Sunday, July 28, 2013

Play Dates and Hanging Out

So this summer Handsome is going to a few different summer camps. One week of YMCA camp, another at a Robotics camp (why didn’t they have these when I was growing up? Oh, yeah, because I’m old... I forgot for second there...) and then a week away at Boy Scout Camp.

He’s a pretty busy little beaver for nearly an entire month.

In years past what would happen over the course of the summer is that his mother and I observe him in the Wild, as it were, evaluating his social skills and looking for children for him to see and play with once camp was over. If you have anything to do with kids, if you have friends with kids, hell, even if you just have children of your own, then you know this planned getting together of the young ones is called a ‘play date’.

(A voiceover begins in a strangely Australian accent)

“Here we see the North American Handsome in its natural setting —  and what a beauty! You can see the way the sweat glistens in his buzz-cut —  a sure sign of a healthy specimen, that —  and the dirt patterns on his extremities are awesome, just awesome! Those dirt patterns are what the wild Handsome uses to differentiate itself from the rest of the herd for — “

A gasp can be heard.

“Waitaminute! A young Junior has left the herd and is approaching the Handsome. Oh, this is an amazing chance to observe the social interaction between the Handsome and the Junior!

Crikey, this is our lucky day!

You can see how the Junior’s approach is casual, almost nonchalant, but if you look closely you can see the wariness about the eyes. Just look at that stride! And now we —  Oh! The Handsome just became aware of his approach! You see that, right there, how the Handsome’s head comes up, his eyes fixed on the intruder? That’s his way of saying ‘I see you, buddy, I see you there!’

Oh! The Handsome is standing up, rising to his full proud height, you see that? Oh, what a day we are having here, folks, witnessing two princes of the playground, squaring off like this, it’s just phenomenal! I do hope the cameras are catching this. If you watch their eyes very closely you’ll see them inspecting each-other’s dirt patterns in a ritual comparison of —  

Look! The Junior is reaching for the shovel in the Handsome’s hand! This is a bold play on the Junior’s part, seeking either social acceptance or dominance, we’re not sure which. There is some debate in the scientific world as to what … wait, the Handsome is moving …

Yes, the Handsome is reaching out as well! They’re both reaching, reaching … and the Junior has gotten a grip on the Handsome’s shovel —  I don’t care what the debaters say, this is a clear move for dominance —  he’s got the shovel and he’s pulling, pulling —  

But the Handsome’s hand just covers the Junior’s face! You see that? One hard shove and the Junior goes over backward, sprawling in the sand! Did you see that, the power in the Handsome’s beefy little body, all focused into one small point in sp —  and there it is! The Junior has begun to wail,  high-pitched keening sound, a cry for help that is sure to draw in... yes, there they go, a pair of Mothers converging on the scene.


It’s pandemonium on the playground, here at …

(The voiceover fades)

Yeah. We wouldn’t have been collecting that kid’s number.

But anyway, I didn’t come here to tell you all that. I told you that story so I can tell you this one:

Last year we weren’t with him at the park any more. Maybe even the year before that, if I remember correctly. We’d drop him off and he took part in the local Park Program for the day, and we picked him up later. It was very cool if we had errands to run, or even wanted to take a nap, but it was pretty bad for the collecting of phone numbers for play dates. Handsome was on his own in that regard, and he, to be quite honest, sucked at it.

Not a lot of play dates happened last year.

This year, however, things are a little different. He’s been to YMCA camp and Robotics camp, and by the end of each week had collected one or two phone numbers from kids he wants to keep in touch with when that camp week was over. We didn’t ask him to —  hell, we didn’t even know he was doing it —  he just showed up at home with scribbled-on papers crumpled up in his pocket.

This was great! Evidence of social growth and maturity! Handsome was taking charge of his own little life, as much as he was able. I thought it was fantastic, and was telling everyone so … and it was while I was telling someone all about it that the problem in all this became evident for me.

What was I to call it now, when my young little man (who was growing up so fast you could hear it happening while he slept) got together with his new friends? He’d done all the work, made the number exchange, was even offering to call the kids’ homes himself to set things up. Was it really still a ‘play-date’ when we had so little to do with it? When he was practically taking the bull by the horns and handling the whole thing himself?

No. Couldn’t be. I tried to figure out what to call it now, tried to think of something Handsome would not find insulting, or baby-ish. Something the cool kids were calling it these days (yes, I’m that old, I really talk like that), the kinds of kids Handsome was using as role-models, kids he wanted to hang out with himself.

I wracked my brain, trying words and phrases and discarding the. I was  talking to myself almost constantly whenever I was alone, trying new phrases aloud, trying to tell by hearing them whether they were the ‘in’ phrase or not, hoping to stumble upon something really incredible. I talked to other parents, people who had older children, that had gone through this long enough ago that they could talk about some of their failures in the cool word arena without actually breaking down in tears from remembered pain. I looked online, searching the phrase ‘cool phrases for hanging out’.

I Googled. I Yahoo’d. I Ask’d. I even Infospaced. And eventually, after days of research, I came up with an answer:

‘Hanging out’. The exact same thing I’d called it at his age.


I was all ready a couple of days later, when Robotics Camp was over, and I knew he’d want to call someone to make some plans. I was ready to jump into the conversation. I was ready to be cool.

I was prepared...

...or so I thought, at least until Handsome walked up to his mother and said the following:

“Hey, can I call DW and see if he can come over later on for a play-date?”

Son of a BITCH...

Talk to you later!

P.S. - This week's added video:

John Pinette talks about the Water Park!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Finger of Life

To Whom it May Concern:

This blog is a place for me to write things OTHER than my usual fiction, which does tent to be about Things Dark and Scary. I do have a little announcement to make on that front, though, and I'm kind of excited about it.


Late last week I signed and sent back a contract with Hazardous Press. They have agreed to publish my first book, a small collection of original ghost stories, all written by yours truly. It is called The Dead of Winter and is the first book in a proposed four-book series.

Huzzah! Happy-dance!

More information about the book (should you be interested) will be posted on my FaceBook Writer's Page (to get THERE, click HERE), so you can 'like' me there to get updates as more information becomes available.

That is all. We now return you to the blog post already in progress.

Here's the story:

I had a crap morning.

Well, it might not have started out as a crap morning. I mean, I’m not really sure about the walk from the bed to my desk, but if that part didn’t suck I’m not aware of it. But if part of my morning didn’t blow, then that was it. The part when I woke up and walked straight out to my desk. But right after that...

Let me explain. When I started writing I had an ancient laptop. It was on its way out, slowly wearing down with nearly constant use. I bought a nice little laptop to act as a replacement for it when it finally failed, put that nice new little laptop away while the ancient one finished dying, and just kept working. The stubborn old ancient one managed to hang on for just long enough that the warranty on the nice new laptop had expired before it gave up the ghost in the machine. I broke out the new warranty-less new laptop and started putting it to daily use.

...that’s when I found out the nice shiny new laptop has motherboard issues. Serious motherboard issues that make it hard to use as a portable laptop and will someday make it impossible to work on at all.

I cursed and swore and started shopping. I settled on a nice little Acer Chromebook, waited for it to go on sale so I could actually get one, new, for just $150, and tried it out.

It was fantastic. I love the feel of it, the portability, the size and setup of the keyboard, the
whole online aspect of working on it —  I had finally hit the ball out of the park. I had what seemed the perfect working tool for my writing, editing, emailing, researching... just everything I want and need a computer for. It was perfect. That’s what I had waiting for me when I walked out to my desk first thing in the morning. I had a Flash story to create, a blog post to write, and a metric buttload of editing still to do and I was going to do it all on my wonderful little ChromeBook.

I sat down.

I turned it on.

I heard a little whine, then a little wheeze, all in one sound. Whine-wheeze...

I listened.

I heard it again. Whine-wheeze...




I had recognized the sound of a hard drive slowly grinding itself to bits as it worked, grinding again and again, whine-wheezeing every few seconds. After just two months of use, just long enough for me to absolutely fall in love with it, my ChromeBook was beginning to destroy itself right beneath my very fingers.

I sat there for a while, listening and cursing, wondering how long my little ChromeBook had to live. I tried to look up information about it on the internet but the ChromeBooks seem to be too new for there to be a lot of failure info out there. I looked for the receipt, knowing full well that, though the machine was purchased just two months ago, no manufacturer was going to accept any kind of warranty claim without one.

I looked in my desk, pushing aside pens, papers and junk. I looked on my cork-board, rummaging through pinned submission calls and emails from publishers, casting aside receipt after receipt for other things, other purchases. I even found and searched through the original packaging the ChromeBook came in, all the manuals, quick-start guides, cardboard and styrofoam packing.

I did all that searching, but turned up nothing. Nada. Squat. But that’s not what completely ruined my morning. It was bad, don’t get me wrong, but it was not the final straw. The final straw happened when I turned around to leave the room.

I turned to find a huge hand right in my face. It was bigger than my whole head and just two inches from my nose and the middle finger was raised.

“How’s your day now, Dude?”

I peeked around the tremendous digit to find Life standing there in my room, giant grin spread across his face, long arm extended toward me with that lincoln log of a finger pointed skyward. He was big, he was wide, he was tall. As paradoxical as it sounds... Life was larger than life.

“Were you planning on keeping that little gem of yours for years and years?” he said. “Don’t you know I’m what happens while you’re making other plans? Read your own blog, man, read your own blog!”

There was laughter coming from somewhere behind him, but there was just too much finger in my face to see what was going on.

“Excuse me,” I said, holding tight to my temper. “You’re giving me the finger, and it’s right in my face. I mean right in my face. There’s really no need of that, is there? I mean, it’s both insulting and really, really annoying.”

Life laughed.

“That’s kind of the point, Dude!”

The finger pulled away a bit as he turned to look over his shoulder at where, I now saw, Fate and Chance were holding on to each-other to keep from falling down with laughter.

“He’s kind of a dumb-ass, isn’t he?” said Life. Fate and Chance gave it up as a lost cause and just collapsed to the floor, laughing so hard tears fell from their eyes like metaphysical rain.

That’s what did it. That was the last straw for my morning. Having a room full of anthropomorphic personifications of abstract concepts just pointing and laughing at you while one of them taunts you is enough to ruin anyone’s morning. I sat down in a huff to call Best Buy.

“Best Buy, can I help you?”

“Hi, I was wondering if you could issue a replacement receipt for me? If I came down there with the original packaging my ChromeBook came in, could you scan it and do some sort of inventory search and maybe re-print my receipt?”

“Sure! Oh... well, did you purchase it with a credit or debit card?”

“Um, no. I paid cash. Does that make a difference?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry, sir, but we have no way to track cash transactions through our system like that. If you had used a card on the purchase it would be no problem, but since you used cash... I’m sorry, sir.”

I hung up the phone.

Booya!” shouted Life, the big, hairy knuckle of his upraised middle finger actually brushing my ear as the other two hit the floor again, incapacitated by laughter once more. I looked at Life and his over-wide, class clown, schoolyard bully’s grin... and I kicked him in his great big larger than life nuts.

“How’s your morning looking?”I said as I stepped over his writhing form and headed for the door. I paused in the doorway, making a ‘hurry up’ motion with one hand. Misery scuttled around Life and caught up to me in the other room, and together we walked out to the Jeep to go run some errands.

Misery does so love company.

Talk to you later.

And this week's Bonus Video For Your Entertainment: Crazy Dancing Best Buy Guy!
Seriously, this video popped up when I did a search for the Best Buy employee I used above. I couldn't use it in the body of the blog, but there was no way I could pass THIS guy up!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is THAT Why They Call Them 'Huevos'?

Greetings WYMOP readers!
I'm a little closer to on time this week -- I mean, it's Sunday, so technically I made it on the weekend, right?

Anyway, here's the story...

~ ~ * * ~ ~

I dove into the water.

It was the only way to do it. The high day had been in the mid 90’s, and though by the time I had gotten out of work and gotten us to the pond it was far past the heat of the day, the water temperature was still nowhere near that of the air. When I’d stepped into the water my testicles had started to contract, indicating their complete willingness to shrink to the size of raisins and climb right up into my abdominal cavity should I continue in my foolish quest to dip them into the frigid pool. My actual intent was to plunge my whole body into the water, but testicles are selfish things, and they were interested in nothing more than their own self-preservation —  even to the point where I swear they took each-other hostage, with a whole “If you ever want to see lefty/righty alive, you’ll step right back out on shore, Bucko!”

I don’t deal with terrorists. I dove into the water.

My testicles silenced (and for the next five seconds or so, until my body adjusted to the water temperature, furious with me), I turned back to the real challenge: convincing Handsome to just dive in as well.

“Come on, buddy, the water’s fine!”

I sounded convincing. I sounded like I was telling the truth. Hell, I was telling the truth. Once my whole body was in it the water was quite comfortable, though much, much cooler than the still 90* air. Back at shore, Handsome stood in ankle-deep water and hugged the massive army of goose-pimples that had, until about a minute ago, been his skin.

“It’s cold!”

“It’s only colder than the air,” I said. “Once you get in it’s fine. I’m telling you, just dive in.”

He slunk forward, creeping slowly toward me, the water rising past his shins almost to his knees. He stopped again, hugging himself tighter.

Why is it that when we step into chilly water like this, when our feet are the body parts actually feeling the cold, we hug our chests? There was Handsome, knee-deep in water, everything above his knees still baking on the 90* day, and he was hugging his torso protectively, like someone was trying to give him a purple nurple. It looked ridiculous to me as I watched him, but when I thought back it occurred to me that I had done the same thing until I’d taken the plunge. Why is that?
Hmm... food for future thought.

Anyway, I knew why he’d stopped there, with the water dancing about just below his patellas: his testicles had just taken each-other hostage.

Now, every man reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about, but I might have to explain it for the ladies.

C'mon! How the hell has no one made
THIS connection before?

Picture Humpty-Dumpty. That’s right, the egg from the nursery rhyme with the bad luck and even worse insurance coverage, but this is before all that, when he’s healthy as a horse and half as smart. Big round egg with little spindly arms and legs, just about as non-threatening as you can get. He’s wearing a bow-tie, for Christ’s sake!

Now give him a twin brother. Got it? Can you see them, the pair of them, standing there side-by-side? All self-important but fragile and fairly ridiculous-looking? Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumpty?

Okay, now picture them looking down at the approaching water and their huge egg-faces suddenly register fear. The fear turns to anger as they look up at their bearer (in this case, Handsome, though a minute earlier it had been me) and they whip a pair of little knives out of their pockets. They start wielding the knives in a theatrical manner, circling and dancing around each-other while the music from the Jets vs Sharks scene in “West Side Story” plays in the background. Over the music they each shout threats up at their bearer amounting to “I get wet and I’ll cut him, I swear to God I will!”

You got all that? Good. Now picture it all happening down the front of someone’s pants.

Is it any wonder guys stop and stand there, terrified to take another step into the water even though they know it’s not really that cold? It’s a case of cartoono-testicular confusion, plain and simple, and I was seeing my boy in the throes of it. It about tore me up.

I had to help.

I moved toward shore, keeping low so that only my head was sticking out of the water. I made my way into water so shallow I was sitting on the bottom and had to crouch my torso a bit to keep my shoulders submerged.

“C’mere,” I said. “It’s not so bad right here.”

Handsome crept closer, cringing, yelping at every wave and eddy that pushed the water to new heights up the front of his legs. Just as he reached me the bottom hem of his swimsuit got wet, wicking action drawing cool moisture still higher on his body, and he hissed a quick intake of breath. I knew Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumpty had just stepped it up, maybe going so far as to have knives pressed to each-other’s throats down there, snarling with rage and demanding to be taken seriously, demanding not to be pushed. But my boy trusted me, trusted my judgement, so here he was standing right in front of me.

Suddenly he relaxed slightly, looking at me with a puzzled expression.

“You’re right,” he said. “It’s warmer here.”

He looked down at the water between us.

“Why is it warmer here?”

I simply sat and smiled at him. His eyes widened.

“Oh, that’s gross!”

He turned about and started a slow-motion sprint for shore, struggling to force his legs to move through the thigh-deep water with some sort of speed.  I counted two heaving, gallumphing strides …

… and that’s when I tripped him.

Three seconds later I was swim-splashing-running for deeper water, an enraged ten-year-old in hot pursuit, murder in his eyes. I waited until he had actually swum a few strokes because it had gotten too deep for him to run through before I asked him:

“So, how’s that water? Still too cold?”

That stopped him, and he thought about it. I could tell he was listening for that tell-tale music, but there was nothing; the knife-wielding dancing boys in his shorts were happily swimming around, best buddies again, talking about how silly they’d been and how that whole knife-fight thing would never happen again.

Until the next time.

“Nope,” he said. “I’m good.”

That still didn’t stop him from attacking me with intent to dunk.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

That's it for this week, talk to you later!
....and this week's Bonus Video: West Side Story!

...I mean Scrubs!

... I mean... oh, Hell, I dunno what I mean...