly mathematical by nature, that doesn't leave a whole lot left in the middle to munch on. There was actually, a sliver about the thickness of a very thin sheet of paper in the middle that, given enough imagination, kind of, sort of, almost resembled meat.

I of course had invited my mom and dad over for dinner to wow them with yet another culinary treat prepared by their loving son, the ex chef. God bless my mother. As she nearly chipped a tooth taking a bite, she slowly, ever so slowly, tried her best to masticate this pathetic sole of a shoe also known as dinner. That's when she looked at me and said, "It's not too bad."

Yes, this is when I knew that the visions I'd held so close to my heart of my dear, sweet, honest mother had just gone out the window. Why?, because she was lying through her blackened, char stained teeth! This was the true definition of a mothers love for her child though, when all common sense told her to run like hell to the nearest McDonald's for a "decent" meal, she stayed at the table and did her best to choke down the burnt offering placed in front of her in an effort to spare her mortified son. I love ya mom...ya big liar! I don't recall what my dad said about the hockey puck in front of him, but I do remember he drank a lot of water that evening.

**side note: Remind me to tell you about my first Thanksgiving dinner some time**

Fast forward two years later. Enough time has passed that the lining in my stomach has healed itself and I'm thinking it's time to try another beef brisket. Fortunately this time I have a better plan in mind. First, I'm only going to subject my wife and kids to my next masterpiece. No point in inviting mom over for dinner. I'm pretty sure she would have been busy. (God knows I would have been) My other bright idea is sending an email to my Michigan based blogging buddy Buffalodickdy. I knew he would have some good pointers for me. He always seems to have some tasty looking goodies on his blog and has told me/us of many of his food competitions he's been in and won or done well in. I wrote to him and pleaded my case and hoped he would give me any advise he had. Now remember, guys that cook in food competitions don't always like to give out their secretes, and I was perfectly willing to hear, "Sorry, but my recipes are sacred."

As I suspected, that's not Dick's style. He fired back an email with a great dry rub spice combination and a subsequent marinade along with detailed cooking instructions for me. I'm happy to announce that his instructions payed off big time! It turned out great and everybody in the family seemed to enjoy it. (for real this time mom!) My hat is off to you for sharing your insight, thanks.

BTW, his site which is called Opinions and Rectumns, we all got one! is about more than just about food alone, so if you haven't stopped by before, do yourself a favor and take a look. You'll find fun stories, engaging discussions and of course good eats.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Seasonal Haiku

With summer winding down I started thinking about the upcoming season. The beginning of autumn is probably my favorite time of year. Love the mild temperatures and the beautiful colors everywhere. By the end of fall however, my mood tends to change a bit. I don't do winter real well, especially Oregon ones. They tend to drag on for what feels like an eternity. Well, that's then and this is now, so I thought I'd try my hand at a couple of Haiku. (Autumn style)

The leaves are turning
hues of brown, gold and amber.
Time to find my rake.

Democrats shout change
Republicans go fresh face
Who will lie the least?

Ghosts and goblins roam,
while horsemen will lose their heads.
All hallows eve nears.

Saturday's college
Sunday's for the NFL
Football time again

School buses travel
with rowdy children aboard.
Glad I don't drive one!

Friday, September 5, 2008

They Grow Up Fast

My oldest boy, Anthony, came to me a couple of days ago with a costume catalog in his hands and announced, "Hey dad, I found what I want to be for Halloween this year." With his best salesman face on, he proceeded to show me a picture of a Darth Vader costume complete with a red light saber and all the other bells and whistles. "I was thinking..." he went on to explain, "that I could do some jobs for you to earn the money to buy it."

Now comes a great opportunity as a parent. The price tag on it was $49.95 Not outrageously expensive, but also not a freebie like the classic ghost, (aka an old sheet with eye holes cut out in it.) The easy thing to do here would be to say, "That's alright, we'll go ahead and buy it for you." Sure we could afford to buy it and he would be happy with that as an answer, but I really read more into his sales pitch than just something that simple. What I understood from this short interaction was this, "Dad, I'm getting a little bit older and I'd like to take on some more responsibility. I have a goal in mind and I want to prove to you that I'm mature enough to find a means of reaching it."

You may be saying that's a lot to read into those few words he spoke, but to fully understand it you would have to know Anthony as I do. He's a boy well beyond his years emotionally and intellectually. Yes I'm biased, I'm his father, but I'm also quite confident that I'd say the same thing even if I weren't his dad.

This is the part where reality slaps me right up beside my head. Like it or not, my little boy is growing up. Sure I've seen plenty of indicators of this before. For some reason though, this one event just stood out above all the rest.

These are the moments as a parent where a seemingly easy decision becomes instantly more complex. Instead of taking the quick solution and just buying the costume, I looked to the words behind the words and decided to give him an opportunity to grow, to prove, to excel, to exercise his independence.

I told him I would come up with some projects so he could buy the Darth Vader costume. Ironically, a couple of days before this, my brother Mark had looked out the sliding glass door of my house and said, "What's up with that set of steps? That looks like a good Anthony project." What he was referring to was a set of cedar steps I'd built a few years earlier. the weather has taken its toll on them and they are past due for a sanding and re-stain.

Perfect. This afternoon I gathered up Anthony, the sander and a pair of goggles. After a bit of instruction and direction, I turned him loose. The determination in his eyes confirmed that I'd made the right decision. He attacked the project like a seasoned veteran.

He did such a great job on the first part of this. Just one of those proud papa moments I know I'll always cherish.

I'll be sure to give you all an update as this progresses.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm Ready...Are You?

Just a quick post to let you all know I'm still alive and kicking. It's been a busy week around here and between lots of work and getting the boys off to the first week of school, writing and even reading has been on the back burner for a few days. I thought about doing a post about the political conventions, but I generally don't go the political route on this blog and besides, I just did a post about the circus on Monday.

Well, it's about a quarter to four here and that means the beginning of football season is less than an hour away. Cue the music, "Are you ready for some football?..." I for one am. Lisa, who like some of you I'll bet, could give a rip about it. She sees absolutely no value in the whole thing. It's kind of a bummer, cause it'd be cool if she would sit and watch a game with me, but it's just not her cup of tea. Hmmm...can you make that reference about football? Well, at least she doesn't give me grief about spending three hours a couple times a week taking in the games. For that I'm grateful.

OK, time to cut this one short and break out the Dr Pepper and chips. I've got to get my butt molded into the chair before kick-off. I should be back into the swing of things tomorrow and will look forward to catching up with all of you.

Oh ya, for all you ladies out there who don't care for football, here's a little something for you:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Just Clowning Around

Picture it...The lights fade to black, the music subsides save for a lone base drum with a low, steady rhythm. A single brilliant white spotlight shines down onto the Ring Master, and in a booming voice he hollers out:

"Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on Earth!"

From the time that opening line is spoken and throughout the next two plus hours, if you're sitting in the audience of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus as we were the other night, you are in for a real treat.

The Rose Garden Arena was absolutely electric with spectators from just a few years old to those well into their eighties. As I looked around during the show, the one thing all of us seemed to have in common was a sense of wonder and excitement. It was as if time stood still even if it was for just a couple of hours during a late summer's evening. Children didn't have any dictated set of rules to follow and the adults were free to let the stress of the "daily grind" melt away.

All of us watched as the acrobats twirled and flipped through the air making their high flying leaps and jumps with the greatest of ease.

There were elephants that performed, dare I say, graciously, and of course the other circus must, tigers. 700+ pounds each of kitty cat and one brave (or crazy) guy leading them through their various maneuvers.

This rather odd looking photo to the right is of an acrobat performing on a set of rings high above the arena floor. There were six separate performers on six different sets of rings all doing the same moves in unison. Most of the photos I took turned out pretty crappy because of the low lighting and the distance away for my small camera. This shot however was kind of cool. By leaving the shutter open for just a bit I was able to get this nice effect from the movement and color. FYI I didn't alter this shot in any way, just a lucky capture.

One of the things that amazed me (there were many) were the motorcycle riders in the sphere. I was pretty impressed when there were four of them zipping around the sixteen foot diameter sphere, but then they upped the ante to five and finally to seven! With speeds of around 65 mph there was no room for error. I just kept thinking to myself, "How on Earth do you practice for something like this?"

There were jugglers and contortionists, trick riders on horses and even more amazing acrobats. They seemed to have all the usual players that I remembered from the last time I'd been to a circus so many years ago, and they of course had clowns. Loud, silly, gregarious clowns. Come on, you didn't think I was going to forget about them did you?

They seemed to work the crowd perfectly too. In between acts these guys and gals would carry on keeping everyone in stitches while the stage workers set up for the next performance. The cool thing was you hardly ever noticed any of the set up or breakdown of other things because the clowns were so entertaining. I've got to think that is a pretty good gig, being a complete goofball and getting paid for it.

Well, there you go. A glimpse of my trip to the circus. If you ask anybody in my family if it was worth it, you're get a unanimous YES!