The Wood Miser

He had cut down the tree with a chainsaw, dragged it down the hill, and loaded it into the pile with all the rest. It was an oak of high grade – not quite a cherry, but good enough to slice into long boards and sell at a greater profit than the log alone.

The horses were already hitched in, so my son urged them to walk and turn the wheel. The bandsaw jiggled, and we loaded the log onto the carriage. A mighty heave of both man and horse shoved the log one step closer to a finished product.

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This was written for the Carrot Ranch prompt, long board. I’m descended from a bunch of loggers, and my grandfather had used a horse-driven sawmill long past the time when it was typically profitable in the US. But he sold high-quality wood, and he bred good draft horses (Percherons).

A Wood-Mizer, however, is a modern, portable sawmill for small-business loggers. My dad wanted a Wood-Mizer for so long, and I can’t even tell you how many hours of footage of watching people saw logs I have been forced to withstand. Yes, apparently you could at one time buy multi-hour-tapes of people sawing logs.

Pees-ta

one cheese pizza

“What is this?” asked Papaw. He squinted his glaucoma-weakened eyes, inspecting the food.

“Pizza,” Mama responded. “It’s just bread, cheese, and sauce.”

Mamaw harrumphed then told someone invisible, “This woman’s crazy. I’ll die – it’s poison. Look at how fat she is; I won’t eat her food.”

“Pees-ta,” Papaw said. “Sounds foreign. I was in the war, and I don’t like foreign food-”

“Just eat it,” Daddy commanded. “You’ll get used to it.”

Papaw took a bite, grimaced, and pushed away his plate. “This is for damn Garlic Eaters. I’m not eating this foreign trash.”

Mamaw just cackled. “Poison!”

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I wrote this for the April 2nd Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: Pizza.

This was based on a real-life event that happened in the late 90’s. My parents were silly and agreed to take my grandparents to Kentucky for a family reunion with my great-great-grand uncle’s branch of the family (they moved to Kentucky from North Carolina in the early 1900’s). At one stop along the way, my parents pulled us all over to a Pizza Hut, and my mom was surprised to find out my dad’s parents had never eaten Italian food before. I might have been, but I was still pretty young.

But think of it this way: IT WAS LIKE 1998 AND THESE TWO RED-BLOODED AMERICANS HAD NEVER TASTED PIZZA.

I still remember that event. “Pees-ta,” they called it. “Pees-ta,” they’d complain again, later in their lives when faced with the villainy of spaghetti with meatballs.

My Mamaw died this past December, but Papaw is still kickin’ around out there, driving despite being 97, nearly blind from glaucoma, and severely disliking Pizza.

Photo by kei photo on Pexels.com

The King

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Aunt Shoo put the final dollop of meringue atop the key lime pie. She placed it back in the oven to bake the meringue top.

I watched through the glass window – small back in those days – at the caramelizing sugar. “Aunt Shoo,” I asked, “What’s a key lime?”

“Well,” Aunt Shoo replied, bending closer to my tender height, “It’s the kind of lime Elvis liked, and it makes the kind of pie Elvis liked, so it has to be the best.”

“Who’s this ‘Elvis’?”

Her face blanched. “Come with me,” she said before leading me upstairs to her shrine.

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This was written for the December 5th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch, key lime pie. This is based on my real-life introduction to key lime pie, wherein my Aunt (who I called “Shoo” at the time because I couldn’t pronounce her real name) claimed it was Elvis’s favorite and thus should be enjoyed. Was it really his favorite? I don’t know. But she was convinced of it, and therefore I will believe it until told otherwise.

Also I don’t actually know if she has a shrine, I just thought that was a nice touch.

Lady’s Slipper Orchid – #Haiku

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Tiny pixie fits
Orchid slippers on her feet
Fly o’er mountain’s tip

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I thought I’d try my hand at the Ronovan Writes prompt #253, slip and tip (words are bolded), for a change up this week! Use two prompt words within a haiku (or tanka or whatever) and describe away! I used slippers for mine, and I hope that’s acceptable.

This week’s haiku (is it a haiku?) is about lady’s slipper orchids. These used to grow on the mountain where I grew up, and we’d dig them up before my dad logged a hillside and transplant them to a hollar up above our house. Mom did this because the flowers were supposed to be valuable to sell as medicine to weirdos, but we never took them for sale. I’m not even sure the flowers still live there or if the people my dad sold the land to have killed them off.

I had a hard time finding a picture of this flower. This picture is from the USDA forest service, cited to Thomas G. Barnes. You can find out more about lady’s slippers and other plants at their website. I accessed their site on 5/13/19.

5 Ways Getting Personal Can Affect Your Blog

Now before you think this post is going to get raunchy, settle down.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

This is about when your Real Life intersects with your blog (and perhaps business, depending on the importance of your blog) life.

5. Posts About Your Life Let People Connect with You

It’s all over the ‘how to blog’ or ‘how to market’ world – you, yourself, are a major part of what needs to be sold.  If people like you, they might be more likely to buy your stuff.  They might just want to hang out with you ’cause you’re cool.

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Cool as f*ck.

By depicting your journey, whether it be in writing or video gaming or even mommy-blogging, you can also elicit help and advice from people who know what to do.

Or, if you get famous like J.K. Rowling, people will flock to those posts and think they know you.  It’ll give superfans something to focus on without mobbing you, y’know?

One of my online heroes is MRE reviewer Steve1989.  He’s one of those people so invested in his hobby that he’ll probably die of it.  And, surprisingly, he’s one of the few internet famous people we know very little about beyond the fact that he didn’t have health insurance in 2016.  You could use this as proof that you don’t need to be personal to get famous, but then again you’re comparing yourself to a guy who’ll eat a 150 year old cracker on Youtube.

If you don’t want to be extreme, consider letting people into your life a little more!

4. Your Memoir Stories Are Great!

This is probably the benefit of being personal that I take advantage of most.  If you’ve had an interesting life or are basically cursed to live through unlikely circumstances, you can write something that people don’t even realize is real.

Your connection to your own life allows you to tap deeply into the emotions.  You can play off relationships, events, and knowledge from your own life.  You can make that time your great-aunt challenged your mom to a pudding contest seem much more intense than if you wrote about some vague, unreal people.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Not only that, you don’t have to come up with a plot for a memoir-esque tale.  On a day where you just can’t put something together, drawing from your own life can give your writing that extra ‘boost’ so you can finish it.

3. Make use of “Stay Tuned!” Moments In Your Life

Do you follow people and root for their success?  Do you look forward to posts about “I published my book” or “I published a short story”?  I do.

A lot of people want to watch you to see how you might succeed.  There’s this secret hope that you’ll crack into the published and/or famous world, then it’ll all seem possible.  And, as long as you don’t give up, people will want to check in and see how you’re doing.

Unless you give up on a goal or die, your life story is basically constant episodes of a soap.

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Every episode leaves a reader at a cliffhanger, and every post gives this need to keep following up.

2. Heckin’ Cathartic

Life sucks hard sometimes.

And, sometimes, it can feel pretty good to just get something off your shoulders.  In 2018, Hurricane Florence had my house clearly in her sights, and I was feeling pretty wary what with all the intense forecasts.  I wrote a lot of frantic, overly-zealous articles about getting ready for the storm (which last-minute zipped around me).

Even so, people online are usually nice and can help you out.  Sometimes they can be a bag of awful, but that’s when you can bring down the ban-hammer and know they won’t be back in that guise, at least.

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So write about your life.  Put what you need to say in order to move on.  Accept what comfort randos give you.

1. Sometimes, It’s Easy

I hinted to this one earlier in #4, but it’s true.  Writing about yourself can be easy.

Copying is terrible, since it’s basically cheating if you don’t cite (and sometimes if you do). However, you can copy your own life and no one will give a crap.  No one’s going to ban you from art school for writing about yourself and taking credit for it.  And, yet, it’s kind of like copying a story from a known source!

So use your life as a cheat sheet.  Write what you know doesn’t just improve your quality – it can also just give you an easy time.

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Have you shared personal stories or updates on your website?  Have you found any additional bonuses or – perhaps – downsides to sharing your own life story?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Dog Ghandi

I had a lot of dogs growing up, mostly because my parents didn’t do a terribly good job taking care of them and my brother and I were crappy to boot.  When I was in middle school, my mom took us to get our second Pomeranian.  I remember seeing that little ball of fur at the top of the stairs when we went to get him at the breeder’s.  I remember looking at my brother’s face and feeding off how his eyes lit up.  We all knew that dog would be coming home with us.

Spud was one of 2 pups to survive in the litter.  Born extremely prematurely, each about the size of a thumb, few of the pups were expected to survive – and some didn’t.  His premature birth meant he had bug-eyes and terrible vision, and he never had great constitution.

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Basically Gandhi

This is a brief set of flashes about Spud.

Johnny Fever

Johnny Fever was a brilliant, ruby-colored betta fish.  He lived in a tiny betta tank, and we’d entertain him with a mirror and food and sometimes let him watch our finger move around outside the tank.  He had a Gary the Snail toy inside the tank.

Johnny Fever, however, had other ideas of how to entertain himself.  Like suicide.

He’d knock the light lid off his tank and struggle for freedom, flopping off his coffee table and onto the floor.  There he would gasp for breath, dying without water to deoxygenate.

Spud, who was allowed to wander the house, found Johnny Fever several times.  I remember how he just laid down and started crying until someone came and rescued the fish.  Not once did he touch the fish, not once did he test it with a lick.  He just laid down and cried actual doggy tears until someone came to rescue the fish.

Stuffed Animals

Spud loved stuffed animals.  A one-dollar animal bought at the dollar store would provide him with a year of comfort before it would finally become too dirty or damaged to withstand.  Stuffing was never purposefully removed.

Every morning, someone would put food out for Spud to eat.  He would thank the person graciously with a couple twirls, then pick up a few kibbles and bring them to each of his animals.  Once done distributing the goods, he would go eat the portion he’d saved for himself.  Of course, after that was completed, he’d come nuzzle an animal, worry about why it wasn’t eating, then consume the kibble he’d given them.

He did this almost every morning.

The Man with No Nose

My dad owned his own construction company.  It was a small business, and he built houses and artisan cabinetry by hand.  One of the employees he had while we owned Spud was a man who’d been to prison for hauling and selling cocaine, but papers and probation officers said he’d reformed.  I never saw the man in person, but everyone said he was missing part of his nose from where it’d burned up from all the cocaine.

One evening, my dad caught me slinking through the dark living room.  He sipped coffee in the room, all the lights off, and asked me if I loved my dog.  He gave me an offer, said that the Man with No Nose would give me $1,500 for that dog.

I said no – I loved my dog.

$2,000.  $3,000.  How much would I be willing to sell that dog for?  The little rat couldn’t be worth that.

I wanted my dog.  I wanted to come home after school and see the little thing, go on hikes through the woods, carry him when he got tired.  I wanted to watch Le Tour with him during the summers.  I wanted to comfort him during hunting season when guns echoed through the mountains.

He took another sip of his coffee and said I didn’t love that dog, that I was passing up a great deal.

Hugging

Some dogs don’t like when humans hug each other.  Spud was no exception.

When two people hugged within his (albeit rather limited) line of sight, he would cry and run up to them.  He’d paw at their legs and squirm, as best he could, into the middle of the hug.  Upon reaching the center of the hug, he would stop crying and accept that all was right in the world.

A lot of dogs don’t like hugs because they feel trapped, but Spud would reach up with his front paws and beg to be hugged.  He’d wrap his little arms around you, fall asleep on your lap, and cry out to be loved.  He was patient with even small children.

Few small dogs can say the same.

The Crows

We lived in the middle of nowhere, and crows flew around everywhere.  Crow season meant the air was rife with the sound of bullets as people mowed through the murders.

Not exceptional in our hunting skills or our dedication to crow shooting, the little hollar in which I lived was home to a large number of crows.  Crows, while not mockingbirds, are still pretty smart and have complex vocal chords.  After figuring out that our little dog wasn’t truly competition for tablescraps, they also found a way to copy his high-pitched bark and barked back.

Out of all the things that could disturb this little, nearly-blind dog, crows caused him more consternation than anything else.  Though he usually ignored TV, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation contained a holographic crow as part of Data’s imagination, and poor Spud flipped out.  Any crow, whether on TV or real life, would make him cry and bark.

After killing him, my father supposedly put him in a shallow grave.  The crows may have dug up parts of him, left the majority of the work for buzzards or coyotes.

I can’t stand that thought.

Skeet Skeet

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It always burned my dog-hide that my little brother was more athletic than me.  It didn’t matter what game it was – whether football, basketball, bowling, or even shooting, he was always top notch whereas I was something much lower rung.

Every day after Thanksgiving, my extended family would get together and do some skeet shooting.  There was no winner, but there certainly were losers.  I was the lame-o nerd who ‘wasted expensive bullets’ and usually just threw some skeets.  Hell, even my cousin who smoked so much that he couldn’t run a lap around a football field could shoot better.  My grandpa who has super progressed glaucoma would laugh.

Every time I was forced to attend, the prayer slipped through my lips, dear Lord, why does the alternative to skeet shooting have to be shopping? 

(135 words)

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This was a rather detailed picture to write a story about for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers #194!  Just in case family members from my Facebook read this, know that this was only loosely based off real life, and I’m not mad. 

Thanks to Yinglan for the picture!

Squirrel in the Winter – #Tanka

A squirrel chitters
Outside double pane windows
I sip hot chocolate
While she eats frozen acorns
I stay quiet, she feels secure.

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This was written for Collen Chesebro’s weekly Tanka Tuesday #112 – Cold and Safe.  When I was growing up, we hunted squirrels vigorously – but one winter, a tiny squirrel climbed up on our porch and ate our dog’s food.  She would cuddle up against the window, from whence I suppose some heat emitted, and eat her bounty.  Our poor dog was basically Gandhi and wouldn’t defend his food, so we eventually started putting cereal grains and nuts out on a table so she’d have preferable goods to eat. 

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Spud – basically dog Gandhi

In the spring she had a nest full of baby squirrels in a tree nearby.  They grew up bigger than her, took her territory, and kicked her further into the forest where we never saw her again.  We later shot them and ate them. 

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Current pupper Hector who was bought because of Spud’s breed and turned out to IN NO WAY be dog Gandhi (but I still love him because he’s bold, brave, and fun)

10 Unusual Things About Me

I wasn’t officially tagged, but Sophia Ismaa left the invitation open – so here I am, gearing up to tell you some weird junk.  Perhaps you will relate, perhaps get a chuckle, but I assure you that it’s all true.

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I painted this.  Not a great artist, but a fun one!

  1. I was always intrigued by ‘milk and cookies’ grandparents on TV.  My grandma just wanted me to sit on their sawblade rug (it was a giant, steel sawblade on the floor, I kid you not) while she talked with dead people in the mirror and my grandpa complained about how he only had a couple years left in him and he just hoped Grandma would die first.
  2. A few years ago, I did beta reading on another site and posted a short story I wrote for others to critique.  I had left the narrating character’s gender purposefully vague, and I wanted to see what readers thought about it.  I was surprised to find most people assumed the character was the gender the reader was. I was also surprised that they also believed I, the author, was their gender even though I used a definitely gender-recognizable name at the time.  I started this blog with a side goal to see what would happen if I kept myself vague, and the same trends seem to apply here as on that little critiquing site.
  3. I was born with extra heart nerves that gives me weird arrhythmias. It’s under control now, but they may become a nuisance again later.
  4. I had extra teeth.  Several of my teeth were pulled, as scheduled, on September 11th, 2001, the day I contracted chicken pox.
  5. I have the ability to lucid dream – i.e. actively control what the main character does during a dream.  I don’t know if this is normal, but I’ve trained myself to look at clocks twice.  If the time is the same or reasonably the same both times I look, it’s real life.  If it’s different or otherwise nonsense, I know it’s a dream and can act with impunity.  I haven’t figured out how to make my brain defeat the physics of the universe the dream started with, though.
  6. In high school, I once purposefully stabbed a guy in the leg with a drafting compass, and I can’t decide if that makes me a supreme nerd or an inimitable badass.
  7. In middle school, I took a different guy down with a single leg followed by a trip, beat his face into the cement, then stood up and told the teacher who saw, “He deserved it” and somehow won with that argument.
  8. A couple years ago, I moved back to North Carolina and started working for one of my former coworkers who’d been very successful.  I reminded him how we met:
    “Hello, I’m H.R.R. Gorman.  What’s your name?”
    “I’m an atheist.  How does that make you feel?”
    “Uh… fine I guess?”
    “I am also communist.  What about that?”
    “I guess that’s ok too-”
    “I am Stalinist!  How about now?”
    “Uh… um… whatever floats your boat?”
    “You’re no fun.” He then stormed out of the room, failing to introduce himself at that time.
    Upon receiving this reminder, he said, “I don’t remember this.  I wouldn’t have done something like that without provocation.”
    “I used to wear a lot of Baptist t-shirts.”
    “Oh.  That would do it.”
  9. I enjoy procuring knowledge about terrible music.  Traditional Korean pansori barely beats out Lemonade by Coco Rosie for the title of “Worst Ever” in my book.
  10. I’ve played a total of 5 paladins in D&D.  It’s my favorite class by a wide margin.

This was originally a tag game, so I suppose I should do so.  However, I am aware of a sense of busy-ness that comes along with the National Novel Writing Month, and I don’t want anyone tagged here to feel obligated to participate.  So, I’m linking front pages rather than posts so no one gets distracted if they don’t want to be.

E. Kathryn – her book is coming out soon!  Woohoo!
Tom Darby – Dude has an interesting life, what can I say?
Marnie Heenan – I know you’re doing NaNo, but maybe this will be something fun to look forward to after

People like Brian from Books of Brian and Alexander Elliot – your sites are professional enough that I wasn’t sure if I should try tagging with something of this personal ilk.  Just know that I’m impressed and wish you the best!

Memoir Monday – Regrowth of the Woods

I grew up surrounded by new woods.  The trees were young, regrowing from the clear-cutting of eastern forests that had happened only a couple generations ago.  I always felt a connection to these woods, since my father and grandfather and great grandfather before him had all been loggers, dependent upon regrowth, conservation, and subsequent destruction.

Sometime when I was younger, my dad gave up the trade in favor of building houses.  I think this was the right decision for him, since he actually had a mentally difficult time cutting down trees (he’d mark trees in our forest that he wanted to save with a blue ribbon), and that neither me nor my brother became truly invested in the trade.  We learned the values of logs, qualities of wood, and the meaning of ‘dodey hollow.’  I enjoy wormy chestnut more than the average human.

And so, with all these eastern deciduous trees, my dad of course loved fall.  The quality of the leaf color could indicate the health of the environment overall, especially the amount of rainfall from the summer.  Reds, yellows, and oranges abound in seasons where the trees are healthy and the rains are not too heavy.  Several years after he’d logged a section, the leaves returned.

I used to take long hikes through our woods in the fall.  I’d put on an orange toboggan, meant to keep me safe from hunters (our land had no fences), and hike up to unknown places like Kent’s field or Circle Top.  I can’t imagine why I thought I was safe from the bears and cougars without even a shotgun, but middle school me didn’t seem to care.

Just before I became an adult (and I mean just, since I turned 18 only a month later), my parents split up.  Though I agree it was the right decision, my mom sold her part of the land, and I expect to see nothing from the parts my dad has retained.  Late one fall, I drove over to some of the old hiking grounds, found the spot where I suspect my dad had murdered my dog, and buried letters avowing remembrance.  That was the last time I hiked through those woods, and I doubt I regrow like the trees that marked Spud’s grave.

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This was a true story by H.R.R. Gorman.