Tag: bloggers

Writing: Is It The Pits?

Writing: Is It The Pits?

There is no earthly or worthy reason why you should heed any advice I might give on the topic of Writing. Oh, I can claim to have taught briefly a course in Advanced Writing to high school seniors on their way to college, and, only my Deity can explain it, but I have written nineteen books and am working on the twentieth.

Having written those books, I’ve done little in the way of marketing them. I’ve deliberately eschewed seeking out a publisher because of the rejection slips I received many years ago when I was writing my six-book ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. When self-publishing came into popularity, I went crazy and madly published too many books too fast, subliminally thinking readers were going to gobble them up. Talk about Chutzpah.

Okay, the truth is, I’ve always been frugal with money – except for the very large and expensive things in life, like, cars and luxury homes…yes, I like luxury living and won’t give it up. Well, there’s more than one truth. I spent most of my earlier years in the neon lights of lotus-eating, getting married, getting divorced, getting married, getting…you get the picture. So, some common sense came via ‘air mail’ to the left-side of my brain (Or, is it the right-side?) somewhere around the Gail Sheehy’s ‘Forty-Plus Crucible’ stage in Passages. I married a lovely down-to-earth lady with the common sense I never had and have somehow metamorphosed into that sensible place…well, for the most part. I’m still dilettantish to a fault.

Now, I just write, literally, write – blogs, novels, romance, mystery, thrillers, memoirs, even inject some fantasy occasionally. To the exclusion of, say, keeping up with the social media mélange of tips for writing, how to get an agent, how to write the next great novel, common mistakes made in writing, how to market your book, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, really, need I go on? I just WRITE.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that I was likely never going to get discovered by a publisher or by an agent who could get me published, so, I WRITE. No, the sales of my books are not making me zany with joy, far from it – think of an antonym, like ‘zensible’. Think of the smallest grain of sand. That’s I, me, or my nineteen books – under a tall and wide five-ton pile of pebbles. So, I WRITE.

I’m in Twilight now, and I use that descriptive word so as not to admit to an age I don’t feel nor care to reveal…ah, see, a rhyme. I’m amazing, to me, I’m amazing. You don’t have to think so. You might think so if you read one of my books, particularly, if you read Dominique, or, Daddy, No! or, Mama’s Madness, or, Stranger Abduction, or…well, just go to https://billyraychitwood.com and pick one. Many of my books in the Mystery genre are fiction from fact, because evildoers have always held a morbid fascination for me, you know, how could any person do some of the hideous crimes we see on TV and in daily newspapers? Many of my books are in the Romance genre, love stories with some suspense and intrigue.

Finally, with all I’ve written here, here’s a writing tip that works for me. If you have the penchant for writing, feel like you can write, you might try it. Here’s what I do: I look over at my lovely wife and say, “Hey, honey, give me a phrase, any phrase, known, not known, just give me a phrase.” She’s reluctant because I’m taking her away from her book-reading or her genealogy, but I pick on her enough until she finally gives me a phrase.

From that phrase, I will write a blog post. That post might one day become a full-fledged book. That simple phrase unlocks my mind and the words flow. Maybe, in the scheme of things, my blog posts are not so great, but I like them, my wife likes them, my friends like them, and maybe that must be enough. That phrase gets me to writing, and the more I write the better wordsmith I believe I become. Hopefully, it can work for you.

So why not leave me a phrase in the comments below, it might form a blog post, or, trigger another new book.

Happy Writing.

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 8, 2019

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Close Call

Close Call

Just a bit tipsy when I left the Cannery Row bar, the hour was Ten PM, and I knew there were business calls to be made in Monterey the next day just as there was with this day ending. I walked down the lighted street until I came to the alleyway where I earlier parked my car. It was a short alleyway from the main street into a relatively small unlighted parking lot between a cluster of tall brick buildings.

The thought did occur to me that I could be an easy prey in this special part of the California I once knew. Maybe it was more than a thought. Perhaps it was a premonition.

John Steinbeck made this little piece of the world famous with his book, Cannery Row, in 1945, a story set during the Great Depression about the ‘earthy’ people of the author’s memory going back to 1930 of the men and women who lived bawdy lives, drank, and died. 1945 was the year the ‘seiners’ brought in 250,000 tons of sardines, the final year of such heavy yield. The following year was 25,000 tons of sardines. Despite the warnings from marine biologists, the sardine cannery and sardines would be seined out of existence.

Back to my woeful tale, I stepped from the alley into a parking area of pitch-black darkness. My tie was loose around my neck and my white shirt was slipping out of my trousers all rumpled. I looked the part of a drunken sot, but without the weaving and swaying. To some extent, that rumpled image can be taken as true…just a bit too much entertaining the clients seen that day.

So, into the blackness I went. Suddenly, from the darkness came two young men, each grabbing an arm, the one to my right was consistently punching me just above my bicep.

“Give us your wallet, mofo!” one thug whispered with emphasis that begged to be heeded.

Dumbfounded, I complied with the demand and handed over my wallet. The hoodlum on my right was still punching me above my bicep while gripping so tightly I could only feel the jolts.

Just as quickly as the two bad boys grabbed me, it was over. They ran quickly away into the blackness, while I stood momentarily staggered with incipient anger and frustration building. It quickly dawned on me that all my credit cards and some hundred-plus dollars were in my wallet.

I hurried from the parking lot down the short alleyway and called the police. When two officers arrived, I gave them the information that I had which was precious little, gave them my temporary lodging address – the Casa Munras, in Monterey, if memory serves correctly.

It was only when I returned to Casa Munras and began to pull my suit coat off that I noticed my blood-soaked right sleeve. The young punk was not punching me. He was stabbing me with a pocket-knife. The police prior obviously figured I knew about the bloody coat arm.

My wallet was found sometime during the next day in a street near Cannery Row.

Thankfully, my credit cards were all there. The money was gone.

I love John Steinbeck, studied him in college along with Ernest Hemingway and other notable American novelists, but, John, I won’t be visiting Cannery Row again – except through the pages of your classic book.

Incidentally this little scrap of a story is true of a younger me during my educational rep days.

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 1, 2019

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Save That Dream

Save That Dream

 The colors were devastating, people sharply defined, the music from the band magically soothing, and my boldness stronger with each sip of the Manhattan on the rocks. It was my third and I was entering that stage of liquid laxity that was both delightful and dangerous, a moment that needs little elaboration for the lotus-eater that controls my moments of merriment, and, good golly, the big band was playing a slow tune. The song was ‘Theme from a Summer Place’, an all-time favorite of mine, one of those marvelous tunes that makes dancing with a lovely lady so very special…so, where was the lovely lady?

It was a special ‘Spring Dance’ in honor of the city’s sesquicentennial, and I was a resident author invited because of my philanthropy, that is, spending so much money in the pubs throughout the city, many donations to various civic causes, and in serious search for a wife replacement. Now, that’s rather blunt, but it’s the truth. A successful author in his prime, having divorced one trophy wife for taking her flirting activities too far, searching all anew for another trophy wife… I’m a bit like Brigham Young, you know, I don’t care how you Bring’em, just bring’em young. One other thing, about the resident author, successful author, let’s keep that between us. I wouldn’t want that to become public knowledge. You likely get my ‘drift’, people bugging me all the time for autographs and free books…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Sitting at the bar looking over the crowd, there were a few possibilities that I could see among the bodies standing at those temporary tables that are used for events such as this. My bartender buddy was an old drinking pal by the name of Paulski – at least, that’s what I had always called him, even though his name was, Paul. The noise in the big room was a constant mix of laughter, talking, music, and Paulski had to nudge me to get my attention. He leaned over the bar and spoke, “Don’t look now, but you’re getting the eye of one hellava looker, brunette, starboard.” Then, he moved away to serve a drink.

I dutifully obeyed Paulski and casually raised my highball glass to my lips and ‘took a look’. Good Lord, how did I miss that beauty. Damn, she was right off the cover of a women’s magazine, hell, make that a ‘Playboy’ magazine. All of a sudden, I’m smitten and bitten by an impatient lust…I’m sorry, folks, I’ve got to call it what it is. It is not something new with me. It’s been a life-long struggle for me, some warped genetic-thing that eats me up when I see a lady so confounded beautiful.

Then, she looked at me and smiled. The bar was horseshoe-shaped, and I felt like leaping over all the booze and mirrors and landing on that empty seat next to the lady. I gentlemanly snapped my fingers to get Paulski’s attention, then yelled at him finally because of the roar in the place. He saw me, finished the order he was working on and came to me.

“You saw her?” he asked with a wide grin.

“Saw her? Hell, Son, I’ve already had her twice while attempting to get your attention. Please, go ask her if she is unencumbered and, if so, may I join her for a drink.”

“I’m on it, Gerard. You owe me, son.” Yeah, we were in Texas, where all the Texas gents call a buddy, ‘son’. It just becomes habit after a time. Paulski was heading back my way with his eyes flicking and a grin a Texas mile long.

“She knows you, son, at least that’s what she says, and she’s read all your books. Get on over there. I’m fixing her a drink and another for you. Go, man, go.”

Her name was Terri, and I did not know her but was doggone happy she knew me and had given me the eye. Man, you don’t know what a ‘headwind’ that gives a feller seeking treasures in femininity. Sure enough, she read all my books, and loved them all, she said. She teasingly told me, “You know, I fell in love with your picture that appears on all your books.” Terri was just about to burn me up with all her lovely chatter.

Okay, I’m going to deny you the scenes that are better left to the imagination. After all, an author has his reputation to maintain. I will only tell you that Terri and Gerard spent the weekend together, then booked a cruise on that Norwegian Cruise Line, got themselves the ‘Van Gogh Suite’, and pretty much kept their butler busy with food and wine orders. We stayed in that lovely suite the whole cruise, except when we were out on our big private deck. Funny how food tastes so good on those cruises. Ahem.

Here’s the shocker… The Captain married us while we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Terri became my fourth and last wife. Remarkable how you can go traipsing through life being ruled by the writing gods and looking for love in so many places. Then, you find the magical one in your own backyard.

People are fond of saying, ‘don’t be looking for love in bars’, but I’ve got news for those folks: I’ll match my statistics with any man looking elsewhere.

We’re in our thirty-fifth year of marriage as I write this. We never tire of each other. Our big nights out are short and uneventful.

We see Paulski at his own bar every anniversary.

Terri still reads every book I write. I’m hoping one of these days, some other people will join her…

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 28, 2019

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‘A Meeting With The Shrink in Silly-Town’

[Image by Macela Laskoski]

‘A Meeting With The Shrink in Silly-Town’

The Psychiatrist asks, what’s the problem? to the fink.

I’m apathetic, brain-drained, and want a drink!

Well, what’s your problem, do you think?

You hard of hearing, or, what? I didn’t blink!

But that’s what I do, dumb-ass! I get paid to think!

Well, why am I here, almighty Shrink?

You already gave the reason. Is there more to the link?

You, guys! All you do is ask questions that stink!

Well, what exactly should happen, do you think?

Know what? Your questions drive me to that drink!

Then, we’ve accomplished something here, I think.

Yeah, sure, you made $150 bucks in an eye’s blink!

Now, now, relax. How ‘bout that amount with a chink?

How much of a chink, do you think?

Ah, what the heck, I’ll give a 5% chink.

You’re a loon! 5%? You belong in the clink!

You’re testing my good nature, I think.

You think, you dink? I’m gone for a drink.

But, wait, my fee with a 10% chink?

Up yours, shrink, with a chink, to the clink, I think.

Your truly, Billy Ray Chitwink

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‘The Library of Life’

The Library of Life

So often I’m inside myself, searching for the reason I am here on this great orb, so I write my blogs, my books, usually from some aspect of life that beguiles me, terrifies me, or gives me joy. Within the words and phrases of those blogs and books are at times subtle glimpses of universal truths. Wrapping my arms around those subtleties does not bring me the comprehension to understand, but, that they are there, that in writing them, give me some hope that my words in some small way speak to the lives of us all, give meaning to the daily wanderings of our minds, the tedious chores, the chaos, and the wonderment of it all. In all of this I sense a purpose for my living, and there is a literary ‘Saint’ among us who says it so much better than ever I could.

Please ponder these few words from Susan Orlean’s 2018 best seller, The Library Book, rich with some of the most lovely words and phrases a writer can put on paper. Just a few words of ‘back story’, and I shall give you the section from her book that perhaps says it all for me…

That is part of this simple ‘back story’…. My lovely daughter-in-law, Cindy Ruecker, sent Susan Orlean to Julie Anne and me, well, not literally, of course, but her book mentioned above. Our dear Cindy mentioned that, in her reading of The Library Book she thought of me…she at one time years ago typed for me part of a manuscript I had written. When I interrupted her with a question, she quickly told me while she was typing in world speed-breaking time to, ‘hush, I’m reading this as I type and I want to see what is going to happen next’. Cindy is the fastest typist I’ve ever seen type among the secretaries I’ve had and/or anyone in a typing pool – along, of course, with my own wife who is also very swift with her dancing fingers.

At that time, I was so pleased that Cindy ‘hushed me’ because her words resonated with me, giving me some hope for success that my writing might bring. Cindy is part of a ‘Reading Group’ that meets and discusses the book they’ve chosen to read on a given week. This is my way of saying, when Cindy likes a book, is really into it, then I’m comforted that maybe my work has validity. It means so very much to me.

So, that’s the simple ‘back story’, and I shall forever be grateful to Cindy for sending my wife and me The Library Book by Susan Orlean, the Simon & Schuster best-selling author of, The Orchid Thief. It’s an honor for me to recommend Susan Orlean to anyone reading these humble words of mine. Her words flow from the pages with wonderful clarity and meaning.

Now, on to the one page of all the three hundred plus pages in Susan’s book that held me captive, and, with some ‘old man tears’. I think you will love these words and Susan’s book as much as I… Good reading.

The Library Book

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Best wishes to all.

Billy Ray Chitwood – April 18, 2019

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Can You Hear Me?

“Can You Hear Me?”

Pre-dawn, rain storm, and fear gripped me like thousands of little fire ants crawling over my naked body, stinging as they hurriedly moved helter-skelter across my skin.

My forefingers rubbed irritated eyes as the darkness moved on the wall in front of me like angry waves lapping on a stormy coast, grotesque shapes of all sizes in staccato persistence…but it was those deep and growling whispers that tore at my sanity. What was this madness of movement and dulled sound?

For some unearthly reason, an aberrant thought came to my frenetic mind… a distorted and disoriented man with gaping mouth standing silently on a walking bridge screaming without sound. Was there madness occupying my mind and body in these dark hours?

My trembling body sought refuge under the bed covers. The ominous whispers were coming audibly low, rhythmic, but I could not make them out. I felt childish in my fear. Why not get up, turn a light on, and see if there was some logical reason for these melodic murmurings? Alone, I could admit to myself that I was too paralyzed with fright to move.

So, I cowed there beneath the covers, the unmuffled bass whispers still there, still melodic but also changing in different modulations.

Time was lost to me as I lay there in my fetus position on the edge of despair. The whispering had somehow merged into a harmonic blend, coming with the merciful daylight.

Tentatively I stretched my body full-length on the king-size bed and slowly pushed back the covers.

My wide eyes scanned the bedroom, saw nothing but the furniture and a splash of sunlight on the western wall. The whispers were now subdued into a musical sound, almost lovely to the ear.

What the hell was going on?

Was a radio on in the apartment?

I rose from the bed, padded to the closet, put on a robe, and walked into the living room. There was nothing out of place or different about any of the rooms in my bachelor pad. I stood looking out the window at the wondrous blue of the sky and chuckled.

But, wait!

The radio was not on, yet still I heard the whispering musical sounds. I was at a loss to explain it.

After a fast breakfast, I called my doctor, gave him a brief recap of my early AM experience, set a mid-day emergency appointment at 11:30 AM.

*

Soon after my long-time doctor ran auditory tests, he came into the examination room and stood stoically in front of me with a put-on capricious look. We were also friends and golf buddies, so I knew the man very well.

“Okay, Doc, the dramatic pose is good but are you going to let me in on it?”

“Just funning you, buddy. Sorry, but I had to confirm my suspicion. You, Frankie, my friend, have MES.”

Again, he just stood and smiled.

“Well, what the hell is MES, Doc? Must not be too serious, or, you’re a masochist, making me beg for answers.”

MES is an acronym for ‘Musical Ear Syndrome’ – that’s what you have. It’s a rare medical anomaly. You have your very own music system built into your brain.”

“Well, is it a temporary thing? Is it something I have to live with?”

“We know of no treatment for Musical Ear Syndrome at this time. It’s a relatively new phenomenon that only a few people acquire. It’s akin to Tinnitus. I’m afraid it’s something you have to live with, good buddy.”

“It scared me, Doctor Ben, really, truly, scared the hell out of me. The sound started out loud and low like a threatening voice until it finally settled into a slow melodic monotone.”

“It’s likely music you’ve heard over the years playing back for you.”

“Can other people hear this MES music?”

“No, just you, Frankie. You’re one of the select few.”

“Well, ‘bully’ for that, but it’s going to be annoying, Doc.”

“Yes, I suppose it can be in the beginning. You’ll get accustomed to it. It should level off sooner than later. At some point you may need hearing aids, and they will help with the MES.”

“Hearing aids? Damn, I’m not that old, Doc. Hell, you’re the old man here, Ben. What? Three years older than I, you old coot.”

“I know, but hearing is not restricted to us old folks. Soon, you won’t even know the music is playing. And, hey, the song could be one of your favorites.”

“Very funny, Doc. You get no strokes on any of the next golf holes we play.”

“So, that’s the tune you’re going to play for me?”

“Still funny, Doc, but don’t give up your day job…a lot of comics are out of work.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – April 4, 2019

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Appalachia and Me

Appalachia and Me

Standing at the window I could see her working in the earth, planting her garden, a plot of ground she alone had created on the hard prairie soil of our eighty-acre ‘Lazy Rabbit Ranch’

My emotions were trade-mark soft and tender with no discernable reason. Tears welled and fell down my cheeks. It was at that time when gout attacks were frequent in my life, had me limping in painful, short steps. I wanted to be there in the garden with my wife, sharing the joy of her moments. The tears lasted for a brief period until I turned them off, returned to the library to render time typing on my Star Writer Word processor.

Time and again my mind slipped away from the characters and plot lines of the book I was writing on the Star Writer, slipping back to my wife in the garden, then, into assessing the emotional source of my tears. Of course, I quickly rid my mind of the gout pain being the root cause of sob-time…it was so much more than that.

My life at the Lazy Rabbit Ranch was rather rich with melodramatic episodic introspections, likely sufficient enough to abundantly satisfy any reclining position taken on a psychiatrist’s sofa. Plus, it would surely be a dead give-away to mention that, yes, I was also born in Appalachia…well, of course, dear boy, that is what Appalachian lads do so very well. How else can history explain our cornball evocative ‘country music’, honky-tonk romances ‘on the fly’, and those multiple divorce court appearances?

Well, sure, I could laugh at myself along with my agents of disregard. However, were my copious life tears simply ‘crocodile’ in nature? Were my myriad emotional tendencies, my basic earthly and inherent needs, so easily explained away?

My hasty conclusion would not necessarily surprise anyone, but I said at the time – and, I say now – No, they were not… they are not.

This may be fundamental to many people, but, hey, I was just getting it – right then, ‘after all those tear-years’, right then, at the Lazy Rabbit Ranch ‘cry episode’.

The ‘gout attack’ was not the sole reason for the crying.

Pardon my flippancy, but it was the south where all those degenerate, debt-owing, thieves in the night were deposited when they arrived from across the pond from Europe. I’m guessing that after a while we had some sweet and pure genteel groups coming into Appalachia mixing with our chromosomic/genetic machinery, getting us all ‘cornfused’ about proper etiquette, language, books, and stuff. Shucks, we could have had our own country by now, just wheeling, dealing, killing, and dying way too young…if the ‘genteel groups’ had just stayed away.

Sitting there that day at my lovely mahogany desk the way I figured it was: with so many low IQ folks, mixing their vulgarities with the stealing and killing, their mindless behaviors, by the time I came out of my Mom’s womb, I was doomed to be a sort of half-breed…that is, part of me got some of that ‘rough and tumble’ stuff, and the other part got some of those genteel qualities.

Just like then, I can’t figure out why I’m crying now.

Hmm, I’m wondering… My wife is outside, working on another darn flower garden. Is she trying to tell me something?

Guess I better get to writing another book.

Billy Ray Chitwood – April 3, 2019

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Two Parrots

Two Parrots

There were two southern preachers, one, an old-time Baptist sermon-master, the other, an old-time Methodist sermon-master.

Now, these two ‘good ole boys’ did have something more or less in common: each of them had a parrot. I’m talking here about parrots that can speak words clearly and often.

The Baptist preacher had this male parrot that spewed ugly words and phrases, did in fact at times take the good Lord’s name in vain. I mean, this parrot was something else, and the preacher was embarrassed anytime people visited him in his parish house.

The Methodist preacher had this female parrot that sat in her cage and prayed all day long. Now, the Methodist preacher liked the fact that his female parrot was all holy and full of grace, but he wanted her to step out of the religious role occasionally.

Well, the two preachers became friends because they both met up at the pet shop where they got their parrots, and had so much in common – with God, sinners, and all…so, they just took to each other and began their friendship.

There came the night the Baptist preacher had his new Methodist preacher friend over for an evening chat. Well, wouldn’t you know, that doggone male parrot started up with all his cuss-words and mini-phrases that were, well, just downright nasty stuff for the ears to pick-up.

Well, the two preachers talked long and hard on the subjects of their two parrots. The Methodist preacher allowed that his female parrot prayed all day long, and that was all well and good. But, the Methodist preacher didn’t want his parrot so full of grace that she couldn’t open up a bit.

The Baptist preacher had the opposite problem and he wanted a little more grace in his male parrot, not those nasty words and phrases all his waking hours.

So, the two preachers talked, as I said, long and hard, and finally came up with an idea they both figured just might work…

What they figured to do was to put both parrots, the female praying parrot and the male cussing parrot, into a bigger cage and see if the two could maybe come out of their different shells and become more suitable in their behavior patterns.

So, one Saturday the preachers went to the pet shop, got a bigger cage, took that cage back to the Baptist preacher’s parish house, set it up with the little seats on each side of the cage, a cute little swinging apparatus, and little seeds that parrots just love.

Well, here’s what happened…

The preachers put both parrots inside the cage and closed the little gate. The male parrot that said the nasty words went to one side of the cage, and the female parrot that prayed all day long went to the other side of the cage…and those two parrots just sat there and stared at each other.

The preachers stood there shaking their heads for the better part of an hour, and those two parrots just sat and stared at each other.

Just when the preachers were about to make a move and put the parrots back in their own cages, the male parrot winked an eye and said to the female parrot: “Hey, baby, how ‘bout a little loving?”

The preachers looked at each other, both a little embarrassed with the situation, but stood and waited…

Finally, after several seconds passed, the female parrot says: “What do you think I’ve been praying for?”

Well, don’t you know? Those two parrots are still together, but they don’t talk that much…the Baptist preacher finally rigged some dark shades for the two parrots’ love-privacy for those moments when there was just no other route to go.

Oh, one last thing, the Baptist preacher became a book editor for whatever in the world the reason, and that fine Methodist preacher became a down-and-out fiction writer…

Go figure…

Billy Ray Chitwood – March 24, 2019

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Misty Lee and the Miracle on Ames Street

Misty Lee and the Miracle on Ames Street

– A Short Story –

Misty Lee Weaver closed the oven lid on a Pot Roast dinner, smiled with satisfaction as the warm aroma reached her nostrils. Soft violin music came from the ‘great room’ speakers, and she suddenly thought of Alex and their lives together after only five months of marriage.

The smile widened. Her eyes closed as the memories came to her from their honeymoon in Cabo, the suite at the Hilton, the magnificent views from their large deck of the cobalt Sea of Cortez and the frothy surf gently, rhythmically lapping the beach below their stately quarters. In her mind she could see them on the winding path down to the sea, laughing, pausing to kiss and momentarily aroused by the touching of their bodies – almost returning to the suite to once again couple in the joy of their love.

Misty sat at the kitchen bar, still smiling, still lost in the thoughts of early months of marriage, when she felt a slight twitch to her body, just enough to take her away from her thoughts…

What was that?  She thought aloud. She stood, looked around the large room, thinking perhaps a painting had fallen from a wall. Nothing out of place. Just one of those foundation-settling moments, she thought, remembering Alex mentioning that at another time in their brief residence on Ames Street.

Back in the kitchen Misty retrieved a large bowl from a cabinet and began to gather the fresh lettuce and other ingredients for a salad. She relaxed again. It was only 3:15 and Alex would not be home until 6:00 or later. Being the Chief Executive Officer of Spartan Software Inc left his arrival-time home sometimes at odds with home plans. However, he convinced her that his arrival home would be no later than 6:00 or 6:30 max. She smiled again as she chopped her salad mixings into chewable bites, the way Alex preferred.

She washed two Idaho potatoes for baking, wrapped them in aluminum foil and placed them in the large fridge until baking time. She checked again her Pot Roast, modified the heating, and was ready to relax on the patio for some Arizona sun. She would still have time for a shower before putting final touches on dinner.

Misty climbed the stairs to the huge master bedroom and changed into her bikini. She looked briefly into the big ornate mirror that covered one complete wall of the sitting area in the suite. Well, Misty, you’re still a ‘babe’ as Alex referred to you admiringly that very first night of the honeymoon. It was good they waited until their wedding night…the build-up to that night was torture for both of them, but they did not give in to their sexual desires.

She put some lotion on her body, wrapped her long, lovely blond hair into a ‘bun’ and went out into the backyard oasis, complete with flower gardens, large boulders, lush green grass, a meandering pool, and a fulgent Sun. The Weaver property sat on two and a half acres, as did all the homes in this luxurious and high-end neighborhood.

Just as Misty reclined into a soft beach chair, she felt again that twitch to her body. If not a twitch, it felt like she might be losing her balance. Am I pregnant? Is the twitch I’m feeling about my being PG? Oh, my God! It’s too soon to have babies. Besides, I’m taking the pill. So what the hell is it, Misty Lee?

A lovely cardinal flew close by her chair as if to say ‘hello’ and that brought her mind back to the nice thoughts of Alex getting home, having cocktails out here near the rose garden, then a bottle of red wine with dinner. After the cardinal flew away a humming bird flew up and lingered for a while. She thought it was the same humming bird that was her regular visitor when she came to the pool and garden areas.

The humming bird flew off, leaving Misty to think about life’s connections to all living things. Her lips formed another smile with the thoughts, and, as she settled again in the recliner, the ‘twitch’ came, this time not so subtle as before, this time she could not dismiss her thoughts so easily.

Misty brought her chair upright and stared at the pool. There was a crack in the house-side of the pool that was of significant width. That crack was not there before. That crack was not there when I came out a few moments ago. What is going on? Earth-quake?

Now she was really focused and alarmed. She went back into the house, and, over her bikini, put on soft blue boutique jeans and beige top-wear. As she descended the stairsteps she again felt the twitch, the shudder, that sudden feeling akin to vertigo. Her concern was reaching a fever-pitch. She was nearing hysteria. She needed contact with the outside world.

She picked up the telephone in the downstairs hall-way and punched the digit that would automatically connect her to Alex. The phone gave up no sound. It was as though her ear was picking up the sound of pure silence, dark, deep, and foreboding. She felt a suffocating tightness to her breathing and fought for air.

Misty dropped the phone on the hall table and willed her feet toward the front door. She needed to be outside where there was space. She took two steps when another head-swimming sensation made her fall to the polished wood entry floor.

On hands and knees struggling for air she crawled to the large heavy door. She had to get outside to fresh air. The air-condition equipment was off as well as the phone, and her fear was giving way to a suffocating anxiety. She knew she was close to passing out if she did not make it outside.

The door. The heavy extra-large door was obtrusive and unwieldy. She could not reach the lock-switch and door handle from her knees. She tried to stand and fell again to the floor as she heard a thunderous roar from somewhere in the house behind her.

Oh, my dear God! Please help me!

From some hidden reservoir tears came, falling from her cheeks onto the lovely beige and mauve entrance rug. She tried desperately to rise from her knees and finally managed to grab at the ornate door fixture and pulled herself to an awkward stance as another roar erupted behind her.

In a final desperate tug at the heavy door, it opened with just enough space for her to squeeze through to the outside mat and flagstone. Somewhere in a far-away recess of her mind, cymbals clashed with loud clarity and a great rumbling. Then, a total heaviness clung to her entire body accompanied by darkness and finally nothingness.

*

The entire house had crumbled into a shallow pit, a massive pile of brick, concrete, stucco, wood, and broken, scarred, and twisted household furnishings.

Just the Weaver house! No other houses in the city’s most exclusive gated community was sacrificed to the horrible devastation. The air was filled with the clinging dust, bits and pieces of what was left of the furnishings.

The fire trucks arrived.

The police arrived.

The EMTs arrived.

The News reporters arrived, wanting, getting a huge scoop.

All entities to arrive were caught in the end-of-day traffic of workers going home. Freeways east and west, north and south, were always busy at this time of the day, and this enclave was fed by all of those road-arteries.

Neighbors gawked and were petrified at the site, with underlying concerns for their own dwellings. The sounds from the Weaver house collapse were heard in a five-mile radius and had people thinking thoughts of bombings, of riots, of the evening news finally unfolding into reality in an ugly way.

The neighbor nearest to the Weavers, Jeffrey James, was the first to talk to the police and fire department personnel. Mr. James had little to share, was alerted by the loudness and shocked by the visible remains of his neighbors’ dwelling… ‘Yes, they were friends with the Weavers, but they had no idea of any trouble with their property. It just went sinking into the earth. Crazy!

Mr. James was asked by both a policeman and the fire chief: “Was anyone at home? Is someone under all of that?”

“I’m afraid Mrs. Weaver was home. At least, I said ‘hi’ to her when I walked the dog around 1:00 PM. My God, I hope I’m wrong. She was…is a very lovely lady – and a good neighbor. They both are. My wife, Lily, and I enjoy their company with some regularity…”

Talking to his fire crew, Chief Andrew Appleton announced: “Okay, people, we have a couple of hours, maybe more, of good daylight. Let’s use our best efforts in finding Mrs. Weaver. Take particular care in moving the obstacles on that pile, ladies and gents. We could very likely have a lady underneath. There could also be ‘space spots’ and some wedging spots, so it’s worth repeating, BE CAREFUL! Yell out when you find the…when you find Ms. Weaver. We need to have an ambulance standing by. Be quick in case she’s still alive, but be extra careful. Also, I don’t believe that hole can be too deep. However, at this point we have no way of knowing for sure.”

Andrew paused, looked over at the small group of neighbors.

“Do any of you know if someone contacted Alex Weaver?”

Jeffrey James spoke, “I called him as soon as I heard the noise, Chief. He’s on his way, but he’s likely jammed up in the freeway traffic.”

When all the words from the gathered were spoken, sounds of quiet activity came from the rubble.

Ten minutes later, there came a soft rumbling at the site.

A fireman yelled out from the pit. “It’s okay, I just disturbed a wedge-spot. The pile only dropped a few inches. No problem.”

The only sounds over the next thirty minutes came from the fire crew removing debris.

A white BMW came racing to the site, Alex Weaver’s face a mask of distress as he hurriedly slammed his car door and walked to the small group supervising the clearing of debris.

Alex didn’t speak. He only gazed in amazement and agony at what was once his home. Soon, tears fell slowly down his cheek. The two men and one woman in the gathered debris site all looked at Alex Weaver, about to say something, but stopped. Instead, Lance Cahill, the Chandler, AZ Police Chief, wrapped an arm around Alex and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Alex.”

Police Chief Lance Cahill was also Alex Weaver’s friend and high school buddy from years back. They were on the Chandler High School’s football team and both vied for Misty Lee Sproul, a most lovely majorette in the marching band. The vying for Misty Lee’s hand was a serious ‘contest’, but there would never be a jealousy in the two men’s relationship.

Alex, tried to speak, choked up and could only take deep breaths of air. He closed his eyes and slowly nodded to this friend.

A lady fireman yelled out, “We’ve found her!”

“Stay back, please!” Jeffrey James yelled to the small crowd, allowing only Alex and Lance to advance to the site edge.

“I’ve got a pulse,” the lady fireman smiled as she spoke the words. “She was protected by space yielded by the big entry door that was resting on a big chunk of furniture between her and other debris. It looks like the entire house miraculously disintegrated over that door and Ms. Weaver was somehow clinging or pinned to the door. She’s ‘out’ but there doesn’t appear to be any broken bones, even, cuts and bruises on her body. Wow, Chief! This is truly a miracle.”

A loud cheer went up from the neighbors and all those present at the pit.

Alex fell to his knees, sighed deeply, quickly recovered, and wanted to go to his wife but was held back by his friend. “Please, Alex, let the medics do their work. They know what they’re doing.”

When Misty Lee was lifted safely from the big pit of debris, the EMTs began their examination, passing along their information to a doctor at the Chandler Hospital. After thoroughly checking Misty for cuts, breaks, breathing anomalies, Alex and Lance were given a ‘thumbs up’ while Misty was placed into the ambulance.

Alex followed Lance and his sirens in the BMW to the hospital unimpeded by traffic.

The family doctor, Dr. Victor Dawkins, arrived at the hospital before the ambulance and worked with the intern to stabilize Misty Lee. When she finally came out of her brief coma, the shock became secondary to another problem. There appeared to be what the intern and Dr. Dawkins described as some form of temporary amnesia.

Misty Lee was awake but was completely unaware of what happened before or after her house collapsed all around her.

Alex was now jubilant to know that his beloved wife was alive and breathing but had an obvious concern over her amnesia.

The ensuing days brought various medical tests and specialist consultations. Eschewing work save for phone connections, Alex was there with Misty as she endured her frustration and her elation when bits of memory returned.

Through some unconscious assimilation of mind quakes Misty was able to put Alex together again, to understand how and why she came to love him. His attentiveness and devotion to her was constantly there before her, and, without a total recall of all events in her life, she was able to fall in love with Alex all over again.

Finally, all of Misty’s memories were back. She could vividly remember the day on Ames Street when the house crumbled around her but it brought no angst, no emotional wreckage. Her life returned pleasant+ly to the halcyon days of jogging, shopping, and lazily sun bathing by a pool.

A new home came available on Ames Street, and Alex purchased it. The house was smaller, less grand than the one that collapsed from an underground water anomaly. The new home was indeed elegant, but smaller, less pretentious to public viewing than the other, though that was never necessarily a qualifier for Alex. He was an intelligent man made from his own unique qualities of hard work, a charitable man who carried inside a compassion for those who had less than he and Misty.

Eventually, the lives of Misty Lee and Alex Weaver would re-establish its peaceful, romantic essence. For anyone who knew the Weavers, the couple was the paragon of love and married bliss. And, so, it truly was.

Then came some issues at work that kept Alex at his office late into the night. He was trying to hold his company together, traveling more to visit old clients he did wish to lose. Alex did not know for sure, but he thought someone in the company was trying to sabotage him.

*

It was two years to the date that the Weaver home collapsed on Ames Street when Misty Lee slipped, fell at the new pool, and hit her head on the hard tile surface. She lost consciousness for several minutes. Disoriented and frightened when she came around, not sure what happened and where she was, she saw blood drops on the tile surface.

Misty looked all around, trying to find knowledge of this place she found herself. Her soft blue-green eyes released tears that fell softly down her cheeks. She sat on a stuffed recliner, tried to get her bearings, nervous, scared by her disorientation. She took deep breaths and felt around her lovely blond hair to assess further damage to her head until she finally remembered her fall.

She went into the house. In the powder room she saw the damage done to her head, a small cut at the brow of the left eye. She cotton-swabbed the area with alcohol, dabbed it with iodine, and applied a band-aid. She carefully showered, dressed in jeans and a denim blouse, and felt better. The cut was not so serious, though it might leave a small scar. She was fine. Nothing to worry about.

When Alex arrived home around ten o’clock that evening, she was overjoyed to see him. She rushed to him, kissed and embraced him.

“Hey, what’s with the band-aid?”

“Fell at the pool, nothing serious… You’re late again. Is everything okay at work?”

“Ah, Misty, it seems to get more complicated with each new day, but I don’t want to worry you about business at the moment. Let’s have a drink.”

They talked for a while, had cocktails, and watched an old John Wayne movie.

Later, preparing for bed, Alex said, “I’ve got to go to Los Angeles tomorrow for a few days. I’m trying to get this madness at work straightened out. I’d take you with me, but there would be no time for us to be together. You know, meetings during the day, group business dinners, you know the routine. Sorry, Misty Lee.”

“It’s okay, but I’ll miss you. Hope you get all this worked out so we can get our lives back.”

“It will happen, Misty. You feeling okay after that fall at the pool?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m a Klutz. What can I say?”

“You’re not a Klutz. Just, be careful. I don’t want to lose you. I love you, Misty Lee.”

“I know. I love you, too, my dear sweet Alex.”

*

Misty Lee returned home from shopping and lunch with her long-time friend, Alicia, around 3:20 PM. After putting her bounty in the Master Suite closet, she retrieved her latest Nelson DeMille novel and went to the Sunroom. It was a beautiful day, but she didn’t wish to lounge at the pool. She preferred her reading at this particular time of the day, and the Sunroom was her favorite spot in the house.

Pausing momentarily in a ‘meaty part’ of the novel, she sighed…such a good writer, she thought. At the same time her thought came there was an insistent chiming of the front door. Stop with the ringing. I’m coming already…

When she reached the front door, opened it, she found no one on the portico.

On the mat below the big door there was large Manila envelope. A bit wary but recognizing her gated and safe habitat, she picked up the envelope and carried it to the Sunroom. The envelope had some heft and on the front was printed in neat lettering her name: For: Misty Lee Weaver. There were no stamps, so someone left the envelope and dashed away – either on foot or in a car… She had taken very little time getting to the front door.

Ah, a mystery to solve, she idly thought.

Back in the Sunroom she put the envelope on the coffee table next to her stuffed chair and stared at it for some minutes. With a mild whispered rebuff to herself – Ah, open the darned thing! – she quickly grabbed the envelope and ripped it open, spilling its contents onto her lap.

There was an 8×10 sheet of paper wrapped around a black video tape. She looked at the dainty, neat writing on the sheet of paper.

Mrs. Misty Lee Weaver

You will no doubt be interested in the

Content of this video tape.

Sorry but you needed to know!

Unwelcomed thoughts crowded her mind, wild imaginings crossed and re-crossed, numbing her with a reluctant fear. She could not, would not, like what was on the video tape. Enough books, movies, the personal note itself, had left that indelible impression with her.

So, what do I do? Throw it out? View it and be sorry that I did? The person who left this at the door is for sure a diabolical jerk. Yes, throw it out.

She picked up the video tape, carried it to the garbage chute, and hesitated for long seconds. She had no enemies that she knew of. Surely, the person leaving the tape most definitely felt it important that I know its contents…even if ‘sorry’ that I had to view it.

Darn, life has so many devilish ways to hit people where it really hurts, and this tape is going to hurt. It is not good news someone left at our door, and whoever left it knows my curiosity will get the best of me. Darn it, they’re right…whoever ‘they’ are.

Misty Lee went to the theater room, placed the tape into the DVR equipment, hit the play button, and listened and watched.

What she heard and what she saw made her retch. The tape was both shocking and morally wicked. With tears blinding her way, she went stumbling to the master bedroom suite. Misty looked vacuously out the bedroom window but did not see the sun-splashed pool nor the green of the grass and the long row of hedge, nor the lovely flower garden that always gave joy to her senses. 

Misty retched several times, then dry-heaved until she thought she might pass out. A great sweeping, suffocating, anxiety attack hit her. She could not stop the ferocious ‘tiger’ stalking her, coming unimpeded to consume her. There was no longer caring for her safety and well-being. Inside her lovely body she felt the tiger’s approach and sought only relief from the chaotic numbness in her body. She could not go on. 

With the crying and the retching, she took a sleeping pill…

The tiger still came. One sleeping pill did not work, so she took another…

Then, another…

Then, another…

When the pill bottle was empty, Misty Lee smiled, closed her eyes, and died in the placid fumes of her Nirvana.

©Billy Ray Chitwood – February 20, 2019

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Altar of Remembrance

Altar of Remembrance

All things you are to me I now render unto our altar of remembrance…

No long list this of platitudes and love words written idly…

Our love deserves a solemn, sublime space here in the domains of our souls…

Reach gentle fingers to your heart and watch the wispy thoughts of yesterday rise softly before you…

With caressing fingers hold the moments that filled us with memories for the ‘morrow…

Smile with dreamy eyes the awkward delivery of our first kiss…

Ah, the wafting scent of the fragrances we sprayed on our bodies…

And the blushes we could not hide during the early blooming of our love…

The tedious nourishing of those magical moments when our bodies touched in the night…

The balladeers and violins of enchanting moments at our favorite bistros…

So many endearments…and I must leave you now with a misty good-bye…

Billy Ray Chitwood – February, 2019

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https://billyraychitwood.com

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