Reclamation vol 2

“Adelaide get over here!” He whisper-shouted across the backyard. She exhaled, releasing the arrow with the breath.

“Daaad,” she said, turning as the arrow sailed past its mark and stuck into the back of the neighbor’s shed. “Do you have to do that?” She tossed the bow to him, dropping the quiver at his feet. Practice arrows rattled to the ground. Knocking his shoulder harder than she meant, she charged past him. Before she could yank the door open, his hand pressed it closed. She turned, staring up into his red-rimmed eyes.

“One, little girl, distraction. You’ll never be using that thing for real without it,” he said. “Two, and you better not forget this, you are not allowed out here on your own. Not now, not ever.”

Addy stuck out her bottom lip and blew a stray brown hair from her forehead. She crossed her arms. “Fine, dad.”

He nodded, releasing the door. As she turned and pulled the screen open, she looked over her shoulder.

“You should get some sleep sometime dad.”

***

After dinner, they sat around the kitchen table. The silence stretched like taffy. Addy looked from her dad to her brother, both men staring into their plates. She knocked over her glass and both jumped, hands going to their respective hips. She smiled without mirth.

“Can I go to Janney’s?” she asked. Her dad’s head had begun shaking even as she opened her mouth.

“You know the rules,” he said, hands easing back to the table. He didn’t look up from his empty plate, sandy locks of curly hair falling on his forehead.

“Dad. I’m seventeen. You have to let me go sometime,” she said.

“You’re still living in my house, you’re still my child, you’ll do as I say.”

“But dad, I-”

“Adelaide Murphy Cook you will not talk back to me.”

Her mouth snapped closed over her retort. She glanced at her brother, eyes wide and questioning. He sat like a statue, staring into his plate. Two peas could not be that interesting.

“Jim,” she said. He started and peeked up at her. “Help me out here.”

“It’s dark, Addy. You know you can’t go out after dark.”

“Urauuughhh!” Slamming her hands down on either side of her plate, she stood, her chair rocking back. With the speed of a rattler, her dad reached out and grabbed it before it tipped. “Fine, Robert, I’ll stay here. But,” she said, raising a finger, “you can’t keep me in forever.”

***

The dark night sky stretched overhead. She lay on her back in bed, head hanging upside down and over the side, staring out the window. The stars twinkled back, like they always had, no matter how messy it had gotten down here on Earth. She considered them, burning millions of miles away, uninterested in whether or not she could go out at night. And whether or not it was right.

“Jim!” Her father’s shout from the backyard jerked her from her reverie, and she slipped from the bed to the floor as smooth as greased ball bearings. She slid to the window, grabbing the bow from under her bed and leaning on it as she raised herself to the sill. She peeked into the back yard.

“Get behind it,” her dad said, stage whispering to his eldest. Jim slipped behind the thing, towering easily over it. It couldn’t have been more than five feet tall. In the dark, all Addy could see was its white night shirt, glimmering in the moonlight like a lamp. She couldn’t tell who, or how old, it had been. It reached for her dad. Her hand clenched on the bow, the other questing for the quiver hanging from her bedpost. She heard the arrows rattle inside but could not seem to disentangle the strap. Looking over, she pulled three arrows from it and knocked one. Peeking back over the sill, she fogged up the window.

“Damn.” Pulling her pajama sleeve down, she wiped the warm breath from the window. In the space of five seconds, her father had knocked the creature down, pinning it under his boot. Her brother stood over it, knife in hand, attempting to weave between its grasping hands.

“Don’t let it scratch you, Jim,” her dad said. Jim nodded, but she couldn’t see his face.

“Yeah dad, I know,” he said. He tried slipping to the side, but its hands kept trying to reach.

“Anytime, son.”

“I can’t seem to get in there.”

Her dad shifted his weight, and the thing began to sit up. He readjusted, crushing its larynx with a bootheel and stopping the incessant moaning that had been coming from its blue lips. Its hands scrabbled against his blue jeans, attempting to find purchase but sliding off.

“Dad,” Jim said, “I think we need to regroup.” Robert nodded, removing his boot. The moaning started again. The men backed off, weapons raised, eyes wary. The creature struggled to gain its feet, slipping in the dewy grass. The men moved forward again, mistaking its clumsiness for weakness. As they flanked it, it leapt forward, newly dead muscles contracting with such swiftness it knocked Jim from his feet before he had a chance to shout. It crawled on top of him, scrabbling to dig its nails and teeth into his unresisting flesh. Mouth set, he lifted the knife, slashing toward the tendons in its wrist. Partially congealed blood dripped onto his chest from the new wound, the hand flopping like a fish. As it pushed a cloud of dead and stinking breath into his face, Jim closed his eyes and turned his head away, sucking in a whistling breath through flared nostrils. Its teeth chomped together, an inch from his ear.

As its drool and something green dripped from its mouth and pooled in the cup of Jim’s ear, Robert raised his machete with a groaning shout. Just as his swing began its arc down, an arrow hummed through the creature’s skull, slamming through brain and bone, flying through the other side and coming to rest an inch from Jim’s eye. The creature went limp, all its weight collapsing onto Jim’s chest. He woofed out a breath and smacked the back of his head on the grass. Rob’s arm relaxed, machete falling to his side. The men looked at each other, the arrow in the creature’s head, and up to the window on the second floor. Adelaide blew a kiss to them, turned, and closed the window.

***

“Hey Jim,” she said, walking beside him on the way to Janney’s the next morning. He nodded, eyes on the trees next to the road. “Who was that, last night?”

“Don’t worry about it, Addy.”

“I’ll worry about it if I want to. I’m seventeen years old. You can’t hide it from me.” She kicked a rock. He stopped and turned, one side of his mouth twitching. Like he was suppressing a grin.

“It was Crazy Old Rhea,” he said. She frowned.

“Well that can’t…what happened?”

Jim shook his head and began walking again. After a moment, she caught back up to him. She chewed the inside of her lip, thinking of the old woman more than half the town was at least 75% afraid of. She had seemed so strong, so full of life when Addy had seen her just the day before. Frowning again, she touched her brother’s shoulder.

“Tell me, Jim.” He shook his head again.

“I don’t know, Addy. Dad’ll probably know.”

She sighed, flinging another rock into the woods with her toe. She heard a wooden knock as it bounced off an old dead tree. The siblings walked on in silence, both watching their sides of the road, ears trained deep into the woods. Once Janney’s house came into view around a bend, Jim stopped, hand on the hilt of his axe.

“Addy,” he said. She turned to him, re-situating her meteor hammer around her arm. She let the single weight dangle, swinging it in an arc next to her knee. It was hypnotic, the way it swung-

“Addy,” Jim repeated. She started and looked up at him, brows drawn together. “Don’t tell you friends,” he said. She shook her head.

“Why?”

Jim said nothing, placid eyes locked to hers. After a moment, she dropped her gaze.

“OK. But I’m going to talk to dad when I get home,” she said. Jim nodded, turned, and began to walk back down the road. For six foot two, he walked with remarkable silence. She could barely hear his feet hitting the dirt.

“Be careful,” he commented over his shoulder, as he rounded the corner and went out of sight. Addy grinned with her lips closed, turning towards Janney’s. She skimmed one more rock across the road and speed walked to Janney’s front porch. When she was alone, she often felt like there was someone right behind her, cold breath going right down her collar and onto her back. The meteor hammer’s chain swung back and forth from her right hand, the comforting weight of the handle curled in her left. As she mounted the stairs and knocked on Janney’s door, she chanced a peek behind her. The road, and the woods beyond it, was empty.

 

My Favorite Superhero

I’ve had big love for big heroes for most of my life. Last year, on superhero day, I realized my favorite superhero was no longer Spiderman. I’ve had many favorites, but a new hero has taken over my heart. Dean Winchester, in his imperfection, is the very definition of flawed hero. Following in the footsteps of the father he idolized, Dean has had a long journey to becoming his own man. In that time, he has metamorphosized from a boy who kills monsters into a hero of epic proportions. His fierce devotion to family, both his biggest strength and greatest weakness, makes you want to be within his inner circle. And when he stops the apocalypse (again) and saves the world, you are. In growing beyond his father, he has become more than a man and stepped into the world of the superheroes. He is the greatest of them.

When I was five, I had a pair of red galoshes which, I probably don’t have to tell you, were my Wonder Woman boots. I cut my teeth on Adam West’s Batman and Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk. Spiderman’s smart mouth inspired my own. As a culture, we love superheroes.  I’m no different, and my favorite of favorites is the flawed hero. The Han Solo’s of the universe. Of course you cheer for Luke, but it’s Han you really love. Captain America is a hero you can idolize, but when Tony Stark walks into the room, all whiskey smoke and bravado, your heart is crushed with love. Dean Winchester combines all these qualities, with the unfortunate exception of the fantastic red boots. He has the lion’s heart of gold you expect from a hero, but it’s wrapped in bacon and dipped in beer. He drives too fast and likes his women the same way. He drinks too much, and he steals and hustles to make money. But he drives fast to save people and he hustles so he can feed himself and his little brother. Where someone sees flaws, I see the reasons behind them. It’s like filling in a scar line with powder. It looks terrible and twisted, but once you can follow the path it takes across the skin, you see while it might be twisted it’s only because the skin grew back over the new heart that saved it. And that makes it beautiful. So when you see Dean’s flaws, you see the heart that saved him.

And such a heart. Tugging on the holster strap of his dad for all his childhood, he grew up faster than he should have. Cooking for his kid brother, hunting unspeakable horrors with his dad, going to – and skipping – a new school every week. He didn’t have much to go on in those early years, but he always made the best of it. And when his father left everything to him, he hefted it onto his shoulders and went forward. It could even be argued that he does more than his dad did. John Winchester was a man obsessed. He searched for decades for his wife’s killer, dragging his two boys along with him from town to town. He saved people along the way, absolutely, but once he found the monster that killed their mom, he abandoned his children so he could go and fight it. Leaving them to save the people, while he went off to slay the beast. And when he failed, well guess who took care of it for him? That’s right, the hunter who grew up in his shadow and became twice the man he ever thought of being. I submit that saving people and hunting things is not the family business, but it is Dean’s business. As has been revealed, it was in his blood all along. But John Winchester, he was no savior. He was a man on a mission of revenge. Dean took that mission and made it his own, deciding that saving life was more important than living his own.

And isn’t that what makes a hero great? When his own life is forfeit so that others may live happy and healthy long lives. This extends first and foremost to his most treasured person, his brother Sam. He will do, and has done, anything to save not only Sam’s life, but his soul as well. He has gone to hell and back for him, asking nothing in return but that Sam live a happy life. The lengths to which he goes for his family are beyond compare in this world. He has killed demons, ghosts, and angels. He has made deals for his own soul in exchange for more time with his family. If he could have, he would have traded places with his own father, the man who was supposed to protect him. This singular devotion is enviable, and when you witness it you wish you were part of the family. But when he goes about vanquishing yet another horrific fiend, he protects the life of the innocent victims with his own. Often, it’s his own life and limb that he puts in danger, rather than have someone else die. And when he chose to stop the apocalypse, perhaps even at the expense of Sam’s soul, the whole world became his family. He knew stopping the angels hell-bent on destruction was a long shot, but he also knew that everyone on the planet deserved to live. To that end, he chose to put everything he loved on the line. When it looked like Sam might have to go into oblivion alone, he came even then, unable to let his baby brother go into the darkness without love. Without a thought to personal safety, he saved his brother’s soul and the planet in one fell swoop.

And that’s kind of what he does, isn’t it? When I look at Dean, I see in him a deep longing and a profound sense of sadness. All he ever wanted was a normal life, with a yard to mow and a mom to kiss the boo-boo’s. Instead he got a distant father and hotel kitchenette’s. Even after Sam was lost to the pit and Dean put his life back into gear in suburbia, he couldn’t let go of the hunt. He knows it’ll always be a part of him, and he can no more stop saving people than he can stop breathing. He killed the monster that murdered his mother almost a decade ago. For him, it was never really about revenge. For him, it was always about love. Love of his inadequate father, love of his innocent kid brother, love of anyone who needs his help. If that’s not the definition of a superhero, I don’t know what is. And all this he does without any superpowers, save being a Winchester. All he has are his guns and knives, his knowledge of the arcane, and a can-do attitude.

This is where he becomes my favorite superhero. At the intersection of powerlessness and will. He’s only human, but saving people is what he does. That will never change. He was raised to do this, even if it’s not the lesson his dad was trying to teach. In growing beyond what John was and becoming the hero that he is today, Dean’s journey has never been easy. That’s just one more thing that makes him heroic, one more thing to love, one more thing that makes him my favorite. He has room in his heart for the entire planet of people, and he will save them all one at a time if that’s what it takes.

Modifier Monday 1

Hello, and welcome to Modifier Monday*, brave souls. Under fire today are adverbs, one of my favorite parts of speech to mercilessly bash. Heh heh. Let’s begin with a quote from the master of suspense, Stephen King, from his book “On Writing”.

“The adverb is not your friend.”

And,

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Some of you will have noticed I used one earlier, but let’s first talk about what they are. An adverb is a modifier, and it simplifies or changes a verb, adjective, or sentence, among other things. Just as above, where I said adverbs are things I “mercilessly bash”, I was modifying the verb bash. But in reality, except for certain cases, I agree with Mr King in that they are unnecessary and are another way for writers to be lazy. Consider:

“The adverb was whipped mercilessly.”

Verses:

“The adverb, strung up and bound at the hands and feet, felt the nine tails of the whip slash through the soft skin of its back. Each tail left a channel of blood and gristle in its wake.”

While you may not agree with the revision for a variety of reasons, don’t you agree that it conveys a more visceral feeling than the simple adverb? Are they avoidable in all circumstances? Maybe. Can they be used with success? Varying degrees. It all depends on the word wielder and the frequency of use. For me, a sentence is always stronger without them and eliminating them forces the author to use description instead of shortcut around it.

Disclaimer: I have used them- past, present, and future.

There’s much to discuss about adverbs. Do you have some examples of appropriate use? When just nothing else will do? Do you like them? Feel free to express your opinions!

 

*originally published on my facebook page, on a Monday

Thought Verbs 1

Thought verbs. What are they? I first came across that term in an essay written by Chuck Palahniuk, which I’ll be quoting. I’d like to begin the first Thought Verb Thursday* with a discussion of what they are. Next week we can dive into each one and discuss how to rid them from our writing, as well as whether or not they should be.

Chuck defines a “thought verb” as words such as:

“Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.”(¹)

Essentially, a thought verb is a verb you use as a shortcut. For example:

  Sidney realized Teddy liked her.

Okay, that’s nice. But in the world of film and TV in which we live, readers are more visual than ever. And I like to think they’re also smarter than ever. They’d like to come to the same conclusion Sidney did on their own. Instead of the word, “realized”, how about this?

  Sidney bolted to her feet, heart racing, knocking one of the greenhouse lights with her head. Teddy stood, arm brushing her face as he reached up to stop its swinging. Warm on her cold cheek, his bicep twitched but didn’t move as she tilted her head toward it. She looked up at him, and the corners of his mouth turned up as his arm came down. His eyes never left hers, and she could see the flush rising in his cheeks. 

There you are, a different way to realize on your own that Teddy likes her, instead of me telling you. What do you think? Better, worse, indifferent? Do you prefer the abstraction of thought verbs? Or are you 100% for “show don’t tell”?

(¹)Again, Chuck’s essay
*This blog was first published on my facebook page on a Thursday

  

Yes, hello, welcome to me.

He we are, together at my first (B)Log post. There’s always a lot on my mind, and you’ll get to read some of it here! Isn’t that exciting?! At some point I’ll probably make a schedule of topics and dates, but for now we’ll begin with random subjects and semi-regular irregular timing.

So you have an idea of what you’re in for, I’ll give you an overview of things I’m interested in discussing. Stories go way at the top of the list. I have always loved to read and I am unashamed to tell you, Stephen King is my favorite author. His son, Joe Hill, is quickly catching him though. I enjoy all things macabre, really, and as such I like to examine plot, character development, and story elements in movies and TV as well. I’ll talk about Supernatural, The Walking Dead, and whatever else fits into that genre. Or not. I’m also a fan of science, space, and sci-fi. I love music, dogs, and humans. Art, history, evolution. The ways we break each other down and the ways we lift each other up. I think you probably get the idea.

I’m working on a couple novels and on being present with my family, and that good old day job, so sometimes I may be here more than others. At first I doubt you’ll see many pictures, but I’ll do what I can to draw you pictures with words. I’ll expound on the craft of writing, and I hope we can have long and productive discussions about whatever it is I’m onto today. Some of the things you will see already posted are my own previous thoughts on a few things, reprinted with my permission because I wrote them.

Fair warning, I will not discuss politics. While that is one of the most important topics today, this year especially, I have less than zero desire to debate about it. I don’t even like to bring it up.

I hope we can hang out together around exciting and compelling things. I want us to have a good time exchanging ideas and learning about each other and the world around us. Have a seat with me on the couch, and let’s get started, shall we?