In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog:

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Shiny People

It's been years, since I wrote this short story. It has a disturbing quality about it. 



"Wake up, Daddy"

Frank stirred and slowly came awake.

"Wake up, Daddy. I need you to help me."

Opening his eye, Frank saw his daughter, Sylvia, shaking his arm.

"Wake up. I need you to help me."

"Help, you do what?"

"Help the shiny people."

Three years of memories flashed through Frank's mind in an instant. For the last few weeks, he thought maybe he would get a break, but Sylvia just shattered his hope.

It started when Sylvia was two years old. Her mother withdrew, refused to participate in life and eventually killed herself. Nothing Frank did helped and the doctors never found a physical problem. Before they could arrange a visit to a psychiatrist, she spent a day taking pain pills and drinking vodka. The rope she tied around her chest guaranteed she would suffocate when she slumped forward in the chair. One month she was fine; the next, she was gone.

Frank remembered the note she left: "It's all so important, but I can't tell what they want me to do. God forgive me."

Sylvia never really understood, although she knew her mother was dead. Counseling helped them both, but within six months of the death, Sylvia started talking about the shiny people.

At first, Frank was at a loss, but a counselor explained it was probably a reaction to the suicide. They cautioned Frank on his reactions and advised he give Sylvia time to work through her problems. Frank was patient, and the last three years had shown improvement, although Sylvia still talked about the shiny people.

Frank asked what they looked like. Sylvia explained the looked like people, except they were shiny. Further questioning yielded little more information, until late one autumn evening.

While at the park, Sylvia spent some time staring at the small lake. The low sun reflection shimmered from the small ripples caused by the light breeze. After her inspection, she exclaimed: "That's what they look like, Daddy."

Not knowing what she was talking about, Frank asked: "That's what "what" looks like?"

"The shiny people."

Franks blood chilled at her remark. Not knowing what to say, he just stared at the rippling reflection and wondered if his daughter would ever be well.

Sylvia would draw pictures of the shiny people with her crayons. Yellow and silver were her choice of colors. Like most children, there were houses, trees, animals and people, but Sylvia added the shiny people; that were superimposed over the other subjects of her drawings. They appeared like apparitions and there were geometric shapes she would add by their hands.

Frank had asked what they shapes were. Sylvia answered: "They draw with their hands, Daddy."

Frank continued his questioning and asked: "What do they draw on?"

"They draw in the air. I can see what they draw, but it disappears. It's almost like smoke, but shiny."

Some of the symbols seemed familiar, but Frank couldn't determine why and never really spent much time in examination. They weren't important. What was important was healing his daughter.

Frank was apprehensive when Sylvia started kindergarten. He wondered how she would cope and he feared she would mention the shiny people. After the first week, he finally asked Sylvia if the shiny people were at school. Concentrating on a television show, she only said: "Mrs. Peterson told them to leave."

"Told them to leave?"

I was talking to them and Mrs. Peterson said they couldn't stay, so they left."

Afraid to add more, Frank digested the information and wondered if the same approach could help with all "visits" bey the shiny people. A call to Sylvia's counselor gave Frank hope, when they explained they would research medical journals and see what they could find. That was last month and he hadn't heard from the counselor. He'd discuss it with the counselor in a month at the next visit.

"Hurry daddy. We need to hurry."

When he stood, Sylvia immediately started tugging at his arm and pulling him toward the kitchen.

"They're this way."

Reaching for the light switch brought an immediate response from Sylvia: "No, Daddy. Don't turn on the light."

Not knowing what to do, Frank grabbed the flashlight plugged into the wall and started following Sylvia as she tugged him to the kitchen."

"They're in the garage."

Suddenly fearful, Frank spoke to Sylvia: "Wait by the door. I'll go first."

Stepping into the garage didn't reveal anything. Startled, Frank jumped when Sylvia spoke from right behind: "They're by that little door, Daddy."

Frank looked where she was pointing and realized it was the main breaker box for the house.

"They're trying to open it, but they can't. Hurry; they want you to hurry"

Opening the cover didn't reveal anything, but Sylvia soon spoke again: "They're pulling at that big knob. Hurry, pull that knob."

Frank hesitated, which brought a tearful outburst from Sylvia, who now was hugging his leg: "Please hurry, Daddy. Oh, please, please hurry."

Frank shut off the main breaker, which caused the freezer in the corner to become silent. Before the silence could envelope the room, Frank heard a loud pop from outside; then another and another. Before he could determine what caused the sound, he heard a huge thump, like a firework display. Instantly, the street light in front glowed brightly, which brought deep shadows on the garage wall. Within seconds, the garage became as dark as a cave.

Trying to sort his thoughts, he barely paid attention when Sylvia whispered: "You did it, Daddy."

Standing in silence, Frank put his hand on Sylvia's head. "It's okay, honey. Everything's okay"

Opening the side door, Frank looked out at the darkened neighborhood. Someone was walking around next door. Examining the person, he realized it was his neighbor, who was shining a flashlight on the transformer vault at the curb. Smoke rose from the vents and the acrid smell of burnt insulation filled the damp night air.

"Are you okay, Harry?"

"Is that you Frank?"

Frank could only ask: "What happened?"

Harry replied: "Damned if I know. I think all the transformers exploded. I was watching t.v. when the damned thing shorted out and all the lights got bright. Next thing I know, I hear pops and an explosion. It must be something with that substation around the corner."

An approaching siren broke the quiet. Within a minute, a fire truck pulled onto their cul de sac and stopped at the first house on the corner. The firefighters jumped from the truck and started dragging out hoses. The owner was standing at the curb and staring at the front, where smoke was billowing from the open door. The fireman soon disappeared into the house, only to reappear within a few minutes. Water poured from the front door as the fireman started around the house with flashlights; examining the eves and the roof.

Frank and Harry stared quietly and digested the scene. Sylvia had one arm around Frank's leg and stared in fascination.

"Are you folks okay.?"

Frank was surprised by the question. He never saw the fireman approach.

Harry was the first to speak: "I think so, but I'd still like you to check. Something's wrong with the wiring in my house."

The fireman replied: "Something went wrong at the substation. It looks like you folks lost all your power and it will be awhile before it's back on. Let's go look at your house, Sir"

When Harry and the fireman went into the house, Frank went back to watching the scene. The firefighters wandering through the neighborhood only added to surreal atmosphere of drifting smoke, loud diesel engines and the red strobes, which were almost mesmerizing. A power company truck soon arrived and added more noise. The bright amber strobes only accentuated the already bizarre event.

Frank heard Harry and the firefighter approaching: "It looks like your breaker panel is history. I'd have an electrician check it out before you do anything."

"What about you, Sir?"

Frank turned to the firefighter with a questioning look.

"Are you ready to go check out your house?"

"I think we're okay."

"Humor me. I'd feel much better if I have a look."

"Let's go look."

As they wandered through the house, the firefighter examined all the wall sockets, the lights and the appliances. He stopped at the breaker panel and leaned in for a closer look.

"Your main is thrown."

Suddenly, what happened before the power went out returned to Frank's thoughts. Uncertain on what to say, he replied: "That's strange."

"I can't see any damage, but I'd still have electrician take a look, if I was you."

"That's a good idea. I have a feeling the power company will be glad to make sure my wiring is okay."

Returning to the front yard, Frank found Harry by the transformer vault with a member of the line crew.

"Damndest thing I've ever seen. My lights were twice as bright before they went out."

The lineman only nodded and examined the charred transformer in the vault. Frank could see he was concentrating on the damage and knew the crew had some tough days ahead.

"Do you need a place to stay, Harry? I have an extra bedroom."

"Nah. My sister lives across town. She'll put up with me for awhile. What about you?"

"We'll stay here tonight. I'll make arrangements tomorrow."

Looking down, Frank realized Sylvia hadn't let go of his leg since before he turned off the breaker. He, also, realized the night air was chilly. He was only wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants, which were now damp where they dragged through the dew covered grass. Sylvia was wearing her nightgown and her robe. He immediately picked up Sylvia and hugged her.

"Are you okay, Baby?"

Sylvia only hugged him tighter and put her head on his shoulder.

"Let's go inside. We need to get some sleep."


After a month, things had nearly returned to normal. The neighbors were still dealing with the repair work, but Frank was back on line and the electrician could only shake his head after making a thorough examination of his house. He did change the main, which he stated was probably faulty.

"Thank you, Daddy."

"For what, Baby?"

"For getting me the word book."

"You mean the dictionary."

Sylvia nodded and went back to practicing writing simple words on the piece of paper. She'd placed the dictionary next to her work on the kitchen table and was concentrating on examining both as she worked. She'd write a word, then hunt through the dictionary until she found it.

"What are these words, Daddy?"

Frank looked at what she wrote, and was confused for a moment. He'd glanced through her books and didn't recognize the words. To add to his confusion, the words seemed beyond her school level.

"Those are some big words. Did the teacher give you those?"

Sylvia giggled and replied: "No, the shiny people did."

The hair stood up on Frank's neck as he examined the words again. For a moment, he felt as though the air was sucked from the room and almost felt dizzy. The simple block letters, and childish handwriting, only made it more chilling:

"Hello Friend"

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Thoughts for Today

I think I'm losing my compassion. Maybe it will return in full force, but considering the dregs of society I encounter daily, the apocalypse is becoming more than necessary. 

The Presidential race is now become a dance of ass-clowns and the fawning media. Considering the huge amount of money being spent to lie about just about everything, all national problems can be solved with the tar and feathering of at least a half dozen Congress-critters every month. Televise this necessary event, and use the money received to pay for the removal of the salaries of bureaucrats to pay the national debt. 

The Super Bowl happened again - and again - I was completely uninterested. I'll become more interested, when people pay a few thousand dollars to watch me work. 

I see dogs on the highway almost daily. Their neglecting masters allowed them to wander into traffic, and a log truck turned their loyal pet into strawberry jelly. I think the wrong critter was run over. 

Gas is cheap, but the huge oil field industry is closed down. If this happened to government workers, the media would not only be keeping it in the news hourly, the demand by politicians would require at least one dozen politicians to be tarred and feathered monthly....maybe daily. Daily sounds better to me.  

Now, on a happier note: I like the bloggers, and people that visit my blog. Why? Because they are smart. I like smart people. They make me realize how dumb I can be. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

So, What's New?

All sorts of things. Work is busy, with me trying to compress 40 years of experience into short lessons, while young men learn their brains are more than oatmeal. It's a tough task, because they have little to work with. Modern society fail to instill a basic work ethic, the goal of craftsmanship, and the realization that a college education doesn't equate to success.

That, and a new beginning in my life. I might, or not, elaborate in the future, but a substantial change dictates I adapt, and conquer.

I've been watching politics. It's a little sickening to watch, since integrity is thrown away for hype, outright lies, and an unwillingness to describe the evils perpetuated by Washington as something that needs to change.

The weather is nice. Lows in the upper thirties, and highs in the sixties. With bluebird skies, and stout winds, it's more pleasant than many realize. Where I'm working, early mornings reveal fields of diamonds on black velvet. It's more that wonderful, and yields moments that should last forever.

Still, I plod on, take care of my responsibilities, and continue to count my blessings. I'll keep writing, because it's an addiction.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Writing about Nothing

I have quite a few things to write about, but time constraints dictate I write only enough to let readers know I haven't slipped down a mine shaft.

As time progresses, and more time is available, I'll write to clear the cobwebs. ,

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Paint Mare (Re post again)

The weather over the last days reminded me of this story. I know some read it before, so you can skip over the post. For those that haven't, many things were going through my mind, when I wrote the story, but more than anything else, the ending reflected my hope for those that have family that became distanced. Family is important, and the time allowed for gathering with family members is finite.

The Paint Mare

Lead gray skies hung over the small pasture lined with almost bare oak trees. The few brown leaves, soon to be gone after the cold front soon to arrive, swung precariously in the gathering breeze.  

 Preston opened the door of the small barn and quickly stepped in to start his morning work of cleaning the stall and making sure it was ready for the approaching snow.

The small paint mare greeted him with a snort and pawed the ground as he opened the gates to let her into the pasture.

“Go run, girl. It won’t take me long and I’ll have you some feed when you get back.”

The mare trotted from the stall and was soon out running in the pasture that surrounded the small frame house. The pasture, enclosed by a wood fence, was surrounded by open land, which held the cattle of local ranchers that leased the land.

Preston gave up the cattle business a few years before. He’d made good money on the sale of his cattle, but realized his decision was the long wait for his eventual demise. Every day made the decision weigh more heavily. His life had become a memory and his only chore was to take care of the paint mare that was now running through the pasture.

As he worked, he remembered the day he bought her. It was at a livestock auction five years ago, when the mare was put up for auction before the cattle sale started. Poor, and with a limp, the bids started at fifty dollars. The slaughter buyers raised the bid to eighty dollars when Preston placed his own:

“I bid a hundred dollars.”

The auction was quiet for a few moments. The auctioneer made a half effort to raise the bid, but was unsuccessful.

“Sold for one hundred dollars to buyer number seven.”

Some of the buyers smirked; the others just shook their heads. Preston remembered the faces of the buyers, but he remembered the mare more. Scared, panicked and at the last crossroad, she was destined for the slaughter house, or salvation. Preston gave her salvation and still wondered what prompted him to make the decision.

He remembered when he brought her home. He’d placed her in the holding pen and slowly approached. Quietly shushing the mare and finally grabbing her halter, he petted her neck and finally looked at her teeth. She was only seven. Tying her to a gate post, he continued with his examination.

“Let’s have a look at that leg, girl.”

When he touched her leg, the mare raised her hoof, so Preston cradled her lower leg between his legs and started examining the bottom of her hoof.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” A broken bottle was stuck in her frog. Preston, now angry, wondered how this escaped the original owner. His anger soon turned to disgust. He’d seen many things during his life that shook his faith in people. This was one he placed at the top.

Preston walked to his barn, found his Kopertox, large pliers and quickly returned to start his task of removing the glass.

“Steady girl. We don’t want a rodeo.”

Preston grabbed the glass and pulled hard. The mare never flinched.

“This should make it better.”

Preston placed a hefty dose of the Kopertox on the hoof and then examined the other three hoofs. Within a minute, he’d seen enough.

“I’ll trim your hooves tomorrow girl. You’ve had enough for today.”

Within days, he brought her to the vet to have her teeth floated, vaccinations and wormed. Over the next few months the mare put on weight, her shine returned and was soon running in the small pasture by the house. With the bottle removed from her hoof, she never limped again.

Preston wondered how she ended at the auction. He knew most of the sellers and buyers, but never found out who brought the mare he now called Petey. Her one black eye reminded him of the dog on the Little Rascals, so he didn’t care if the name didn’t match her gender.

Removing the last of the soiled shavings he placed new shavings in the stall, filled her water bowl and placed a scoop of feed in her food bowl. The sound of the food hitting the bowl brought the mare within seconds. As she ate, he watched and gently scratched her neck. All she needed was some hay.

“Good morning, Dad.”

Turning, Preston found his daughter, Janet, who appeared at the door. She was in for a visit, although they never seemed to last very long. She lived in New York City, was divorced and her daughter was in upstate New York at college.  

“I see you decided to finally get out of bed.”

“I’m not used to this early morning stuff. I work evenings and late into the night.”

Preston didn’t reply. He didn’t want to ruin the moment, although he never understood her decision to live in New York City and pursue acting as a career.

“You really like that horse.”

Preston thought about the comment and replied: “We’re the best of friends. I talk, she listens and we never argue.”

Janet let the comment pass. She knew the remark was a reaction to her relationship with her father. They had many disagreements, which led to her decision to move far away and pursue and acting career in New York after college. She never had an acting career, but she did become involved with the business end of Broadway. While her name was never in lights, she knew how much the lights cost and who to pay.

“Snow’s coming”

Preston only nodded. He was feeling the change in his joints and the pain was a constant reminder of his age. 

“Do you need some help?”

Preston replied: “Her brush is in the cabinet. After I clean her hoofs, you can give her a good brushing.”

Janet retrieved the brush and watched as her father cleaned Petey’s feet. He was gentle and constantly comforted the horse as he worked.

“Our last performance was last week.”

Preston kept working and ignored the comment. He didn’t know what to say, although it seemed as though it was confirmation he would soon be alone again.

Preston asked: “When are you going back?”

“I need to talk to you about that.”

Preston felt a sadness he hadn’t felt since the last visit. Janet spent a week, had a telephone call and was gone. The “long” visit only lasted a week and it was two years until she returned.

“Things have changed, Dad.”

Preston didn’t respond and waited for Janet to continue.

“Broadway isn’t doing as well as it should.”

Preston nodded his head and looked at his daughter: “You’re good at your work. Only a fool wouldn’t keep you working, or hire you within a minute.”

Suddenly embarrassed, Janet realized her father hadn’t complimented her in years His words had pride and admiration, which he hadn’t shown in a long time.

Preston continued: “As much as I didn’t like your decisions, I never felt you’d be anything but the best at whatever you choose.”

Tears filled Janet’s eyes. She needed to continue, but found she couldn’t find the words.

“Be careful around her belly. She’s a little ticklish and she might jump.”

Janet started brushing the mare, while Preston went to the hay barn for more hay.
When he returned, he found Janet absentmindedly scratching the mare’s neck and staring across the pasture. 

“Are you okay?”

“Not really.”

“Do you want to talk?”

Janet waited a few seconds before responding: “I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.”

Preston waited, while Janet gathered her thoughts.

“I used to feel sure about life. Every play was a new challenge and the future was bright.”

“So what’s changed?”

“Business isn’t good and my theater is really struggling. There’s rumors that if things aren’t better after the next production, the doors may close.”

Preston waited without speaking.

“I’ve even thought of coming home; if you would let me.”

Preston put his hand on her shoulder and replied: “Baby, you don’t have to ask to come home.”

Janet waited a moment, turned and found her father had tears in his eyes. She quickly hugged him and laid her head on his shoulder.

Preston was first to speak after a few long moments: “We need to hurry if we’re going to beat the weather.”

Continuing to brush Petey, Janet spoke: “I don’t know what I’d do if I came home.”

“You used to be pretty good with horses; a natural, as far as I was concerned.”

Janet replied: “I guess I was. I even had friends asking for my advice on training.”

“There you go; you can train horses.”

“It’s been a lot of years and I don’t know if I still can.”

“Well, you have Petey to help you. I doubt she’d mind having more attention. We could buy a few colts for a start”

“I don’t have that kind of money. It will cost a fortune to just move.”

Preston continued filling the hay bin for a few minutes before he replied: “I have the money and I’m willing to be partners with you, but with one condition.”

Janet waited for the “condition” she knew she couldn’t accept.”

“You have to keep the books and handle the hiring of helpers.”

Janet realized she was at a crossroad in her life. If she accepted the offer, she knew her life would change forever. New York City would become a memory; she would never return to Broadway.

A little fearful, Janet asked her father: “Can I think about this awhile?”

Preston laughed: “Of course you can, although I think I might have just found me a new business partner.”

Janet smiled, hugged his neck and replied: “Thanks, Dad.”

“You know we’d need more stalls.”

Preston smiled.

“That, and more pasture.”

“The leases come up in a month. I can change the boundaries.”

Janet placed the brush back in the cabinet and walked to the stall door.

“It’s snowing, Dad.”

“Sure enough, it is.”

“Should we close the stall door?”

“Nope; she’ll be fine until this evening.”

“C’mon old man, I’ll make you some breakfast.”

Preston smiled and memories flooded his thoughts. He remembered the summer before Janet’s last year in high school. She’d set up the barrels and was preparing for the 4-H rodeo. Knowing she was worrying too much, he’d made a bet he could beat her time – on her horse.

“That’s a sucker bet.” She replied “And you’re the sucker.”

She beat him, but only by a few seconds.

After the race, she’d commented: “Not bad for an old man.” After that “old man” became a term of endearment.

She won barrels at the rodeo. He remembered the moment and the pride he felt. Janet was on top of the world, until that winter, when her mother died from pneumonia. The loss left a gap between them that never seemed to close. At that time, neither could be consoled and neither could find a way to tell the other how they felt.

As he thought, Preston realized he was still feeling guilt. He just knew he could have done more, yet time made him realize there was nothing either could do.

Janet noticed the sadness on her father’s face.

“Are you okay, Dad?”

For a moment, Preston didn’t hear her. He was still wrapped in the past; and sadness.

“Just thinking of days gone by. They seem like yesterday.”

Suddenly apprehensive, Janet commented: “You know you can change your mind.”

Preston walked for a moment before he spoke: “I never felt I did enough. Your mother was so special, fought as hard as she could, but it wasn’t enough.”

Janet walked in silence, with the events of the past suddenly appearing once again.

“I felt as though I neglected her and took her for granted. She was always there for me and I realized when she needed me most, there was nothing I could do.”

Janet grabbed her father’s shoulder, turned him and said:” You never neglected her.”

Her eyes flooding with tears, she continued:”If anyone neglected Mom, it was me. She gave me so much, only asked little in return and was always there when I needed her.”

Not knowing what to say, Preston only hugged his daughter for a few moments.

Neither knew what to say, but they both had just admitted they felt guilty for something that was never their fault. Both realized the years of dealing with their own spare baggage had left neither with the ability to help each other.

Hooking her arm around her father’s, Janet led him towards the house.

“C’mon Dad; we have some business to discuss.”

“I thought you wanted to think about this.”

Janet smiled and replied: “I did.”

As they approached the house, the heavy flakes increased; graying the distant hills into obscurity. The wind was increasing and the storm would soon place drifts against the house. By morning, the brown trunks and branches of the trees would stand in stark contrast to the solid white of the snow covered fields and gray skies. Winter was arriving as the paint mare pranced through the falling snow.