The Swimming Pool

            Doc was standing beside the swimming pool in his back yard when we drove up. He was peering into the water below, his hands in his pockets; dejected.

            “Hi Doc, what’s up?” I asked.

            “What’s up guys?” he said, repeating me and not taking his eyes off the deep end.

            Wrong Willie, Woodrow and I joined him beside the pool. I was surprised at how murky the water was. I hadn’t seen the pool in quite a while, but it wasn’t up to Doc’s usual standards. 

            “Dang, that water’s cloudy,” I said.

            Doc sighed. “Yeah, I haven’t messed with it much because the kids are grown up and gone. Then the ground shifted. There’s a crack down there somewhere and the water leaks out.”

            “It doesn’t look too low or too bad,” Wrong Willie said, standing at the edge and looking down. “You can still use it. Why don’t you just Shock it?”

            Doc shook his head. “That’ll kill the fish.”

            We tried not to stare at him. “Funniest thing,” Woodrow said. “It sounded like you said it would kill the fish.”

            “It would.”

            I looked into the swimming pool. “There are fish in there? I thought evolution took a lot longer.”

            Doc nodded. “Remember when we caught all those crappie last spring and y’all left them with me that night?”

            I thought back. The crappie fishing was wonderful in April and we’d all caught our limits one night after work. It was nearly twelve when we got back to Doc’s house and everyone was too tired to clean them. Doc offered to keep them in his live-well and clean them the next morning.

            “Well, after y’all left I started thinking about all those fish stacked up in the live-well all night. I didn’t think they’d make it, so before I went to bed I dumped them into the pool, knowing they’d have a better chance to survive. I’ve just never gotten around to getting them out.”

            “What do they eat?”  Wrong Willie asked.

            “I’ve been feeding them a few dozen minnows every week, and they’re fine.”

            “So how are you gonna get them out?” I asked.

            “That’s what I’ve been trying to decide. I don’t want to completely drain the water until the pool company takes a look at it like this, and it’s too deep to seine.”

            “We could try,” I suggested. “I have the Old Man’s minnow seine in my garage.”

            “You have all the outdoor gear in the world in that garage,” Woodrow commented. “The last time I was in there I kicked up a rabbit in that old gold colored shag carpet of yours.”

            Everyone looked at me, and not because I had gold shag on my garage floor.

            “That’s the only one,” I defended.  “The coyotes usually keep them under control.”

            “It probably wouldn’t work anyway,” Doc said. “I think the catfish are too big now. They’d probably tear a hole in your net.”

            We looked at Doc for a moment. He shrugged. “I had some catfish I didn’t want to clean back in May, so…well…I dumped them in, too. I drop in a few crawdads every so often for them to eat.”

            The surface of the water suddenly boiled in the shallow end. “What the heck was that?” Woodrow asked.

            “Shad,” Doc said. “About this time every day the sandies push them into that end near the steps. You can usually catch them on silver Rattle Traps when they do that.”

            “Something tells me we’re going to need a special fishing license here before we’re through,” Wrong Willie mused.

            “Bass?” I asked Doc.

            “Yup. They’re doing all right. They’re keeping the bream under control. The stripers couldn’t seem to do the job.”

            Two kids appeared carrying cane poles. They looked annoyed that we were there.

            The youngest glared at me. “This is our fishing hole.”

            Doc raised his eyebrows. “Catch a big ‘un,” he said and we left for Doreen’s Cafe. We’re not ones to stand in the way of dedicated fishermen and their favorite fishing spot.

           

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Listening

Listening

 

            “Uh, oh,” said Doreen.  We looked toward the front door.  Earl and Wynona Grubbs left the summer heat and entered Doreen’s 24HR Eat Gas Now Cafe the way they usually do. They were arguing.     

            Now most married couples argue, especially those who have been married for over fifty years like Earl and Wynona. In fact, they’ve been married so long they’re on their third bottle of Tabasco. But it isn’t the arguing, it’s the way they do it.

            Wynona is hard of hearing. It’s so bad Earl has to virtually yell every time they converse. To make matters worse, Earl has hearing problems of his own, so Wynona has to shout back since she can barely hear herself talk, even though she shouts more than she needs to. After a while they become so frustrated with each other, regular conversations turned into arguments.

            Their conversations are virtual scream-fests.

            They took the only available booth, beside us and near the jukebox, which was booming at full volume.

            “What do you want to eat!!!???” Earl asked her.

            “WHAT!!!”

            “I said, you want something to eat!!!???”

            Wynona held out her hand toward Jerry Wayne. “Of course he looks like someone I should meet.  HELLO YOUNG MAN!!!”
            Earl shook his head in disgust.  erry Wayne, ever the gentleman, gently clasped Wynona’s hand. They’d known each other for years, but her memory wasn’t what it was either.

            “You already know him!!!”

            “I DO NOT…”

            The fight was on. We tried to ignore what was happening, but they were actually drowning out the jukebox. Trixie came over and talked to them for a while to settle things down. She flashed Earl a smile and I worried about his heart. Then she hugged him and I was sure it was all over. When she left I turned around to face the elderly couple.

            “What are y’all gonna do this summer?” I asked.

            “WHAT DID HE SAY!!!???”

            Earl sighed, answered her, and then turned his attention back at me. “We’re going to visit Wynona’s relatives up in Oklahoma.”

            “WHAT DID YOU SAY!!!???”

            Earl shouted back. The Hunting Club members pasted on tight smiles and tried to endure the conversation.

            Woodrow had never met Earl and Wynona. I introduced him, just to stir things up for grins. “Y’all need to meet Woodrow. Woodrow, this Earl and Wynona Grubbs. They’ve been married over fifty years.”

            “WHAT DID HE SAY!!!???” 

            “He said this is Woodrow and we’ve been married a hundred years!!!”

             “HOWDY WINDROW, NICE TO MEET YOU!  EARL’S LYING ABOUT HOW LONG WE’VE BEEN MARRIED. YOU LOOK FAMILIAR. YOU EVER GET UP TO OKLAHOMA!!!???”

            Earl rubbed his forehead to ease the tension.

            “I used to,” Woodrow answered. “But the last time I was there I somehow made a woman mad. She laid her ears back and ripped me a new one. Said all of us Texans need to stay on our side of the river. She chewed on me for ten minutes. That ugly old woman was meaner than a snake and had an attitude like an old sore-tailed tomcat. Wasn’t much to look at, neither, kinda sickly looking with yellow eyes. Had bad teeth. I bet her tongue was forked. I’d hate to run into her again. You know…”

            “WHAT DID HE SAY!!!???” Wynona interrupted and shouted across the table.

            Veins popped out on Earl’s forehead. He looked at her for a moment, trying to contain his blood pressure, then answered her. “He says he met you once before!!!”

            She got mad.  “I heard what he said and let me tell you something Mister Earl Grubbs…”

            We escaped out the door and went fishing.  One hundred degree heat with matching humidity was a blessing.  It was quiet.

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Reviews for Burrows, the second book in the Red River Mystery series

Just a brief note today before getting back to the third manuscript in the Red River series. Burrows, the second book in that series is scheduled for release on July 3, but I have it on good authority that Amazon is shipping their copies for delivery by the end of this week! If you pre-ordered, you should get yours soon.

Burrows has garnered a number of great reviews, one from starred reviews Publishers Weekly made us all very happy.

Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole (2011), likewise set in 1964 East Texas, finds Ned Parker uncomfortably adjusting to being merely a retired constable. Ned’s nephew, Cody, is settling into the job of new constable, while Ned’s grandson, Top, and great-niece, Pepper, are enjoying being bright, inquisitive 11-year-olds. Rural life isn’t exactly easy, but it’s predictable; people know themselves and what to expect of each other. The discovery of a headless corpse in the Red River and a butchered farm family nearby, the handiwork of an escaped lunatic, shoves the Parkers into a vortex of insanity that culminates in Cody and Dep. John Washington getting trapped in boobytrapped tunnels burrowed through the junk, including leftover bales of cotton, that fills the huge Cotton Exchange warehouse. Wortham combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror. (July)

Starred Review–Publishers Weekly

The second caught me by surprise a couple of days ago. I won’t copy it here right now, because I’m not sure it would be appropriate to do so at this time, but here’s a link that will take you to the Read Me Deadly website that gave me one of the most interesting reviews I’ve ever read, comparing Burrows to To Kill a Mockingbird. What an honor. I’ve hesitated to say it, but this isn’t the first time we’ve been compared to that great novel by Harper Lee. Copy and paste this link into your browser and enjoy. I did.

http://www.readmedeadly.com/2012/06/book-review-of-reavis-z-worthams.html

I hope to see you at a signing some time soon.

Until later,

rev

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My Opinion on Two Texas Novels

So I got a great review for my new novel, Burrows, from Publishers Weekly.  It was a Starred Review, and a great coup.  My favorite part, other than that they liked the second book in the Red River series, is that it mentions two of my favorite authors.

“Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole (2011)… combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Very cool.

Those who’ve followed this sputtering blog have noticed how it wanderer occasionally into newspaper columns, rants, and magazine articles. I think I’d like to talk about books even more, even though I should be working on my newest manuscript, or reading. Books have such a hold on readers, that we live and breathe the printed page.

When I read the PW review above, I was surprised to see a reference to To Kill a Mockingbird. I can think of no greater honor. Then upon reflection I realized Burrows is plunked down between down between Harper Lee and one of my all-time favorite writers, Joe R. Lansdale.

Lansdale’s ring so true to the ear of Texans, that we figure we’re probably related to some of his characters.  Joe lives in an interesting world of nostalgic recollections, humor, darkness, and cruelty, with a good helping of downright bizarre.

They call that Life.

His 2000 release of the novel, The Bottoms, was a rough-hewn look into life behind what we in the Lone Star State affectionately call The Pine Curtain.

This Texas Gothic takes place along the thick jungle of the Sabine River during the Great Depression. Young Harry Crane discovers the body of a black prostitute, bound with barbed wire, and mutilated. His father, Constable Harry Crane, seems to be the only law enforcement officer in the country who is interested in finding the murderer. The novel is well plotted, fast, vibrant, and is so true to life I felt I’ve heard those same people talking up at the store where the farmers I knew in my youth spit, whittled, and loafed.

I thought The Bottoms would be Joe’s high-water mark, though I dearly love his Hap Collins/Leonard Pine series listed below. Then just the other day he came out with Edge of Dark Water, and all earlier bets were off.  In my estimation, Edge should be in the running for the Pulitzer.

It’s that good.

Joe returns to the Depression with an expertly woven novel that makes your skin crawl. It is a true look at how tough it was to survive in east Texas during those days. The characters are authentic, the dialogue is real, and the voice is perfect.

Sue Ellen is just trying to survive childhood during the Depression.  When her best friend who dreams of becoming a Hollywood star is dredged up from the bottom of the Sabine River, Sue Ellen and her friends find themselves on a journey that could have been written by Homer. You just thought The Odyssey was the ultimate journey. Here on the Sabine, there be monsters, and Lansdale brings them to life in startling detail.

This one is a classic.

If you haven’t discovered Joe R. Lansdale, try either of these books. If you’re interested in something darkly humorous, jump into Bad Chili, Mucho Mojo, The Two-Bear Mambo, or Rumble Tumble. Just the names should make you read these books. None will disappoint.

 

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My second novel…

My second novel in the Red River series, Burrows, is scheduled for release on July 7.  It came quickly on the heels of The Rock Hole, and picks up where that mystery left off.  Though The Rock Hole was “spontaneous” in nature as I wrote it, Burrows had been ginning in my brain for a long, long time.

When we sent out the first release for Burrows, along with a 250-word synopsis, an old college buddy called.  “I see you finally did something with that hoarding story.”

I was surprised Landon remembered, because he’d read the original short story back in 1982.  “It’s a little more involved, now.”

“How could that be?  People crawling through tunnels in a house packed with garbage was pretty intense.”

“Yeah, but I expanded the story, moved it back to 1965, and the house became a monstrous warehouse called The Cotton Exchange.”

He paused for a long moment.  “Now you talkin’!

Landon is a retired lawman, and it was his input back in the early 80s that helped me work out the logistics of sending officers into a building loaded with booby traps made from accumulated trash.  The idea came from an old newspaper article I read about the Collier brothers who had filled their 3-story Harlem brownstone with trash.  The idea that someone could live in a landfill full of tunnels was fascinating to me, and then I thought, “What if…???”  That’s where Burrows came alive.

When I finished The Rock Hole, which was originally intended to be a standalone novel, I killed most everyone off.  My wonderful editor at Poisoned Pen Press, Annette Rogers, convinced me the story could continue into a series, so I had to rewrite the ending and think ahead.  My old short story came to mind, so I brushed it off, deleted three quarters of what I’d poorly written back then, and kept it in mind as I moved from the beginning chapters toward the middle.

I sent the first 100 pages to Annette, and she replied with a shudder.  “That opening chapter was the spookiest thing I’ve read in a long time.” 

We were on our way.

Burrows picks up with my main characters settling into new roles dictated by their experiences in The Rock Hole.  Ned Parker retired.  Cody (whose origins as a Parker have not been discussed *I still don’t know if he’s really a nephew, son, or cousin despite how people refer to him in the novel*) is elected to replace Ned as constable of the Center Springs community.  John Washington, the almost mythical black deputy sheriff, still struggles with racism in the small town while at the same time keeps an eye on Ned’s family he loves so deeply.  The kids, Top and Pepper, keep getting into trouble and are trying to come to terms with the events in the bottoms that scarred them both physically and mentally.  Life goes on in the mid-1960s, until a fugitive murderer stops in nearby Chisum and begins to take trophies.

If you’re looking for an Agatha Christie mystery, you won’t find it here.  I’m far from traditional in any sense.  Mine are more “mystery thrillers” that take that extra step from who-done-it and force my characters to survive events that launch common people into uncommon situations that carries them along like a leaf in a flash flood to the climax.  Burrows continues the ride we started in the first novel, and is getting good reviews from a number of well-known authors and reviewers.

“With atmosphere so thick you can breathe it, and characters so real you can touch them, Reavis Z. Wortham’s Burrows is a book worth putting all others aside to read. Clear a space on your bookshelves, folks, because the real deal has arrived.”
—John Gilstrap, author of Threat Warning and Damage Control

“Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole (2011)… combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.”
—Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“In Burrows, Reavis Wortham juxtaposes gruesome crimes with a bucolic sixties landscape. It’s a surprisingly intense combination that kept me awake nights after not being able to put the book down. Wortham’s writing makes scenes and characters come to life.”
—Charlotte Rains Dixon, author of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior and Director Emeritus of the Writer’s Loft

“A ripping good tale.”
—Jan Reid, author of Comanche Sundown

“An excellent read filled with tension-filled action scenes.”
Mysteries Etc.

Burrows should be a novel that makes folks sit up and take notice…I hope.  Give it a read and let me know what you think about this mystery thriller that has been referred to as Stephen King meets To Kill a Mockingbird.

Hope to see you at a signing soon.  They are listed at http://www.reaviszwortham.com.

 

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Bananas

In this world of weirdness, text messages drive me bananas.

My wife is a closet poet. She has always penned poetry for special occasions, just because she felt like it. They’re all pretty good, and I’ve kept a few funny poems she wrote to me before we were married.

A couple of years ago, she and I vacationed alone on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. We rented a small, two bedroom bungalow that was barely nine hundred feet of living space, and settled in for more than a week of peace and relaxation.

A shady front porch looked out on a lime tree, heavy with ripe fruit. Past the wooden fence, folks on their way to the beach waved as we sat in the cool breeze and sipped our beverage of the moment, whether it was coffee in the morning, or coconut concoctions in the evenings.

When dusk approached, she and I moved to the back deck where we continued with our beverages while I grilled fresh fish beside an equally loaded avocado tree. When the mosquitos ran us inside, we left all the windows open to enjoy the ocean breeze through the screens.

For us, it was paradise.

We discovered lychee fruit, and like little kids ate fresh coconut, star fruit, pineapple, mango, papaya; the juice dripping off our chins.

The fish market was only a hundred yards away. Our evening meals were grilled opah, aku, ahi, mah’hee mah’hee, and our favorite, ono.

I spent the entire vacation trying to talk my bride into buying a house just like the one we were renting.  “We can move here and I’ll get a job while you work for the school district. It’ll be great.”

“We’ll be too far from our kids. They can only come see us a couple of times a year.”

“Exactly!”

She didn’t get my drift, or I didn’t get hers.

In the months after we returned, I tried to talk her into moving to Paradise. I usually waited until she had a bad day at work, and then I’d hit her with the memory of just how great the little town of Hanalei was, and how we could just walk to the store, or the fish market, or the beach. I hammered home the perfect weather, and the laid-back atmosphere.

But I was not making any progress.

Then in the middle of a hot, summer afternoon, I received a text from my lovely bride from her third story office. When I read it at first, I thought she’d been inspired to leap from poetry to some strange Haiku in progress.

It was obviously unfinished, but the rhythm and beauty of the words made me stiffen in surprise. It read:

I left my post
it seems like
there was one more thing.
On the island.

As I pondered those words, a second text arrived, to finish the thought.

Fruit remembered.

Wow, words with power! I read it again in its entirety, loving the flow.

I wept at the beauty, then considered the thoughts presented on the screen of my iPhone.

“I left my post.” Did she mean she’d quit her job and we were finally headed to an island for the rest of our lives?

“It seems like there was one more thing. On the island.”

Was the “one more thing” something that I couldn’t recall, or had mentioned in my bid to talk her into moving? But it had to do with our island paradise, I was sure.

And then “Fruit remembered.” Oh, those last two words. We discussed at length after we got back how the fruit tasted so much better there, picked full of flavor from the tree instead of being shipped to the mainland to ripen in a warehouse, or in a grocery store bin.

I couldn’t wait for her to get home.

In the meantime, I went to the store and bought a coconut, a shriveled mango, and a hard papaya. Back at home, I changed into one of my traditional “aloha” Hawiian shirts. I scrolled through my iPod, and found the Iz music we bought there and ran it through our sound system.

Then I waited for to come home with the good news.
The garage door opened. I positioned myself at our breakfast bar. She came in with two grocery bags and before I could say anything, she dropped them on the counter with a frustrated grunt.

“I sent you a text you didn’t answer. I forgot left my Post-It note on the island here in the kitchen this morning and couldn’t remember the last thing on my grocery list. It was bananas.”

Fruit, remembered.

She looked around and raised an eyebrow at the music. “Feeling tropical today?”

Instead of answering, I took a deep gulp of my coconut drink and sighed, suddenly recalling her questionable texting skills.

Even though we aren’t moving to Hawaii any time soon, I know one thing for sure.

Life with that gal is bananas!

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A Hard Thing

“Daddy, I need your help,” my nineteen-year-old daughter wept into the phone.

Taking a deep breath, I gripped the receiver and steeled myself for what might come from the Redhead nearly an hour away. “What’s wrong?”

“Ditto has cancer and diabetes and they say I have to put her down this week,” she sobbed, referring to her black Labrador retriever. “I just can’t do it by myself because everybody else has something else to do. They want to burn her, and I’m not going to let them, but and I can’t bury her alone, either.”

Through the years, I’ve faced that same dilemma and knew the hard path ahead of her. “I’ll be there for you,” I said. “That’s a dad’s job. We’ll bury her with Molly.” We talked for a while, when her sobbing had subsided, and worked out the details of scheduling the doctor’s visit into our busy schedules.

Then we spent the remainder of the conversation preparing her for what she had to do. “It’s the price you have to pay when you get a puppy,” I said.

I could barely understand her through the pain.  “But it’s so hard.”

“I know.”

As it is with these types of life experiences, she had to spend the next few days dreading Friday’s appointment with the vet.

Friday morning dawned cold and gray. The Redhead and I drove to her mother’s house to pick up the dog. I parked on the street and the Redhead sat there for a long moment before getting out. “She’s going to be so excited to see me,” she said tearfully.

“I know.”

“And then we’re going to go kill her.”

“No, she’s dying now. You’ve made a hard decision to do what’s right. She’s lived with the diabetes for quite awhile and now the cancer has spread all over her body. It’s time to show her you love her by not making her go through this any longer.”

She went in and came out with Ditto on the leash. I could tell she was barely holding herself together. Because of the diabetes, the eight-year-old lab immediately sniffed out a place to relieve herself, as she had to do every fifteen to twenty minutes.

Sick but excited to be going somewhere, she needed the Redhead’s assistance to get into the truck. I declined her attempts to lap my face, and with my daughter holding her big dog around the neck, we drove to the vet.

The folks there knew the score, and were understanding. They allowed us a room to be alone and the Redhead sat in the floor, weeping and rubbing her dog every time she made a slow, painful loop around the room.

The receptionist came in and hugged the Redhead and whispered to her for almost a full minute. Then she hugged Ditto. “They’re waiting breakfast in Heaven this morning Ditto,” she said with tears in her eyes.

She left and the Redhead fed a treat to her dog and scratched the Good Place on her hip while Ditto rolled her eyes and grinned at the brief glory of the moment.

“She looks so happy.”

“I know.  She’s happy to be with you. That’s how good dogs are.”

The solemn vet came in and explained the process while the Redhead soaked tissue after tissue. “Are you ready?” she asked my daughter.

No words. Just a nod.

“We’ll be right back,” the vet  led Ditto into another room for the first injection. The anesthetic worked fast, and Ditto staggered when they returned to the examining room.

It was uncontrollable sobs then. “Daddy, she can’t walk.”

“I know. She’s just going to sleep now. Hold her.”

Ditto laid her head in my daughter’s lap and sighed.

“She’s calm now. The angels are here with her.”

“Do you believe that, Dad?”

“I sure do.”

Only a minute later Ditto was deeply asleep. The vet, her assistant and I lifted the sixty-pound lab onto the examining table, and while the Redhead rubbed her dog’s head and whispered to her, they administered the final injection.

They left and I held my daughter for many minutes while she sobbed uncontrollably. “It hurts, Daddy.”

I blew my nose. “I know.”

When it was finally over, we wrapped Ditto’s body in a blanket and I carried her to the truck. “We can talk, or we can just ride along quietly,” I said. She didn’t say anything, so for a while we drove in silence.

After a few minutes, I told her about other dogs in my life and how I’d dealt with their loss.

“It’s never easy,” I said, knowing this was one of the hardest things she’d ever been forced to do.

I’d earlier asked Grandpa if we could bury Ditto not far from his house, beside Molly, a little black cocker that we’d had years ago. He agreed and met us there on the cold January morning.

While I dug a hole large enough for a full-grown lab, he and I traded stories of other dogs, other burials, and other such tribulations. It was just one more a long list of graves I’ve dug for good dogs, because all dogs are good.

The ground was hard, and an hour and a half later of steady digging, I put down the shovel. “Let’s go get her,” I said. I think the Redhead was numb by then. I carried Ditto to the spot beside the little branch, and lowered her into the hole. The tears were almost over. Filling the little grave seemed to bring closure. We thanked Grandpa and he hugged the Redhead and told he she did a good job. We drove quietly home, while I tried to find the right words.

“I know this was tough.” I had to stop and steady my voice. “But this is the only way to handle something like this. You just have to meet it head on no matter how hard it is, and know that you’re being responsible. You could have waited for another month or two, but she would have been hurting pretty bad and she wouldn’t have understood why.”

I looked across the truck and she just nodded and finally cried one last time. No parent wants to see their children burdened with that kind of deep sadness, and I knew she had a lifetime of periodic sadness, as we all do. “You did good,” I said again. There isn’t much more to say.

“Thanks for being there for me, Daddy.  I needed you.”

“I know, andt I’ll always be there when you need me.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat, thought about the ten six-week-old puppies at Doc’s house and how much joy and heartaches they will bring someone. We drove home leaving another Life lesson sleeping under the hackberry and elm trees alongside little Molly.

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The Return of the Detective

It’s been nearly ten years since I had last opened for businesses. I swiveled in my chair to look out the office window. It felt so good to swivel, that I did it again, and then I spun several times, just as a reminder to what is was like being a kid.

I never liked being a kid, because I was dizzy half the time from spinning around in chairs, on merry-go-rounds, and in the yard.

Nauseous, I stopped spinning and stared outside at the heat shimming off the sidewalks. The heat shimmered because it was summertime.

I know that, because I’m an Outdoor Detective.

It isn’t a permanent job, but there are times when my skills are called for by those in the outdoor world.

A quick knock on my door, and Doc burst through.

“You’re gonna have to fix that,” I said, looking at my busted door.

“I will,” he answered. “But right now, I’m here to hire the Outdoor Detective.”

I leaned back in the chair and grasped the desk to make the world stop spinning. “I’d love to work for you. But I have one important question. Do you have a record?”

He shook his head, sadly. “No. But you know me, Rev. You know I don’t have a record.”

With a heavy sigh, I turned and pulled a record out of my stack of LPs. “This is a soundtrack for an inner cinema of the mind, depicting a plunge into those darker elements of Los Angeles night-life, a recurring theme of the film noir of the 1940s and 50s. It shows a brutal and corrupt society at odds with itself in all facets of life.”

“Huh?” Doc asked, obviously not following my train of thought.

The train almost derailed, but I pulled it back on track with a might mental tug.

Mellow saxophone music soon filled the office. “This is little changed from those days of Robert Mitchum, Robert Taylor or Humphrey Bogart.”

“I don’t want those guys. I just want to find my lost shotgun.”

Nodding, I opened the right bottom drawer of my desk, removed a bottle and thumped it beside two highball glasses. “You want some?” I asked.

“Nope. I don’t like Diet Coke.”

I returned the bottle with a smile. “Just testing you. I don’t like diet drinks either.”

We nodded pleasantly, each alone with out thoughts. I finally got too lonely and formulated a question. “Where did you see the shotgun last?” I adjusted the small fan on my desk so that it would give us some relief.

“You look silly waving at yourself with that Japanese fan,” he said. “The last time I saw my shotgun was when you were using it during quail season.”

“Hummm,” I said, leaning back and staring at the ceiling.

“It isn’t up there,” Doc said.  “Why are you humming?  Don’t you know the words?”

I ignored his question.  Of course I didn’t know the words, that’s why I was humming.  “Can you describe this shotgun?”

“It’s kind of long, with a metal barrel and a wooden stock,” he answered.

I thought about that description. Then I shifted tactics. “Just why do you need a shotgun this time of the year? There aren’t any hunting seasons open in July.”

“You’re right. I want to shoot skeet.”

Startled, I jerked upright. “Why. What did our friend Skeet do to you?”

Also startled, Doc jerked upright. “I don’t know. What did Skeet do to me? Maybe he has my shotgun.”

“Nope,” I said, relaxing. “I gave the shotgun back to you when I finished with it.”

“Do you have witnesses that say you did?” Doc asked.

“Do you have witnesses that say I didn’t?” I shot back.

Doc ducked, the shot just missing him. Then he straightened up. “Good point.”

“It was a good point, but I missed,” I said, blowing into the barrel of my finger and winking at Doc.

He winked back and it startled me. His phone rang and he answered it, bellowing into the receiver.

“Bellow!” he shouted. “Bellow!”

I stared hard at him until he hung up, because I hate cellphones. “Look, there’s one thing that is successful in this business,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Someone who knows everything. Hey Snookums!” I shouted through the busted door.

Seconds later, a somewhat irritated War Department answered. “What!”

“Where’s Doc’s shotgun?”

“It’s in your gun case, right next to Wrong Willie’s rifle you borrowed last year.”

I waved a hand. “There’s you answer.”

Doc waved back, stood up and offered his hand.

“No thanks,” I said. “I have two of my own.”

He turned to leave, and then stopped and turned. “I just need to know one thing, kid. Are you just acting like an Outdoor Detective?”

I turned my back to look out the window once again. “No, acting is reciting words someone else wrote and then you pretend they’re you own. This is just make-believe.”

“I should have known,” Doc said and slipped downstairs to get his shotgun, and I soon found out, mine.

“I should have known he’d do that, too,” I said quietly to myself. “Because I’m an Outdoor Detective.

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A Text

In this world of weirdness, texts simply amp things up a notch. Yesterday, I received what I thought was some strange Haiku in progress as my wife left her office. It read:

I left my post
it seems like
there was one more thing.
On the island.

As I pondered those words, a second text arrived, to seemingly finish the thought.

Fruit remembered.

Wow, words with power! I read it again in its entirety, loving the flow. I considered her thoughts. Did she mean she’d quit her job and we were headed to an island for rest and relaxation? Did she recall the wonderful fruit we ate in Hawaii nearly two years ago that was juicy, ripe and delicious.

I read it again in its entirety and wept at the beauty.
I left my post
it seems like
there was one more thing.
On the island.
Fruit remembered.

I couldn’t wait for her to get home.

She came in an hour later with two grocery bags and thumped them on the counter. “I left my Post-It note on the island in the kitchen this morning and couldn’t remember the last thing on my grocery list. It was bananas.”

She gave me a long look. “Why are you wearing a Hawaiian shirt in February?”

She’s right. Life is bananas. I just love that gal!

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The Big Rack

                It was a warm, windy morning.  My window was open and the breeze had cooled things off somewhat.  The door to my office slammed open.

            A man stood there.  I was glad, because the last time it was a monkey holding a football and I still hadn’t gotten all the bananas out of the carpet.

            “I’m looking for a big rack for next deer season,” the man said and casually leaned against the frame. 

“Don’t you know better than to lean against frames?” I asked.  “Straighten it up and sit down over there.”  I walked to the closet without taking my eyes off him, opened the door and selected a wooden coat rack.  I handed it to him.  He examined it.  “Now that’s a nice rack.”

            “Thanks,” I said, smiling slightly and gratefully wove my way around and between his feet.  I’m an Outdoor Detective.  We perfected slight smiles.

            “But what I had in mind was a nice set of antlers,” he clarified.  “I want something for my wall.”

             “For your wall,” I repeated, thinking.

            “Yes.”

            “How about a diploma?”

            “That would be nice.”

            “But you’re really looking for a trophy.”

            “Now you understand.”

            “How about this one!” I shouted suddenly and slid a gold trophy across my desk.

            “Bowling,” he read off the engraved plaque.  “Highest Attendance In A Season.”

            “Whadda ya think of that?”

            “I’ve seen better.”

             “Oh, a hardcase, huh?”

            He looked down beside him.  “No, this one is Cordura.”

            We eyed each other across the desk.  Mine dried out first and I had to blink.  I blinked the right one first.  Then the left.

            He winked, slowly.  I was worried, wondering just what kind of man I had in my office.

            “You want me to find you a rack,” I repeated, clarifying my position.

            “At least ten points.”

            “What kind of spread?”

“Twenty-four.”

“You could get better odds on the next Aggie game from that bookie down the street.”

“I know.  But I heard you produced the best racks in town.”

“You want a deer under that?”

            “Of course.”

            “Oh, attitude huh?  You think you’re a tough nut to crack?”

            “Don’t try to hammer me, you stinkin’ gumshoe.”

            I opened the lower right hand drawer of my desk with my left hand, then moved the rocket launcher out of the way.  I keep it there for emergencies.  I tried to find a hammer but it was still in the way.  Reluctantly, I took the weapon out and placed it on the desk.

            “Bazooka?”

            “Sure,” I handed him a piece of gum.

            “No, I mean the weapon.  Is that a bazooka?”

            I examined it.  It looked vaguely familiar.  “Yes.”

            “Why do you have it in your drawer?”

            “Because a tank wouldn’t fit.”

            He chewed thoughtfully, looking at the ceiling. “It’s been such a nice day,” he said.

            “Yep, there’s been twelve inches of snow in the last couple of hours.  So how can I help you?”

            “Shovel my front walk, or find me a lease.”

            I slid one across the desk.  It came to rest beside the bowling trophy.  “Sign that lease and you can drive the car for three years, or for three thousand miles, whichever comes first.”

            “You can’t trick me,” he sneered.  “No one keeps a car for three years these days.”

            “All right.  Here, I have a lease for you in west Texas.  Big racks that can hold up to a 52 Tall.”

            “Now we’re talking,” he said.

            “We’ve been talking all along,” I argued.

            “Right.”

            He paid me with a wad of cash big enough to choke a horse, I know because I woke up the next morning and a horse was lying in bed beside me, dead as a mackerel.  I resisted the urge to beat him, because there was no use.  Everyone says you can’t beat a dead horse.

            I went back to the office to start another day as an Outdoor Detective.

           

 

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