Sunday, June 3, 2018

Arkansas Writer's Conference 1st Place Winner


A Day in the Life of a Serious Author

(Based on actual events. Names were omitted to protect the annoying.)



    

     If you are reading this, you are a writer. You know. Whether you write in your spare moments or full time, you’ve heard the comments. For some reason, those who are not writers seem to think that if you have an hour to write, it means that you sit down at the computer and type, non-stop, for an hour.  The uninformed say the silliest things.   

  “So, you’re a writer. It must be great working from home. How nice to have all that free time.”

     “How’s that book coming along? You still haven’t finished? How long have you been working on it?”

     “Can you run a little errand for me? It will only take ten minutes. You have plenty of time to get it done.”

                                                                                                                                                2   

 “You can dog sit for us for the next few weeks, right? It shouldn’t be more than a month. What else have you got to fill your time?”

     While it is true that my schedule can be more flexible than the average nine to five workday; working from home is fraught with pitfalls and stumbling blocks to productivity. An average day often goes like this:

     I get up, walk the dog, let the cats out, and begin getting the husband off to work. After breakfast and a brief discussion of the morning news, I kiss my spouse and hand him his lunch as he walks out the door. The cats come in. I feed the cats, turn off the television and turn on my laptop. After a brief run through of my email and a quick glance at FaceBook, I find that it is noon. I let the cats out, step into my shoes and walk the dog. I ignore the sink full of dirty dishes and the overflowing laundry basket because I am serious about my craft.


     I open the word document that will become the novel I meant to finish two years ago. Reading through the last few pages, I find myself editing. The insistence of the meowing feline outside drags me from my chair. I let the cat in. It only takes a moment to throw in a load of clothes. (Even serious writers need clean underwear.) I get back to my desk. Staring at the blank space on the screen, I try to form the sentences to write the story I already know.

     After what seems an eternity, I’ve written four words.  The cat leaps onto my desk. I ignore him because I am a serious writer. I ignore him until he reaches out with his little paw to poke me. (He’s a poker.) I let the cat out. The other cat comes in. I spend another eternity staring at the blank screen. I write three sentences, delete two, write a few more, stare some more. The cat hops up on the desk knocking things about (she’s a little overweight) and proceeds to rub her

                                                                                                      
                                          3

face against the corner of my laptop, shoving it a bit with each rub. I get the message. I let the cat out. Since I’m up, I move the laundry to the dryer.

     I wonder, have I showered today? A quick shower revives me. I wear my daily uniform of yoga pants and a t-shirt. Since I must leave the house to run errands, I even wear a bra. I walk the dog, let the cats in, and spend the next hour jetting about completing mini-quests assigned by various family members.

     While out, I run into an old co-worker. “Are you still writing that book?” She asks.

     I resist the urge to flip her the finger and smile. “I’m working on it.”

     Back at home, I let the cats out and feed the dog. It is now nearly three o’clock. Hubby will get home at five. I spend the next hour and a half frantically doing research. (Modern serial killers, sword making, body disposal, medieval weaving, carrot cake recipes) At 4:30, Hubby arrives home.

     “Guess who got off early?” He asks. (Like I didn’t know) “I know you’re working. I won’t bother you.” He acknowledges that I am a serious author. He even closes my office door so that the television doesn’t distract me. I stare at the screen, hands poised above the keyboard, reaching for just the right phrase. I write two sentences before Hubby peeks into my office. “You won’t believe this.” He simply must show me a tweet by one of his favorite soap actors. (He’s secretly a soap fan.)

     “I love him”, I keep telling myself. He retreats from my scowl. Over the next twenty minutes, I manage to pound out a few paragraphs. Hubby’s excited visage again appears in my doorway.

                                                                                                                                                4

“You gotta see this double play.” I take a few deep breaths, trying not to think about how much lye it would take to dissolve his body. He’s not a big guy.

     “Seriously?” Something about my demeanor sends him scurrying back to the living room. I try to concentrate on the words in front of me but the muse has fled. It’s almost six anyway. I throw a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner. After a few mind-numbing hours of television, I do the dishes. Because I am a serious writer, my mind is always on my work.  Standing at the sink, elbow deep in suds, I have a great idea. Leaving my half-finished task, I retreat to my office to scribble down my ideas in a notebook. Three hours later, I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ve written almost one thousand words. Unfortunately, tomorrow I will delete nine-hundred-fifty of them. But for now, at least I’ve accomplished something. 

     If you’re reading this, you are a writer. You understand. Seriously.

Arkansas Writer's Conference 2nd Place Winner




A RED STILLETO

The strobing red and blue lights of the police cruisers guided Detective Hamilton Tucker. He parked his car a ways back so that he might survey the scene upon approach. The activity was on the north side of the railroad tracks in a depressed and nearly deserted industrial area.

     “Hey, Tucker.” A heavy set police officer waved him over. “Have you lost weight?” They both laughed.

     Tucker patted his belly. “Don’t joke. I’ve been trying to stay in shape. And Blake, it wouldn’t hurt you to say no to a burger once in a while.”

     “Yeah. Yeah.” Blake chuckled and rubbed his round gut protruding over his belt. “I passed my fitness test.”

     Glancing ahead at the still figure covered with a white sheet, Tucker’s mood sobered. “Tell me what we’ve got.”

    

                                                                                                                              2

     Blake snapped to business, pulling his notebook. “Witness, Jackson Nelson, works for the railroad.” He began. They walked alongside the train cars toward the body. “Says they were coupling cars; he was checking lines or something, when she landed right behind him. Scared the crap out of the guy.”

     “Landed?” Tucker cocked an eyebrow.

     “Looks like she fell from the top.” Blake motioned to the round tanker car up ahead.

     “And the victim?”  Tucker stooped under the yellow tape.

     Blake followed. “No ID. 20 something. Caucasian female. Blonde. Well dressed. She’s been dead a while. We’re still waiting on the M.E. for C.O.D.”

     Tucker lifted the sheet. The girl lay twisted at an unnatural angle. He squatted beside the body to get a closer look. The morning breeze lifted her blonde tresses around the stillness of her pale face.

     “Now tell me what you see, Tuck. I see those wheels turning.” Blake had his notebook at the ready.

     “You’re right about the 20 something. And the clothes are high-end. Abrasions on her face and scalp where she hit the rocks, but no blood. She was definitely dead when she landed. The question is how did a girl in high heels get atop a tanker car?” Tucker shifted his gaze from the tanker, up the tracks, and back to the girl. He peered at a single red stiletto. “Manolo Blahnik. Very expensive shoes. Let’s find the other one.”

    


                                                                                                                                                3

     Tucker motioned to a young, uniformed officer. “Where’s my witness?” The officer nodded in the direction of a man sitting on the metal steps of the abandoned warehouse. “Find that other shoe. Check both sides of the train.”

     The man on the steps had his head down. His arms hugged his sides. “Mr. Nelson?” Tucker’s voice seemed to startle him.

     “Yes, sir.” He mumbled.

     “Are you alright?” Tucker leaned down to make eye contact.

     Jackson Nelson glanced up into the detective’s clear blue eyes and relaxed a bit. He sat up, unwinding his body. “Yes, sir.” He spoke up.

     “Shall I call you Jack?” Tucker motioned to the embroidered name above the left pocket of the man’s work uniform.

     “Yes sir.” Jack repeated.

     “I’m Detective Hamilton Tucker. Everyone just calls me Tucker, for obvious reasons.” Jack smiled and relaxed a bit more. “Now Jack.” Tucker’s voice was low and soothing. “Tell me everything that happened, starting with…”

     “I heard this loud thud behind me.” Jack interrupted. “I jumped around and she was just layin’ there and I could tell that she was…” He began breathing heavily.

     Tucker put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Wait, Jack. Calm down. Take a few deep breaths.”

     Jack complied. “I’m sorry. I’ve just never seen a dead body before.”

                                                                                                                                                4

      “That’s okay.” Tucker’s calm voice quelled Jack’s fear. “Start earlier. Run down the hour before all that happened. Where were you?”

     “I was checking the strings. This here used to be a railyard with warehouses and such but now it’s just a coupling station. Strings of cars get dropped and picked up. We were coupling ours.” He glanced back at the two men in railroad uniforms standing with Blake.

     “Do you always check the strings?” Tucker drew Jack’s attention back to task.

     “Usually, yeah.” Jack continued.

     “And where did these particular cars come from?”

     “We had a short string on the branch line. We coupled those first. These here came from a long string back down this lead track. It stretched all the way under the bypass.”

     “And you didn’t try to move or touch the body?”

     “No, sir.”  Jack was adamant. “It was obvious that she was, you know, dead. I radioed Frank and he called you guys.

     “Did anyone touch or tamper with the car she fell from?” Tucker asked.

     “No, sir. We just kind of stood around trying not to look at her until the first cop got here.”

     Tucker handed Jack his card. “If you remember anything else, call me.”

     The young officer trotted toward Tucker with an evidence bag. “I found your shoe, Detective Tucker. Well, not your shoe.” He grinned.

     “Just Tucker is fine.” He took the bag containing a red stiletto.

                                                                                                                                                5

      “Butler, sir. I’m Officer Butler.”

     “Let me guess, Butler. You found the shoe under or near the bypass.”

     “Yes, sir. Uh, Tucker. It looks like someone dumped her body from the bypass on to the tanker car below. If they did it at night, they probably didn’t know there were cars parked on the tracks.”

     Tucker slapped Butler on the shoulder. “Good thinking. When the cars jostled around as they got hitched up and moved, our lady slid off the round tanker.”

     Butler looked thoughtful. Tucker noticed. “What is it, Butler?”

    Blake finished with the others and sauntered over.  “He’s got that same look on his face that you get when the wheels are turning in your head,” Blake commented. “Speak up, Officer.”

   Butler obliged.  “Well, I was just thinking. I come over the bypass quite a lot and you see trains parked under there all the time. What if they meant to land the body on a car? If it had been a flat top car, the young lady may not have fallen off at least until the train got up to speed. She could have been dumped miles from here.”

     Blake looked impressed. “That’s a good point. But, what if they were trying to leave her body on the tracks below to get run over by the train to hide C.O.D.?”

     “That’s where I come in.” The M.E. was a tall, shapely woman with hot pink hair and skin the color of smooth dark chocolate. She snapped several pictures of the body from different angles. “My preliminary findings agree with you. Your girl was dumped. The odd position of the body



                                                                                                                                                6

tells me that she was tossed soon after she died. Rigor set in during the hours she was up there.” M.E. Les Lively pointed to the tanker car.

     “C.O.D.?” Tucker asked.

     Les bent to lift an eyelid. “See that? Petechial hemorrhaging indicates that she was strangled or suffocated.  The absence of ligature marks says suffocated. I’ll know more when I get her on the table.” Two orderlies zipped up the body bag and loaded it into the van.

     Tucker waited while Les signed the paperwork and handed it off to the orderly. “I know what you’re going to say.” Les flashed him her thousand watt smile. “I’ve already taken her prints and sent them electronically. If your girl is in the system, we’ll know shortly.”

     Back at the station, Detective Tucker poured himself a cup of coffee. His cell rang. He answered, “Tucker.”

     “Hey, Tucker. It’s Les. We got an ID on your girl from the train.”

     “That was quick.”

     “Her prints were in the system. She worked at a daycare a few years ago. They ran criminal background checks and prints. Our girl’s name is Jessica Lincoln.”

     “Thanks, Les. I appreciate it.” Tucker poked at his computer. “Hey, while I’ve got you, anything else you can tell me about Jessica Lincoln?”

     “Not yet. I’ve got the lab rats running a blood panel and some fibers we found on her. I’ll let you know as soon as I get anything. Oh yeah. She had a lottery ticket tucked into her bra.”

                                                                                                                                                7

     Detective Tucker found the DMV photo of his murder victim. The smiling face of the perky blond in the picture was a far cry from the pale stiff from this morning. Scribbling down her address, he grabbed his cell. He called Blake from the car. “Blake, can you meet me at 206 Cherry Avenue, apartment C? I got an ID on our girl from this morning.”

     “Sure thing Tuck.” The officer obliged. “I’ll meet you there in ten.”

     Tucker parked behind Blake’s cruiser. “Shouldn’t you have a partner?” Blake chided the detective. Tucker growled and shot him a look. They headed up the sidewalk toward apartment C.

     From behind them, a young woman called out. “Can I help you?” Two young ladies in nail salon flip flops heel walked toward them.

     “Do you know the girl that lives here?” Blake asked.

     “I live here.” The tall brunette spoke up. “What’s this about?” She looked concerned. “Did something happen to Jess?”

     The other girl exclaimed. “I’ve been texting her all morning. I knew something was wrong. I even called her mother.”

     Tucker flashed his badge. “I’m Detective Tucker. This is Officer Blake. May we come in and speak with you; maybe take a look around?” His voice was low and soothing.

     “Come on in.” The girls waddled inside. “What happened? Is she okay?” They spoke simultaneously.

     “First let me get your names.” Blake snapped open his notebook. “Do you both live here?”

                                                                                                                                                8

     “I’m Amanda Franklin.” The first girl was short and stout with rainbow colored hair in a short bob. “I live a block over on Blossom Court. Jess was supposed to be at the nail salon this morning for pedicures. She loves pedicures. But Lydia said she didn’t come home last night. Isn’t that right Lydia? I texted her, like a million times and even called her mother, but she hasn’t seen her since last week. Is she missing? Has something happened?”

     Blake looked at Tucker. Tucker nodded his consent. Blake patted the girl’s shoulder. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this but we found Jessica’s body this morning.” Tears and wailing ensued.

     Tucker motioned to Blake. “You get their statements. I’ll have a look around.” Tucker noted the apartment was furnished with mismatched older furniture. Jessica’s bedroom was something of a surprise. It was sparse. There were inexpensive art prints on the walls, a futon mattress on the floor, and a small dresser. He checked the closet. There were designer labels on more than half the items there. He continued through the apartment while Blake calmed the girls and took their information.

     Upon leaving, Tucker took notice of the old car parked out front. “That belong to one of them?” He nudged Blake.

     “That’s Lydia’s ’99 Mazda. You got something? You have that look in your eye again.”

     Tucker looked thoughtful. “Maybe. We’ll see.” He headed for his car. “Oh, Blake. I owe you one for taking their statements.”

   

                                                                                                                                                9

      “Yep. Drinks are on you this week.” Blake handed Tucker a piece of paper. “Here’s their info. I figured you may have some follow up questions. See you back at the station.” He waved and got into his cruiser.

     Back at the station, Blake found Detective Tucker at his desk. “What do we have, Boss?”

     Tucker eyed him. “I’m fairly certain I know what happened. We need to get those girls in here for questioning. A confession always makes things easier. Bring the young ladies. You can put them in the interrogation room together.”

     “You think one of those girls…never mind. I know better than to argue with your gut.” He sprinted for the door.

     The grizzled detective sat across from Lydia and Amanda. “Is there anything you ladies need to tell me that perhaps you neglected to tell Officer Blake?” Lydia shook her head.

     “I wish I knew something else to tell you.” Amanda began to tear up again. “Jess is my…was my best friend.”

     “Can you tell me about this?” He plopped down an evidence bag containing a lottery ticket. “It seems Jessica had a winning lottery ticket on her.”

     Lydia perked up. She looked hard at the ticket. “You found it? I knew that it was a winner.” She reached for the bag.

     Tucker moved the bag from her reach. “That’s evidence.”

    

                                                                                                                                                10

     “That’s funny,” Amanda commented. “Jess never spent money on anything frivolous. Lydia is obsessed with the lottery.” She elbowed her friend. “You always think you’re going to hit the jackpot.”

     “I bought the ticket,” Lydia spoke up. “I should get it back, right?” She licked her lips.

     Detective Tucker’s steel blue eyes drilled into Lydia’s nervous gaze. “I know what happened. You can tell me your side and it will go easier for you.”

     Amanda looked puzzled. “What? What is he talking about?” She stood. “What’s going on?”

     “Amanda, why don’t you go with Officer Blake. Lydia and I need to have a conversation.” Tucker’s manner commanded the rainbow-haired girl. She left the room in a daze. Tucker focused all his attention on Lydia. “I know you killed your roommate over the lottery ticket.”

     Lydia broke. She cried angry tears. “Those winnings will get me out of debt. I can pay off my student loans and quit working at the coffee shop.” She wiped her nose on her sleeve. “She’d just spend it all on clothes. Always with the designer clothes. She sold her car to buy those stupid Manolos!” She fumed. “She’d rather ride the bus, she said. But what she really meant was that I could take her wherever she needed to go. She said she had to dress for success. She was a barista with an art history degree!” Lydia was shouting. “So yeah. I couldn’t take it. She said she didn’t know where the ticket was, but I knew she had it. I was putting a bag in the kitchen can because her majesty couldn’t be bothered to take out the trash. It was so easy.” Lydia laughed scornfully. “I threw the bag over her head and held on until she stopped twitching.”  Lydia breathed a sigh of relief.

                                                                                                                                                11

      Tucker pushed a legal pad and pen in front of her. “Write it all down, including how you moved the body, and sign it.”

     Lydia looked up at him with haunted eyes. “After dark, I carried her to my trunk. It was surprisingly easy. She didn’t weigh that much. I dumped her over the bypass. I imagined she’d be carried out of town.”

     “Write it down.” Tucker tapped the pad.

     “What about my lottery ticket? You said it was a winner. Am I going to get that back?”

     “No. As I said. It’s evidence.” Tucker shook his head. “It was a winner. You had three numbers. You killed your friend for $200.”

    

              

              



 

Arkansas Writer's Conference 1st Honorable Mention Winner


“Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda”

     Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” What bullshit! We all have regrets, some decidedly more than others. He may not care to mention them, but I guarantee that there were plenty. Now that I have reached a certain age, I can look back over my youth and see, with absolute clarity, that I was an idiot. I made some very bad decisions. Some were immediately obvious. A horribly short haircut I got at age 14 comes to mind. It was not pretty.  Sorry to be cliché, but it must be said. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

     It is difficult to narrow down my list of “youthful mistakes”. My first marriage ranks high on the list of monumental errors in judgement. I was a naive twenty-year-old. Why didn’t someone stop me? I was content with living together, but it was expected that he would make an honest woman of me. Once there was talk of a wedding, my twenty-year-old brain went into overdrive. (Dresses and flowers, oh my.)  Hind-sight being 20/20 and all that, I now realize that if we’d lived together a bit longer than three months before getting married, I would have kicked him to the curb. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. (Like Granny used to say,”woulda, coulda, shoulda, too late for excuses now.”)

                                                                                                                                                2

     That was definitely not the only blunder of my youth. One college semester I had two male roommates. They were unreliable, to say the least. One ran up a ridiculous phone bill making

long-distance calls to his girlfriend. (This was before everyone had a cell phone and back when long distance charges were a thing.) The other ate everything in the house. If I bought food, it was gone the next day. The guy was a bottomless pit who never bought groceries. Looking back, I see that semester going much better if I’d lived alone.

     Fear caused one great lapse in judgment. My senior year of college, I was on track to law school. I had the grades, finishing in the top ten percent of my graduating class. I scored well on the LSAT and was accepted by my school of choice. Unfortunately, rising student debt loomed on my horizon. I was paralyzed with dread of more financial liability. Instead of pushing forward to hit the books at law school, I folded. I took my Bachelor degree and moved to a tiny town where my first job was waitressing for less than my student jobs paid. It may have taken many years to pay off law school debt but it took many years to pay off the regular student debt working at low wage jobs. I might have had a career in law instead of a career in retail management. 

     The questionable decisions of my youth were numerous. Some less tragic than others. Bad haircuts grow out. Bad marriages leave scars. Lost opportunities rarely come back around.

     I suppose that I’m an optimist. Looking back through wiser eyes I see the benefits of a few of those foolish decisions. The first marriage was traumatizing. However, I recovered and remarried. I appreciate my wonderful husband all the more for the experience.

    

                                                                                                                                                3

     The unreliable guys stepped up and took care of me when I suffered from a brown recluse bite. They waited on me hand and foot for three days and helped me obtain crutches so that I could go to class. Those terrible male roommates still keep in touch over 25 years later.

      Skipping law school was foolish and short-sighted. However, who can say if having a prestigious career working for myself would have made me happy? And I am happy. I prefer not to dwell. Granny was right. It is too late for excuses now. 

    


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

1st Place Winner at White County Creative Writers Conference

That's Life Award



DEAR DIARY:


Love from One Perspective


“Rachel, come on. I’m not cleaning this attic by myself. Gran left a lot of stuff up here. Bring the trash bags.”

     “Good grief, Bev. You’d just throw away everything. We need to go through this stuff.”

     “Why?” Bev rolled her eyes. “It’s just old junk that Gran stuck up here fifty years ago.”

     Rachel sighed. “You have no sense of history. Look at this old trunk. I wonder what’s in here.” The lid creaked as she opened it.

     “Wow!” Bev exclaimed sarcastically. “A trunk full of crap. Shocking.” As the sass dripped from her lips, Bev dropped to her knees and reached for a small book with a faded leather cover. Flipping through the pages she commented, “I think this is Gran’s diary.”

     Rachel smiled at her sister’s sudden interest. “What does it say? And before you get cranky again, think about Gran. She loved sharing family history.”

     “You should know. All that old stuff is your thing.” Bev passed the book to her sister.

     “Like I said, you have no sense of history.” Rachel opened the diary and flipped through the pages. “Look here.” She began reading.

“January 21st.  Dear Diary. Today I met the most interesting young man at the church social. We talked for hours. He is so smart. He is planning to attend college next fall. He even introduced himself to Daddy and asked if he could come calling. His name is James.

Bev perked up. “Hey that’s Poppa.” She no longer tried to hide her interest. “What else does it say?”

Rachel scanned through several pages. ”Accounts of their dates.”

February 10th. Dear Diary. James and I went to the rodeo with Cora and Luke. It was fun. When it got chilly, James gave me his jacket. He’s a real gentleman.”

 “That must be Great Aunt Cora.” Rachel flipped more pages. “They held hands at a church service. He came to a family dinner. She went shopping with his sister…blah, blah.”

“Blah, blah? I thought family history was important. Aren’t you always telling me that?” Bev scolded. “Now read on. And wipe that smirk off your face. You got me. I’m interested.”

Rachel grinned widely.

“March 16th. James and I went for ice cream this afternoon. We sat in the porch swing until after dark. When he got up to leave, he kissed me. Right on the lips. It was nice but I wasn’t ready. I can do better next time. I am looking forward to kissing James again.”  

She laughed out loud. “Go Poppa! Stealing that first kiss. Don’t you just love it?”

Bev shook her head. “That’s sweet and all but it took him two months to kiss her!”

Rachel rolled her eyes and continued reading.

March 18yh. After church today, James had lunch with us. He and Daddy went down to the barn and talked for a long while. Cora teased me that he might be asking Daddy if he could marry me. Turns out that ain’t it at all. James wants to join the Army. He will be gone at least two years. How can he do this to me? I was so mad I told him to just go. Then I cried half the night.

March 19th. I’m so mad at James. Does he think I’ll just wait for him to come home? What about college? Does he think I’ll just pine away for him while he goes off and gets himself killed? Well I won’t. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

March 20th. What will I do if James doesn’t make it home? My heart is breaking. I think I may even love him. What shall I do?

March 23rd. I saw James in town today. He said he leaves for basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia next month. After training, he’ll get one chance to visit home before he ships out over seas. I tried to wish him well but found myself scolding him for joining up. He said I didn’t understand. We had a big argument. I never want to see him again. He can do as he pleases.

April 9th. Today James left for Basic Training. I wasn’t going to go but found myself down by the bus station as the boys were loading up for Georgia. I saw James. He looked so handsome. I waved. He ran off the bus, took me in his arms and kissed me. This time I was ready. I kissed him back. We kissed until the bus driver honked for James to board. All the fellows on the bus applauded. I will love him forever.

Rachel wiped away a tear. “That’ so sweet.”

Bev snorted. “If you ask me, Gran was a flake. She couldn’t make up her mind.” She placed the diary into the trunk.


2nd Place Winner at White County Writer's Conference

The Rest is History Award (A little rewrite on a historical event)


LONG LIVED THE KING


The Interview


     “May I get you anything else before we get started?” The pretty blonde producer hovered around her guest as he waited for the interview to begin.

     “I’m fine. Thanks darlin’,” he drawled.

     “I see they have your microphone all set up. Would you like some more water? Anything? Anything at all, just ask.” 

     He shot her a crooked grin. She blushed and scurried off.

     The interviewer adjusted his tie and took a seat across from his illustrious guest. They shook hands. He took one last look at his notes as the director counted him down. Looking directly into the camera he smiled widely. “And we are back.  In today’s movers and shakers segment we are honored to have someone who’s impacted music, film, and even world politics over the last forty years. This guest is here to tell us about his new book that chronicles his career and delves into the darkness that almost ended his life.  Join me in welcoming the King!”

     The elderly guest looked slightly embarrassed when the studio erupted in cheers and applause. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. The result was a roar of adulation.

     “Well let’s get to it shall we?” the interviewer continued. “Everyone in the world knows your music. You catapulted rock and roll into the stratosphere in the 50’s and 60’s. In the 80’s your new music inspired a new generation. Your influence can be heard in hip hop, rap, country, of course rock and roll and pretty much every other genre of music since. Your humanitarian efforts spawned a movement that has impacted the globe. The hunger relief organization, PB&B, funds nutritious school lunches for millions of American children and sends food to 34 countries. And if that’s not enough, and it really should be…your support of the arts in schools has insured that music, dance, film, and drama will continue to be offered in every American high school in the country.”

     “The arts are important and I…I can’t imagine why anyone in this world should have to go hungry. There’s plenty of food. We just have to get it to folks.” The King absently ran his hand through his silver hair. “That’s why I started PB&B (peanut butter and banana, for my favorite snack) so nobody goes hungry.”

     The interviewer stole a glance at his notes. “The whole world feels like they know you from your music and movies but this book (I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.) covers what you call the dark decade, the 70’s. What can you tell us about those times?”

     “Well, sir. It…it’s like this. I had some successes in the 70’s but for the most part my career was in decline. I was touring the country a lot but my music was getting stale. I surrounded myself with folks who never told me no. My marriage ended in 73. I was in a sorry state. By 1977 my health was real bad. I had an enlarged heart, high blood pressure, chronic migraines, and severe back pain. I stayed hopped up on prescription meds. I was so overweight, I could barely make it through a show.”

     “On August 16, 1977 I had a massive heart attack. It should ‘a killed me. I was technically dead for a couple of minutes. When I woke up in the hospital, I knew somethin’ had to change.”

     “That is when you decided to check into rehab?”

     “Not immediately. I was always so opposed to recreational drug use, it was hard for me to understand that I was an addict. It took a brave and very straightforward young doctor, actually he was an intern at the time, to tell me I was addicted to drugs. I was so used to being the one that everyone depended on, it was really hard for me to ask for help. It was hard to admit that I needed help. In the week I spent at the hospital recovering, I began to understand.”

     “On August 28th, I checked in to Hazelden in St. Paul.”

     “That’s the Hazelden Clinic, which later became the Betty Ford Clinic,” the interviewer interjected.

     “Yes. That’s right. I learned real quick that I needed to change pretty much everything about my life. I had to learn to eat right and exercise. Most importantly, I had to learn to manage my health concerns without overmedicating. It was not an easy road. It took two years. I lost 65 pounds, which helped my overall health a lot. I took up yoga, which is a lot like martial arts but calmer. I needed calm in my life. I began to surround myself with positive people who cared enough to tell me the truth.”

     “What truths did that entail?”

     “The truth about everything. My wardrobe was dated. The jumpsuits had to go. My music was stale. I needed new writers. I even started writing some original songs for myself. Facing my issues with substance abuse, I learned a lot.” The King shifted in his seat to look directly at the camera. “There is an epidemic in this country. Prescription drug abuse is out of control. That’s why all the profits from this book, LONG LIVED THE KING; HOW DYING SAVED MY LIFE, are going to the Hazelden Foundation. This organization funds rehab centers across the country.”

    The interviewer nodded and gestured to the large screen behind them. Images of smiling people and a manicured campus scrolled by. “A worthy cause indeed. Let me remind our viewers. The medical facilities and free clinics funded by the Hazelden Foundation have changed the face of healthcare in the United States.” More images of small town clinics and more smiling patients. “In 1985 the first clinic in Memphis opened to service the people who couldn’t afford quality healthcare. Since then, over 1200 medical facilities in towns all over the country have joined to insure that no one goes without medical care.”

     “That’s right.”

     “Now before we must go, I have to ask you one more question. Did you really have a hand in designing the flying car?”

     The King laughed. “No. Elon started that rumor. That kid.” He shook his head. “He was meeting with his engineering team to work on their hover car concepts. Someone turned on my music. Elon said they were inspired. The rest is history. Now just about everyone has one of his solar powered or electric hover cars.”

     “I’m getting the nod from our director so I guess we’ll have to wrap this up. I just want to say thank you for all that you’ve done.”

     “Yes sir. Thank you, sir. But I…I haven’t really done all that much. I’m just a singer.”

     “Oh, no sir. You are so much more than just a singer. You are an innovator, philanthropist, and an inspiration to us all. At 82 you are still making a difference in the world. I’d hate to think what a sorry state this world would be in if you hadn’t survived back in 1977. The King, ladies and gentlemen. His new book LONG LIVED THE KING; HOW DYING SAVED MY LIFE is in bookstores now.”

     The old man stood and bowed to thunderous applause. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”










Sunday, September 3, 2017

Winner; White County Creative Writer's Conference

I attended the conference for the first time this year. It was a lot of fun. I entered three pieces in the contests and was fortunate to take home a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner. Congratulations to all the attendees and winners.

This is my 3rd place Winner, The Gary R. Hoffman Award. It's a bit of an inside joke around here. There is a writer based in Florida who regularly enters and wins many of the contests from our groups here in Arkansas. We haven't met him. No one knows him. He's become something of a legend. With his permission, this contest was to construct a fictional biography of him. He did the judging.


The Good Life in Obscurity



     Now in my 80th year I find a need to pen my memoir. Contemporary memoirs seem to be written by increasingly younger figures. I always thought it rather presumptuous to write about your life before you’ve lived. Life is for the living of it. Old age is the time for reflection and hopefully only little regret. I have lived a good life. Oddly enough, living it in obscurity has been my greatest achievement.

     I was born Donald Raymond Flowers in July of 1937. The family farm wasn’t much. We survived on fish and game from the area as much as what the farm provided. Life was tough but Big Sky country is beautiful. As a lad I didn’t appreciate it as I do now. All I wanted was to flee as far as I could get from the Milk River and the rural life that threatened to suffocate me. The military was my salvation.

     I joined the Army in 1954. The Service taught me discipline, confidence and self-reliance among other skills.  I also learned that the military life was not for me. I fulfilled my two year commitment and was discharged in 1957. Looking back with the eyes of history and experience I see that I dodged two wars, enlisting at the end of the Korean conflict and getting discharged just as the Vietnam War was getting started.

     I took my last paycheck from Uncle Sam and bought a nice suit. In the military, I found that most people were kind and respectful of the uniform. It became evident that a fine suit garnered respect, as well. While searching for work, I discovered (quite by chance) that people will assume a lot if you let them. I showed up in my new suit, resume in hand, to interview for a job. I signed in at the desk like everyone else and settled down with a magazine to wait my turn. It pleased me to note that I was the best dressed in the office. There were a good many young men waiting when I arrived so I figured it would be a while.

     The receptionist at the desk scanned the sign in sheet and motioned me over. “I’m sorry to make you wait Dr. Flowers. You may go on in. Mr. Davenport’s office is on the left.”  Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth as it were, I strolled right on down to Mr. Davenport’s office.

     Understand, I had no intention of deceiving good Mr. Davenport. I thought we’d have a chuckle at the fact the receptionist thought D. R. Flowers was the physician he’d been expecting. But it was so easy. He shook my hand and launched into a harried diatribe about his ulcer. I noted the bags under his eyes and the empty coffee mugs on his desk while he spoke. When he finally took a breath I did my best to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

     “Mr. Davenport, I know I’m not your regular doctor but I’m sure he’s told you that too much coffee is not good for your ulcer.” He tried to speak but I was having so much fun I cut him off with a serious look. “You aren’t getting enough sleep. More coffee is not the answer.” I shot him a knowing glare. “And you’d do well to ease back on the bourbon.” The last gibe was a guess but he looked the type.

     He sat down hard. “I know. I know. Old Doc Simpson said the same thing. I was just hoping that you might have something that would get me through the day.” For the first time since I had strolled into his office, Mr. Davenport looked me over. “You sure are young for a doctor.”

     I was certain that I was caught. I eased myself toward the door. “You know, I get that all the time. I take after my mother. She always looked young.  There’s nothing more for me to do here so I’ll be going. Remember, you have to actually follow the doctor’s orders. Have yourself a glass of buttermilk and you’ll feel better for a while. Cut back on the coffee and bourbon and drink some water.” I kept talking as I slid out the door.

     Making my way to the exit, I tried not to run. Just as I reached for the door, Mr. Davenport burst from his office.  “Wait right there, doc!” he shouted. 

     My feet wanted to run, but I turned and smiled instead. I thought I might just talk my way out of it. “Now Mr. Davenport…” I began.

     “Oh, I know what you’re going to say.” He cornered me at the door. “You didn’t do anything but tell me to do what old Doc Simpson said, but you came down here. It’s worth it to me for the second opinion. Thanks.” He pumped my hand in a hearty handshake and deposited a crisp twenty in my palm. I walked out of there with a new career having just completed my first grift.

     I charmed and sweet talked my way through the next few decades. I enjoyed being someone else. Crisscrossing the country several times with a different identity every few months, I got bold seeking the big score. I was nearly caught impersonating a bank examiner in Idaho. I did make some cash selling knock off art in California.  In 1971 I hatched a reckless plan that involved an airliner and a parachute. It nearly got me killed. It did put an end to my career in the Pacific Northwest. I headed south. I grew a beard and sought mundane employment.

     In Missouri, I sold cars. I was well suited for the job. However, I found it unsatisfying. I moved on to Florida. I always enjoyed the beach. With the Eighties came the computer age and it was time for me to pick an identity. It was becoming more and more difficult to falsify documents. No more Dr. Flowers, no more Dan Cooper, no more Fred Johnson; I became Gary R. Hoffman. I found I could make a decent living selling insurance. I also found a way to continue to be someone else.

     I became a writer. At first, it was just an outlet for my adventurous side. I wrote a short story for a local contest and I won. Even as my beard got gray and my waistband expanded, I found a way to continue my adventures. Nowadays I write what makes me happy.  Instead of traveling the country, I enter contests worldwide. I send my alter egos everywhere. I could have been famous. One of my identities was infamous. But my greatest grift has been enjoying the good life in obscurity.