Just wait until you meet her

I do not expect this scene to appear in any of the books I’m writing about Jeep Thompson, but the moment sprang from a daydream about Jeep’s formative years. I hope it will pique your interest for that hopefully-inevitable time when you finally meet her.

“Your daughter is reckless and disobedient,” the teacher said. 

“Oh, yes?” Beverly Thompson said. “What makes you say that?”

“She is always trying to do things her own way. She won’t follow instructions.”

“Does she understand the concepts you’re teaching?”

“Only too well. As I say, she applies them wrong.”

“Are they wrong, or are they different from what you want?”

“It’s the same thing!” the teacher exclaimed.

“No,” Beverly said. “If she discovers her own way to apply the concepts, and her way is valid, then it’s only a different way, it’s not a wrong way.”

“Well! I can see why your daughter is incorrigible. No good will come of that one!”

“My daughter will save the worlds because she knows how to think. Not only will she put a square peg in a round hole, she will reshape the pegs and the holes and change the course of time and the universe.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about!”

“And that’s the sad part — you, her supposed teacher.”

“Well, I never —“

“Apparently that much is true. Come, Jeep, let’s go home.”

Fighting the impulse

Cellphone © Iofoto | Dreamstime.com

“Hello, Muse, are you out there?” he asked, taking a deep breath and positioning his fingers to write. “How can I serve you today?”

The fingers trembled a bit, but no words came. He looked up and saw the phone, sitting on a box on a book stand, the little electronic connection to the world that he carried in his pocket.

“Pick me up,” the electronic toy beckoned. “Lose yourself in me.”

“N-no,” he told the toy. “I promised myself I —“

“You would what? Deny yourself a news update? Keep yourself in suspense as to whether the package really will be out for delivery today? Not know whether anyone Liked your comment? Miss all your friends’ comments? You know you want to. Pick me up. Come on. You wanna.”

He stared at the persistent electric nag and saw his addiction. It had become his go-to time filler, a place to glaze his eyes while he was between tasks — even during a pause in his task. It always pulled him in and away from his real life.

But he had made a promise to himself.

“I will not let you control me,” he said, even as the impulse took control and it began to require serious energy to fight it. In the quiet of the morning, a raging soundless battle ensued.

He began to inch forward in his analog task by making a new promise, to reward himself with a digital peek when he completed his morning goal. In the corner of his mind, he held onto a conviction that it was OK to break a promise and yield to temptation if you agree not to yield until after resisting for a certain period of time.

He employed the old “one moment at a time” tactic: He could resist the temptation for just this moment, right? And now this moment … and on and on.

The words kept flowing onto the page, and the temptation waned a little, but the fear he could yield at the next pause remained. “Better not to pause, then, mate,” he told himself, and he kept going.

Having set a goal to fill three pages before allowing himself to peek at the phone, he declared victory at the bottom of the fourth page, even if his victory included, in part, several paragraphs written in the third person about being addicted to looking at his cellphone.

“Take that, you miserable electronic demon,” he said, reaching for the device. Just before he picked it up, however, he stopped, looked into the sky, shook his head, and left it alone.

“You’ll regret this!” the phone screamed at him as he walked away. But he never did.

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 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.” 

Final minute of a lame thriller

Photo © Jimmy Lopes | Dreamstime.com

“I don’t understand what just happened,” she said, brushing debris from her skirt and tossing her tousled hair in a way that made him happy to be alive just then.

“Henderson did it,” he said.

“Wait, what? He did all of it?!”

“Yep. The murder, the frameup, the theft of the Eiffel Tower, he was behind it all.”

“But his wife was the victim!”

“First one you suspect is the husband.”

“But he was in Jakarta when it all came down! How did he pull it off?”

“That’s where I came in,” said a sudden voice, attached to a menacingly dapper man holding a gun.

“OMG, Henderson! But you just died.”

“No, that was my twin brother, Oleg Henderson.”

“You mean —“ she said.

“Yes, I’m Sven. And now you die — ULK!”

The blade that protruded from Sven Henderson’s chest surprised all three of them. The second twin to die in the last 30 seconds slid to the ground to reveal the grinning face of Graham Fox.

“Graham!” he cried. “You survived the plane crash!”

“Obviously,” grinned Graham. “I’m too tough to die.”

“So the Henderson twins pulled it all off,” she said breathlessly.

“Almost,” he said.

“But they didn’t count on one thing,” Graham said. “You can’t outfox the Fox boys.”

“I guess not,” she said with a fetching smile, “I guess not.”

And they all laughed and linked arms as, somewhere, a crescendo crescendoed.

Barnaby Capsis, continued

(The other day I presented six paragraphs and relished the range of possibilities about what comes next. Now we’re beyond 600 words and still not quite sure what’s going on. Ain’t this fun?!)

“When my brain is clear, the pathways feel so snappy!” Barnaby Capsis cried not long after he awoke one morning, to no one in particular, as he lived alone.

Barnaby woke that day with all his synapses snapping like firecrackers. He could feel his mind snap-crackling and popping as if anything could happen, and, of course, it did.

As he was walking down the street, a woman he thought he’d never seen before called, “Barnaby Capsis!” He watched as she walked up to him as if she had a purpose, which, of course, she did.

“Barnaby, you’re just the man I’m looking for,” she said.

“Oh,” he replied, not quite snappily. “What can I do for you?”

And the answer to that question changed everything. Answers always change something, but in this case it changed everything, because of the wonderful whiz he was.

Now, you may ask, why the woman could possibly need Barnaby, and how helping her could possibly change not anything but everything.

“Changing everything” could mean that they are destined to live happily ever after together, but perhaps that’s too much a cliche. On another hand, “changing everything” could mean that she needs him to go on a hero’s journey that will change not just Barnaby but the whole world he lives in, but then it’s a big story and not just a bit of fluff. 

As it happens, when Barnaby asked, “What can I do for you?” she smiled slyly, one of those smiles that says how delighted the smiler is to be asked that precise question, while also suggesting that the smilee may not realize how big a question that is.

And, the smile still in her eyes, she frowned and answered his question.

“That’s all, in point of fact,” she said. “I wanted to tell you you’re just the man I’m looking for.”

“Yes,” Barnaby said, a tad confused, “but why were you looking for me?”

“Do I need a reason to be looking for a man?”

“Ah! But then, why have you decided I am that man?”

The frown that disguised the sly smile now broke into a full grin.

“I knew you were the man I needed,” she laughed. “Your synapses are surely snapping today, aren’t they?”

He rose up a bit at that. “I’m not sure the condition of my synapses are any of your business, but yes, I do feel a bit snappy today.”

“Snappy in a good way, of course?”

“Of course.”

“Good! Then come with me.”

She turned with a flourish, took his hand, and stepped away, but he did not step with her.

“Hang on! Where are we going?”

And she gave him that sly smile, which proved irresistible, and headed hand-in-hand down the street. He had to admit the warmth of her hand in his was comfortable, reassuring, and vaguely familiar, although he did not admit this out loud.

They walked that way for several blocks in silence, until they came to a city park, which should not be surprising because this was a very green city full of parks every few blocks, and the parks resembled each other in that they were full of grass and trees and sidewalks with benches and people who enjoyed a bit of greenery in their cities.

She detached her hand and walked slowly, less purposefully, by his side, still quiet for a few moments, so it was almost a surprise when she finally spoke.

“I need your help.”

“I see,” Barnaby said. “So when you said, ‘You’re just the man I’m looking for,’ you were being more specific after all?”

She laughed, and he decided then and there that he liked her laugh and, indeed, was on his way to liking her.