Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thrift Store Mystery CD Review: Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, "Sister Anthony"

Mystery CD: “Sister Anthony” by The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir
Found at: Savers
Price: $1.98 (again)
First impression:

                This one’s pretty provocative, I have to say.  Even before I saw the band’s name, that cover graphic gave me pause.  It’s not every day you see an ancient, creepy statue staring benevolent and cockeyed at you from a CD cover, especially one named “Sister Anthony”.  And that’s another thing, you rarely meet any sisters named Anthony.  I don’t remember at what stage I noticed the name of the band, but I distinctly remember wavering back and forth in my head, trying to decide if I really wanted this, since “Bourbon Tabernacle Choir” is a pretty obvious spoof on “Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” made all that much more poignant by replacing “Mormon” with an alcoholic drink, and as a convert myself I don’t usually deal too well with mean-spirited tauntings of my chosen faith.  On the other hand, though, the album did peak my curiosity, and even if it’s terrible it should at least be interesting.  Therefore, I thought, it was my duty to take it home, listen to it, and inform what little audience I have as to what I found.
                I’ve peeked at the liner notes and most of the lyrics seem to be disenchanted ranting in slanty verse.  A lot of words that end with an N and an apostrophe, lots of “ain’t”s and a lot of random lines repeated exactly four times in a row for no discernable reason.  Maybe it’ll make more sense when I actually listen to it.  Either way, I don’t think it’s metal (darn), especially after I looked at the credits where they list saxophone, accordion, organ, trombone and a bunch of other stuff that you don’t hear in most rock bands.  So what is this, irreverent folk?  Darkwave, maybe?  Then again, it could still be metal… one of my favorite metal duos frequently include banjo solos in their songs, so it’s possible they’re just getting a little creative.  Anyway, my curiosity is getting the better of me.  Let’s get this over with! 

1. Worms
                Oh goodness.  Oh my goodness…
                The first several seconds are a honky tonk piano and an amalgamation of other instruments just playing random dissonant melodies that don’t fit together over grumbling and talking.  Then it slowly fades out and we’re introduced to the main song. 
                The worst part is, this actually sounds like gospel music.  You’ve got the soft funk beat and strong bass line, the prominent electric organ and several saxophones, along with a gutsy lead singer and a smokey-voiced woman on backing vocals who sounds like she’s straight out of a southern revival church, one of those places where you’ve got the gospel choir all in blue robes and people going into convulsions in the aisles… This isn’t at all what I thought it would be.  Is this honest-to-goodness soul music??  What is this madness!?

2. The Down
                The easy listening gospel groove continues with the second track.  This is crazily upbeat, which is not at all what I was expecting.  When I looked over the lyrics they seemed angsty at best.  Was I just reading them wrong?  Are these songs actually incredibly happy and I just completely misjudged everything?  I’m so confused… It’s so upbeat and happy and it’s such a contrast from the weird and kind of dark packaging that I’m really having a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around this.

3. Defy My Love
                This sounds like the theme song to a nineties sitcom about a happy black family who all wear neon sweaters and learn a new life-affirming lesson every week!  For some reason the title of this one sounds like it should be a lot darker, and when I read the lyrics before listening to it I thought they were biting and sarcastic: Everyday you just wanted to get flaunted/ every night, you just want to get wanted/ I got you on the menu baby, restauranted/ so why do I always get daunted.  But with this upbeat funk groove and this guy’s positively joyful singing… well I guess it’s just a hard luck song about some lady who doesn’t feel the same way about him.

4. Death is the Great Awakener
                This one’s less funky than the others so far, but it’s still that easy going gospel feel and I am so lost.  So, so lost.  I mean, look at that title!  Does that sound like a gospel title?  This is so far off from what I was expecting I can’t even think.  It’s not bad… I mean, I don’t hate it.  It’s not the kind of thing I usually listen to, certainly… I don’t like soul-funk at the best of times, and this has definitely got that feel but I can’t truthfully say that I don’t like it.  It’s just so… happy

5. Nothing
                Sudden change of gears here.  All of a sudden the music is slow and weird and slightly out of tune and creepy.  The singer recites rather than sings.  He who is an ass and thinks himself to be a stag finds his mistake when he comes to leap the ditch.
                And that’s it.  It fades out quickly.  It isn’t even listed in the liner notes.  This is the most interesting song I’ve heard so far.

6. While We’ve got your Attention I’d like to point out a few things
                Really slow driving bass line here, sounds like it’s synthesized.  Neat melody though.  A little darker than everything else so far, but still really upbeat.  This is the song I paid most attention to when I was looking through the lyrics.  Again, it was a case where it looked like angry ranting at someone who’s perceived to be a bigot.  But this music is just so gosh-darned friendly that it’s hard to believe that these people could be even a fraction as cynical as their lyrics might suggest. 
                All things considered this is a pretty good song and I’m enjoying listening to it.  I just can’t get over how quintessentially nineties it is, though.  No matter how hard I try, I literally cannot stop picturing a sit-com’s opening credits, and it’s more than a little off-putting.

7. Solitude Mama
                A-one, a-two, a-one two three four… YOU’RE DOIN IT FUCKIN’ WRONG.
                …And that’s how this one starts.  Just when I think I’m getting a handle on the tone of this CD they throw that in there and now I’m back to not being able to figure out what the hell is going on.  As I’m listening to this the most intelligible thing I hear is something about milk going bad in the fridge.  I cheated and looked at the lyrics and I guess he just wants to be alone and is constantly looking for “solitude time”.  Listening a little closer, that is very clearly what the song is all about.  He just wants people to leave him alone.  What this has to do with somebody’s mother is anybody’s guess. 
                I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  They’re starting to sound like an upbeat and friendly band and then they throw that intro in there out of nowhere and now I’m back at square one. 

8. The Little Vagabond
                This starts out just like the first track did.  Honky tonk piano in all its glory with an accordion solo and women gossiping about… whatever.  Wondrous.  There’s a lot of swearing, I just noticed, in the background.
                Oh hey, they’re all singing together, like a singalong.  It’s a drinking song.  Kinda nice in a nostalgic family way.  Strange and cute, but something just doesn’t sit right with me.  Such usage in heaven will never do well/ but if at the church they would give us some ale/ and a pleasant fire, our souls to regale/ we’d sing and we’d pray all the live long day/ nor ever once wish from the church to stray.  Now stop me if this sounds crazy, but that sounds pretty mean, doesn’t it?  It sounds to me like they’re saying the only way church could hold their attention is if there was booze, and they could get drunk in the service, but there are so many things wrong with that even if you’re not a Mormon that it doesn’t really fit with the whole image they’ve clearly got going as a praise band.  Could this be a traditional song and this is just their take on it?  If it is, it’s one I’ve never heard. 

9. Bonus track: Put Your Head On
                So I guess this particular CD is a 1995 re-release of the group’s debut album which came out five years earlier, and that merits two bonus tracks.  Apparently they must have been really popular at some point for this to have happened, but I’ve never heard of them (obviously).  It’s more of the upbeat gospel funk, and why would it be anything else?  This song’s also incredibly short, so there’s that.

10. Bonus track: As Right As They Want To Be
                Oh, this is a live one.  The singer starts out wishing everybody a merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, then says that the song is dedicated to “The Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.” 
                Okay, all weirdness with their choice in album art aside, this is the main thing I’m having a lot of trouble with.  They sound like a gospel band.  They mention religion a ton in most of their songs.  He just dedicated a song to the Pope.  The problem is that when read without the music, the lyrics seem to smack with sarcasm and every other time they mention church or religion in their lyrics it seems to be with a fair amount of disdain.  But I don’t know if that’s just my own expectations clouding my judgment or if this whole album is really a subtle criticism on organized religion or even an entire atheistic rant (albeit a very well-disguised one), and it’s driving me nuts! 
                There’s nothing wrong with subtle commentary, and even though it’s not my cup of tea most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with praise-ey gospel music, but I can’t tell which I’m listening to.  There is a small but significant difference between being subtle and being confoundingly vague, and this is definitely in the latter category for me.  I don’t know what’s going on here and it’s maddening.  They clearly have some very polarizing opinions here but it’s nigh impossible to tell what they are.
                However, by the same token, I could just be overthinking this. 
                The music is good.  Whatever message they’re trying to convey, if they are even trying to convey a message, it sounds like they’re having a lot of fun doing it.  They’re all capable and talented musicians.  Hell, their style is soul funk and I still enjoyed it despite having a strong disposition toward hating that very genre.  I can be one hell of an uptight, stubborn bastard when it comes to music, and to make me enjoy something from a genre I have convinced myself that I hate takes skill, which these guys clearly have no shortage of.  If you strip away the lyrics and implied meanings, what you’re left with is a bunch of people who like to sing crazy songs and are really pretty damn good at it, all things considered.  And hey, maybe that’s all that matters. 

Overall impression:
                I can say with pretty good certainty that this CD won’t be turning into one of my favorites any time soon.  I won’t listen to it every day, I might not even put it on my mp3 player.  But I do like it, in spite of its vagueness.  Hell, maybe I like it because of its vagueness.  The more I think about it the more I realize that I could never get into gospel music because it all seemed too simple and narrow-minded to me, but this… this is not.  I’m not sure what it is, but it isn’t that.  I can say that it’s fun, it’s energetic, and it’s just weird enough to keep me interested.  Even if I don’t play it often, I am keeping it because someday I know I’ll be in the perfect mood to want to pop this into the CD player and relive all that sweet confusion and jam out to some sweet funk riffs.  And really, Solitude Mama is a pretty groovy song. 

Well, the first track of this CD actually has a music video, apparently…

…and good Lord, it’s one of the wackiest things I’ve ever seen.  It clears up some of my earlier questions about what their leanings are, I think.  That video is so off-the-wall goofy (and yet naively sincere at the same time- you can tell they were really trying), that I’m almost certain that the sarcasm I was getting from the lyrics were just my imagination getting the better of me; projected offenses that hadn’t actually happened.  Nobody here is mocking the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they just chose a name that sounded funny and slightly off kilter and suggests an affinity for alcohol (which is not at all an uncommon thing to have).  In this case, a name is just a name, and they were a group of kids who just wanted to have fun making energetic music and psychedelic early nineties music videos.  I’d say they were successful.  Well done, chaps.  Well done indeed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Short Story: "The Favor"

This is the first story I ever got published anywhere, and twice at that.  Upon rereading it before I posted it here, it seemed incredibly clumsy and stilted to me, but I guess that's to be expected.  I've grown as a writer a lot since then, even if I haven't been published by anyone but myself for quite a while.  Maybe I could stand to learn a few things from my past self.  Anyway, enjoy the story!

The Favor

      The day my neighbor’s car caught fire, I found him on the back steps of the apartment building laughing like he’d just seen God drop a steam locomotive on a bus full of nuns.  It was about ten A.M. and it was already too hot for anyone to function, but I was anyway; I was heading out to work when I found him.  He was shaking uncontrollably, gripping the rusted handrail with white knuckles, laughter pouring out of him like red wine out of a punctured box.  At first I couldn’t think what he was laughing about and was about to join him in his mirth until I looked up and saw the ancient Oldsmobile covered in ten-foot high flames.  “Oh… Oh my God…” I muttered.  It was all I could think to say.  We could hear fire engines screaming down the road as I tried to get my friend to tell me what had happened, but he couldn’t stop laughing.  It occurred to me that he would keep laughing as long as he was looking at the car so I took him inside by the shoulders and up a small staircase and past his door to my apartment. 
      His name was Oliver, but everyone called him Tom.  I’m not entirely sure why.  We met the day I moved in; He came over to borrow my can opener, and we hit it off right away.  Ever since, we’d been the best of friends, practically living in each others’ apartments, going to parties, holding our own parties, and basically just hamming it up when we weren’t working. 
      When Tom’s car burned down, we were both making barely enough to survive and pay rent, and even then I’m surprised we had enough to eat, what with the way gas prices were.  Tom worked at a bagel joint on Main Street, and I ran an industrial dishwasher at Bagatelle’s for eight hours a day, five days a week.  It was a steady job that I enjoyed doing, but the pay was what one might call “less than rewarding.”  I don’t know what Tom was making, but he hadn’t been able to buy booze in a month so it couldn’t have been that much. 
      As I sat Tom down in my meager little kitchen, the laughing started to subside.  I poured some cheap iced tea for him while he wiped the tears from his face, still giggling deliriously.  He took the tea and sipped it carefully, trying not to spill any despite his shaking.  He was wearing his work uniform, a maroon polo shirt and a hat of identical color into which he had tucked his rat tail. 
      “What happened out there?” I asked urgently, sitting down across from him.
      He laughed once, restrained any more laughter that might follow it and set his tea down on the table.  “I don’t know, man,” he said, staring at the tea.  “I just walked outside, looked up…” he looked up at me and threw his hand in front of him.  “Fuckin’ car’s on fire!”  He tried to start laughing again, but his expression changed in mere seconds from delirious glee to shocked grief.  “Oh my God, my car!” he yelled, jumping up and knocking the chair over.  He ran out of the apartment in a frenzy and I went after him to try and calm him down, let him know that I was there for him and that somehow it would be okay.  He would have done the same for me if my car was on fire. 
      I tailed him through the hallway, hoping that the commotion wouldn’t wake anybody.  Fortunately we lived close to the back door so there weren’t too many people who would be disturbed.  When I caught up with Tom, he was staring out the window next to the back door, clutching the sill with both hands and breathing heavily.  I stood next to him for a moment in silence, watching it all unfold.  The fire department had arrived and they were pulling out hoses from the trucks, killing the flames with a white foam that made me think of toothpaste.  I’d never seen Tom get this torn up about anything before, so I looked at his face out of curiosity.  It was like looking at a different person— in all the time we’d been friends, Tom was always the resilient one, the one who would watch car crashes and house fires just to see what would happen and make clever comments.  He was the one who would turn disasters into jokes just to make you feel better.  Suddenly he was broken, confused, and without a punch line. 
      I saw something blue out of the corner of my eye and looked out the window just in time to see a police car park itself next to the back stairs.  I controlled my breathing and put my hand on Tom’s shoulder.  “Come on, man,” I muttered, masking the panic in my voice, “let’s go back upstairs.”  He didn’t say anything, but he turned around and I led him back to my apartment by the shoulders.  I was reminded briefly of countless nights we’d gotten drunk together when I would have too much and lose my head, thinking I was about to die… Tom would always lead my by the shoulders to my bed, telling me the whole way that everything was going to be okay.  I tried to tell Tom that everything would be okay as I led him back to my apartment, but the words wouldn’t come out. 
      When we got back to the apartment, I closed the door quietly and stood Tom’s chair up again so he could sit down.  He stared silently at the tea that sat in front of him.  It didn’t look like he was going to do any talking anytime soon so I killed some time by calling my manager and telling him I’d be a little late.  I was on my manager’s good side so I didn’t have to tell him my friend’s car was on fire in order for him to accept my excuse.  Then as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me that Tom would be missing work as well so I went ahead and called his manager too.  Lord knew Tom had a better excuse than I did and I felt responsible for him.
      “Jane’s Bagels n’ Things, how can I help you?” came a perky female voice from the other end.  I recognized it instantly as Wendy, a good-looking friend of Tom’s and a former drinking buddy of my own.
      “Hey, Wendy, it’s Heron,” I replied.
      “Oh hi, Heron!  I haven’t heard from you in a while, how’ve you been?”
      “Getting by,” I muttered, “how about you?”
      “I’ve been alright,” Wendy said, “what’s up?”
      “I’m calling for Tom,” I said, “could you tell his boss that he’ll be late today?”
      “What happened?” Wendy asked, suddenly concerned, “is he alright?”
      “He’s fine… just somebody’s set fire to his car.”
      “Oh my God!” Wendy exclaimed, “do you know who did it?”
      I shrugged even though I knew Wendy wouldn’t see it through the phone.  “I don’t know.”
      “Oh jeez, that’s awful… yeah, I’ll go tell Marie now.  Give him my best, okay?”
      “Sure,” I said, “see you later.”
      I hung up the phone after Wendy and went back to the table.  Tom looked at me as I approached, and took a sip of tea.  “What makes you think it was arson?” he asked.
      “Well what else would it have been?” I returned coolly. 
      “I don’t know,” he replied, “an electrical problem maybe?  It could have been anything.”
      “I guess,” I muttered.  We sat still for a moment and listened to the commotion outside.  “Wendy sends her best,” I said finally, breaking the awkward silence.
      “I was reminiscing with her the other day.”
      “That so?”
      “Yeah.  She says she misses drinking with you.”
      I stared into nothing, trying not to blush.  Tom and I told each other practically everything, so Tom knew that I had a soft spot for Wendy.  I’d gone drinking with Tom and Wendy in about five bars and countless parties; I think it was something about her cheerful disposition that made it so much fun to get drunk with her.  But of all the places we’d gone, I always liked it best when she came to our apartments.  It had only happened three times, but by the second time we had a routine.  We’d always play a few drinking games for starters, then we’d sit cross-legged in the living room and have the strangest conversations on various subject matter while we worked on a case of beer and mixed drinks; sometimes we’d talk about music and how important it was for basic survival, and other times we’d try to think up things you could make out of human hair or unusual ways to roast marshmallows.  I loved to watch her whenever she talked— every time she came up with a new idea her face would light up like a pinball machine and she’d have to push her round glasses back onto her face.  Later on in the night the conversation would always take a deep, philosophical turn, but if it got too depressing Wendy would always change the subject.  Then eventually Tom would pass out on the couch and Wendy and I would take that as our cue to go to sleep.  I’d always try to be a gentleman and say she could have my bed, but she always refused to take it and instead would just steal my pillow and sleep on the floor next to my bed.  The last time we got drunk together, I remember she looked up at me as we went to sleep and whispered “we have to do this again sometime.” 
      I pointed at her, my arm hanging off the bed, and I told her that someday we’d get drunk every night.  She giggled and said that she hoped I was right.  I’m not sure how, but one way or another we ended up holding hands, and we fell asleep that way.  When I woke up, she was making pancakes and I had a terrible headache. 
      “I miss it too,” I muttered, “but I’ve been a little low on spending money.  I know I keep saying this, but I need to start saving up or something…”
      “I know, man, I know,” Tom said.  “We’ll think up something.”  He knew as well as I did that I didn’t have any money to save.  Neither of us did.  “Are you okay, Heron?  You don’t look so good,” Tom muttered, watching me over his cup.
      “Huh?  Oh, yeah, I’m fine, I uh…” I feigned a yawn, “I didn’t get much sleep last night.  I’m just a little tired.” 
      “If you say so.”  He took another sip of tea and I stared at the oven.  “Maybe you should have some tea,” he suggested, gesturing to me with the cup. 
      “Nah, I’m fine,” I said quickly.
      “Okay, whatever.”  He sipped his tea again.  “I hope she’s not concerned.”
      “Oh right… What do you mean?” I asked, trying to look curious.
      “Well all things considered, maybe it’s better this way,” he said gloomily, “remember our conversation the other day?”
      He was referring to a Saturday two weeks before when we decided to walk to Burger King for dinner.  We were both griping about how expensive everything seemed and we got onto the topic of money and how we could save it.  We’d been tossing some really bad ideas and a bank account back and forth for about a half hour before I finally suggested carpooling.  I figured that with the way gas prices were, we’d be able to save a decent amount of money if we split the expenses and just took one car.  Sure, it might not make a big difference right away, but it would add up over time.  When I made the suggestion, Tom was all for it until we tried to decide whose car to use.  It was between his Oldsmobile and my Subaru, and I of course suggested we take my car, the younger and probably more dependable of the two.  Faced with this argument, Tom asked me somewhat sardonically what I expected him to do with his car.  He didn’t want to leave it sitting around, so I suggested that he sell it.  Tom didn’t go for the idea at first.  “Who would want it?” he asked me, “It’s thirty years old and can’t drive against the wind.  Even if we did find a buyer we wouldn’t get anything for it.” 
      I told him that even if it wasn’t worth much we could still use the cash.  He said he’d think about it, but two weeks had passed since then and he was still driving the old thing. 
      I’m not one to aspire to much.  I like living simply, and when I got my apartment next door to Tom I was fairly certain that I’d found my niche.  But there’s a difference between living simply and living precariously, and I’d crossed that line when I lost my second job and was forced to go full time at Bagatelle’s.  Now that I’d found a way to solve the problem there was a rusty ‘76 Oldsmobile standing in my way.  I didn’t know how to confront Tom about it— he’d been avoiding the subject for two weeks now— so I took what seemed to be the easy way out at the time.  Getting into the car wasn’t a problem; Tom never bothered to lock it— he couldn’t think why anybody would want to steal it.  There was an old can of charcoal lighter fluid in the grounds shed that nobody would miss so I sprayed it thoroughly around the interior of the car and lit it with a few kitchen matches. 
      “I’m gonna have to remind myself to call my insurance agent,” Tom murmured, lifting the tea to his lips again, emptying the cup.  “Not that I’ll get much for it…”
      At that moment there was a knock on the door.  I was a little apprehensive getting up to answer it because I knew it was the police and the police always made me nervous, but I also knew it would be worse not to answer.  There was an officer and the fire chief and they were looking for Tom.  It took a moment for me to explain to them why he was in my kitchen and not outside talking with the police and the fire chief, but fortunately they were understanding about it.  The whole encounter was relatively brief, the officer just had to confirm that it was, in fact, Tom’s car and then they both asked him a few questions about the previous night. 
      “Did you see anyone suspicious in the area?” the officer asked him.
      “No, it was just me,” Tom replied.
      “Have you had any negative confrontations with anyone in the past few days?”
      “Weeks, maybe?”
      “I don’t think so.  Why?”
      The fire chief spoke up.  “Evidence indicates that somebody started the fire on purpose,” he said.
      “Do you know of anybody who might be holding some sort of grudge against you?” the police officer asked.
      Tom shook his head.  “Not that I know of,” he said. 
      “Did you leave your windows open last night?” the fire chief asked.
      “Nope,” Tom said.  “Were they open?”
      “They were,” replied the police officer.  “Is there a way somebody could have gotten into your car last night?”
      Tom acted as if he was thinking for a moment.  “I might have left the door unlocked,” he said, “I sometimes forget to lock it.”  I’m not sure why he lied about locking his doors, but I figured he must have some reason.
      The fire chief went on to explain to Tom that sometime in the early morning somebody had evidently entered his car, rolled the windows down, and set fire to various parts of the interior, first presumably covering them in lighter fluid, as evidenced by an empty can of the stuff they’d found twisted and scorched in front of the driver’s seat.  They set it on the table to see if Tom recognized it, but he said he’d never seen it before.  He looked at me and I shrugged.  The police officer told Tom a few more things, but I didn’t listen.  I was too busy being fascinated by the burnt husk of metal sitting on my kitchen table.  It had been in a fire.  A roaring, raging inferno that had destroyed a whole car.  And there it sat, on my table. 
      I was snapped out of my thoughts when the police officer thanked Tom and me for our time and left with the fire chief and the piece of evidence. 
      The door closed and Tom looked at his watch.  “Shit, I oughtta get to work.”
      “You really sure you want to go after all that?” I asked. 
      “Not really,” he said slowly, “but I need the money.  I don’t have any more sick days left.”
      I nodded.  “Yeah.  Don’t want to worry Wendy too much, either.”
      “Huh?  Oh… Yeah, I guess,” he muttered absently.
      The burnt remains of Tom’s car were sitting beyond the back steps on the side of the driveway, covered in foam and surrounded by caution tape.  We stood and looked at it for a moment.  I thought Tom was about to say something, but he didn’t.  He just stood there in reverence for a few seconds then turned away. 
      “You alright?” I asked as we walked to where my Subaru was parked. 
      Tom sighed.  “I’ll live,” he muttered. 
      I unlocked the car and Tom opened the passenger door.  “Hey…” I said, “everything’s gonna be okay.”
      Tom looked at me strangely before getting into the car.  “That’s an odd thing to say,” he muttered.  I just shrugged. 
      “So what are you gonna do with the money?” I asked him as we headed into town.
      “What money?”
      “From the insurance.”
      “Oh… I don’t know,” he muttered, considering the question carefully.  “It probably won’t be much.  Maybe I can take you and Wendy out barhopping or something.  It’s been too long.”
      I smiled.  “It’d be cheaper to drink at home,” I said.  I’m still not sure if he heard me. 
      “I could use some new shoes, too,” he continued.  “Fuck, I don’t know.  I can always think of stuff I need when I’m broke but as soon as I get money I don’t know how to use it.” 
      “I hate that,” I said, keeping my eyes on the road.
      “Do you think they’ll ever catch the guy who did it?”
      I sighed.  “Well nobody saw him, they’ve got no leads,” I said.  “Any and all physical evidence they’d have would have been burned… no prints, no hair, nothing.”  I looked over at Tom.  He was staring out at the road.  “Arson’s a tough thing to catch,” I said.  I think I was trying to reassure myself more than anything.  Tom kept staring.  I pulled the car over to the sidewalk in front of Jane’s Bagels.  “Well here we are.”
      Tom undid his seatbelt.  “I should probably chip in for gas if this is gonna be a regular thing, huh?”
      “You don’t need to do that.”
      “Don’t say that,” he said, “you wanted to carpool before, right?  Come on… it’ll save us both money.”
      “If you insist,” I said, “next time I get gas I’ll write you a bill.”
      Tom smiled.  “Okay.”  He opened the door and started to get out but stopped.  “Hey, Heron… How did you know somebody did it?”
      “Like… how did you know it wasn’t an accident?”
      I shrugged.  “Just a feeling,” I said. 
      He nodded passively.  “Thanks for the ride,” he said.  He left the car and closed the door behind him. 
      I drove farther down Main Street and turned onto Stirnie Road, where the sun caught me in the eyes.  I put the visor down so I could see better, but the windshield was still glowing.  It made me think of how the Oldsmobile had looked, lighting up from the inside in the dark like that.  Funny how a few tiny sticks of wood and sulfur can trigger something so big…
      I don’t know how Tom would react if he ever found out what I did.  Quite frankly, I don’t want to know.  I feel bad enough about it already, even though I know I was doing us both a favor.  Someday when we’re living comfortably, making decent livings, I might tell him.  Maybe.

Monday, May 5, 2014

News Update!

Finally found some time to post, and hopefully explain why I've been so doggone silent for the past month or so.  Mostly...

 WE HAVE A HOUSE NOW!  Depending on which circle-of-people-I-know you are in, you may already know that we have been living here for about a month and we've been stupidly busy getting everything situated.  We're mostly comfortably moved in, but there's still quite a bit to do... for instance, here's what my basement office looks like:

Fortunately, most of the house does not look like this anymore.  Most of it.  We've been cleaning and organizing for the better part of the last four weeks or so, followed by some quick ferret-proofing (there was a hole under the dishwasher that Riceboy had to be lured out of with raisins), and then more unpacking after we nearly cleaned out our storage space.  It looks like some of the unpacking may never be finished, but we are making progress, however slowly.  And then about a week or two ago, we went down to Lollipop Farm and decided to add this little bugger to the family:


Her name is Buttercup and she's about four years old.  She's half dachsund, half jack russel, and 100% nerve ball, but surprisingly well-behaved.  We're still working on discovering all the different things that scare the snot out of her for no reason (a bag of twizzlers is the most recent entry to that category), but she no longer needs to be restrained when the ferrets are out, so I have a feeling the rest will be pretty easy.  

In other news, I have been writing plenty lately, and with Anna's graduation coming up, the release date for the first episode of eM-I:elle, A Techno Fairy Tale will be fast approaching.  Once I finally finish a short story or two I will be seeking publication in various literary magazines which means I probably won't be allowed to post said stories here for a while, but I will probably be providing links to where they will be posted, provided any of them get accepted.  I will continue to put older stories here for your enjoyment (I'll probably start doing that in a day or so), and I've amassed plenty of fodder for my Mystery CD reviews, which I will be breathing new life into shortly.  

And now for something completely different... 
I've never considered myself much of a salesman and as a direct result I've never really tried plugging anything, but that's also because I rarely come across things I feel the need to plug.  

This has changed.

See, there's this wonderful website called that I recently became a contributor for.  Basically, it's a place where writers can publish their works and get paid based on how many people read them.  It's a relatively new site... they've been up and running for maybe two months, but there's already tons of material available in a very wide variety.  Right now I only have one of my stories on there (Miserable Clowne Man), but I will be adding more soon.  

Since it's already available for free on my blog (this one), Miserable Clowne Man is free for everyone to read along with plenty of other great material on the site.  However, there is even more to read available for a small monthly subscription fee.  There is a free trial period of two weeks in case you're not sure, but the fee is super inexpensive anyway.  It's about half as much as a Netflix subscription with the added bonus that you'll be expanding your mind with reading instead of rotting it away watching TV!  I got one myself and so far I'm very happy with it.  

So if you're into reading (and maybe want to do the bare minimum in supporting my questionable long-term career choice), go on and check out Inkbok, and if you like it, consider subscribing!  Even if you don't like it, odds are you know someone who would.  Getting the word out helps people like me, and doesn't cost a thing.  We will be eternally grateful!

Well there, that wasn't so bad!