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Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon

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Howling at the Moon

My howl grows weaker as the Summers come and go,

And the Winter’s bitter gales bring harsh realities to my world.

My aging body grows weary in its long seasonal quest to know,

To find in my meandering search the truth unfurled.

*

Yet, some abiding glimmer of Faith bids me journey on

As I see the eager and young give rise to the next tomorrow,

To kindle old desires, awaken my mind to a new kinder dawn,

Tease me with truths-bearing wisdom I might better know.

*

Then, as years speed by steadily, and my steps limp along,

The world seems more precariously out of its orbital sync

As though some treacherous fate on wicked winds so strong’

Comes to claim its ownership of an orb no longer able to think.

Poem by Billy Ray Chitwood – February 2, 2018 (Prev)

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TIME of My Life

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TIME of My Life

TIME of My Life

-(A Poetic Moaning)-

Time, Time, Time.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

Are You a merciless menace

Of maddening passing?

Time, Time, Time.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

Can you not slow your pace?

Prithee, can you not provide more

Of your endless ticks?

I yet have books to write,

Poetry to pose a riddle,

Or, think romantic allusions

Of Love and Ventures past!

Why must you be the sole

Arbiter of my Soul, while

I suspect my God might

Approve your ever rapid

Transit through my Dawns

And my restless Eves of Doubts?

Your pendulum swings to and fro

In a mocking remembrance

Of an ambiguous and most

Impassioned wayward passage.

Is it that I have betrayed you?

Or, pray tell, is it that you have

Seduced me with your Lure to

Love’s easy Manipulative ways?  

When did you begin your ticking?

Are you synonymous with an

Infinite Divinity noble of promise?

Or, are you but a simple dream

That gives each of us a mare

To ride through a long night,

Some Lottery of Chance?

I plea for more thoughts to

Unscramble – an act doubtlessly

Vainglorious of deed and effort.

© Billy Ray Chitwood –01/23/18

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Somebody Likes Us

“Somebody Likes Us!”

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Don’t know about you, but, there are days when I feel all alone in the Arizona desert!

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…and, what we write is good. It’s a certainty we’ve picked up novels at the Book Store, read them, and announced them as crap-reads;

So, where are the sales, the 5-Star Reviews, the accolades we authors covet?

For some of us, we write a few books and here come the critics with their reviews that range from 5-Stars to 3-Stars, even lower. The world of reading thrives 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. We like those comments when they’re dripping with lovely words like, ‘great’, ‘brilliant’, ‘going to read more from this super author’… Oh, we salivate and pour some champagne. We begin to bore our spouses with our ceiling dances and loud hoots of joy.

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, and so forth. 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-Stars, the 3-Stars, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe 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 become anger, denial, and, at some point, you will equivocate only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.

Your thought processes on negative reviews from readers run the gamut. ‘What gives these people the right to publicly condemn your efforts, these Hannah Housewives, these Harold Hushpuppy husbands?’ Hell, you likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day(s)! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing you! You go back and re-read the fair-to-good 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, this minor earthquake inside your head. 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.’

The really bad news is, of course, there are pitifully few sales… Ah, the aggravating world of the word-spinner! Where in the world did you get the idea you could write? 

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 millions of writers do not have our book flaws. All of us have them! The temperaments of some writers are better than yours and they keep writing, getting away from the ‘passive’ passages of narrative, the cliches, too many ellipses, redundancy of words and phrases. 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 will because talent cannot be denied too long. In the rare instance, enough money is spent to insure success – I can come up with my book-example of this, and I’m sure you can. Or, have our egos, our inner selves, betrayed us with pronouncements of our talent?

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 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 are getting better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course…and…don’t…give…up!

Somebody Likes Us!

Billy Ray Chitwood – 01/17/18 – (Old post worth repeating.)

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The End

The End

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The End

I was a beaten man!

There was nothing left! No wife! No children! No job!

The only clothes I owned covered my body.

The black ashes that were once my house had an acrid, gagging odor, mixed with the smells of fire-fighting liquids, dampness, and death.

How does one describe a body bereft of feelings, a body with all its tears shed, a hollow core of nothingness covered with flesh? Nothing there! Nothing I could or would ever be able to find.

That was my truth!

Standing there in a starless night of misty rain and appropriate bleakness, looking for the last time at the sum of my existence, there in those black, damp clumps of earth and bones, there with the only pieces of love I had ever known, there in that eerie graveyard of ashes.

We had a silly argument after the boys were put to bed. I made a petulant escape into the night of bar rooms and feigned grievance … my starring role in a ‘D-Movie’.

I heard the sounds of fire engines through my whiskey haze and gave it little thought.

Fire engines rushed to others’ houses, not mine.

Finally, the Bacchus glow came, went, and I recognized the inanity of my actions.

That rapidly fading glow took me home where I would do my habitual ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart’! Repentence was an eager surge within me as I sped onward for home. It was then, the car finishing its sharp turn, when I saw the halo of red and white flashing lights ahead. My body began to quake as the first pang of alarm came to rest inside my imbued brain.

It was my home from which those wind-driven flames came … soon to be, at my arrival, the charred ruins of my only prized possessions.

I stumbled from the car, stunned, inconsolable, watching my neighbors holding hands, praying, tears flowing down their cheeks, already knowing what I was about to find out.

My wife, my kids, were consumed by the fire … a fire caused by my forgetting to turn off the barbeque.

I fell to my knees, grasped my head with both hands, heaving, roaring my grief in loud sobs, piercing the smoke-filled skies above. The concept of Time had no reality for me as I gasped and breathed in particles of ash.

People talked to me, uttered their pity and sorrow, tried humbly to comfort me. Their voices were lost in my sobbing growls. The movement of fire engines, firemen, my neighbors going back to their homes were on the periphery of my awareness. I shook my head in negation to acts of kindness, of pleas to help me. 

Then, I was alone with my mind and its torturous playback of my fatuous acts in life, alone with the agony which now possessed my soul.

For three days and nights, I stayed awake, unseen, not wanting to be seen, in the wooded area behind the damp ashes where once stood my home. I was soon bereft of any meaningful thought, on the brink of madness.

At 11:00 PM that third night I heard off in the distance the freight train whistle.

I walked the quarter mile to the trestle and watched for the light that would announce its coming. I listened for the roar from the rails.

Like a thief in the night I left the bush behind which I hid and stepped onto the trestle. The train’s beacon of light came onward toward me, and the faint whistle registered somewhere in a tunnel of my mind. 

The train was but a hundred yards away when I raised my arms to the heavens and cried, “Oh, God, please forgive me!”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 7, 2918 (Rev)

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Bubble of Existence

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Bubble of Existence

-Stream of Consciousness-

She is silent in her sleep – sleep that each night comes swiftly for her.

Not swiftly for me does sleep come. My mind is in its normal reverie, going through the tangled days, weeks, years of my life, the emotional detritus left along the roads I’ve traveled, reliving each night with the ’why this, why that’ buffoonery of a poorly tailored life. There are also the childish gene pool thoughts of future heroic deeds, rescuing damsels in distress, heroically accomplishing amazing feats, saving lives, attaining greatness… yes, still there from a turbulent childhood environment.

It is a learned process, always a constant staple in my life, that is, until the nightly sleeping pill takes effect.

But, I digress!

The lady I watch in sleep is my hero, my Sancho Panza riding a donkey alongside Cervante’s ‘Don Quixote’, tilting windmills and running my ‘knight errands’. She is my one and only. She is my everything. She is part of God’s omnipresence in my life.

In my thoughts I see myself in a transparent bubble of existence, one-half of me inside the gauzy metaphor, the other half still watching my wife in repose. There is an apparition, a little girl with cute curly locks sitting, smiling down at my sleeping beauty from the bed’s headboard – the small lass my sleeping beauty once was (a little girl whose small photo I once kept in my wallet until it went missing).

I think of our lives together, the contrast of our genealogy, the years of joy, of building a business together, of nuclear-family gatherings at our cabin in the pines, at the non-working ranch we used for get-away from the city. She comes from a mature, stable, environment, has a DNA with all ‘loops’ orderly fashioned. She is gifted with a combination of high intelligence, common sense, and the love of conversation (when awake). She brings stability and patience to fight my grittiness.

 In her slumber I cannot see the rhythm of her breathing – and I recall a time prior when it alarmed me. She can fall asleep quickly and is mildly irked if I insist on chatting when we go to bed. She can sleep in one position all through the night, and there are these quaint occasional moments when I watch her in sleep and think about our many years together, how my sometime Appalachian heritage roars and rumbles, how she sits silently with that little girl smile until I see the futility and silliness of my words.

It is there, in those still-dark moments with my fanciful opining of love, life, and death, when I see her and the little girl essence. Then comes sadness, or, more likely, regretful thoughts with uninvited tears.

Our love is real, and, oh, I fear that ‘bubble’ and the insistence of my nature must wear thinly.

So, while darkness still rules the night sky, it is time to step from the ‘bubble existence’, get out of bed, and try to capture some of these thoughts on the laptop.

For whatever their worth is to me and the Universe.

Billy Ray Chitwood – January 3, 2018

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Martin and Sybil

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Martin and Sybil

-Short Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood

When the thought came to me I cannot say. The thought came and stayed, growing steadily through the minutes, hours, and days. It seized an uncommon, unpredictable control of my mind, macabre, mad thoughts pounding incessantly, relentlessly, a drum beat so wildly cacophonous I began to doubt my sanity…

Sybil was everything in my world, her devotion and love the building blocks of my future, our love destined for the scripts of poetry, pretty phrases, and romance novels.

It was a summer day on the white sandy shore in La Jolla, California. I sat on an unfolded beach seat reading once again my favorite book of soulful poetry by ex-priest, James Kavanaugh, a shattering compilation of soul-rending and searching. It was, and, is, a book that is both compliant and kindred to my own soul. The book’s passages reminded me of my own childhood and young adult life. the words and phrases touching the soft spots of pain and remembrance.

It was but a spray of sand that brought the exhilarating discovery of Sybil in a tantalizing yellow bikini, her tanned body of curves and voluptuousness arousing the gonads and the heart’s pitter-pat. But it was her face, framed by a delicious spill of golden hair, blue eyes and an elegant face that spoke supremely of angelic purity.

Something passed between us, that thrill of something discovered that just might be the defining moment of one’s life, a magical spate of emotions that come but once in a lifetime.

We stared at each other for some seconds before I found my voice. From some source within of clumsy mutterings, my first words to her were: “Are you with someone?”

She smiled and did a funny thing with her eyes and answered: “Well, no, I’ve just come from a modeling shoot. Are you suggesting I join you?”

“Look, you’ve staggered my senses here. You must know you’re beautiful… I just sense, uh, something passing through us, and that’s just not an ordinary event with me. But, yes, I am suggesting you join me. Will you consider it?”

She placed her hands on her titillating hips, gave me a coquettish smile: “Well, may we start with names? My name is Sybil. Yours?”

“Martin Hoover.’

So, began our relationship, built with the finest intentions and promises two people in love can make to each other.

We enjoyed being together with as little time apart as possible. We were in love, akin to some of the greatest loves of all time. Our adoration for each other bordered on rapture. I’m convinced no other love ever possessed more idyllic space in time.

We married three months after our La Jolla beach meeting, and life was storybook from every angle. Other than time at my Business Consulting and Sybil’s modeling, we were at all times together. We wanted a family but not immediately. We were enjoying life too much, our dinners at great restaurants, occasional evening visits with mutual friends, beach time, and some golf.

It was at a golf course that the first sense of trouble arrived. Sybil and I were put with two men to round out a foursome. That was fine with Sybil and me. We liked meeting new people.

These new people we could have done without very nicely, at least, one who called himself, Bryce Cowling. The one fellow, a John Gibbon, was a nice guy who had apparently been paired up with Cowling to satisfy the tee-times and crowds of golfers.

Bryce Cowling spent most of his golf-time looking at Sybil, an inane smile on his lips. He was a rude and brazen individual, showed no golf etiquette. He was always close to Sybil, making insulting non-sequiturs. Sybil gave no encouragement to the brash bastard and moved away from him when he came her way.

My run-in with him came on the thirteenth hole when I overheard Cowling utter an insult to me and to Sybil – her insult a sex-related quip. I grabbed him and shoved him away from Sybil, and he gave me a mean gritted-teeth stare and a menacing smile.

It was my good fortune to go thirty-eight years before meeting a crude and rude playboy type like Bryce Cowling. I told him this and to stay away from Sybil.

Fate can at times be cruel!

Cowling developed a fixation on Sybil, tracked her down at a modeling shoot and began stalking her.

Not only was the guy ugly and mean, he had a ‘rap sheet’ with the San Diego PD that included felony arrests for rape and assault.

It became my habit of taking time away from my work, driving Sybil to her ‘shoots’, but that was not doable on November 8, 2005 because of a consulting conflict.

When she went missing, I was frantic! I called the San Diego PD and was told forty-eight hours needed to pass before they could do anything.

The police found Sybil’s ravaged body seven days later in the hills above La Jolla near our home, near the beach where we met and fell in love.

My anguish became anger and rage. The SDPD questioned Bryce Cowling and cleared him of the homicide of Sybil. The PD said his alibi checked out.

Cowling’s alibi checked out for them, maybe, but not for me. My life became null and void without Sybil. There was nothing that would countervail my rage. Daily, nightly I tracked Bryce Cowling and finally gained unnoticed entry into his San Diego condo.

 He was with a woman who, unlike Sylvia, gave herself to dancing, laughing, telling of her sex-capades, copulating with this man I hated so much.

I watched from my hidden spot until I retched, but the retching did not rid me of my anger. With my hunting knife slicing and stabbing, I killed them both while they were sexually rapt. I would not know how many stabs, how many slashes I put upon their bodies. I can only say my rage was spent.

A neighbor in an adjoining condo heard the screams and called 911.

The police came.

I was arrested.

Now, I hear footsteps outside my cell.

It is time for my execution. I’ve been here for years and I am ready for my sentence to be carried out.

There are no regrets for what I did. That is perhaps the saddest part. That and the not knowing whether I shall see my beloved Sybil in the next dimension.

Anger and Hate are beastly emotions, but I somehow cannot regret the mutilations of those l savaged…

Even, when the real killers were apprehended later!?

What does that make me?

Short Fiction © by Billy Ray Chitwood

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Leonid and Sasha

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Leonid and Sasha

 (Flash Fiction/Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood)

Sasha begged him not to go. “You belong here with me, Leonid. The battle is within you, not with North Korea. What of us?” She tugged at his tattered coat.

He smiled benignly, “You’re a lovely and silly girl. You do not understand the reality of our time. To stay would be to defy my beliefs, my convictions, and, yes, my anger and hatred.”

“You would die for these beliefs and convictions, this anger and hatred?”

“We all must die, Sasha.”

“You brought me here to be left alone in a strange country?”

 “Hong Kong is not a strange country, foolish one. You know many of our people. Go to them when your money runs out. Stay with them. Should something go wrong, I will return for you.”

 “Please, Leonid, you go to die and you know it. You’ve told me of your plans. You go on a suicide mission. I’ve begged before and I beg of you, now, please stay!”

 At the door of the small efficiency apartment, Leonid paused with his hand on the door knob. His dark eyes and handsome face held a strange and wistful look. He removed his hand from the door knob, returned to Sasha where she stood by the tiny dining table.

 “You are so beautiful, my blue-eyed wonder.” He embraced and gave her a long passionate kiss.

 He then quickly twisted her head until he heard the snap. The lips were still in a half-smile as her head dangled and fell to his right shoulder, her blue eyes large and vacant in their death stare. In a whisper, he spoke, to the face he had loved, “Better you go this way, my dear Sasha, than to linger in life’s pain. You cannot know but I did love you.”

 Leonid gently lowered her body onto a soiled stuffed chair just a few feet from the dining table, gazed upon her splayed form for some seconds, then slowly left the apartment. Tears welled but he willed them away, a final and essential part of his being had snapped and was forever lost to him.

*****

Night, reluctant to shed its vagueness, was slowly showing its lightened eastern clouds as the sun gave way to earth’s perpetual orbital pattern. Leonid walked in the shadows along streets leading to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. It was still quiet in this city known in its translation as ‘Flat Land’. In his backpack he carried explosives with timer mechanisms that he would plant at key buildings. The explosive carefully strapped to his body he would save for the KMP.

His thoughts were well focused on his morning’s mission but he could not deny the flashing memories that brought him to this point in time…

His father, mother, and brother had been ruthlessly killed here in Pyongyang in 2012 by a squad of government gangsters of the ‘People’s Republic of Korea.’ His family was shown no mercy as they were chopped to death by machetes, labeled spies against the state. Four hours later his older brother and sister were pulled from their lodgings, beaten, and then chopped to death. The government squad had no ears to listen to his family’s protests of innocence, their legitimate reason for being in the ‘Flat Land,’ their labored cries of mercy.

Pyongyang’s government never wavered from their ill-gotten information about his family. Never mind that his mother had pleasantly refused to cater a special luncheon for the squad and their friends, the sole event and motive that brought the hatred and the killings. Never mind that his sister would be raped before she was chopped. The killings were all justified, each query quashed and forgotten by the government.

His marriage to Sasha prior to the family murders made home life an hourly ebb and flow of emotions. When sleep would come there were the hellish nightmares, waking, screaming the names of his dead family, his body slick with sweat and tears, Sasha clinging to him, sobbing, trying desperately to slay the night-dragons that possessed him.

Then came the job loss and it was as though the people of Hong Kong could see the rage in his eyes, the stench of hatred from his body. He became a man avoided and feared. Sasha tried to get him help, would set an appointment for him to see someone who might be able to help him, but he would not arrive at the set time. Sasha was the only person in the large city who could give him moments of relative calm, but then those times of surcease became fewer and fewer.

He would not bathe nor shave, only when Sasha would run his bath and physically pull and push him to the tub and wash and rinse him. For those few precious moments Sasha could almost sense some warmth come to him…but it never lasted long. The strange hatred that occupied him never resulted in personal damage to her. She did the talking, asking questions of him, and he bluntly answered the questions – until the fateful day he killed her! It was only some modicum of revenge that would fulfill what was left of his putrid life…

 

As he walked in the shadowy stillness, a voice came to him from an alleyway just a few feet away: “Leonid, I must talk to you. Come walk with me in the alley.”

Leonid stopped, momentarily startled…no one knew his name, knew that he was here in Pyongyang. “Who speaks my name?” He braced himself against a building corner near the alley, moving his hand near a detonator that would vaporize him and much of the immediate area.

“A friend, Leonid. Please come these few steps and talk to me. There is no harm intended. We will talk, and you can do then what you will.” The voice had a calm and soft cadence, and Leonid knew that the man spoke the truth.

Leonid walked a few feet into the alley until he saw a man’s form. What struck him were the man’s eyes. They glowed in the semi-darkness, matched the tenor of the stranger’s voice. Oddly, Leonid was not afraid of the stranger and walked some fifty feet further down the alley, stopping when the stranger sat on a wooden crate. The stranger bid Leonid to sit on another wooden crate nearby.

“How is it that you know me and what do you want?” Leonid asked.

“I’m just a man who knows the pain you carry within you and the mission that you are on.”

“How could you possibly know such things?”

“I have been with you all the way from Hong Kong, Leonid, mourning with you the loss of your beloved Sasha.”

“I killed her! With these ugly knotted hands, I killed her. How can you know this? Tell me who you are and why you are here, or, I will…”

“Leonid, just a few questions I have and you can be on your way.” The stranger’s voice was mesmerizing, measured in softness and tone. “Why is it, Leonid, that we are here on this spinning orb we call earth?”

There was rapture in the stranger’s voice that commanded a response. “We are here to live in delusion and to die and be no more.”

The stranger’s eyes seemed to glow more brightly and the long beard he wore was a pellucid whiteness that seemed somehow unearthly.

The stranger spoke, “So, why is it that the moon falls from the sky, the sun does not bring us daylight, and birth has no precise process to follow?”

Still taken by the stranger’s soothing voice, but a bit nonplussed, Leonid responded. “But you know that is not so. What is your motive here?”

The stranger seemed not to hear the question. “Why is there no evil and good in the world?”

“Stop confounding me with your Socratic silliness. Of course, there is evil and there is good in the world.”

“And why do you think that is so?”

“God only knows.”

“You speak His name as though you know him, Leonid. Do you know God?”

“There is no God!”

“Yet, you say He knows about evil and good.”

“Look, your aura wraps me in some kind of spell and I seem compelled to listen to your words. Please tell me what it is you wish me to know.”

“One last question, your response, and I will say my final words to you. “Did you truly love Sasha?”

“Of course, with all my heart I loved her, but my heart and soul are heavy with grief and hatred.”

“Like the hatred of Jesus’ enemies as they crucified Him on the cross? Like the hatred of the Americans for the Japanese during World War Two? Like the psychotic hatred of serial killers?”

“Yes, yes! How else can I answer such questions?”

“You can answer such questions by having Faith that there is more to come beyond this life, by believing that evil only spreads when good people are paralyzed by anger, fear, and hatred. To Love is to have Faith. To have Faith is to have Love. These noble elements of living decide our ultimate destinies. People have choices to make all their earthly lives. They will not always make the right choices, but Faith and Love will make all the wrong choices bearable and inconsequential when the last grain of sand is gathered.”

As more light came to the alley Leonid thought that he understood what the stranger was saying to him. He wanted to say something but no words would come.

The stranger lifted himself from the crate and stood in front of Leonid. “May I touch your head, Leonid, so that it might bless you?”

With tears now flowing, Leonid merely moved his head downward. The stranger touched his head. Leonid sensed warmth on his head and a coursing flutter through his body.

Then, the hand left his head.

When Leonid raised his head, the stranger was gone and daylight streamed throughout the alley.

Leonid was suddenly wearier than ever before in his life. He slid down the wall of a building and fell asleep.

*****

When Leonid awoke, his head was on his own pillow. He was gazing at the adjoining pillow into the wondrous blue eyes of his beloved Sasha, a sweet smile upon her face.

“You look different somehow, my love. Do you still intend to carry out your vendetta against North Korea? Please say that you will not.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled her face to his chest.

He blinked several times, feeling a wondrous presence streaming through his body He first smiled broadly, then giggled deliriously.

A pout showed on Sasha’s face. “Why do you laugh at me, Leonid.

“No, no! my precious love, I don’t laugh at you. I’m so happy, and, one day I will tell you, why!” He hesitated and wrapped Sasha in his arms.

“There will be no vendetta, not ever…”

Leonid tightly wound himself around Sasha and gave her a long and tender kiss.

“I’m torn,” he said, “making love to you, or, bacon and eggs?”He paused only briefly, “Oh, to hell with the bacon and eggs.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – Flash Fiction

(First written in June, 2013 – here with minor changes.)

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My Free Verse to the Universe

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 My Free Verse to the Univers

By Billy Ray Chitwood

“The Cracked Mirror…” is a Fictional Memoir I wrote a few years ago…ninety per cent true! This book was written while living on The Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

This poem in ‘free verse’ is at the beginning of the book, serving as an ‘entrée’ to my life as I’ve known it.

 Mirror Images

I once looked at men like you,

old men, frail and haunted…

That was when youth declared

that I would live forever.

How hard it was to see then…

how easy it is to see now.

Life was moonlight and promises…

So soon came ecstasy and joy.

When did it get this late?

When did the tree sap harden?

Where is the gold I sought?

Where is the key I held?

Why is the day no longer long?

Why does morning come so late?

What is the mystery to solve?

What day the reckoning?

– Billy Ray Chitwood –

*** 

And, this ‘free verse’ piece is at the end of THE CRACKED MIRROR…just before the ‘Epilogue’ of the book.

Portrait in Time

Young man, do you not see me

as once I might have been?

Is it the wrinkle, the sagging skin

Time laid upon me that you see?

Once I stood, perhaps like you,

with noble thoughts and dreams

a new bright morning might bring.

Time wore me down with its ceaseless

ubiquitous ways and subtle promises.

Time taunted and tempted me

with its guile and deception,

with its beauty beads of love. 

Time gave me its reins to run wild

with the wind toward sunrise and sunset.

 Time now leaves me here along the sea,

 better to have had its moments of joy;

sad to have you see the frail

and broken parts of me…

Young man, can you not see me

as once I might have been?

Billy Ray Chitwood 

Between these two poems is a narrative I truly believe you will enjoy. At least, that is my hope. It’s got some important history, a senseless murder, a suicide, and a young kid growing into a man NOT without tough lessons from the neon glittering world of deception, false promises, love, naive bluster, and a lot of soul searching…still have some of that ‘straw’ behind my ears! BUT, my books are worth your reading – that, of course, is my humble opinion. 

If you have the time or inclination, please leave a comment below, just after the shameless words of ‘BUY MY BOOKS’, ‘LEAVE REVIEWS’, and ‘FOLLOW’ ME.

Billy Ray Chitwood – October 21, 2017

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Requiem to a Boarding House Cook

Maude Inez Balsinger
– My Mom –

Requiem To A Boarding House Cook

 

Don’t guess too many boarding houses even exist anymore, but let me tell you: the best food I’ve ever eaten was in a boarding house setting.

The cook? My dear, beloved, departed mother. In one of my books, I mention that she is up there with angel ‘Clarence’ ringing a bell when some earthly creature does something good — you will all remember ‘Clarence:’ he visits us each year at Christmas time in a re-run of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

It might seem strange to sing the praises of a boarding house cook in a post, but the mind can carry you to some memory stations that leave a faint, sometime tearful, wisp of nostalgia.

The sleeping room in Mrs. Lester’s Boarding House my Mom and I shared was just across from the big kitchen, and, as a small eight-year old kid, I sat in one of the two rocking chairs in that room listening on the radio to a broadcast of a baseball game or football game, and the smells from that kitchen at dinner time would get me really hungry.

Just before Mom served the boarders at the long large dining table in front of the house, she would bring a heaping plate of food to me in that bedroom across the hall. Didn’t matter what it was, meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, corn bread, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy or home fries, it was always the most enjoyable food I would ever remember eating. And Mom would always smile, give me a kiss on the cheek, and say something like: “You’re the best little boy in the world…”

My Mom was a boarding house cook during some of the most troubled times in our economic history…during the great depression era in Appalachia. East Tennessee would be more precise. Knoxville, Tennessee would be most precise. Mom and Dad were divorced, and my sister was living fifty miles away with my maternal grandparents because of the bad times. Mom worked long hours seven days a week and she always made the time for me, made the time to make me feel like all was really right with the world. Even in my little pea-brain I knew all was not right in our world, that there were things happening in our lives that were beyond my scope of understanding. But Mom tried and she did make me feel loved and very much wanted in her life.

So, when that big plate of food was all consumed and wiped clean with the last bit of biscuit or cornbread, the ballgame ended, I would become wistful about my Mom’s boarding house existence, feeling that she really did not have much of a life. I would sit in that room, stuffed with good southern cooking, Mom doing dinner clean-up duties, and I would try to write a poem…try to write a poem that would convey the love I felt for my Mom, try to say in words on paper what my tiny voice could not say.

My Mom always encouraged me to follow my heart, to sing my songs, to write my verses, and it was there in those days during World War Two when I first took pencil to paper. Yes, the words were the mutterings of a young unsettled mind, but they meant something to me then.

Today, perhaps my mind is still unsettled, still searching for some ultimate truths, and that is okay. The words still mean something to me. Whatever my writing comes to be, somewhere in those sentences and paragraphs, in those characters and plots, there will be parts of me, and, actually, they are pretty easy to find. I am not a very large mystery in the scheme of things.

My Mom gave me the great gift of writing, the wonderful gift of expressing myself with words. It doesn’t matter so much that the words will or will not ring so many bells down here.

It does matter that Mom and ‘Clarence’ might occasionally ring their bells for me.

Billy Ray Chitwood – 9/25/17 and 8/06/12

 

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“Darkness and Fog” – Short Story/Flash Fiction

August 28, 2016 and September 25, 2017 Revised

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“Darkness and Fog”

 A Short Story/Flash Fiction –

The darkness and fog are palpable like a viscid sweat crawling all over the body, and my eyes cannot be trusted. Keen concentration is not all it’s made out to be. These dumb-ass images keep popping up all over the space in front, sides, and back of me…and, okay, I admit it – I’m a big boy scared. ‘There’s no moon in the sky – stormy weather’ (ring a bell?). I mean, there is no way this world can be this dark and foggy.

“Why,” Someone might ask, “are you so stupid to be standing where you’re standing?”

The reason is really simple but I’m going to make it as complicated for you as I can.

When I was a little boy, my crippled cousin had to have the light on during his bedtime dark hours. Now, I didn’t tease him about that but if I just mentioned it he chased me up one country road and another. If I didn’t have a pretty good lead he’d catch me. Then, we would end up wrestling until one of us said ‘Uncle’ – usually me! We were best pals and I loved my club-footed cousin-buddy, but he got madder than a frigging copperhead on LSD if anyone brought up sleeping with lights on.

That’s really not part of the complicated story, at least, not in a major way. This darkness and fog just made me think of him. He turned out to be a scratch golfer. He’s gone now, died too early in his life. His damned cheating wife was screwing the next-door neighbor, and my cousin beat the daylights out of the crooked-nose jerk and threw all her clothes – and her – out of the house. He was club footed but he was no yellow-belly. Nobody gave him any crap, that’s for sure. Then, bless him, he got some sort of breathing problem and it killed him.

Well, again, that’s not part of the complicated story either…and it makes me sad thinking about it.

I won’t lead you on any further.

It all starts with my sister, Sarah Lou. She’s fourteen going on twenty-four, if you get my drift, built like a brick s…-house, big boobs, long silky brown hair, great figure, really pretty, and she reckons she’s the ‘cat’s meow’. It seems she knows early on she wants to taste some parts of life she is no way ready to taste.

I’m convinced Sarah Lou is the genuine product of something genetically disfavored, sort of like my Dad. He gets madder than hell and beats up on her…and, Mom. Bless her heart! Well, I’m thinking I have more of my Mom in me. At least, I hope so, because she is all giving and loving. When Mom goes to heaven, ole ‘Clarence’ will be ringing loudly his bells.

Dad has this fiery temper, and it’s his way or the highway, so to speak. This is when he’s visiting us. He and Mom are divorced, and Dad seems to have these demons inside him that make for crazy flip-outs at any moment. I’ve noticed his behavior changes when Mom mentions her side of the family – they don’t like him and he doesn’t like them. Of course, the corn whiskey could have something to do with it. He likes his hooch! He’s also tall, good-looking, and has a thing for the ladies. How can I know that? Well, that’s a whole different story.

Well, anyhow, the genes running through Sarah Lou must be identical to Dad’s.

Moving the story along, Sarah Lou turns sixteen and elopes with an army corporal, runs off to another state when the corporal gets transferred. Mom is heart-sick and scared because she has to tell Dad the news.

Mom and I, my now older club-footed cousin and his big sister (on my Dad’s side of the family) go to the hotel where my Dad is now living to tell him about Sarah Lou’s elopement. Cuz and his sister come along to hopefully soften my Dad’s temper.

In his hotel room, my cousin and his sister take the two chairs in the room. Mom sits on the bed all timid and nervous… I can see her trying to swallow her fear, but it’s etched there on her face. I sit, timid and nervous myself under a window on a radiator…you know, those ugly, vertical heavy metal rods all linked in a row as one unit. Now, the heat isn’t on during this visit, but those units are a might uncomfortable to sit on. I just keep alternating my butt cheeks and somehow manage.

My Dad is just walking around the room. Now, Dad knows right away that something is up, and, he knows it isn’t good news – guess our faces and body language give us away. So, he’s nervous, too, but not in a sane way…it’s like, he’s the tiger sitting on a boulder about to pounce on an unsuspecting prey.

“Okay,” he says, “what’s the bad news? I can see it on all your faces.” He leans against the wall near me.

My stomach is turning as I’m looking at Mom while she haltingly tells Dad about Sarah Lou and the elopement.

I’m stealing peeks at Dad and can see a storm rising inside of him.

Mom finishes and is near tears, her face red with a thin layer of fret-sweat.

When Dad hears the news about Sarah Lou, he stomps around the room in a fury, shaking his head, temples pounding, mumbling curse words, and, abruptly stops in front of Mom and eyes her menacingly for several seconds. My sweet hard-working, lovely Mom sits there very still with her hands clasped on her lap with a now blanched and pitiful look on her face. My tears are about to come and I can almost feel her anxious and trembling body preparing itself for Dad’s assault.

My tainted-gene Dad gives Mom a hard looping open-hand slap to the face, so damned hard it knocks her over. My immediate fear is that he’s knocked something loose in her brain or upper body…and he’s getting ready to do more hitting.

I’m petrified watching it all from this hotel room radiator and l reckon something snaps inside me. I’ve watched this kind of madness too many times as a younger kid. Now, I’m a lot bigger. I rush him and tackle him onto the bed, crying and mumbling something stupid, like, ‘I’ve seen you do that to my Mom too many times’. I’ll never forget – he’s got this look on his face like a slight smile and surprise all at the same time.

With a blind rage, I start pounding Dad with my fists.  Pretty soon, he’s not moving. I must have connected with a vulnerable spot on his head. He just turns his head over to the side and goes to sleep. I sit there staring down at Dad, becoming a bit worried that I’ve done something bad. Yet, so far as I can see, he’s breathing with a normal rhythm. I gently slap his face a few times, but he doesn’t stir. I inspect his head, notice no swollen places and no blood.

After a couple of minutes pass, I rise from the bed and tell our little group we likely should leave before he comes out of it. He could really go bonkers then. So, we hustle out of Dad’s room and loudly close the door.

Mom cries all the way down the elevator, and we go unnoticed out a side entrance in the lobby. I drive my cousin and his sister home, and, except for the sound of the car engine, no one makes a sound. Only tears flow down our faces. We all hug and kiss each other.

Next, I drive Mom to her folks’ place some forty miles away.

We give Grandma and Grandpa all the news about our visit with Dad, and they’re madder than hornets in a wild wind, ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Is he alive?’ I make Mom promise me that she’ll stay with the grandparents until she hears from me. There’s no way Dad, assuming I didn’t hurt him too badly, would go around Grandpa because the latter gave Dad a whipping some months back.

After a few more tears are shed and the grand-folks can’t talk me out of leaving, I’m on my way back to the hotel to check on Dad… I know! Who should be caring about a guy who is abusive to his wife and daughter? Well, he’s my Dad, for better or worse! Me, I did not suffer so much his physical abuse. There are the lingering emotional scabs that come off as time passes and memories haunt in the dark of night. The real damage, emotionally, psychologically, and life-changing are for my dear Mom and Sister.

My blond head is churning with thoughts as I drive back to the hotel. The closer I get, the more tense I become. There’s this need to know about my Dad, whether he’s okay or hurt badly. I’m a sturdy young man now, 185 pounds, playing quarterback as a freshman at Garden View University. It’s difficult to calculate how hard I hit Dad with my fists – I feel like a part of me was actually holding back. But, then, I was lost in the moment.

There is no way to forget what happened, and just go back to my grandparent’s house. I have to know, one way or the other about my Dad. Did I hurt him more than first I thought? Is he alive? Is he dead?

I park Mom’s car down the street from the hotel and walk to the side entrance of the lobby.

The elevator is on the lobby level as if waiting for me. On Dad’s floor, the elevator doors open and my heart jumps into my mouth!

My Dad is standing in front of me, his eyes blinking like he is trying to clear his head.

“You coming out, young fellow?” Dad asks in an impatient and impersonal tone.

He notices the apparent surprise on my face. “You alright, boy?”

“Dad, it’s me!”

He did a fast look behind him like I was talking to someone else.

Dad blinks some more. “You’re mixed up, boy, I don’t have a son. Now, stay in the elevator or get out. I fell and cracked my head…have to get it taken care of.”

“But, Dad, I hit you on the head because you hurt Mom. Let me help you!”

Dad grabs my arm and pulls me out of the elevator onto the hallway carpeting. “Told you, boy, I’ve got no son.” He enters the elevator, pushes the lobby button and is gone.

I can’t say how long I stand rooted to that spot in front of the elevator. I am aware enough to know that other people enter and exit the elevator while I’m standing there.

Finally, I take the stairs down seven floors and walk out the side lobby entrance. My befuddled mind is on automatic pilot and leads me down the street to the car.

When I pull away from the curb, confused and frightened, I drive aimlessly, turning here, turning there, my mind going over and over the events of the day.

I drive for miles not mindful of where I’m going. Tears flow until my eyes get all watery. Finally, my brain tells me to pull off the road.

I’m out in the ‘boonies’ somewhere. There is an old rutted country road, and I turn onto the dirt and gravel, drive a quarter mile and notice that suddenly I can’t see.

The weather changes suddenly and I take the time to think, ‘What the hell am I doing? Out here in nowhere land?’ The reality of the situation makes me ease to the right off the old road, feeling my way as the darkness and fog come together – seemingly all at once.

I get out of the car, touching the metal, holding on to the only reality given me at the moment.

My Dad’s face is flashing at me in the darkness and fog…along with snakes, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and other beasts of the world.

There come some recalls of life with my Dad in them, not long after the divorce.

Much of those times are rough, but there are tender moments as well – farther back in youth, when he buys me a little boy’s grey suit with a bibbed hat, takes pictures of me with a cigarette dangling from my lips. There are bus, car, and train rides to visit his parents and grandmother…my grandparents and my great grandmother.

His grandmother is almost blind and sits on an old wooden porch in a rocking chair, frail and beautiful like a picture in sepia tone, with a corn cob pipe in the corner of her mouth. She is in her nineties, and Dad has to get within inches of her face before she recognizes him and gets a sweet smile on her face and hugs him. She makes over me as well, and I feel a sense of history – the events, all the things she has seen in her lifetime. Her time is almost up, but she is going to keep rocking and smoking her corn cob pipe for a while yet.

A few happy times flash by, those times when we play at being a family, without the tempestuous flares of raw emotions: the Saturday movie matinees; Mom and Dad smiling happily when my sister and I dance, when I attempt to write a poem; the endless questions I asked of them both – the insatiable curiosity of a little boy’s mind.

I love them both so much, and, now, my father has no son.

The tears do not stop until the mind reminds me of where I am, in the middle of proverbial nowhere with only the scary flashes coming from too much eye concentration and the memories that are both keepers and throwaways.

So, the world can be dark and foggy, and, maybe, reasons for standing in the darkness and fog are not so simple.

With measured steps I walk a few paces, can see no end to the darkness and fog, pivot, return to the car, get in the back seat, and lock the doors.

Assuming a fetus position on the backseat, I try desperately not to think anymore. I can wait out the darkness and the fog.

Tomorrow will come, and the sun will replace the dismal thoughts with hope.

I love my Mom and Dad.

Perhaps I still have both of them.

Billy Ray Chitwood – 9/25/17

*

Hope you enjoyed this short story and/or flash fiction – whichever your preference.

This is the beginning of a book with a working title, “Darkness and Fog.”

Well, fancy that!

Will you read the book when I launch it in late 2017 or early 2018?

I’ve authored fourteen books and invite you to my website to preview them. There are mysteries, suspense, romance, thrillers, memoirs, time travel, and other genres from which to choose. They have new covers and some of the novels are inspired by true events.

Hope you will read some of my offerings and leave reviews on Amazon. As we are wont to say, reviews are the lifeblood of authors:

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