Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heard of Photoshop? Join the Republican Party

Lynn Jenkins wants to stop Kansas from going off a cliff.  She also wants our country to not go off a cliff.  According to her, Washington spending is out of control.  She, as a CPA, who can earn between $45,000 and $110,000 a year depending on experience, knows the importance of living within our means.  The Kansas Republican Party sent me a mailer the other day wanting me to vote for her.  It's quite an expensive piece of mail.

OMG!!  People who love Obama are able to levitate their car over the guardrail but not the bridge railing!!  According to Jenkins (and the KRP), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a failure despite that most of the $862 billion dollars went to tax cuts, the States to help pay for unemployment cases and infrastructure.  Jenkins, showing she does not waste taxpayer money, also cut her own budget by $85,000 in 2009 and will cut $200,000 in 2010--probably by firing people, thus adding to the unemployment.  Also, $200,000 is just 13% of her budget.

The mailing also says Jenkins has commonsense to have voted against "Obamacare" (which will be the only time I use this derogatory word in a non-joking manner on this blog).  No, the health care bill is not good.  But it's a start.  I'm still wondering why they just didn't promote it as Medicare-for-all.  People love Medicare.  I should know.

What's funny about Jenkins "watching out for Kansas taxpayers" is that she doesn't.  There is proof that she doesn't.  Jenkins spent $422,000 on heavy cardstock, glossy promotional mailings in 2009--three times the amount of the other Kansas representatives COMBINED.  Yet, she came in $100,000 under budget which in most cases, you would then lose that money the next year.  The Office's Oscar Martinez explains.  I'm pretty sure she didn't lose that money.

I don't want Kansas to go over a cliff either especially a cliff like the one on this mailing which you can tell is located in Kansas--I think near Dodge City, maybe Morton County.  I will not be voting for Jenkins--I didn't vote for her in 2008, so why would I now?  I will however be voting to allow people with mental illness to vote.

I guess I should post an editorial cartoon since I'm going to place this in the Editorial Cartoon column.

Whatdyaknow, the black guy's racist.

Monday, October 25, 2010

POB #222: My Mailbox Has Been Contaminated

HEY!!  Look what I got in the mail today:

Look how evil President Obama looks in that picture.  His eyes are simultaneously raping and eating your soul.  Ignoring the captions on the pictures, I, too, believe we should protect the young and elderly from our President (all of them, not just Obama) and justice.  Wait, what?

I remember getting this card (not actually addressed to me or anyone in my family or at this residence, just to a previous family "or current resident") during the 2008 election urging me to vote for McCain/Palin and other like-minded individuals.  What I don't like about receiving this waste of paper is that it only focuses on one issue out of dozens.  And I could probably tolerate if it was an issue that mattered.  Abortion and the fake death panels (which is coverage offered by Medicare) are seriously at the bottom of my caring list.

I'm not voting for any of these people even if they gave me $1,000 but if you look at the endorsements, there are categories where there are no endorsements.  Don't look at the issues, just vote the way we tell you to vote.  To the people who are actually swayed by crap like this:  grow your own brain.  Get your own opinions.  Spend a few minutes actually getting both sides of the issue instead of just being hypnotized by Fox News or MSNBC.  Have the Internet?  Spend ten minutes on Google looking up the candidates.  Don't just look at this idiotic mailing and decide "I'm going to vote for the people who don't want to kill babies."  I'm pretty sure no candidate actually wants to kill babies.

And I am so tired to anti-abortion people pointing fingers and judging people.  Why do they attack people who have made a conscious decision instead of actually doing good and volunteering for some at-risk teens or talking about safe sex or even doing a "scared straight" type thing where they scare people into not getting pregnant?  Because they want people to have those babies even if they are products of rape, will be living vegetables or will kill the mother and most are for abstinence.  Instead of actually offering real solutions to a problem, they complain and belittle anyone who may even hint at being pro-choice.

My question is how many of those protesters standing in front abortion clinics actually know someone who has had an abortion?  Do they know that the day you get an abortion is the worst day of your life?  You will never forget it.  You standing there shouting at me to be a man and telling my girlfriend that they will protect her if I am forcing her to do this isn't helping anything.  But I guess you figure if one person actually listens to your God-based fear-mongering, then you have justified your time on this planet.

But back to the mailing.  I fear for this country.  I'm afraid of the direction it might go in the next week and the next two years.  This election isn't about issues, it isn't about Republicans and Democrats, it's about reason and fear.  Compare ads between Democrats and Republicans:  Democrats tend to focus on how their opponent is a Washington politician and isn't good for the state while Republicans tend to focus on how their opponent "voted with Pelosi" and brought this country to its knees.

Democrats aren't innocent though.  Toward Election Day, you see Democrats showing the same types of ads noting how the Republicans destroyed our economy and mishandled Iraq and Afghanistan and ran up the deficit.  I don't care who ruined what during when when that person was in office--I'm going to do research and choose the person who I think is going to help.  Will they?  Past experiences and history says "no, they probably won't" but sadly, this is the system we have.

Harter Union: Part Eight, Chapters 1 & 2

I slid the pizza into the oven and closed the door. I wiped my brow and exhaled. “All right,” I began speaking to Dan, “those three pizzas are in and you all should be able to handle it from here on in,” I wiped my brow again and went through the back door of the kitchen, through the storeroom and into my office. I sat down in my chair and leafed through all the pamphlets, brochures and order forms that King Pizza has done business with within its 32 years of existence.

I was the new manager of King Pizza, a local Lawrence restaurant that was owned by Jonathan Tierney. Jon wanted to retire after owning and managing King Pizza for all 32 years. I was the new manager and was instructed to run everything exactly like Jonathan Tierney did for 32 years.

I had been living in Lawrence for a month now but I never went out and did anything. I came to work in the morning, went home at night, lived off my King Pizza income and saved the modest income I got from my book. I would go home and write on my second book or watch television. I hadn’t tried to contact anyone from Baldwin and strangely, no one from New York had tried contacting me.

“Mr. Franklin?” a girl knocked on my wall.

I looked up and saw it was Alexis. “Please call me Jeff. How can I help you, Alexis?”

“I’m throwing a sort of party for my friends and was wondering if you’d like to go,” Alexis said, smiling sweetly at me.

“Oh, probably not. I don’t do well in those types of situations. I wouldn’t know anybody and I would probably just be a bring-down,” I admitted. “Besides, everybody there would be between the ages of 18 and 24 correct?”

Alexis shrugged and lazily nodded.

“I’m 32. You don’t want an old fogy like me ruining a party. I appreciate the invite and maybe next time.”

“All right but it’s going to be the shindig of the semester,” Alexis coaxed.

I smiled and watched her leave. I sat back in my chair and resumed shuffling through the mess.

I slowly climbed the stairs to my apartment. As I neared my floor, my neighbor Christine, left hers. “Hi, Jeff,” she said as we passed each other on the stairs.

“Hi, Christine,” I said happily. I turned my head and looked at her leaving. She was the one highlight in my life now. I actually looked forward to seeing her either coming or going. Beyond that, my life was very empty.

I entered my apartment and Shadow walked over to me. “Hello, Shappy,” I kneeled down and petted him. My apartment seemed bigger and lonelier tonight than any other night. I went to the kitchen and opened the freezer. I grabbed a bag of pizza rolls, dumped a bunch out onto a plate and shoved the plate into the microwave. I walked out of the kitchen, down a couple of step and into an unused room off to the side that had Shadow’s food, water and litter box in it. I poured him some hard food and plopped half a can of turkey and gravy cat food on a plate and Shadow began munching it down.

I went back into the kitchen and grabbed the cooked pizza rolls out of the microwave and headed toward the back bedrooms, past the guest bathroom and linen closets. My bedroom was the smaller room because what was supposed to be the master bedroom was now my office. My bedroom was small but offered all the comforts of a bed, dresser and cable TV. I unlocked the door to my office and walked in. I turned on the CD player and it started playing a Dave Matthews Band CD, which I all but forgotten about while I was in New York.

I went into the master bathroom, went to the bathroom, and put on some pajamas. I sat at my huge mahogany desk and turned on my computer. I pulled a red notebook from a drawer and began looking through the note I made for my next novel. I opened the computer file, scrolled to where I left off last and began typing.

Chapter Two
Every Sunday morning I would jog. I would park in the Visitor’s Center parking lot at the University of Kansas and jog down 15th Street from Iowa Street to Wakarusa Drive, an equivalent of two and a half miles, up and down steep hills and then after resting and stretching, I would either jog or walk back. Since being back in Lawrence, I had joined a gym and began working out. I hadn’t really lost any weight but I had gained some muscle tone.

The rest of Sunday was filled with shopping, going to Wal-Mart or the grocery store. It had been a routine for nearly two months and I hadn’t wavered from it at all. I was totally lazy for the entire weekend except for my Sunday errands.

I was walking through Target slowly and just at everything on the shelves. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything but heard a voice behind me, “Jeff?”

I stopped and turned around. It was Alyson wearing a red shirt and khaki pants with a Target nametag. “Alyson?”

“What are you doing back here? I thought you were in New York,” she said running up and hugging me.

“I was. I decided to come back,” I loosely hugged her and then backed away from her.

“Couldn’t handle the rush of the big city?” she laughed.

“No, nothing like that. New York just didn’t suit me,” I smiled.

“Have you told anyone else from Baker that you’re back?”

“No, none of them work at Baker and I just don’t want to randomly appear at their house so…”

“Well, Wendy,” interrupted Alyson, “is head chef for a restaurant in Overland Park, the Golden Truffle, so she’s doing well. Nathan knocked up some girl and they got married. They live in Ottawa now.”

“What about Aaron, Heather or Katie?” I asked.

“I wasn’t very close with them so I really don’t care. Oh, and Jason was arrested in St. Louis for breaking and entering and is serving six months in a prison near there.”

“Nice. I always figured he’d end up in jail sooner or later,” I sighed. “So you work here? I figured you would’ve moved up to something else like office secretary or something with customer service.”

“No, I chose the glamorous life of stock person,” Alyson smiled.

“So do you live in Lawrence? Are you seeing anyone?” I asked, now wondering why I’m keeping this conversation going.

“I live off of Sixth Street with my boyfriend, Chandler.”

“Chandler?” I questioned. “Like the Friends character, Chandler?” I was trying not the laugh.

“Yes,” Alyson said very seriously.

“I honestly don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone actually named Chandler outside of that television reference,” I said.

“Well, it was great seeing you Jeff. We should get together sometime. I have to get back to work.”

“You should. I’ll see you around,” I smiled at her, enjoying a little too much that I possibly insulted her. We both turned around and I rolled my eyes as I quickly pushed the cart out of the aisle and around the corner.

Only Aaron and Wendy had their names listed in a phone book. Aaron lived in Bonner Springs and Wendy lived in Lenexa. I sat in my office at home with their phone numbers in front of me contemplating whether or not to call them. As I opened my phone to dial, it suddenly rang. I looked at the ID and answered. “Hi, Kate!” I said ecstatically.

“Hey-hey, Kansas! How are things back home?” she said loudly.

“You don’t need to shout. We’re not talking on tin cans,” I laughed. “It’s all good. I still love it here. I have a crappy job at a pizza place but I still make good residuals off my book so I’m doing good.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I had my foot surgery so that’s one reason I haven’t called yet,” Kate said with a smile over the phone.

“Well, that sounds like fun. How are you doing?”

“Great. I’m going back to work tomorrow but I’m still limping around.”

“That’s good. How’s everyone doing?”

“Oh, everyone is great. Dustin and Annie have moved into an apartment in SoHo and they are acting like a newlywed couple.”

“Sweet. I’m sorry I’m missing that.”

“I’m sorry I’m not,” she chuckled, which made me smile bigger. “Dustin is so cute with his son and Annie is working as a sales rep for a comic book company.”

“A comic book company? Damn, I should’ve stayed with her,” I joked.

“Everyone said they would call you later this week but I have to go and try to play catch up with my student’s lesson plan,” Kate scowled over the phone.

“Well, I’m home between ten at night and ten in the morning so they can call anytime during that time,” I said.

“I’ll let them know,” said Kate.

“I have a problem,” I began. “There are a couple of people I used to work with at Baker and I want to call them but I’m not sure how to go about it.”

“You press the numbers on your phone and press ‘send’.”

“I hate you. No, Kate, you know what I mean.”

“Call them and say that you are back in Kansas and want to catch up. If they were good friends they will be happy to see you and get together,” Kate explained.

“You always know the right thing to say,” I said. “I have to go make some phone calls and do some writing so I’ll talk to you later.”

“All right, Kansas. Good-bye,” Kate said with a hint of singsong voice.

“Good-bye, Kate.”

“I miss you, Jeff,” Kate said suddenly.

“I miss you, too,” I replied. My phone clicked and the line went dead. I wiped the screen on my pants leg and got a confused look on my face. “She called me Jeff.”

Jeff reunites with Wendy and Aaron and tries to learn what happened to Heather.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stull #5

"I don't think there is a county in America that doesn't have a story like this," Frank began as he and Katie drove down a gravel road that was heading toward trees surrounding a creek.  "The name it is given is commonly La Llorona.  The original tale began in Mexico and found it's way to America.  These type of bridges are typically called 'crybaby bridges' because sometimes you can hear a baby cry."

"I love how you just start randomly talking as we approach where we're going," Katie smiled.

"Anyway," Frank said forcibly.  "A mother gives birth to a child out of wedlock and throws the baby over the bridge into the creek then feels guilty and goes into the creek to retrieve the child only to drown herself."

"Sounds fun," Katie said.  "And that's the story here?"

"Pretty much.  There's been some variation but essentially it's the same.  You can hear crying in the distance and if you say 'I have your baby' three times while standing against the railing of the bridge then you get pulled into the creek.  I want to explore it during the day and get some pictures.  Plus it's been awhile since I've been in this part of the county."

They were currently in Pacific Township in the northwestern corner of Stanton County.  There were a lot of creeks in this township that caused the roads to meander around.  There was only one community in the township:  Pacific City.  Pacific City was founded in 1860 but with the Civil War, the population dropped and became an unincorporated town.  Only a handful of houses and an abandoned grange were all that were left.

Frank and Katie approached a stone bridge that crossed Little Vawter Creek.  The bridge was made of concrete and slightly worn with some of the clean concrete now a dinghy gray.  Frank pulled over just before the bridge and he and Katie got out.  Frank began taking pictures of the surrounding area, the creek and the bridge.

"So?" Katie began.  "Any more to the story?"

"Huh?  There really is no story.  It's an urban legend.  It's not true.  Everything that's been heard and seen around here can be attributed to wild animals and drunk college students and they aren't all that credible."

"So what are we doing out here?" Katie asked.

"The bridge was built in 1914.  I would like to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places especially since it is the last bridge built by the Frontenac Bridge Company still standing."

Katie nodded then spoke, "You do realize why you are single, right?"

"The Bridge"
"I have your baby," Frank said as he leaned over the railing. Katie stayed in the middle of the bridge away from both of the edges. "I have your baby," he said again.


"I don't hear anything."

"This didn't work back in high school so I don't know why I thought it would work now," Frank sighed. "Sorry I dragged you back down here in the middle of the night."

"No biggie. You pay well," Katie said.

The next day, Frank went over to Judith Lawrence's house and sat down with her.  "So you went to the Little Vawter Bridge last night?"  Judith asked.

"Yeah and like normal nothing happened," Frank complained.

"Were you expecting something to happen?"

"Yes...and no.  I've heard the stories about what happens to people but it's never happened when I've done it," Frank explained.

"I've seen it happen.  It was terrifying," Judith said.  "Back when I was in high school--and you can just guess how long ago this was.  A group of friends and me went out to the bridge and someone called out from the edge of the bridge.  At first, nothing happened but then we heard a thrashing in the water, my friend went over the rail and into the creek."

"So why didn't anything happen when I did it?" Frank asked.

"Because you were expecting it to happen but thinking it would not."


"Go back out there and don't expect it to happen but think it will."

"Huh?" Frank repeating.

Two nights later, Frank and Katie were back out at the Little Vawter Creek Bridge.  "You want me to do it?"

"Yeah.  Just stand against the edge and tell the dead woman that you have her baby," Frank said.

"What?  Are you serious?" Katie asked.  "Why me?"

"Because Mrs. Lawrence said that I don't believe anything will happen so nothing will.  You do."

"That doesn't make sense," Katie was slightly confused.

"Just do it.  Don't worry.  Nothing will happen."

Katie walked to the edge of the bridge and leaned over slightly.  She cleared her throat and leaned out further.  "I have your baby..." she said.  Nothing happened.  She inhaled again.  "I have your baby."

Still nothing.

"Damn," Frank said.  "Nothing happened."

"Good.  I don't want to be pulled into the creek."

Katie hopped up on the side rail of the bridge and sat down, facing Frank.  "So this story can't be true but Judith said it was."

"Maybe her friend was just playing a joke," Katie said.

"But her friend died, Katie."

"A joke gone bad.  He was the only person to die from these incidents."

"I think they would know if it were a joke," Frank said.  "I don't know.  I need to do more research..."

Suddenly, Katie shrieked and she tumbled over the edge of the bridge and landed on the rocks below and rolled into the creek.  Frank rushed to where she was sitting and looked over the side.  Katie was in the creek, soaking wet, sniffling and holding her left forearm.

"Oh my God!  Katie!  Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she said, starting to cry.  "Can you help me up?  I think my arm is broken."

Frank and Katie sat in the ER at Stanton County Regional Medical Center.  Katie's arm was in a cast and they were waiting for the doctor to come back and discharge her.

"Do I get worker's comp?" Katie asked.

"You get time off with pay and your medical bills covered.  Didn't you read your employee contract?"

"Of course not."

"How did you fall off the bridge railing?"

"I didn't fall off--I was pulled off."

"What?  No you weren't," Frank lauged.

"I felt something pull on my shirt.  I was pulled in, Frank."  Katie was serious and had a scared look on her face.

"And you didn't see anything or anyone?" Frank asked.

Katie shook her head.  "It all happened fast.  I couldn't see anything but I could feel something."

"Well, you are not going back to the bridge.  When Matt comes back from his leave of absence we will investigate the bridge."

"No, you don't have to do that.  When I heal, we'll all go because now it's personal."

Frank nodded and looked at the floor.  "Really?  It's personal?"

"I was pulled off of a bridge.  Of course it's personal," Katie said.  "And it was the only thing I could think of to say."

Matt meets Virginia Humphrey who mysteriously disappears.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Muslims Scare Me, Too. Oh, Wait...No They Don't.

Let's take a look at the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And with the addition of the Fourteenth Amendment, Section I:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Nowhere does it say that freedom of speech is protected at your place of employment.  Basically it says that 1)Congress can't run over your freedom of speech and 2)The State cannot run over your freedom of speech.  I work for the government and they specifically told us that we do not have opinions and we do not have freedom of speech while we are at work so I can't talk about my thoughts and opinions of abortion, health care, gay people, etc.  And neither can you or Juan Williams.  And the notion of the Fox News pundits calling for an end to the federal funding NPR receives is laughable because NPR doesn't receive federal funding.  About half of their money comes from the stations themselves that carry NPR and the other half is from donations and grants.

I admit that NPR may be a little on the liberal side of things but that's the society we live in now.  You either have to be liberal or conservative to make it or you end up losing (i.e., CNN).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley 1927-2010

Tom Bosley, known to millions as Howard "Mr. C" Cunningham has passed away.  Bosley is known for his role as the father of Ron Howard in Happy Days from 1974 until 1984.  Bosley also provided the voice of Harry in the short-lived animated series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home and David the Gnome.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harter Union: Part Seven, Chaper 9

Movers were carrying out my boxes and furniture as Kate and I looked on. “So you’re having all your furniture and stuff trucked halfway across the county?” she asked.

“Yeah. I got everything all set up. I have an apartment ready for me in Lawrence, several job interviews so I should be all set. I didn’t think I would get all this done in a week but here I am,” I smiled at Kate who looked at me disappointed. “What?”

“I still don’t want you to go,” she said softly.

“I have to because trucking my stuff halfway across the county is expensive and I can’t get that money back now. Nor the money I used to rent the apartment in Lawrence,” I laughed. “Besides, there are people in Kansas that I really want to catch up with.”

“Old girlfriends and such?”

“They were girls and friends but never, unfortunately, at the same time,” I sighed.

As one of the movers took the bedroom nightstand out of the front door, Annie came in and stood completely still. “Hello, Jeff,” she said.

“Kitten,” I replied without hesitation.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Kate patted me on the back and headed out the front door. Annie said ‘hello’ but Kate said nothing.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?” Annie asked.

“Not really,” I said.

“I heard you were leaving tomorrow and I didn’t want you to go without returning this,” Annie pulled her engagement ring out of her pants pocket and held it out in front of me.

“I’m not taking that,” I said pushing her hand away. “It’s yours. Keep it. Do what you wish to it.”

“No, I can’t I…” she placed it back on her finger, looked at it and smiled. “I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. So are you and Dustin still seeing each other?” I asked, leaning against the kitchen counter.

“No, we decided that no one would ever accept our relationship so we ended it almost as quickly as it happened. I’m looking for my own apartment but I’m still living with Amber right now,” Annie said. “Dustin’s sorry, too.”

“I know. Maybe doing all this was a bit hasty but I lost my job and trust in my fiancée all in the same day. Within hours of each other. That would drive anyone off the deep end,” I chuckled and pushed aside a box of stuff on the counter to make more room for me to actually sit on the counter.

“No hard feelings?” Annie asked with a bit of uneasiness.

“No. I’m gonna miss you. Tell Dustin I’ll miss him and congratulations on earning full custody of his son. I’m keeping my cell number so call me. Have a good life,” I said.

“You, too,” Annie headed for the door but stopped and turned around. “I love you, Jeff.”

“I love you, too, Kitten--Annie,” I answered. She disappeared behind the front door and was gone. I pulled a picture frame out of the box and looked at it. It was a photo of me, Annie, Dustin, Kate, Shani and Amber sitting in a booth at Sardie’s. I rubbed my eyes with my thumb and forefinger and carefully placed the picture back in the box.

The final part begins as we learn about Jeff's new life in Lawrence, Kansas. Also, Jeff reunites with Alyson and learns what happened with some of the Baker staff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No. 16: Abandoned, Texas

Eli Proctor exited the new Highway 77 onto Farm Road 1317. It had been over five years since he had last driven down this road. A sign noted that Vinland was four miles down the road and that the road was closed to through traffic.

Five years ago a hurricane swept through the Gulf Coast of Texas obliterating everything between Galveston and Brownsville. Vinland was wiped out and while a majority of the population was able to leave, a small handful stayed behind. Eli’s sister was one of them. He was returning to Vinland to identify and retrieve her body.

Eli pulled over at the Vinland city limit sign and looked at it. In bold, black spray painted letters, “ABANDONED” was printed over the town name. Eli wasn’t sure if it was intentional of graffiti and looked past the sign at the nearby warehouses standing nearly demolished and abandoned. What used to be a small industrial area was now quiet and desolate. A massive steel gate intersected the road a few feet from the sign. A man began approaching Eli from the gate.

“You lost?” the man asked. Eli noticed that the man was some form of law enforcement—either a sheriff’s deputy or state trooper.

“I’m Eli Proctor. I used to live here,” Eli looked past the officer and into the town. “I’m here to pick up my sister’s body.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the officer said. “I’ll unlock the gate. You remember where the town grange is? That’s where the Hurricane Relief Center has been setup. That’s also where the morgue is.”

“Thank you,” Eli said and headed back to his car. The officer unlocked and opened the gate and Eli proceeded through. It looked as if every window in town was boarded up or broken. Some buildings were reduced to rubble leaving piles of bricks and wood between untouched neighbors. Tree branches and even trees lay criss-crossed in the street.

The grange was at the corner of Third and Arroyo on the east side of town but Eli turned west on Third. He slowly drove, meandering his way down the street, avoiding trees and down power lines. Houses sat away from the street, hidden partially damaged trees and standing completely devoid of life. Eli turned south on Navarro and slowly pulled into a driveway of what used to be a two-story house but was now a half-collapsed wreck. All of the windows were broken and half of second floor was torn off and possibly tossed all around the block. Eli parked his car and got out.

Eli spent the first 19 years of his life in this house and now it was all gone. Irreparable. Eli cautiously climbed the porch steps to the front door, whose screen door was hanging by only one hinge. He opened the screen door and pushed open the front door. Eli figured the house was either looted or opened by police resulting in the broken door.

The inside was a shambles. It smelled of musty water and everything was wet after five years of exposed to the elements. The carpet was faded and worn throughout the house, the walls were water-stained and, in some places, damaged exposing the studs, pipes and wires. Some pictures still hung on the wall showcasing a family that hadn’t lived in that house for five years. Eli was close to taking a couple pictures with him but decided against it. He left the house and got back in his car.

He went further south on Navarro to Fifth Street then headed back east to the old highway which was Main Street in town. The highway was closed south of Fifth, presumably because the Delgado Creek flooded and took out the old bridge which was not constructed to withstand massive floods in 1911.

Eli arrived at the old grange, a massive limestone structure with an aluminum roof. Eli thought it was ironic that a completely open and vulnerable structure built in 1888 still stood amid all the modern building rubble. Inside the grange, the massive meeting space on the first floor was full of bodies just laying on the ground wrapped in white sheets. It was freezing in the grange and Eli shivered from the cold.

A sign directed him up the nearby stairs to the second floor which had been converted into a makeshift offices. On a table, a bell sat with a note that read “Ring For Service”. Eli rang it and about thirty seconds later a doctor approached him.

“Yeah? How can I help?” the doctor was tired and was noticeably impatient in asking his question.

“I’m Eli Proctor and I’m here to claim my sister’s body.”

The doctor sighed and looked around the room. “What’s your sister’s name?”

“Angela. Angela Proctor,” Eli answered.

“Ah! She’s right over here,” the doctor motioned and led Eli to a body a couple of gurneys down. An arm was sticking out of the blanket, which was the case on all the gurneys on the floor. The doctor glanced at the arm. Angela’s name and social security was written on it in permanent marker, which FEMA suggested people who stayed should do. It was like a Holocaust tattoo. The doctor moved the blanket off the head and Eli saw his sister.

Eli stepped closer and started to cry. “Yeah. That’s her.”

“Okay,” the doctor grabbed a clipboard and handed it to Eli. “Fill this out and give it to the doctor on the third floor and we can get her shipped out.”

Eli thanked the doctor and went to sit down to fill out the form.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harter Union: Part Seven, Chapter 8

“Yes, sir. I’ll be landing at La Guardia in twenty minutes. It’ll be about an hour before I can get back to the office,” I said talking to my boss on my phone. “My car is waiting at the airport so give me an hour and a half to get there and then we can discuss this problem,” I hung up, sighed and began looking out the window.

When I got to work, I quickly parked my car and ran upstairs. I entered my boss’ office where he was sitting behind his desk. I uneasily sat down in a chair as he cleared his throat. “Jeff, you are quite possibly the best editor we have here at Manhattan-Rooks,” he began.

“Thank you, sir,” I replied not really liking where this conversation was heading.

“And that is what makes what happened even more astonishing,” he said gruffly.

“What do you mean?” I asked nervously.

He tossed a copy of the new Hemenway novel that I edited on his desk. “Page 453, the highlighted portion.”

I took the book and opened it to 453 and read the entire page, stopping after I finished the selected portion. “Oh my God,” I said quietly.

“1.5 million copies went out and 200,000 will be returned to us for destruction, we are asking for a recall of the remaining 1.3 million but in any case, we are losing money. Mr. Hemenway has started legal proceedings for lost wages and has terminated his contract. We have also had seven church groups attack us for your one little mistake.”

“That’s…pretty bad,” I said with my hand covering my mouth, still looking at the mistake.

“Bad doesn’t cut it. We have consulted with our lawyers and decided we need to take action to ensure that this never happens again.”

“What? It’s one mistake. It can be fixed. We’ve made mistakes before and always pulled through.”

“Those mistakes didn’t cost us a multi-billion dollar contract deal!” he slammed his fist down on the desk but quickly regained his composure. “I’m sorry, Jeff but I’m gonna have to let you go.”

“You’re firing me? Over a comma?”

“A multi-billion dollar comma,” he said gruffly.

I arrived home and sat my box of personal items from work in a chair. “Annie?” It was completely quiet except for a rustling in the bedroom. I smiled and quietly went to the bedroom door and quickly threw it open and saw Dustin on top of Annie naked in my bed. The door hit the wall which startled them and caused them both to look in my direction.

“Jeff!” Annie shrieked, kicking and pushing Dustin off of her and onto the floor. “What are you doing home?”

“My book tour ended. I thought you would remember that but I see you’re busy doing something else. Or someone else,” I said.

Annie got out of bed with a blanket wrapped around her and came toward me. “Jeff, I can explain everything…” she began.

I glanced over at Dustin who was pulling on his jeans. “You know, I don’t want to hear about this. I don’t care. I am getting sick and tired of… No, I’m not going to stay in this apartment another minute until the both of you are gone! If anyone needs me, I’ll be out contemplating suicide,” I headed toward the front door with little Shadow bounding after me. He didn’t catch up and I slammed the door.

It was almost midnight and I had been sitting on the same bench in Battery Park for most of the evening. Kate walked up and sat down next to me. “She’s beautiful ain’t she?” she asked referring to the Statue of Liberty. I grunted in compliance. “Annie has taken some of her stuff and has moved in with Amber,” Kate said.

“Does this mean it’s over?” I asked.

“That’s between you and Annie, Kansas.”

“I’m going to move back to Kansas,” I said, seemingly out of the blue.

“What are you talking about? You have a life here. You can’t just pack it all up and leave,” Kate said. She noticed my seriousness and softly put her hand on my leg. “What brought on this decision?” she asked.

“In one day, I got fired from a job I loved and caught my fiancée in bed with my best friend. It’s been a bad day,” I said.

“I didn’t know you got fired,” Kate admitted. “Look, I’m sorry but maybe this was a sign that things need to change. One of my students drew this picture and it reminded me of us,” Kate pulled out a folded sheet of notebook paper from her pocket and showed it to me.

I took it from her and looked at it in the moonlight and the dim streetlights. “This is supposed to be us?” I asked. Kate nodded. “Well, this is extremely cute but I thought we came to the conclusion that we would make better friends?”

“I know but I’ve been thinking that maybe we were wrong,” Kate said looking at me with her light green eyes. I could smell the fruit-scented shampoo she used and sighed.

“No,” I shook my head. “I’m going back to Kansas."

Kate moved in close and hugged me. She rested her head on my arm and we looked out over the bay. “I’m gonna miss you,” she said softly.

Jeff and Annie say good-bye.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


I came to like The Beatles late in life.  In fact, it wasn't until I was in my twenties when I actually took the time to listen to them.  I'm sure people think that is blasphemous but that's the way it is.  Also blasphemous:  I don't like the song "Boys of Summer".

After actually listening to The Beatles, one has to wonder how anyone could not like their music.  There has to be people out there who do not like their music but who really wants to know those people?  I imagine they don't like The Beatles for the same reason I am not a fan of Nirvana (!).  They probably wonder if the band was still pumping out music long after their prime would anyone still care?  If Nirvana was still touring in 2007 celebrating their 20th year, would anyone still care about them?  A Beatles 40th Anniversary tour in 2000?  While we today would think that would be awesome, if they were pumping out album after every two to five wouldn't be a good and that is why the music of The Beatles has stood up so well.  There is only so much of it.  And we'll never get more.

Anyway, John Lennon would've turned 70 today if he were still alive.  Many of you have probably seen Google's tribute to him with their Google Doodle.  I was amazed that none of the editorial cartoonists did a tribute to him.  Apparently it was more important to focus on rednecks yelling about how amazing Republicans are and how President Obama is driving this country into the ground.  Sigh.....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stull #4

Seven Years Ago
Randy Stull, Matt and his sister and brother-in-law had the van loaded up and ready to go to Tontzville to Emily's new apartment. Emily and her husband of two months were moving from her parent's basement to their own apartment so of course Matt and his father Randy got stuck helping them on this beautiful August day.

Emily and Dennis drove their car while Randy and Matt took the van. "Glad to have them out of the house?" Matt asked.

"It's a big step having your oldest child move out," Randy said.

"So that's a yes?"

"Any chance you'll be moving out soon?" Randy chuckled.

"Two, three more years," Matt shrugged. "Minimum."

It was late morning and they were about halfway through unloading the van when Randy stumbled and fell, dropping a box of dishes. The sound of shattering dishes echoed through the street. Matt ran to his father.

"Dad! What's wrong?"

Randy struggled to breathe and clenched his fist in pain. "Call 9-1-1," he managed to say as he fell back onto the pavement.

At the time, Frank was with his then-girlfriend Lana at Mound Cemetery in Marietta, Ohio. Frank was snapping away with a camera while Lana stayed behind, meandering through the stones of officers from the Revolutionary War.

"Okay, take my picture by the mound," Frank handed the camera to Lana. The mound was constructed between 800 B.C. and 700 A.D. by prehistoric Mound Builders and is part of the Marietta Earthworks. This mound, known by Conus, is the burial place of the Mound Builder chieftans. The cemetery is the burial place of many Revolutionary War veterans.

"And then we leave?" she asked.

"You didn't have to come along. I just suggested it. You know I was traveling to numerous cemeteries this weekend," Frank explained.

"We've been here since Wednesday," Lana said as she took the picture.

Frank's cell phone rang and he pulled it out of his pockets. "Hello?"

"He's dead!" Matt's voice was blubbery and he was uncontrollably crying. "He died, Frank!"

"Matt? Who died?"

"My dad. My dad died..."

The funeral was the following Thursday. After a brief service at the funeral home, a line of cars followed the hearse to Stull Cemetery where a tent was set up over where Randy was to be buried.

Frank stood outside of the tent where the family, Matt, his sister, his mother, uncle and grandparents, all were. After the graveside service, Matt came up to Frank. "You bought a suit," Matt pointed out.

"Seemed like a good time to get one."

"I'm going to retire this suit," Matt said, looking down at his clothes. "It's been to three proms, six gradations, five weddings and now ten funerals."

Frank nodded. "Seems like a good idea," he said. Suddenly, Matt grabbed Frank and they hugged. "I'm sorry, Matt."

"Uncle John"
"I'm sorry," Katie began with skepticism in her voice. "I don't see evidence of a curse here."

"So you don't find it strange that no male in my family with the last name of Stull has lived past the age of 50?" Matt asked with disbelief.

"Coincidence, yes. Curse? No," Katie said.

"But this goes all the way to Stull's founding," Frank explained. "All the Stull men who founded the town died. There's something to this and we need to properly investigate it."

"Why are we concerned with Matt's family history?" she asked.

"My Uncle John is turning fifty next week. He's my favorite uncle, although he is the only living one right now. He's also the oldest living male in my family. I don't know if it's possible but I want to protect him," Matt replied.

"How come we never looked into it before?" Katie asked.

"I have but there is only so much I can research until the well runs dry," Frank said. "It's noted that the original founders are buried in Stull Cemetery but their graves are either not marked or lost. They were buried before the cemetery was formally established so records are spotty."

"Okay. Let's say that there is a curse. How are we supposed to protect Matt's uncle from supernatural forces and fate?" Katie asked.

"We have to try. I'd do the same for you," Matt said. "Besides, we get a free dinner tonight."

Matt's Uncle John was a very jovial man. He had recently grown a beard and flecks of gray could be seen in it and the hair on his head. He honestly didn't look 50.

Frank, Katie and Matt sat at the dinner table with John, his wife Wanda, and their youngest daughter who was 13. The two older daughters had moved out on their own. Wanda had fixed something easy--spaghetti--but the sauce was from a recipe and so were the meatballs.

"I don't believe in that mumbo-jumbo," John said after Matt and Frank explained what they wanted to do. "I believe that we decide when to go, not some ghost in the sky."

"What about terminal illnesses and murder? Those aren't technically decided for us," Katie said.

"Still. It's our decision. There is only so much our bodies can take before, in some way, we're begging for life to end. Let me tell you a story. Great-grandma, she died when Matt was two, was in the hospital for two weeks and getting better. At least that is what the doctors said. All she talked about was going home. She just wanted to go home. After two weeks, the doctors said she was fine and sent her home. She died two hours after she got home. She didn't want to die in that hospital. She wanted to die at home. She willed her body to get better just so she could pass away in her home in her own bed," John told.

Frank nodded. "I like that. It gives me hope that no matter what happens, I am in control. I don't have to walk into that white light if I don't want to."

"I know there are flaws in my logic but like in any belief, if it gives me hope then what is it hurting?" John shrugged.

Frank explored Stull Cemetery a lot over the next week. He examined as many plats of the cemetery as he could get his hands on and began making his own updated version. He looked at all aspects of Stull's written history and found nothing out of the ordinary.

Frank sat at his desk at the Historical Society when he was approached by Katie. "Find anything new?" she asked.

"No. Maybe it is all a coincidence. Genetics, that sort of thing. I can't find anything other than what I already know," Frank explained. "It's like everything has been purposely hidden."

"Maybe it has. Stull is a very secretive place. Something happened back then that they are trying to keep quiet," Katie said.

"Well, someone knows something and I'm going to find out who and what. Matt deserves better then what he's been given."

"John's birthday is tomorrow," Katie said. "We've come this far."

"It's not enough. Something could happen later today or tomorrow or a month from now and we cannot stop it. If it is really a curse then how do we stop it? It doesn't seem fair."

"I know," Katie nodded. "And 35 years from now, I do not want to bury Matt for the same reason."

John's birthday came and went. Frank, Matt and Katie became involved with other things. About three weeks after his birthday, John was driving home from Tontzville, talking with Matt on his cell phone.

"Frank has returned to researching Rock Creek, especially the time around World War I. He has Katie and me working on stuff about cemeteries. Frank's a dork about cemeteries," Matt said.

"Make sure he looks into the old Stull Family Cemetery. I can't remember exactly where it was but it was on the original Stull land claim. I don't even know if any of the stones still exist," John revealed.

"Our family has its own cemetery?" Matt asked.

"Yeah. You and Frank should come by this weekend and we can talk about it. Apparently our family were a bunch of murderers back in the day. At least according to this book."

"What book?" Matt asked.

"Someone in the early 20th Century wrote a book about the founding of the county. He wrote it out long hand five times and tied the pages together. No one really took him seriously because everyone thought he was crazy. I don't know if any copies of the book still exist," John explained.

"Frank is going to love that information. I'll let you go Uncle John. I'll see you on Saturday," said Matt.

"Okay, Matt. See you."

John and Matt hung up and John turned back on the radio. John began rounding a curve when another person did the same thing, in John's lane and in the opposite direction. John gripped the steering wheel with both hands and slammed on the brakes as the headlights got closer.

Frank and Katie investigate a supposedly haunted bridge which ends up putting Katie's life in danger.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Harter Union: Part Seven, Chapters 5-7

“Dustin, what the hell are you doing here?” Annie asked to an inebriated Dustin leaning against the door frame at 3:30 in the morning. “Are you drunk?”

“She’s ruining my life and I wanted to talk to somebody,” he said drunkenly.

“What are you talking about?” asked Annie grabbing his arm and pulling him into the apartment. “What’s Beth doing now?”

The two sat on the couch and Dustin explained. “I hired that lawyer just like Jeff suggested and he put a temporary restriction on where she could go: New Jersey and New York. Well, now we’ve started an actual custody battle and it was going pretty good for me until she said…” Dustin started to cry and Annie tried her best to comfort him. “She said I’m molesting him.”

“What? How can she do that? She knows that you are a model father.”

“So we’re now going to have a hearing to judge my character but that could take forever and in the meantime, I don’t get to see my son,” Dustin began crying harder and laid his head on Annie’s shoulder while she cradled him. “The hearing starts Monday so will you come with me?”

“Of course. You can count on me to be a character witness or whatever you need to help get you through this,” Annie said. She raised Dustin’s head with her hands and carefully wiped the tear streaks from his face. They looked into each other’s eyes; Dustin took Annie’s face into his hands and kissed her. Annie kissed back.

Chapter Six
Kate was sitting behind her desk in her classroom during free-study period and reading my book. A little girl walked up to the desk. “Miss Haskell?”

Kate closed the book but held her place with her thumb. “Yes, Sarah?”

“I know him,” Sarah said pointing at the book. Kate looked at the back cover of the book with my picture on it. “He’s been in here before.”

“Yes he has, Sarah.”

“Is he your boyfriend?” Sarah asked with an innocent giggle in her voice.

“No, he’s just a really good friend,” Kate smiled.

“Oh. Well, I drew this picture for you anyway,” Sarah laid a piece of notebook paper on Kate’s desk. It was a drawing in crayon of Kate and me holding hands in front of a red and pink heart.

“Well, this is very nice, Sarah. But why did you draw a picture of me and Mr. Franklin?”

“You two look good together,” Sarah replied.

“Oh, well, thank you, Sarah. I’ll treasure it forever,” Kate said folding the paper and slipping it into the book.

Annie and Dustin were driving back to the city. “Thank you for coming with me. We really made headway to getting a quick hearing. Too bad I can’t see my son,” Dustin said.

“It’ll all work out in the end, you just have to wait it out,” Annie moved her hand onto Dustin’s leg. “You’ll see.”

“I never knew one girl could be so evil,” Dustin said shaking his head. “No wonder I don’t date anymore.”

“Not all of us are bad. You need to give us more of a chance. Do you want to come upstairs and I can fix us some dinner,” Annie offered. “I’m a little lonely without Jeff here.”

“Sure, that sounds nice,” Dustin smiled.

Chapter Seven
“You know,” began Shani biting into an Egg McMuffin, “we should probably invite Annie to join us for breakfast. She might be kind of lonely since Jeff isn’t home. Plus, she is right down the street.”

“I’ll give her a ring; see if she’s up…” Kate took out her cell phone and called the apartment phone which rang in both the kitchen and bedroom.

Annie reached over in bed and picked up receiver. “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Kate. Did I awake you?”

“Yeah, but I should be getting up anyway. What’s going on?” Annie asked groggily.

“We’re all at McDonald’s eating breakfast. Wanna come?”

“No thanks. I’m not really hungry. Maybe some other time.”

“All right, Annie. We’ll see you later,” Kate hung up her phone and put it away. Annie hung up the phone in the apartment, rolled over onto her side and looked at Dustin lying in bed next to her. She pulled the covers back up over her, wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes.

“I love you, too,” Annie said to me over and slowly hung up the receiver. Amber came in right after.

“Was that Jeff?” Amber tittered.

“Yes,” Annie smiled uneasily.

“This is, what, day five of his tour? Where is he?” Amber asked.

“He’s laid-over in Las Vegas for today so he’s out gambling. He’s won $700. He’ll arrive in San Francisco early tomorrow,” Annie said softly and disenchanted.

“What’s the matter? You don’t seem happy to hear from him.”

“I guess I’m just a little lonely for him, Amber.”

“Aw, that’s sweet.”

“Can I talk to you?” Annie asked.

“Of course.”

“Come in and shut the door,” Annie pushed her work off to the side as Amber shut the door and sat down. “You’ve been in love, right Amber?”

“Of course. Obviously it didn’t work out but I have been in love once or twice,” Amber chuckled.

“Have you ever been in love with two people at the same time?” Annie asked.

“Well, I don’t like where this is going. Jeff’s only been gone five days and you have already fallen in love with someone else?” Amber shook her head.

“I still love Jeff but there’s someone else,” Annie said starting to tap a pen on her desk.

“Who is he? Does he work here?”

“Amber, please. I’m confused. What should I do?” Annie begged.

“Well, what has happened between you two? A date? A hug? A kiss?”

“I slept with him,” Annie said shamefully.

“Oh, Annie,” Amber stood up and headed for the door. “I can’t help you with this. You’re gonna have to figure this out yourself. Do you want to stay with the man who you love and who adores you, or do you want to throw that away for something that may be lust?”

“I don’t want to lose Jeff but I don’t want to hurt Dustin either. Aw, crap!” Annie hand quickly covered her face.

“Dustin? Oh my God you are playing with fire. Look, I wash my hands of this. Both are wonderful guys but only one gave you that ring,” Amber left the office and Annie took off her gold engagement band and looked at the inscription: To My Kitten~Everlasting Love.

Kate watched lazily as an airplane flew overhead during recess. She immediately thought of me and sighed. She looked back at the playground and her class. She smiled seeing the young children run and climb. She looked back up at the sky but the airplane was gone.

Jeff makes a mistake at work then catches Annie and Dustin together.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

It's Conspiracy Theory Time

I sincerely hope all forms of cancer will be cured in my lifetime but have you ever thought about why we don't have cures for these things already? We're pretty advanced with a lot of other diseases--being able to cure things once thought incurable. I understand cancer is a bit different since it can change and morph becoming resistant to treatment and such but look at diabetes. How can we have all this medicine and crap that helps regulate diabetes but we can't stretch that out to actually cure it? Because if they cure diabetes or certain forms of cancer, do you realize how much money the pharmaceutical companies would lose? Millions, possibly billions. I like to imagine that they have a small vial of the diabetic cure sitting on a shelf just waiting for the right time to unleash it on the public.

End conspiracy rant.