Back in Class

A big chunk of my life was handed back to me when the company I worked for closed its doors.  And the timing couldn’t have been better because Pete Aleshire just launched another creative writing class at the community college. His classes are entertaining, filled with good people, and I always seem to accidentally learn something.  So I signed up.

Despite Pete’s apparent single minded mission to eradicate my passive “to be” verbs (which borders on fat-shaming my bloated sentences), his primary goal is always to develop a local writing community.  Writing is solitary work, but it’s better when a group of supportive people do solitary work together.  To serve that honorable goal, I am blogging my progress through this class.  So sit back as a spectator and watch my writing improve or step into the excitement, and join in with your comments and encouragement as I blog the Gila Community College course ENG234, section 4050, SHORT STORY WRITING.  Here we go.

Texts for the Course

  • Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont


  • Read first 150 pages of Making Shapely Fiction
    • Complete exercise in section “Iceberg”
  • Write description of two characters in your first short story and tell how they conflict
  • Write an overview of your first short story



  • “Write an argument in which the characters’ real feelings are not fully expressed.”


“Well, that was a nice time, don’t you think?” Amy asked as she pulled the seat belt over her shoulder and snapped it in place.  Bob shifted in his seat and started the car.

“It was okay, I guess,” he said, “It seemed like you were having fun.  I felt a little awkward around all of your work friends, but it was okay.  It was all right.”

“You didn’t look awkward while you were talking to Samantha.”

Bob nudged the car into traffic and merged onto the southbound lane.  Oncoming headlights blurred through the windshield’s bug smears and again Bob wished he’d remembered to fill the window washer at the gas station.

“Samantha?” he asked,  “Which one was she?”

“Samantha is the tall blonde wearing too much makeup.  The one you were talking to by the fireplace. She seemed to be really enjoying your attention,” Amy said.  She turned and stared at the side of her husband’s face.  Bob could feel the heat of her glare but knew better than to look at her.

“Really?” he said, “I hadn’t noticed.”

“Did you notice the way she was falling out of the top of her dress?  Or the way she kept touching your arm?”

“Come on, Amy, it wasn’t like that,” Bob said.  He held his eyes straight ahead and fought to keep his voice dismissive.

“Or how about the way she thought you were the funniest man on the planet!” Amy’s voice raised in pitch, but she wasn’t quite yelling at him yet.  Bob began calculating the speed of the car and the distance they had to travel, against the acceleration of her anger.  He recalled those useless math problems from high school. Two trains left their stations at the same time, on the same track, 75 miles apart, moving toward each other.  One traveled 30 MPH, the other traveled 60 MPH and gained speed at a rate of an additional 5 MPH per minute.  How far will the two trains travel before they collide?

Bob knew they wouldn’t make it home before the car exploded.

Writing Retreat

My office today
My office today

Whenever I pack for a flight, I am sure to stuff at least a couple of unread Writer’s Digest magazines into my shoulder bag.  WD has been a primary inspiration for me from the very first issue I ‘stole’ from a laundromat, long before I ever thought of becoming a writer.  Steve Holt’s article Take Your Writing Away in the May/June 2015 Inkwell had my writer’s brain fully engaged before the flight attendant pointed out that my nearest emergency exit may be behind me.

Holt begins with a question: “Considering planning your own retreat – just you and the blank page?”  As a matter of fact, Steve, no.  Not until you brought it up, that Is.  But now that you mention it, I can’t wait to try it.

His article is a review of his first extended solo writing retreat.  By his own admission, it wasn’t perfect.  And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate hearing that.  Because sometimes I need permission to be not perfect.  The article gives me tips on how to make the most of my first (love that word ‘first’) self-directed retreat. It talks about setting specific goals. About what to consider when choosing the location (am I inspired by the serenity of a quiet lake – or the frenzy of Mardi Gras?).  Holt talks about eating healthy foods, exercise, reading good stuff, and paying attention to how the whole process feels to me.

Two tips in this short article really spoke to me.  The first was to sketch out a daily schedule.  Love it.  I’m definitely a sketch-out-a-daily-schedule kinda guy.  He even included a sample schedule that I think might work for me.  The other tip was to leave my other work at home.  Ouch.  What he says makes sense, but that would put a lot of anxious pressure on me.  My other work is a little like the monster in my childhood closet.  Even though I close the door, I know it’s still in there.  I think I’d rather have him out in the room where I can see him.  So, my first imperfection will be to insert my other work into my daily schedule.  We’ll see how it works.

Office politics
Office politics

This trip is perfect for staging my first self-directed writing retreat.  I’m away from life’s normal distractions, I’ve sketched out a daily schedule (which includes my other work) and I’ve set some goals.  I’ll let you know what I come away with.

Btw, writing blog posts is one of my goals for this retreat.  [thumbs up]

The Fortune Cookie [short fiction]


One thing makes me crave Chinese food. A hangover. That’s why I leaned my bike against the front glass of the Wok Express Chinese Takeout this morning. To satisfy a craving.

Tom Wong greeted me as my eyes adjusted to the Wok’s reduced carbon footprint.

“Hangover Mr. C?” he asked.

You’ve got to love a small town. Everybody knows your name, and your business. I grunted at Tom and told him Bob would be along soon. He led me to a table where I collapsed into a vinyl stack chair and ordered Chinese Coffee. The ceiling fan cut brutal slices of air as I waited. Finally Tom brought a small glass mug of steaming relief.   A thick dark layer of espresso lay beneath a warm blanket of condensed milk. I was pretty sure my stomach wouldn’t handle seeing the layers swirl together, so I closed my eyes and stirred. That’s when Bob thundered to the table.

“Whoa, Doc. You look kinda beat up. Out campaigning for the Democrats last night?”

Thankfully, Reverend Bob’s huge frame eclipsed the sunbeam that was trying to bore a hole in my temple. But when I turned to flash him a sarcastic smile, a stray beam glanced off his massive forehead and caught me in the eye. I swear I felt a cataract start to form. I closed my eyes and groaned.

“Tom!” shouted Bob, “Bring me what Doc’s having.”

Doc’s having… Doc’s having… Doc’s having… echoed through my brain, and another cup of Chinese Coffee materialized. I didn’t watch his layers swirl together either.

Reverend Bob sat across from me patiently stirring and sipping while I pulled myself together. Soon the coffee had jump-started my heart, and my brain seemed to be firing on more cylinders.

“You know,” said Bob, “We have the French to thank for this delightful coffee.”

I nodded slowly, knowing it was pointless to try to stop the story I’d heard a dozen times already. “French colonists introduced this bold, expressive coffee to the Vietnamese. From there, it migrated to China. One sip of this rich espresso and you know why the French call American coffee jus de chaussettes’. That means juice of socks, you know.”

I did know. He retold that story every time we cured one of my hangovers. I knew it so well that I mouthed the words juice of socks along with him. History tells me the only way to derail this narrative of the French influence on the world’s coffee preferences was to launch into a joke.

“This guy was just diagnosed with a fatal disease,” I started.

He took the bait like a sunfish on a grasshopper.


“Yeah. So he went to a dozen doctors who all told him he was going to die. Then he went to this Chinese doctor. The Chinese doctor told him to take a long mud bath every day. The guy said, ‘Will that keep me from dying of this disease?’”

Reverend Bob hung on my every word.

“’No,’ said the Chinese doctor, ‘but it’ll get you used to the dirt!’”

Reverend Bob’s face lit with delight. “Oh Doc,” he said stifling a laugh. “That’s horrible. Morose. From the sound of that joke, you might need more than just Chinese Coffee.”

“Yeah, Friar,” I moaned. “I could use a different life.”

The Chinese Coffee may have jolted my body back into function mode, but it didn’t do much for my capacity to sort out time and space. As I sat moaning, my poor booze-battered brain slipped its leash and wandered to my memory banks and to last night at the Buffalo Tavern.

The bartender slid another bourbon in front of me just as I noticed the girl standing by the pool table. A small group of women had gathered at one end of the table while the men played a game of eight ball. A quick head count paired up couples and showed numbers in my favor, so I let myself look a little longer. She was tall and blond, and the kind of home-grown pretty that can only happen in a small town. Then she moved a stray curl from her face. I noticed a stunning lack of glitter on her left hand.

My heart tumbled. My fantasies locked on her face, on the curve of her neck, on how her long blond hair caressed her bare shoulder, and I reached for my drink. The glass slipped out of my hand, bounced on the bar, and splashed the guy next to me, before shattering on the floor. The crash drew her attention and I looked away as her eyes met mine.

The guy next to me was sure my drink had destroyed his designer jeans and insisted that I pay to restore his wardrobe. But the bartender quickly brought him another beer and put it on my tab. Then he refilled my lost bourbon on the house. When I glanced back to the pool table, the blond was gone.

I caught sight of her as she walked toward the exit. She glanced toward me and once again we made eye contact. And once again she captured a stray curl with that naked left hand, tucked it behind her ear and smiled.

Her smile said, “Hello.”

It said, “You’d better get off that bar stool.”

It said, “I’m leaving.”

And as I sat paralyzed, it said, “Good bye.”

Reverend Bob’s voice snatched my brain back to the Wok Express.

“You still with us, Doc? You seemed to wander off there for a bit.”

“I’m still here, Friar,” I said. “I was just thinking about last night. I think I really missed a chance at something special.”

We ordered food and fumbled with chop sticks as I told Bob the story of tall, blond and available. Tom brought the check and a couple of fortune cookies as I finished groaning that my life sucked and was going nowhere.   I reached for a cookie, but Reverend Bob brushed my hand aside and said, “No, no, my son. Allow me.”

It cracks me up whenever the Friar calls me ‘my son’. We shared the same locker all through high school. We marched in band together, stole watermelons from Charlie Ott’s farm together, and hid a camera in the girl’s locker room together. As a matter of fact, if he hadn’t fallen for the daughter of a preacher, we would have sat together at the Buffalo last night. Only then, the guy at the bar would be washing blood out of his designer jeans this morning, along with my bourbon.

“Wisdom advises,” Bob continued, “that you accept the fortune you are given; that you play the cards you are dealt.”

“Yeah, yeah. I saw Star Wars too. What does it mean, Obi-Wan? I’m just trying to get a cookie.”

“I simply mean that the fortune doesn’t come true unless someone else hands you the cookie,” Bob said, handing one to me. I gave the other one to him. He cracked his open and unfolded the tiny scrap of paper inside. It read, ‘Your heart is larger than your wallet’.

I laughed. “Well Friar, here’s to your enlarged heart. It looks like I’m buying lunch, Reverend.”

My cookie crumbled in my hand. I picked the scrap of paper from the cookie dust and unrolled it. My fortune read, ‘You hold the keys to riches far greater than gold. Your lucky number is 3423703-11132277.’

“What do you think it means, Doc?” Bob asked in his most guide-me-to-your-answers-within voice.

“No clue, Friar. The only keys I have are my house keys, and that’s a rental. Not much riches there for anybody but the landlord. And what’s up with that lucky number? How freakin’ random is that? Maybe it’s the number to a secret Swiss bank account. Or maybe the combination to the bus locker where DB Cooper stashed his loot.”

“The Chinese are an inscrutable people, Doc…”

“These fortunes are as Chinese as the espresso, Friar,” I said. I wadded the fortune and tossed it into the dregs of my Chinese Coffee cup. Then I dropped some money on the table and got up to leave.

At my bike, I buckled my helmet on and rolled up my pant legs for the ride home. All the while, Bob continued to defend his stupid idea that a fortune cookie might hold some profound meaning. I knew he’d scraped the bottom of his prophetic parallels when he concluded, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

At my house, I rolled up the driveway, dismounted, and hung my bike from a hook above the front porch. As I dug for my house keys, I felt a small wad tucked deep in my pocket. I pulled out the scrap of paper and gently smoothed it to read the fine red print. It said, ‘You hold the keys to riches far greater than gold. Your lucky number is 3423703-11132277.’

A surge of adrenalin cleared the last smog of hangover and shot my thoughts back to the Wok Express. “I know I tossed this at the restaurant,” I murmured. I could see myself wadding up the stupid little Chinese fortune. I saw myself toss it into the coffee mug.   “What the…?”


I’d been at my computer for an hour when the phone rang. I answered and Bob said, “How’s the hangover, Doc?”

“Bob! Something crazy happened,” I said, and I told him about the Chinese fortune wadded in my pocket.   “Now I’ve been all over the internet looking for hidden meanings to the word ‘key’ and ‘riches far greater than gold’.”

“What have you discovered, my son?” said Bob, using his show-me-your-insides voice again.

I laughed, “Well, the internet is pretty sold on the notion that wisdom and grace are worth a lot. But other than that, I haven’t found much.”

“And what about your lucky number?”

I paused. “I Googled the number, too. I found a couple of formulas for calculating the distance to the sun, but not much else. Google Maps came up on one search, though. It appears those numbers also represent a dot on the map. I don’t get any of it.”

Bob seemed interested in that last part. “It came up a point on the map, Doc? Maybe the numbers are coordinates of some kind. Maybe they lead to a Geocache.”

“G-O-Cash? Like Go-Money? Is that some kind of debit card?”

Bob loves to know something I don’t. “No,” he said, “ it’s Geo-cache. Geo, like in geography. Cache, like a treasure or a stash of some sort. Geocachers hide treasures, post their GPS map coordinates online, and then other players go find the treasures.” He talked slowly to make sure I understood these complex principles. Whatever.

“Treasure?” I asked.

“Well, yes. Usually the treasures don’t amount to much, though. The fun of the game is finding the treasure, more than the treasure itself,” said Bob.

“So, we load these map coordinates into a GPS and go find treasure, right? Let’s go!”

Fifteen minutes later we piled in his car and headed wherever the little arrow on his phone pointed. We’d loaded the coordinates in Bob’s phone. It turns out that he and the other geeks who hang out at Todd’s Used Books go geocaching regularly. The Friar drove while I held the phone and navigated. As we drove south, the distance to the treasure displayed on the phone continued to decrease.   When we crossed Juanita Street the numbers started to increase.

”Whoa, Friar. The numbers are getting bigger. We passed it. Turn around!”

Bob turned around in the Mason Eye Care parking lot and headed back. He then turned east on Juanita, and tucked into the parking lot at Family Dollar.

“What’s it say now?” asked Bob. “How close are we?”

“It says we’re at 475 feet and it’s over there, toward the Buffalo,” I said.

We got out of the car and slowly walked in the direction of the Buffalo. We huddled together around the phone like a Geiger Counter in a 1950’s spaceman movie, sweeping it back a forth, following every flicker of the tiny arrow on the screen.

“So, what kind of treasure do you think we’ll find?” I asked. “Are we looking for a treasure chest?”

Bob laughed, “No. Nothing as grand as that. The caches are usually small. Sometimes really small.”

“Small, yet more valuable than gold,” I thought aloud. After all, the fortune cookie said I hold the keys to riches far greater than gold. And I’m the one holding the phone. And we do have the coordinates of hidden treasure. “Diamonds are small. And they’re more valuable than gold, right?”

The Friar tried to mask his geeky enthusiasm for being on a treasure hunt by using his Reverend Bob voice to bring me back to earth. “Doc, the last time I went geocaching, the cache held two Hot Wheels cars, a broken pencil and a fishing lure. Nobody’s fortune is made by a geocache.”

“And how many times do you find your coordinates in a fortune cookie, Reverend Geocache? Answer me that.”

I nearly launched into how crazy it was that a fortune cookie could follow me home and give me the coordinates to hidden treasure, when the phone beeped.

“It’s beeping! Bob, what does it mean?”

“It means we’re close, Doc. Take a look. The numbers say we’re within just a few feet.”

“What do we do now?” I asked, shoving the phone at him. “Is that thing going to blow up or what?”

He took his phone and tucked it in his pocket. “Now we look around,” he explained. He spoke slowly to make sure I understood these complex principles. “The GPS isn’t sensitive enough to lead us to the exact spot. Now we look around for the cache.”

“How do we know what it looks like?” I asked, as I picked up an old Pepsi can and looked inside.

“Just look for anything that looks out of its natural place.”

Pepsi dribbled onto my sweatshirt so I tossed the can. We searched all the nooks and crannies around the back of the Buffalo Tavern for about ten minutes and turned up half a pack of cigarettes, a Bic pen, and a dozen other pieces of trash the crows wouldn’t eat. Bob pulled a plastic bag from his coat pocket. “Cache in, trash out,” he said, and we filled the bag with parking lot flotsam.

That’s when I spied something shiny, peeking out from under the leaves up against the building. “Found it!” I shouted, and began brushing twigs and leaves off my treasure. Bob rushed over as I picked the cache from the debris.

“What is it?” huffed Bob.

“Keys,” I said, holding up a set of car keys on a large silver ring. “Now all I have to do is find the Honda that fits them, and I’m all set.”

Suddenly a voice came from behind, startling both of us.

“I think they’re mine,” she said. She was tall, blond and the kind of home-grown pretty that can only happen in a small town. When our eyes met she moved a stray curl from her face, tucked it behind her ear, and smiled. “My friends thought I’d had too much to drink last night and tossed my keys. I caught a ride home with a girlfriend. I think those are my keys.”

I looked down at the keys in my hand, and then at Bob’s astonished face.

“Holy shit,” murmured Bob.

I held the keys out to her and said, “My name’s Jeff, but my friends call me Doc. I think I saw you here last night.” Then I blushed and added, “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”   With my gaze resting on her face, on the curve of her neck, on how her long blond hair caressed her shoulder, she lowered her head and smiled that smile again. Then she looked in my eyes and said, “I’d love to.”

Laudable Audibles – Show Me Yours


Show Me Yours

I love  No really, I love it.  But this sort of thing happens in every relationship.  Things start out all butterflies and candlelight dinners, but after awhile the jokes are predictable and you’ve heard all the crazy stories, and things get a little – I don’t know – too comfortable, maybe.

I’m getting a little too comfortable with my taste in books.  I want to break out and try some new genres.  I like SciFi, Epic Fantasy, and Modern Detective.  So tell me what I’m missing.  Help me out.  Share some of your favorite titles with me.

You rock.  Thanks.

Laudable Audibles – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

by Hunter S. Thompson

Heralded as the “best book on the dope decade” by the New York Times Book Review, Hunter S. Thompson’s documented drug orgy through Las Vegas would no doubt leave Nancy Reagan blushing and D.A.R.E. founders rethinking their motto. Under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke, Thompson travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the “Great Red Shark.” In its trunk, they stow “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers…. A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls,” which they manage to consume during their short tour. On assignment from a sports magazine to cover “the fabulous Mint 400”–a free-for-all biker’s race in the heart of the Nevada desert–the drug-a-delic duo stumbles through Vegas in hallucinatory hopes of finding the American dream (two truck-stop waitresses tell them it’s nearby, but can’t remember if it’s on the right or the left). They of course never get the story, but they do commit the only sins in Vegas: “burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help.” For Thompson to remember and pen his experiences with such clarity and wit is nothing short of a miracle; an impressive feat no matter how one feels about the subject matter. A first-rate sensibility twinger, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pop-culture classic, an icon of an era past, and a nugget of pure comedic genius. (Amazon description)

I give it 2 out of 4 otoscopes
I give it 2 out of 4 otoscopes

Laudable Audibles – Open Mic

After she read the back cover blurb I posted on Laudable Audibles – Lincoln Lawyer, a Facebook friend asked, What in your opinion is: “a stunning display of novelistic mastery”?  

My first thought was that a stunning display of novelistic mastery is as human, as gripping, and as whiplash-surprising as any novel yet written.  But then I realized I wasn’t actually thinking that at all.  I was reading it.  Apparently that’s how whoever wrote the book’s back cover blurb defines a stunning display of novelistic mastery.

It’s a valid question, though, posed by an accomplished Verb Vixen who regularly pulls a stool up to the Space Bar and orders a draft.  I want to give it its due.

And it’s a tough question, when you try to break it down.

A stunning display of novelistic mastery.  Is the display stunning? Am I stunned by the display?  Or have I set his bar so low that I am stunned that Michael Connelly could pull it off?  I’m kind of baffled by the stunning part.  I think I’ll just look at the part of the question that seems the most straight forward: novelistic mastery.

“In the form of a question, please.”

“What is novelistic mastery?”

For me, a master novelist builds a satisfying story in a world that makes sense, and populates it with imaginary people that I care about.

And, this being open mic night, let me throw it back to you all: what is novelistic mastery to you?

Laudable Audibles – The Lincoln Lawyer

Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer

by Michael Connelly

This #1 bestselling legal thriller from Michael Connelly is a stunning display of novelistic mastery – as human, as gripping, and as whiplash-surprising as any novel yet from the writer Publishers Weekly has called “today’s Dostoevsky of crime literature.”

Mickey Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. Bikers, con artists, drunk drivers, drug dealers – they’re all on Mickey Haller’s client list. For him, the law is rarely about guilt or innocence, it’s about negotiation and manipulation. Sometimes it’s even about justice.

A Beverly Hills playboy arrested for attacking a woman he picked up in a bar chooses Haller to defend him, and Mickey has his first high-paying client in years. It is a defense attorney’s dream, what they call a franchise case. And as the evidence stacks up, Haller comes to believe this may be the easiest case of his career. Then someone close to him is murdered and Haller discovers that his search for innocence has brought him face-to-face with evil as pure as a flame. To escape without being burned, he must deploy every tactic, feint, and instinct in his arsenal – this time to save his own life.

I give it 3 out of 4 otoscopes
I give it 3 out of 4 otoscopes

Separation Anxiety [short fiction]

Separation Anxiety

We stood at the edge of a gaping hole where his flower garden had been  yesterday.

“Where’s the dirt?” I asked.

“Dirt?” Smitty looked distracted, wearing his bathrobe and slippers, holding a chipped #1 Grandpa mug. The coffee lost its steam half an hour ago. He just stared into the depths of the hole.

“Yeah,” I said, “The dirt, the rocks, the flowers… everything that made this your garden. Where is it?”

Smitty mumbled something I couldn’t hear. Then he said that he didn’t know where the goddamned dirt was. “Or the rocks, or the flowers, or the fucking sprinkler system that cost me $650 in chiropractor bills! Or my fucking dog, for that matter. Have you seen that piece of shit dog? If he did this…”

His voice trailed off.

“It wasn’t the dog,” I said, looking across the yard to the edges of the fence. Sparky had a knack for escaping under the fence and coming to my yard to terrorize my cat. “No, I don’t see him anywhere.”

“Fucking dog.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t the dog,” I said. “Did you hear any noises last night? Anything that sounded maybe like a huge yard-sucking noise?”

“Where’s your ladder, Mike?” Smitty blurted. “I need your ladder.” He broke his gaze from the bottom of the hole and pulled the belt to his robe tighter. He was turning in slow backward circles, looking to see where I might have laid a ladder. I told him I’d get the ladder while he went in and put on some clothes. And that I’d look around for Sparky on my way. He looked at his cup of coffee and then seemed to try to focus on my face.

“Sparky? Yeah,” he said. “See if you can find him. I’m going in to put some clothes on.”

And with that, he dumped his coffee on the ground and shuffled back to the house. I stood and gazed down into the pit that was once a garden. The hole was a circular chasm about ten feet across, with vertical walls and a flat bottom. The sides appeared burnished to a low luster by the slow trickle of the broken sprinkler system. The faint smell of moist earth hung in the air around me. The hole was easily eight feet deep. The rim near my feet seemed to have been melted to a smooth crust. I gently kicked at the crust and a small piece broke off and slid to the bottom. The pit was tapered toward the center, and the piece of crust skittered along the bottom and came to rest against what looked like an old shoebox. I hadn’t noticed the box before. It must have been what Smitty was staring at.

I left the hole and walked across the yard to my place. I went through the house to the garage to fetch my ladder. I grabbed it off the wall and hit the garage door opener. As morning light spilled onto the garage floor, I caught sight of something tucked into a corner by the door.  Deep in shadow, with only a pair of dark eyes catching the light, crouched Sparky. He whined when I looked at him, his tail thumping against the wall. His coat was thick with mud, and smears of blood stained the concrete at his paws.

“You know your dad’s looking for you, right?” I said.

The tail thumping stopped and he withdrew further into the corner, trying to hide his muddy face in his paws.

“You wanna stay here for a bit?” I asked. He lifted his head and broke into a wide panting doggie smile. “OK,” I said, “You stay here until we get some of this sorted out.” I lifted the ladder and walked out. I heard his tail thumping as I headed back to Smitty’s.

Smitty was dressed and already in the hole by the time I got back. He sat against the far wall with the shoebox open in his lap, turning a small stuffed animal over and over in his hands.

“Did you find Sparky?” he asked.

“Nope,” I lied, as I slid the ladder along the wall into the hole. “You coming up?”

“You know, I found that dog in the desert,” he said, staring at the stuffed toy in his hands.

I climbed down the ladder. “No, I didn’t know where you got him.”

“Yep, in the desert, with this stupid toy in his mouth,” he continued. “Weird dog. His whole world is this stupid toy. The first and only time it went in the washer, Sparky never left the laundry room until it came out. For the life of me, I can’t even tell what this fucking thing is.”

He handed the toy up to me as I sat down next to him.

The toy was about five inches long and the color of the desert. Most of the fleece had worn off and what might have been a tiny ear was gone. It was vaguely animal-shaped, but with none of the distinct features to make it look like any particular kind of animal. It had the shape and feel of a new-born puppy. And it was creepy. I gave it back to Smitty and he chuffed.

“I threw this damned thing away once. Stuck it out in the can on garbage day. Sparky disappeared right after that.” He chuckled, “But sure enough, a few days later he was back in the yard with this ugly thing stuck in his mouth again.”

Smitty got up and headed for the ladder. “About a year ago I buried it. Buried it good and deep when I put in this garden.” He climbed up the ladder looked around at what was once his yard. “And now this,” he said. “Shit. Guess I’ll have to give it back to him.”



Laudable Audibles – The Cold Dish


The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery

by Craig Johnson

Introducing Wyoming’s Sheriff Walt Longmire in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Hell Is Empty and As the Crow Flies, the first in the Longmire Mystery Series.
Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love this outstanding first novel, in which New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson introduces Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming’s Absaroka County. Johnson draws on his deep attachment to the American West to produce a literary mystery of stunning authenticity, and full of memorable characters. After twenty-five years as sheriff of Absaroka County, Walt Longmire’s hopes of finishing out his tenure in peace are dashed when Cody Pritchard is found dead near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody has been one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for raping a local Cheyenne girl. Somebody, it would seem, is seeking vengeance, and Longmire might be the only thing standing between the three remaining boys and a Sharps .45-70 rifle.

With lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and a cast of characters both tragic and humorous enough to fill in the vast emptiness of the high plains, Walt Longmire attempts to see that revenge, a dish best served cold, is never served at all.

I give it 4 out of 4 otoscopes
I give it 4 out of 4 otoscopes


I loved this book so much that I watched the first episode of the TV show LONGMIRE.  The TV show is disappointing on so many levels.  I deleted the series from my Netflix.  I’ve ‘wish-listed’ the next two books in the series.