Member Monday: Over the Hill by George T. Parker

Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a story by Writers Forum newsletter editor, George T. Parker. Here’s little more about the piece from George himself.

Author’s Note: This fictionalized story is based upon a true incident on a trail crew in Yosemite. I didn’t see it happen. It was a campfire story we heard from the trail workers leading our crew of an incident that had happened years before.

Over the Hill

by George T. Parker

Hammers clanged on rock. A faint granite dust fog hung low to the ground. Miguel and Bear each worked his doublejack on the weak, weathered, and rotten granite rocks in the trail tread. Neither spoke. They didn’t need to. The borders of the causeway section were finished. All they had to do now was break down the decomposing granite rocks to fill the trail tread, cover the crushed fill with dirt, and this section of trail would be finished. Miguel had been working trails in Yosemite for over fifteen years, had been a trail boss for three of those years, and this marshy section would finally be crossed off his ‘to do’ list. This particular section had been annoying him for a couple of years. This year, this section of high-traffic trail between Yosemite Valley and the Merced High Sierra camp had climbed to the top of the priority list. The rest of the crew worked about a half mile above them, closer to the Merced camp. When Miguel and Bear finished here, they would bump up ahead of the rest of the crew to the next trouble spot on the trail.

It was a hot August day. Miguel and Bear worked shirtless, and their blue jeans carried a lot of Yosemite dirt around with them. Miguel glistened with sweat. A green bandanna around his head kept sweat out of his eyes. Bear’s hairy mass covered up any sweat. His head was bare, but he did occasionally have to wipe sweat out of his eyes with a bandanna he kept tucked into a back pocket. This was the perfect life for Miguel and Bear. They could not imagine any life better than working on Yosemite trail crews in the Backcountry.

As their hammers clanged, hikers rounded the corner below. They appeared out of the trees, three of them. Two guys and a lady. All three of them could have just stepped out of an REI catalog. They sported brand new backpacks and hiking boots. They hiked with the latest style hiking poles. (Ordinary people might call them ‘ski poles’.) Colored piping around the top of the lady’s socks peeking above her low top hiking boots even matched the color of her hiking shorts.

Miguel and Bear saw the hikers right away. They took a quick look around at their work site. Their rock bars, shovels, singlejacks, and other gear were all off the trail and out of the way. They stopped pounding granite and moved to the uphill side of the trail to let the hikers pass through. The first hiker, one of the guys, said “Hi.” Bear said “Hi” as he pulled his bandanna and wiped his face. Miguel said “Como esta?”

The hikers carefully picked their way through the rubble in the trail. After they passed through, Miguel and Bear stepped back down onto the trail, preparing to start swinging again.

The lady hiker turned back to them and asked “Are you guys inmates? You know, like a chain gang?”

Miguel and Bear had been dealing with that question since they were Corpsmembers in the CCC. People often confused them with state prison inmates as they worked alongside California’s highways or state parks. Miguel and Bear were used to hearing that question. This time, though, Miguel had already planned a different sort of response.

Miguel dropped the head of his doublejack to the ground and said “Yeah. Didn’t you see the guard with the shotgun down there around the corner?” He looked at Bear. Bear grinned.

The three hikers stopped. The lady said, “A guy with a shotgun? No.”

Miguel said to Bear “You hear that?” Miguel threw down his double jack and ran up the hill. Bear was right behind him.

The three hikers stood frozen in place and watched the two men disappear through the trees.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

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Who is Ethical Norm? by Sharon St. George

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a piece by Sharon St. George. Here’s a little more about Sharon.

Abridged_excerpt_from_Chapter_1_of_CHECKED_OUT 2Sharon Owen, writing as Sharon St. George, is the current program director of Writers Forum. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Sharon at www.sharonstgeorge.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/sharonstgeorge.

Who is Ethical Norm?

by Sharon St. George

Who is Ethical Norm?

Sorry, trick question. Ethical Norm is not the husky man from Cheers who sat at the corner of the
bar. Norm’s ethical boundaries might have been compromised by his appetite for beer, a
proclivity that, on more than one occasion, caused him to behave in an unethical manner.
Ethical norm is a term I first heard in a college fiction writing course. My professor assigned
Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, to be read by the class. During the discussion that
followed, the professor pointed out that the ethical norm of that community was an integral part
of the story setting. Without it, there would have been no story.
I recently refreshed my memory by searching out a definition of the term. I found that Webster
tells us norms are standards of proper or acceptable behavior; ethics are rules of behavior based
on ideas about what is morally good and bad. When these are combined, we have standards of
acceptable behavior, not necessarily mandated by law, but based on a particular society’s ideas of
what is morally good and bad. There is general agreement that as a society, we expect certain
behaviors from society at large, even when they do not fall under the purview of law.
Some of literature’s most memorable works have used the concept of a given society’s ethical
norm to startle readers’ minds into active thought about the behaviors they expect from
themselves and others who share not only their community, but their nation and their planet.
Another example, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, demonstrates what happens when a group
of young boys become castaways on a tropical island. Does their survival depend on establishing
an ethical norm different from what governed their behavior before they became shipwreck
survivors?
This important element of setting reaches beyond fiction. A 2016 Academy Award-winning
documentary short subject film titled A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is a stunning
example of the concept of how one society’s ethical norm differs from others. Set in Pakistan, it
sheds light on the practice of honor killings, and involves a 19-year-old woman who survives an
honor killing attempt by her father and uncle for marrying the man she loves. It brings to light
the statistic that approximately a thousand Pakistani women are murdered each year by male
relatives for dishonoring their families. The film has already prompted Pakistan’s prime minister
to address the need for a stronger law against honor killings in his country. In her Oscar
acceptance speech, courageous woman filmmaker Obaid-Chinoy stressed the “power of film” to
bring about social change.
So when we consider the setting for our novel, short story, or work of nonfiction, we’re not
looking merely at the time and place, but we also consider the ethical norm of that setting. We
know that it will affect the main characters, it will affect the other characters in the story, and it
will affect the reader’s reaction to the work. It is inspiring to realize that writers who expose
unacceptable ethical norms can do more than entertain and inform, they can make a better world
possible.
  1. Breach CoverIn Breach of Ethics, Sharon St. George’s third novel in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, a troubled surgeon faces an ethical dilemma while operating on a ten-year-old girl. His efforts to save the life of the child prodigy pianist result in ominous consequences involving Aimee and her band of intrepid crime solvers.

    Breach of Ethics will be released by Camel Press on May 1, 2016. It is available now to preorder from Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and eBook format.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!