Beware This Boy

 

Spirit of Christmas Present: Will you profit by what I’ve shown you of the good in most men’s hearts?

Ebenezer Scrooge: I don’t know. How can I promise?

Spirit: If it is too hard a lesson for you to learn, then learn this lesson.

Scrooge: Spirit are these yours?

Spirit: They are man’s. They cling to me for protection from their fetters. This boy is ignorance. This girl is want. Beware them both, but most of all, beware this boy.

***

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as Christmas trees. He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London’s street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this was a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory.

Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. Most critics reviewed the novella favourably. The story was illicitly copied in January 1844; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens’s small profits from the publication. He went on to write four other Christmas stories in subsequent years. In 1849 he began public readings of the story which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870, the year of his death. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.

Author William Thackeray “wrote that A Christmas Carol was ‘a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.'”

~ Wikipedia

***

Images

“Ignorance and Want” by John Leech, from the original edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,1843. {{PD-US-expired}} Via Wikipedia

Charles Dickens in 1842, the year before A Christmas Carol was written, by Francis Alexander. {{PD-US-expired}}

***

A Christmas Carol (1951), Alistair Sim

***

 

Day Q: #AtoZChallenge

 

 

 

 

 

My Day Q post is recycled from last year,  a short-short story prompted by this photograph by Fatima Fakier Deria, on Friday Fictioneers. The event it’s based on occurred in 2002, but it will forever live in infamy.

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria – from Friday Fictioneers

 

Day 1

Beautiful . . . waves, sunset . . .

Deck chairs . . .

Can’t wait, two nights at sea,

then—Can Cun. We’ll shop till we drop.

Uh-uh. Swimming, sunbathing, siestas. Bar open yet?

#

Day 2

Soooooo relaxing. Waves rocked me to sleep.

Hurry, let’s claim our chairs.

Breakfast?

Chairs. There’s pizza near the pool.

#

I’m queasy.

Wearing your patch?

Don’t have one.

Sit here. Sea air helps. ‘Bye.

#

Find a doctor.

You’ll be fine.

Move, or I’ll ruin your sneakers.

#

I’m going home . . .

You’ve had a shot of phenergan—you’ll be fine.

. . . if I have to walk on water.

#

Day 3

Phenergan worked! Can Cun! Let’s shop till we drop.

. . . I’m queasy.

***

Author’s note: Day 3 is fiction. The speaker in green did not become queasy. Life is not fair.

***

For more Day Q blogs, click AtoZ.

Day N: Now #AtoZChallenge

 

 

 

 

 

NOW

Friday Fictioneers, May 9, 2017. PHOTO PROMPT. © Roger Bultot

 

“The convention center? Well, go about six blocks, to where the old movie house used to be–the one that burned in ’87–What’d you say, Fred?”

“Now it’s condos. The Oaks.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, just before the condos, turn left. When you get to where the Masonic lodge used to be, there’s a–What’s that, Fred?”

“It’s the Hyatt now–”

“All right, the Hyatt. Turn left again, and almost to where Milton Badey’s furniture store used to be–”

“The Omni.”

“Omni. One day they’ll knock down this diner and this’ll be where we used to be.”

***

This story was written for Friday Fictioneers. It first appeared on Telling the Truth, Mainly, on May 9, 2017.

To read more Day N posts, click AtoZ.

Day D: Dilly-Dallying #AtoZChallenge

Yes, definitely running behind in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. No surprise, of course. If I were all caught up, I would worry.

Blogging with a theme would have helped. Instead of choosing topics, I’m wallowing around in a sea of them, waiting for one to come to my rescue.

April was a ready-made topic for Day A, because I planned to write about Texas bluebonnets anyway, and April is their peak time. But I could have published the same post on Day B, for bluebonnets.

Ben Hur, Day B’s official topic, appeared by chance–I checked the television schedule; I’ve always done my homework with half my brain trained on the TV–but about two paragraphs in, I remembered I had something to say about boo-boos, and say it I did. But instead of dropping Ben Hur, an any reasonable person would have done, I put Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd on hold and wrote an extra post about boo-boos for a different blog, and then went back and finished Ben Hur. That was a big time waster. 

Day C? Before choosing contrariwise, I considered contractionCompositae, color, campfires, cats (of course) . . . chaos . . .

“Zither” by Ludwig Gruber (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As I was explaining on Day C before I strayed onto Alice and Lady the Horse, I considered making contrariwise my theme for the entire challenge. Instead of blogging from A to Z, I’d have blogged from Z to A. The topic of the Day A(Z) post would have been zither, specifically the one from James Thurber’s “The Night the Ghost Got In.

In case you’ve forgotten, Thurber says it began this way:

I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shone down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the plate-rail; I couldn’t see the table. The steps kept going round and round the table; at regular intervals a board creaked, when it was trod upon. I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home at any time. I suspected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.

He woke his brother Herman and they went to the top of the stairs and listened. The footsteps had stopped, and Herman wanted to go back to bed, but Thurber insisted something was down there–and as soon as he said it, the invisible something ran up the steps toward them. Herman ran into his bedroom and slammed the door. Thurber slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held it closed, then cautiously opened it. No none was there. That should have been the end of the story, but in the Thurber household, nothing is ever the end.

The slamming doors woke Thurber’s mother. She decided there were burglars in the house. Because the phone was downstairs, she couldn’t call the police, so she “flung up a window of her bedroom which faced the bedroom windows of the house of a neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space that separated the two houses.”

“Guinea pig eating a piece of apple” by Jg4817 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
After Mrs. Thurber finally made the neighbor, Mr. Bodwell, understand the burglars were in her house, not his–which wasn’t easy, considering he’d been awakened by a shoe shattering his bedroom window, and Mrs. Bodwell was in the background saying, “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria”–he called the police.

The police came and broke the door down (Mrs. Thurber wouldn’t allow her son to go downstairs to let them in because he was still dressed in a bath towel and would have caught his death of cold). A search ensued:

Downstairs, we could hear the tromping of the other police. Police were all over the place; doors were yanked open, drawers were yanked open, windows were shot up and pulled down, furniture fell with dull thumps. A half-dozen policemen emerged out of the darkness of the front hallway upstairs. They began to ransack the floor: pulled
beds away from walls, tore clothes off hooks in the closets, pulled suitcases and boxes off shelves. One of them found an old zither that Roy had won in a pool tournament. “Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming
it with a big paw. The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me. “It’s an old zither our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true that a pet guinea pig we once had would never sleep anywhere except on the zither, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time. They put the zither back on a shelf.

Had contrariwise been the theme, that’s what I would have written about on Day A. What I’d have posted on Days B(Y) and C(X), I don’t know.

Nor do I know what I’ll write about today, on Day D. But by Day E, I’ll have something worked out.

***

Here are some #AtoZChallenge blogs you might enjoy reading.

Iain Kelly  

Mainely Write 

Anne’s Family History

Poetry, Law and Something More

Lighter Side

For the Master List, click here.

For more Day D posts, click AtoZ.

One Dollar and Eighty-Seven Cents

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

“Pocket watch” by Isabelle Grosjean ZA (Self-published work by ZA) is licensed under GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0,  or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the look-out for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, the letters of “Dillingham” looked blurred, as though they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. To-morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling – something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim….

O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi

***

O. Henry Museum

The O. Henry Collection

 

 

LONE STAR LAWLESS!

Austin Mystery Writers’
second crime fiction anthology
now available for Kindle!

Paperbacks coming soon

 

ONE MORE TIME by V. P. Chandler

WILD HORSES by Alexandra Burt

LIFE OF THE PARTY by Mark Pryor

ARCHANGEL TOWERS by Gale Albright

BAGGAGE CLAIM, Part 1: THE DEVIL’S LUGGAGE
by Janice Hamrick

BAGGAGE CLAIM, Part 2: CARRY ON ONLY by Laura  Oles

THE TEXAS STAR MOTEL by Terry Shames

POINT BLANK, TEXAS by Larry D. Sweazy

THE BLACK WIDOW by Kaye George

THE SANDBOX by George Weir

TEXAS TOAST: THE CASE OF THE ERRANT LOAFER
by Manning Wolfe

WHEN CHEESE IS LOVE by Kathy Waller

THE BIRD  by Scott Montgomery

LITTLE RED by Gale Albright

EDITED by Ramona DeFelice Long

Day of the Dark Coming–Twice

The total solar eclipse–the first across the entire continental United States in ninety-nine years–will take place on August 21. David and I will view it from Kansas City, where the full eclipse will be visible. We have our eclipse glasses and hotel reservations and look forward to a jaw-dropping experience.*

Not to take anything away from the eclipse, but I’m more excited about an event scheduled for later this month–Wildside Press’ release of Kaye George’s crime fiction anthology DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of the Eclipse. The book has twenty-four stories, each centered around a solar eclipse.

The projected release date is July 21, but the book is available for pre-order now. An ad in Kings River Life also has a pre-order link.

Individual authors are donating royalties from DAY OF THE DARK to various organizations. Mine will go to the Texas Museum of Science and Technology in Cedar Park.

As a sneak peek, I’ll say that my story, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam,” concerns Marva Lu Urquhart, Kilburn County librarian, who set out to “put Mama out of her misery” in her debut story, “Hell on Wheels,” which appears in Austin Mystery Writers’ MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 Tales of Crime on the Move. If you’ve read that story, you know that when planning a murder, Marva Lu takes into account every eventuality–she thinks.

A number of online events are scheduled to celebrate the release. An interview with Kaye George, editor and contributor, will soon appear on Criminal Elements. Interviews with all the authors will appear on Writers Who Kill. Austin Mystery Writers will carry an interview with Laura Oles and me. For a complete list of events, as well as other information, see Travels with Kaye.

And, of course, watch this space.

***

Read an excerpt from “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” here.

***

 

Total Solar Eclipse
Total Solar Eclipse (Photo credit: Wikipedia) By E. Weiß (E. Weiß: “Bilderatlas der Sternenwelt”) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To see paths of future eclipses, click here. It looks like the one scheduled for 2024 won’t require travel. David and I will just step outside, pull up a couple of lawn chairs, and look up. Which is kind of a shame, because part of the excitement resides in getting out of town. But maybe Kaye will put together another anthology. That’s exciting. I’ll ask.

***

*”Your jaw will drop when you first see the corona and witness totality.” I don’t doubt it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Used to Be

The Friday Fictioneers Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photograph.

 

PHOTO PROMPT – © Roger Bultot

*

USED TO BE

“The convention center? Well, go about six blocks, to where the old movie house used to be–the one that burned in ’87–What’d you say, Fred?”

“It’s The Oaks now. Condos.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, just before the condos, turn right, and when you get to where the Masonic lodge used to be, there’s a–What’s that, Fred?”

“It’s the Hyatt–”

“All right, the Hyatt. Turn right again, and almost to where Milton Badey’s furniture store used to be–”

“The Omni.”

“Omni. One day they’ll knock down the diner and this’ll be where we used to be.”

 

***

On my husband’s first visit to my hometown, I took him on a walking tour: There’s where Miss Blanche Harris used to live, and my great-grandmother lived there, and when my grandfather moved in from the farm he built that little house, and the house across the street was Uncle Carl’s, and that one belonged to Aunt Bettie and Uncle Maurice, and Rob and Nell’s grocery store was there, and right next door was where Dick Ward sold double-dip ice cream cones for a nickle, and next door to that was Earl and Lorene McCutcheon’s store, and that was the Masonic lodge, and across the street was Dr. Luckett’s office, and that was the cotton gin, and there are the scales where they weighed the cotton wagons, and there’s the old post office that was a bank before it was a post office, and that was the gin yard where they stored the cotton bales, and the skating rink was back there on the river before they moved it to Lockhart . . .

And when the tour ended, I realized everything I’d told him was history.

*

(The the event pictured below happened before my time. And it’s Fentress Resort. That’s the skating rink in the background.)

Cottonwood School Reunion – Fentress Resort–Fentress, Texas–1930s (?)–Row 1, 2nd from left – Carl Waller; 4th from right – Jessie Waller Meadows (white collar); last on right – Ethel Waller (polka dots). Next-to-last row, from left: Maurice Waller (partially hidden); Bettie Pittman Waller; Pearl Daniels; Frank Waller; Barney Waller

***

Friday Fictioneers Challenge

On Tuesdays, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts a photo prompt on her blog. The following Friday, writers post 100-word stories inspired by the photo on their blogs.

To read what other Friday Fictioneers have written, click the blue frog.

 

Coming July 21: DAY OF THE DARK & More of the Murderous Marva Lu

“The good old days.” Joe turned his eyes up to the ceiling and sighed.

“Oh, I remember it all. Fried chicken, sunbathing, you grabbing me and holding me under the water till I almost drowned before you let me go. . . . What I don’t remember is anybody actually swimming.”

“We had too much fun doing other things. I wasn’t a strong swimmer anyway. But I loved playing in the water. And just being with y’all.”

I personally believed what he loved most was Bonita and her bikini. My sister Bonita was the youngest in the crowd, but she developed early. Mama absolutely forbade her to wear anything but her blue gingham one-piece, and as long as Mama was taking us out to Paradise Bluff, that’s what she wore. But when I turned fifteen and got my driver’s license, I started driving us out there. And every day, as soon as we got to the Mobil station on Main Street, Bonita would set up a howl, and nothing would do but we had to stop so she could slip into the restroom and change.

Joe goofed around with me, but when Bonita was wearing that bikini—there wasn’t enough cotton in it to stop up an aspirin bottle—he only had eyes for her.

Joe leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He had a faraway look in his eye. “I haven’t been out there in years. It’s kind of sad, you grow up and get responsibilities, seems like you to forget the simple pleasures of youth.”

“Um-hmm, sad.” Watching him leave with that silly smile on his face, I knew he was thinking about Bonita’s little red bikini.

~ M. K. Waller, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam”

 

Marva Lu Urquhart is on the move again. This time, she’s celebrating the 2017 eclipse with a picnic at Paradise Bluff.

If you remember Marva Lu from “Hell on Wheels,” in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology MURDER ON WHEELS, you’ve probably already guessed the picnic has less to do with the eclipse than with–well, it has more to do with knocking the memory of Bonita’s little red bikini out of Joe’s head and replacing it with–let’s put it this way: Marva Lu hasn’t been taking belly dance lessons all these years for nothing.

“I’ll Be a Sunbeam” will be published in DAY OF THE DARK, a crime fiction anthology edited by Kaye George and due out from Wildside Press on July 21st–a month before the August 21st eclipse.

All twenty-four stories in DOTD focus on those crucial minutes at midday when the moon devours the sun and anything can–and does–happen

Especially if you’re Marva Lu Urquhart.

Austin will see only a partial eclipse, so David and I will watch from Kansas City. Our eclipse glasses arrived through the mail this week.

 

Now there’s nothing to do but pack, grab my copy of DAY OF THE DARK–a little escape reading for the drive–drop William and Ernest off at their hotel, and head north. Where we trust our experience will be much less eventful than the one Marva Lu has planned for her friends.

100-Word Story: You’ll Be Fine

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

GENRE: One line of fiction. The rest is truth.
100 words

Dedicated to my dear cousin Mary Veazey, who said, “Let’s go on a cruise.”
I have almost forgiven her.

POETIC JUSTICE or, YOU’LL BE FINE

 

Beautiful . . . waves, sunset . . .

Deck chairs . . .

Two nights at sea, then—shopping in Can Cún.

Uh-uh. Swimming, sunbathing, siestas. Bar open yet?

#

Soooooo relaxing. Waves rocked me to sleep.

Hurry, let’s claim our chairs.

Breakfast?

Chairs. There’s pizza near the pool.

#

I’m queasy.

Wearing your patch?

Don’t have one.

Sit here. Sea air helps. ‘Bye.

#

Find a doctor.

You’ll be fine.

Move, or I’ll ruin your sneakers.

#

I’m going home . . .

You’ve had a shot of phenergan—you’ll be fine.

. . . if I have to swim.

#

Phenergan worked! I’m fine. Let’s shop till we drop.

. . . I’m queasy.

*****

For more stories by Friday Fictioneers, click the Frog:

The Silver Falchion (Again) & #ROW80

Good news on both personal and professional fronts:

silver falchion emblemMURDER ON WHEELS, Austin Mystery Writers‘ crime fiction anthology, has been awarded the Silver Falchion Award for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology. Member Laura Oles accepted the award from author Anne Perry Saturday night at the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference 2016.

 

The eleven stories in MURDER ON WHEELS were written by six Austin Mystery Writers–Gale Albright, V. P. Chandler, Kaye George, Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and me– and two guest authors who graciously contributed stories–Earl Staggs and Reavis Wortham. Ramona DeFelice Long edited the manuscript. Kaye George handled the business end of the project, no small task. Wildside Press published the anthology in 2015.

Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.
Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.

If you’ve already heard about the award, my apologies. I’ve spread it all over Facebook. That’s called BSP–Blatant Self-Promotion–but self, in this case, refers to everyone involved in the anthology’s production. We’re surprised–we didn’t know we’d been nominated until three days before the awards ceremony–and honored and excited, so we’ve announced it at every opportunity.

I like to think that someday I’ll develop the air of dignified detachment that is the hallmark of the professional writer. Maybe I will. Maybe.

(In case the word falchion isn’t familiar–Wikipedia says it’s a “one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian shamshir, the Chinese dadao, and modern machete.” The Silver Falchion seal, above, displays crossed falchions.)

The second item of good news isn’t mine–it’s my husband’s. His video “Invisible Men Invade Mars,” starring cats William and Ernest, will be screened at the Walker Museum Internet Cat Video Festival on Wednesday, August 24, at the Texas Theater in Dallas. David is pleased, but he isn’t bouncing off the walls, as I am over the AMW’s Silver Falchion. He’s taken videos to film festivals, and his Alien Resort Christmas card won John Kelso’s contest. And he’s always been dignified and professional.

Third on the list: I’ve completed five days of radiation treatments. That’s five of a projected twenty–25%. I learned today that I’m doing in twenty days what is normally done in thirty. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. This is another area requiring detachment, and I’ve found that detachment and too much information don’t play well together. The doctor kept using the word if –“If you do well with this, then we’ll…”–and upset the balance between optimism and uncertainty I try to maintain. If is too much information. So I pronounce the situation good and move on.

(Before I move on, and I really shouldn’t publicize this, but while I’m being unprofessional–since the first of June, I’ve lost twenty-nine pounds. Disclaimer: twenty-nine pounds equals the nineteen I had gained from taking steroids during chemo, and the ten I lost from having no appetite during chemo. The doctor doesn’t like it, and I understand why. It’s a hell of a way to lose weight, but with a net loss of ten pounds, I’m happy, and I’m taking credit for every one of them. I like being able to take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them.)

From August 7th List: I dood it.*

  1. Boycotted refined sugar and starches, including starchy vegetables, longer than necessary before the PET scan. Blood sugar was normal. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t be, but still…
  2. Critiqued and returned AMW stories I had at the time.
  3. Wrote and posted on AMW blog, but not exactly on time. I traded post dates with another member, then realized I hadn’t traded. It’s complicated. I posted on the 20th instead of the 15th, but got it in before the Silver Falchion winner was announced.
  4. Wrote and posted on the Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog on the 16th. This one I got right.
  5. Continued reading Mark Pryor’s The Paris Librarian. Good book.
  6. (12.) Cooked chicken and rice, intended to be one decent meal for David. It was horrid. We ate it anyway. I didn’t cook anything else.

#ROW 80 Watermelon Buffet for August 22

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Period.
  2. Critique and return one last AMW story.
  3. Work on draft of “Texas Boss.”
  4. Finish reading The Paris Librarian.
  5. Post #ROW80 report on Wednesday. If I feel like it. Otherwise, post next Sunday.
  6. Visit three #ROW80 blogs a day and comment.
  7. Comment every day on Writing Wranglers and Warriors post.
  8. Visit Malvern Books.
  9. Have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

Might as well face facts. I’ll dust the piano if I dust it, organize books if I organize books, and shred if I shred. They’re more likely to get done if I don’t write them down.

###

I dood it was “one of Red Skelton’s radio catchphrases” of the 1930s and ’40s. It was also the title of a song written by Jack Owens for Skelton in 1942, titled “I Dood It! (If I Do, I Get a Whippin’),” and the title of a movie released the next year.

Skelton originated the line for a character, The Mean Widdle Kid,

a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. “Junior” would say things like, “If I dood it, I gets a whipping.”, followed moments later by the statement, “I dood it!”

My mother told me about Skelton’s I dood it line when I was a child.  She thought it was funny; I thought it was funny; I still think it’s funny. I never heard him say it–until today, when I watched the movie trailer on Youtube. The first part is devoted to introducing the cast, so it takes a little time to get to Skelton.

Wikipedia refers to the movie’s rather ungrammatical title. I agree: it is, rather.

###

Visit other #ROW80 bloggers by clicking here.

###

Tampering with perfection & #ROW80 Report

Tired
Tired

I am so tired I ever could.

Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique

If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.

Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;”

and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.

But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us… 

So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.

Just wo-ahn out
Just wo-ahn out

In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.

Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…

Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.

I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.

So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.

A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story.  First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.

#ROW80 Update

The July 20 Buffet

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
    Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages to
    By Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
  7. Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.

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The July 27 Buffet

They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. Take three naps a week
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m.
  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David
  10. Spend an afternoon at the Blanton Museum of Art
  11. Play the piano
  12. Dust the piano
  13. Get rid of ten things a day
  14. Collect and organize books
  15. Shred

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

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Night of the Violent Mirdango

Oh, Lord Azoth.” Miss Brulzies laid the palm of her soft little hand on his cytanic dargest. “That is just the most impressive, the most cytanic dargest I’ve ever come across.”

Adjusting his eyewire, Lord Azoth said with a flaudant gipple, “You little hoyden. You knew wearing that white ignibrate would jackonet my kreits. And the rose sticking out of your ligara… Ye gads! I cannot restrain myself. Will you glide across the floor with me in a violent mirdango?”

Yes, yes, yes!” And then, “But do you think we should? Neymald stands by the punch bowl, and his oxene eyes hint he’s already pecanada, and we should not qualt him. You know–you must know–that our mirdango, especially if we perform it violently, will ryot him into committing a skewdad.”

Phooey on Neymald and his skewdads,” said Lord Azoth. “You are my trompot, you little hoyden, not Neymald’s, and I will mirdango with you as violently as I please. Neymald will just have to uject it.”

And with that, he readjusted his eyewire, shifted his dargest, the one she had called cytanic, and, taking her hand, escorted her to the vucuder.

There, to a melancholy tune played by a wandering wandolin, they executed their violent mirdango.

Neymald, stymied, could do nothing but hang over the punchbowl, very pecanada and now very, very qualted indeed. But his pecanada was so advanced, he couldn’t think of even one decent skewdad.

Able only to stand there and xystoi, “Yirth!” he cried, and sighed. “Now I shall have to challenge Azoth to a zabak. But without a cytanic dargest, I’ll surely lose.” Then, of a sudden, he ideated: There’s more than one way to win a zabak.

He filled a cup and proffered it to the hoyden, her face aglow with the innocence of youth, wending her way toward the punch bowl.

My dear, what a lovely red ignibrate you are decked out in,” he said. “And is that a dargest you carry, its handle toward my hand?” He bowed. “May I have this mirdango? I promise you—we will be violent. And afterward, perhaps you will allow me to hold your dargest. It is the most cytanic dargest I have ever come across.”

###
To see what it’s all about, read A Zusky, Cytanic Adventure. Then write your own.

 

That’s How the Smart Money Bets

Roaming around online, I happened upon the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

And instead of thinking what a normal person would, I thought like a member of the Professional Organization of English Majors: Why Damon Runyon?

Runyon wrote the stories on which the musical Guys and Dolls was based. You remember–“A Bushel and a Peck,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “Luck Be a Lady”…

What did he have to do with cancer research?

Then it occurred to me the foundation might be named for someone else.

And that, although I’d assumed I was well informed, nearly everything I knew about Damon Runyon could be, and was, expressed in the third paragraph of this post.

So I headed for Wikipedia and discovered my original Why? was right on. They’re the same person. I learned a few other things as well:

Alfred Damon Runyan was born  in Kansas and grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, where he started in the newspaper trade. He is believed to have attended school only through the fourth grade. At one of the newspapers he worked for, the spelling of his last name was changed to Runyon, and he let the new spelling stand.

While covering spring training in Texas, he met Pancho Villa in a bar, and later he went on the American expedition into Mexico searching for Villa.

For years, he covered sports and general news for various Hearst publications and syndicates. His “knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, is credited with revolutionizing the way baseball was covered.”

He was a “notorious gambler” and paraphrased Ecclesiastes: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.”

He wrote stories celebrating Broadway life that grew out of the Prohibition era. The stories are “humorous and sentimental tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by ‘square‘ names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as ‘Nathan Detroit’, ‘Benny Southstreet’, ‘Big Jule’, ‘Harry the Horse’, ‘Good Time Charley’, ‘Dave the Dude’, or ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’.”

The stories were carefully constructed, but their style made them distinctive. He avoided present tense with “an almost religious exactitude.” He created a special jargon for his characters to speak. He used slang, sometimes rhyming, reminiscent of cockney slang, as in the following passage from “Romance in the Roaring Forties”:

“Miss Missouri Martin makes the following crack one night to her: ‘Well, I do not see any Simple Simon on your lean and linger.’ This is Miss Missouri Martin’s way of saying she sees no diamond on Miss Billy Perry’s finger.”

Twenty of his stories were made into films, including Little Miss Marker, which launched Shirley Temple’s career, and which was the biggest film of 1934. It was remade as Sorrowful Jones (1949), 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), and, again, Little Miss Marker (1980).

And now to answer my original Why?

When Runyon died of throat cancer in 1946, his friend Walter Winchell went on the radio and asked listeners to give to cancer research.

“Mr. and Mrs. United States! A very dear friend of mine – a great newspaperman, a great writer, and a very great guy – Damon Runyon, was killed this week by America’s Number Two killer – Cancer. It’s time we tried to do something to fight this terrible disease. We must fight back, and together we can do it. Won’t you send me a penny, a nickel, a dime, or a dollar? All of your money will go directly to the cancer fighters, in Damon Runyon’s name. There will be no expenses of any kind deducted.”[

“The organization gained more visibility in 1949 when Milton Berle, a long-time friend of both Runyon and Winchell, hosted the first-ever telethon, raising $1.1 million for the foundation over 16 hours. In its first three decades, the foundation was a popular cause among celebrities from Hollywood to Broadway and the sports world. Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and many of their contemporaries served as supporters and board members.”

Today the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation “identifies scientists with the highest potential to revolutionize how we prevent, diagnose, and treat all forms of cancer.”
It supports promising young researchers, who are typically unlikely to receive government funding until they’re past forty. Scientists study all types of cancer at the molecular and genetic levels, and not according to the organs in which they are found.
Fundraising events include the Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium, the William Raveis Walk + Ride, theater benefits, and an annual breakfast. In the Runyon Up, participants run up the 72 flights of stairs in World Trade Center 4. The Foundation accepts memorial gifts and encourages friends to like it on Facebook and Twitter. Donors can sponsor the research of a current scientist.
Since 1946, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has invested more than $300 million and funded research by over 3,500 scientists. 100% of donations go to research.
Among the latest  “New Discoveries,” the website lists the following articles:
The Foundation describes its mission this way:
“Unlike other cancer charities, we do not place safe bets on well-known, established scientists. We seek emerging talent with bold innovative ideas, the rising stars of cancer research who are willing to take risks and are not daunted by the most complex scientific challenges.”
Damon Runyon gambled. Obviously, so does the foundation bearing his name. And obviously, it’s very good at it.
The odds are, Runyon would say, “That’s the way the smart money bets.”

“Hell on Wheels”: The Story of a Lethal Librarian

Excerpt from “Hell on Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

***

The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the filling for a lemon meringue pie, I took the bowl away from her and called a family conference. We had to do something before she dispatched some poor, unsuspecting soul to his heavenly rest and got herself thrown so far back into prison she couldn’t see daylight.

The next day, while Mama was down at Essie’s Salon de Beauté, my brothers and sister and I crowded into a booth at the old Dairy Queen, just across the corner from the library where I worked. The DQ was practically empty. The only customers—besides Frank and Lonnie and Bonita and me—were senior citizens, and most of them had their hearing aids turned off.

When the waitress had delivered our orders and retreated behind the counter to her copy of People magazine, I explained why I had called the meeting.

“It hurts me to say it, but the time has come to put Mama out of her misery.”

Lonnie stabbed his straw through the plastic lid on his frosted Coke. “Mama don’t have no misery. I never seen nobody so contented with her lot.”

Bonita poked her pointy elbow into my side and reached across the table to pat Lonnie’s hand. “I think Marva Lu’s talking about a different kind of misery, baby brother. I’ll explain later.”

That was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Bonita’s explaining was why it took Lonnie till he was twenty-nine to get his GED.

Frank, sitting across the table from me, grabbed a napkin and wriggled his way out of the booth. “Now look what you made me do. Scared me half to death, making such a mean joke about Mama.”

He dabbed at his tie with a napkin. “This necktie is a souvenir from when we took the kids to Disney World. That gravy landed right on Donald Duck’s tail feathers.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the other diners, several of whom were looking our way. “Frank Dewayne Urquhart, stop carrying on and sit back down,” I hissed. “You’re attracting attention.”

Frank unclipped his tie and laid it across the back of the booth. By the time he settled down to finish his steak fingers, the senior citizens had turned back to their burgers.

“Now, quit worrying about that duck’s derriere and look me in the eye,” I said, in the steely tone of voice I used on seventh-grade boys I found hiding in the how-to books, giggling over The Joy of Sex. “I am not joking. This is serious.”

Frank stuffed a couple of napkins into his collar and dunked another steak finger. “Serious?” He leaned toward me, his eyes wide and his voice just a whisper. “You want to … put Mama down … just because you saw her add something to the pie? I bet you didn’t have your contacts in. Might’ve been powdered sugar. She’s probably practicing something new for the Methodist ladies’ fundraiser cook-off.”

“The new bishop’s going to judge the cook-off.” I took a sip of my Diet Dr. Pepper and gave Frank time to think. “I can see the headlines now: ‘Murderous Methodist Does in Bishop with Omelet’. And every penny of our inheritance will go to pay a lawyer to try to keep Mama out of prison. Squeaky Vardaman says defense attorneys charge more when the client’s guilty. And Squeaky’s the district attorney, so he ought to know.”

Bonita stabbed me again with her elbow. “Uh-oh, look who’s coming.” We all followed her gaze.

A bright red Corvette was racing up the street. Ignoring the stop sign, the driver shot through the intersection, just missing a pedestrian, who scrambled onto the high curb and wrapped his arms around a light pole for support.

“There she is, on her way to Essie’s to get her hair screwed up.” Lonnie grinned. “Man, Mama can drive that car, can’t she?”

Frank cleared his throat and wiped his fingers on a napkin. “Yeah, Marva Lu, I see your point.”

Bonita wrinkled her nose and wound a blonde curl around her finger, a habit she’d gotten into when she was five years old and people told her it was cute. “Why don’t we keep a real close watch on Mama and make sure she doesn’t have a chance to put anything bad in the food? I mean, killing her seems a little extreme.”

“Are you volunteering to babysit around the clock?” I said.

Bonita wrinkled her nose again. “Well, what about putting her in the Silver Seniors Retirement home? We could have her committed. Then she couldn’t cook at all.”

“No way,” said Frank. “Old Dr. Briggs is as loony as Mama. He isn’t about to certify her. Hell, there’s not a man, woman, or child in the county, including us, who’d dare to cross her. After all, she owns the bank.” He wadded his napkin into a ball and dropped it into the empty basket. “You going to convince her to move to the home, Bonita?”

Before Bonita could get her nose back in gear, Lonnie finally caught up with the conversation. He sat up straight. “Killing her? What do you mean, killing her? You saying you want to kill Mama?”

“Shhh. Use your library voice, Lonnie.” Bonita patted his hand again. “Kill is just a figure of speech. Like one of those smilies we talked about before your test.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s not a smilie. We’d better make sure right now that everybody understands what we’re doing.”

“I’m not doing anything,” whispered Lonnie. “If you’re going to kill Mama, I’m heading for the sheriff right now. Move, Frank, and let me out of this booth.”

I glared at Frank. He stayed put. I smacked Bonita’s hand off Lonnie’s and closed my hand around his. Poor Lonnie, he’d always been Mama’s favorite, and so softhearted. I should have known our talk would upset him.

I assumed the sympathetic tone I used when citizens called to complain about the library having dirty books. “Lonnie, sweetheart, you heard what I said about Mama’s new recipe. And you remember how Uncle Percy died last month, just hours after Mama cooked him a special birthday lunch.”

“Dr. Briggs said that was Uncle Percy’s ulcer.” Lonnie jerked his hand back. “Frank, let me out.”

I grabbed his hand again and hung on. “Jasper Alonzo, calm down. I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think about it carefully and then give me an honest answer. After that, Frank will let you out, and you can go to the sheriff or anywhere else you want.

“Now, here’s the question: How would it make you feel if they put Mama on trial for killing Uncle Percy? Or somebody else she fed bad food to? And what if she had to spend the rest of her natural life locked up in the prison at Huntsville?”

Lonnie’s brow wrinkled like it always did when he was turning something over in his mind. One thing about my baby brother, he never made snap decisions. I usually admired him for that. In this case, however, even with the answer so obvious, I threw in some details.

“Think about what prison’s like, Lonnie. There wouldn’t be a soul Mama knows. And most of those inmates are so common, not our kind of people at all. Mama would have to share a room, and you know how she values her privacy. There’d be no more trips up to Neiman Marcus, and she’d have to dress just like everybody else, in horizontal stripes. She’s always been dead-set against horizontal stripes. Essie wouldn’t be there to keep up her weekly White Mink rinse, and without that, her gray hair would get that ugly yellow tinge to it. And how would she survive without her Friday bridge club? Think about it, Lonnie. What kind of life would Mama have?”

By the time I got to “yellow tinge,” all the fight had gone out of Lonnie. His brow unwrinkled. Tears welled up in his soft brown eyes. It was just the saddest expression I’d ever seen on that sweet face. He looked so miserable I was tempted to toss the rest of my chocolate sundae into the big red waste bin and tell my siblings to forget the whole thing.

But I didn’t get to be Director of the Kilburn County Public Library and Archives by caving in to every pathetic face that stared at me across the circulation desk.

“All right, Lonnie,” I said. “What’s your answer?”

He pulled on his straw but got only a gurgle, so he quit stalling. “Mama wouldn’t like prison at all. So I guess I’d feel pretty bad.” He shook his cup and managed to suck up one more taste of frosted Coke. “But I still don’t feel good about planning to kill her.”

I looked out the window. Old Judge Vardaman was shuffling down the sidewalk from the courthouse, heading for the library, where he would spend his usual hour dozing over the Wall Street Journal. On his way out, he would tiptoe into my office and sit down for what he called “a little visit with my sweetie-pie.”

Bonita saw me watching him and smirked. “Well, here comes Big Sister’s gentleman caller. Honestly, Marva Lu, I don’t know how you can stand to have that old goat around. He’s older than God.”

“You should talk,” I said. “The way you drool over the old goat’s son since he got elected D. A. is a disgrace.” I passed the remainder of my sundae across the table to Lonnie and smiled. “Anyway, Bonita, he’s not so bad. Goats can be very useful animals.” I shouldered my purse and stood up to leave. “Don’t worry, Lonnie,” I said. “You won’t have to do a thing. I’ll take care of all the planning myself.”

***

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