Ironic ain’t it

He took a deep breath.

“Here goes nothing,” he said.

“You got that right,” she said.


“How long have I known you?” she said. “You always say, ‘Here goes nothing,’ and that’s what comes out. Nothing ever comes of it.”

“Now, that’s just mean,” he said.

“Not intentionally,” she said. “All I’m saying is stop saying, ‘Here goes.’ Just go. Just do something or don’t, you know, like Yoda says.”

After the climax

“What now?”

After what had just happened, the question — a quiet explosion from somewhere in the back — seemed out of place. Wasn’t that enough? Did something else have to come next?

But it was a good question. Everything was going to be different now, and the difference would be profound. What now? What to do first? As sure as the last moment was the end, this next moment would be the beginning.

May as well start with the obvious.

“Now we move on,” she said, and sure enough, everyone started moving.

The power of inertia (Journal’s End)

I have arrived at the closing pages of another journal — the words you are now reading were first set down on Page 238 of a 240-page book. It is March 25, and I filled in Page 1 on the morning of Oct. 15, so this particular journal (my 17th, if you’re counting) covers five months and 10 days or so of the completion of my 69th year and the early moments of my 70th.

What have I learned in these five-plus months?

I have felt the power of inertia. Despite dabbling with work on at least a half-dozen books — writing and publishing being my main interest for my upcoming “retirement” years — I published no books during the course of this journal. My only consolation is that I did send a book to the publisher a few days ago — an edition of The Demi-Gods by James Stephens, the fifth installment of my Roger Mifflin Collection series and a very nice book indeed, if I say so myself. I’ve instructed the minions of cyberspace to release the paperback on April 19, and so I’ve overcome inertia on that project, at least. We’ll see if it’s the start of a new momentum or an aberration, but I do have my metaphorical foot poised over the metaphorical accelerator pedal in anticipation.

It occurs to me that my relative inaction on my retirement plan is a symptom that I don’t really want to retire from my day job. And there’s some truth to that. I immensely like the people I work with, and it’s a small enough operation that I know, without blowing my own horn, that my absence will probably be felt when I do pull the plug.

It may also be a symptom that I’m unable to face the reality that a day is coming when I can no longer handle the rigors of a day job, either physically like so many other near-septuagenarians or mentally like so many well-known politicians in their seventies and eighties, whose names I choose not to reference in this space. 

But I probably must conclude that my lack of consistent action on my books is simply another symptom of a lifelong battle with inertia. I have had big ideas for decades — I even mapped out a plan to become a full-time writer by Jan. 1, 1990 — but instead I have floated along content with the quotidian all these years. Even now, with my big ideas consigned to a retirement plan, I can let five months go by without significant progress.

That is, however, water under the bridge, and as I scratch out the final lines of Page 239 and prepare to turn to the last page, I would like to look toward the time that’s left rather than what has passed.

Of course, as I did turn the page, what did I do before pressing pen to paper? I paged backwards through the first 239 pages. I did remember that I did publish one book in these five months — a traditional-paperback-sized little edition of my most critically successful Myke Phoenix novelette, Song of the Serial Kisser, which was featured on Wattpad a few years ago. I forgot about that 52-page volume, and you never heard of it, because I never bothered to tell anyone about it. I have mixed feelings about how it turned out, but I did publish it, so there’s a smidgen more progress than I admitted a few minutes ago.

So, this concludes my 17th journal. Will #18 brim with new ideas and celebrations of accomplishments, or more dreary recriminations not unlike this one? That’s up to me, isn’t it?Let’s see if I can make this an actual turning point, not a turning point that I announce with grand flourishes and then fail to turn. (Oh my, what a dreary recrimination! Are you bored yet? I kinda am.)

How about this: I’ll take these last two inches of space to thank the muses and the discipline that helped me fill 240 more pages with my blather, hopes and dreams, along with perhaps a handful of insights with sharing that helped or at least amused someone out there. And thank God I am alive and well enough to complete a journal, and to ask God and thank Him for everything that comes next.

On silliness

After a few sessions of writing anguished (or at least serious) material, my eyes rested on the plaque in the corner of my room opposite my computer desk, the one that says “Be silly sometimes.” I often think I need to move it closer to my line of sight when I’m writing.

Seriously: We all need to indulge our silly side more. If ever there were times when we don’t know whether to laugh or cry, we are surely living in times like that now.

We are living in a theater of the absurd, and we take it so seriously that we have to let loose our anger or cry in despair, but it might be healthier to go the other way. Some of what passes for serious these days veers so close to silliness it deserves to be met instead with a hearty belly laugh.

I think that’s why pictures of puppies and kittens pepper our social media feeds, because small animals do objectively silly things all the time, and it’s a relief from the antisocial barking that comprises so much of social media in these times.

That’s exactly why, the other day, I took a stab at using a viral video of a pickup truck buffeted by a tornado as the basis for a superhero origin story. I’m only moderately content with the result — it qualifies as an example of “bad first draft” — but it was a relief to be treading on the silly path after all this seriousness.

Oh, bother. Here I am talking seriously about being silly. What a terribly silly thing to do.

Who died now?

I saw that flags were flying a half-staff again the other day and confess my reaction was a somewhat exasperated, “Who died now?”

It feels like, of late, the flags have been at half staff more often than they have been allowed to rise to their rightful place against the sky.

A flag becomes a political symbol — kind of a shorthand meme — and to the extent that the U.S. flag is considered a symbol of freedom, it gets a little disheartening to see it constantly in a state of mourning. (Feel free to let your mind drift to the idea of constantly mourning for freedom — that was precisely my intention anyway.)

I don’t presume to suggest my status merits any consideration of what to do about flags upon my death, but should that happen to change between now and then, let the record show that I wish my passing to be commemorated by proudly flying whatever passes for a flag of freedom, way up there for everyone to see.

Like it or not

I am unduly influenced by the Like button. I suspect we all are. I notice when a blog post or Facebook link gets more Likes or fewer Likes or no Likes at all. It affects me, I think, when I consider writing, or at least posting, similar material.

This, even though I don’t trust analytics. How can I, for example, get 20 Facebook Likes for an essay that WordPress insists was only read nine times? If I cared a great deal, I would investigate phenomena like that and learn how to interpret analytics, but I don’t care a great deal.

I do care a little bit, though, and so I pause before I post stuff that has not been overly Liked in the past. And in the back of my mind, this nags me.

That’s because some of the UnLiked posts come from my deepest core, and what person easily shares stuff from her deepest core to begin with? In this way the Like button becomes a disincentive to authenticity — “Oh, my small cadre of readers doesn’t Like it when I try to be real, so …”

There is an easy/hard solution to this dilemma: Just post what feels real and don’t worry whether anyone Likes it. Get it out there and believe it will find its audience someday. After all, if I do take a moment to worry about Likes, I notice a recent small increase in Likes for posts that are weeks, months and even years old.

I have to write, and I’ve made a commitment to post something I’ve written daily. I try never to “phone one in,” but some posts do reflect the deepest heart of me more than others; that’s just how daily habits work. A nice little string of Likes is gratifying, but probably the most important advice is from a basketball coach I deeply admire, Dick Bennett, who warned players not to get too down about a loss or too giddy about a win, just go out and play the game your way every day. 

Like it or not, that’s what I aim to do.

The Origin of Tom Twister

“OMG, OMG, OMG,” Ron McFarlane said as he saw the tornado crash across the highway directly at his pickup truck. So this was how he dies, too soon, too young. He wasn’t ready.

The truck lifted off the ground and smashed brutally onto the pavement. McFarlane looked out the front of the truck sideways. The wind’s roar was deafening. He tingled all over as the overturned vehicle spun along the ground.

And then the wind pushed the truck back onto its tires. “What the —?” the stunned driver muttered, the wind still screaming in his ears.

He shook his head, mashed the gas pedal, and the truck sped away down the highway.

Did that just happen? Was he really safe after having his truck pummeled by a tornado? In shock, he didn’t remember driving home and falling into his wife’s arms, so grateful to be alive.

+ + + + +

“Police are warning people to stay in their homes,” the morning news anchor said grimly. Band of looters are reported wandering through the stricken neighborhoods.”

“The storm missed us by a block,” Beth called up to Ron. “The Smiths over on Adams Street lost their home.”

“Unbelievable,” McFarlane said as he emerged into the upstairs hallway.

“Somebody got video of your pickup in the storm!”

“No way,” he said.

“Really! I can’t believe it, you just drove away, and HEY! What do you think YOU’RE doing?” A sudden crash crashed from the kitchen.

“Beth? What’s going on?”

“Just be nice and nobody gets hurt,” came an unfamiliar voice.

When McFarlane reached the kitchen, he saw three surly-looking young men surrounding his wife. Two of them held guns on her, and one of the goons turned his weapon toward Ron as he approached.

“Like I said, let’s all just be nice,” said the surly-looking young man.

What happened next took place faster than it will take to describe it. Suddenly Ron McFarlane was not there, and in his place was a 7-foot-high twister. The little tornado barreled into the three men, scattering the weapons, lifting them off the ground and smashing them to the floor. And then Ron McFarlane was standing over them, hands curled into fists, snarling at the groaning young men underfoot.

“Ron?!” Beth said, and suddenly Ron looked as confused as she was.

“I don’t know what I just did,” he said. “I was so mad to see them threatening you, it was like I became the storm.”

“Maybe when the storm hit your truck last night, you absorbed some of its powers,” she said.

“Like being bitten by a radioactive spider?” He laughed.

“I don’t know,” she said. “You have a better explanation?”

They looked at each other across the room. One of the not-so-surly-anymore young men groaned in pain.

“Whatever just happened,” he said, “we’d better call 911.”