The Streak

Last night I spent 9 hours at the ER. It was an arduous long wait. Nobody likes an ER, nobody.

In my 42 years I’ve been to the ER on numerous occasions for my wife, my daughter, my great uncle and myself. When I worked home health care. I’ve seen all types of injury and sickness while waiting. The long wait. And of course it is never fun to be the patient. Poking. Prodding. Waiting.

I wasn’t a patient. I was a loved one. Family. Grandson. I wasn’t alone. My uncle and my cousin were there as well. 9 hours. Waiting.

The man to our left was dying. Every breath a potential gurgling last. He waited. I think the nurse said he was 65. He looked much older.

The woman to the right. A bladder infection. Only a few years older than myself. 47. There with her senior mother. She peed frequently. Or tried to crying.

There we were in the middle. Waiting.

The center of our attention, my grandfather. Half-way to 96. The doctors. The nurses look at this near centenarian in disbelief. Not only does he not look or act like a 95 year old, they have absolutely no record him ever in his system.

They ask if we are from out of town. No we are local. But they have no records. No they don’t have records. Why would they.

My grandfather, 95, half-way to 96, has never been hospitalized. Never.

He confides, several times over, with the lucidity of a 60 year old, he hoped he would never be hospitalized. That he’d die with his record unscathed.

He blames us for insisting he go. Insisting that he needed an EMT. But he’s injured his leg, he can’t stand. He’s upset. We broke his record.

Today he lays in the hospital more worried about his family. About the ribs we bought for the Memorial Day cook out. We stayed up almost all night. Waiting with him. We come back at 7am. He’s more worried that we are tired. That is is our day off. He hasn’t slept either. But he worries about us.

After a couple hours or so he insists we all go on. Enjoy our day off. Get rest.

My grandfather was born in 1915 and never hospitalized. I don’t know anyone else who can say that. I can’t. My wife can’t. My daughter can’t. We’ll never beat that streak.

His streak is broken. He was upset, but now takes it in stride.

He worries about ribs on Memorial Day.

The Killing – A Season of Lies

As writer, I tell lies.

Stories.

Creative truths.

My job is to entertain you and the biggest tool in the box is my ability to deceive you. I will juke and cut the story from side to side until you’re not sure what is what, but if by the end of the story you, the reader, aren’t satisfied — I failed.

AMC has been good to me. They have delivered the goods and kept me entertained with shows like BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN and most recently THE WALKING DEAD. I will admit when I saw the early previews of THE KILLING, I wasn’t ready to be sold. A series devoted to solving a single murder. Okay, that might drag a bit. Such a singular focus over a single season. That wasn’t entirely true, was it?

Maybe, I overlooked something, but the early indications pointed to this being a limited series. When they announced that THE KILLING had been picked up for a second season I should have suspected something. Something.

Who killed Rosie Larsen?

The series was slow, calculating. Building and twisting, keeping me and other viewers off balanced. For some it just turned turned them off. I can see that.

I was invested though. I wanted to know who the killer was. AMC wanted me to know who the killer was. They wanted me to play along. To track the killer along with agents Linden and Holder. I had an early pick with Councilman Richmond. So obvious, that just had to be crazy.

After a few more episodes — playing along — I almost bought into Ahmed. They played me, but I wasn’t going to fall so easy. It was Belko Royce, creepy sidekick to Rosey’s father, Stan Larsen.

I can understand the frustration. There were so many little stories and distractions interwoven into the long con — I mean story — that it was easy to be dazzled and lose focus. What is that saying? You know the one, surely?

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I think I was dazzled with bullshit.

The whole purpose — the promise — of the series was to find out who killed Rosie Larsen. How many commercials promoted that goal?

I knew going into the last episode that everything from the previous episode(s) was a lie, a deception. I knew the killer wasn’t the killer. I was ready for the big finale. The big reveal. Somehow this was going to twist around once again and payoff. Payout.

It didn’t happen. Somewhere between commercials I bent over and got one up the ass. We all did.

Hype and hyperbole. All we got for our efforts — not even the kindness of a reach around — was the question.

Who killed Rosie Larsen?

Father’s Day

Morning.

Happy Father’s Day.

It wasn’t until 1994 that I ever celebrated Father’s Day. I have no recollection of the holiday in my family as a child.

It’s not that it didn’t happen, I just don’t remember. At least not for me personally. My father was absent.

On January 4, 1994 I became a father and the following June my hapless parenthood was celebrated. And every year since.

And as it would happen, I told my own father Happy Father’s Day a year later.

Many of my fellow writers and friends share this day with memories. Anything I would have to share would be fiction, so here’s a story I wrote last year titled, “Father’s Day”

Read Story: http://ronearl.com/fiction/fathers-day/

It might be a odd Father’s Day tale, but it’s a good read. Enjoy.

Again, Happy Father’s Day.

BITCH SLAP by Josh Stallings

I’m standing at a bar. I’m sixteen. It is a teen club. Eighteen and under only. I am the bouncer. The man in the Pimp Yellow suit looks in his late twenties, and that’s generous. He is eyeing the faux cocktail waitress’ ass as she walks away. She is little my sister.

It is 1975 my siblings and I run a teen disco. My best friend Tad and I had visited a place called the Cherry Pit, an under age joint; and in a very Mickey Rooney moment we all convinced my mother to back us in building one ourselves. She had single-handedly raised our family fortunes from broke ass ‘no you can’t have a name brand soda’ to ‘yes kids I can help raise some money for a disco,’ she and her boyfriend Perry each ponyed up.

To mom’s credit she hoped having a mission would stop the hard drug use, violence and inappropriate sexual liaisons. To her downfall she lived in a Doris Day fantasy world with a suit of ironclad denial. But really how was she to know we were building a clubhouse for all kinds of debauching.

“There is an age limit. Have to be under eighteen.” I know he knows; I just don’t have any better lines up my sleeve.

“Fuck your age limit bitch.” His voice is soft, like he doesn’t even need to add edge to deal with a punk like me. His eyes roam the room sliding over every girl on the dance floor. He’s a pimp on a scouting trip.

“You really have to go.”

“Really.” He smiles flashing a gold incisor.

He moves his hand up under his jacket. My heart stops. Fucked. “You know what I got up in here.”

“No.”

“Smith and fucking Wesson .357. Wanna’ see it?”

“No, I so don’t. Really.”

“Think I’m lying?”

“No.”

“I pull this shit out, I will start blasting. You go first white boy.” I look at my brother working the door, my sisters serving drinks, Tad chatting up a bounce-able bunny. I don’t want any of us dead. It would really fuck up the night’s vibe.

I start to ramble, moving my lips and hoping words will come, “I believe you have a piece. Believe you will use it. Maybe you’re going to leave. Or you’re going to pull out the .357 and try and shoot me.”

“Damn straight.”

“Ok, follow this down, just logic it out. You take out your .357 and shoot me. A white boy in Palo Alto? Dude you’re done. No way you hide from that. They take you in and after years of appeals they fry you. Or, you pull that .357 and I pull an amazing kung fu move, disarming and bitch slapping you in front everyone. It could happen, not likely, but it could. Or the waitress calls the cops, I mean there is just no way this will work out for you.”

“Man you talk too goddamn much. Bitches are nasty, no booze selling punk club. Fuck this noise.” I watch him walk out. Only when he is out of sight do I take a deep breath. He made me feel like a child. He bitch slapped me without ever raising a hand.

What does that memory have to do with writing? Everything. Violence, the hint of it, the fact of it. It runs though all I write. I grew up in a chaotic violent home. Children were choked and slapped and tossed around. Violence. Ghetto high school, violence. If I was the inflicted or the inflictor of violence it always left me feeling sick and weak. I have never felt the desire to raise my fists over my head and let out a Stallone style yell. Then again I also don’t believe that jumping in slow motion will keep a fireball from singeing off all your hair.

I’m not a huge fan of Tarantino, I mean I dig his style but it feels shallow. Give me Peckinpah, give me The Wild Bunch, where bullets rip flesh and men die screaming each other’s names. Deal is, we all, writers and civilians alike carry our own scar tissue, like tattoos from a life well lived, they make us colorful and different. I read Ken Bruen because his personal scars mesh with mine. Jack Taylor is as dark a character as you’ll find, and yet I get him. Reading about Jack Taylor makes me feel less alone. I read Charley Huston because I get his fucked in the head dark world view. Shotgun Rules could have been written about my brother and me. I read James Crumley because no one this side of Chandler can paint pain so poetically. I don’t read Cozies, not because they are bad or poorly written, they just don’t speak to the voices in my head.

“Son, you write about what you know, right?” Mom is speaking to me from her almond ranch in Northern California. “ Do you go to strip clubs?”

“Yeah, I go to strip clubs. I also hang out with mobsters and criminals and I interview hookers. And I read a lot. It’s the job.” I’m slipping across LA in my Mini Cooper.

“So have you ever gotten a lap dance?” My mother’s has no sense of personal boundaries. But she is not the only person to want to know if I do fuck or have fucked strippers, she’s just the only one unfiltered enough to ask. Why doesn’t anyone ask if I shot someone in the face? Moses does that too. I suspect Mom doesn’t ask about that because she knows the root of the violence.

A shrink told me that I write about violence as a way to relive and learn to conquer it. True or not, doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, Moses McGuire’s world is blood soaked and smells of resent fornication. I write about what I know, not what I’ve done and I know some fucked up shit.

Back to the bitch slap. Thing about a bitch slap is, it says ‘I don’t even need to punch you, you are that ineffectual, bitch.’ It makes you feel small by intention. Violence works the same way. And sometimes a person stands up in the face of it and acts, knowing the internal price. Those are the people I write about. Moses is damaged good, but he is willing to rise above it to try and do what must be done. So where the hell was he when the pimp fronted me? Probably off getting a lap dance from a smoking hot Russian stripper.