Monday, June 10, 2019

4HU: Alpha Contracts by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey

Greetings, internet friends and neighbors! And thank you to my loyal family members who are striving to help me find fame, fortune, and a meaningful existence by reading this blog. Umm, let's just forget about the fame and fortune part, shall we?

I wasn't planning on this being a blog post. But when I got to the bottom of the second page in the book review, I realized NOBODY was going to read that, not even the authors, so in order to preserve what I had taken so long to write, I dumped it here. Now I have to go back and slash what follows to make it fit.
Here's the slashed Goodreads review; I've submitted the Amazon review, but it hasn't posted yet. When it does, I'll post the link in the comments.

Warning: the main text (which follows)  is 1247 words. That's only 1/10 of the words in"Nightfall," by Isaac Asimov, though, so I'm certain that a few of you loyalists will find your way clear to read it.

Okay: if you are running an ad blocker, you WON'T see this (it's a link to Amazon to buy the book):

I do not wish people WITH ad blockers (as I do) to suffer data denial, so here is a link for YOU, followed by a NON-LINKABLE picture of the cover.

The ORIGINAL Four Horsemen

First, a confession. (And yes, I DO seem to be doing a lot of those lately.) When I looked at the cover art, I thought, “What the heck is going on here? What in the WORLD can the artist have been thinking! That's the worst rendering of a fat Jim Cartwright possible!”

Sigh. I was half-way through Chapter 1 before I realized that, duh, ALPHA CONTRACTS!!!! This is the ORIGINAL Cartwright (also named Jim, though), and NOT the obese-shading-to-merely-rotund Cartwright of Cartwright's Cavaliers and the other mumble mumble books in the 4HU. And the original Cartwright wasn't operating with the same burdens (see what I did there?) that the most-recent Cartwright had to struggle under, hence wasn't a Tub-O-Lard.

The artist is right; I was wrong. On with the review!'

The primary focus is on the companies which became the Four Horsemen. However, the writers include small snippets from another company, the Avenging Angels, to remind us that 96 of the contracts ended in the extermination of the humans. It's a very well-done bit, and the method of the telling, which is correspondence with home, makes sure we know that it wasn't Companies who died; it was individual people, with hopes, dreams, and families.

Note: because the book deals with the main history of each of the companies separately, there is some repetition of scenes in which more than one company is involved. Feature, not a bug.

First, Cartwright's Cavaliers. Jim Cartwright is owner/operator of Cartwright's International, an independent contractor supplying security and transport in parts of the world where booms can ruin a perfectly good trip to the market. He has a number of significant employees, including Nina, a young woman of short stature who is highly proficient at making bad Enemies into good Enemies,  with the .50 BMG being her ammo of choice.
We discover that Cartwright combines a love of action with a first-class business mind, and that he has started and sold numerous highly profitable companies, all of them selecting resources that no one else thought existed. He MAY have some sort of built-in early warning system, because he gets uneasy just before the aliens land, and Earth's economy is wrecked. Prior experience serves him well; alone of all the potential mercs, he understands the value of research. Seeking such, and bearing gifts/bribes, he seeks counsel from the only military officer who has a clue about fighting aliens, Col. Kuru Shirazi of the soon-to-be-extinct Iranian Guard.
And I'm not following the story further, because spoilers. Just remember: Jim Cartwright may have some pre-cog, or his genius may be extrapolating from available data, and he is a firm believer in preparedness.

Next, Asbaran Solutions, seeking to carry on the tradition of the knights who lead the Sassanid army in the closing days of the Persian Empire. They are mostly drawn from the remaining units of the Iranian military, which has taken a SOUND beating as a result of the suicide bombing of the visiting aliens at the UN vote to adopt a global government. In response, the MinSha had turned most of Iran into slag, then raided much of what was left over for booty. In almost every case, Resistance WAS Futile, but there were a very few notable successes, hence Jim Cartwright's visit. Reading the signs, Col Kuru Shirazi led remnants away from the lethal entanglements of what was left of Iran, and also away from the jackals fighting over the corpse, and established New Persia, under civilian leadership.
This separation from the country now mostly consisting of radioactive glass solved a number of problems for those left alive, but for Shirazi, a principle benefit was that it would support the efforts of the merc group he established.
From his own experience, significantly clarified by his contact with Cartwright, Shirazi was convinced of the futility of force-on-force conflict with aliens. The few wins (which no one else had accomplished) had been achieved through tactics lumped under the term 'asymmetric warfare.' And that's the specialty Asbaran Solutions picked for their company.
Long enmity with ...(practically the rest of the world, but a few countries in particular) was a difficult obstacle to overcome, but Shirazi found he was able to unify others by their hatred of the MinSha, and by extrapolation, the entire Galactic Union. This was a solution devoutly to be desired by his comrades. Thus, from the beginning, his company was a Solution: to the problem of association with a dying, lethal country, and to the problem of the lost honor, stolen by the MinSha. It also made for a nice front for prospective clients: whatever your problem, we are the Solution.

The Winged Hussars. Lawrence Komalski was an information technology genius, and a person with great expectations. Specifically, he expected to inherit control of the family shipping business, while his less-competent cousin was sent out to pasture with some money to play with. Unexpectedly, at the reading of his grandfather's will, he discovered he had been outmaneuvered, and his cousin got the company. The beating his cousin also got, at Lawrence's hands, locked up in Warsaw's Rakowiecka Prison. (Note: this prison is REAL, and HIGHLY worth the time it will take you to google it. In fact, here's a link I followed.). His cousin runs the company into the ground, and springs Lawrence from the slammer to fix things. This Lawrence does.  One of his earliest changes allowed his merchant ship officers to receive military training, which turned out to be a critical choice.
No amount of beatings could introduce good sense to his cousin, who spent all of the resources on the company buying what he thought was a space-faring cargo ship; it turned out to be a worn-out warship.  He then compounded that error by signing a merc contract, to serve as an armed escort for an assault group. If the contract is fulfilled, it will redeem Komalski Shipping; failure will bankrupt it. And, the contract stipulates that Lawrence has to be a part of the crew.  The job goes badly. 
Look, you KNOW it HAS to work out in the end, right? Because Winged Hussars are part of the Four Horsemen? You MUST read this to find out how Lawrence pulls THAT off.

The Golden Horde. If ever I read in prior books in the series that the Golden Horde merc company emerged from a drug-smuggling background, I neglected to store that fact in memory. What I retained is that the leader, Madame Enkh, was ruthless, and that she had prescient dreams, and that the Horde traced their legacy to Mongol origins. And that family ties are very, very important.
Drug trafficking IS a high profit-margin business, but it's also a high-risk business as well. The cops can be bought off, in many cases, but the competition never stops. And the discovery that one of their competitors has access to alien hardware makes current business practices untenable for the Gray Wolves, the precursors to the Horde. Even worse, the casualties they suffer are family members, and it takes a LONG time to turn a zygote into a team member.

It's tough enough to get arms, but the disintegrating corpse of the former Soviet Union provides opportunities for scavengers, willing to take some risks. Where do you get subordinates who will be bonded like family, though?  There must be SOME way...

Thanks to those who took the time; comments are always nice.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Little Old Man in Line

Greetings and blessings to you, internet friends and neighbors! And for all my kin folk out here, I love you, and you know that.

I wrote this six years ago this week. 
At the time, my 30-year-old first-born son was in Afghanistan. He had already received the wound that would force a medical discharge and 100% disability two years later, but he had yet to tell me about it. He was still trying to find a way to stay with his boys over there.

I wonder if that little old man is still with us? If he is, I'd like to assure him that we are still standing up for the same thing he did, now 75 years ago. We are keeping the faith, sir.

The little old man in line
He was a little old man, just like this one.

The little old man in line in front of me at the grocery store was bent over, and it took him a while to unload his shopping cart onto the conveyor. He shuffled forward, and greeted the cashier with a clear, pleasant voice. It took him a while to scan his credit card to pay for his groceries; then he had to retrieve his cane from the cart while the young lady (what do you call a female bagboy?) helped him move it to the door; it was a slow process. The cashier looked at me with some embarrassment; she had seen me watching him, and I read her mind: she was afraid I was put out over the little old man's slow movements. 
She rang up my few items, and I leaned over to her, and said, "I'll bet you any amount of money you want that he's a WWII veteran." She gave me a puzzled look; I said "Didn't you see the way he was standing?" She probably didn't see it, but I did. Even with the trembling and the cane, the little old man had seen service. "His generation saved our generation," I told her.
Her voice broke. For the first time, I realized she had an Eastern European accent. She said, "They come in here all the time, and I never know what to say to them." 
"It's a debt we will never be able to repay," I said.
I hobbled out to the parking lot. Even with my own limp and cane, I caught up with the little old man and his helper before we reached the parking lot.
"Excuse me, sir, but I have to ask you where you were 69 years ago."
He gave me a funny look. What the heck is this gray haired, bearded pony-tailed cripple asking me? He started to answer. "well, let's see, I'm..."
He was going to tell me how old he was, and figure it out from there. I stopped him.
"June, 1944."
He smiled, and looked at me full in the face. "In the Navy."
"I knew it," I said. "I could tell by the way you stand."
"Well, I used to stand a lot taller..."
"You stand just fine, sir. Thank you for your service. Your generation saved my generation, and we won't ever be able to pay you back. We're doing our part, though; my oldest son is in Afghanistan now, and I was in the 582 Med Company." 
"Good for you, young man" the old sailor replied, with a trace of moisture in his eyes, and a bit of a quiver in his voice.
"Thank you, sir, and thank you again for your service."
"And thank you as well," he said.

And I hobbled off to my truck, and he shuffled off to his Buick; and I looked at the young lady who was helping him with his groceries. Her eyes were glowing, and she studied the little old man as if she had never seen a man before in her life.

And maybe she hadn't REALLY seen one before; but she will remember this day, and I will; and so will the little old man, and hopefully he will tell someone he loves that we haven't forgotten him and all those other boys who saved civilization.

Peace be on your household.

Monday, June 3, 2019

"In the Year King Uzziah Died..."

Greetings, internet friends and neighbors, and a big hidey-ho to those family members left upright and on the right side of the daisies. And to everybody else: you start by banging the rocks together, then go from there.

Isaiah 6:1 begins "In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord..." The verses continue with the details of his vision, and if you are at all familiar with contemporary Christian music, you'll recognize the verses as the inspiration for multiple songs and choruses.

"The Prophet Isaiah," Marc Chagall

I'm not gonna talk about that.

Instead, I'm gonna talk, a bit, about how you go about seeing the Lord when you have had your guts kicked out.

To do that, I've got to talk a bit about King Uzziah.

He started out GREAT! And he was only 16 when he ascended to the throne. His name means "The LORD is my strength," and that's the way he ruled.

At first.

And for a long time: his rule totaled 52 years.
And he really did great things for Israel. I'm not gonna detail them here, but if you want to go to the primary source, check out the books of I Kings (Chapter 15) and II Chronicles (Chapter 26). It is said that his rule was second only to Jehoshaphat, since the time of Solomon, David's son and the third king.

Somehow, though, despite his military and scientific advances, and his fame and prosperity, it just wasn't enough for him. He decided he was going to do the ONE thing that was forbidden to him: he was going to burn incense on the altar of God.

Nope. BIG nope. The right incense had to be offered in the right way by the right people, or A Very Bad Thing happened, and that was the truth even from the beginning. Aaron, Moses' brother, was the first priest, and his sons with him, and when they offered the wrong incense, THEY wound up being burned.

You think a king would know better!

But, he didn't; and when he tried, even over the objection of the priests, he got struck with leprosy.

And then he lived, in isolation, for 11 more years.

And the people? Devastated, no doubt. Here was this INCREDIBLE, gifted king, one who was so famous that they knew about him way over in Egypt; a guy you could BRAG about! ...and then he is disobedient, and is cursed as a leper. Maybe, the people would have been better off if he had just died on the spot; on the other hand, he probably had a good bit of teaching he needed to pass along to the next king.

So, after having a king rotting away in a room by himself for eleven years, he dies, and his grave is even separated from those of the other kings.

And THAT'S when Isaiah saw the LORD.

How do you manage to see the LORD when you are at your lowest point? WHY are you seeing the LORD when you are that low? And what else can we learn from this passage?

1. How? Well, the how is a little bit simple. You do it the way you always have done it. This WASN'T the first contact Isaiah had with the LORD, for certain! You want to see the Lord when you are in despair? Start looking for Him immediately! Start looking for Him when you are a child; teach your children how to find God. Let it become a regular part of your life. Then, when you are on the floor, and you can't lift a finger, you breathe out, "Lord, help."And my own experience is that He answers.

2. WHY? Why would God choose to reveal Himself at this moment, in this way? Don't know. But, I expect that one reason is because that's when we need the sign. Signs are good things to have, when we are lost.

3. What else can we learn? How about this one: Don't trust in kings. They will ABSOLUTELY let you down. Not just talking about kings, either; talking about ANY leaders. Sooner or later, if you place all of your confidence in a human, you are going to have that confidence betrayed. I feel so sorry for all those who have determined to invest their resources in support of a political figure. Even if they win, they are going to lose. The principle never fails, because the person always does; and, even if that failure is not readily apparent, their time in power will pass, and someone else will be in control.

At this moment, there are people that I care for who are in pain. Just a month ago, my older sister lost her husband. Just a year ago, my younger sister lost hers. And just last week, a woman I respect and admire had her husband pass away unexpectedly. Others are struggling with different issues, but there are a LOT of people out there who are experiencing some of the same things that the prophet did, in the year that King Uzziah died.

My prayer for all of them, and for the rest of us as well: I hope that you see the Lord.

Peace be on your household.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Noir Fatale, With Graphics (I Think)

O be joyful, internet friends and neighbors, and those relatives who are taking a break from the things which are really important! For, Papa Pat has written a REVIEW again! YAY!
Not just ANY review, either! This is a review of the lovely, delightful, occasionally scary collection of stories called NOIR FATALE!

If you DON'T have an ad blocker running, what you ought to see next is a link to Amazon's page for "Noir Fatale":

For those of you who DO have an ad-blocker running, here's a link to click. Click that, and you get a free trip to the book!

Noir Fatale: if the title doesn't hook you, you probably weren't paying attention. It is fortunate for me that Good Girls are attracted to Bad Boys; that's how the Motorcycle White Boy, aka Redneck Biker, became a permanent fixture in the life of the Church Lady, aka my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. Flip the genders: is the opposite true as well? Do Nice Boys fall for Bad Girls? I have not a clue, never having been a Nice Boy. I suspect, though, that whether Naughty of Nice, there is something of danger, need to be rescued, sweetness of lips, with the outside hope of being shot, stabbed, or poisoned that does give these noir fatales something to work with.

MAJOR kudos to Sarah A Hoyt on the cover. She has captured a representative of the genre in the act of....something.

Kacey’s Introduction & Larry’s Introduction. Long, long ago, when I was first discovering the excitement of STORY (!), I always skipped the prefatory material. It took about twenty more years for me to discover that there was often some VERY interesting and important things going on in those ignored sections. Today, I love them! Particularly when, as in this case, we are given a peek backstage, and get an understanding about How It Works. Don't miss these!

Ain’t No Sunshine by Michael J. Ferguson and Christopher L. Smith. Slade and Collier are tough, hard-nosed PI types, not out of place in the 1930s Los Angeles setting, but in this little twister, they are in space. Slade's a bit of a techno-phobe, much to the amusement of others. Their business is (just) scraping by. Under those circumstances, you can't AFFORD to do much pro bono work. However, when an old flame, now one of the most powerful women in the habitat, dies under mysterious circumstances, penniless techno-phobes are on the job. Side characters include a second old flame, and a little sister-type. Remember the little sister in 'The Big Sleep?' The one who kept biting her thumb?

Recruiting Exercise by David Weber. Sometimes, when I read David Weber's work, I want to grab up a couple of history books, and re-examine the entire section of Western Civ that dealt with the various insanities that visited France in the 18th & 19th centuries. However, I just don't like the French very much- sorry – and so I haven't done that. This particular story deals with a young woman, starving, and with food and medicine withheld from her ailing brother, who decides to prostitute herself in order to get the things the utterly corrupt bureaucrats are holding back.

Spoils of War by Kacey Ezell. One day, Kacey Ezell is going to write a bad story. Maybe. From the evidence I've seen so far, though, that day is likely to come after the sun burns out. This gem sits on layer upon layer; the mysterious woman; the gent she seeks out for assistance, a war-time friend of her brother; and what WAS her brother up to, anyway? An evil, wicked Bad Man sends gunsels. And she has found the man of her dreams, and desires nothing more than to run away with him, and just be Joe and Betty Grumble; and Ezell writes in such a way that WE want this for her as well, and we are so very, very glad when it is finally in her grasp...
Apropos of nothing at all, did you know the most famous painting in the world wasn't really THAT famous until it was stolen? And that it's painted on wood, not canvas?

The Privileges of Violence by Steve Diamond Consider: Russia during the darkest days of consolidation of the Soviet Union; secret police everywhere; rebellions internal, and foreign intervention always possible. Therefore, the terror police were perhaps the most active and effective part of the entire country. Did I mention the monsters? Because there are monsters. With secrets. More  twists and turns in this one than in the Runaway Mine Car at Six Flags, and I believe it captures the same bleakness of spirit that Orwell painted into '1984.'

A Goddess in Red by Griffin Barber. We use the term 'goddess' to describe a woman who takes our breath away with her beauty. This one is beautiful, and she can CERTAINLY take your breath away, but she also has some pretty creepy powers. She gets involved in a plot, and you have to wonder: what's in it for her? Is this just boredom setting in? Read it with the lights on. In every room. And a German Shepherd at your feet while you clutch a cat and a Browning Hi-Power close.

Kuro by Hinkley Correia. After reading this, I became curious as to the identity of Hinkley Correia, and her relationship to Larry. One thing I can say is this: the inclusion of this story in the collection owes NOTHING to nepotism. Great characters, GREAT story. Lots of depth, and wear your seat belt. Japanese freaky ghosts, and a significant serving of what life is like for the Japanese salaryman. Well done!

Sweet Seduction by Laurell K. Hamilton. I read this story while I was in the hospital, on a clear liquid diet. I wanted all of the cupcakes described in the book, and if they had been available, I just MIGHT have broken the rules. Now aside from that, it's a GREAT detective story, and a very nicely done social commentary as well. But I must have the address of that bakery, do you hear?

A String of Pearls by Alistair Kimble. Alistair has the credentials to write devastatingly fascinating detective fiction. However, none of that is evident here. I hated this story, which is obscure, internal, and boring. If you like internal dialogue from a protagonist who never gets to the point, you'll love this. I grew tired of internal dialogue that skirted the issue of what was really going on, and resolved that this one must be DEFENESTRATED. Hit it, Alicia Ann!

Alicia Ann destroys the printer

Honey Fall by Sarah A. Hoyt The last story in which I didn't care what was going on is followed by a story in which the protagonist doesn't know what is going on. We don't either, BUT we can see that there is a clear path that will take her, and us, there. Taking place in post-war, magic-infused world, a deliciously lovely little tale of the damsel in distress, and the distress of those who wish to harm or help.

Three Kates by Mike Massa I had the great privilege of living in what was then West Germany for two and a half years, and I worked closely with a man who was a veteran of the Wehrmacht, and a woman who was a veteran of the Luftwaffe. Therefore, I know from experience that not all Germans were Nazis, nor evil, nor anything of the sort. It had to be different during the actual conflict, even without the addition of magical themes this story brings us. Our protagonist is a German agent, sent on a mission to discover certain items of power. His crisis of conscience is NOT easily resolved, and is, in fact, perhaps even aggravated by the intervention of three lovely ladies with their own agenda.

Worth the Scars of Dying by Patrick M. Tracy Evidently, story length is of great importance to me, even if I can't define it. What starts out as a simple case of a damsel in distress, seeking assistance form an innkeeper who transforms into a beast, soon devolves into a story that seems interminable. So, I terminated it. Perhaps you will find a different outcome. Kenneth, I believe this one is yours:

The Frost Queen by Robert Buettner If someone had told me that Robert Buettner, cited as one of Heinlein's heirs, author of (among others) the Orphan series, was going to write a sweet YA adventure story about heroism, sacrifice, and falling in love, I would have murmured politely and changed the topic of conversation. BUT HE DID! It's a lovely little story; I think he gets all of the characters down perfectly. Along the way, he tosses in enough references to tension between the Earth dwellers and those on the Moon that we get it, we really do. I pass his house (sort of) every time I go Papa-sit three of my grands, and I'll wave a little more sweetly from this point on. (Not to be stalkerish: I DON'T know where his house is. I just know which exit off the highway it is.)

Bombshell by Larry Correia. If Correia didn't invent a couple of genres, he certainly made them come alive to new generations. My youngest son, the Moose, is a dedicated Monster Hunter and is enormously proud of the fact that he ran into Larry at a DragonCon. But in this delightful little tale, instead of sticking with mainstream Grimnoir-type special talents, he uses a cop with ZERO talent to solve crime, in spite of the specials. It's a great story, and, as is the case with so many others in this volume, keeps you on your toes.

All in all: despite the two stories I chose to dump, it's WELL worth your time. I found this fascinating; I don't know if it can be replicated, but I, for one, would love to see more.

And I want those cupcakes, too.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

You Can't Know Who You Are

Greetings, internet friends and neighbors.

Today is, I believe, May 18, 2019. My days are terribly confused since I was hospitalized from April 30 until May 11, and my time has been taken up in recovery since then. That was going along nicely, until the day before yesterday, when I FOOLISHLY and AGAINST ORDERS carried groceries into the house, and in the process ripped open my incision, which had been healing nicely.  I now have a three inch gash in the skin of my belly, which is covered with a wet/dry pack, and I go back to see the surgeon tomorrow. Yes, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, appropriately rebuked me for my lapse in good sense. I have no excuse.

I do, however, have thoughts. Whether you are in the hospital or not, life carries on. In fact, at the moment, I have one adult child in Europe, a middle school son who spent last week on a school trip in Savannah, and three tiny grandchildren who are not taking a nap. Yes, I DID accidentally pick one of them up, but I dropped her immediately (NO I DIDN'T!).

And, the day after I was admitted to the hospital, my brother-in-law passed away. I missed his funeral, because I was having surgery at the time. Bad scheduling on my part, but what are you going to do?
Bob Kimsey
August 31, 1948 ~ May 1, 2019

I was not there to console my older sister. Nor was I there to console my younger sister, who lost her husband of forty years just last year. Didn't get to be there with my kids. Didn't hear the messages of love, respect, and humor that were shared at the service.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to start this blog five years ago (or so) and so I do have a forum to share what's on my heart. Let me give you the punch lines, first.

  • Ain't nobody just one thing
  • Ain't nobody EXACTLY sure of who they are
Erm...the second of those might not be as true as the first, but they are both true. The meaning of the first is straightforward, but what I mean by the second is that sometimes, maybe all of the time, who you are depends on the perception of others. And I have grasped my perception of my brother-in-law firmly, and wrapped it around myself as a warm winter coat, and I will now proudly share with you the Bob Kimsey I knew.

Bob has been a part of my life approaching 60 years, back to my days in elementary school. That's because it was in the SIXTH GRADE that he and my older sister Carol became an item. That's an exceptional fact, and I know of no one else who has had a relationship of that length. That's certainly not the MODERN pattern; it's more like something you might read about in a book of historical fiction. And yet, it's the truth.

I have my own theory about why my cute-as-a-speckled-puppy-under-a-red-wagon sister picked the biggest guy in the sixth grade to be her boyfriend. This is cheap pop psychology of the worst kind, but here it is: I was only 1 year old when my father left, but Carol was 5. That's old enough for it to hurt, and whereas I never had the experience of having a father, she did. And my theory is that she felt the loss, and somewhere inside, resolved that she wasn't going to allow her primary protector to leave her again. So, as soon as she found one worthy of the role, she grabbed him, and she never let go. 
See? I told you it was cheap pop psychology.

But to me, life pretty much went on as usual. Because Carol was four years ahead of me in school, and because we moved around in those days, it was only her distant reputation as smart and wonderful that informed my teachers and classmates about my family. Until I got into the 8th grade.

It was a tough school. The public school system in Macon was segregated by gender, in those days. All the boys went to Lanier Junior and Senior High, and the girls went to Miller. And instead of the calm, orderly, restrained neighborhood schools I'd grown used to, I was dumped into a maelstrom of testosterone-driven aggression as boys from all over the county fought to find their place in the pecking order, without the civilizing influence of girls to ameliorate the issue. Almost everybody survived it. I didn't. I was a skinny loudmouth with a funny voice and glasses, and I hadn't yet learned that a smart remark in class was going to result in a physical beating on the the playground.

But, at some point, I learned I had an ace in the hole. If I could JUST work the fact that my sister was dating Bobby Kimsey into the conversation, I had a chance to get out of the exchange more-or-less intact. Because, Bobby was a star football player. In fact, he was THE star football player, the only member of the football team to be named All-State his senior year. And people knew who HE was, even if they didn't know, or care, who I was. And, instead of picking on me, they went in search of other, less dangerous prey.

So: that's my first REAL perception of Bobby: my protector. And he didn't even know it.

Years passed, things happened. After being given a full scholarship to play football for UGA, Bob had just about all the football he could stand, I believe. And he walked away from the books and the playing field, and he and Carol eloped in 1968. 
How it came about, I don't know, but they both started working at what was then (I think) Macon City Hospital, later the Medical Center of Central Georgia. Both of them were working entry-level positions in respiratory therapy, and SOMEHOW, they both managed to go to school as well. Carol went to nursing school, Bobby went to night school, and THAT'S the point at which he decided he had enough of people thinking he was nothing but a big dumb football player. I was living elsewhere then (a different story), but I do remember the point at which Bobby had made the Dean's List for eight straight quarters. 

Changing my perception: the guy who had been my protector was smart.

If you weren't alive and aware at the time, you have no idea how important The Draft was to young men (and, to a lesser extent, those who cared for the young men). We thought of it as a meat-grinder, scooping up young men, turning them into soldiers, and sending them to Viet Nam. There were all kinds of ways of avoiding it; student deferment was one. That made you safe - until you left school. I have one relative who went to seminary to avoid getting drafted, and there were an amazing number of young male teachers back then; I suppose teachers had exemptions, too. And, for those with the means and inclination, you could always present some medical issue, or you could go to Canada.
But Bobby enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard, where he served for the next six years. He told me once later that the hardest part was rolling his socks up to fit in the tiny space allocated to them in his foot locker; Bobby had HUGE feet.

And my perception changed, a bit more.

Not too long after that, I join the ranks of high school graduates, go to college, and discover the delightful psychosis that IV amphetamine use brings. It all crashed down on my head in a very short period of time; I lost my girl friend (that's a HUGE deal at age 19!) lost my scholarship to college, and finally, lost my job. I saw no hope for the future, and decided my life was over, and the sooner, the better. My guilt and shame over my lost opportunities wouldn't permit me to talk about them, though, so I just festered, waiting for the opportunity to end it all; until Bobby picked me up in his Volkswagen, gave me a beer, and told me he would listen. And I talked. For the first time, I was able to admit that I was at the end, and that I needed help, because I could absolutely not see how I was going to make it another day. And he and Carol arranged for me to get some help.

And the big smart guy, who had been my protector, and was a soldier, became my counselor. And actually, that's a position he never yielded.

Here are A FEW of the times Bob was significant to me. This isn't all of them; frankly some of them are too deeply personal to share, and also, I don't want to breach closed issues. But:

In 1977, when my disastrous & brief first marriage was falling apart, he told me to seek God. I already knew about God, of course, but hearing Bobby say that gave me just a little bit more to make it through.
In 1983, when my first son was born, Bobby talked to me about the joy of being a father, and how quickly the time passes. 
In 1986, when I STARTED a PhD program in business, he was encouraging, and in 1987 when I dropped out because I hated it so badly, he understood; that's probably because he had paid the price to master that area of knowledge, and he personally knew how tough it was, and how everybody wasn't cut out to handle that sort of thing.
In 2009, my marriage of 30+years was over, and I could not lift a finger to help myself; and Bobby reached out to me, and told me he loved me, and to call on him.

Here's something that I know to be the truth, without a shadow of a doubt: no one on earth knows what Bobby meant to me. My beloved sister Carol certainly didn't; she got mad at Bobby for giving me a hard time about the length of my hair about a year ago. She didn't know that he got to do that; he had earned that right, and I had gladly given him permission to do so. I tried to tell her that this was free speech, and what both Bobby and I had served our country for; I, so that Bobby could have the freedom to criticize my appearance, and he, so that I could have the freedom to wear my hair any length I wanted to. But, she didn't get it. That's okay. She didn't HAVE to get it. 

No one on earth knows what Bobby meant to me. I fear that included Bobby as well, although he and I ALWAYS communicated clearly (at least for the past 30+ years, we did). I don't think he could comprehend the respect I held him in; I don't think it was in him to hold himself in the same esteem that I held him. That's because he had been the protector; does the strong one know what it's like to be weak? Not sure, not sure. 

But, he did know this: he knew I loved him. Even though he didn't know who he was to me, because I don't really think you CAN know who you are to others, he knew I loved him. And I'm gonna have to be okay with that, because I think that's just about as good as it gets.
Really, I think it's all that's necessary.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Defenestration Warning: When Encountering Bad Writing

Greetings, Internet friends and neighbors, as well as the occasional family members who have managed to creep in here despite my invitations to do so.

Today, I was able to get discharged from the hospital, where I have spent nearly two weeks dealing with an obstructed bowel. It appears that I had a bit of scar tissue which constricted a tiny segment of gut, and resembled a belt loop. Snip, and I was set free, only to spend interminable days recovering.

  1. 1.
    throw (someone) out of a window.

    "she had made up her mind that the woman had been defenestrated, although the official verdict had been suicide"
  2. 2.
    remove or dismiss (someone) from a position of power or authority.

    "the overwhelming view is that he should be defenestrated before the next election"

But that's not what draws a defenestration warning. I DO have some rather sharp words to say regarding the lack of care received during the initial hours of my hospitalization, but won't share that here until I share with the hospital itself (and maybe not then). Not an issue of privacy, or delicacy on my part; I just don't want to bleed off steam I need to excoriate on the blog.

No, the defenestration pertains to the fact that I have some reviews of rather lovely books due. One (or more) of those is a collection of stories, and MOST of the stories are Suitable For Framing : lovely works of art, worth hanging on a wall (book shelf) and examining for the sheer joy of story, well executed. A couple are NOT.

I try to avoid trivializing language. Some months back, I wrote of the value of 
euphemisms , which is one way of avoiding word-value creep. If strong language is to remain strong, it must be used sparingly, else, it loses impact.

Similarly, when I encountered one particular story, I had to boldly resist the temptation to say "%$^*& this story," as I felt it would be lazy on my part, and not fully complete the sentence I wish to impose. After some significant amount of time wrestling with the RIGHT word, 'defenestration' is the term I came to believe to be the best descriptor.

Note that I wish to see the sentence executed in this format: I wish to have the typewritten copy, still attached to the platen of a manual typewriter, tossed from the upper story of an office building. Sheets of paper may accompany the downfall, as long as there is a sound of a crash at the end of the journey.

I fully accept that there is plenty of room in the tent for all kinds of writing; the story I find particularly egregious may delight someone else.
NOTE: I do not believe the previous statement, not at all; anyone who likes the story I wish to excoriate is just plain wrong. The editor should have sent this one back, with a smelly sock attached. 
So, be forewarned. It's a story (actually, one story, and ALMOST another story) in the otherwise MARVELOUS collection "Noir Fatale."  And to avoid needless dithering and worry, neither the  primary nor the secondary targets of my ire were penned by helicopter pilots, college students, furniture refinishers, or people who write delicious stories about delicious cupcakes. Further, the deponent sayeth not, while reserving the right to expand and extend at later date.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Short Meditation: The Day Before Easter

Today is Saturday, April 20, 2019. You and I know that tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The disciples didn't know that. I wonder: was Saturday worse than Friday? If I were to recall certain horrific events in my life, I think maybe the day after was worse than the day itself. On the day of the trauma, there was shock and horror. But on the day after? It's the first day to live with the new reality of loss, and I have never known how to do that. Of course, I've never had a loss as shocking and horrible as being a disciple who had watched Jesus crucified. Not even close. Still, I think, maybe, the disciples being just as human as I am, that Saturday was worse than Friday. Not only were they reliving the events in their mind, over and over, but they had to be terrified that they might be the next one arrested. Tomorrow, I'll have a different perspective. But for right now, I think I'm just going to stay in Saturday, and try to fully comprehend.
Dali's "Christ of St. John On The Cross"
"I will stand on my guardpost, and station myself on the rampart, and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved."
Habakkuk 21, NASB
Peace be on your household.