Monday, June 29, 2015

Who Needs Pumpkins?



So. Being the caretaker of a 12-year old boy is . . . interesting. A study in contrasts. The good and the bad. I’ll try to explain.


You might have noticed I said “caretaker” up there, not “parent”, or “father.” I’m proud to be a father, and tell people all the time. I do—if you know me, back me up here: I’ve probably told you at least one story about my kid. Probably more. They were probably funny: he’s a funny kid, and I have a terrific sense of humor.


Note—most times, when someone tells you they have a terrific sense of humor, it’s like when someone says “I don’t mean to be rude, here,” or “I don’t mean to butt in”: complete and utter bullshit. This time, however, the words are the sweetest truth—Rob does, indeed, have the best sense of humor he’s ever encountered.
—The Management


No, I didn’t say “caretaker” for any other reason than that’s what it’s like sometimes: being a caretaker at a very small zoo. Just one exhibit. There’s a room in the house that smells a little bit like an animal den, though the dogs themselves are not allowed inside. It’s kind of steamy, with a sort of rain forest atmosphere, and it’s always dark in there. If you look closely you can spot a structure we refer to as a bed, though in reality it’s more nest-like than anything else, cast-off clothes and blankets forming a warm, comfy pile that can be either lain upon or burrowed under, depending on the weather and season.


In this den lives . . . a creature.


The creature (we call him Handsome, for anyone who may have forgotten), is roughly man shaped, and sized—in fact, we can now share clothes, which will make it pretty easy to Christmas shop this year. I’ve already picked out a number of shirts that will look good on me—I mean, that look like they’ll fit him. But I digress. The beast seems to communicate in almost nothing but grunts and a sort of muttering, though when provoked can roar a variety of phrases at surprising volume. There’s “In a minute!” and “In a minute!” and, when he’s really provoked, there’s “In a minute!


Yesterday I managed to pry the Handsome from his lair with promises of food and a well-placed cattle-prod. He emerged from his hole grumpy, glaring about, blinking in the unaccustomed daylight. I had the Handsome help me with a task or two I had about the house, but it was a constant battle. The Handsome does not take well to harness, and the phrase stubborn as a mule comes to mind. Eventually, I lost track of the Handsome, and he slipped away from me.


I found him back in his lair, where I stood in the doorway and tried to call them out again. I saw nothing but his silhouette against the computer screen, a head misshapen by oversize headphones, the phones clinging to his ears like long-lost friends. I could hear the video he was watching, or the game he was playing, right through the phones, so I raised my voice, shouting my call.


The call was answered immediately with a roar of “In a minute,” the sound of a young male defending what he sees as his territory; I’d get no more work from the beast today. With a sigh, I shut the enclosure door and went about my business.


~ ~ * * ~ ~


Hours later, I finished my projects, and decided to hit the shower before it was time to go. It was dark outside now, and there hadn’t been a peep out of the boy’s room. The house lights were on, and I was tired, so I stepped into the shower. And then I stepped out. I opened the bathroom door, clad in my fresh clothes—and stopped dead when I saw the darkened house before me.


What had happened to all the lights? Was there a power outage? No, there couldn’t be—the lights in the bathroom were still on, and had not flickered, so . . . I poked my head around the corner, calling a quiet “Hello” into the darkness, in good not-going-to-survive-the-horror-movie fashion—and saw a light off in the dining room. It was faint, and small, and seemed to be flickering.



I walked closer, making my way slowly through the shadows of the kitchen. The light in the dining room did not retreat, and seemed to be on top of the dining room table, where I’d left my ChromeBook and bag. I walked closer.
  . . . closer  . . .






What was this? A tiny, flickering face in the dark? I peered more closely, noticing for the first time that there was a piece of paper in front of the face—there was writing on it, though I could barely make out the presence of the letters in the dim, unsteady light spilling from the tiny head in front of me.

So I turned on the lights.


It was a jack-o-lantern made from an extra-large Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate cup, a worn tea light candle, scooped from the holder on the stove, nestled down within it to give it life. While I had been in the shower, the Handsome had carved this thing for me, found the smallest of candles to put within it, then run about the house dousing all the lights to give his creation its full power. In front of the thing he’d left me a note: 

Who needs pumpkins?

Awwww . . .

Yeah, sometimes having a 12-year old boy is a lot like keeping a small and very private zoo. But lots of times, and this was one of them, I just love being a dad.


—Talk to you later!

Monday, June 22, 2015

I'm Back!


Hi. I'm back.

I know (even if you don't) that I've been gone for a while. I've been doing things—writerly things—but it's all been the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that no one much cares to read about. I took a course in editing, and then gave that a shot for a while. I edited a book
titled Demonic Visions: 50 Horror Tales, Book 5, and, let me tell you, choosing for your very first editing job to edit for fifty people . . . yeah, it's as idiotic as it sounds. If I'd had hair, I'd have been pulling it out by the roots. But I met a lot of people, and I learned from all of them. Hopefully, I helped them all put out a good book—but this is all beside the point.

Since I stopped writing While You’re Making Other Plans, a whole lot has happened. The book I wrote was pulled off the shelves and is no longer for sale—by my own request. My son, Handsome, has grown so large we can wear each other’s clothes, and he’s only twelve. I’ve joined a writing collaborative, and we plan to put out some great books together. I started writing monster movie reviews for Cinema Knife Fight. I’ve recently signed a contract for a short story collection, due to come out early next year. My day job is changing so fast I can barely keep up. There’s been exciting stuff happening—well, exciting for me, your mileage may vary—and I’ve thought along the way about sharing it with all of you, but could never figure out just how to come back.

I wrote a few special pieces, kind of trumpeting my way back into the blogging world, but none of them seemed right. I’m not very good at promoting myself, though my friends take a softer view: they tell me I suck at it. I wasn’t comfortable with any of those “special” pieces, because I don’t feel very special. I’m just me. So I set them aside and decided to try again. And again. But it never seemed to come out right.

So screw it.

I’m back, plain and simple.

I’ll be trying to post stuff here once a week—and if I fall behind, please feel free to call me on it. A quick comment of “Dude, where are you?” left either here or on my writer page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Robert.T.Smales — look, a handy link!) should get me off my ass. I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers out there post their weekly stuff on Friday, sort of to kick off the weekend, but I’m going to do things a little differently: I’m going to post on Monday. Way too much of the fun stuff in my life happens on the weekend—I don’t want to wait a week to write some of it down. I was forgetful at twenty-six. At forty-six, I’m lucky I remember to take my ass with me when I get up in the morning, and I don’t want to miss the good stuff. Just this weekend, for instance, I:

  • Did battle with a terrible Bittersweet plant. I was victorious, but what a cost!
  • Watched a movie that I can’t review, but was so much fun I’d love to tell you about it when I have the time.
  • Bought the boy a surprise gift: his first trimmer/edger! (It didn’t go over well)
  • Had a Tool singing contest.
  • Witnessed my son talking to his great grandfather—always a treat!
  • And dyed my son’s hair purple. I shit you not: purple. And damn me if he doesn’t still look good.

So, starting next week I’ll be spicing up Mondays with something here at WYMOP. Sorry, Monday, but you need the spicing up. You suck, and I think you know it. So next week I’ll be here, trying to be funny for y’all. Sorry about this week, but this was just to get me started. I needed a little boost to tell you I’m back.


I’m back.
SmileyMe.Jpg
Deal with it.

Talk to you later!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fun in the Sun

Greetings, WYMOP fans!
It’s been quite a while, I think, since I dropped an anhidrosis story on y’all, and you might have thought it had gone away as quickly and mysteriously as it came on, and I had just never mentioned this happy event.
No dice. I just stopped whining about it for a time.
There is a little twist this year, though. Spontaneously, and for no discernible reason, my anhidrosis is not total at the moment. I can perspire a little. A very little. Not enough to keep me from pushing myself into heat stroke if I’m not careful, but enough to give me a little bit of leeway that I haven’t had (without steroid treatments) for years. This little bit of leeway changes things, so I’ve been pushing myself a bit, trying to find out what my new limits are. One of the things I used to do was run, so…
...Here’s the story:

(Anhidrosis, for those of you who don’t know, is a condition where I don’t perspire, so I don’t thermoregulate, and achieving heat stroke is very, very easy for me. For the long version of anhidrosis, what it is and its effects on me, please see: No Sweat, No Problem.... Not Really! and Stubborn or Stupid? —  or just plug “anhidrosis” into the search field in the upper left corner of the page to see all my non-sweating rants.)

~ ~ * * ~ ~
I ran up the hill. It was a rolling hill, so I went up for a while. Level for a while. Up for a while. Level for a while.
Up. For a while. Level for a while.
The roundabout at the top of the hill.
Down. Down is awesome. Down and level and down and level and down.
And the turnaround at the bottom of the hill...
And up.
For a while.
Level.
Up.
For.
A while.
So I went up and down this rolling hill a few times. Okay, three times. And each time there were a couple of yards I passed where I could hear, though not see (to be fair, I was concentrating on breathing and maintaining an upright orientation —  I haven’t really “run” for about six years now), people. Chatter. Parents talking to their kids. Parents talking to each-other, mostly about their kids eating things they should not eat. Parents talking to each-other while their kids were eating things they should not eat.
How should I know? I never actually saw them. Just heard them. They, however, could see me.
How do I know?
I’ll get to that part in a minute.
So I made three laps up and down the hill. By then I was pretty done-in by the heat, and I had to stop. Rest. Try to cool down.
Yeah. Cooling down would be good.
But I’m trying to see if I can cool down gradually if I keep walking. Not running any more, but not heading off into a cool shower to lower my core temp either. Just… walking.
The problem is that I’m trying to give off heat, but on a nice warm (77 degrees!), sunny day like this one, whenever I’m in the sun, the direct sun, I can feel it heating my skin.
I’m heating my skin on my own, Mr. Sun, but thank you very much for playing.
So if I’m going to get rid of heat I need to have something flowing over my skin to draw it away, and if it’s not going to be nice, cool water, then it needs to be air.
Lots and lots of air.
Direct sun? Mmm… not so much.
I could of course simply burrow into the soil beneath thickly-growing and low-to-the-ground trees or bushes to find cool earth to lie upon as well as protection from the  hot sun, much like a dog. Hey, dogs don’t perspire either, and it works for them, right?
So I set off walking two more laps up and down the hill. Mindful of the long stretches where there was no shade, no cover from that hot and burning Eye-in-the-Sky, I brought along my own shade.
I… I brought along a parasol.
Okay, technically it was my father’s golf umbrella, this nice red, white and blue affair, nicely patriotic and very good at keeping things  from falling on you from the sky: rain, hail, and ultraviolet light.
But let’s face it, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I was using the damn thing to keep the sun off my pretty skin while I went out for a stroll to take in the air.
It was a parasol. I’m going to call it a parasol.
So there I was, traipsing along with my parasol, up and down the hill I’d just been running on. I was going up. And up. The parasol was working out pretty well. I’d move it out of the way every once in a while, say to myself My God, that’s hot, and slip it back in betwixt myself and the evil, demon sun.
Everything was fine and dandy, like sugar candy.
Then I approached the first of the conversation houses. I could hear the people in on the porch, women and children, the occasional deeper, male contribution. I could hear them quite well, even better than before since there wasn’t the chuk-chuk-chuk of my sneakers chuffing the pavement, nor was there the disturbing sound of my breathing, which, while I was running, brought to mind B-Grade horror movies. The kind where they can’t afford real special effects.
I could hear them so well I knew the exact moment when they stopped talking, laughing, and making all that fun and normal noise.
Just as I came into view, or where I thought I was in view, they all went silent. Pin-drop silent, the kind you see in movies. Or high-school. The kind of silence that says “Look, pal, you don’t see us, and you obviously don’t hear us, because we aren’t making any sound. In fact, we aren’t even here. All that noise you heard before? Oh, that was just your imagination. We’re not here. Gone. And we’re going to stay gone until you walk past and are out of sight again. Then we’re coming back, just popping back into existence so we can talk about you. So… hurry up, would you? We’re bursting here.”
Nope, I didn’t feel conspicuous or uncomfortable at all.
So I continued my walk, fighting the urge to do the old “facepalm” by wringing both hands on the handle of my parasol.
Yup. Super-manly.
As soon as I passed the conversation picked up again. Why do people always forget that one does not need to be seen to be heard?
A fluke, I thought. It was just a natural lull in the conversation —  it had nothing to do with me, right?
Then I got to the next “conversation house”.
Same deal. Exactly the same.
As far as I could tell, nobody had even noticed me when I jogged past. Six times.
...and just how conspicuous did I feel, traipsing about with my pretty parasol?
Oh, only about as much as a giant pimple on the ass of a supermodel at a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot.
Yeah…
So I made two trips up and down the hill. Passed each house four times. Eight suspicious and total silences. By the time I was done I was sort of cooled down, but I felt like I was about six inches tall —  while my parasol seemed to be more than eight feet across.
From now on, when I try running, I think I’ll do it at night.
Yeah.

Talk to you later.
Yeah... who wouldn't talk if this strolled by?

...and just for the fun of it, here's my favorite paranormal prank video from YouTube.
My favorite parts? The way the pranker is laughing before the prank, and the way the prankee is breathing just after. It might be mean of me, but I love this!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'll Have a Salad.

Greetings, WYMOP readers!
Occasionally I'll be  with Handsome, and he'll say or do something that causes me to immediately say "Okay, that's a blog."
This was one of those times.
Here's the story:

I went grocery shopping with Handsome this past Sunday.
Grocery shopping with Handsome consists mainly of finding a place to sit still and wait, while the boy goes on “hunt and destroy” missions. He snakes through the crowded aisles with an almost serpentine grace and a complete lack of manners that only the young can get away with: if I were to try to follow him, Security, the police, and possibly even the FBI would be speed-dialed by panicked folks who had, just moments before, merely shaken their heads at the antics of an overgrown 11-year old and wondered what kind of parents he had.
I am that parent, and you can usually find me sitting over by the deli.
The deli, by the way, is the perfect place to stop and wait a while in a grocery store if you’re an anti-social boob, like me. Everyone there is standing at a sort of attention, eyes fixed on the number display with all the focus of a dog who’s just heard the can opener, and clutching the small slip of numbered paper that tells them where they are in the queue.
If you get too bored, then look closely and see if you can spot the Dancer. The Dancer can be either male or female, and for some reason there always seems to be one. The Dancer is the person standing quite close to the counter even though it’s not their turn, who stares at the number display like they’re trying to set it aflame through sheer force of will. If you watch, you’ll see they’re also shifting from foot to foot, almost as if nervous about something. The price of  Imported Hickory-Smoked Yak Ham, perhaps?
No.
The Dancer has to go to the bathroom. Has to go quite badly, in fact —  elimination with extreme prejudice is in their future. But they can not leave the deli counter. If they do, then their number is immediately called out and they miss their turn, forcing them to take another number and start all over again. This is part of the magic of the deli, and is unexplainable by either science or mathematics, but it is rather fun to watch.
Other than the Dancer, the deli is usually pretty quiet. There is a sort of “elevator” feel to the place, where everyone stands in their own space, doesn’t talk, and would rather take a dripping baby gherkin to an unprotected eyeball than make actual eye-contact with any of their fellows in waiting.
Away through the crowd he went, and then back he came, one of those pre-cooked, rotisserie chickens in hand. He dropped it into the cart and was away again.
And came back again. This time with a package of thin-cut steaks.
Away again. Back again. Boneless pork chops.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Eventually he came to rest, standing just to the other side of the cart, gazing at me across the mound of foodstuffs he’d collected with his (sometimes startlingly) blue eyes.
“Can we go? I’m hungry.”
“Sure,” I said, looking over the cart’s contents. “What do you want for dinner?”
“Can I have a salad?”
I gave him a squint worthy of a B-movie actor with a Clint Eastwood fetish.
“A what?”
“A salad.”
From behind me came a shout, a joyous sound almost giddy with delight. I shifted the cart sideways about a two feet, moving it well out of the traffic lane. Then I stared into it, poking about and moving the larger stuff, just in case I was missing something. Milk, bread, yogurt, cereal, chips, hamburger rolls, peanut butter, soda… and, of course, hamburgers, steaks, boneless pork chops and one whole chicken.
Nothing green, or leafy, or that was grown in the ground for as far as the eye could see. Or at least to the other side of the cart.
“You want a salad?”
A nod.
There was a commotion behind me, then a fast repetition of words.
“Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me…”.
I recognized the voice as the joyous shouter from moments before just as a cart whizzed through the space in the traffic lane I had so recently vacated. It was the Dancer I had spotted earlier, a woman in, of all things, blue leopard-print pants, raced along in a half-run that was a curious mix of pride and desperation.
“From what? There’s nothing but meat in here.”
“Well,” he said, big round eyes growing bigger and rounder. And, somehow, bluer. “Can’t we just put strips of steak and pork and chicken into a bowl?”
My eyes were as wide as his.
“And that’s a salad?”
Right there in the middle of the store, the boy threw his fists in the air like the home team had scored the winning touchdown, and shouted two words:
Man-salad!
I stared at him.
“Man-salad?” I said.
“Man-salad,” he said.
So I thought about it.


I put bacon bits on mine. It was delicious.

Talk to you later!

...and as a little extra, just for laughs (if you're into this kind of thing -- I have to say, it made me laugh), here's a little prank video!
Make sure you have your sound on, and listen to the guy on the left breathing in the end. Oh my God!