The Good Old Days Kind of Sucked

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel – Kevin Burkett

I tend to remind myself of this unarguable fact whenever I’m feeling the least bit nostalgic. First Reader and I got to discussing old TV shows we liked and at the same time how difficult they were to actually, you know, watch.

I grew up in a small town in Mississippi. First Reader spent a good portion of her childhood in an even smaller one. This was in the time before cable and satellite tv(satellite also sucks, but that’s another story). Almost everyone had these unsightly antenna poles nailed to the side of their houses because the closest TV stations were not that close.

I’m older than some of you but younger than others. Just let it be known that I was a kid when the STTOS (Star Trek® the original series) aired. Being into SF as I was, it was a hit with me. Just one problem. The local (as in 70 miles away) NBC affiliate refused to air it because it was “Too Controversial.” I feel a bit of a dope in that it took me many years to understand just what the hell they were talking about. Regardless, WDAM in Hattiesburg DID carry the series. New problem. It was about eighty miles due south of the first station. Which if you’ll recall your trigonometry put it just a little further away than the first station, whose call sign I remember but will not name.

It was too far away. We couldn’t get it.

I got to watch it now and then. I had a friend who had a new-fangled directional antenna, which could be pointed in the direction of WDAM well enough to beam it in, even if the result was a little fuzzy. Only he lived out in the country (I.E. Outside of town) and I couldn’t drive, so that didn’t work out often. I missed most of the original series in its first run. Even today I’m a little pissed about it.

That wasn’t the only thing that sucked. The conditions leading up to some people thinking ST for heaven’s sake was “too controversial” were in full swing, for one. It was a good time to read books, though, so I give it that much. Fewer distractions. But otherwise, when someone talks about “the good old days” I want to give them a shaking. There were no good old days.

There is only now.

Life, Intervening

I spent most of the day in the repair shop, getting the Yeti’s snow tires swapped for summer tires and having the alignment corrected, which required new tie-rods, and etc. The point being I didn’t have time to do a proper blog post. So in an attempt to make up for that, I’m putting up a piece of flash done for this week’s meeting. I hope you enjoy it.


The Professional

I’m one of those people who do what they’re born to do. Sounds ideal, right?

“’Follow your bliss” was the way mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. Yes, I thought so too, once, before time and experience kicked that notion in the ass. I learned bliss has sod all to do with it; the reality goes a lot deeper.

We’ve all heard stories of the four year old sitting at a piano for the first time and playing a complete song by ear.  That’s what it was like. Something inside me was dormant until that moment, a day I will never forget. One of my friends, Jack Thompson, came back to school after missing a week due to the death of his mother. He was still in a very bad way, and everyone was being extra nice to him, which in junior high probably made things worse. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just put a hand on his shoulder.

Just like that, he wasn’t sad anymore. His grief drained out of him like a sink when you pull the plug. It didn’t go away, though. Whatever he was feeling, I felt, and then he didn’t feel it anymore. As simple and profound as that. That very afternoon he was playing ball with the rest of us like nothing happened. I don’t claim to be the quickest mule on the track, but by the third incident I figured out what happened to the ones I touch, and to me.

It’s what I do, now. People find me. I’m not sure how, but when it’s too much for them, they come to me. Lisa was the most recent. She appeared at my door one day, unannounced, as they almost always do. Appointments are optional.

“I’m told you can help me,” she said.

I invited her in, got her a cup of tea, looked her up and down. Pretty, twenty-something, with the eyes of a whipped dog.

“It’s because—“

I stopped her. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, though I knew. That was part of my gift. Fear was holding her in a relationship she didn’t want to be in. Fear was in her posture, in her speech. We agreed on a price and I took her fear away and swallowed it.

When I was done, her face was like all the rest. Not bliss. Not joy. Not even happiness, only relief. Someone else bore the burden they could not or would not.  I want to hate them all for that, only I know two things they don’t—the fear, the grief, would always return, born anew, whatever the circumstances. I can ease their troubles but I can’t cure them, only they can do that.

Something else I learned, that first time. It was right before lunch. I was hungry when I touched Jack’s shoulder. Afterwards, I wasn’t. Maybe there’s always capacity for trouble, and I don’t really solve anything, even though I’d like to.

At least I never go hungry.

-The End-

©2019 By Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Working Toward Something

Either winter’s being stubborn or spring’s being coy. Haven’t figured out which yet. We’ve had snow in a couple parts of the state, though not here. Definitely looks like spring, feels like November. I’m feeling a day late and a dollar short myself, but that’s not unusual.

It’s also not unusual for deer to pass through our upper terraces on their way up the northern ridge, and even not unusual for a few to flake out and chill on the first terrace. We’ve had a whole herd up there before more than once, just taking it easy. Yesterday was a little unusual, though. Just two. One of them was a young buck. When I say young, maybe a yearling, with two tiny little buds for antlers. He was resting comfortably when his mom—my inference, but pretty sure I’m right—came up, and after a little motherly grooming, kicked him in the butt to get him up and moving. Tough love, I suppose, but it worked.

Anyway, maybe there was a point to it. Do what you have to do, regardless of circumstances. I’m repainting the bathroom, even though it’s been raining for a week. I’d rather it was nicer, less humid weather, but it has to be done, and no point waiting. So like a little buck kicked in the butt, I’m not waiting.

Good thing to remember. Young bucks become old bucks, and no one has forever to wait around.

Things to do.

Muse and Writer Dialogues #13

Just so you know. This is the kind of thing that happens when I’ve got a piece of flash fiction due and the trigger word isn’t triggering anything:




Muse (Dressed as Biker Chick. No flowy robes or any of that crap):  Not Happy.

Writer: Are you ever? So where’s my inspiration for this story?

Muse (making obscene gesture): I got your inspiration right here. Step closer and I’ll emphasize it for ya.

Writer: See? That’s the problem. You’re supposed to be my Muse, and all you do is snap at me!

Muse: I do what helps you the most. This is helping.

Writer: No, it isn’t! I got nothing.

Muse: This is my fault…why?

Writer: What part of “Muse” do you not understand?

Muse: I should ask you that. Apparently, the answer would be “all of it.” Listen, chump—I’m not real. I’m a metaphorical device. I know it and you know it. I only exist as some whimsy in that twisted noggin of yours. I can’t give you what you don’t already have, m’kay? I may help you recognize the fact you already have…whatever it is you think you need. I may even help you focus on one specific over another. Past that, you’re on your own. Now, what was the word again?

Writer (sighing deeply): Yield.

Muse: In your dreams.

Writer (sighing even deeper): No, that’s the word.

Muse: And that’s a problem…why?

Writer: Haven’t you been listening to me? I got nothing.

Muse: You can’t lie to me, because I know better. You’re just afraid you’re going to put words down and everyone who reads it will think it’s terrible. The truth is, you could put down something random and then build on it.

Writer: You mean like, “Yield, varlet!” and then try to justify it?

Muse: Well, let’s not get crazy. You can do better than that. Word of warning, though: You start typing the lyrics to “Men of Harlech” and I’ll pound you.

Writer: Fine, but in my defense, it does have the word “yield” in it. As in never do it.

Muse: Stop stalling. You’re always like this, and frankly, you’re working my nerves. I’ve got other aspects, you know, beside “Biker Chick.” Should I introduce you?”

Writer: Ah…no, thanks. I’ve met a few already. I’ll be good.

Muse: Good is for second and third drafts. Just get started.

Writer: How about, “The last of the Ships of the Line was taking on water, its sails shredded. “

Muse: Who are you, Horatio Hornblower? Get serious.

Writer: I’m always serious. Especially when I’m not.

Muse: Don’t pull that zen crap on me now. Your bullshit doesn’t work.

Writer: Okay, fine, you win. You always win.

Muse: Sure, but it would be nice if you’d just realize that up front and save us both, meaning you, the aggravation. Now, get to work!

Writer: How about this: “Contrary to the myth, banshees have been known to laugh.”

Muse: I’m listening.

Writer: “However, they only laugh in very specific circumstances. This is what happens to someone who makes a banshee laugh.”

Muse: And?

Writer: And that’s 500 words.

Muse: You’re a bastard. You know that?

Present, With an Explanation

I’m late, by a whole day. It was almost two.

It couldn’t be avoided. We had to make a trip to Saratoga Springs yesterday because First Reader is getting stem cell treatment in her wonky knees. We figured we’d take a shot at rebuilding the knees almost from scratch rather than proceeding directly to the bionic route of joint replacement. We’ll see how it turns out, but the treatments require a trip to the clinic, about an hour and a half from here, plus treatment time so we didn’t get back to very late.

Today, had to make a trip to Utica to replace a piece of online equipment that was malfunctioning. Then make a return trip via the scenic route because our GPS doesn’t distinguish between “most direct” and “easiest.” Regardless, we got some lovely views of the Mohawk Valley from the surrounding hills. Reminded us just how beautiful the place we live is.

Anyway, more an explanation than an actual blog post. I will say the current project is showing signs of life, but I was wrong about it in one regard—I thought it was a novel. Now I’m convinced it’s going to be a novella, maybe in 30k range. I’ll know for sure in the next ten pages or so. Either way, whatever it is,  I’ll try to make it a good one.