Matter of the Heart

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Paradise Island

Matter of the Heart

What was I doing here? It seemed a sad inertia was in control of my body.

Beautiful, yes, this sand and sun part of the world! And, it was a promise my heart compelled me to keep…after so many tears and a fragile restoration from the pain and finality of impending death. Those who have lost the warm cloak of love will know of what I write.

Before coming inside to sit on the big bed to write my thoughts of desperation and longing, I stood on the 9th floor balcony of the ‘Royal Tower’ and gazed out over the beauty that is all of Paradise Island Bahamas.

Close to my tower, people and kids watched the feeding of large Manta rays, while, in the next large pool, loud cheering came from children and their parents as brothers and sisters slid quickly down the steep, thick, clear round-tube through water where sharks swam all around them. My wan smile of acknowledgment came and lingered briefly from the shrieks of play and excitement in the large pool below.

I began my writing…

This is for you, Johnny, these words my heart and soul convey, words which I pray will give me sustenance to continue life – a tenuous blur in my mind during the past few days…

We spoke of coming here to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort just two months ago at our most beautiful first anniversary dinner, one week before your cancer diagnosis came from your doctor. As always, you faced that awful information in your fashion, showing your acceptance and lack of concern. “Hey,” you said, “doctors make mistakes! I feel great and plan on living for many years with my lovely bride.” You kissed me softly on the lips and gave me your brave smile.

On our arrival home, I tried, too, for bravery, but failed. You saw my tears, gathered me in your arms, carried me to our bed and slowly, with moments of playful tease and tormenting delays, made spectacular love to me. You made me momentarily forget the terrible news of the diagnosis.

The days that followed were much the same. You took me with you on your business trip to Seattle, even allowed me to be present during your major appointments. You would not be without me for a moment. My love for you, always at its highest point, came near to eruption, to the degree of silly school girl antics. I clung to you, stopped on the busy sidewalks of Seattle to embrace, kiss you, in such a state of euphoria that I could almost forget the dreadful cancer news…almost! It hovered just above my consciousness, bringing deep dips of sorrow at the prospect of losing you.

Then, there came the Tuesday telephone call from doctor Dearfield’s office. You were to check into the Holy Cross Hospital at 8:00 AM the next day to start treatments. From your soft and inaudible voice while talking to the doctor, I knew the seriousness of the situation. I also saw the momentary closings of your eyes and the dropped chin.

After the phone call with the doctor, you insisted, without allowing my dissent, that night would be our last together. Your arguments were selfish, you said, that you would not allow me to see your declining days of health caused by Cancer’s newest treatments, including sessions of Chemo therapy. You made me promise not to show up at the hospital. You gave me the first-class ticket to Nassau, booked my ‘top priority’ suite at the Atlantis Bahamas for a three-week stay. You said, if the news proved good, you would be joining me at Atlantis. If the news were negative, our Tuesday night would be our last night until we met in God’s eternity. We were locked in each other’s arms all that night, me, saying silent prayers…

I stopped writing when tears began blotting my pages. I was hopelessly lost in my lassitude, laid back on the bed until feelings of anxiety hit me, got up, left the lovely suite and walked aimlessly around the grand resort.

Below ground, I walked along the thick concrete walls of the world’s largest marine exhibit, passing within three feet of all kinds of exhibits, sharks, rays, all kinds of water life, swimming up to the thick glass enclosure where families touched them safely via the glass. Even in a lethargic state, I managed to find some minimal escape from my despair.

After walking up and through the large casino, I returned to my room. It was 5:00 PM. I took a sleeping pill and soon fell asleep among the tear-blotted pages written some hours earlier.

For the next few days, it was much the same for me, ordering room service food, eating only parts of it, picking up the pen to write more thoughts on paper and giving up when the tears came. Johnny’s face I saw as an image on the glass sliding doors to the balcony, on the bathroom mirrors, in my mind when eyes were closed. The weather outside was beautiful, and, even in my grief, I could understand the popularity of this paradise.

Even with the beauty of Paradise Island, the walls closed in on me, forcing my movement, either to the pool area or the beach.

On Friday morning of my second week, I awoke with the same torpid lack of mobility, dregs from the sleeping pills, ordered room service coffee and eggs Benedict, drank the coffee, left most of the eggs Benedict. I picked up my pen to write more about Johnny, and, again, began crying.

Outside the weather was all sun and blue skies. I took off my pajamas and put on my bikini, grabbed a beach towel and noticed I was still wearing the last gift Johnny had given to me – a most elegant diamond-studded pendant with a lush heart-shaped Garnet gem. I placed the pendant on the dresser, lingered over it for a few seconds until the tears thought about returning, and walked out the door.

The sun felt strangely good on my body, adding pleasantly to my lethargy. I tried not to think, but it was impossible. Johnny was so solidly in my thoughts, and I truly wondered if I could live without him. I turned my body on the beach towel to the tummy, my back needing some sun.

As I lay there on my tummy, my face upon my folded arms, eyes closed, reliving memories, I felt something drop to the sand in front of my face, a few sprinkles of sand touching my forehead.

Impulsively, I raised my head and glanced at the sand in front of me.

My heart skipped several beats! My head and entire body was tingling with titillating thoughts.

Quickly, I turned over onto my back and sat up.

Standing above me with a wide grin on his face was Johnny!

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” I blurted and jumped from the beach towel and threw myself into his open arms.

“You just buried your Garnet pendant!” he said, with a mock sneer. “That cost me a few bucks, you know! And you leave it on a dresser in a resort?”

“Oh, Johnny, Johnny!” I sighed deeply, “You’re here… Are you cured?” I kissed him so much he couldn’t answer.

He finally disengaged enough to mutter: “You ever hear of ‘remission’? That’s me! The ‘Remission’ man! On a mission to re-claim my lovely, lovely bride. Shall we get a drink and celebrate?”

“Not just a drink, Johnny! I have a lot more in mind for you!” A quick thought hit me. “That is, unless…” in my stuttering way, “there are health issues.” I gave him my raised eyebrows and soft smile.

Johnny slapped me on my ‘buns’, smiled broadly, and said, “Bring it on, baby! I’m up to the task!”

“Make that, ‘tasks’, please, Johnny!”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – (Rpt)

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Somebody Likes Us!

“Somebody Likes Us!”

We all have our reasons for writing and it’s a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard…to fulfill a desire…to become established, famous, successful…to simply tell a story…to scratch an ego itch…for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let’s just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose.

So we write a few books and there come the critics, the reviews that can range from 5-Star to 3-Star, even lower. The world of reading seems to thrive on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer’s effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer.

So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book…sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change — extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, etc. In the end you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Star, the 3-Star, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe even agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns…there is an initial sinking feeling which will likely become anger, and, at some point, you will equivocate, deny, only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.

Your thought processes on reviews run the gamut. ‘What gives this person the right to publicly condemn my efforts, this Hannah Housewife, this Harold Husband’? Hell, I likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing me! You go back and re-read the 5-Star and 4-Star reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you’re in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful dithering. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world’s ‘ways and means.’

Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.

All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other writers do not have our book flaws. Most probably, we have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some certainly will because talent cannot be denied too long.

It is difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but it seems to me we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us. My belief is you get better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course. Somebody Likes Us!

Billy Ray Chitwood (Rpt)

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Sinful Desperation

Sinful Desperation

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Sinful Desperation

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood-

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

He stared at the ceiling as he reclined on the big bed, his naked body stretched straight, seeking relief from his back pain.

“It’s been years, my son, since your last confession. I hear desperation in your voice. Is the Church your last bastion of hope?”

A mournful smile of contrition and watery eyes looked upward to the ceiling. He would play both parts of this little satire from his soul, not mocking the billions of people who habitually practiced their faith in a Deity, rather, an awkward attempt at an anodyne for his pain.

“Yes, Father, on all accounts…” a back spasm interrupted his soliloquy and he sought another position on the bed. He was too tightly wound and needed to move his limbs in some exercises the cute young lady in physical therapy had insisted he practice each day.

Finally, he found some relief and continued with his conversation with the ‘Holy Father’ there in the center of his ceiling. “Yes, Father, many years, and, in conflicting ways, a lifetime ago, yet, now, here, as the filmstrip of my earthly adventure unveils itself to me, my weekly spiritual visits to your Church seems not so far away.”

The man was almost ready to hear a reply. Not to be, he continued.

“So, on to my confession, Father, one, I fear will take more than a few ‘Hail Marys’ and a heavy penitence to absolve.” The man closed his eyes and his face took on a grimace.

“I confess to one of Man’s oldest of the seven sins, Pride. All my life I’ve taken umbrage with people who sully me, sometimes, in simple remarks that attempt to jest and tease. Perhaps that sin comes from a youthful disconnect with family and a poor quality of life. This sin has cost me friends and love connections. It is also truth to say it is the least of my sins.

“I confess to an earlier life rife with excessive sensual pleasures, Lust/Debauchery of the wicked and most wild, orgy-filled, salacious kind. I sought out and experimented with life’s underworld of Bacchus-plus drug madness. There were moments of intense euphoria, gratification, and immoral depravity.

“And, when the days and nights of playing Nero’s mad fiddle ended, there were tears, self-recrimination, times for soul-wrenching and no resolutions: preparation-time, it could be said, for the next ‘big toot’.

“I confess, Father, to periods of Envy, of Sloth, of Gluttony, and of Greed.

“There remains one more sin, Father, that of Wrath. I have saved it for the final portion of my confession because there was a prelude of most, if not all, the seven virtues before its denouement… a period in my life of happiness so fulfilling, so real, that it seemed my life had found its right and true moral compass.

“Having run the gamut of my ‘fiddling’ days, I sought to find a more righteous purpose in my life. A friend of mine who had been lost in the same forest of shame as I invited me to go to church with him on a beautiful Sunday morning in June. After smiling stupidly at the idea, I decided to go…to see how the ‘moral half’ lived.

“Are you still with me, Father? Have I lost you in my recount of decadence?”

The man could almost see the Father’s smile. “How could I not? What with such an interesting life you present to me?”

“You, Father, speak with a forked tongue. You must know it’s the fires of hell I’m destined for!

“Whatever, at the beautiful church with my friend, I met Maureen, a woman of remarkable beauty I felt destiny had placed in my path. We both felt a Karmic bonding and began a long relationship which ended in marriage.

“Our love was pure and, by any standard, storybook. We danced in the moonlight and worked every day at our jobs, saved our money and became wealthy, mostly by her artistic talent and her huge following. We were together all the moments we were not working or at a painting exhibition.

“We had a baby boy who died in his sixth month of an undiagnosed tumor.

“Maureen and I were devastated by Brian’s death, but, for her, there was an emptiness she could not fill. She began drinking. She stopped painting, and fate pulled her from me into the arms of another man. She was still trying to fill the void left by Brian.

“We began to argue, our spats becoming an ugly, yet another obtrusion to our love.

“Last night, Maureen arrived home after midnight, clearly in the mood for another spat. I pleaded with her to go to bed. She became infuriated with me and began slapping me. The slaps made me angry, and I tried to wrap my arms around her to carry her off to bed. She stomped my foot with the heel of her shoe and pushed me backward. I began to fall and grabbed her wrist instinctively to secure my footing. Then, she, too, began to fall, and I let go so she could get her footing. Her head banged loudly into the granite counter in our bar area and she went down onto the carpet, blood spreading out in a profuse flow from the gash. Maureen died last night, Father.”

The man could almost hear the sorrow in the Father’s voice, see the pain on his face through a small imagined window in a small imagined confessional.

On the bed, as tears flowed from the man’s eyes, he saw a pale shadowy figure, an apparition, Maureen, her arms extended toward him, her sad tearful eyes and still beautiful face beckoning to him.

The man’s face was covered in tears, his voice gagging and pitiful gasps, as he thrust the butcher knife upward into his heart.

The bedroom was silent in its darkness as the two wraiths walked across the room to eternity.

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood  (Rpt)

June 26,2018

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#Author Interview: Billy Ray Chitwood

Reblog, Tina… Thanks so much for a nice interview! ♥

TINA FRISCO

Author Billy Ray ChitwoodI’m delighted to help promote the relaunch of Billy Ray Chitwood‘s novel, Mama’s Madness, to be released June 21st. Billy Ray is the author of 14 books, in the genres of fiction and nonfiction memoir. Many of his novels were inspired by true events. He describes himself as a dreamer, a wanderlust, a stereotype of many in his generation, and a young man in an old man’s body who is trying to catch up with himself and find the pieces he left behind in a disconnected youth and early years of manhood.

Mama's Madness by Billy Ray Chitwood

Pre-order HERE

Blurb

A story inspired by a northern California news account a few years ago … Some of the details in this fictional penning are true. Some of the details are exaggerated and are simply the work of the author’s imagination. What is clearly evidenced in this novel is the coldness of a mother’s heart and…

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Book Promo – The CONTRACT between heaven and earth – by John Howell & Gwen M. Plano…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Thank you, Chris, for inviting us to join you today. We are super excited to be featured on The Story Reading Ape’s Blogand promise to be on our best behavior. In fact, we have made a pledge not to make off with any of the fruit.

The Contract

Available onKindle andPaperback

Kindle priced at $0.99 for the introduction

The CONTRACT is a different story for writers John W. Howell and Gwen M. Plano. For either of them, it is their first attempt at co-authorship. After a year of Hurricane Harvey and other challenges, they have created, what they have termed, an inspirational thriller that bridges heaven and earth.

Here is the blurb:

The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an…

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I’m Alone

I’m Alone

With only my memories… 

I sit alone on the hill

and watch the sunset…

Faces float by in surreal silence

And, In words

only I can hear,

each tells a story of My life,

unadorned with gratuitous Words

of praise and solicitude…

With each face, 

  With each story,

I know where I have failed and

Corrupted my own existence.

On the still sultry air,

I hear ‘could have been’ echoes

Through the lonely caverns

Of my soul.

I sit alone

as the Sun hastens

The night

and the demons 

Of regret and remorse.

A Life so frivolously wasted

On Wanderlust and Longing.

So it must be

that a life be lived

In such disarray

no matterThe Cause…

For it is fodder

for theFools to come.

*

@Billy Ray Chitwood – April 29, 2016-RW

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Love’s Ironic Twist

(From the author’s book: SATAN’S SONG – A Bailey Crane Mystery Bk. 2)

– NEW Re-Launch The Month of June –

The unmistakable alluring aroma of coffee came to me at 8:30 AM that Saturday morning. It was one of the most satisfying smells in the universe.

I sneakily left the bed and went to the bathroom, silently closed the door, brushed my teeth, scraped the tongue, and shaved. Emerged from the bathroom in an old ASU football jersey, faded jeans, and white canvas shoes, went to confront Pam.

She was sitting on the patio, dressed also in jeans and one of my old striped dress shirts. Poured myself a cup of coffee and went out to join her. A closed book was on her lap, and the newspaper on the wrought iron table. Her legs were resting on one of the other chairs and she had a wistful little girl look on her face as she stared at the bougainvillea bushes on the western end of the patio. She was really deep within herself and that grapefruit-size knot returned to my stomach.

Mood swings were part of my reality. For Pam, they were more rare. When either of us was in a mood, we stayed out of each other’s way until it passed. This time, it was necessary for me to intrude into her space.

“Wanna talk?” My voice was soft and meek. Closed the french door behind me, placed my coffee on the table next to the newspaper and sat down.

She looked at me with that cute enigmatic smile that was her trademark. Was it just me or were her eyes misty from crying?

“Hi, how was your trip to San Diego?” Like there was no last night, no scratching record to remove, and no Pam at home with me.

“Trip was fine. Where were you?” No small talk. This was on a definite ‘need to know’ basis.

“Out. With friends. Had some drinks.” Pam looked at herempty cup on the table. “I’ve gotta get another cup of coffee.”

Jumping out of my chair, “I’ll get your coffee. Sit.”

I returned, sat her coffee in front of her, and asked: “Pam, no smoke and mirrors, please. My gut’s in a knot. Why is my gut in a knot, Pam? Why do I wake up at 3:00 AM on the sofa and find my wife in a bed she wasn’t in hours earlier?” I sat erect in my chair, feet firmly on the ground, my arms on the chair supports. Needed a cigarette in times like this.

Pam did a little head bow, hesitated, picked up her coffee and took a sip. “Didn’t want to wake you and have a scene. You were obviously loaded. You seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Even started your classical tape over for you.”

“Gee, thanks!” snidely rendered, “Okay, loaded on the sofa. Sleeping peacefully. Now awake and sober, so tell me about last night.”

“Told you, Bailey. Drinks with my friends, Am I not allowed? Is clearance needed?” She was emoting the damned issue.

“Come on, Pam. Dispense with the rationalizing crap. You know you’re allowed and you know damned well I would want to know. And what’s with the ‘clearance’ bullshit? You know that’s not true. You’re married to a cop, dammit! Don’t lay this stuff on me.”

“Okay, okay! Larry was in the group, and I knew you would be pissed about it.” She looked down at the table.

“Larry Clarkson?” The knot got bigger, and I got angry. “Your ex-lover! Oh, and you thought I’d be pissed? Right? Me, pissed?” The jolt had the adrenaline doing crazy things to me. It was difficult to think, to formulate a response.

“Yes, pissed!” she yelled. “Look at you, you’re …”

“I’m what? I’m sure not pissed. I’m fucking outraged! How could you do that? How could you be with him?” I got up and stomped around the patio. Picked up the newspaper and slammed it back on the table. “How, Pam? How?”

“Bailey, you don’t own me! I have a life. I have a right to see people. My friends. You do your thing. You don’t ask my permission.”

“Bullshit! You always know where I am. And you damned well know I wouldn’t be with an ex-lover. You’re doing a puppet show, Pam. I can see it. I can see it all. The way you’re talking, reacting. It’s bullshit. You know what you did last night, and I know what you did. You got laid by an ex-lover. You got …”

“Bailey, stop it! Stop it now!” She was angry and she was scared, but not of me. I could not and would not hurt her. She was scared for us.

“Okay, Pam, I’ll stop it. But look me in the eyes, straight on, and tell me. Tell me you did not fuck Larry Clarkson last night.” My hands went gently to her shoulders, turning her to face me.

“Tell me you did not, Pam!”

Her tear-filled eyes finally lifted to meet mine, and I could see the awful truth without her uttering it. Oh, her love for me was there, too, and her shame for having hurt me. I could see a little girl lost, abused and frightened, wary yet bold, confused and unable to lock in totally, wanting to but unable to lock in totally to something so rich and promising as the love we felt for each other. I could see my own image in her eyes, tears welling and falling down my cheeks. An enormous hurt consumed me and, in that moment, some atavistic awareness clutched my heart as though this hurt passed well beyond and back from now and on into the yesterdays of tomorrow.

I released her shoulders and dropped my hands. She began to speak, “Bailey, I …”

“No, Pam,” my voice betrayed me, choked, “don’t say any-thing just now … It’s okay … You’re allowed.”

I stood and left the patio. In the bathroom, I turned both faucets on full force to drown the noise of the great heaving sobs, the rending of my soul. Even there, in that painful place of the heart, could grown-up men cry?

Married three and a half years, gloriously happy years for the most part, always on a honeymoon, it seemed.

Our pasts had caught up with us. The raw ugliness of her youth had merged with the senseless bible-belt guilt of my own. Perhaps all along our fate had been inevitable, sealed in the quiet desperation of our search to find one another, seeking to match souls not ready for matching … There was something dark and deep in the lower part of our consciousness that knew all along that we could never be that wondrous storybook love of our dreams.

Here on the surface of flesh reality, away from the deeper unknowable truths of soul, it was true that too much ego and pride can cripple the mind of man. My endowment had been an over-generous amount in those areas, yet I could still fancy myself as having compassion and humility in just as great quantity. Ah, abstract bullshit! I was suffocating on my own self-pity, feeling a lethargy of spirit never known in my adult life until now. Compassion and Humility was at war with ego and pride.

‘A dandy little pitiable pit you seem to be digging for yourself,’ my alter guy kept telling me the next couple of days, over and over until it became rote, feeling perhaps that the repetition of some sane reality-based statement might shorten the excavation period. It worked and it didn’t work.

Pam was near obsequious in her efforts to please me and somehow erase the one event that a man has the most difficult time erasing. This was merely the perception, not her intent. She was truly sorry and in pain herself. There were no screaming and yelling scenes after the truth had been revealed. There were no revenge and get even inferences or thoughts. We even slept in the same bed. Alone. There was just a stifling and onerous apathy. It occurred to me that I should be angrier, more the damaged party. But it simply hurt, more devastatingly than the searing stab of a knife or the stinging bite of a gun-shot. And it hurt to watch Pam go through her own agony, her soulful regret at having caused me pain. Our love was still there, just parked at a spot inaccessible to us.

It was everything I’ve said but it was embarrassingly more: it was the slow peeling away of my being, the fabric of what I conceived myself to be. It was low time, slow time, and second-guessing time. Pam and I walked on proverbial egg shells covering mounds of quick-sand, imitating some inane, inadequate, secondary semblance of life.

Ego and Pride, evil twin brothers in man’s march through life!

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 31, 2018

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