A Different Kind of Hero — Part I.

Gasoline poured slowly and methodically out of the makeshift can Joseph Allen Wright carried down the tight hallway beset on both sides by rooms of sleeping children. He made sure to avoid close contact with the walls and away from the doorways. A laser emitted from his hand to trace the path he’d left behind. He nodded slowly and made his way down the hall again, the flammable liquid trailing behind him.

He turned at the end of the hall and made his way into the communal bathroom, throwing the gasoline around much less carefully in this room, throwing the cannister halfway into the bathroom. As it lay on it’s side, the rest of the contents spilling out, Wright pressed a few buttons on the side, and a ten minute countdown started.

“Perfect,” he smiled, pulling a can of spray paint from his bag. He sprayed two large X with a sharp, squiggled line below, almost in the shape of a face that matched the mask he wore on his forehead, not quite pulled down correctly. It was the calling card of the Aggressors, a gang of hoodlums that no one had ever seen, no one was sure even existed who crippled the citizens of Empire Falls with fear. For the past six weeks, there had been fires set throughout Empire Falls; schools,
markets and government buildings. All after hours, and all set with gasoline and a detonator. The damage of each was minimal.

It was the fires set while the bigger blazes burnt that scared the people of Empire Falls. Cars exploded in driveways on the outskirts of the city almost simultaneously, no person having any sort of link to any other person. Other times, houses were set on fire, more than the fire crews could handle. People stood and watched while their homes burned, dreams and memories died, while sirens echoed in the distance, too far away to help them now.

“What’s that?” came a tiny voice behind Wright.

“Huh?” he said, his heart skipping into his chest, pulling the mask over his face. He hated the mask, but, it beat someone spotting him on the street.

“We aren’t allowed to paint on the walls,” the girl said rubbing her eyes. “And it smells funny in here.”

“You’re dreaming, princess. There’s nothing here,” Wright said, putting away the paint. “Go back to bed.”

“If I’m dreaming, I can do anything I want.”

“No, in this dream, you’re going to go back to bed, or else the big strong man will turn this into a nightmare. Understand?” The little girl nodded and scampered away. Wright looked at the detonator. “Shit. Five minutes. Not enough time,” he said, running down the stairwell with another canister of gasoline pouring behind him. He painted the doorway with the liquid and ran out of the building.

Wright turned just as he made it to the motorcycle waiting for him. He looked at his watch and smiled. “Just about time to go to work,” he said before he sped away.

Seconds later, smoke poured out of the windows as the fire spread down the hallway. Muddled panic and the sound of glass breaking erupted from the windows of the Empire Falls Reformitory for Girls. A bell sounded from inside the building, and the panic grew, young girls screaming and looking out the windows as the fire inside grew bigger, enveloping walls and doors.

A siren called in the distance, as the girls pushed for fresh air, the windows too small for them all to fit out. A crowd assembled from neighboring buildings, people watching in stunned silence and fear, looking at their buildings to see if maybe they would be next.

A red truck made it’s way down the long street toward the fiery structure, travelling at the highest and safest speed possible, sirens screaming through the silent night. Behind, and orange streak painted the skies.

“LOOK!” someone cried out, pointing to the streak, as it slowed outside the building, easily beating the fire truck by some twenty blocks.

“It’s Tremendous Justice!” another bystander said, clapping her hands together. Tremendous Justice pulled a few girls out of the first window, setting them down in the crowd of bystanders.

“Help them!” he shouted at the people below, before leaving to grab more girls as the fire engine pulled up, another truck screaming from down the street.

Through the second window he grabbed more girls, pulling them to safety. They hugged him and thanked him profusely as he set them down. An explosion rang out, sending debris scattering to the skies. Tremendous Justice turned and screamed “NO!” before taking off again, into the fiery debris. He breathed deeply before exhaling, cooling and taking away the flames that had grown into the first rooms as the first sprays of water followed to other rooms.

He made his way down the hall through the flames, his body seemingly ignoring or impervious to all effects of the fire. He looked into the rooms down the burning hallway, and breathed out a few more plumes of flame, extinguishing the fires surrounding him, almost immediately cooling them. He opened doors, and grabbed scared little girls, taking them out of the building in groups of three or four.

After the last load, he’d taken a deep breath. “Where’s Amanda?” a girl asked as the rest of the girls started to look around. “She’s not here! Tremendous Justice, please!” they shouted at him, too late. He’d already reentered the building, and began calling her name.

“AMANDA!” he shouted through the rubble and remaining flames. He hurried toward the end of the hallway and turned into the bathroom. There, curled up into a ball lay Amanda, the contents of the half-wiped up graffiti on a rag in her burnt hand. He rushed over to her. She looked at him, her eyes wide, body in shock. “We’re not supposed to draw on the walls. I didn’t want the man to get into trouble.”

“What man?” the hero asked. “Do you remember what he looked like?”

“No. I thought I did, but, I can’t remember.”

Tremendous Justice floated slowly with her outside of the bathroom, carefully as to not hurt her further. She was burnt badly on her back and arms. “It’s okay, Amanda. You’re going to be okay. I promise you.”

Amanda nodded, and closed her eyes as Tremendous Justice set her in the back of a waiting ambulance, his eyes tearing up.

He took a deep breath and moved to the fire truck, crawling underneath. “You hooked up?” he said to the Sergeant who only nodded. “Good.” The Hero of Empire Falls nodded back, and lifted the truck, flying into the air. The truck and Tremendous Justice worked together, putting out the flames quickly, the people watching him with awe, the little girls huddled together for warmth.

Soon, the flames were out, and the truck sat back where it belonged. People cheered as Tremendous Justice bowed, and waved to the crowd, then grabbed the ambulance that held little Amanda and sped to the hospital as two more explosions on opposite sides of town blew simultaneously.

It would be another long night for Tremendous Justice.

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How I’d Help The World

In the style of a children’s book, think ages 5-7, maybe?

To help the world be a better place, I would buy a ladder for every panda bear.
Then, they could climb the tallest bamboo, and eat the best parts.
I would hire a fireman to help teach the panda how to climb the ladder,
And they would be best friends, climbing all day together into the bamboo.

To help the world be a safer place, I would buy a tooth brush for every shark.
Then, they could brush their teeth better, and maybe not be so angry.
I would hire a dentist to help the sharks floss, and make sure their teeth are clean.
I don’t know if they would be best friends, but, I think they would like each other.

To help the world be a happier place, I would buy a bathtub for every skunk.
Then, they could take a bath, and maybe not smell quite as bad.
And maybe the skunks could get a few new towels and some sweet smelling soaps, too.
I think they’d leave my dog alone when he needs to go outside at night, I hope.

To help the world be a smarter place, I would buy the monkeys some picture books.
Then, they could mimic what they see in the books, and build buildings or rockets, too.
And maybe I could buy a scientist or two, to help the monkeys learn even faster.
I might have a monkey so smart, he could be my teacher! He’d be better than Mr. Bell.

A Book Review.

I feel I need to do this for my own benefit. Last Saturday evening, I finished Different Seasons, a wonderful novella collection from Stephen King, and my second attempt at his stuff. I’ve been inspired to watch the movies associated with the novellas, and have wondered why the fantastically wonderful story of The Breathing Method hasn’t been made into something as I write this.

Sunday morning, I started The Crying of Lot 49 by one of my favorite authors, Thomas Pynchon. Before this year, I’d read him the most having read Gravity’s Rainbow, Mason & Dixon and V., in the years prior, and I enjoyed the sheer comedy of the entire story. At 127 pages of large print, I was finished in about two hours, and I wanted more.

I almost immediately jumped into The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Andrew recommended Suttree, but it’d been checked out of my local library, and my next choice (Empire Falls by Richard Russo) was out of stock at my local Half Price Books. So, for five ninety-eight, I walked out with this book I knew nothing about, outside a trailer for a movie based on the book that I barely paid half-attention to. I read nine pages and put the book down, unsure if I even wanted to bother with the rest of the book.

McCarthy’s sentence structure bothered me to no end, almost immediately. That we spend years in school learning how to correctly write a sentence, only to have authors make what seemed to be a mockery of it bothers me in some cases. For instance: I abuse commas like it’s my job. Since most of the writing I’ve done in the past was for radio/TV copy, my commas are more breath marks, rather than simply places where a comma should be. Shame on me, I know. McCarthy, however, doesn’t use a single comma as far as I remember.

Tuesday evening, I picked it up again, and I couldn’t put it down. Once the story started, I didn’t want to put the book down. I didn’t see two faceless people walking through some wasteland, I saw me and my son, Cameron, side by side, me having to give up anything and everything for him that I could, just to ensure he had the tools to survive. I honestly felt fear a few times through the book, and anger at the thief toward the end of the story as well.

The language structure that first took me out of the book sucked me in completely and totally. It read frantically, and though it was from the standpoint of a somewhat omniscient narrator, it seemed frantic and scattered, as though it was written in a journal from an observer who missed bits and pieces, making for an also unreliable narrator as well.

The book is exactly what a story of it’s nature should be: In a post-apocalyptic setting, there should not be much to describe; that should totally be relied on by the mind of the reader to fill in, while giving start details to match the stark landscapes of the story. It’s executed absolutely perfectly in this story, and added to my inability to put the book down.

And then comes the end of the story which honestly brought a few tears to my eyes, I will fully admit. I am not much of an emotional guy, and though I still saw it coming a mile away, I still shed a tear or two at the end.

The relationship between the father and son could very well be me and my son. The nameless boy (in fact, only one character is really named throughout the story, and he’s somewhat inconsequential to the story as a whole) could very well be somewhat autistic, due to being born after whatever happened to destroy the world happened. I identified with him immediately, and pulled for him throughout the story.

All in all, I’ve had to take two days to rectify my feelings for the story and the book, and I’ve come up with this: I loved the book, the style and the raw emotion it made me feel. I didn’t like that it was so short, because there was so much potential for more. The short flashbacks needed more to give more feeling for the father, though what was mattered nothing since they didn’t know if there even would be a tomorrow.

I highly recommend picking it up. If you’re a fast reader, you’ll finish it in a day or two.

If I Should Die.

If, in the event of running a touchdown, I should fall dead, I’d like my teammates to pick me up and carry me over the goal line. Then, I’d like two of the tallest people on the team to do that cheerleading move where they take an arm and lift a cheerleader up and parade her around, only I think they should try and throw me in the air as high as possible and follow it up with the Ickey Shuffle. From there, I’d like a comical interlude made of trying to get me into the ambulance, maybe falling off the gurney once or twice. Make the people laugh once or twice more. Finally, I’d like to be buried at the 50-yard line. Immediately. And I’d like well wishers to dump some beer into the hole. Make sure my mouth is tilted upward, too.

Just in case I’m not really dead.

If, in the event of my death comes at a calm moment, for instance in my sleep then I would like you to ensure the calm doesn’t stay around. First, light a few candles. Then, go into my closet. In the box labelled “EMERGENCY ONLY” you’ll find sixteen packs containing five hundred firecrackers each. Open them and drape them across my body. From here, you’ll need to be fast. If you don’t think you can do it, call Tim. Tim’s fast with everything. You or Tim need to take the candles up to the bathroom. Maybe you should do it, and then have Tim go downstairs into the basement to blow out the pilot light on the furnace, and then turn the gas all the way up. Oh, make sure you close the windows, too.

From here, you need to get away, but, not too far away. When that explodes, you need to video tape it for the world to see.

I’ll be a youtube star yet, damnit.

If I should die between the thighs of some sweet young thing (though at my age, it’s likely some leathery, glove type thing) then there should be a steel rod inserted into my arm for high fives while I’m laying in state. Don’t worry — I’ll be dead and won’t feel it. Just do it. I don’t think people can cry in the presence of a guy waiting for a high five.

Just promise me you won’t take me to the German funeral home down the road. I can only imagine what they’ll do.

Housekeeping

In the course of events, thing change as fluidly as they could and rightfully should. An idea (say an idea to write everyday for three hundred and sixty-five, for one example) that seems smart at one time, can and should change as much as possible to fit both the needs of the idea as well as the needs of the executor of the idea.

I’m damn proud of Nate and Dan and Jay and Andrew (linked above) and their completion of this project side by side with me will be fantastic, though I’d be proud of them regardless. But, the fundamental of the project has changed in my eyes, and I’d like to take a minute to speak to them and whomever reads this regarding that change.

I will fully admit to scoffing at the idea that I, Mr. Pick-up-and-drop-at-a-whim, Mister I-can-work-hard-for-twenty-two-days-at-a-time would get this far into the project. The bare essence of the project — to write for three hundred and sixty-five days straight — has been achieved. I went from barely writing for weeks and even months at a time, to having three pretty damn good ideas for novels/novellas and putting fingers to word processing program on two of them. I will admit to not posting what I’ve written every day, and I’m okay with that. I’m writing, and that’s really what this is about.

I’ve gone more than forty-five days writing, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. Lilac Summers and the Summers Clan have gone through a metamorphosis of sorts in my story. The original idea is just a leaf now, and what I wanted to do has been changed by how the words have come out and put themselves on paper. The trip to Roanoke is shaping up to be something special and wonderful.

Maybe I won’t post everyday. Maybe I shouldn’t. I’ve already shoveled enough crap upon you fine, fine readers. Maybe, I need to concentrate on what I’m writing, and make it the best I can.

I don’t know the answer, mostly because there isn’t one. Today’s story to follow, friends.

None Again — A Poem

Welcome to your day in crap poetry. I’m your host, Crap Poet.

I would look
Deeply into your eyes and they would
lead me along a path toward no return
where I would love no one else ever again;
that there would be no others
none better
none ever
none beyond.

I would look
Deeply into your Soul and I would fall
falling into a free-fall fearing where I would fall
though not troubled where I would land,
knowing I’d be found by no others,
none ever
none never
none again.

I would fall
Deeply in love with you and I would
never regret a moment of that love, so deep
so wonderful and pure so fantastic
knowing it’s equal will be felt by no others
none previous,
none after,
none again.

I would spend
The rest of my life by your side and I would
be the man who stood beside you hands entwined
in love; our hearts beating as one, as we looked
in each others eyes, and souls seeing no others,
None.
None.
None.

The Life — Part II

I started not sleeping well at night, haunted by an orange light that grew brighter and brighter as it followed me, the burning cherry of a madman out to hurt me. At the age of five, I had no clue what murder was, and barely had an inkling that people died. But, I knew pain, and I did not enjoy it in the slightest. A scraped knee was agony, and a stubbed, bleeding toe was horrible. And yet, I had a feeling that this orange light, this symbol of my terror, this unholy demon of hate wanted to do something more than hurt me, in my psyche.

The Smoking Man swore to the police he didn’t know me, had never seen me before, and wasn’t even watching our house. He’d admitted to a few burglaries in our neighborhood over the last few months, and that he was casing out houses, but kiddie touching wasn’t his thing.

I swore to police that I’d heard this voice before, and it was familiar, and that I was scared. That I could swear that there was rustling in the bushes every night and it just had to be him. I admitted to a fear of the Boogeyman, but he lived in my closet somewhere, not across the street in Mrs. Mara’s azalea.

In the end they turned him loose. Aside from a few cigarette butts in the bushes, and his admission of being a bit of a cat burglar, there was no evidence. I remember watching the steps outside the police station for him to walk out, and when he did, my blood turned cold.

Two things happened that day in July. First, I learned what terror was, and felt gripped by it, completely and wholly. A ringing in my ears echoed through my entire body as though I were a bell my body throbbing and aching as he looked at our house while lighting a cigarette. Nevermind that he didn’t know where I was. That orange flame grew brighter as he stared directly at me.

Second, I learned what a motherfucker, a cocksucker, and dirty fucking prick were anecdotally from eavesdropping on my father talking to the “no good, dirty fucking prick cocksucker motherfucker of a detective” assigned to the case.

Fuck was a word that got me into worlds of trouble. A boy two years older than our pre-kindergarten class walked up to us at recess a few months earlier, while eight of us played Four Square. I’d worked up to Queen, eliminating the always tough to get out Randy. “You guys look cool,” he said. We looked at him shocked. Us? Cool? Cool, dude. “Wanna know a secret?”

I nodded profusely. Anything to look cool, I thought to myself. My friends were apprehensive, but it had already become apparent that I wasn’t all that cool to begin with.

“You guys love your parents, right?” Again, we nodded. “Well, when you go home tonight, if you want to tell them that you really love them, walk up to your mom and say ‘Fuck you, Mommy’, and watch what happens.”

And so, I did. She explained to me that you never, ever, ever use that word ever. And my rear end, that could barely sit down for days understood, too.