Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Texas Trip -- Nonfiction

Denver International Airport Security lines

I have three grandchildren, one of whom was born October 17, seventeen years ago. And two of whom were born October 15, fourteen and nine years ago respectively. So I went to Texas to celibrate with them.

Thursday morning a little after 5 a.m., as my husband was driving me to Denver International Airport, I got a text from my daughter-in-law, mother of said grandchildren. "I'm leaving Edmond in a few minutes. Will pick you up in Dallas."

Now, Denver is an hour and a half by air from Dallas. My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:00 a.m. MDT, landing at Love Field in Dallas at 10:55 a.m., CDT. Edmond, Oklahoma, is about three and a half hours by car from Dallas. I thought my son was going to pick me up. I had no idea I'd be picked up by my daughter-in-law driving from Oklahoma. I had no idea she'd be in Oklahoma with all the plans of company and parties scheduled for the weekend. It sounded a little iffy, but so...Okay.

I checked one bag at the curb and found out that I had been issued some kind of special ticket so I could go through a shorter line, didn't have to take my shoes off, or take my laptop out of my computer bag.

I hadn't flown in five years, but I was prepared. I had only one carry-on, my computer bag. It's small enough I can put it under the seat in front of me. I packed my belt in my checked baggage and did not wear an underwired bra. No metal, so I wouldn't set off the alarm when I went through the metal detector.

I stepped through the metal detector and the alarm went off. What? I'm sure I looked shocked because I was.

"Do you have an artificial knee?" a TSA officer asked.

"Why yes, I do. Two, in fact. They're new," I said.

He was very kind and directed me to a different metal detector -- one where you put your feet on  yellow footprints and hold your hands over your head while the machine moves around you. I passed and learned the drill. Announce your artificial knees before you go through the wrong metal detector.

In Dallas my daughter-in-law arrived from Oklahoma at almost exactly the same time I got to the curb with my luggage. She's a rational, logical woman. She knew what she was doing. She's an engineer. Need I say more?

My visit was very much a Texas kind of visit. Football is a serious, big deal in Texas. Three football games, a homecoming pep rally, and a homecoming half-time filled my Thursday and Friday nights.

Our team is in red.
Middle Grand is out there somewhere.

The almost 14-year-old Grand played in the first game that Thursday night. He plays both offense and defense which is fairly unusual. He's pretty good. The soon-to-be 17-year-old plays flute in the high school marching band--my personal favorite part of any football game. They performed during the pep rally and then again at half time during the Friday night high school game.

And the nearly-nine-year-old was free to roam the whole area both nights. That's the nice thing about living in a reasonably small town where everybody knows to whom he belongs.

There was one birthday cake to ice and decorate. Son baked it. I stirred up the icing and the eldest Grand decorated it, ably assisted by her mom and her other two grandmothers while her boyfriend helped her study.

The cake was for the youngest Grand's Saturday morning birthday party which involved a dozen elementary school children, their older and younger siblings, and parents, and a bounce-house. .

There was a giant chocolate chip birthday cookie for the Saturday afternoon party. Son baked it. I applied the somewhat Gothic "Happy Birthday." And Daughter-in-law provided the blooming-flaming birthday candle. Most of the household decamped to a trampoline park to meet Middle Grand's friends. I stayed at the house and took a nap with the family dog. She's a lovely boxer. And I must say Rose is easy to sleep with. She doesn't kick or snore.

Someone picked up umpteen smallish bundt cakes of varying flavors for the Saturday evening birthday party. I'd never heard of Nothing Bundt Cakes before. Apparently they're nationwide and we do have them in the Denver area. Guess what I'm going to serve at my next party.

Wine and the birthday bundt cakes followed dinner. Then a rousing game of Loaded Questions closed the evening. Board games are my favorite part of family get togethers.

Sunday morning we all went to church. Not at the same time or in the same car. In fact, Daughter-in-law's Step-Mom and I were the last to go. Since Step-Mom sometimes has difficulty finding her way, it was hoped that I could navigate for her.

Hah! We arrived when the sermon was almost over after many concerned texts from Daughter-in-law. But, Heavens! We got there in time for the Benediction and the Pot Luck Lunch -- the important parts. I don't think Daughter-in-law will trust either of us to transport ourselves any place unsupervised again.

Ahhh. Monday morning, after everybody left in the house got themselves dressed and fed and out the door for work and school, Son drove me into Dallas to catch my flight home.

We discussed where to eat lunch -- I'm always up for hamburgers since you just can't make hamburgers as good at home and I don't eat out often. But during the discussion Son mentioned Freebirds.
It's sorta like Subway except instead of building a sub, you build a burrito. It always trumps all other eateries for me. Even hamburger joints. And there is no Freebirds in Colorado.

Son eating a medium size Freebirds burrito. 

We had guacamole and chips, too. Freebirds guacamole is almost as good as my husband's. So it turns out my medium burrito was more than I could eat. I wrapped it in its foil, put that inside a Freebirds bag and stowed it in my carry-on.

Not to worry. I got this. I know you can't bring liquids in excess of three ounces on the plane in your carry-on. Burritos ain't liquid.

So in the security line at Love Field with all I've learned about commercial flying, I announce that I have had knee replacement. Two, in fact. And go through the proper scanner. No problem.

But then a TSA guy indicating my computer bag asks, "Is this your bag?"

"Yes," I say.

And he invites me to come with him to a bank of screens. He pulls up something like an ultrasound shot with an area circled many times. I step behind him so I can see the screen better.

"Please stand to the side," he says.

"But I can't see," I say.

He insists I stand to the side.

He opens the bag and points to a brown paper bag with the words "Freebirds" clearly inscribed.

"It's a left-over burrito," I say. Like what else would it be?

"Ma'am will you take it out of the bag?" Meaning the brown paper bag.

I do as asked, explaining that we don't have a Freebirds in Colorado and I didn't want to leave it behind and it wasn't liquid after all.

He proceeded to swab the foil-wrapped burrito and the entire inside of the computer bag and my laptop. You will be relieved to know that there was nothing explosive about the burrito -- just a cayenne tortilla, rice, refried beans, carnitas, pico de gallo, and hot sauce -- a righteous gustatory explosion, perhaps.

I was so tired when I got to DIA. But the adventure wasn't over yet.

It was the first time I had taken the train from the airport into Denver. Which, by-the-bye is great. Courteous officers, no traffic. But it's a long, long walk from baggage claim to the train. And when I got to Union Station in Denver, I got a bit lost trying to go to the light rail station. I walked probably two blocks the wrong way which put me five blocks from the light rail. But I got to ask directions from two pleasant young men, separately, three blocks apart.

And all the while I'm dragging my husband's very heavy, hard-sided suitcase. On wheels, thank goodness.

I learned that you can use the handicap ramp to get on the light rail and that way you don't have to lift your luggage up those very steep steps onto the train.

My husband picked me up at the Federal Center Station and drove me home. I ate my leftover, well-swabbed burrito and went straight to bed.

I am so glad I had my knees replaced. I don't think I could have done it with the old ones. As it is, I'll probably be ready to do it all again next year. But I'll take a lighter suitcase and get the small burrito.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Stone House Park -- Nonfiction

The Stone House
Built sometime between 1859 and 1864, the Stone House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed of stones from Bear Creek and rough-dressed sandstone quarried from a nearby ridge called the Hogback, the house has 18 inch thick walls -- the better for its inhabitants to withstand 100 degree summers and minus degree winters. These days it belongs to the City of Lakewood and is a popular venue for wedding receptions and family reunions.

Stone House Park is one of our walking group's favorite destinations.

Bear Creek, where they gathered the rounded river rocks used in building the house, runs through the park. Fed by snow melt in the mountains to the west, it provides water to this otherwise parched country. Water for trout, trees, birds, and wildlife of all kinds.

A paved bike and walking path runs along the south side of the creek. It goes west to Red Rocks Park, home of the well-known Red Rocks Amphitheater where everybody from The Beatles to Joe Bonamassa have performed. The bike path runs east to the South Platte River Trail.

Along the north side of the creek, the trails are unpaved, but well-maintained.

I completely missed the weather forecast for this morning. I thought it was supposed to be 48 degrees and sunny.  Silly me. It was 33 degrees and completely overcast at walking-time. Some of us had other obligations and others had more sense than I so I walked alone. That was perfectly okay. I could stop and take pictures at will, without worrying that I was slowing the group down.

With the flowers and most of the leaves gone for the winter, I saw things that I hadn't noticed before. Like the bat houses that local Eagle Scouts have put up near the shore of the park's lower lake.

And a grand old cottonwood stump, much bigger around than two people could reach.

By the end of my walk, I ran into Lanay, a fellow member of our walking group. Our group is from everywhere -- New Jersey, Louisiana, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Germany, California, etc. And even a couple of Colorado natives.

In addition to walking together in beautiful parks, we visit. I get to learn about all kinds of places I've never been. For example, Lanay did her graduate work at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. And that is one of the places my daughter is applying to for graduate school. So I got to find out that Ithaca is a beautiful city on a hill and Cornell is a welcoming and well-regarded educational institution. I've  appreciated their Ornithology Lab and its All About Birds website for years. But now, I know that it will be a good place for her to live, if she does go there for school.

What better way is there to make connections with the world?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Edit. Edit! EDIT! -- On Writing

image from

"Is it blood? She is, after all, a murder mystery writer."

Blood? No. It's red ink. And, yes I am a murder mystery writer. More importantly for this blog post, I'm a murder mystery reader.

I'm not an Episcopalian. I'm not a Pastafarian who believes in the Great Spaghetti God. I'm an Editorian. An Editorian's tenets are simple. 1. Write. 2. Submit to an Editor. 3. Submit to another Editor, and another and another, as many as it takes. 3. Trust your reader. Cut unnecessary words.

Oh, yes. And number 4. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Thank you Henry David Thoreau.)

"But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft." Well, no. Not the draft. Apologies to Arlo Guthrie.

Editing! That's what I want to talk about.

I'm reading Fatal, the newest John Lescroart novel. If you've read any of my previous reviews of his books, you'll know he's my favorite crime novel writer. Not because of his writing style, but because of his characters -- Defense Attorney Dismas Hardy and Homicide Investigator Abe Glitsky and their various and sundry friends and relatives.

Lescroart's stories are sufficiently salted with twists and turns to keep me reading and clues sprinkled here and there to keep me guessing.

His twelfth Dismas Hardy novel Betrayal was a change up. Much of the first part of the book took place in Iraq with no mention of Hardy or Glitsky. But I kept reading and finally they showed up.

This Lescroart book is ominously touted as a "stand alone" novel. I'm afraid that may mean that the Hardy/Glitsky crowd won't show up.

So I'm on page 74. This is the scene. Two women, Kate a housewife and her cop friend Beth, are having lunch in a downtown San Francisco restaurant. "But suddenly, from outside in the main hallway came the booming sound of an explosion, followed quickly by two others, and then a volley of pops, like strings of firecrackers." This could be improved. It should start off slow and confusing as the situation really would have been --  From somewhere came a booming sound. Then two more and a volley of pops like strings of firecrackers. In the amount of time it takes the reader to read the word 'suddenly' the suddenness is lost. Kate and Beth don't yet know what is happening or where it's coming from. An explosion is not what one would think of in the middle of a meal in a nice restaurant.

The next paragraph reads "Both women turned toward the restaurant's entrance where now they heard another enormous explosion, then more of the popping sounds, accompanied by the completely unexpected, terrifying, and unmistakable noise of people screaming." Both women? Really? I thought we were reading about the Ohio State Marching Band. Turning toward the restaurant's entrance they heard another explosion, then more popping sounds and people screaming.

Of course the screaming is unexpected, terrifying, and unmistakable. All unnecessary words that slow the action. Now they're starting to think explosion.

Next paragraph: "Then Beth was on her feet, reaching behind her back for her service weapon, which she realized too late that she never carried on their walks. Swearing, she turned, looked back at her table. 'Get up! Get up!' she yelled at Kate. 'Let's go!'" Short sentences! Short sentences! The reader should be getting short of breath at this point. Beth leapt to her feet and reached for her service weapon. It wasn't there. It was in its lock box at home. She looked back at Kate. 'Get up! Let's go!' 

There is no need for attribution for the dialog. Who else would she be yelling at. There's no need to even say she's yelling. That's what exclamation points say. 

Then page 75 is more of the same -- too many words, too many prepositional phrases, too much telling. All ending in the phrase "as thick smoke wafted its way into the room."

At this point I slammed my open-palm down on the dining table, making my own explosion. Wafted? Wafted?! What are we talking about here? The scent of jasmine wafting across the veranda? Give me a break! There is a terrorist attack going on and we're being fed thick smoke wafted?

I don't think so. Hemingway, Hemingway. Where for art thy mot juste?

Ah, well. I've still got to read further. Can't stop on page 75. Dismas and Abe may yet show up.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Truth in Fiction -- On Writing

Mark Twain
(photo from

In this day and age of 'truthiness' (used satirically way back in 2005 by Stephen Colbert) and 'fake news' (used by *rump for any statement of fact with which he disagrees,) I write fiction. "What's the difference between truth and fiction?" you might well ask. 

From The American Heritage Dictionary:

     "truth (trooth) n. 1. Conformity to fact or actuality. [Middle English trewth, loyalty, from Old
           English treowth. see deru-  in Appendix I]

           Appendix I  deru- also dreu-. To be firm, solid, steadfast.
                  Derivatives include tree, trust, betroth, endure, and druid."

     "fic·tion (ˈfik-shən) n. 1a. An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent
         actuality but has been invented. 3a. A literary work whose content is produced by
         the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. [Middle English ficcioun, from
         Old French fiction, from Latin fictio. . . ."

Now you know the difference, but what's truth got to do with writing fiction? Mark Twain said it perfectly -- "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

Which brings us to another word:
     "veri·si·mil·i·tude  (ver-ə-sə-ˈmi-lə-ˌtüd , -ˌtyüd) n. 1. The quality of appearing to be true or real.

And verisimilitude is what fiction must have "The quality of appearing to be true...." even if it's set hundreds of years in the future. Or the past. Whether it's populated by zombies or typical teenagers.

Fictional settings must put the reader into the place. The writer must give the reader the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the place. And sometimes the taste. Whether we consciously think about it or not, our senses tell us where we are in the world and a writer can play to those senses.

The writer need not use graphic sensory descriptions. The scent of impending rain. The air need not be laden with the smell of roses or the feedlot (unless, of course, roses or manure play a role in the story.) The sound of summer insects welcoming the night. The writer doesn't have to specify which insects. Light dappling the still waters. Specific colors are not necessary. The hot wind driving him across the prairie. It could be burning his skin or drying his sweat. The salt water filling my mouth. From whatever water source.

Unless specifics are necessary to the story, the writer can and should leave them to the readers' imagination. Give the reader room to bring their own experiences to the story. Let them participate.

If the setting is a real place, use specific, real descriptions. The reader will be reminded of the place if he's been there or he will recognize it, should he ever find himself there.

Keep in mind, describing reality can be a trap that the writer unwittingly sets for himself. Descriptions of reality must be absolutely accurate.

I was listening to music from the Disney film Pocahontas. The phrase "blue corn moon" threw me out of the song's narrative. The story is set in what is now Virginia. Blue corn grows in Mexico and the American Southwest. Blue corn in Virginia is wrong.

My husband pointed out "It's Disney! Deer don't make friends with rabbits, either." Well, there is that. We can all point to exceptions, Disney being a successful one when it comes to unreality.

Characters should be treated with the same lack of specificity. Unless a physical characteristic is necessary to the plot, writers shouldn't get too specific. Characters' thought processes, speech patterns, and behaviors are more important than whether or not she has blonde hair or he has a six-pack.

The use of our senses comes into describing our characters, too. Smelling of tobacco and alcohol, Geoff loomed over her. Her teeth chattering, she cringed away from him. We all know these characters. Readers will fill in whatever they need to be satisfied about what these characters look like.

And, as with real places, real people who might show up in our fiction, must be treated scrupulously. If Thomas Jefferson or Henry VIII appear, their hair must not be described as black or blond. Too many readers know they had red hair. Teddy Roosevelt wore glasses. Shirley Temple had a dimple.

We don't have to mention these things, but it's important to get the things we do mention about real people, right.

We, as writers, don't want to remind our readers that these stories are fiction. We want them to believe in the story and the characters enough to stick around and see how it comes out. Maybe they'll even seek out other things we've written.

So, unlike politicians, we fiction writers gotta keep it real. Or at least real enough.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Playboy -- A Remembrance

I first heard about Playboy when I was in high school, which was well after Hugh Hefner started publishing it in 1953. I probably wasn't aware of Hugh Hefner until much later. Editors of magazines weren't exactly celebrities among my circle of friends.

He was almost a year younger than my father. Both served in World War II -- Daddy with the Sea Bees in the Pacific. Hefner, an infantry clerk in the Army, wrote for a military newspaper. (Wikipedia) They were both raised in conservative Methodist households. 

And that, friends, is where their similarities ended. 

Daddy didn't curse or drink, and by the time I was in high school, he had quit smoking. I doubt that he ever saw a Playboy and certainly never bought one or brought one into our home. 

We lived in a college town just north of Oklahoma City and I never saw Playboy magazines on the shelves for sale. I learned later that it was against a city ordinance to display it. It was kept 'under the counter.' People could buy it, but they had to ask a clerk to get it for them. 

As I said, I first heard about Playboy in high school. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. The editor of the local newspaper came and talked to us about getting short stories published. I don't remember his name, but he smoked a pipe, rode a motor cycle, and fought Oklahoma's then new and now repealed helmet law. And he had just had a short story accepted for publication by Playboy. He said they published the best short fiction because they paid the best money.

That's the way it still works. Publications that pay the best get the best submitted there first. 

That local newspaper editor was in excellent company. Over the years, Playboy published writers like Jack Kerouac, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Truman Capote, Haruki Murakami and three of my favorites Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, and Jean Shepherd. In fact, that was my first exposure to Jean Shepherd's work -- the same Jean Shepherd who wrote A Christmas Story of "You'll shoot your eye out, Ralphie" fame.

I'd been warned by some of my male classmates about the questionable nature of Playboy -- nude women and racy cartoons, oh my. So of course I had to see for myself. but I couldn't go into a local convenience store and ask for one. They'd recognize me. 

A trip to a book store in the mall in Oklahoma City was necessary. I am glad to report that -- barring the naked women -- the fiction, cartoons, interviews, articles (I didn't read the ones on economics) and the Playboy Advisor were well worth the effort to get the magazine. 

I remember one letter to the Advisor from a soldier in Vietnam. He explained that he had availed himself of female company which he seemed to think was normal since he was so far away. He was concerned that his girlfriend back home, might be cheating on him. What should he do? The advice? That he should remember she was as far away from him as he was from her.

Later, I came to appreciate the reasonably good taste with which they displayed the naked ladies. When my son found some truly disgusting magazines in the Dempsey Dumpster at the car wash across the street from our house, I loaded him up and took him to the mall in Oklahoma City. He was too embarrassed to go into the book store while I bought a copy of Playboy for him, so he waited in the mall pretending to window shop at any of the other shops.

The Vargas drawings of nudes were always beautiful. Gahan Wilson's cartoons were surprising and funny. And there really was written material worth reading.

When I was a caseworker for the Welfare Department I ran across the most unusual Playboy Magazine. One of my clients had been injured in an industrial accident and was deaf and blind. We communicated through his wife. She would sign my questions in his hand and he would answer them. He had a subscription for Playboy in braille. It was covered top to bottom and front to back with the bumpledy language I could not read. And no pictures. 

His wife translated into his hand my feigned surprise "You've rubbed all the pictures off!" He had a wonderful laugh. And he was proof-positive, that some men did get Playboy just for the articles.

Hugh Hefner
April 9, 1926 - September 27, 2017
Rest in Peace

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hiroshima -- Book Review

The original book was copyrighted and published in 1946. It is nonfiction. The edition I just finished reading was published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1985. I know, I know -- where have I been that it's taken me so long to read it? And why did I read it now?

Reason No. 1 -- my daughter loaned it to me. She's a student at Colorado University, Denver. Her Honors Project is a book of poetry focused on poetry of witness and documentary poetics. This is but one of the books she's reading in preparation to write her poems.               .

Reason No. 2 -- In today's world climate the threat of nuclear war has thrown me back to the days of my youth when magazines had Jello recipes, diets, and blue prints for bomb shelters.

And Reason No. 3 -- Hersey's book Hiroshima mentions Father Hubert Schiffer, a German Jesuit priest. He and three other priests were in their Hiroshima mission compound less than one mile from ground zero on the morning of August 6, 1945, when the bomb called "Little Boy" exploded over the Japanese city.

Many years ago I got to hear Fr. Schiffer speak. At that time he was the Catholic Chaplain at the University of Oklahoma. Appropriately enough, he was speaking in the underground auditorium between the Sequoyah Building and the Will Rogers Building in Oklahoma City's Capital Complex. That area included a cafeteria, the auditorium, and enough space for important state government officials to take cover in the event of a nuclear attack.

I remember it had huge metal doors that could be closed and ample supplies of water and crackers in barrels. I also remember that across the hall from the auditorium was a cafeteria (which we Welfare Department employees patronized religiously.)  They made the best cinnamon rolls and coffee, good reasons for us to look forward to coffee breaks.

Anyway, when Fr. Schiffer spoke, he told about his time in Hiroshima.

At the time of the bombing Wikipedia sets Hiroshima's population at approximately 340,000–350,000. Fr. Schiffer said that before the bomb, he could not see the ocean from his building because of the city's many other buildings. After the bomb, almost everything in the central part of the city was gone. There was nothing to block his view of the sea. Wikipedia estimated as many as 123,000 people died that first day.

Fr. Schiffer told about being taken out of the city to recuperate from injuries and radiation sickness. It took about a year for him to recover. When he was well enough, he returned to the city to find orphaned children roaming the city, depending on each other, and living however they could. He took over the bombed-out shell of a building and began collecting the children and the necessities to care for them -- sometimes leaving food outside the building to lure them in.

The American occupying forces had plenty of supplies in the area but Schiffer was blocked from them by the red tape many of us are familiar with. Finally, with a borrowed truck and a couple of people to help, he showed up at the gate of a supply depot. He explained that he needed bedding and food for his orphans, but he did not yet have official approval. The MPs refused him admittance.

He said he was going in to get what he needed. He had his helpers get out of the truck. He laid down in the front seat behind the truck's steering wheel, gunned it, and crashed through the gate. The MPs (I guess thinking it not a good idea to fire on a priest) stood by while he and his helpers loaded the truck. They handed the MPs a list of what they were taking and left. Father Schiffer said he never heard any complaints from the American military, nor did he receive a bill. In fact, after that, the Americans responded in a more favorable and timely manner to his requests for aid.

John Hersey's book follows six survivors of the bomb. The book begins:

August 6,1945

Miss Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk in the personel department of the East Asia Tim Works, had just turned her head to chat with the girl at the next desk.

Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a physician, had just sat down to read the paper on the porch of his private hospital.

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, was watching a neighbor from her kitchen window.

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German Priest, lay on a cot in the mission house reading a Jesuit magazine.

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young surgeon, walked along a hospital corridor with a blood specimen for a Wasserman test.

The Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, was about to unload a cart of clothes at a rich man's home in the suburbs.

The mundane activities did not really touch me until I read the Hiroshima Methodist Church and, all of a sudden, I realized that my view of World War II Japan was fundamentally wrong. A Methodist Church -- not a mission, but a church lead by a Japanese Methodist minister and attended by Japanese parishioners. In his book Hersey talks about damage to the Chamber of Commerce Building, the difficulty of withdrawing money from the damaged banks, the heroic efforts of medical personnel to treat the horribly wounded in equally badly damaged hospitals, etc., etc., etc.

This did not at all fit my John Wayne/Robert Mitchum-American-movies-trained concept of the people who attacked my people at Pearl Harbor.

Of course, these were not the people who attacked Pearl Harbor, any more than I was the person who dropped that atom bomb on them. I hadn't realized just how complete my sense of us and them was -- at least for the Japan that existed then.

That was before I was born. That was the Japan that my father fought in the Pacific. In my mind, somehow World War II Japan was completely separate from the Japan where my school friend Ray's great grandparents came from. Or the 1970's Japan my little yellow Honda car came from.

The original book ended and was published during the first anniversary year of the bombing. Hersey wrote:  A year after the bomb was dropped, Miss Sasaki was a cripple; Mrs. Nakamura was destitute; Father Kleinsorge was back in the hospital; Dr. Sasaki was not capable of the work he once could do; Dr. Fujii had lost the thirty-room hospital it took him many years to acquire, and had no prospects of rebuilding it; Mr. Tanimoto's church had been ruined and he no longer had his exceptional vitality. The lives of these six people, who were among the luckiest in Hiroshima, would never be the same.

The hope at the end of World War II was that nuclear weapons would never be used again. Hersey does not end the revised edition with such rose-tinted glasses. He dates the development of nuclear weapons around the world up until the 1985 edition of Hiroshima. He brings us up to the fortieth anniversary of that first nuclear bomb. Each of the six survivors was still alive. They had built new lives for themselves. They had endured.

The cover of  Hiroshima quotes the Saturday Review of Literature -- "Everyone able to read should read it."

I concur.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Be Here Now -- NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition Round 2

He sat on the edge of a planter outside the sushi restaurant. This was where they came on their first date. She’d never had sushi before. She was late then, too. He probably should have picked her up at home instead of meeting her downtown.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, getting up.

“You’ve been gone.” She looked tired.

“Work.” He gave her a kiss. “There’s a wait, do you mind.” This was where he asked her to marry him. A public place, in case she said no.

“Productive trip?” she asked.

He appreciated that she knew how frustrating a new software launch can be. She smelled of cinnamon and fresh baked bread.

He nodded. This was where she told him she was pregnant. She needn’t have worried. The business was just getting started. It was a little tough, but Michael was a beautiful baby. He was glad it worked out so that he could be there for the birth.

 “Is it too cold to wait out here?” he asked, putting his arm around her.

She shook her head and leaned against him. She fit perfectly, her warmth spreading into him. This was where they came when his father died. He still missed his father.

The hostess opened the door and called their name.

He took her shawl and held her seat for her. She didn’t wear coats, not even on the coldest nights.

And she liked spiders. She took as many pictures of the garden spiders as she did the flowers. And she was always worried about them when the weather turned cold. He liked that about her.

“I love the lights,” she said. Hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny lights hung throughout the restaurant glimmering around the wait staff and customers alike. They made her smile.

The first time Michael OD’d, they came here. Their beautiful, brilliant son. How could he have been so unhappy? What could they do?

Treatment seemed to help them all. He made sure he was home for every family session.

He stayed home a whole week for his own gall bladder surgery. She teased him about his risk factors, the four F’s – Fair, Fat, Forty, and Fertile -- saying she liked the last one best of all.

Then when she was in treatment, she lost her hair and wore scarves. Bright Indian looking ones. Elegant black ones with gold or silver threads wound through. He stayed home for those six weeks and for the two months after. They came here often then. The lights would glitter on her scarves and she would laugh at his travel tales of woe.

He cut short his trip to London, when Michael went to jail. He didn’t know if she was well enough to stand the stress alone. They came here after their first visit.

Now Michael was dead. Had been for almost six months. He couldn’t stand being at home. He worked and traveled and worked almost the whole time. He couldn’t stand her sorrow. He couldn’t stand his own.

He wondered how it is that some places -- some simple, quiet places are the safest places to be?

The waitress poured tea and said she would be back to take their order.

He looked at her, his beautiful wife. He just looked. Somewhere along the line, she’d grown old. He had, too. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Maybe he’d been gone too much. Maybe she’d learned she didn’t need him. Maybe she didn’t want him.

“Why are we here tonight?” She asked.

“I need to know if we’re going to be alright.”

She pushed her tea away and took her keys out of her purse. The tiny airplane on the key fob gleamed in the restaurant’s low light. He’d given her that trinket after his first business trip.

“Let’s go home,” she said. “I’ll have a glass of wine, you have a scotch, and we’ll go to bed.”