Thursday, January 29, 2009

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 6 - Alex Takes a Chance


In which we discover, if we didn't know it by now, that Alex could really use some Macho juice from Maverick.

Worlds Apart

by Kyle Crocco

6.

“… so, what are you going to do now …”

“So, what are you going to do now?” Bob demanded. Bob was Alex’s best friend at World Wide Homes, even though he was one of the sales guys and not in accounting. Actually, Bob was his only friend. Though friend might be have been too strong a word for their relationship. Friendly might have been a better word because they never met socially outside of work, and they barely did anything social inside of work, except for the odd talk when passing by each other’s office. Still, Bob was the only one who bothered to talk to him at all, not to mention about things non-work related, and that counted for something, even if the advice Bob doled out was usually bad.

Alex ignored Bob, overwhelmed by all the cardboard banker boxes that filled the broom closet from floor to ceiling. Someone had already duct taped a jagged piece of notebook paper to the outside of the door with his name spelled in hand-written black marker as Alax.

“Well,” Alex said after a moment. “First, I think I should sort through the boxes, seeing what’s inside each one because no one wrote down the contents. Then I was going to label them and attach a detailed list of contents. After that, I thought I could—”

Bob stepped closer. “No, I mean, what are you going to do about this situation?”

“It’s not that bad,” Alex explained. “Sure, it’s a broom closet, but it’s a relatively roomy broom closet if I don’t stretch my arms all the way out. And I’m sure that once I make some measurements, plot out dimensions of the space on some graph paper and calculate the holding capacity of the file cabinets, I can figure out what I should keep here and what I should—”

“No,” Bob insisted, “about the demotion, Alex. What are you going to do about the demotion?”

Alex looked away. “I wasn’t demoted.”

Bob made a face.

“I just wasn’t promoted,” Alex explained, turning back. “There’s a difference. A big one.”

“About as big as a small broom closet, I would say. Alax.” He ripped the paper off the door, revealing the nameplate underneath, which stated ‘janitorial supplies’.

“It’s not so bad,” Alex said, taking the paper back and placing it back over the ‘janitorial supplies’ nameplate. “In fact, my old office was too big anyway.”

“And had too great a view,” Bob said.

“Right,” Alex said, cheered that Bob was getting his point of view.

“And you would have made too much money as a partner.”

“Exactly,” Alex said. “Think of the taxes.”

“I was kidding,” Bob said.

“Oh,” Alex said. “I wasn’t.”

“I know.” Bob plucked a needlepoint pillow of a bridge from an open banker box. The words, ‘Look before you leap,’ were emblazoned across the front.

“Don’t touch that,” Alex said.

“Birthday gift,” Bob said, juggling the pillow.

Alex snatched the pillow away from Bob and set it back down in the cardboard box. “No I made it. That’s my coat-of-arms.”

“Seriously?” Bob asked.

“What?” Alex asked.

“Nothing,” Bob said.

“Needlepoint helps me think.”

“That’s your problem,” Bob said, picking up another needlepoint coat-of-arms design which stated, ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ “You think too much, you study all the time, and you’re always making plans, but do you ever do anything?”

“Sure, yeah, I do plenty of things, Bob. I read books. And I do all the accounting and paperwork, which keeps this place—”

Bob picked through several hardback books stacked on top of one of the boxes. “The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux? Around The World in 80 Days by Jules Verne? Following the Equator by Mark Twain?”

“What’s wrong with them? Those are classics of the travel genre.”

Bob waved a copy in front of Alex’s face. “Those are books written by people who went and did things for other people, like you, who don’t do things and stay at home. Have you ever traveled anywhere? Had to negotiate in an unknown currency without knowing the exchange rate? Ordered some strange food from a dirty looking street vendor?”

“Why would I order food from a strange vendor? Do you think I want a bad case of—”

Bob waved off the question. “Have you ever left the country?”

“I went up to—”

“Canada does not count!”

“Travel takes a lot of planning, Bob. There’s a lot to consider. And lots of unexpected things can happen.”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“You know, some people consider being careful as smart.”

Bob looked at the broom closet filled with cardboard banker boxes. “Yes, and we see where that’s got you in your life.”

“It’s just a temporary setback.”

“You need to be more aggressive, Alex.”

Alex carefully restacked the books on top of a box. “People can’t just suddenly change who they are, Bob. Life doesn’t start anew at thirty like people say.”

“No, apparently it ends at thirty for you,” Bob said, and then leaned forward. “So I guess that means that you’re not going to ask Carol out then like you said?”

Bob gestured down the long hallway to the front receptionist desk where Carol, as if realizing she was being talked about, brushed her long, brunette hair away from her wire-rim glasses and smiled in their direction.

Alex ducked back into the broom closet.

“What does asking Carol have to do with this?”

“Everything,” Bob said. “It’s symptomatic of your whole passive nature. You can’t ask out the girl. You can’t stand up to your father. You can’t challenge Clark.”

“You sound like my mother.”

“Who?”

“Nothing, no one,” Alex said hastily; then added, “I was going to ask her out when I became partner. I had a plan.”

“A plan, huh?” Bob asked. “Did it involve using the words ‘will you go out with me?’”

“Yes, one early draft certainly did,” Alex said, pulling some print outs from a cardboard box. “Ah, there they are.” He passed a draft to Bob, who gave it a cursory glance before crumpling it up into a ball and tossing it over his shoulder.

“Hey,” Alex cried, lunging after the paper.

Bob yanked Alex away from the paper and into the nearest, empty office.

“Bob, what are you doing? That hurts.”

“I’m taking action.” Bob pressed the intercom button on the desk phone. “Carol?

“Yes. What can I do for you Bob?” Carol answered.

Bob waved to Carol through the glass wall partition, and then grabbed Alex by his vest as he tried to make a hasty exit.

“I’m not doing this,” Alex said. “I’m not prepared. I don’t have my drafts.”

“What’s going on there, Bob?” Carol asked. “Is Alex still upset?”

Bob smiled and spoke into the intercom. “He’s not upset. It’s his thirtieth birthday.”

“Oh, happy birthday,” Carol said. “Oh, I’m sorry. For this to happen on your birthday.”

“It’s okay,” Alex said.

“And he has something he would like to ask you,” Bob said, pushing Alex back to the phone.

Alex stared at the Bob and then at the phone, stuttering “I … I …”

Bob said, “Wave to Carol, Alex.”

Alex turned to the glass partition and waved slowly at Carol. His Carol. The woman he had admired from afar for so long. She had wonderful, wavy brown, short hair that framed her oval face and those dark rimmed glasses that gave her that smart look he liked so much. And, best of all, she was nice to him. Sure, she had to be nice to everyone because she was the receptionist. But she hardly ever was nice to Clark. And that’s when he knew. That’s when he knew she was the one for him.

Carol adjusted her glasses and waved back. “I’m so sorry about you being demoted.”

“Technically, I wasn’t demoted,” Alex said. “I just wasn’t promoted. There’s a—

Bob covered the speaker with his hand. “Don’t be technical. This is your chance. She feels sorry for you. Now take advantage of that woman.”

“I can’t take advantage of her.”

“You’re devastated. She feels sorry for you. This is the best chance you’ll ever have. You’ll never be as pitiful as this. Wait!” Bob stopped and thought for a second. “It’s unlikely you’ll be as pitiful as this anytime soon. So go for it. Ask her.”

“But I’m not ready,” Alex protested. “I didn’t plan for this scenario.”

“Ask her now, or I’ll ask her for you.” Bob stared at Alex. They locked stares.

Carol’s voice came out through the speaker, “Alex? Is everything all right?”

Bob asked Alex, “Well?”

“Well?” Carol’s asked Alex, her voice muffled by Bob’s hand.

“Stop it,” Alex said, grabbing his head. “Stop it.”

“Stop what, Alex?” Carol’s muted voice demanded.

“Don’t Bob,” Alex said.

Bob uncovered the speaker and motioned Alex to say something. Down the hall, Carol adjusted her glasses again and waited.

“Do it,” Bob hissed.

There was a long, long moment in which Alex felt his face go from pale white to red-hot. “Carol, would you like, uh, to go out for lunch, I mean, if you’re not doing anything today already, or whatever?”

“Smooth,” Bob commented. “Real smooth.”

Alex covered the speaker. “Shut up! I didn’t have my notes.”

“Hold on a second,” Carol answered. Down the hall they could see her as she picked up the phone.

Alex paced back and forth, and waved an accusing finger at Bob. “I knew it, she doesn’t want to—”

“What was that?” Carol broke in after a moment. She was looking at them again.

“Noth—” Alex started to say.

“Lunch. Are you free?” Bob spoke into the speaker.

“With Alex?” Carol asked.

“Yeah,” Bob said. “Is that a problem? Do you find him repulsive? Repellent? A loser because he didn’t get the promotion?”

There was silence, while Carol adjusted her glasses again, and typed a quick note on the computer. Then she looked back at Alex. “Love to celebrate your birthday with you.”

Alex’s face lit up.

Bob clicked off the phone. “You see. Things can change if you take action. I bet this little lunch date might even change your life.”

“Really?” Alex asked.

“No,” Bob said. “It’s just a pity lunch date, Alex. Get a grip.”

But Alex wasn’t listening. He was looking down at the hall at the girl he thought about so many times but never had the courage to ask out. Maybe this thirtieth birthday wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 5 - Maverick & Hydra, Together Again


Photo by Shen Quioyun, aka Sheylara

In which we discover, if we didn't know it by now, that Maverick is definitely not operating on our little planet...

Worlds Apart

by Kyle Crocco

5.

“… you shouldn’t have come for me …”

The front door exploded into shatters, sending wood chips and bits of brass out across the marble floor.

“Maverick!” It was a collective gasp as he walked through the jagged remains of the front entrance.

Maverick was the only one brave enough to walk in to a Hooligan-controlled casino. Any other Enforcement officer would have been dead before he even reached the door. But Maverick gave that little thought, as he gave every little thing little thought. He had a code and everyone knew it, Hooligans included. He only went after certain people and only those among the Hooligans that had gone too far.

As long as the Hooligans didn’t get itchy fingers, Maverick wouldn’t have to hurt anybody. No one messed with Maverick. Those that did were soon tied with a toe tag. Those who did and managed to survive became legend. Like Hydra. Hydra had eluded him again and again and it was starting to make him angry. Very angry. And worse, it was starting to make him think. And he didn’t like that. Thinking, that is. Thinking messed with one’s mind and filled it with thoughts. And he didn’t like having his mind filled with thoughts.

Maverick scanned the room, waving his hand blaster at the crowd. “I’m looking for a Hooligan named Hydra.”

All the assorted gamblers, crooks, patrons and working staff suddenly looked the other way, avoiding his fiery gaze. Everyone that is, except for one being: a three-foot high, squat shaped, purple fuzzy creature. A Purple Freak. It cowered under the roulette table, staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights.

Maverick demanded, “Do you know where Hydra is?”

Before the Purple Freak could respond, Maverick grabbed it by its long, fuzzy neck.

“I said—”

Just then a man in a black tuxedo glided up to the roulette table. His black hair was slicked back. His olive skin glistened. His hands were held together as if in prayer. It was Guido, the owner and operator of the casino. His voice was all oily politeness. Guido was used to all types: from hardcore criminal Hooligans, to hardcore cops like Maverick, and even some honest people. He had risen in the world because he was able to remain calm and diplomatic even in the face of a hand blaster. Nevertheless, he had to hold his hands together so they wouldn’t shake.

“Maverick. Please don’t squeeze the guests. It’s bad for business.”

Maverick unclenched his fist and the Purple Freak plopped to the ground with a squishy sound, rolling back under the roulette table where it quickly curled into a quivering, fetal ball.

“Where’s Hydra, Guido?”

Guido tried to affect nonchalance, to act as if he didn’t know that several Hooligans were now taking up positions with rifle beamers on the balcony behind him.

“He’s left. Gone to the world gate. You’ll never find him on this world.”

A small flicker of movement alerted Maverick’s cat-like senses. On the balcony appeared a tall, thin man dressed in an elegant, white suit. On his head he wore a wide brimmed Panama hat over his almost white, blondish hair. It could only be one person.

“You were saying, Guido?”

Guido raised his hands and backed away. This was no longer his problem. He had done what he was paid to do.

Hydra leaned over the railing. “You shouldn’t have come for me, Maverick.”

Maverick raised up his hand blaster.

“You’re under arrest for violating four articles of the parking code, Hydra.”

Hydra snickered. “Parking citations. Have you been demoted again, old friend?”

“Reassigned,” Maverick countered.

“Still, nothing to be proud of,” Hydra said.

Maverick ignored the comment. If it hadn’t been for Hydra he would never have been reassigned all those times in the second place. Or was that the first place? Third place? Forget it.

“The job title may change, Hydra, but the result will just be the same: you in jail, and me mooning you between the bars.”

Hydra tipped his hat. “On the contrary.”

Suddenly, several Hooligans stepped forward, aiming their rifle beamers directly at Maverick’s chest.

Crap, Maverick thought. No one ever told me that ‘on the contrary’ meant ‘open fire?’

“Farewell, my old comrade.” Hydra bowed, as the Hooligans opened fire.

Rivals of Dracula, edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan Djiemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg.



This morning, for the umpteenth time, I looked on the Internet for reviews of the excellent collection of vampire stories Rivals of Dracula. I love this short story collection and want to see what others think.

But today, as usual, I found nothing. As close to Nada as it gets. A single short review on amazon.com.

So if nobody else will laud this anthology, I will! I love it! Forget the vampire romances & erotica so popular these days (Stephanie Meyer was not the first, and certainly not the worst). Try some real horror!



Here is what you will find in this marvelous 378 page volume:

The Yougoslaves,
by Robert Bloch - A gang of youthful pickpockets choose the wrong man -- the very wrong, very old man -- to rob as he strolls the streets of the City of Lights. They can keep his cash and credit cards, but he descends to their lair in the sewers of Paris because he cannot be without his old, ruby-studded key.

Much at Stake, by Kevin J. Anderson, uses opium and heroin to create a face-to-face meeting between Bela Lugosi and Vlad Tepes during the filming of Lugosi's Dracula. With Lugosi's misconceptions of Tepes's history based on popular literature and Tepes's misconception of Lugosi's identity and ability to grant absolution, the story looks not only at celebrity, but also at the desires and self-images celebrities hold of themselves.
- the above is taken from Steven Silver's review of Anderson's collection Dogged Persistence,
http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/dogged.html

Voivode, by Douglas Borton. Excerpts from the journal of a screenwriter traveling through Bucharist and Romania looking for background and atmosphere for his Dracula screenplay.

The Lady of the House of Love, by Angela Carter. Atmospheric tale of the queen of the vampires as she meets up with a British officer bicycling through Romania on the brink of the Great War. You can hear it read at Miette's Bedtime Story Podcast.

Dracula on the Rocks: An Irene Adler Adventure by Carole Nelson Douglas. An epistolary story. Sherlock Holmes' foil, and the only woman he ever came close to loving, treads the boards in Warsaw, where she has a close encounter with a Very Old Count.

The Wind Breathes Cold, by P.N. Elrod. I got hooked on Elrod's 30's noir detective vampire, Jack Fleming. This short story introduces her other great vampire character, Quincey Morris, the American suitor to Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker's original Dracula. In that novel, Morris is the only one of the vampire killers to die during the final battle with the Count. Elrod resurrects him, in the most likely manner possible.

Dracula 1944 by Edward D. Hoch. The tale of a German officer posted to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the waning months of WWII.

Like a Pilgrim to the Shrine, by Brian Hodge. The warm Gulf coast sets the stage for this story of a vampire who raises quite a bloody ruckus, trying to get the attention of the maker of them all, the original Count. A look at vampires in the Everglades, questioning their existence. Not quite Lestat and Louis, but a nice take on existential ennui.

Nunc Dimittis, by Tanith Lee. Tanith Lee is the author of my favorite girl-coming-of-age story, The Silver Metal Lover. If you are Catholic and know the prayer the Nunc Dimittis, this story of an old vampire and her faithful servant will resonate. Last sentence in the story: "How he had loved her."

Cult, by Warner Lee. Edward Long, deprogrammer extraordinaire, takes on a client who wants his wife retrieved from the Church of Seven. "There is only one thing... You must take her in the daylight." "Why?" "They sleep then. At night they are all awake."

Drink My Blood, by Richard Matheson. Matheson is an insanely prolific writer of wildly imaginative fantasy, horror and science fiction (he drives writers like myself to the abuse of adverbs!). His novels & stories are eminently filmable: I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man), Stir of Echoes, Somewhere in Time, Hell House (filmed as The Legend of Hill House), Duel (Stephen Spielberg's directorial debut). Drink My Blood is a short little gem about 12-year old Jules whose English essay "My Ambition" begins, "When I grow up I want to be a vampire." Funny story with a bite.

Red Reign, by Kim Newman. One of Newman's alternate history stories. Features Inspector Lestrade, Dr. Jack Seward, Kathy Eddowes, Queen Victoria, Nicola Tesla, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and other characters both fictional and real.

Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu, by Norman Partridge. The second story featuring Quincey Morris. This one is poignant, with a bitter aftertaste.

Night Cries, by Daniel Ransom. The dedication says it all: For Mickey Spillane.

Cardula's Revenge, by Jack Ritchie. The only anagram stories I like are humorous ones. This one is.

Last Call for the Sons of Shock, by David J. Schow. Limos, Rolexes, purple electricity, dangerous music, the goings and the comings at the Club Un/Dead. Reminiscent of Kim Newman's Dracula Cha Cha Cha I thought. That was my least favorite Newman novel.

All Dracula's Children by Dan Simmons. Shudder. All to0 realistic, like all Dan Simmons' horror stories. (Read Song of Kali for horror you will never forget.) Bucharest orphanages. Ceausescu's legacy. Shudder.

The Name of Fear, by Lawrence Watt-Evans. This one starts out with Vlad Tepes' historical feast among the impaled dead and dying. I could never get past that scene, so I haven't read the rest.

The Lord's Work by F. Paul Wilson. A companion piece to Wilson's novel Midnight Mass. A Catholic underground in a world where creatures of the night are the new overlords. I wish he had continued this series, instead of having such success with Repairman Jack.

There you have it. Best collection of Dracula-themed stories ever.

Poem for Owen; or, the Passion of the Danyos


Here's a scrap of a poem I wrote a few days after my grandson Owen's birth. I found it while I was going through tax stuff this afternoon.

Owen was severely brain damaged at birth. After a big pow-wow he was taken off the respirator, and given him to his parents to die in a family suite at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

I think this was my reaction to a social worker at CHOP who came in every hour or so to ask Reetie and Bob, "Do you want morphine for the baby? You know you can call for morphine at any time."

Helpless (Owen's song)

Tick, tock, tick, tock
Mama's lab'ring round the clock
Past is past & future's hocked
Baby's come out all wrong-o

Mama's crying, Daddy pales,
Sister's sighing, Brother quails,
Bleak is bleak, the system fails,
Baby's come out all wrong-o

Call in the doctor, call in the nurse,
Call in the lady with the morphine in her purse
Call in the man with the teeny, tiny hearse,
The baby's come out all wrong-o!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Eucharistic riddle from Tuscany


Here's a snappy Tuscan riddle with a Christ theme. It's short enough to read in Italian even if you don't know the language, just to get the flavor of the rhyme.

I want to go back to reading Dante in Italian. It's a beautiful language.

Il Grano

Io son preso e son legato:
Son battuto e flagellato,
E di spine incoronato.
Non son uomo, non son Dio:
Ma se giungo all'esser mio,
Saro` uomo e saro` Dio.
-- Anonymous

The Wheat
(of the briar-crowned stack)

I have been taken, have been bound;
I have been beaten all around,
And with thorns I have been crowned.
Not as a man, nor God, I grew:
But if I reach my Being True,
I shall be Man, and God, for you.
- translated by Grace Warrack

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This one's for Walter Stabosz; or, why abortion is worse than war


My son Walter, and others of his socially liberal persuasion, want to know why I am so upset about the loss of life in abortion and not that of war. Don't the dead Iraquis and dead Palestinians count as much as the dead babies?

Abortion is worse than war. Both, we humans have always had with us. Likely, we always will.

But war has checks and balances in a way that abortion does not. However poorly we, as citizens, truly exercise choice over how our military goes to war or allies itself with other nations at war, at least we acknowledge that we have a social responsibility towards who and how we kill in war. We acknowledge war as a corporate responsibility of a state. In a democratic republic, we can vote in legislators who will conduct war according to the will of the people, and vote out those who will not.

Abortion has no such checks. Our abortion policy pretends that we have no corporate responsibility towards who and how we kill in the womb. Roe v Wade put all power into the hands of the individual mother, and then the abortion industry sprang up to reap the monetary benefits of the unbalanced power to kill.

In what other instance do we put unchecked power to take a human life into the hands of a single individual, one who is disposed by circumstance to view the object of that taking with less than objective eyes? Every one of us is pre-disposed to putting our own needs and wants over the needs and wants of others. Human law is all about providing limits to how we exercise our native propensity to do what we have to do in order to survive and thrive.

So why do we allow this horrendous choice of life or death, with no checks and balances, to people caught in extreme circumstances for whom the choice of ending another human life will put an end to the extreme circumstance?

We don't allow this in other areas. If my life has become unbearable because a villain is blackmailing me, I am not offered the unchecked power to put an end to the life of that villain. If my nation goes to war, it does not have unchecked power to wage war -- unless my nation has ceased to be a democracy.

In no other instance do we allow the choice of life or death over another human being to be put in the hands of a single individual. We hold human life to be important enough to warrant social and legal checks and balances.

That's why abortion is worse than war.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama's opening abortion sally


Obama has begun implementing his abortion stand by overturning the Mexico City Policy (aka the "global gag rule"), but one day later than expected. At least one analyst considers the one-day delay worthy of note.

I am sick. I knew it was coming. Yet, I am sick to my gut in a way I did not anticipate. The eight years since Clinton have caused me to take for granted a basic understanding of the goodness of unborn human life at the top of our country's leadership. A basic notion that CHOOSE LIFE is the option that our humanity cries out for us to heed. He sets before us life and death. And now we choose... DEATH of the most vulnerable... from the President on down of a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal.

Ugh. Ugh. Puke.

Does it matter if Obama deliberately chose a one-day delay to send a message to both sides? I dunno. I am trying to give this president the benefit of the doubt, hoping that if he is a sincere man he might be open to conversion. If he seeks to do good, perhaps the Holy Spirit will move his heart to a knowledge of the horror of the industry of abortion. It is a horrific industry that puts $$$$ into the pockets of those who deal death directly, aided and abetted by those who by their votes or their silence are complicit with an unparalleled destruction of human life in our nation's history.

Puke. Puke. Ugh.

Oscar Wilde travels to Greece


I am definitely in a poetic mood. And a traveling one. I want to see the Aegean sea sometime before I die.

Impression du Voyage
by Oscar Wilde


THE sea was sapphire coloured, and the sky
Burned like a heated opal through the air,
We hoisted sail; the wind was blowing fair
For the blue lands that to the eastward lie.
From the steep prow I marked with quickening eye 5
Zakynthos, every olive grove and creek,
Ithaca’s cliff, Lycaon’s snowy peak,
And all the flower-strewn hills of Arcady.
The flapping of the sail against the mast,
The ripple of the water on the side, 10
The ripple of girls’ laughter at the stern,
The only sounds:—when ’gan the West to burn,
And a red sun upon the seas to ride,
I stood upon the soil of Greece at last!

KATAKOLO

Ulysses sails the Dalmatian coast with Umberto Saba


Yesterday. 3 glorious hours. 55,000 books at the Hockessin Library Sale. A bibliophile's dream!

I got a ton of books for both the business and myself. Right now I'm browsing a collection of Italian poetry presented in Italian on the left side with English on facing right side, the English translations from poets as varied as Chaucer, Rosetti and Byron.

I was brushing up on my Italian in anticipation of going on pilgrimage with the Paulines to Italy in April. But drat it all, the bad economy caused too few signups and the trip was canceled.

So my fervor for all things Italian will have to be slated with poetry...
ULISSE
by Umberto Saba

Nella mia giovanezza ho navigato
lungo le coste dalmate. Isolotti

a fior d'onda emergevano, ove raro
un uccello sostava intento a prede,

coperti d'alghe, scivolosi, al sole
belli come smeraldi. Quando l'alta
marea e la notte li annulava, vele
sottovento sbandavano piu al largo,

per fuggirne l'insidia. Oggi il mio regno

'e quella terra di nessuno. Il porto

accende ad altri i suoi lumi; me al largo

sospinge ancora il non domato spirito,

e della vita il doloroso amore.


==============================================

ULYSSES
by Umberto Saba, translated by Henry Taylor

I sailed, in the days of my youth,
the length of the Dalmatian coast. Small islands

would rise from the waves; there, intent on his prey,

an occasional sea-bird would alight;

slippery, covered with sea-moss, those islands

gleamed in the sunlight like emeralds.

But when they lay beneath high tides of darkness,

boats sailing to leeward swung wide of them,
steering clear of their treachery.

Now I am king

of Noman's land. The harbor-lights
kindle for others; once more I turn out to sea,

driven by an unconquered spirit

and a sorrowful love for all life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Musing on a Tuesday morning, early


Baby Donal

I spent four days at my oldest son David's house while my daughter-in-law Maria had a medical emergency that turned into a gall bladder removal. While Dave advocated for Maria at the hospital, I took care of my grandson Donal, 16 months old.

I have not spent extended time caring for a little one since I was a mom with little ones myself. Over time, I had forgotten how demanding and fulfilling it is to spend 24/7 at the beck and call of a dependent little human being. Donal was sweet and so loving to his "Lola" (Tagalog for "Grandmom"). Amazing to spend days with him.

Now I'm back home, where daughter Reetie and her family are staying with us while new flooring is being put in their house after a summer flooding incident.

Last night when I arrived home, son Walter was there with his wife Carrie. Daughter Emily had just left with baby Simon. Today Em and Simon came back, Mike had off work for MLK day, Reetie and Walter went to Ikea with her two sons, and Ruth stayed here with Grandmom, Granddad and Uncle Mike while "Daddy working" (as Owen says).

Owen tells everyone the one knock-knock joke he knows, over and over with variations. Wade lost his first tooth.

Family. It is all around me, even with two offspring living too far away to see as often as I would like.

Family. When I was younger, I tried to be a cool, independent Superwoman who could bring home the bacon and cook it, too. Family was one of the balls I juggled in the air, and despite the tug of family bonds I tried to take a disinterested, universal stand and treat my family with the same detached love I tried to treat every other human being. That's what I thought Jesus meant when he said that "Unless you leave father, mother, sister and brother for me, you are not worthy of me."

Family. The most intimate, daily contact that we have with the mysteries of love and life. I have been richly blessed in mine. Four days with baby Donal took me back in time to days on end with his daddy David and the other little ones I mothered.

On my mother's gravestone, my brother Mark had engraved "Devoted wife and mother." It's not a phrase she would have ever thought to apply to herself. Nor would I to myself. Both my mother and I distanced ourselves, intellectually and psychologically, from the idea of devotion as a wife and mother. I learned to look askance at traditional ideas of motherhood from my own mother as well as from the times in which I came of age.

But I am devoted to my family. Always have been. Tried to hide it, tried to disown it. Why? At age 59, the fight to flee from orthodoxy in female role assumption seems just ... well... like kicking against the goad.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 4 - Alex 's day tanks


Previously on Worlds Apart -- Maverick is an intensely macho cop taking no guff from anyone, currently consigned to writing traffic tickets.... Alex is a mile-mannered guy who seems to get guff from everyone, currently hoping that today, his birthday, will see his life turn around...


Note to agents & publishers: this humorous SF/fantasy novel is looking for representation and publication! I am excerpting only a little of it... Kyle Crocco is a talented writer whose 1st two novels (look 'em up!) have a loyal following. YOU can be the one to re-discover this gem of a funny guy!


Worlds Apart

by Kyle Crocco

4.

“… you’ve been nothing but a disappointment to me …”


If having to climb out of the back window of his car in the rain wasn’t a bad enough sign that things were going wrong for Alex, then everyone looking away from him as he walked in certainly was. No one would meet his gaze. Not even Carol, the front desk receptionist, whose usual smile and warm hello always made the beginning of Alex’s day that much more bearable. Instead, she looked down and away.

“What is it?” Alex asked. “Did I make a mistake on the report?”

Carol looked up. “I’m so sorry.”

The intercom buzzed and Alex heard his father’s voice say, “Send him in.”

“Yes, El Capitan,” Carol said, because everyone addressed his father as El Capitan. Even his mother.

“He says—”

“I heard,” Alex said. “What’s this about. I saw Clark had a desk and—”

“I can’t say,” Carol said. “I’m sorry.”

“Just a hint?” Alex asked.

Carol grimaced and shifted the glasses on her nose.

Alex sighed and walked slowly to his father’s office, his wet shoes squishing on the carpet, and he paused at the door. He said to himself, this isn’t as bad as it seems. This is just a bad start to what will later turn out to be his day of all days. This was the day he was going to get his reward. This was the day he was going to be a partner, become part of the team, and be recognized for all his hard work.

The door flung open and his father, otherwise known as El Capitan, looked him up and down and then stared past him and said, “I told you to get in here.”

“I was just—”

“Sit down,” his father said, gesturing to a fold up chair, and then stalked over to the window. El Capitan paced back and forth in front of the glass, his arms behind his back, while Alex slowly unfolded the chair. He father didn’t even glance out at the wonderful view of the fog moving in over the dark waters of the Puget Sound. Instead, his father’s face was focused downward, mumbling something.

Alex sat there, trying to figure out what exactly had gone wrong between the time he had woken up and the time he had arrived at work, in order for him to deserve this cold reception. He thought he heard his father say something and he asked, “What was that?”

“Late again,” El Capitan muttered.

Alex lifted a hand as if he was in school. “Actually, this is my first—”

El Capitan held up his hand to indicate he didn’t want to hear it. “Late, late, late.”

“But Clark blocked me—”

El Capitan pointed an accusing finger. “What was that? Did I hear an excuse?”

“Uh,” Alex tried to think of the right answer. Was it, “No?”

“Good, because there are no excuses, Alex. Only—”

“—losers who complain,” Alex finished. “I know. You told me that every time my T-ball team lost when I was in kindergarten.”

El Capitan went on. “The fact is Clark was on time when I asked him to be and you weren’t. That’s why I’m going to make him partner and not—”

“Me?”

“You.”

“But we had a plan,” Alex said, standing up. “I’m your only son.”

“And if I could change that, believe me, I would,” El Capitan said. “You’ve been nothing but a disappointment to me for the past forty years.”

“I’m only thirty.”

“Well, it feels like forty,” El Capitan said.

“But you said on my thirtieth birthday that you would make me a partner. We would be a team. You had a photo on your desk. The two of us—” Alex suddenly noticed the photo was gone, replaced by a new one, featuring El Capitan and Clark with their arms hanging loosely over each other’s shoulder, their faces grinning, while they posed in front of a ranch style home next to a sign that said, Another World Wide Homes SOLD.

“Plans change, Alex.”

“But.”

“You have to be able to adapt in a changing economy.”

“But I thought—”

“You think too much, Alex.”

“What’s wrong with thinking, Dad?”

“You watch your mouth.”

“I mean, what’s wrong with thinking, El Capitan? I thought you liked my accounting skills?”

“In this life, you have to go by your gut, Alex. You have to take action when you see it. You have to take what you want if you want to get it. You can’t always be waiting for people to hand things to you just because it’s your thirtieth birthday. Just because they were promised to you when someone was drinking a little too much one afternoon and was feeling sorry for himself because he was going through male menopause.”

“But you promised that if I worked—”

El Capitan yelled, “What was that?”

Alex cringed and muttered, “Nothing.”

“And Clark,” El Capitan said. “Now that boy is the son I always wanted.”

“But … but I’m your son,” Alex said.

“Don’t remind me.” El Capitan waved his hand dismissively.

“And … and he lies,” Alex said.

“What?”

“He lies to his clients, Da … El Capitan.”

El Capitan shook his head. “Jealously is an ugly trait, Alex. Clark doesn’t lie, he just knows how to present things. He’s outsold everyone in this agency. That guy has been on a winning streak for months. And did he kick back? Take a rest. Ask, why don’t you give me a partnership just because you made the mistake of not wearing protection thirty years ago when you got your mother drunk? No. The boy takes it up a notch. He’s working non-stop. Night and day. Day and night. Like he’s on drugs or something. And he doesn’t stop to think, or plan, or ask for gifts. He just sells. He’s an example of why winners win and losers—”

“Complain, I know,” Alex said.

“No, lose,” El Capitan said. “And that’s why he’s going to be my partner. Not that I owe you an explanation, but there it is. The lawyer came in last night and we signed the papers.”

“But I thought you said this was because I was late today.”

“There you go thinking again. Besides, you were always late.”

“This was the first time—”

“Always behind the curve.”

“But—”

“Two steps behind.”

“That’s—”

“Always looking before you were leaping.”

“Now—”

“You even were born late. God bless your mother’s soul.”

“Mother is alive.”

“And god bless her soul,” El Capitan said. “You should go to church more. Clark does.”
“Clark!” Alex could imagine Clark many places—many deep, dark places, without windows, and covered with leeches—but none of these places remotely resembled a church. He suggested: “There was probably a bingo game. Maybe he was stealing from the collection?”

El Capitan continued on as if Alex had said nothing. “He was coming out of a service on a weekday—a weekday, no less! The boy has time for the Lord even when he’s working. I’m just so happy that I have a male heir to carry on the business name.”

“I’m a male,” Alex said. “Your first born and only son, Dad.”

“I told you not to call me that to my face. Now go and do that paperwork you’re so fond of. I left a pile of it on your desk.”

Alex stared, wide-eyed at his father.

El Capitan turned and seemed surprised to still see Alex standing there by the unfolded chair. He waved his hand. “Run along now. Shoo, shoo.”

Alex jumped forward and throttled his father, his fingers digging into the flesh of his father’s throat. “You were never a father to me. Do you hear me? Never. I did all the work for this business. All the planning. All the thinking. All the paperwork. And for what? The promise of being partner, being part of a team, to be part of something and be needed. And now you take that away from me? I don’t think so. Now admit that you need me. Admit it. Admit it.” He banged his father’s head repeatedly on the shiny desk, beneath the wall of framed and gilded awards for salesperson of the year, until blood spurted between his knuckles.

Or so Alex imagined later … much later. Instead, he turned meekly around, and said, “Okay, I’ll be in my office.” Alex turned to walk down the hall to the senior offices.

El Capitan motioned with his hand. “Other way.”

Alex pointed. “What? My office is that way.”

El Capitan shook his head. “Not anymore.”

Then El Capitan closed the door firmly in Alex’s face.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Too young to date?

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 3 - Maverick Writes a Parking Ticket


Previously on Worlds Apart... Maverick takes poorly to his new job writing parking tickets. Alex gets dissed on his birthday. The two inhabit different worlds, with different 'tudes. Will worlds collide??

Worlds Apart

by Kyle Crocco

3.

“… this is not how we do things in parking authority …”

Some might have called Maverick’s driving style reckless, dangerous or even suicidal, but not actually to his face, or within striking distance. Most people didn’t say anything critical to Maverick’s face, or back, unless they happened to be standing far away, or behind some double locked doors. Because Maverick didn’t take kindly to criticism, just as he didn’t take kindly to criminals or people who thought they were his immediate superiors, for that matter. Which is why Eric Merri-something was so quiet as Maverick sped past numerous double-parked cars and jaywalking pedestrians, not to mention at least twelve or so different other parking violations by his modest count.

Eric wasn’t quite sure if the number of missed violations was actually twelve or thirteen because he had lost count, and maybe even a little consciousness, as the convertible took yet another hairpin curve on two wheels. Whatever the exact number of violations was, it was certainly large enough that it was going to be highlighted and put in bold print in his training report—if he survived the training ride, that is.

“Now Maverick,” Eric squeaked, finally screwing up his courage as they drove by another blatant parking violation. “We should drive slower so we can practice writing a few—”

Maverick grunted and jammed the wheel to the right, tires screeching as the car rounded another corner. Eric’s head slammed against the passenger door with a loud thump. When he looked up he saw two, no, THREE, double-parked cars, that Maverick had just driven past without even a glance. THREE. The golden triad. The trifecta. He had never seen three— count them, THREE—double-parked cars in a row in his entire career in the parking authority and Maverick had whizzed by them as if … as if … it was hard to contemplate this, but … as if traffic violations weren’t even important.

This was not how today’s training session was supposed to be going. Eric was supposed to be Maverick’s superior officer. Maverick was supposed to be listening to him attentively, not ignoring him brazenly. And Eric hadn’t risen to top trainer in the parking enforcement authority, not to mention top parking enforcer for ten months running, by letting himself be pushed around by trainees.

“Maverick,” Eric said, ready to let him have it. “This is not how we do things in parking authority. Maverick!”

Maverick glanced over. Actually, glanced down and over, since he was so huge. Looking down on Eric like he was nothing but a pest, a beast, like a little barking Chihuahua.

“Maverick does things his own way.”

Eric took a deep breath, remembering that Chief Grady had told him to take special care that Maverick followed orders. “You’re not in Enforcement anymore, Maverick. We write parking citations.”

Maverick looked over, ignoring the traffic, a grin coming over his face.

That cannot be good, Eric thought.

“You want to write parking citations? Why didn’t you say so?”

Eric gulped.

Maverick jammed on the brakes in the middle of traffic. The convertible did a sudden, mind-whirling, body-impacting, wheel-screeching, 180-degree turn, across oncoming traffic, not to mention a double yellow line and finally slid neatly into a free parking space, a hundred feet away, on the opposite side of the street from where they had started.

When Eric had recovered his breath, and his mind, he noticed that they were now parked safely under the neon sign of BlackJack’s Casino. A familiar gleaming white, two-door coupe, with shiny chrome was parked directly in front of them.

It only took a second for Eric to realize the trouble they were about to get into.

“Oh no, no, no, no, no, Maverick. That’s—”

“A parking violation. I know.”

Eric tried to untie the broken seat belt he had tied around his waist. “Maverick. Chief Grady specifically mentioned that you were not to harass Hydra. His car is legally parked. I am a wit—”

Maverick revved the engine of his convertible and winked at Eric.

“No, Maverick. I order you—”

The car leapt forward. There was sickening crunch as fender met fender. The white, two-door coupe, with the once gleaming, perfect chrome was no match for the force of the convertible’s engine and was shoved underneath a sign that clearly stated, ‘NO PARKING AT ALL TIMES LOADING ZONE.’ A keening, whining alarm went woo, woo, woo, woo, with lights blinking on and off.

“What do you know?” Maverick asked. “Hydra’s car is illegally parked in a loading zone. Oh, and what other violation do I see?”

Maverick pulled out his hand blaster, and jumped out onto the pavement.

“There are no violations,” Eric said, fumbling with his TW300. “Hydra’s car was legally parked until you—”

“What are you talking about?” Maverick asked, casually squeezing off a shot. A headlight exploded, scattering glass across the sidewalk. “Missing headlight. And what about this?” Another casual shot melted the license plate, igniting the registration sticker into flames. “No license plate, or registration. Is that enough citations for you, meter minder?”

“It’s Merriweather. Eric Merriweather. Not Meter Minder.”

Maverick considered for a moment. “Whatever. Looks like Maverick will have to make an arrest.”

Eric watched, dumbfounded as Maverick turned abruptly on his heels and marched straight into BlackJack’s Casino, straight towards Hydra, straight where Eric was not supposed to let Maverick go.