Fridays With Dale: Critiquers

Title with image of author

Dale Angel

Critiquers

By: Dale Angel

 

In my writers Critique group, I’m a presumptuous chicken among eagles. I’ve had my feathers pricked ripped, yanked pulled, plucked and my wings clipped by my peers…but not without good reason. My pen was careless. It didn’t stop or have any respect for periods, much less acknowledge apostrophes. It goes past commas, too. I had to recognize that real life is not made up of run-on sentences.

 

I’ve had to dump the clichés too. Then there are the dangling participles. I found out we had been meeting too often. I’ve been told I had to quit keeping company with them. There’s more. The colon and its cousin the semi-colon, I was reluctant to become involved….in their family things.

Tenses, present tense and past tense, they confuse me. I get lost moving from yesterday to tomorrow. Sometimes, I don’t know where I am. I love question marks. I like frivolously sprinkling them along the words and allow others to come to their own conclusions. I felt it wasn’t respectable to burden others with my personal ideas or interpretation of a situation.

I admit I have answered the questions before I’ve asked them and asked questions I never answered, even with several dictionaries, I still stumble over misspelled words….mine. This sentence war has weakened me What with nouns, adjectives and verbs I’m still in combat…although on my knees.

 

My absolute favorite is exclamation marks! I live on them! Most of life is made up of either crisis or joy. That demands emotion. I need them! But, I have been informed, I can only use a couple per thousand words. It’s chilled my passion and made me frigid in my love affair of words. I was so in love with them. It seems a pity to waste an exclamation point.

 

It’s apparent I’ve been disrespectful to these tools. The run-on comma-splice; the incomplete fragment; and subject-verb agreement; the pronoun antecedent. I ran over them with no concern. They don’t register in my pen as words fall out on the paper as I write along, I perceive them not. I’ve been treating them as common with lack of courtesy. I lived that way.

 

Now, I’m in rehab, a critique group. I’m exposed. I must acknowledge my weaknesses, admit openly my failures and reform myself and do better. I get up every day with resolves to pay attention to the signs. I’m going to take note and use the tools judiciously…I just keep falling off my intentions. See there it is again my pen takes charge and puts down these silly sentences. I know I need discipline.

 

The brave volunteers in this war, I honor.

 

‘Critiquers.’ Doesn’t that word just send adrenaline to your fingertips? It makes my pen quiver. It makes me want to toss it around bend it, impale it, step on it, squeeze out its juices, or kick softly until it yields itself to a sensible sentence.

 

My group of Critiquers is strong. They have to endure the slaughter of words and tremble as they accept a paper they know is lacerated, mangled and hemorrhaging with stuff like my story about me cooking candy over the campfire while everyone else is gathering up their camping equipment during a downpour. Sometimes truth is painful.

They suffer quietly with sighs and an occasional moan, they hiss, no one cusses…..out loud. They are weary, yet they persevere in their duties of damage control. I haven’t shared this with my group yet. When I do, it will be axed…no… reduced to six simple concise, succinct lines that says everything, like a good tender steak you won’t even have to chew…I’m a presumptuous chicken but I fly with eagles.

 


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Do you Scapple?

Text: Writers Forum Book Review: Encouraging One Another in the Craft

Today at Writers Forum, we have reviews of a couple of writerly products from Writers Forum member Dave Smith.

Take it away, Dave…


 

Do you Scapple?

By: Dave Smith

 

Good things should be passed along.

Here are two I found worthy of passing along: Scapple, and Alexa Donne. If you’re not familiar with them, let me tell you.

For the past few years I have used the writing program Scrivener. I got it because, first, it had a 30 day free trail. Yes, I’m cheap so this immediately appealed to me. I was impressed enough to purchase it because, yes, it’s not expensive. I paid $45 for it. A forever license.

Scrivener is a quality program, and I continue to discover more of its abilities as I write. Because of this, I recently decided to try another program designed by the same folks, Scapple.

This is a user friendly brainstorming type of program. I know what you’re thinking, but it is in my opinion well worth trying. This program is simple and intuitive, like my sentences.

It also has a free 30 day trial (not necessarily consecutive, so if you skip a day, you won’t have it taken off your free trial. Isn’t that sweet?)

How does it work? Well, it’s like taking all your ideas on a project and splattering them all over the page, like index cards on the floor. But then, you can connect them with lines, directional arrows, colors, and more, and you can move them around, and change everything you just did EASILY. You can import documents, and pictures, and export to other file formats.

Personally, I have difficulty keeping track of the various threads in stories I write. (Think subplots, or inner thoughts, or what nots.) This program takes care of that. I tried it with a new idea I’ve had, and it amazed me how it kept me unmuddled. Now I can see where my problems are, and move ideas and scene parts around accordingly, and can go from here to an outline, or just follow my thoughts on a Scapple page, pantser style.

Did I use Scapple to write this article? Yup.

 

Alexa Donne. Like everyone, I use YouTube to learn things; how to re-pot a bonsai, or replace a headlight on an old Toyota, or discover why my tomatoes look like they do. Sometimes I stumble across videos about writing, and if they’re interesting enough, I make it all the way to the end, dodging ads along the way.

I came across Alexa Donne and her video Harsh Writing Advice. I made it all the way to the end. For some insight and a few chuckles, check it out. You might see a familiar style if you look close enough.


 

Member Poetry: Kindness, by Linda Boyden

author linda boyden

Kindness

By Linda Boyden©2020

Kindness sits

on one side

of the freeway

the shriek of traffic

numbs his ears

a harsh wind

lashes his hair

stings his eyes

paralyzes his judgment

so he stays huddled

curved inward

shoulders quaking

 

Patience spots him.

Though she fears

the screech of traffic

the cruelty of metal

she takes it one lane at a time

until she reaches Kindness

gathers him

in her warm arms

talks softly

asks him to trust her

asks him to try

tells him she won’t

let him go it alone.

 

Arm in arm

they take

the first step.

 

Linda Boyden, author, storyteller, illustrator & poet

The Blue Roses from Lee & Low Books 2002, winner New Voices Award, Paterson Prize and Wordcraft Circle’s Book of the Year, 2003

Powwow’s Coming , Linda’s first illustrated book, from the University of New Mexico Press, 2007. Powwow’s Coming is included on Reading Is Fundamental‘s 2011 Multicultural Book List!

Giveaways, An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas, written & illustrated by Linda Boyden (University of New Mexico Press), 2010 “Giveaways”, winner of three Finalist awards from the 2011 International Book Awards, two Finalist Awards from the 2011New Mexico Book


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Queen’s Letter: Surf’s Up Somewhere in the World

queen's letter banner

I know it wasn’t you, but someone’s been going to yard parties and spitting on the other partiers! I know they thought people they knew would not be carriers of Chingona, because why would they? I know they thought their guests would be safe in their yard because they said they didn’t feel sick. I know they all thought the yard party would be just fine. But no one knew where every guest had been. And that became the problem.

 

Now, Chingona cases are more than ten times what they were just the last time I wrote you. Ten times worse in this county, too. Yeah, me and Fauci : alarmists.

 

We’re not done yet. Keep doing the other stuff you’ve been doing: wash your hands often, stay the ‘eff away from most people because you don’t know where they’ve been (and they are lying because they don’t want you to know they have not behaved), and wear a mask. And remember the paper masks are worn Blue Side out (the static electricity of the double layers is designed for that) and covers your Nose as well as your face. I have to tell at least 3 people this every day at the courthouse. This is a Breathing Disease so you and everyone else breathing on each other is the problem. Cover up.

 

And the other thing you might continue to do is read about something other than Chingona news every once in a while.

 

I just finished Colin Jost’s little autobiography, A Very Punchable Face. Yeah, he’s that head writer on Saturday Night Live and does Weekend Update, too. He’s a real writer and details his career (so far) in this little gem. He’s been on that show for 13 years! It’s a very funny read and is also a great illustration of how a memoir is written: highlights and past funny stuff as well as a couple dramatic episodes from his family life.

 

His book also reveals something he and I have in common: surfing. Yes, he is a surfer and so am I. Growing up very near Malibu, my mom and brothers and sisters went to Malibu many days a week every summer, cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon. In those days Malibu was a swamp. You parked on Pacific Coast Highway, a narrow two-lane scream of a busy road between mountains and ocean. We took lunch and towels and the baby and his playpen through the reeds and the mud to the dry sand and the wet shore. We made a fort for the baby by turning the playpen upside down so he had a roof and a towel on the sand floor. We could stay for a long time this way because the baby was happy.

 

The ocean was perfect with low-slow rollers that broke to the left, perfectly surfable waves in sets that were far apart but worth the wait. But we didn’t surf then. Not just because we were little, but because we were girls. The boys out on the breaks wouldn’t let you. We swam on the other side from the surfers, away from them on the section far away from the rocks. And the shore was full of rocks. Lots of smooth turtle-sized rocks like a large, wide field in front of the breakers. That’s why the surfers loved this place: not a place you have to chase away swimmers from where you are trying to carve a wave.

 

The view of the surfers was also a draw for us. We watched them, voted on them, learned from a distance.  We also read the surfing magazines and learned the names of the champions and their techniques. And filed that knowledge away.

 

Years later when I graduated law school, my best friend took us to Hawaii to celebrate. We’d never been there but we were beach girls and this sounded like a great adventure. We signed up for guided hikes and snorkeling/fly/drives to two different islands, big and little luaus, and met guys. I married one of those guys who was an Air Force loadmaster in disguise working there.

 

Five years and a divorce later, my sister decided she and I should go back to Hawaii, as a Memory Cleanser, and finally learn to surf. Understand, she is not a strong swimmer. She didn’t love wave jumping really far out there like I did.  But she wanted to do this when we were 40, and she knew I’d never let her drown. She signed us up for a kick-your-ass school owned by a world champion surfer, based at Diamond Head (the siticking-out-part) on O’ahu.  We had a quick lesson on the sand about which foot to put where (we knew from reading, and home-practicing on an ironing board with its legs folded under) and then we paddled for 30 minutes to get to the five-foot good waves.  So, if you are playing at home with a yardstick, we paddled as far out as the Diamond Head sticks out, that much further! We thought our arms were going to break off and we wouldn’t be able to stand up on our boards and surf. But we each had a cute teacher all to ourselves, so we weren’t going to wimp out in front of them.

 

And the first time, the first one that came up behind me, I tri-podded, pivoted, stood up, and with a push on my board from my teacher, caught my first wave!  I rode it far, near Diamond Head, and then carved/turned back and paddled to our spot to catch more all morning long. My teacher didn’t believe this was my first time. I told him I’d been training for this my whole life. My sister took longer to get up (it’s harder than you think and takes a foolhardiness that comes easy for me) and we stayed with our teachers 2 hours longer than the lesson we paid for that day. The waves were in sets of three and close together so we could really practice and get good. Surfing feels like flying with no hands and the sea moves you like an smooth outboard motor with the trade winds lifting your hair off your face like the lover you always wanted. My teacher was dark as a kukui nut and worked in construction, and my sister’s was blond and worked at Home Depot. Everyone on the island had two jobs to live in Paradise.

 

We traded phone numbers with our teachers and then went on to our guided jungle and mountain hikes and city trolly tour of art galleries and trading stalls. But every morning for a week, we went to the Waikiki Beach Boys Surf School on the South Shore and took boards out to catch waves before shopping and hikes, and horseback riding on the North Shore. We also scoured the want ads to see if we could live there, even with two jobs. She would have to take another set of social worker license classes, and I would have to take another bar exam, but we seriously considered it. We always consider it.

 

We went back to O’ahu every summer for 9 summers, taking surf lessons from that kick-your-ass school the first morning and hiking and eating and café-ing in the afternoon. Waikiki Beach Boys classes every morning thereafter before anything else. We bought language tapes and learned Hawaiian, more every year. We bought local music tapes at the Aloha Bowl swap meet and at café concerts, and made friends with Kameina guys and girls. My teacher called me every day with a surf report for 9 years. Just 5 minutes, just the wave conditions.

 

It’s only been about 6 years since I was last surfing there but I dream about it all the time. In my novel series set in a desert, I’ve created a bar that the criminal defense attorneys go to in the town that is a surf bar with old surfing contest videos playing above the bar rail and specialty drinks served by a handsome ex-surfer guy who also hosts the trivia nights on Wednesdays. Hey, it’s my world, l’ll make what I want! I state the notion that the desert is just like the ocean with the life sucked out of it.

 

My surfing teacher used to counsel everyone, me, who was trying to do anything hard, “Oh, this is easy, just like surfing!”  And I try and remember that nowadays, when we are all trying to do something hard just to stay alive.  And when I need to keep hope in my heart, I remember when my sister and I were young and dreaming, we used to console each other by saying, “Surf’s up somewhere in the world!”


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Short Story Contest Entry: A Tale From The Last 100 Years On Earth

palm tree foreground; hi-rise backgrond

Today we have another entry received for the Writers Forum 2020 Short Story Contest.

There is about a month remaining until the contest deadline. That month will fly by! Be sure to finish your stories and submit them. This might be a good time to remind everybody of the prizes…

Prizes

  • 3rd place: 1 year paid WF membership 
  • 2nd place: same as 3rd place, PLUS a one year gift subscription to the winner’s choice of either Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers magazine
  • 1st place: same as 2nd place, PLUS  Writers Forum Membership Director Aaron Steinmetz’s help in e-publishing the winner’s book
    • If the winner has a full length novel (or novella if they’d like) he can take them all the way from Word Document to printed copy (similar to what he did with River’s Edge) and also produce a Kindle version. The winner can also do this with short stories. Aaron will set them up with an account and the winner will have full access to it to create either hard copies or Kindle versions or both. 
    • Aaron does not edit manuscripts. Winner is responsible for all pre-publication editing.

Since the contest judges are supposed to be judging the entries without knowing who wrote them, the author’s names will be withheld until after the winner selection. After the winners have been chosen, all authors will be identified, and the top three stories will be re-posted. The contest is only open to Writers Forum members. Click here for the complete contest rules.

There is still plenty of time for Writers Forum members to submit your own short stories. The deadline is September 15, 2020. All submissions will be posted to the website and the Facebook page, and will also be considered submissions to the Writers Forum anthology, River’s Edge, to be published at the end of the year.


 

A Tale From The Last 100 Years On Earth

Miami Florida 2050:

It was a beautiful gated beach front property just inside the city limits of Miami, a short distance north of the unincorporated beach town of Coconut Grove.  Four distinctive tall royal palm trees grew in front of the house just behind the eight-foot ornate wrought iron fence that stretched across the front of the property and down the sides toward the beach.  The palms suffered from lack of care and needed a good frond trimming. It was a late twentieth-century Miami vintage home stretching wide across the front giving it a breezy Mediterranean feel.

Sol could only imagine what the rear of the house looked like, he’d always wondered if it had a pool.  He drove by the front gate almost every day on his way up to play pinochle  with his buddies at the Jewish Senior Center.  Rather than taking the Dixie Highway, which was a shorter route, he took Bayshore which passed by the front  gate and the driveway that curved around the side of the house.  No ugly garage doors on the front of this baby he often thought.

He and Rebecca had lived in the Flamingo apartments on Brand Avenue for over twenty years.  When they first moved south from New York City the Flamingo was still considered one of the places to live close to the shore around Miami.  If you were lucky enough to have a tenth-floor penthouse you could see across the bay to Key Biscayne.  Long gone were those days, rows of high rises had popped up completely blocking any scenic views.

“Well, anyone moved in yet?” Rebecca said as Sol walked into the kitchen where she was chopping greens for their dinner salad.

“Nope, still looks the same,” Sol mumbled.

“Why do you obsess so over that place? You old buzzard…you know there’s no way we’ll ever be able to live there.”

Sol and Rebecca were both big city lifers.  Rebecca was born in Los Angeles and was the sister of the renowned UCLA medical researcher Doctor Ben Jackson cowinner of a Nobel Prize in medicine.  Doctor Jackson had won world acclaim two decades earlier along with his wife and Co-Nobel Laureate for their discovery of the  treatment regime that had defeated the mutant sickle cell disease pandemic. The disease had ravaged the world for years  reducing  the  population of the United States by over sixty percent.

Rebecca met Sol when she was a student at UCLA.  He was a native New Yorker on sabbatical  participating in a banking MBA program hosted by the UCLA Business School.  They were married shortly after she graduated and spent the next thirty-eight years living, working and raising their children in New York City before retiring and moving to Florida.  They got caught in the explosion of the sickle cell plague in New York five years before Sol retired.  They lost two of their three children, the two youngest, a daughter only thirteen and son fifteen.  Their oldest son survived.  Sol worked as a commercial loan officer at New York Savings and Loan on William Street in the financial district.  Every morning for thirty-five years he woke at half past five, dressed in a gray or blue suit white shirt and tie walked the six blocks from their Queens brownstone to the train station and rode into the city.  After the death of their daughter and son he and Rebecca decided if they were going to mentally survive the grief and death surrounding them in New York they had to escape.  They sold everything and moved to Miami.  At the time the city of  Miami was in the process of evacuating young families, as a result of the implementation of the federal government’s Phoenix Poison Air Pollution Plan. Miami had been declared a class “A” quarantined city…no children under eighteen allowed to reside inside the city limits. Homes and apartments were being vacated and abandoned everywhere in the city.  Rental prices for some of the most exclusive condos and apartments in town were at an historic low.

This particular early Friday afternoon Sol was making his trip up Bayshore to the Jewish Center for his daily card game.  Driving by the beach house he noticed what appeared to be a Miami City maintenance truck parked in the drive.  Curious he drove by turned around and pulled into the drive behind  the truck.

“Hey,” he said to the worker in the light blue work uniform.  Miami City was embroidered over his left shirt pocket.

“Anything big going on?  I knew the people that lived here.”

‘Must have been a long time ago, Bud, this house been vacant for years.  We do a walk around at these properties to check for drugs and druggie vagrants.  This one’s always been clean.  Want to walk through with me? Might bring back some memories,” he said and smiled a crooked smile.

“Sure,” Sol said his heart jumping in his chest.  The maintenance man pushed the front door open and they walked into the bright stone floored entry way.  Light streamed in overhead through a huge weathered and partially moss-covered skylight.

“Kind of musty smelling huh? Needs to be aired out.”  Sol nodded in agreement.  They strolled the long connecting hallways.  The maintenance man kicked the bedroom doors open as they went.  Sol peaked over his shoulder as they walked along.  When they came out into the expansive living room with at least forty feet of sliding glass doors and windows looking out onto the beach and ocean all Sol could do was flop down on the long sky-blue couch and mutter..whooee what a place.

“Nice view huh?” The maintenance man said, in passing, as he slid one of the patio doors open and stepped out on the flagstone patio.  Sol followed close behind. No pool he thought to himself, beautiful beach though.

“If I had built this place,” the maintenance man said, “I would have put the pool and jacuzzi out here instead of inside of the house.”

“The pool’s in the house?”  Sol said. “That’s amazing.”

“Yeah, but we don’t need to go back there, both empty…nothing to see.  Come on let’s go bud, I have ten more on my list to look at today.”

“You do this every day?”  Sol asked.

“Yep every day, me and two other guys, there’s hundreds and hundreds of empty houses, apartments, condos and office buildings we have to walk through.  Always been interesting to me how many people and their entire families died from the disease leaving everything they owned unclaimed and in the case of real estate, like this house, where there were no buyers the city let them set vacant…many were demolished.  A few of them have people living in them though.”

“Really, how do they get away with that?”  Sol asked.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty easy all you have to do is get the paper from the city that shows the house has an abandoned title and with that get the gas and electric turned on.  I think the city’s happy to get a little revenue from the utilities and fill in some ugly scars with residents.  The one’s I’ve seen have had all old people living in them.  Young people with families can’t live in the city you know.”  The maintenance man pushed the front door closed, winked at Sol, and nonchalantly flipped the front door key to the ground under a purple weigela bush next to the front step, jumped into his pickup, backed around Sols car and drove off up Bayshore waving out the window. Sol stood motionless for a minute trying to process what had just happened.  He quickly came to his senses, bent over, retrieved the door key from under the bush and pushed it into his pocket.

“We’re going to move Rebecca,” Sol said as he burst through the front door.

“Have you lost your mind, where are we moving?”

“To the beach house…where else hon.”

“We can’t do that, where would we get the money to buy a place like that?”

“Don’t have to have any money just the abandoned title.  Come on get your hat, I can’t wait to show you around.  I’ll tell you how we’re going to do it on the way over.”

Sol pushed the front door open after unlocking it with the key the maintenance man had left him.  Rebecca reluctantly followed him through the door and quietly closed it behind her as if someone was going to hear them coming in.

“Oh my gosh Sol, this place is in a thirty-year time warp.  Looks like the owners walked out one day and never came home.”  They wondered through the rooms.  The big bedrooms all with bathrooms, three with glass walls facing the beach…  the beds were made-up as if they had never been slept in. The closets were full of clothes and shoes.

“Look at this kitchen it’s pink Sol.” Rebecca said and laughed.  “But it’s amazing eight people could cook in here and never run into each other.

Sol opened one of the sliding patio doors, the screen was hanging loose, to let in some fresh air and motioned for Rebecca to set down on the blue couch.

“Let’s invite Doc and Rachael to move over here with us and maybe even another couple.  There’s plenty of room and it will take all of us to get things back into order and cleanup all the overgrowth outside.  We can keep our apartment in case we have to move back sometime.  The man I talked with today, who inspects these vacant properties told me a lot of them are occupied by people, mostly seniors like us…come on hon it’ll be a real adventure.”

Doctor “Doc” Martin and his wife Rachael were easy to convince.  The move to the beach house was a dream come true.  Like Sol and Rebecca, they were New York City transplants.  Doc had been a pediatrician in practice for forty years before he retired.  Rachael was a registered nurse.  They lost a daughter to the disease before they moved to Florida.  Their youngest daughter lived in Orlando, married with no children.

“Let’s see if George and Marilyn Bernstein our friends from the synagogue would like to move in with us, they’re fun and I’m sure would be interested in an adventure,” Doc suggested.

Sol applied for the vacated title and it was granted with no fanfare from the city.  Within a week the group…Sol and Rebecca, Doc and Rachael, George and Marylyn had become permanent residents in the Bayshore beach house.

“You guys keep a look out for strangers.”  The city maintenance man told them.  He stopped by while performing his walk throughs of neighboring vacant houses shortly after they had moved in.  He wasn’t surprised to find Sol and his gang in residence.

“I’ve seen evidence of druggies in a few houses lately.  Do you have a gun?” he asked.

“Heck no,” Sol answered.  “None of us would know how to fire a weapon.”

“Like hell,” Doc popped up.  “I was in the Army I know how to fire a weapon.”

“Bull crap, honey,” Rachael butted in. “You wouldn’t know which end to put a bullet in.  You were in the medical corps checking boys for hernias and that was sixty years ago.”  Everyone laughed.

“Well, anyway keep an eye out,” the city man said as he climbed into his pickup.

“See you all in a few months, you hear.”

The gang had been working on repairing flag stones that had washed out over the winter in the walk leading down to the beach.  Sol made a trip up to the house to use the bathroom.  When he walked through the open sliding glass door into the living room, to his surprise, two straggly looking young men and two beat up looking young women were setting on the blue couch and in the two big lounge chairs.

“Hi ya Pop.” One of the men with a cigarette or joint hanging out the side of his mouth, Sol couldn’t tell which, said.

“What are you people doing in our house, get out-a-here or I’m calling the cops.”

“I don’t think so Pop,” the straggly guy said pulling back the tail of his black t-shirt exposing a black Colt 45 pistol tucked into the top of his filthy blue jeans.  The girls began to giggle.

“You’re the one whose getten out.  Go round up your buddies.  We’re gonna give ya about fifteen minutes to clear out.”

“But you can’t do that we live here.”

“Ya got bad hearing Pop?” The straggle moved his hand up on the gun.  “I said go gettem now…move it.”  Sol shuffled out the patio door and yelled at the group to come inside and to hurry.

“These shit head kids are kicking us out of our house guys.  The dirty one over there has a gun,” Sol said when they were all inside.

“That’s right gramps…let’s go …head em up and move em out.”

“What about our clothes?” Marilyn asked.

“You can take whatever ya want grandma long as it doesn’t take more en fifteen minutes, so ya better hustle your butt.”  Everyone scatted into their bedrooms and started throwing their clothes on the beds.

Back at the Flamingo they gathered at Sol and Rebecca’s old apartment.

“Now what?” George said.  “We didn’t have a ton of our own stuff at the beach house but I’m not inclined to lose it all to a pack of derelicts, what about you all?”

“Not sure what we can do,” Sol said.  “We can’t call the police, they’re  not going to do anything.  Let’s just see how things play out over the next few days.  Doc, George and I will check out the house every day on our way up to the senior center.”

“We all knew the down side of moving over there,” Rachael said dejectedly.  “We still have the old Flamingo to fall back on, it’s served us well for over twenty years.”  Everyone mumbled yeah and nodded in agreement.

It was raining so hard Sol, Doc and George had almost decided not to make the trip up to the senior center for their daily card game.  It had been three days since they had been forced out of the beach house.

“You know if we don’t show up the boys are going to call us every kind of wuss-in-the-book tomorrow,” George said. “We better go.”

“Slow down Sol,” Doc said as they approached the house. “Looks like there’s a van in the drive…no there’s two vans in the drive.  Turn around, let’s go back and check it out.”  Sol made an illegal U turn and slowly drove back past the house.  There was a white van and a black police cruiser van setting in the driveway.  They couldn’t see the letters on the white van through the pouring rain.

“Turn around again Sol let’s stop and see what’s going on.  Sol made another illegal U turn and pulled over in front of the house.  They all jumped out of the car and ran up under the front door overhang.  City of Miami Coroner was lettered in black on the side of the white van.  The double front doors into the house were wide open.  Sol stepped inside followed by George and Doc.

“Hello, who’s in here?” Doc called out.  The smell of death hanging in the living room hit them in the face.  A blue uniformed police officer met them as they entered the room.

“What the hell you guys doing in here, there’s a police investigation under way.”

“It’s a long story sir, but we have a connection to this house.  What happened the place looks like it’s been trashed?” Sol answered.

“We got four dead bodies…two males two females.  One of the girls was discovered on the patio early this morning by a gal walking her dog on the beach and the dog ran up here probably attracted by the smell.  These people have been dead two days anyway.”

“Were they murdered?” George asked.

“No, drugs and booze…drug paraphernalia and empty jugs of booze laying all over the place.  They must have had some kind of a party, tell you what.”  A tall man dressed in a long white lab coat with Miami Coroner embroidered over the left pocket walked over to the group.

“Come on there’s nothing to see here gentlemen.  Officer escort them out please.”

“Wait a minute I’m a doctor,” Doc said.  “May I take a quick look at the bodies.  Strange that they all died of an overdose, you’d think one might have survived…don’t you think?”

“Be my guest, make my job easier.”  The coroner motioned with his hand toward the bodies on the couch and slumped down in the living room chairs.  Doc borrowed a pair of latex gloves from the coroner and approached one of the girls on the couch.  He lifted her eye lids, pulled her jersey top up and examined her abdomen…pulled the legs of her jeans up and looked at her ankles and bare feet.  He went through the same process with the other three bodies.

“The blood pooled in their ankles is certainly characteristic of rigor, they’ve been dead for a while.” Doc said to the group that had gathered around him as he examined the bodies.  But their abdomens and chest and necks are covered with exploded capillaries, same with their groin areas.  These people died of massive strokes.  My guess is they all had advanced sickle cell disease and the shock of the drugs, probably meth by the looks of the needles laying around, topped off with alcohol shut down their already weak lungs causing their bodies to stroke out.  Maybe they already knew that they were dead from the disease and decided to have one last blast.  They probably died very close to the same time of day.”  The coroner stepped over to where Doc was standing over one of the dead men.

“Good thoughts doctor, I didn’t get your name.?”

“That’s because I didn’t give it but it’s Martin, Doctor Robert Martin, but everyone calls me Doc.”  Doc said as he grabbed the coroners hand and shook it.

“I agree with the stroke possibility but I’m not so sure about the sickle cell connection.”

“Believe me when you do an autopsy you’ll find their lungs full of sickle cell.  When I was in practice in New York I saw hundreds and hundreds of young adults and children dead or dying from the disease and their bodies all looked like the ones laying here on the couch.”

“There won’t be an autopsy Doc, unless these kids have next of kin that demand one, unlikely, none of these people have any ID on them.  I’m going to record cause of death as drug overdose.”

“Sounds reasonable to me.” Doc said.

“Now you boys leave us to our work,” the coroner said motioning toward the front door. “We have another van and crew coming here in a minute to help bag and haul these kids away.”  The police officer walked out to the front door with them. The rain had moderated to a fine heavy drizzle.

“Why do I think you people have more than a passing interest in this place?  You were living here before this whole thing came down weren’t you? I figured someone had been, the house and yard are in to good of shape to have been abandoned for years, like so many I’ve seen.”  Sol looked at his friends.

“Yes, we lived here with our wives for the last couple of weeks until these druggies showed up and ran us off three days ago, we were planning on staying.  Got an abandoned title and everything hooked up, the whole nine yards.”

“Well, looks like you can move back in, but guys, buy yourself a shotgun or two for protection and if you have any more trouble call me…will you,” He said handing them his business phone code strip. “Won’t do any good to call 911 no one will respond, officially this address doesn’t exist.”

Like snow bird tourists lined up along the beach, The Bayshore gang sat on the beach house patio in their loungers enjoying the mid-morning sun. The girls wearing matching sun glasses and wide brimmed straw hats.  Sol and Doc were setting next to each other  under the shade of a large blue, red and green cabana stripped umbrella.  Touching his arm and almost whispering  Doc said;  “Did you bring it out here with you?”

“Sure did, take a look, it’s  laying on the towel beside my chair.”  Doc glanced down to the right of Sol’s chair.  There it was, its blue-black barrel shiny in the sunlight, a 12-gage pump shotgun. He nudged Sol with his elbow…“We’re going to be ok, huh.” Pulled his hat down to shade his eyes and slouched back down in his lounger.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.