What began as a simple short story concept a few weeks ago morphed into MIssing. I’d hoped to have it finished by Halloween, but it had other ideas. Better late than never…


Brad McCallert didn’t believe the spook stories about Old Lady Klemchik. Sure, her place—the ramshackle Victorian out on Old Post Road—looked creepy, brooding there behind a thick, overgrown hedge, its clapboards peeling, its shutters hanging askew, its once-stately front porch slowly rotting away as the forest crept ever closer, reclaiming more and more of her overgrown yard each year. But only babies believed in spook stories, and Brad was no baby.

Still, he hesitated at the edge of Old Lady Klemchik’s yard, rake in hand, suddenly unsure of himself. What if the stories were true? What if she really had snatched his classmate, Cindy Glink, last fall? And the Vaschon kid the year before. And all the other kids who’d gone missing in the town of Faber, Illinois…

What if she really was a witch?

Faber was no stranger to tragedy. Nearly a year had passed since the latest disappearance, and the town was still plastered with the faded, weather-beaten “missing” signs Cindy’s family and friends had hung. Everywhere you looked, Cindy’s bright, twelve-year-old smile beamed back, as if to say, “You haven’t given up on me, have you? You haven’t forgotten?” But sometime before Christmas, the trail went cold. The police, thoroughly investigating every tip they received, scoured the town from top to bottom, but despite their best efforts, they found no trace of Cindy. Just like the kids before her, it was as if she’d vanished into thin air. That didn’t stop people from talking, though, from circulating rumor and suspicion. Everyone knew who was responsible, but the police’s hands were tied. They couldn’t arrest Old Lady Klemchik on rumor and suspicion.

Gradually, life went back to normal. People forgot. But now, standing here beneath the skeletal oaks and the gray October sky, staring at Old Lady Klemchik’s house, Brad remembered. A shiver crept down his spine, and he turned to walk away. There was no shame in admitting he was afraid.

“Excuse me, young man.” The voice froze him. He turned slowly back toward the house and there she was: Old Lady Klemchik, standing in the yawning maw of her front door, hunched over a knobby cane, hair tangled atop her head like a den of silver snakes. “Have you come to rake my yard?” she asked, motioning with the tip of her cane toward the sea of leaves circling her house.

Brad stood silent for a moment, clutching his rake, trying to think of some lie to tell, some excuse to get him out of this, but his mind went blank. Finally he nodded and croaked, “Yes ma’am.”

Old Lady Klemchik smiled, revealing toothless, glistening gums. “Splendid! I was beginning to worry no one would come this year, and I’m afraid I’ve grown too frail to do it myself. How much do you charge, Bradley? I wonder,” she said, fishing in the pocket of her dress, withdrawing a ten dollar bill, “will this cover it?”

I never told her my name…

For a split second, panic seized Brad, and his mind screamed, Run! But then a strange calm descend upon him. His misgivings seemed to fade away, and as they did, a remarkable transformation occurred. Suddenly Old Lady Klemchik’s house seemed to stand up straighter, its siding freshly-painted, its shutters hung true, its porch rebuilt with fresh, young lumber. And Old Lady Klemchik, she was no longer old. Her hunched back uncurled and her cane vanished. Her hair shone with black luster, and behind her smile gleamed clean, white teeth.

Brad smiled back automatically, enchanted by the transformation. “There’s no charge, Mrs. Klemchik,” he said, sticking his hand in his pocket, absently fingering the small wad of cash he’d already earned raking other yards today.

“Are you certain?” the young Mrs. Klemchik asked. “It’s an awfully big yard.”

“Positive. Glad to do it.” Without thinking, Brad stepped from the side of the road into Mrs. Klemchik’s yard.

Her smile widened as she slipped the ten dollar bill back into her pocket. “You’re a fine young man, Bradley. I’ll check on you in a bit, see how you’re making out.” She made to walk back into her house, then stopped and said, “Maybe I’ll bake up some cookies in the meantime. You like cookies?”

“Yes, ma’am.” His stomach rumbled at the thought.

“Good. It’s a deal, then. You rake, I’ll bake.” Then, with a wave, Mrs. Klemchik disappeared into her house and Brad, oblivious to the fear he’d felt only a few moments before, got to work.

The sun sank closer and closer to the horizon as Brad raked Mrs. Klemchik’s yard, piling the dead, twisted leaves into huge mountains, but he didn’t notice. Nor did he realize when the blister that’d been forming in the crook of his right hand burst, releasing a gooey smear of blood on the rake handle. He just kept on raking, ignoring the pain in his hand and cold, wet kiss of his sweat-soaked shirt on his back. None of that mattered. All he could think about now was biting into one of Mrs. Klemchik’s cookies. He hoped they were oatmeal raisin. Oatmeal raisin were his favorite.

From time to time he glanced up at the house, its first floor windows ablaze with warm yellow light, and smiled to himself. When the wind blew the right direction, he could smell cookies baking. His stomach rumbled again, and he raked faster, mouth watering as he thought about those warm, fresh cookies.

It was twilight when he finished, the last of the leaves pushed into the underbrush at the edge of Mrs. Klemchik’s yard. Shadows grew thick around him, and for the first time since Mrs. Klemchik stepped out onto her porch to greet him, he felt a tinge of fear. His hand stung where the blister popped and he shivered, finally aware of the cold. What was he doing here, he wondered, standing at the woods’ edge in Mrs. Klemchik’s back yard. Had he gone crazy?

You haven’t forgotten about me, have you?

Cindy Glink’s face flashed through his mind, and suddenly Brad didn’t care about Mrs. Klemchik’s cookies. Not even if they were oatmeal raisin. All that mattered was getting out of here, fleeing before it was too late.

He turned from the woods, ready to run, and gasped when he saw Old Lady Klemchik’s house. All the lights were out and the windows stared at him like blank black eyes. The shutters hung askew and the clapboards were once again peeling and cracked, the whole place sagging as if ready to collapse. The warm, inviting smell of cookies was replaced by the cold, musty scent of decay. A gust of wind stirred the trees, their bare branches clacking overhead like dry, hollow laughter.

Brad dropped his rake and dashed across Old Lady Klemchik’s back yard, panic nipping at his heels. He rounded the house at full speed, heart hammering in his chest, the road barely visible through the gathering gloom. Fifty more paces, he told himself. Forty. Thirty. Twenty…

“Bradley,” came the voice, soft and powerful, like a whisper in his ear. He stopped in his tracks, lassoed by its sound, no more than a dozen paces from the road, from safety. He wanted desperately to keep running, to leave this nightmare behind, but his feet wouldn’t listen. Instead he turned slowly back toward the house, knowing he shouldn’t, but powerless to stop himself. Old Lady Klemchik stood on the dark porch, hunched over her cane, holding a plate of cookies. “Where are you running off to? You’ve done such a lovely job with the leaves. Won’t you stay and have a cookie?”

Just then the warm, sweet smell of fresh-baked cookies reached his nose, and he was overcome by hunger. Still, he resisted, dread pooling in his belly. “I…I have to get home, Mrs. Klemchik. It’s past dinnertime and my parents will be worried.”

“Surely you have time for one little cookie,” she said, shambling forward to the edge of her porch. “Surely your folks will understand.”

No, he thought. I have to go. But in a voice that wasn’t quite his, he said “Yeah, okay. Just one,” then began slowly walking back towards Old Lady Klemchik.

The porch steps wobbled unsteadily as he climbed them one by one, the wood squishy beneath his feet, rotten to its core. When he reached the top, Old Lady Klemchik grinned and held out the plate. “Oatmeal raisin. Your favorite.”

His hand drifted up from his side, as though attached to a puppeteer’s string, and lifted a cookie from the pile. It was still warm, and his mouth watered as he brought it to his lips. He took a small bite, half-expecting to gag on some vile, rancid taste, but the cookie was just a cookie, soft and buttery and delicious. As he chewed, savoring every moment, his fear melted away once again.

“Is it good? Do you like it?” Old Lady Klemchik asked as he swallowed and took another bite.

“Mmmm,” he managed around a mouthful of cookie. “Delicious.”

Her eyes flickered with pale green light as she watched him intently. “Good. I’m glad.”

Brad finished the cookie in two more bites, punctuated with ‘mmmm’s’ and ‘hmmm’s’ of approval. He licked his lips, not wanting to miss a single crumb, then looked at Old Lady Klemchik and said, “Okay if I have another?”

“Of course,” she said, extending the plate toward him again. “Eat up. Have as many as you like.”

Brad ate three more cookies and with each one, his hunger seemed to grow. He would have kept eating were it not for his manners. He didn’t want to seem greedy.

“Full?” Old Lady Klemchik asked.

Staring at the remaining cookies, using every ounce of will power he possessed, Brad nodded.

She smiled. “If you wait a minute, I’ll bag the rest of these up so you take them home.” She turned toward the darkened doorway of her house.

“Oh, no, that’s okay, Mrs. Klemchik. You finish them. I mean, they’re amazing, but I wouldn’t want to take them all.”

Old Lady Klemchik stopped and turned to face him, eyes now burning with green fire. “But I baked them just for you, Bradley.”

Brad knew he should be afraid, but he wasn’t. His mouth watering, his stomach growling, all he could think about was eating another cookie. “O-okay Mrs. Klemchik. I mean, if you insist.” Then, almost bashfully, “Maybe I’ll have one more before you wrap them up.” He picked another cookie off the plate—this one overflowing with plump, juicy raisins—and started in on it. Old Lady Klemchik smiled and disappeared inside.

Best cookies I’ve ever had, Brad thought, forgetting those terrible green eyes with each bite. He was licking his fingers when Old Lady Klemchik reappeared, the remaining eight cookies wrapped in a clear plastic bag.

“Now hurry home. We don’t want your parents to worry.” Her eyes no longer shone green, and she held the bag out to him.

“Thanks, Mrs. Klemchik,” Brad said, taking the cookies.

“Thank you, Bradley. Yard looks great. You come back any time. My house is your house.” Her eyes flickered once more, then went dark.

“Okay, Mrs. Klemchik. I’ll remember that. Thanks again for the cookies,” he said, turning and loping down the stairs. “Have a nice night!” Before he reached the hedge that bordered Old Lady Klemchik’s yard, his hand found its way into the bag. He couldn’t help himself. His hunger was just too strong.

Mouth full of cookie, he looked over his shoulder in time to see Old Lady Klemchik step inside her house and close the door. Once again a shiver ran down his spine, but he shrugged it off and started the walk home.

The cookies were gone by the time he got there.

*     *     *

Halloween came and went. Brad, dressed up as a zombie, earned himself two big paper bags filled with candy. He hit every house on Old Post Road except Old Lady Klemchik’s.

Thanksgiving arrived, then Christmas. Then for two long months, the town of Faber was held in winter’s cold, dark grip.

By the time the spring thaw began in mid-March, the last of Cindy Glink’s “missing” signs had fallen from their posts, swept away by winter’s winds. Brad hadn’t thought about her in months. Not since the night he raked Old Lady Klemchik’s yard.

He didn’t think about Old Lady Klemchik, either, though every once in a while he remembered those oatmeal raisin cookies she’d baked. When he did, his mouth watered and his stomach growled, and it was all he could do to keep from running back to her house to ask for more. Maybe he could trim her hedge or mow her lawn or do some other odd job around her house in exchange for another plate of cookies. Even if it was just one—one perfect, delicious cookie—it’d be worth it…

But Brad had no intention of going back there. Ever. He’d escaped once; next time he might not be so lucky.

The last week of April was unseasonably warm, and Brad slept with his windows open, the soft breeze blowing in with promises of baseball and swimming and long, lazy summer afternoons. Soon it would be time to start counting the days till the school year ended. Brad could hardly wait.

Thus he was lying in bed one night, watching his curtains dance as he dozed off, when suddenly his eyes snapped open and he was wide awake. He propped himself up on his elbow and inhaled deeply, at first uncertain if he was imagining things. But then another breath of wind blew in, and there it was, sweet and tempting and unmistakable: the smell of fresh-baked cookies.

Brad peeled back his covers and slipped out of bed. He felt his legs moving beneath him, but like that night at Old Lady Klemchik’s, they seemed to work all on their own. They were carrying him. And just now, they were carrying him toward the open window. He didn’t think to be afraid. He just kept imagining eating one of Old Lady Klemchik’s cookies, then another, and another, until he’d stuffed himself and couldn’t eat one more.

At the window, he bent and brushed the curtains aside. Outside, the night was moonless, black. The trees at the edge of his back yard swayed in the wind, whispering and sighing. And there was something else, too, something at the very edge of his hearing, something so faint he might have missed it had his senses not already been awoken by the tantalizing smell of cookies: a voice, soft and sweet.


Brad looked quickly to his left left, then right, but there was no one there. No one whispering in his ear.

“Bradley,” came the voice again. “Out here.”

Brad looked out his window again and there, where the lawn ended and the woods began, stood a figure, too slight to be an adult—a girl, from the looks of it—holding something round and flat out in front of her. Even through the darkness Brad knew what it was.

A plate. A plate heaped with cookies…

“For you,” the girl said, setting the hairs on the back of Brad’s neck on end. Her voice seemed to be coming from inside his own head. “All for you.”

Then the smell hit him again, and before he could stop himself, Brad was drifting across his room and down the stairs, through the living room to the kitchen, where he unlocked the back slider and stepped out into the night. He trembled as he crossed the dew-soaked lawn, partly because the grass was cold, partly because now, he really was scared. Still his legs carried him forward toward the woods, toward the girl and her offering.

He stopped a few paces in front of her, but even here, this close, he couldn’t make out her features. Her hair, tossed by the breeze, formed a blonde veil across her face. Mustering his courage he said, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to give you these.” From behind her curtain of hair, she lifted the plate toward him.

Brad eyed the cookies, resisting with all his might, knowing even as he did that it was useless. He’d cave, he knew. He’d eat the cookies, just like he was supposed to. Still, without understanding why, he fought. A part of him—the raw, instinctive part—knew this was a trap, but like an animal lured toward a set of iron jaws by a scrap of meat, hunger trumped uncertainty, and after a long moment of debate, he reached out and took a cookie from the plate. He studied it, looking it over as best he could in the midnight gloom. It was still warm, and as he held it beneath his nose and sniffed it, inhaling she smell of raisins and sugar and cinnamon, the last of his will power crumbled beneath him. Mouth watering, he took a huge, happy bite.

Just as delicious as he remembered.

He chewed, swallowed, and took another bite, and then the cookie was gone. He reached for another, chewing, swallowing, then another and another and another, so fast now he was barely chewing, just wolfing down big chunks like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. The more he ate, the hungrier he became.

Soon the cookies were gone, but still he wanted more. He looked at the girl, imploringly, and said, “Is that it? Are there any more?”

The girl laughed, softly at first, barely a giggle.

After a moment, Brad chuckled, too, uncertain what was funny, infected nonetheless. But as the girl laughed harder, her whole body wracked with convulsions, Brad’s own laughter tapered off. Fear slithered through him, cold and black, coiling round his stomach, tightening, constricting, squeezing. He groaned and clutched at himself, suddenly wishing he hadn’t eaten all those cookies.

“Yes,” the girl said, still laughing. “All the cookies you can eat.” From behind her veil of hair, her eyes smoldered with pale green fire. Then she flipped her hair from her face, and Brad screamed.

“Come with me. I’ll show you,” said Cindy Glink.

*     *     *

The town of Faber, Illinois, no stranger to tragedy, was once again plastered with “missing” signs. People went about their business in hushed silence, exchanging sympathetic nods, sharing glances that said ‘Isn’t it awful’ or ‘Such a shame’ or ‘It’ll just keep happening until…’

After a while, people forgot, like they always did. Bradley McCallert’s face faded with time, his weather-beaten likenesses borne off by the wind. And when, that autumn, Justin Lamonte uncovered a rusty rake in Old Lady Klemchik’s back yard, he thought nothing of it. Fine young man that he was, he propped it against Old Lady Klemchik’s shed and went on raking.

Already he could smell the cookies baking, and oh, did they smell good.


No, I’m Wesley

Five hours ago, this story didn’t exist. I wrote the first sentence, then the next, and before I knew it…boom!…”No, I’m Wesley.” Guess I’m feeling the Halloween spirit! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

fog road

“Come back!” I yell. “It’s not dead!” But either Travis can’t hear me or he’s too scared to listen. He disappears into the woods, back the way we came, swallowed by a cloud of swirling autumn leaves, and I’m alone with the thing’s twisted, bloodied body. Its smell lodges in my nose, sickly sweet: copper, feces, and there, beneath it all, the cold musk of death.

I crouch down, keeping my distance, too fascinated to feel frightened. Lying there on the ground, fur matted, the thing looks exactly the way my dog, Buddy, did when he got run over last spring on this same stretch of road behind my mother and step-father’s property.

But this is no dog.

The thing whimpers. It’s hurt and I want to help it, but I don’t know how. I watch helplessly as its eyes loll in its head and its long, blue tongue drapes from its mouth, puddling on the pavement. With each ragged breath, its end seems to draw nearer.

“I’m sorry,” I say, even though I’m not responsible for this. I wish I could think of something better to offer, something that might help, but I can’t.

Its body convulses and for a moment, I think it’s over, that life has deserted it, but then it takes a deep breath, its massive chest rising like a mountain, and locks its cold, black eyes on me. As it exhales, it whispers, “Help me, boy.”

At first I think I’m hearing things. Its voice sounds like the wind rustling through dead leaves, dry and brittle. But then it lifts its head off the pavement and speaks again, this time in a deep, rumbling growl. “Help me.”

Shivers run down my spine and the hairs prickle on the back of my neck. I rise and take a step backwards. “Wh-what are you?” I manage.

“What are you?” it croaks, coughing and sputtering.

Without stopping to think, I answer. “I’m a person. My name is Wesley.”

“I’m a person,” it echoes. “My name is Wesley.”

“No, I’m Wesley. I’m a person.”

“No,” it says, lips curling into an obscene smile, revealing rows of rotten, yellow-black teeth. “I’m Wesley.”

I’m no longer fascinated. Dread pools in the pit of my stomach, and now I wish I’d left with Travis. For the first time since finding this thing by the side of the road, I’m aware just how alone I am out here, the pale October sun plunging toward the horizon, the bare, topmost tree boughs reaching up to snatch it with skeletal fingers.

Run! screams my mind, but my legs won’t listen. I’m frozen, scared stiff.

Coughing, the thing slowly rises from the pavement, untwisting itself. I hear its bones popping and crunching, but it seems to feel no pain. Its cough becomes laughter, bitter and hollow, and its eyes ignite with animal hunger.

I stumble backwards and lose my footing in the road’s soft shoulder. The ground rushes up to meet me and for a split-second, all I see is the blood-red sky, cold and empty. Then the thing is on me, crushing me beneath its weight, bathing me in the warm stink of its breath. I scream, but the thing swallows the sound as it leaves my mouth. I try to fight, to wrestle free, but no matter which way I turn, the thing’s face follows, inhaling. Always inhaling, stealing the air right out of my lungs.

As it breathes me in, suffocating me, I watch in horror as its face shrinks, its snout receding, its black, matted fur sucked back up beneath pallid skin. Its rotten teeth fall out onto my chest one by one, ousted by gleaming white replacements. And its eyes fade from obsidian to pale blue, the same as mine.

Its transformation complete, it throws its head back and laughs. When it looks back down at me, I’m looking at myself.

“No,” it says, “I’m Wesley.”

Then it finishes what it started, and my world goes dark.


Take a Hike

When you crack a good book, it’s easy to forget that someone toiled long, lonely hours to produce what you now so effortlessly hold in your hand. At some point somewhere, a writer sat alone in a room thinking, imagining, creating. He put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with no guarantee of success, no promise of payout, no rules or roadmap to follow. Yet still he set out, steeling himself for the long, arduous road ahead, doing his damnest to remember always that the reward is in the journey, not the destination.

ups and downsIn this way, writing is much like hiking: there are a hell of a lot of ups and downs along your way to the summit, but that’s what makes the whole experience so profoundly satisfying. Along the trail you may encounter magnificent vistas where the entire mountain range spreads out before you, or you might find yourself mired in dark, choking forests where you can barely see ten feet in front of you. There are bleak, windswept ridges and dank, pungent hollows. Places where life springs abundant, others where it struggles to gain a toehold. Later, when you show people your pictures, they see you smiling atop some proud peak, exhausted but elated, battered but not beaten. Despite all the hard work, you accomplished what you set out to accomplish. And success is a beautiful thing, something people love sharing and appreciating.

backpack gearLess glamorous and typically uncelebrated are the countless hours you spent preparing for your adventure. The trips to EMS or REI or LL Bean, where you selected the right boots, the perfect pack, the vast array of backcountry gear you’ll need to survive on the trail. The practice hikes you took in the forest preserve or state park near your house. The route you mapped out, then double and triple checked. The emergency contacts you notified of your planned whereabouts. The field first aid course you completed…just in case. And, certainly not least of these, all the mental calisthenics you engaged in while convincing yourself that you were up to the momumental task ahead.

trash-binSimilarly, no one ever sees an author’s first or second or tenth drafts. No one pores over his outlines and notes, seeing all the scratch marks and revisions. No one counts the crumpled sheets of paper in his wastebasket or the deleted paragraphs in his computer’s recycle bin. No one realizes how many nights he’s lain awake in bed contemplating a particularly irksome character conflict or plot hole. No one really grasps that for every minute you spend reading, the author spent an hour or two or ten writing, revising, and polishing those same words. Instead, all the reader sees – because it is all the reader is meant to see – is the author’s triumphant summit photo, the culmination of all his hard work, that perfect snapshot.


This is the magic of good writing. It allows us to pretend that all the author’s prep work, all his practice and toil, all his false starts and missteps, never occurred. It tricks us into believing that his story always existed, a perfectly-wrought conflict between perfectly-formed characters in a perfectly-rendered world. It’s an expert illusion, one that authors and, indeed, all types of artists, have been practicing for millennia. And we’re happy being deceived. When words flow effortlessly off a page or when brushstrokes come alive on a canvas or when the very music we listen to seems to dance with life, we forget about the writer or painter or musician. All we see is beauty, pure and magnificent, an expression of something we cannot ourselves articulate, but to which we can all relate in some primal way.

For now, I’m still gathering my gear, planning my route, building stamina and strength. I’ve summitted some minor peaks in the meantime: I’ve finished my first novel, built this website and a small but thriving Facebook fan page, written several short stories I really like, and continued sending out submissions in the hopes of getting published…all while pressing forward with my second novel. I know I’m making progress even though the summit isn’t yet in sight. I can feel it out there, waiting.

Even if you don’t tag along with me through all my preparations, all my practice runs, I hope you’ll join me at the summit someday. I hear the view’s incredible.

Start your engines!

Last year I wrote a blog post about speed writing. I’ve never been a particularly fast writer (it took me eighteen months to draft my first novel, Bent), and it’s been an ongoing struggle for me to quit editing so much as I write. Without even realizing it, my right-hand middle finger darts up to the delete button, flipping me off (and cackling maniacally, I imagine) as it erases the offending word, phrase, or sentence I just wrote. It’s as if that finger has a mind of its own, as if it thinks it’s better than me. I try to keep the little bastard on a short leash, but as soon as I relax my guard, there it goes again, running off to undo all the hard work I just did.

middle finger

What’s the big deal with editing as you write, you might ask? For some, I’m sure, it works just fine, but I’ve come to the conclusion that writing slowly – that nitpicking every last word – is akin to committing inspirational suicide. In the few seconds it takes me to correct a typo or rephrase something I just wrote, my train of thought careens off the tracks, coming to a shuddering halt. Sure, another train will come thundering by eventually, but who knows when that will be? Seconds, perhaps, or maybe a few long minutes as I sit staring at my monitor, the blinking cursor reminding me that whatever groove I was in has vanished…maybe for good.

Train of Thought

Writing Bent, my quota was 350 words (about 1 typeset page) per day. I had good days when I’d pump out double or triple that amount, but I also had bad days when I was lucky to hit triple digits. In the end I finished the book, but sometimes I wonder how many great ideas I lost because I was simply too busy backspacing to allow my imagination free rein. Lots, I’m sure, which is a damn shame.

After many months trying to train myself to let go and just write, I finally acknowledged that perhaps I needed some help. Thus, while perusing a number of books on the topic, I stumbled upon Alan Watt’s The 90-Day Novel. An award-winning fiction writer and founder of LA Writers Lab, Watt has compiled a guide for writers who have stories to tell, but who get bogged down in the process of telling them. Through a series of daily stream-of-consciousness exercises, Watt teaches you to inquire into the world of your story, to explore your characters and their motivations while “holding it all loosely” so as not to choke the life from it. He advocates trusting your instincts, giving yourself permission to write poorly [while drafting], and remembering that there are absolutely no wrong answers here. This is your story.

I’m thrilled to report that in the thirteen days I’ve been following this program, I’ve written 40k words. (By way of comparison, it took me six months to hit that mark while writing Bent.) Are they pretty? No. Lyrical? Uh uh. Ready to hit the presses? Definitely not. But you know what? I don’t care! I’m writing! I’m allowing inspiration to flow freely from my fingertips, and most of the time I can barely keep up as the ideas pour out. And since I’m holding it all loosely instead of trying to force it, I’m discovering new possibilities I hadn’t previously considered. My characters have come to life in a really exciting way, and have essentially begun telling their own story. I don’t worry if I’m not sure what happens next; I trust that together, my characters and I will figure it out.

Formula One World Championship

I’ve been writing seriously for three and a half years and for the most part, have loved every minute of it. The past two weeks, though, have been especially fun and I’m hopeful that, with Watt’s guidance, I’ve turned a new leaf. If I keep writing at this pace, I’ll finish drafting my second novel, Time Lapse, late this summer. My engine is revved and I’ve got my eyes on the finish line.

Here we go!

Remember to drink your creative juice

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say, if that’s the case, maybe I’m in the wrong business!

As a writer, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about pictures and drawings. Sure, I’ve scribbled my fair share of doodles on cocktail napkins and pieces of scrap paper, and I’ve even been known to spend an hour or two working on a drawing or acrylic painting.

A simple acrylic I painted several years ago to brighten up our bathroom. The Met hasn't called yet...

A simple acrylic I painted several years ago to brighten up our bathroom. The Met hasn’t called yet…

Back when I was in college (way back, it feels like now), I considered double-majoring in studio art. I loved ceramics – especially hand-building with coils and slabs – but that plan was derailed when I realized I really didn’t enjoy the technical precision required by print-making and drawing (prerequisites for an art major). Clay was so much more forgiving, and the process felt much more organic to me.

Kind of like how writing feels to me today.

My favorite piece that I made in college, most definitely inspired by H.R. Giger's work.

My favorite piece that I made in college, most definitely inspired by H.R. Giger’s work.

Writers often talk about what a lonely pursuit writing is. I can understand why someone might argue this – after all, we spend so much time holed up inside our own heads, imagining characters, places, and scenes, that it can be easy to forget that there’s an enormous, dynamic world out there full of real people doing real things – but personally, I don’t find writing lonely at all. I find that writing allows me to live in two worlds at once. There’s the real world – the one where I have a wife, an apartment in Chicago, a loving family, great friends, and a day job – but then, running parallel to it, there’s this whole other world – a world that exists only in my imagination (until I commit it to paper). Within this other world, I get to live vicariously through my characters, experiencing things I never will in real life, suffering and triumphing with them, following along as they visit places that may not actually even exist. I’ll be the first to confess that I have a whole bunch of imaginary friends (some of them not particularly nice)…and I’m damn proud of it!

Lately, I’ve been exploring another kind of world. Not the real world, nor the imaginary world I inhabit while writing (and reading), but a world just as rich and textured – just as inspiring – as both of these others: the world of pictures. For the past month or so, I’ve been seeking out (and sharing on my Facebook and Twitter pages) images that speak to me, that tell a story, that open a window to another time and place. And while I’ve always appreciated art in its many forms – including paintings and drawings – I must admit that I’ve been unprepared for just how powerful these images have proven, how, in an instant, they elicit a whole backstory in my mind. How they truly are worth a thousand (or more) words.

Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve uncovered thus far, along with the blurbs they inspired me to write:

I see the Chicago of tomorrow. How about you? (Artist: Scott Richard http://bit.ly/1fzyO0v)

I see the Chicago of tomorrow. How about you? (Artist: Scott Richard http://bit.ly/1fzyO0v)


A 22nd century medical center researching the latest life-preserving technologies, or a top-secret lab conducting illegal biomedical experiments? You decide... (Artist: Christian Quinot http://bit.ly/1lOq0rA)

A 22nd century medical center researching the latest life-preserving technologies, or a top-secret lab conducting illegal biomedical experiments? You decide… (Artist: Christian Quinot http://bit.ly/1lOq0rA)

What's waiting on the other side of that door? And are those bloody footprints? (Artist: ATArts http://bit.ly/1nNdBoS)

What’s waiting on the other side of that door? And are those bloody footprints? (Artist: ATArts http://bit.ly/1nNdBoS)

Your [robotic] doctor will be right with you. Just try to relax... (Artist: Mathieu Latour-Duhaime http://bit.ly/1m0A1Sw)

Your [robotic] doctor will be right with you. Just try to relax… (Artist: Mathieu Latour-Duhaime http://bit.ly/1m0A1Sw)

If you listen closely, you can almost hear the tortured screams of the test subjects at this clandestine biomedical research compound buried deep within the Borneo jungle. (Artist: Aaron Sims http://bit.ly/1iVwqWk)

If you listen closely, you can almost hear the tortured screams of the test subjects at this clandestine biomedical research compound buried deep within the Borneo jungle. (Artist: Aaron Sims http://bit.ly/1iVwqWk)










What do all of these images have in common? They all set my neurons ablaze. They prompt me to ask questions, to imagine what might be going on behind closed doors, to think about what might be possible tomorrow or the day after that. And as a writer, this kind of creative “juicing” is invaluable. So far I haven’t written any full stories about the pictures I’ve found, but the seeds are there, planted just beneath the surface, waiting to germinate.

Keep your eyes on my FB page and Twitter feed to see more images like this, as well as links to news stories and videos that capture my inner science geek. Hopefully you’ll find them as interesting as I do.

Put your heart away, kid. You’re getting blood everywhere.

My friend and fellow writer, Andre L. Davis*, is a self-described recovering marketing professional. For the past two+ years, we’ve enjoyed frequent meetings of the minds around town, talking shop over dinner and beers at some of our favorite local hangouts. It’s particularly fun since Andre and I, though we both fall under the sci-fi banner, write completely different kinds of sci-fi. He’s into epic, sweeping stories that span interstellar distances, pitting one civilization against another. Dark, urban biopunk is more my speed. But for both of us, the goal is the same: to write excellent stories that speak to you, that sink their teeth in and refuse to let go. And just to complicate matters, we must then, as relative unknowns, figure out how to get your attention, how to stand out amidst the constant bombardment of “Buy me! Read me! Try me!” messages that saturate our lives every day. It’s like trying to be heard over the roar of a jet engine at full throttle.

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

For better or worse, I’ve always been a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of guy. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, like when my mouth starts running a step or two ahead of my brain or when I cave to some irrational, passion-fueled fancy, but by and large, I’m grateful for this trait. The highs and lows are beautiful yet brutal, providing perfect fodder for my work. And because I lead with my heart, wearing it around for everyone to see – and especially because I’ve always been like this – I think sometimes I forget that not everyone feels the same.

 heart on sleeve

So here I am: inexperienced, zealous beyond belief, SHOUTING over the jet roar as my heart throbs wildly on my sleeve. I know I’m spewing my mind’s bloody gore every which way as I try to simply. be. heard. but I hope you’ll excuse me; I’ve never been any other way.

Thus far, I’ve spent a lot of time writing here (and on my Facebook page) about who I am, where I come from, and what I’ve experienced these past three years as I’ve written my fingers to the bone, chasing my artistic ambitions. But who really cares about all that? My family and friends, sure, but they have a vested interest. They’re biased. What about other writers? I know I like reading about the writing process, about what others experience as they toil away behind the scenes, but in all likelihood that’s because I, myself, am a writer. I geek out to that stuff. The typical person, though, who ekes out a little slice of quiet time each day to read, probably doesn’t care so much about how my latest draft is coming along or how many rewrites I’ve completed. They just want a riveting story to read or a new nugget of knowledge to absorb. As for all this “writing process” mumbo jumbo, that’s all well and good, but – ahem – when can we read the story? When are you going to give us something juicy to chew on? Please and thank you.


Last week during a discussion about this very topic, Andre (in his recovering-marketing-professional wisdom) suggested that I spend some time curating interesting content on my website and Facebook page. Links to photos, articles, and stories that I find fascinating, funny, or just a pleasant diversion from a day otherwise occupied by routine. The rationale? If I, as a writer, science fiction fan, and lover of all things science, find these topics of interest, other people who share my interests will, too. That builds value in my brand, my name, my presence. I’m providing something that people wish to consume, which is exactly what writers (all artists, for that matter) must do.

With Andre’s advice in mind, I’ve already started revamping my Facebook page. Within the past week, I’ve shared at least half a dozen links that will help give you some idea what interests me and what you can expect from me. Eventually, you’ll be able to step back and see how all these little snapshots fit together to form a cohesive picture, a mosaic of my mind.

Of course I’ll still post updates about my writing milestones, but that won’t be my sole focus. I’m going to tuck my heart away for a little while in order to give you a glimpse of my mind.

Hope you enjoy the view…

* For more information about Andre and his work, check out his website and follow him on Facebook.

(Roxanne) You don’t have to put on the red light…

Self-promoting without feeling as though I’m whoring myself out is akin to executing a flawless triple toe loop on thin ice. Yes, the Olympics are still on my mind, and no, I cannot execute a triple toe loop on thin, thick, or any other kind of ice. I’m lucky to simply escape the rink unbruised and unbloodied. 

Photo: Robert Deutsch USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Robert Deutsch USA TODAY Sports

I talked a little about selling myself in my previous post, Cheese, Cars, and Stories, but today I encountered another example of how difficult it is to self-promote without coming across like an obnoxious twit when a college classmate was kind enough to point out that I might be exploiting a Grinnell alumni Facebook group by hoisting electronic billboards up to advertise my work. Already sensitive to the delicate line between self-promotion and guerrilla sales tactics, I immediately withdrew my latest post lest I alienate the very audience I was appealing to. Grinnellians, by their nature, stick together and look out for one another, and the last thing I’d want to do is come across as some brash, fast-talking literary pimp looking to make a quick buck. Especially considering how important my writing is to me. So, lesson learned. I won’t be trolling my alumni page, posting blatant sales pitches, anymore. I’m going to try switching off the red light now and then.

In today’s social media maelstrom, we’re all bombarded by near-constant Facebook updates, Tweets and who knows what else (I’m just barely figuring out Twitter…don’t get me started on other services like SnapChat and WhatsApp). These are incredible platform-building tools, but they must be wielded with care. When someone sees one of my updates, I don’t want their first thought to be, “Jesus…this guy again?” I want it to be, “Ooh! What new and exciting material does he have for me today?” How can I ensure that will happen? Well, I can’t, but I can give it a fighting chance by posting content people enjoy following and, even more importantly, by being myself.

Thank you to all of you who have already joined me on this journey. Your support helps keep me going and it’s difficult to express how grateful I am for it. I love writing because I love writing, but the idea that someone actually likes my work makes it that much sweeter.

Year of the Horse

I’ve never been a big “what’s your sign” astrology subscriber. I don’t believe in fate and find no comfort in the thought that our destinies are all preordained. I don’t like the idea that I have no agency, no real control to steer my life as I see fit. I prefer the notion that anything could happen at any time, that today might be the day that chance and circumstance – and a little hard work – conspire to open new, fantastic doors. To me it’s reassuring to know that tomorrow, everything could change.

In the waning days of 2013, I decided that 2014 was going to be a great year. Maybe that sounds arrogant. I don’t intend it to, and I’m not delusional: I know this doesn’t mean every day will be a magical joyride or that bad things won’t happen. What it does mean, though, is that I’m going to focus all my effort on making good things happen, on extracting the most value possible from this year of my life. Luck, chance, and timing will play their part, sure, but I intend to do everything within my power to help them along.


According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the horse. I find this particularly interesting because 1978 – the year I was born – was also a year of the horse. Fitting, then, that I’ve chosen this year to reinvent myself, to make something of this dream I’ve been nurturing for the past three years, to witness myself reborn as a writer. This is the year when, instead of thinking of myself as an aspiring writer, I will begin thinking of myself as a real writer with real stories to tell. Stories that I love creating and that I hope you will love reading.

With that, here are a few updates on my current projects:

  • Bent – I finished my first novel last spring and have been searching for an agent to represent me since that time. I’ve received a number of rejections, but also some encouraging feedback. The hunt continues and I’m optimistic that I’ll find someone this year who’s as excited about Bent as I am.
  • Time Lapse – After overcoming some challenges with the story line in December, I’m making good progress on my second novel. I have a clear (yet flexible) outline to guide me as I work through the back half of the story towards an ending which I hope will be both unexpected and unforgettable.
  • Short stories
    • The Day I Learned to Fly – My debut short about a man who believes the key to happiness is flight. Currently on submission to a handful of literary magazines.
    • The Unrapture – A collaborative venture with my friend, Dan Preston, The Unrapture asks what might happen if only the faithless are saved. Currently in progress and, when complete, I’ll submit to a select list of sci fi publications.

Last but not least, I’m very excited about the recent surge of online interest in my work and I’d like to keep the momentum rolling. To this end, I’ve decided to announce a contest! Here are the details:

One lucky winner will be selected to collaborate with me on a short story. This is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the creative process, brainstorming plot and characters, helping me shape our concept into a polished final draft. You’ll be credited as a co-writer and will split any profits from publication 50/50. And best of all, one day when my books are tearing up the bestseller charts (fingers crossed…), you’ll be able to impress your friends by saying, “I wrote a story with that guy!”

To enter, all you have to do is help me spread the word about my Facebook author page. Share a link with your family and friends, then send me a quick message to let me know. For every share, your name will be entered in the drawing; the more you share, the greater your chances of winning! The winner will be selected when I reach 500 likes.

Thank you all for your support. For a (yet) unpublished writer, it means everything. It keeps me going on the bad days and motivates me a little more on the good. Together, let’s grab the reins and make 2014 one hell of a year!


The Soundtrack of Christmas

Outside, it’s cold. Frigid, the way December nights can be in northern New England. Wind is prowling round our house, searching for a way in, howling when it fails. Every so often when it tries to force its way down the chimney, a little puff of bluish-white smoke escapes from the wood stove at the far end of the living room. The sweet, sharp smoke intermingles with the fresh, fragrant evergreen we just brought in from the garage.

Our Christmas tree.

My mom and I stand back to admire it. “It’s a chubster,” my mom says, smiling. She isn’t fooling; it is a chubster, full and round and stout. A fraiser fir, with compact blue-green needles, dense plumage, and a perfect profile. Fraisers may not be as aromatic as balsams, but they hold their needles a whole lot longer, and with the wood stove cranked, cooking all moisture from the air, the tree has an uphill climb if it hopes to make it to New Year’s.

It’s about time to start decorating, to begin the slow, sentimental process of unpacking each ornament, of looking it over, laughing, and saying, “I forgot about this one!” or “God this one’s ugly!” or “That’s my sled!” (anyone born in the 70’s or 80’s will know that I’m not talking about Rosebud), but before we begin, we need music.

The record player in the corner is dusty with disuse. A meager library of LP’s is stacked on the floor beneath it, and I crouch down to flip through them, searching for the bright red jacket of The Boston Camerata’s Sing We Noel.


Now, I didn’t grow up listening to Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee, to standards like White Christmas and Let it Snow and Little Drummer Boy. I grew up on old music, on ancient carols like Gloucestershire Wassail, Coventry Carol, and Ad cantus leticie. This music was written and first performed as early as the twelve, thirteen, fourteen hundreds, and when the Camerata recorded it in 1978 (the year I was born, coincidentally), I doubt they knew that forever after, it would be for me synonymous with Christmas, with tree-trimming and family and joy. In my house, it was the holiday soundtrack.

I slide the record from its sleeve and carefully position it on the turntable. I start it spinning and, with the concentration of a brain surgeon, drop the needle down right at the record’s edge. For a few seconds, there’s just the soft, hissing crackle of dead air. Then fourteen bright, rich voices pour from the speakers, instantly transporting me to some immense, medieval cathedral where God himself is leading the ensemble. Majestic, it is.

Mom and I set to work, hanging our ornaments, pretending not to notice the faint, musty smell that clings to them, a product of their eleven-month hibernation in the cellar. (It’s all part of the experience.) We sing along with the Camerata when we know the words, hum when we don’t. We smile because the music is like a warm embrace from a dear friend we haven’t seen in far too long.

Finally, the icicles, glass bulbs, and Santas hung just so and our star perched atop the highest bough, we turn down the lights, turn up the music, and stand back to ooh and aah. It’s a real beauty this year, we agree. Maybe the best ever…

Things have changed now. I live in Chicago and my mom and I haven’t decorated a frasier together in ten years, at least. I’m still home for Christmas every year (I’m finishing this post in my childhood bedroom), but our tradition of trimming the tree together has fallen by the wayside. I miss it.

Three weeks ago while my wife, Marta, and I decorated our table-top tree in Chicago, I streamed Sing We Noel from my iPod. I sung along when I knew the words, hummed when I didn’t. Marta’s even learned some of the melodies by now, and when we stand back to ooh and aah at our own little tree, I feel the same giddy joy I remember as a boy. The music brings me right back, just like it always will, and I smile, knowing that this tradition will live on.

Merry Christmas.

The Titanic 2: Molly’s Brush with Death

My cousin, Molly, is lucky to be alive.

I don’t remember exactly how old we were, but I’m going to say ten, eleven, and twelve–Andy the oldest, Molly the youngest, me right in the middle. Growing up on the farm, the three of us were peas in a pod (I couldn’t resist!); designations like “sibling” and “cousin” meant nothing to us. Together, we were brilliant inventors, intrepid adventurers, best friends. We explored, charted, and touched every inch of that farm, and I’m sure if you look closely, you can still see the marks we left behind.

Me, I don’t even have to look closely. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can see them perfectly, as if no time at all has passed.

So this one day, Andy suggested we build boats to sail across the Upper Pond. I don’t actually remember if it was Andy’s idea, but I’m assuming it was. He always had the riskiest ideas.

First, you need to understand something about the Upper Pond. When it was constructed in the 1950’s–one of three irrigation ponds on the farm–it was a pristine masterpiece, a gravel oasis stocked with bass and bluegill, filled to the brim with fresh, clear water. Then thirty-five years passed, and it became a wild, weed-choked mud wallow, its murky depths the stuff of nightmares. Despite the old photos we’d seen showing gleeful farmhands splashing in its sparkling waters, my cousins and I had never dared set foot in it. The Upper Pond was scary.


Just up the hill from the Upper Pond sat our grandfather’s tractor shed. It was a long, brown, corrugated steel structure, home to four tractors–a pair of Fords, a John Deere, and a Kabota–barn swallows without number, and our holy grail: Grandpa’s workshop, with its wooden benches; herds of sawhorses; boxes of nails and bolts and screws; tool racks hung with pliers, wrenches, hammers, and saws; bags of seed stacked in the corners; gas cans milling about the door; and there, beneath it all, the smell of sawdust and oil and earth. I’ve never been anywhere else that smelled exactly like it.


It’s strange–I have no memories of Grandpa working in his workshop (he was too busy in the fields, I guess)–but that didn’t stop Andy, Molly, and me from putting it to excellent use. It became our workshop, our laboratory, our think tank, and on this particular day, our dry dock, too.

We pillaged the scrap wood pile, searching for perfect keels and masts, and it was soon apparent that while Molly and I were on the same page, laying out the pieces to our fine model sailboats, Andy had other plans. BIG plans. His boards dwarfed ours, and the sheet of plastic he’d cut from the leftover bolts of greenhouse sheathing was enormous–a king-sized bed’s worth, at least. Molly and I were intrigued, but despite our pleas, Andy wasn’t revealing his design. We’d just have to wait and see.

I can’t say how long the construction process took. It might have been a few hours, or it could have lasted a few days. That’s the beauty of childhood: time doesn’t matter. You don’t worry about things like schedules or deadlines. You simply create, deftly wielding your imagination while time melts away around you. Then, without even realizing you were gone, that you’d been lost in some make-believe world, you snap back to reality, look down, and see that your boats are built, ready for their maiden voyage.

I was proud of my effort. I really wish I had a picture of it somewhere. (More on that in a minute.) The design was simple: I nailed two boards into the shape of a cross–the longer of the two (five feet, I’d estimate) served as the keel, the shorter (four feet, perhaps?) as an outrigger. We’d found some old styrofoam seed flats in the greenhouse, which I glued to the underside of both keel and outrigger for buoyancy. A long wooden stake, held fast with guylines of twine, was my mast, while I’d fashioned a sail out of the same greenhouse plastic Andy had used (albeit a much smaller piece). 

Andy’s craft had taken shape, too. Not content constructing a model boat like us kids, Andy had built an actual boat, complete with crude scrap wood oars, fully intended for human passage. Looking back now, it was little more than a rickety, oblong frame, the greenhouse plastic wrapped around it, forming a precarious hull. At the time, though, Molly and I thought it was the Titanic reimagined, a luxurious ocean liner compared to our little toy dinghies.

We lugged the boats down the hill from the workshop to the shore of the Upper Pond. Andy needed help maneuvering his through the tangle of cat-o-nine tails at the water’s edge and by now, a small audience (okay, it was really just Andy and Molly’s step-mother, Michelle) had gathered to witness the christening.

Molly and I took turns scooting our boats out onto the water, where they lolled and bobbed like so many pieces of flotsam, adrift on the current, slave to the breeze. We all oohed and aahed in appropriate measure–at least the things floated–but what we really wanted to see was the S.S. Andy’s sea trial.

Andy’s boat twisted and torqued as he slipped it into the water for the first time, and almost immediately, it began to leak. That’s what happens, I guess, when you use staples and nails on a plastic hull rather than rivets on steel.

Then, Michelle said something that made a whole lot of sense to Andy and me: “Molly, get in for a sec. See if it holds you.” Sometimes she had the riskiest ideas.

It required more than a little goading, I recall, before Molly finally stepped into Andy’s boat, a look of mild distress written on her face as the water continued to blub blub blub up from the dark abyss that was the Upper Pond.

Michelle was laughing by now. “Oh my god!” she said. “I have to get my camera. Stay here!” And off she jogged, up the hill, past the tractor shed, to the old farmhouse where she, my uncle, Andy, and Molly lived. A minute or two passed, then she reappeared, camera in hand, jogging back down the hill toward us.

Now, for many years, Michelle was our family’s only photographer (then Charles came along, but that’s another story), the only person who documented everyday moments such as…well, such as the S.S. Andy’s first voyage. To this day, phrases like, “Your eyes were shut!” and “Hold it right there!” and “Wait, one more!” flow from her as effortlessly as breath.

And flow they did that afternoon as Molly slowly sank into the pond.

“Oh, Molly, these are great!” she said, ruthlessly snapping away, the camera shutter clicking with rapid-fire efficiency. Molly didn’t appear convinced.

“Just a few more. Andy, push her out a little farther.”

“Michelle!” Molly protested.

“This is it, I promise! I just want to get a couple without the weeds.”

So with his foot, Andy gave the boat an obliging push, and away Molly drifted, another five or six feet from shore. It might as well have been a hundred miles.

It must have been terrifying standing there in that boat, seeing the inky water pressing in against that thin, diaphanous hull, knowing she was on her way down with the ship as Michelle captured the whole thing on film. Molly wasn’t one to panic, though; she kept her wits. That’s probably why she’s here today.

Satisfied at last with the shots she’d gotten, Michelle beckoned Molly back to shore. By now the S.S. Andy had taken on so much water that it sat low and pregnant in the pond, a dead weight not easily propelled. Molly dug in with one of its scrap wood oars and rowed for her life, moving toward us with grim determination, each stroke drawing her a few inches closer to safety, the flimsy boat threatening to come apart beneath her at any moment.

I gave her a fifty-fifty shot.

It seemed to take forever for her to reclaim the five or six feet Andy’s foot had given her, and even when the boat nudged its way in through the cattails, Molly’s ordeal wasn’t yet over. There were no stepping stones, no safe toeholds. She’d have to splash through the shallows to reach dry land.

Out came Michelle’s camera again as Molly took a deep breath and plunged into the pond.

I can’t speak for Andy, but I think I half expected the water to burn Molly’s feet away like some kind of caustic acid, that she’d totter unsteadily onto dry land, balancing upon two smoldering stumps. Instead, she scrambled up the embankment, her pants soaked below the knees, her muck-slathered shoes each containing an intact, unburned foot. The only thing burning just then were Molly’s eyes. She glared at Andy, who’d built her such a flimsy boat, and then at Michelle, who’d insisted it would hold her. I’m not sure whether she glared at me, but she probably did just for good measure. Then she stalked off toward the house, squelching as she went, no doubt planning a revenge that included tattooing Michelle’s squeaky-clean floors with pond scum footprints.

Later, Andy towed his half-sunken wreck from the water and scrapped it. Not bad for a first attempt, we agreed, but perhaps from now on we’d leave the shipbuilding to the folks up at Bath Iron Works. Besides, we weren’t brave enough to attempt another crossing in one of Andy’s designs, and Molly wasn’t talking to us. It was time to move on to new projects, new ideas. We had a whole farm to explore, after all.

Oh, remember how I said I wished I had a picture of my boat? You might be wondering why I didn’t end up with one or two given all the shots Michelle took that day. Well, as it turned out, her camera didn’t have any film in it–a danger of the pre-digital era–so while Molly risked life and limb for that perfect picture, Michelle was shooting blanks, capturing imaginary photos on imaginary film.

In the end, though, it didn’t matter. The memories of that day live on, perfectly preserved for all time.

Like Molly, they survived.