31 October 2018
Happy Halloween! May you be visited by enough costumed children to entertain you and not so many that they get all the good candy and leave you with the healthy stuff.
I have been pondering what to write about today and decided to tell about my one-and-only brush with the supernatural.
Now, I need to explain that I am not a fan of such stuff. I have no belief in ghosts, an afterlife, or monsters. Things that go bump in the night are, in my experience, usually restless cats.
But there was this one time...
It happened in late August, about twenty years ago. I was bicycling home from work, my usual form of commute, and I was thinking about a couple of songs I had been invited to perform at a friend's birthday party that night. I turned the corner onto one of the busiest streets on my city and--
As I found out later, I had fallen off my bicycle and sustained a concussion.
The next thing I remember I was in a long black tunnel. There was a bright but fuzzy light at the end of it and I sensed that I was being drawn farther away from that light. I heard someone call my name.
And indeed, if I had blacked out at that moment I imagine my philosophy might be quite different than it is now.
But I didn't lose consciousness again. And I slowly realized that the dark tunnel was actually the inside of an ambulance. The light at the end of the tunnel was the sunny afternoon outside. It was fuzzy because my glasses were broken. The sensation of being drawn away from the light was caused by my being strapped onto a gurney which was being pushed deeper into the ambulance. And the voice calling my name? A paramedic calling the hospital to tell them who was coming.
So, on the whole, not as spooky a story as you might have hoped for. But there are pleasures to be found in the real world too. Snag yourself a candy bar before the goblins grab 'em all.
Oh, and one last trick or treat. What do these two book covers have to do with Halloween? Answer will be in the comments.
30 May 2018
I bicycle to work most mornings, on one of the busiest streets in my small city. At one point there is a highway overpass and sometimes apparently homeless people stand there with signs, begging for money from the people leaving the Interstate. Usually this is not a problem, except that sometimes they leave piles of trash.
This morning, I saw what appeared to be such a gentleman. He was bald, in his thirties, and wearing a leather jacket. He carried a black plastic trash bag which appeared to be stuffed with something the size of an exercise ball.
He was in the vicinity of a couple I had seen before, a woman walking her daughter to the elementary school. The bald man was trying to talk to the mother and she was trying very hard to ignore him as they approached a traffic light.
I watched this and thought: Oh, crap. Because if it got worse I was going to have to get involved. I haven't been in a physical altercation in about fifty years, and my win-loss record back then was not great.
Now the mother and daughter were waiting for the red light to turn. I was on the other side of the intersection, also waiting.
The bald man turned and walked away. Good.
But he turned and walked off. Was he influenced by my presence? I doubt it. I don't know if he even saw me.
Riding the rest of the way to work I wondered what I would have done if action had proven necessary. My thought at the time was to go straight into a verbal confrontation but I now think the better choice would have been a system I have heard about several times in recent years: Ignore the aggressor and come up to the victim with a big smile, acting like you know them. "Hey there! Can I walk with you to school?"
If it happens (again) I'll try that.
But let's consider a couple of other options. I had a cell phone with me. When I saw what was shaping up I should have pulled the phone out, started the phone app (whoever uses that?) and dialed 9-1-1. Then if I felt I had to step into the scene I could have hit SEND.
You don't have to speak, by the way. If you dial 9-1-1 and say nothing the cops will trace your phone and come to see what's going on. At least they do here. (Don't ask me how I know; that's another story.)
I checked. It takes me fifteen seconds from reaching for the phone to being ready to hit SEND. Next time, and may there never be one, I'll go do that first.
Now let's talk about guns. I don't own one. Never have. But it occurred to me to wonder, what would have happened if I had had one with me this morning?
I certainly would have thought about getting it out. Or at least getting it ready. Knowing human nature (at least my human nature) as well as I do, I think I would have seen this as an opportunity to get my money's worth out of the gun, not by shooting it, but by attempting to scare the man off.
If I did that I figure one of four things would have happened.
2. I would have dropped the gun, which would have been, at best, embarrassing.
3. He would have taken the gun away from me (see comments above on my record with physical confrontations,) which would have been at best embarrassing and at worst tragic.
4. He could have decided to walk away, which would have been good.
And that means the best result that could have occurred from showing a gun was the same as what happened without one. Your mileage may vary.
So, that was my morning. How was yours?
08 November 2016
by Barb Goffman
I hope you'll excuse me for this short post. As I write this on Monday, the 7th, I'm on day twenty of bronchitis, and while I'm improving, I'm certainly not well.
I hope you'll all celebrate with me, too, because as you read this, it's Election Day, i.e., the end of what feels like the longest election season ever. While we all hope our own candidates will win, in the end, some people will be disappointed, but I hope we can all work to come together in the coming days for the good of ourselves and our nation.
One way to come together is to talk about a common love--short stories. And on this day, it seems perfect to focus on ones involving elections.
My editor came up with his own description of the story: There's a mystery in this small town, and a secret, and a teenaged girl at the middle of it all who doesn't think the adults around her understand much. Which maybe they don't.
I got the idea for this story from a sad real-life event. Back in 2012, I read about a county in Oregon that was having such money problems, it had to cut back on its policing, with officers on patrol only a few hours each day. And because of the cutbacks, police might not respond to every call, including burglaries, the article said. Well, that got my writer's wheels spinning, and "Ulterior Motives" was born. The story involves a local campaign to get a bond issue on the ballot to fund a sheriff's department in similar straits to the real-life Oregon county. It may sound like a dry topic, but the story is told from the point of view of a teenage girl who cares very much about what happens, and she does her best to make an impact on the campaign. There's humor and danger and, hopefully, everything readers want in a mystery short story. I'm particularly proud of this story because of its local nature. So many political mysteries involve presidential elections. Not too many short stories that I know of involve local campaigns, which can have such a profound impact on day-to-day living. (If I'm wrong on this point, I hope you'll let me know, sharing story information in the comments.)
One other political short story (okay, it's a novella) worth mentioning here is by fellow SleuthSayer B.K. Stevens. The story is "One Shot." This description of the story is from B.K.'s website:
When rising politician Karen Dodd pushes through the toughest gun-control bill in Ohio’s history, she thinks it’s her ticket to the governor’s office. But soon after she announces her candidacy, on the day she’s slated to receive an award from a gun-control organization, Karen Dodd is found dead in her comfortable suburban home, one bullet through her heart.
Okay, so that's two short stories perfect for Election Day. I hope you'll check them out, and I hope you'll share your favorite Election Day short stories in the comments. In the meanwhile, happy reading. And go vote!