Tag Archives: Author: Clayton Clifford Bye

Mentors … of sorts

The following is a not-so-random selection from my quote book. I hope you get as much enlightenment, enjoyment and inspiration from them as I have.

The birth of excellence begins with our awareness that our beliefs are a choice.
– Anthony Robbins

Our main business is not to see what lies directly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
– Thomas Carlyle

Nietche’s formula for the superior man was “not only to bear up under necessity but to love it.”
– Dale Carnegie

Behold the turtle who gets nowhere until he sticks out his neck.
– Unknown

A Fable:
Long ago in a small village there lived a very wise man. There was a boy in the town who didn’t like the wise man and decided to trick him. He caught a small bird, and cupping it in his hands so that only its tail feather could be seen, took it to the wise man.
“Is this bird alive or is it dead?” he asked.
If the wise man said it was alive, the boy planned to give it a quick squeeze and open his hands to show the bird was dead. If the wise man said it was dead, he would open his hands and let it fly away. So no matter what the wise man said, he would have him.
“Is it alive or is it dead?” the boy asked.
The wise man looked, not at the boy’s hands but into his eyes and said, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
– Charles Templeton

In their early and less opulent days, George Burns wanted to send some flowers to Gracie Allen, who was in the hospital. Having exactly enough money to buy eleven roses, he wrote, “Dear Gracie, here are eleven roses. The twelfth one is you.”
– Unknown
Courage is the capacity to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The secret of success is constancy of purpose.
– Benjamin Disraeli

Attitude is more important than facts.
– Dr. Karl Menninger

Not what we have, but what we use;
Not what we see, but what we choose;
These are the things that mar or bless
The sum of human happiness
– Joseph Fort Newton
A man’s true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examinations, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself as to what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks or says or does.
– Marcus Aurelius

If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character. That is the most significant thing about you.
– Dale Carnegie

We can control our reaction even when we cannot control the problem.
– Dr. Robert Schuller

If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it… if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it… if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it… if you simply go after that thing you want with all your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity… if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you from the thing that you want… if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God you WILL get it!
– Les Brown
No one ever is defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.
– Napoleon Hill

Acronym for FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real
– Unknown
Negative attachments… If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.
– Richard Bach

… you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.
– Bits and Pieces, The Economic Press

What changes your life is not learning more, but learning how to take more action – to make decisions.
– Anthony Robbins

… You must look religiously to yourself for the cause of your problems, which means refusing to resort to transference… the act of looking to people other than ourselves, or circumstances perceived to be beyond our control, for the causes of our problems.
To succeed at this task requires tremendous commitment. It also requires discipline, intellectual honesty, and a willingness to subordinate our delicate egos to the pursuit of long-term success. It means that no matter what someone else did to you, you must ask yourself what you could have done to avoid the problem. If you transfer responsibility for a problem to someone or something else, you are in effect telling yourself that you cannot prevent it from happening again because the problem is beyond your control. On the other hand, you can control any problem if you are willing to analyze it from the standpoint of what you can do to avoid its recurrence.
– Robert J. RingerHappy the man, and happy he alone,
He, who can call to-day his own:
He who, secure within, can say:
“To-morrow, do thy worst, for I have liv’d today.”
– The Roman poet… Horace

When you are so focused that you no longer concern yourself with the obstacles, you simply overcome them and go on. When you no longer care whether anyone approves, then you have hit the wall and gone beyond. Your journey to your dream is done, fait accompli.
– Les Brown

Do all your worrying prior to making a decision, and after setting the wheels in motion dismiss absolutely all care or responsibility about the outcome.
– Attributed to the psychologist, William James

If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.
– Attributed to IBM founder, Tom Watson
Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.
– Epictetus

The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment.
– Maxwell Maltz
A perfect example of a minority rule is a baby in the house.
– Unknown

The attitude of being immune to strangers or strange situations, the total disregard for all the unknown or unexpected has a name. It is called poise. Poise is the deliberate shunting aside of all fears arising from new and uncontrollable circumstances.
– James Mangan

Take the most difficult thing you do and make it look effortless.
– Tony Bennet

Did Moses have a secret Eleventh Commandment that said bosses have to be paid more than the people that report to them?
– Tom Peters

Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory.
– Unknown

If one wishes to be a lover, he must start by saying “Yes” to love. He can do this by looking carefully and coolly at the words he uses when he talks to his wife and children, to his boss and co-workers, to his neighbors and close friends, to his salesgirl and the gas station attendant.
For the words you use will tell you what you are, what you have seen, what you have learned and how you have learned it. For you are your words and they can be a long and important step on the road to the discovery of love.
– Leo Buscaglia

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
– William Shakespeare

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.
– Chinese Proverb
Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.
– Benjamin Desraeli

A great pleasure in life is in doing what others say you cannot do.
– Unknown

A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.
– King Solomon

It is significant that both Judaism and Christianity prescribe joy, rejoicing, thankfulness, cheerfulness as a means towards righteousness and the good life.
– Maxwell Maltz

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.
– Roman poet, Publilius Syrus

Suppose we are so discouraged that we feel there is no hope of ever being able to turn our lemons into lemonade – then here are two reasons why we ought to try, anyway – two reasons why we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Reason one: We may succeed.
Reason Two: Even if we don’t succeed, the mere attempt to turn our minus into a plus will cause us to look forward instead of backward; it will replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; it will release creative energy and spur us to get so busy that we won’t have either the time or the inclination to mourn over what is past and forever gone.
– Dale Carnegie

My real measure of a hero is I find myself a better man for having known him.
– Lonesome Dove: Television series
Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus you may feel your pulse.
– Henry David Thoreau

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.
– Anita Roddick

It takes forever to maintain change; but it takes just a flash to achieve change of even the most profound sort.
– Tom Peters
Seek, above all, for a game worth playing. Having found the game, play it with intensity. Play as if your life and sanity depended on it. Because they do!
– Robert DeRopp

It is another of nature’s laws that only a habit can subdue another habit.
– Og Mandino

Successful people do the things that failures are afraid to tackle.
– Og Mandino

How important is language in shaping our experience of life? It is absolutely fundamental. Quite simply, the words we attach to our experience become our experience.
– Anthony Robbins

Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
– Unknown

When a man understands that the aim of life is not material profit, but life itself, he ceases to fix his attention exclusively on the external world.
– Alexis Carrel

Most people are as unhappy as they decide to be.
– Abraham Lincoln

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
– Thomas A. Edison

Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.
– Attributed to Plato

Those who live in the past, neglect to see the future.
– John F. Kennedy

Fear knocked at the door.
Faith answered.
No one was there.
– Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve never been a believer in closing… because my objective is not to close the sale but to open a relationship.
– Attributed to Hans Stenneck
When I work, I relax; doing nothing or entertaining visitors makes me tired.
– Pablo Picasso

It’s easy to be smart, just think of something stupid and then say the opposite.
– Unknown

The Magic Called Focus by Clayton Clifford Bye

The wind and the waves slammed into us with icy indifference. Air temperature plummeted to near freezing in a matter of seconds, and numbness began to crawl over the exposed flesh of my hands and face. I saw a brief flash of white as terror clawed at the corner of Danny’s eyes, then he turned wordlessly back to his oar. He was right to be afraid.

Things had started out well enough. We stopped at the Big Trout Lake weather office, where we both worked as meteorological technicians, looked over the current reports, got an updated forecast and checked both the barometer and the wind recorder. Everything seemed to be fine. We’d be fishing for walleye on the Bug River within an hour.

And everything was fine—until our motor quit. Even then, we had no reason to be alarmed. The skies were trouble free, and the lake was calm enough for rowing. All we had to do was backtrack in the shelter of a couple of islands and cross the quarter of a mile of open water which lay between them and the mainland. This done, we would be in sight of the village. Rescue would simply become a matter of waiting to be noticed. Such was our plan.

We were about a hundred yards from where we wanted to land the boat when the storm caught us. And even though a fast-moving wall of water (extending from the surface of the lake to the sky and preceded by a seething mass of ugly white waves) is hard to miss, we really didn’t have much notice. It wasn’t just one cell either, but a whole line of thunder clouds. They can move with remarkable speed.

I’ll confess I was concerned when the storm first appeared, but I wasn’t frightened. The fear didn’t really surface until a few minutes later, when we found ourselves being tossed around in ten foot swells that were crested with white-caps which looked like they belonged on the ocean. In the space of less than five minutes, and without moving a single meter closer to shore, Danny and I were blown a quarter of a mile south.

It happened that fast. One minute we were thinking about landing the boat and starting a fire to warm ourselves, the next minute we were being swept south towards thirteen miles of open water. This was something we definitely didn’t want to happen. Big Trout Lake is a killer when rough weather sets in. We both knew that once we hit the main lake there would be no avoiding capsize or the near-freezing water that would seal our fate. By the time a search party thought to look for as at the south end of the lake, instead of the west end, we would be goners. Yes, I think Danny had good reason to be afraid.

I suppose it was because of this train of thought that I just happened to be looking at Danny when it happened. I think I had some sort of notion that by focusing on him I could keep my own fear in check. And I was very much afraid. You see, the waves had gotten so large we could see through the curl of the white caps as they raged down toward us. The sight made my stomach knot up into an iron ball. When our boat was in the trough of a wave, my friend had to stick his oar upward into the side of the thing and pull with a clumsy down and backward movement. Similarly, each time we found ourselves perched at the crest of a wave, I couldn’t draw water with my oar. As for the sudden slip-and-rush down the side of each succeeding monster wave? That’s something I still don’t like to think about.

Anyway, we were at the bottom of one of these boat-crackers, and I was monitoring Danny’s every move. I watched in awe as his oar pierced the wave at no less than an upward angle of 45 degrees. He bunched up into a ball, pushed hard with his legs, rose up off his seat a little and arched backward. The oar snapped.

I can still see it clearly on the screen of my mind: Danny’s feet shot up past the top of his head as if they had been fired from the barrel of a pistol. He did a 360 degree flip in the air and then stopped abruptly when the back of his head connected with the front seat of the boat. I thought his neck was broken. But I didn’t have time to make sure. I checked for a pulse and to see if he was breathing. Yes, he was alive. He was also out cold.

At this point, we were about 200 feet from shore and only 50 feet from the last point of land that could save us from certain death. I have a vivid memory of the sinking feeling I got in my chest when I saw how quickly the remaining shoreline was disappearing. I also remember how angry I got at that response. In fact, I was so angry with my lack of faith in myself that I forced myself upright, stood there with the storm raging all around me and literally willed myself to stare for a long moment at a rock on the shore. I didn’t pay attention to such things back then, but what happened next is etched permanently into my mind. I asked myself a question. I asked “How can I do this?”

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the answer that popped immediately into my mind. It was a crystal-clear picture of me rowing with the passion and speed of a fiend, followed by a phrase that rifled up from the depths of my brain … “Paddle like a madman!”

It’s amazing what a focused mind will do. With no one to lean on but myself, and the only options being death or not death, I found myself determined to do whatever it took to drive our boat onto the rock I’d chosen as a target. I used my oar as a paddle, reefing on it with superhuman strength and the crazed fury of a madman. I dug so deep and with such tremendous force that I was continually lifted off my feet and slammed into the side of the boat. It mattered not. Nothing in the entire world mattered except hitting that rock. And so, I did.

P.S.
Danny was only unconscious for a minute or two and, other than a headache, he suffered no ill effects. We spent the afternoon, cold and wet, working our way back to our intended landing sight – on foot. Shortly before dark, and long before we reached our destination, we were rescued by a native fisherman.

 

Clayton Bye is an eclectic writer, an editor, a ghostwriter extraordinaire and a publisher of strangely different stories in multiple genres. He lives in Kenora, Ontario on beautiful Lake of the Woods. You can find many of his books at http://shop.claytonbye.com

Wrong Number by Clayton Clifford Bye

 

Ever since reading Dialogues with the Devil by Taylor Caldwell I have been fascinated by the idea of reworking our traditional views of Satan. This theme regularly shows up in my novels and short stories. Today’s short is one example of this. Should you enjoy the story, you may pick up the anthology from which it comes (Behind the Red Door) at http://shop.claytonbye.com.

Behindthereddoorebook

Wrong Number

The bank teller looks a little on the pale side as she turns over the cheque. I glance downward and see the numbers… $666.66. Even though they hadn’t been there a few minutes ago I smile and say, “Halloween has come early this year.”

Things like this happen to me all the time. It’s like the Good Lord wants people to see me for who I am. It never works. People find it hard enough to believe in God; accepting that I exist and stand before them, in the flesh, is just too much to take in. I can guarantee that the woman in front of me will shrug off her fright the moment I leave the building. By the end of the day it will become a funny story to tell to her friends and family.

I walk out of the bank with the $666.66 in my pocket.

When I reach the end of the city block, I look both ways before beginning to cross the street to the car park. A Corvette materializes from nowhere, catches me in the knees and flips me in the air right over the top of the car. I hit the pavement hard, lift my head and pass out.

It’s much later in the day when I wake up in Her Sister’s Heavenly Devotion Hospital. The attending doctor comes by to tell me that both of my legs have been shattered  below the knees. He also tells me the knees will have to be replaced. Aside from that I have some bruising from the fall and a concussion. Apparently that’s why my ears are ringing.

This is how it goes. When I refuse to stay on my own worlds with the legions of the dead, The Lord goes out of his way to punish me. It’s not fair, really. He knows damn well that his lovely experiment has failed again and that this world will be mine sooner than later. Besides, what’s a little pain while my body mends itself? I’m immortal. This little game should be beneath him.

***

Night has fallen, and I slip out of the hospital. All my belongings were conveniently stashed in the drawers beside my bed. However, I’ve been forced to steal a pair of extra-large scrubs on the way out. My clothes were ruined in the “accident.” How do I manage this? Unless the Lord is messing with me, I can go unseen whenever I wish.

Outside, I walk in the crisp fall air and enjoy the wind rattling dead leaves in the trees and on the ground. The stars seem so close that I might touch them. Before long a beautiful young woman in the process of getting into her car spots me and asks if I would like a ride. My own beauty makes this human throw all caution to the autumn wind.

“That would be nice,” I say.

Inside the car my pheromones take over. She’s smitten in mere moments.

“My place is about an hour away,” she says.

“Wonderful! We shall have ample time to get to know one another.”

“Like a first date,” she says, head down for the moment, eyes averted, a shy but firm offer.

Tonight will be a welcome diversion from the ongoing pain of my knitting bones.

***

In the morning, over coffee and toast, Anna tells me more about herself. Being a Harvard student and an undergraduate in Law wasn’t her choice. The family is all about the law—mother, father, even her older brother work at the family firm.   Anna would have preferred the sciences but had been given no opportunity. I sense a lot of anger. Yet … she seems grounded.

How would she react if I told her she was going to hell, that the sixth mortal sin is still on God’s list of punishable acts? True, she won’t stay there long, because she was influenced by my scent. Just a taste of what happens to man when he fails to live by an untarnished moral code. Would she laugh the revelation off like the bank teller? Would she kick me out of her apartment as some kind of crazy person revealed? Or would my musk overcome her fright and anger and bind her to me as it has up until now? One never knows what will happen when strong emotion is involved. His Brightness only allows me to influence, so the winners of these little games I play are by no means pre-ordained.

I like to experiment. It passes the time and helps me gauge how far His Highness will allow me to go in any given situation. Today I just choose to enjoy Anna’s fine coffee and her lively voice.

***

It’s evening now, and I head for one of my favourite haunts. I acquire a stool at the bar and adjust my image so that I am a nondescript example of a human. My pheromones have already been dampened. Tonight is about watching for my next soul.

I soon find one.

A man has a woman trapped at the back of the bar beyond the pool tables. To the untrained eye they are a vibrant couple who have decided to throw caution to the wind and make love right there, against the wall. In reality it’s a rape in progress. Humans!

The rapist finishes as I rise up off my chair, and he heads outside. I follow close behind.

“Jake.”

“Wha … ” He turns his head, unsure of who’s there.

“Jake,” I say again.

He zips up his jeans and turns to face me.

“I don’t know you!”

“But I know you.”

“Get the fuck out of my way!”

“That’s not going to happen.”

The drunk takes a swing but finds himself on the ground.

I reach down, penetrating both clothing and flesh. As my hand curls around the heart a pale blue light flows up my arm and into my mouth. Jake is dead, and I have my soul.

Look, I’m not uncaring. If I had been able to help the woman, I would have. The deed was basically done by the time I noticed she was in trouble. I don’t hate people; I hate the idea of them. Free will is a gift that all other high level, sentient life-forms have embraced. But not man. The creator has given him complete freedom. His glorious experiment, and look at what mankind has done with it.

So … I work on my long-term plans for their ultimate demise, and I hunt for souls.

I think of myself as a vigilante. The Lord wants to deal out all the justice, but he can’t stop me from eating souls. Well, let’s say he won’t stop me, as I only take the deserving. People like Jake. But since there are far too many evil individuals for me to deal with on my own, in singular fashion, I’m always planning for the big ones … the organizations of evil, the armies of madness, the men and women who come forward as potential martyrs. And there are, of course, my legions of demons, those previously claimed souls who now help me in my work. Between the two, life is fulfilling—and this planet doomed.

***

Today I wake up alone, sporting a set of ancient sheep’s horns. Why didn’t he paint me red at the same time? I order a sabre saw to be delivered. It puts a dent in my pocket money, but it also gets rid of the horns. I hide the nubs with my long and beautiful hair.

It’s a lovely fall day. The sun warms me as it passes from one brilliant cloud to another. Snow birds whoosh about in the trees, moving as a single body. I’ve often wondered how they do that. Telepathy? There was a bipedal race on SSV17 that exhibited something similar. The entire world went into a common depression when they sensed themselves falling into my welcoming hands.

Time to look for some souls…

***

I can find what I want almost anywhere mankind gathers, but the best hunting places are the darkened streets and alleyways of rundown city centres around the world. Tonight I walk in one of my favourite cities. Toronto is a super-city with an army of human tragedies to select from. It’s similar in makeup to New York City in that any given moment I can find someone to make my own. It’s not that people everywhere aren’t faced with these choices. No, it’s more a matter of numbers. I can claim more souls a night in Toronto than I can in most other cities. It’s a fun place to be.

I stop for a few moments to recover from a drive-by shooting. Good thing I’m wearing black tonight. It hides the blood and the bullet holes. I give a nod to God in Heaven.

Anyway, for a sin to be Mortal [which makes you dead to Heaven], it must meet three standards:

1) It must be a serious matter.

2) A person must have reflected, however briefly, on the gravity of the situation before acting.

3) A person must have chosen, of his or her own free will, to commit the sin, even if coercion was involved.

So, this means that mortal sins can’t be done “accidently.” A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin. This means that mortal sins are “premeditated” by the sinner and thus are truly a rejection of God’s law and love. And I can see right through these beings. The tainted soul is a golden thing, dusted or even streaked with black. And the truly evil ones? They have no inner light at all. Special projects of mine, they are.

Tracking down so-called BAD PEOPLE is a talent I nourish. In fact, these people are often brought into my inner circle so they can work on my behalf. You would call them devils.

Off I go …

***

I begin this day joyfully. The Lord has been in absentia since the shooting two days ago, and I am quite relaxed. Souls are coming in at a marvelous rate. Prospects are good. And I’m just about ready for some fun with my latest special project.

Bryan Cole has one more meeting with me today, then I’m going to pull the trigger. Caring for Bryan’s admittedly conflicted soul has been a challenge. But a year of work has brought him to the point where I believe he’s ready to take his chosen victims. 9/11 will be small compared to this.

“Hey Rick.” He still has no idea who I am.

“Hello Bryan. Are we ready for the live run?”

“I don’t think so,” he answers, his face like stone.

“What’s wrong?”

“Look, I said I’d do it, and I meant it. But there’s a lot of innocent people who’re going to get hurt.”

“I thought we went over this. If we want to make an impact on society, then some innocents must suffer. People aren’t going to care if we kill a bunch of low-lives.”

“What do you mean we? Sure, you showed me where to find the plans, but I’m the one who built this thing. And I’m the one who’s going to die setting it off.”

“I’ll be staying with you.”

That gets his attention.

“This is something new.”

“I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. And you’re right. All along it’s been you … You planned. You found the materials. You did the building. I just watched. So, I figure I’ve got to take a stand here. I’ve got to stay.”

His jaw drops. Confusion flickers across his broad face and finds a home in his blue-gray eyes. “I find that hard to believe. You know why I’m doing it. People have no right. There should be a law that looks after those who can’t look after themselves. Instead, what do they do? Society puts them into great big boxes, locked up like they were in jail. And then they hire people right off the street to ‘look after them.’ Evil people. People who mock and hurt and steal. They don’t put any safety features in place, like cameras, because it isn’t cost effective. Well, Maggie isn’t going to spend what’s left of her life in a hell-hole like that. I might not be able to take care of her, but I can help her. What’s your reason?”

Bryan pushes his chin forward, challenging me. Daring me to prove myself.

“Don’t need a reason, my friend. People piss me off. The government needs a wake-up call. Today’s a good day to die. It’s all the same to me. What counts is that I’ll be standing right beside you when you hit the switch.”

I smile my warmest smile.

Bryan looks hard at me now. “You mean you’re really going to stay with me?”

“Yes, I’ll stay.”

We’re in an apartment of mine not far from the residential core of Toronto. The atomic device (Bryan has conveniently forgotten it wasn’t “all him,” that it was I who sourced out the uranium we needed for the bomb, but that’s okay) is far more sophisticated and powerful than the last ones used by the United States. The city of Toronto will never be the same. And there will be enough injured left over to last a lifetime. The Lord will be sorry he didn’t stop me.

Bryan stops talking and flicks the switch. Nothing happens.

He resets it and tries again. Still nothing.

Perhaps I spoke too soon about His Highness leaving me alone.

Bryan speaks … “Uhm, maybe someone is trying to tell us something.” He glances upward, rubs his face with his hands. He’s looking tired and edgy.

I don’t believe it. This guy has never, not once, mentioned God and, now, he thinks he’s been given a sign. It doesn’t matter that what he’s thinking is true and that God hasn’t left us alone. What matters is that he’s thinking it at all.

“What, you don’t have a spare switch?”

“Sure I’ve got one. But what’s the sudden rush all about, Rick?” He gives me a probing look. “Is there something going on here that I don’t understand?”

“Yeah, there is. I want all the people surrounding us to be dead. I want it now.”

“And, again, I ask why?”

“Okay, listen very carefully, Bryan. I’m going to say this once, and then I expect you to fix that switch.”

I begin to cough, and I can’t stop. I cough until I see blood, and then I cough some more. Finally, when my throat is so raw I can barely speak, The Master lets go of me.

Bryan is looking more and more like a frightened rabbit.

I get a drink of water from the kitchen sink.

“Bryan,” I croak, “I’m a terrorist. I want this country kneeling before me, petrified of what will come next. But if it will help get this job done, then I’ll leave the rest to someone else. I’ll end my journey here. Because I believe in my cause.”

They don’t call me the King of Lies for nothing.

“I think I knew that you were a terrorist, Rick. But I let you help me, because I believe in what I’m doing. It just seems like today isn’t the day.”

I point to my blood on the floor. “Does this look like the leavings of a person with lots of time on their hands?

“What, now you’re going to tell me you’re dying?”

Bryan is a big man. Almost as tall as me. Right now, he looks like a thunderstorm on the horizon.

I shrug my shoulders.

“I always knew you had an agenda, but it didn’t matter to me,” he says, running fingers through salt and pepper hair. “Maybe it should matter. After all, if you’re so filled with hate that you want everybody around you dead, how much of the hate has influenced my own anger?”

I look up into the air myself. He must be laughing by now.

“Bryan,” I say, “you can do whatever you want. I was just offering you some companionship, so that you didn’t go out on your own.”

He looks at me for a long moment then goes to get the spare switch.

Bryan comes back with a strange look on his face.

“What?” I ask.

“I saw it there not half an hour ago. Now it’s gone.”

“Are you telling me we can’t use the bomb right now?”

He shakes his head.

“You can hot wire this thing?”

Bryan nods but doesn’t move.

“I haven’t been much of a religious man, Rick, but it seems to me God is determined to give me a second chance.”

I can’t believe this. God is really fucking with me today.

“And by that you mean what?”

The big man stands up straight, looks me in the eye and says, “I don’t think I’m going to do it.”

“Today, or not at all?”

“Not at all.”

I can see it in him. He’s been converted.

“Give me the key to the apartment and get out.”

“No, I have to disassemble the bomb”

I laugh out loud. It isn’t a pleasant sound. Thanks to his conversion, I can’t even take his soul. What a clusterfuck.

To rub some salt in my wounds, God sends me a couple of break-in specialists. They go straight for the bomb, waving their guns in the air. I move to stop them (I’m a master of the ancient arts of battle). I take one man down and reach for the other. He beats me by a fraction of a second, the bullet taking me full in the chest. As I lie on the floor, he comes up and points his gun at my head. Wearing a completely bored expression, the thug pulls the trigger.

Some time later I wake up. My head and chest wounds have already healed. The bomb is gone. Bryan is gone.

I go into the master bedroom, grab some clothes and head for the shower. I emerge in a little while, no worse for the wear and tear.

It’s evening now, and I head for one of my favourite haunts. I acquire a stool at the bar and adjust my image so that I am a nondescript example of a human. My pheromones have already been dampened. Tonight is about watching for my next soul.

~ ~ ~

Clayton Bye is the author of 11 books and 30 ghostwrites. The traditional publisher of 5 other works, he also offers writing services and acts as a small business consultant.

Endorsement:

“Clayton Bye is one of the most prolific and talented writers I know. He is an eloquent poet, insightful critic, imaginative novelist, and a self-help expert. The sheer volume of his work makes me dizzy, and he seems comfortable in all genres. From his compelling collection of short stories and essays to fiction winners like “The Sorcerer’s Key” and inspirational works like “How To Get What You Want From Life” and “Getting Clear,” he seems to find more hours in a day than most writers find in a week. He makes you think, touches your heart, and fights the good fight with his pen as his sword. You can number me among his great admirers.” – Timothy Fleming

The Fundamentals of Marketing

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The Write Room Blog is a group of 30 disparate authors who write about a vast range of topics. I will also assume that a significant portion of our million plus visitors are also writers. This marketing blog post is for all of you.

Why writers? Because the majority of  writers I’ve met over the last 23 years (that’s how long I’ve been writing for  profit) have difficulty taking the concept of marketing and applying it to their book selling business. Consider the following, if you will (and, yes, the examples place me firmly in the cohort known as Baby Boomers)  …

Where does one go for overnight delivery in the U.S.? FedEx. What’s the real thing? Coke. Why is it a small world? IBM. Who comes to mind when I mention mufflers? Midas. And do you remember when jeans were called Levi’s?

You were able to answer the preceding questions because the companies mentioned knew how to do something many businesspeople never learn. They knew how to position themselves in your mind, to establish ownership of specific words or phrases, to be the first companies you thought of when you needed a product or service they provided.

Am I really talking about marketing here? Yes, but not in the way you might expect. You see, the common assumption is that marketing is the process of offering your products and ideas for trade. It’s not. Marketing is actually about the manipulation of perception. Specifically, it’s about manipulating the perception of your prospective customers, doing everything you can to capture and maintain a position in their minds that’s valuable or useful to you.The fundamental purpose of marketing is to get into the mind of the customer and stay there.

Marketing ensures that the answer to the question “Who you gonna call?” isn’t “Ghostbusters” but is, in fact, your company. Don’t misunderstand me: good products are important. You won’t maintain the position you want without them. But they aren’t the focus of marketing.

A case in point … When you want fast food, great value and fun for the kids, what restaurant invariably pops into your mind? McDonald’s, right? The company has bought that position in your mind with a constant barrage of advertising. They started out owning the word fast, then they went after the word value and the phrase fun for the kids. More recently, they ran ads which reminded people that McDonald’s is also fun for adults, purposely going after the words or phrases or positions in your mind which relate most closely to what McDonald’s does well. Why? These are the things they want you to call them for. Food isn’t the focus. McDonald’s doesn’t sell food that tastes like you’ve spent all afternoon labouring over it, so they invest huge amounts of money to program you to think about them only when you want a fast, inexpensive meal you and the kids will enjoy. Again, it’s the process called positioning.

When I needed most home repairs, I used to go to a store called McDiarmid’s. Why? I had more success getting the things I wanted at the price I wanted at McDiarmid’s than I did anywhere else. They owned the home repair spot in my mind. Well, McDiarmid’s is gone now, replaced by a new franchise. A franchise that figured people like myself would keep coming there out of habit. But that didn’t work for me. McDiarmid’s still owned the spot they were after. Who got my business? The company I go to when I need deck maintenance supplies: Home Hardware. They’ve successfully captured that position in my mind. It was enough to draw me in when McDiarmid’s sold their business. And the people who were here before any of the preceding companies: Fife’s Hardware? I miss them. The owners retired a few years ago, and the store closed. Everyone in Kenora (where I live) knew that when no one else had what you needed, Fife’s did. You’d pay a little more, but they’d have it.

Got the idea? Marketing is concerned with two related things: Getting into your mind and staying there. This post is designed to give you an introductory look at how this is done.

 

Be first in the mind of your customer.

There were cars offered in the marketplace which were better than those built by Henry Ford. He didn’t even build the first car. Ford was, however, the first to build automobiles on the assembly line and, as a direct result, was also the first to offer an affordable car to the public. For the rest of Henry Ford’s life everyone else had to chase him.

Understand the lesson provided by Ford’s example. I believe it’s the key to a successful marketing campaign. If you can’t be first, set up a new category you can be first in.

Rolls-Royce did this admirably. Henry Royce provided detailed engineering and unsurpassed quality, while Charles Rolls saw to it that the cars they made were big, fast and stylish. Their 1907 Silver Ghost was the culmination. It was a car so unlike any ever built—having such power, comfort and quality of manufacturing—that it firmly captured a spot in the minds of the public. Result? Not only did Rolls-Royce create a new category of car, they quickly became the standard for excellence in automobile manufacturing.

Interestingly enough, Rolls was never first in the overall marketplace. But, remember, marketing isn’t about being first in the marketplace (having the best sales or the biggest share). This goal may be part of your overall strategy, but it isn’t the primary function of marketing. Marketing is about being first in the mind of your customer. Rolls did that.

When I was growing up, people wanting to make a firm and decisive statement about their wealth and status bought a certain kind of car. They didn’t buy a Jaguar or a Lambourghini or a Porsche. Nor did they buy the most popular car from the most successful manufacturer in the marketplace. They bought a Rolls. Why? Because Rolls-Royce was the best that money could buy. In my mind it still is.

 

Do whatever it takes to maintain your captured position.

Which tastes better, Coke or Pepsi? More to the point: who cares? The colossal media wars that have occurred between Pepsi and Coke have had nothing at all to do with which product tasted better, or was better. Their many battles have simply been for a position in your mind. Pepsi wants to be first; Coke is.

I believe that if you comprehend this last point, then you understand marketing. Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.

 

Own a word in the prospect’s mind.

So, how do the big guys and gals do it? How do they capture a position in your mind and then maintain it? One way, perhaps the most powerful of all marketing approaches, is to own a specific word in the prospect’s mind. Gillette owned the word razor. Pillsbury was dough. Betty Crocker was cakes. These companies were the brand names the people of my generation (baby boomers) grew up with, and it didn’t happen by accident.

The whole concept of brand names stems from what marketing is about. It’s about making certain that the customer thinks of you when they need the products or services you provide. Marketing is about positioning.

As I’ve illustrated, positioning is a powerful concept. But let’s delve a little deeper. Let’s take a look at the rise and fall of Bayer. I think it’s a fascinating example of just how powerful the concept of positioning is.

Bayer bottled acetylsalicylic acid (A.S.A) under the brand name of Aspirin. And because they were first in our minds with such a powerful and useful drug, they were wildly successful. In fact, they were so successful in their positioning efforts that Aspirin actually replaced the phrase acetylsalicylic acid and the abbreviation A.S.A. in our culture. Their company also created a phrase based on the bottle design, “The Bayer Cross.”

Ownership of the word Aspirin gave Bayer such domination in the market that no company was able to compete with them until the problem of Reyes Syndrome was discovered. What happened then illustrates the power of positioning even more clearly than Bayer’s incredible marketing success. The very thing that made Bayer successful—ownership of the word Aspirin in our minds—also led to their demise, in terms of market share. You see, at the same time people were linking the name Aspirin to the wonder drug, acetylsalicylic acid, they were also linking The Bayer Cross to the word Aspirin. Do you remember what happened? When Aspirin fell out of favour, so did Bayer.

An interesting follow-up note to all of this is that other drug companies seem to have learned from Bayer’s mistake. For example, we all know that Tylenol rose up to replace Aspirin in the marketplace. But do we know who makes Tylenol? No, we don’t! In fact, I actually had to go look on the label of my own bottle of the stuff to find out that Tylenol is bottled by McNeil.

I want to make sure you understand what I’ve been saying. The company who successfully imbedded the word Tylenol in our minds, thereby making sure that when we wanted acetaminophen we thought of Tylenol, also made equally sure that when we wanted Tylenol we didn’t think of their company.

I believe this marketing strategy was probably a wise choice. Do you remember the Tylenol poisonings? The brand isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, is it? But the problem didn’t directly affect the maker itself.

 

There can only be one.

Las Vegas is gambling. It owns that word. Want proof? How many of you think about going to Reno when you think about gambling?

Ask someone in their 50’s or 60’s to tell you who The King was. They won’t tell you it was Edward. The King was, and always will be, Elvis.

Who owns the word Camelot? As popular as the Kennedy administration was, I’d wager King Arthur still owns the deed to that particular plot of land.

Who’s The Duke? John Wayne. There’ll never be another.

Who owns the word Communism? It’s Russia, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter that communism has failed there: Russia still owns the word.

There can only be one company or product in first place in any particular market.

 

Your largest competitor will determine your strategy.

There are many reasons to believe that two companies (or people) can’t own the same word in your mind. Think about the implications of this!

Pepsi’s marketing strategy is determined by Coke. Burger King’s strategy is determined by McDonald’s. It’s a fact of business. Even smaller outfits like Pic-A-Pop or Wendy’s are bound by the fact that there can only be one company at the top. Why? A simple reason is that it’s difficult, and often financially impossible, to go head-to-head with whoever is before you in your particular market. The leverage just isn’t there. Instead, the underdog needs to go for an entirely different position in our minds. To do otherwise is a risky proposition. Watch the ads and the business stats. I think you’ll find this holds true.

Consider the implication this way: People don’t carry many options around in their minds. We’re programmed to make constant choices between two things: We move away from or toward; we do this or that; we choose right or wrong. None of us want to settle for second best. We’ll take our first choice whenever we can. So, in the long run, marketing tends to come down to what I’ve mentioned: finding a way to be first in the mind of your customer, then doing everything in your power to stay there.

 

Find a way to be first.

Let’s go back to the Coke-Pepsi example. Coke was invented only a few years before Pepsi, but customers have the perception that Coke is the old-timer, the big boy on the block. Coke also did a terrific job portraying the drinking of its product as an American pastime. Did Pepsi let this fact hamper their ambitions? No way. Pepsi eventually turned Coke’s apparent strength (it’s lifelong appeal to the older generation) into a weakness and became the choice of a new generation. It created The Pepsi Generation.

I’ll repeat that. Pepsi set itself up as an alternative to Coke by turning Coke’s major strength into a major weakness. In other words, they chose a marketing approach that exactly opposed Coke’s position in our minds, making the drinking of Coke a choice between the new and the old, forcing us to unconsciously place Pepsi in an equal or equivalent position in our minds. They split the market, created two categories, and forced the consumer to choose between the best of the old world and the best of the new world. They earned a spot in our minds where they were, indeed, first. How’s that for Contrarian thinking?

The Pepsi story proves there are many ways to be number one. The key to discovering one of these spots is to remember there are always different ways to look at things, different perspectives, different points on which to focus.

I’m reminded of a pattern I noticed in old gunfighter movies. The best gunfighters didn’t battle with their closest competitors. No, the good ones tolerated each other. They shared the marketplace, so to speak. They each fell into a niche where they were first, where they were the best. One was the fastest, another was the most accurate. There were one-gun men and two-gun men. There were those who preferred long rifles and those who used a six-shooter. Then there was Bowie. He used a knife, rather than a gun.

All of these men either stumbled into a field (or pursued one) where they were best, and in doing so set themselves up to be pursued by foolish upstarts looking to knock these so-called market leaders off their perch. As I mentioned, they each created their own category. They discovered ways to the top by carving out niches within the biggest marketplace, by finding an area where no one could compete with them, where they were the best, and where they were first in people’s minds. As is often the case, art imitates life.

 

Marketing is a process, not a solution.

When you’re actively trying to change a customer’s perception of you, your product, or the marketplace, you’re attempting to change his or her beliefs. This takes time. So often a business will opt for the quick fix to their growth problems—a series of sales, down-sizing, a new product line—only to find they’ve cut their own throat in the process, that instead of owning a spot in the customer’s mind, they’ve become indistinguishable from others in the marketplace.

 Think of marketing as educating the customer. You’ve got to teach people what’s unique and special about you and your product. You’ve got to show them why they should choose you in the first place, why they should return frequently, and maybe even why they should increase the size of their purchases. You’ve got to create a permanent position for yourself in the minds of the people who are your target market. It’s the only sure-fire approach to sustainable long-term growth, and it takes time.

 

 Don’t add unnecessary new product lines.

Adding a new product line without a lot of careful thought is a risky proposition. You may end up diluting your brand.

I used to go to Midas when I had muffler problems. I wonder why they thought I’d go to them for brakes? Someone else already owned that spot in my mind.

Another example of this foolishness is Pizza Hut. I thought they did a wonderful thing with their slogan Pizza Hut… And Nothing But. The phrase stuck in my mind, and it actually brought me back to them after many years of absence. Then they did something I couldn’t believe. They started running a series of ads introducing their newest product, wings. Ads, by the way, which also included the above slogan. What a waste of money! Not only did they not get the chicken wing spot in my mind, their credibility suffered.

Extending your line of products or services on the assumption that people will buy because it has your name on it is an idea which has proven to be expensive for many companies.

Be prepared to leave some things alone. No one’s going to believe you can be the best at everything. This is still the era of specialization, the age of delivering a specific product or service to the largest number of people. Giving up things is integral to that process. Note: It took me over 20 years to learn this lesson. And when I did, when I chose to specialize, the floodgates opened and customers beat their way to my door. My specialization? Ghostwriting. If you or someone you know requires a ghostwriter. I’m your guy. Writing the way it should it should be.

Take, for example, the appearance of the superstores (Big Box Stores). They were, and are, first when it comes to offering a good selection of quality products at the best price. They managed to achieve this position because they willingly gave up all the frills other businesses traditionally offered so they could dramatically reduce the price of their offerings to the customer. A lot of businesses have gone under learning there’s no way to directly compete with these stores. Why? Because a traditional business can’t give up what the superstores have given up. A business that has lost or is losing its market share to a superstore needs to understand that there’s no going back, that they’re going to have to establish a different category they can be first in.

 

Contrarian thinking can help.

No one sells more cottages claims a local realtor. If I wanted to go into competition with him, I’d seriously consider a statement like No one sells fewer cottages … but we sell every single one that’s listed with us. Do you see the reasoning? If the market you’re interested in is held by someone who specializes in selling fast cars, why not establish yourself as a dealer who sells slow cars? That’s right, slow cars—for the person who wants complete leisure and comfort, rather than speed. To effectively compete in a marketplace held by a big restaurant like McDonald’s, I should give serious consideration to slow-cooked, wholesome food (if not gourmet) served in an intimate and adult environment. It’s an offer that’s exactly the opposite of what McDonald’s does. I won’t get the customers to whom fast food is most important, but I’ll get the ones who don’t mind slow food, and to whom taste and atmosphere does matter. It’s a smaller share but it can be very profitable.

These examples illustrate a viable marketing approach that works by offering something the competition can’t do. It’s what the superstores I mentioned earlier did to small business. Think about it: The fast food place can’t offer the slow, painstaking preparation that is a must in gourmet cooking; the fast car dealer can’t switch to, or add, a line of slow cars without damaging his position; the realtor who sells a lot of cottages, definitely isn’t going to give each of his customers his individual attention—because the big guy can’t be small and personal.

 

Admit a negative, get a positive.

When overnight isn’t necessary … was a slogan tossed around by a national postal service in the U.S. that couldn’t compete in the arena of overnight document delivery. The company owned up to this negative but showed that it could compete effectively for two, three and four day deliveries. Very slick. I found myself giving them the positive, even though I knew exactly what was going on. You see, by admitting they’d justifiably lost a portion of their business to companies like FedEx, I was more inclined to believe their claim that they were still the place to go when overnight delivery wasn’t necessary. Cool.

 

Look for weakness.

It’s unfortunate, but when you’re the little guy, or you’re a business losing market share to someone’s brilliant idea, the right marketing choice has to be chipping away at the opposition until you find a weakness. Those who stop chipping just don’t survive. The refusal to do the difficult and make the Contrarian choice, means that they have no hope of uncovering the rare weakness all companies exhibit from time to time. As a result, they aren’t positioned for that one master stroke, that chance to do the unexpected, to be bold, to be daring, to be a winner.

 

Hang in there.

In every situation there’s going to be a choice open to you which will produce more substantial results than anything else. Develop the patience and the pertinacity to look for that option, the objectivity to recognize it and, finally, the courage to boldly capitalize on the thing. Marketing is no exception.

Choose a position you want to occupy in your customer’s mind, and when you somehow manage to earn that place, do whatever it takes to keep it. Expect to have your position constantly challenged. Be prepared for it. You should also expect that you and your employees will make mistakes. Be willing to allow this to happen, to let isolated failures go unpunished. Sustained creativity and growth can’t happen when people are afraid to make mistakes. Unless you’re willing to accept your mistakes, fix them and continue on, you’re in trouble. Persevere.

 

Think of marketing as artistic communication.

Marketing isn’t exact. How can it be? You’re trying to access and affect the beliefs of a wide variety of individuals. In the world of marketing the most insane ideas will often work, while supposedly fool-proof campaigns crash and burn. How else can you possibly explain the creation of the Pet Rock fad? Get creative. And have some fun communicating with your prospective customers.

 

Advertise.

Most businesses tend to advertise when they have the money, rather than when they should. It’s a truism; Advertising is needed most when things aren’t going well. If you’re looking to launch a marketing program of any kind, please remember that successful marketing requires consistent advertising over long periods of time. It’s the only way to get into a prospect’s mind and stay there.

I don’t mean to imply you must advertise every day, or every week. Timing, after all, is important. For example, a successful trend usually occurs when the supply never quite exceeds the demand. Consider your favourite author. Would you purchase books written by he or she if new ones appeared (and were advertised) each week? Probably not. It’s the fact a new book by this author comes out only rarely that keeps you interested, that keeps you buying. Successful impresarios and businesspeople have made use of this knowledge for years. Just think of the phrases for a limited time only or Christmas comes but once a year. They’re classic examples of trend building.

 

Have a monthly marketing budget.

You wouldn’t go wrong by regularly giving the public answers to the questions: “What do you do? When do you do it?” and “How do you do it?” But the simplest marketing rule to remember is that you need money to get into a mind, and you need money to stay in the mind once you get there. Successful marketing means spending lots of money. Plan for it.

 

Summary

Do whatever it takes to learn about, understand and put into practice the concept of positioning. I’ll even give you a reason for doing it: What word, words, or positions do you occupy in the minds of the people you work with? Can you answer the question? If not, you now have your reason for learning to use positioning. Furthermore, when you do identify the position or positions you now occupy in the minds of these people, are these perceptions helping your company to be more profitable? Are they indicative of relationships you can count on in the future? Can they be sustained? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Marketing is the answer, isn’t it? Even if you have to capture the mind-positions you want one person at a time. Think of how great it would be to secure ownership of words like good friend, honest, trustworthy, loyal, reliable, valuable, kind, cheerful, positive or successful.

What’s the one thing you’d like to have people recognize you for, and what are you going to do to make sure that when they think of that specific word or phrase your name pops into their heads? Marketing is the answer.

Some poems for your consideration

Poetry is a large part of my life. I enjoy reading and performing it, but my secret joy is writing the stuff. I’m one of these fellows who dashes off the first line or two in a frenzy of inspiration, then settles down, finds the metre and, sometimes, the rhyme and just lets it flow. I have no idea how I do it.

Poetry was difficult for me in school. Robert Frost, one of my favourite poets, was beyond me. Shakespeare was hell. It wasn’t until I fell in love for the second time in my life that poetry opened up for me and shared her secrets. I was never the same.

Yes, I write love poems. I’ll admit it. My one published book of poems, What I Found in the Dark, is a thematic visitation with my great lost love upon her re-entry to my life as a friend only. Some good stuff, there. Many of the included poems have been picked up by magazines like Dead Snakes, The Write Room, Publishing Renaissance and the blog hub, The Deepening World of Fiction.

Today, I would like to share some of the poems from What I Found in the Dark that have been included in other publications. The reason? Someone other than myself found them worthy. And that’s a rare thing in my life, as I’m a self-publisher. Have been for more than 20 years.

So, without anything further, here are some poems for you to ponder upon …

 

Headpins

Headpins
at contiguous depths
send blue lightning
across clouded voids
and are caught
by red-laced fingers
to recreate
the perfect sound
of a drop of water
splashing on skin.

 

The Town of Me

My days have been
The passing of dreams,
Not quite real clouds
Built of smoke and dust,
Marking each pained
But gritty footstep
With rasping laughter
To steal away
The life-blood of
This aging ghost town,
While colourless
thoughts raised without form
walk through my halls,
echos of silence.

 

The Taste of You

In another life I would have tasted deep,
Passion mounting as I would you,
Soft cries a love song to me
Until I kiss the softness
That brings to you a silent bliss,
Enjoined as the one which never now shall be.


Mind Fuck

Chemicals in my brain
Are toxic today,
Hurling spikes
Of preformed anger
Into unwary flesh.

Go away dear people.
Do not venture close:
I draw blood;
A storm of slicing,
Razor-edged, words of bale.

Sadness underneath is
Tearing me apart
As I rend
In my helpless rage,
Destruction unfettered.

I call music to me,
And the Gods, so that
Possession,
The devil mind fuck,
Is ripped from its warm hole.

Bruised from this psychic rape,
I lay on cool sheets:
Silence heals.
Don’t ever tell me
Evil is just a myth.

 

Grace

Happenstance is but a way of words,
The stumbling path of fools;
Yet a trail met in the wooded night
Cares not for weathered rules.

Deaf and dumb goes the traveller
Toward the outward shape;
Glancing not beneath the rock and leaf,
A sketch of the human ape.

But in vapid searching one still learns
To scratch the inner vein.
Eyes roll and bangles burn in that light—
The answers seem insane…

For piercing the learning dark we see
New visions clear and clean,
Struggling with our ever-cluttered minds
To grasp what they might mean:

A white-winged horse and a graceful moon
Seek form in mountain fire,
While I, the fool, not too simple yet
Of ornaments do tire.

 

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 10 books and as many ghostwrites, he has also published a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews. Turning publisher Bye has released four books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books include three award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com.

Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.

The Search for Meaning

 

We all search for meaning in our lives. One way or another, we must find a story to tell ourselves. I asked the members of The Write Room Blog to share their understanding of that search. Their responses inform and challenge; they are well worth reading. (Kenneth Weene)

 

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LOVE GIVES LIFE PURPOSE by Salvatore Buttaci

We were blessed.

We didn’t have many luxuries. My father worked two jobs, but my mother was always there teaching us how to be God-loving and respectful to everyone. They taught us by example to pray, laugh, love, and accept life as a passageway to a better world. They trusted God completely and never questioned His Will.

Did we notice the lack of things in our lives? No way! Did temper tantrums follow the opening of presents on Christmas morning when, instead of toys, we were gifted with pajamas, a pair of rosary beads –– something inexpensive but heart-given? I don’t think so.

In 1949 when I was eight, I hinted to my father how much I wanted a Red Ryder BB rifle. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Saturday and we were in Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store in Brooklyn where Papa was buying some odds and ends. When we walked past the counter piled high with those rifles, I went back there and stared as if by magic I could claim one for my own.

“Could Santa bring me one for Christmas, Pa?”

His face took on that sad look of his when fate had his hands tied and what he wanted to do was what he could only dream of doing.

“Santa’s poor this year,” he said, then hustled me away.

Papa worked nights at a local Italian bakery. While we were in school, he slept, so we hardly saw him. Christmas morning finally came and there against the wall behind the little decorated tree was a tall box. My Red Ryder! I thought. Santa brought one after all. But when I tore open the wrappings, pulled free the contents, disappointment clouded my face. It was a hand-made rifle, whittled into shape, painted like the real thing. Mama told me later how Papa had patiently worked day after day whittling that piece of wood into a rifle, sacrificing much needed sleep to please me.

Oh, yes, God has blessed me more than words can express.

My parents’ final gift may seem meager to others, but to me it was a most welcomed grace: the last words, “I love you,” whispered to me from their hospital deathbeds, first, my father, and then years later, my mother.

I know I will be thinking of those gifts for as long as I live and will repeat the words to my Sharon and to all those who made and continue to make my life a wondrous thing.

When God the Father created the world and us in it, when He sent His Son who willingly died that excruciated death to atone for our sins, when He sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify us with grace, He shows His Love for us. My purpose in life? To emulate that love in whatever small measure I can by loving God and myself, then expanding that love to others, many of whom are burdened with loveless lives and the inability to believe in the reality of God. I feel strongly that I must show them the joy that comes from walking with God and accepting His gifts of Boundless Love.

Every road needs a reason to walk, every life a purposeful destination. Like my God-loving parents, I pray one day to dance in the circle of His Light forever.

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Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, and Cavalcade of Stars. 

His collection of flash fiction 200 Shorts is available at http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399042844&sr=1-2&keywords=200+shorts

His book A Family of Sicilians is available at http://lulu.com/ButtaciPublishing2008

Sal lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

 

 

Discovering Your Purpose by J. F. Elferdink

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born and how you become most truly alive.”— Oprah Winfrey

Some people seem to know their calling very young—those who have been given a special talent.  An example from my reading is Asher Lev in the book “I Am Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok.  Asher Lev was compelled to draw and paint from the time he was a child, even though the price he paid was excessive: his art depicted things forbidden by his Jewish community and he was ostracized. Yet he drew.

It hasn’t been that simple to recognize my own calling.  My grades pointed toward some form of communications and my writing assignments for school and work were typically praised. While a single mom and college student I also kept a journal. That form of writing, with no restrictions, stopped abruptly when I remarried. My new husband insisted I destroy the words that implicated a life before him.  When I wouldn’t, he did. It seemed a part of me was lost in those ashes.  But a strange thing happened during that experience—I had a sensation of a voice in my head telling me to let it go because I would write something much better.

A few years later I found a fresh reason to write. It would lead to authoring my first novel, written to resolve the death of a man I loved and to be a channel for a new passion: social justice. The book took five years to complete. My expectation for a bestseller turned out to be unfounded. Even so, I started on a sequel because there was more I wanted to say.  But it’s a struggle. Most days any number of tasks are elevated to greater importance than uncoiling a story from my mind to my computer’s monitor.  That faceless critic won’t let me go. He keeps up the tirade: What will people think if you write that? Do you want to open yourself to more rejection?

That internal voice leads to questioning my purpose and suspecting my “mystical moment.”  That leads to chaining my creative drive and ignoring the next chapter in my sequel. I’ve been trying that for more than a year while forcing myself to dismiss the nagging sensation that there’s something left undone.

Answers often come to me out of others’ writing. This week I finished another book by Potok, “The Gift of Asher Lev.” In this one, Asher has found success through his talent, but Paris critics suggest his paintings are no longer fresh, instead mired in technique. The criticism stops him; his canvases remain white. He does continue drawing although it’s not the embodiment of his talent.  Then one day while staring at those drawings, he begins to decipher “a matrix underlying his new work.” New possibilities! He cleans his brushes and takes out the jars of paints.

Application for my life (and maybe yours): Do I let my internal critic win or do I accept my destiny and become “most truly alive?”

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Joyce Elferdink has finally come close to achieving her goal implanted long ago after reading Gift from the Sea: to live a balanced life, where each day includes time for herself, for relationships, for nature, and for meaningful work. She has never forgotten what Ann Morrow Lindbergh wrote about individuals “often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmlessjoyce

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pieces-You-Ms-J-Elferdink/dp/0615664490/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423689108&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Pieces+of+You+and+JF+Elferdink

 

 

THE DANGER OF BEING POSITIVE by R.J. Ellory

The internet is full to the gunwales with ‘be positive’ aphorisms, usually posted by individuals who choose to employ pseudonyms such as ‘Amethyst Starfire’ and ‘Harmony Rainbow’.  I am British, and therefore innately cynical at the best of times, but when faced with such banal and useless messages as ‘Follow your heart to wherever it may take you’ and ‘The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday’ I am often driven to the limits of my own fragile sanity.  Be a better person than you were yesterday?  Right.  Good enough.  So I am a serial killer.  Yesterday I got two kills.  Today I’ll go for three, and then I’ll get take-out and a nice bottle of Chianti.  Follow my heart to wherever it takes me.  I have a friend.  Her ‘heart’ tells her to pursue psychotic obsessive-compulsive control freak men who wind up doing nothing but barely repairable damage to her ‘heart’ and the rest of her life.

There is a real danger in fatalism.  There is a real danger in believing in destiny.  There is a very real danger in ‘positive thinking’, if only from the viewpoint that thinking is not doing, and doing is the only thing that really results in something being done.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be positive.  I am a very firm believer in the need to be positive, to acknowledge one’s own capability and competence, but only being positive is not going to make the grade.  One needs to actually do as well.  I am also a very firm believer in the reality of negative people, the very real effect of negative comments and statements designed to undermine and make less of one’s efforts.  Negative people are merely hoping to see you fail because it will help rationalize and justify their own failures.

Very recently my wife and I looked at all the people we worked with, spent time with and those we considered friends.  Very quickly it became quite clear that there were a few who took and took and took and gave nothing in return.  We loaned them money, we helped them solve their life problems, we bailed them out of trouble, we had them over for dinner, threw parties on their birthdays, and yet in return there was never a single invite, never a gift, never a ‘Hey, I can help you with that’.  So we decided to just let them go.  We didn’t say or do anything to them.  We certainly didn’t level any criticism or reprimand.  We didn’t try to fix things or correct anything.  We just stopped communicating.  Did they reach for us?  Did they make any effort to find out why we had stopped communicating to them?  Not at all.  Months have gone by now, and not a word.  So I understand negative people and the effect they can have.  I also understand that people can be sponges for your attention and help, and yet nothing ever comes back in return.

However, I digress.  This article is supposed to be about purpose and direction.  These words have come about as a result of a request for advice and direction to the website visitors regarding how to better identify and highlight what is important in their own lives.  During the past few months I have spent more time reviewing my life and my own purposes and priorities than perhaps at any other.  I am approaching fifty, and even though I may not live to a hundred it kind of feels like a half-way point.  Life – for me – is about action.  It is about being who you are, doing what you want and having what you desire.  It is also, just as importantly, about doing what you can to assist others in the realization of their own goals and purposes.  As has been said many times before in many different ways, a man who wishes to be happy and yet does not spend the vast majority of his time trying to make others happy is a fool.  But there has to be a balance.  If someone does not know who they really are (i.e. they do not really understand their own priorities and goals, nor their own strengths and weaknesses) then they cannot undertake the right actions to achieve what they want.  Life is a job, very simply.  If you do not understand what the purpose of your job is, and you have no real clue as to how to best use the tools you have been given, then there is not much hope of accomplishing the end result of that job.

One cannot sit on the sofa in front of the television and ‘think positive’ to a better life.  I don’t believe that can be done, and yet that seems a realistic and acceptable life-plan to the vast majority of people I speak to.

So, where am I going with this?  I am going to give you some aphorisms that have worked for me, and that continue to work for me on a daily basis.  Some of them I might have invented, some of them were written by others whose names I do not even know, and some of them have been credited to their respective author.  They all say the same thing in different ways, and they all push in the direction of identifying your own goals and pursuing them.  How, you might ask, do I identify my goals?  I think that’s the easiest part in all of this.  Where do your passions lie?  What motivates you?  What gets you enthusiastic?  Those are the areas where you need to look, despite others who might say how unrealistic, difficult or competitive those areas of interest might be.

So, here we go:

Some people dreamed of success…while others woke up and worked hard at it.

What you chose to focus your mind on is critical.

Persistence is the key, the backbone, the spirit of accomplishment and achievement.

A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.

Persistence is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.

Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  The world said “Give up.”  Hope whispered, “Try it again…just one more time.”

With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.

The saints we revere and respect in all fields are the sinners who kept on going.

Do not spend a moment worrying about whether someone thinks you are the worst human being of all or the brightest star in the universe.  Your integrity to yourself is more important than anyone else’s viewpoint. You know if you are working as hard as you can to create a great future for yourself and the people you care for.

It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail.  It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

Decide carefully, exactly what you want in life, then work like mad to make sure you get it!

Defeat never comes to anyone until they admit it.

Stay away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but great people…great people are the ones who make you feel that you too can be truly great.

No one can always be right.

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life. When it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “You cannot defeat me.”

Forget all the reasons why something may not work. You only need to find one good reason why it will.

Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian teenage gymnast, winner of three Olympic Gold Medals by the age of fourteen, was asked how she made it look so effortless.

She hesitated for just a moment, and then she smiled, and said, “It’s the hard work that makes it easy.”

Pablo Picasso, more than eighty years old, was asked why he still worked fourteen and sixteen hours a day.  His reply, very simply: ‘When inspiration finds me, I want her to find me hard at work’.

Be proud to work.  Be proud to be exhausted with the things you have accomplished today.  Dream of what you want.  Work hard.  Persist.  Persevere.  Make it happen.  Do not end your life with the words ‘What if?’  Those are the words with which to begin your life.

Courage does not always roar the loudest or fight the hardest.  Courage is often nothing more than the quiet voice at the end of a long day that says, ‘Tomorrow…tomorrow I will try again’.

Commit yourself to success.  Somewhere.  Somehow.  In some field.  As Goethe, the great philosopher said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.   Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

As Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose’, and I believe in this without doubt or hesitation.  Whatever purpose you have now, keep it alive, keep working at it, keep directing your energies and attention towards it, and it will be realized.

As a result of what I have learned I have been able to travel the world and meet some truly extraordinary people.  The most important ones have often been the most humble and the most interested in others.  The most successful ones have been those who cared most about their fellow man.  The happiest ones have been those who were literate, hard-working, persistent and courageous in their endeavours.

So, in closing…turn off the television, stop reading the newspapers (because their entire purpose is to make you think that the world in which we live is rough and dangerous and crazy and out-of-control, and it isn’t much like that at all), stop doubting your own ability to achieve what you know you can achieve, and realize that achieving it is only going to happen if you do the work.  Stop complaining, stop finding reasons why it can’t be done, stop worrying about what others might think, and do the work.  Just shut up and do the work.

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Having surmounted many obstacles in his own life, R.J. Ellory has gone on to be both a successful writer of crime novels and a musician.

Check out R.J.’s books at http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO

 

 

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The Doughnut and Not the Hole by John B. Rosenman

My father used to talk to me about what counted in life.  Sometimes he quoted a poem you may be familiar with:

“As you ramble through Life, Brother,

Whatever be your goal.

Keep your eye upon the doughnut,

And not upon the hole.”

Even when I was a kid, I understood the moral.   One should pursue real and meaningful goals in life and avoid empty attractions that can be a tragic waste of time.   One should pursue worthwhile values and avoid the gaudy, seductive, and worldly pleasures of Vanity Fair.

However, can we always tell what the doughnut is, and what the hole?  We might think it is easy, but Vanity Fair is just as real and dangerous now as it was when John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.   Even more real and dangerous, in fact.   The media constantly bombard us with vain confections we come to crave.   Money, glamor, and sex, oh my.  Some of us pilgrims easily lose our way and find ourselves lost forever.

What exactly is the doughnut?   If I forget about the Kardashians and put down my scandal-racked tabloid, I would start my list by saying the doughnut consists of the following ingredients:

  1. Valuing your family and treasuring its members.
  2. Valuing your country and treasuring its traditions.
  3. Being kind and helpful to people whenever you can.

Number 3 sounds a lot like the Golden Rule to me.  Contributing to worthwhile charities comes in here.   I believe Truman Copote said there were only two moral rules.   Mind your own business and don’t hurt anybody.   I think a lot of the misery and confusion in our lives is caused by our failure to remember these two things.

I have to admit I’m not the best at following these principles.   For example, I have fought with my wife when I knew I was wrong.  But hey, I think I have a good idea of what goes into the doughnut.   Here’s another ingredient based on my personal experience:

  1. Forget about past grievances and don’t hold grudges because of the way people have treated you.   Let it go, let it go, let it go.   Set aside your injured pride.  For some of us, it’s harder to do than for others.   If you can’t forgive, see if you can forget a little by focusing on the present and all the possibilities it offers.

I can’t cover this subject as fully as I’d like here, so I’ll close by mentioning one more tasty, filling and fulfilling ingredient in the doughnut.   To some of you, it may be the most important one.

  1. Consider developing a relationship with God or a supreme being who is larger and more wonderful than everything else. Some folks may object to this. But please, don’t simply decide there is no ultimate  intelligence in the universe and never consider the matter again.  As for believers, I recommend that reexamining and questioning our beliefs now and then can be a very good thing.  Miguel de Unamuno said  “Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.”

Amen.

As for Socrates, he believed that “not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly valued.”   Money, possessions, popularity and praise don’t automatically equal the good life, and worldly success doesn’t mean one is a virtuous and deserving person.   It’s what one stands for and what one does with such wealth that matters.

Otherwise it’s the hole in that doughnut rather than the doughnut itself.

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John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

 

 

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Some Small Stranger by Micki Peluso

“Grandma,” a word sounding as old as Methuselah was about to become my title. My response to this new position escalated to the point of panic. Initially, I didn’t react well to the word, mother, either.

I remembered my own grandmother, with her soft white hair wound up in a bun; hair that when let down, easily reached her waist. I can still see her laboring over delicate paper-thin strudel dough in a warm kitchen filled with the aroma of chicken soup and fresh baked bread. I thought of my children’s grandmother, who had wiry salt and pepper hair, mostly salt, velvety skin, and eyes that seemed ageless. She was lovely, wore no make-up, and exuded a gentleness that gave the word, “Grandma,” a good name.

The title, “Grandma’” seemed to place me in a different age bracket–and I wasn’t ready. I could still squeeze into my designer jeans, if I lay flat on the bed to pull up the zipper. My hair, mostly my own, was still blonde, and I hadn’t yet given my bikini to the Salvation Army. I would probably have to soon– the neighbors were starting to complain. I did Jane Fonda religiously, which meant once a week, and wasn’t planning on taking Geritol for a few more years.

Soon after my daughter informed me of her pregnancy, placing the weighty mantle of “Grandma” around my neck, my life began to change. My shoulders drooped as I walked down the street, hinting that osteoporosis was right around the corner. Wrinkles, cropped up from nowhere, etching the itinerary of my life. Silver strands peeked out from among the gold, thinning gold at that. Fading eyesight precipitated the need for “Granny” glasses, and all my best parts appeared to have dropped six inches. My husband, suffering his own identity crisis, joked about trading me in for two twenty-year olds.

“Go ahead,” I told him. “I may as well be widowed as the way I am now.” My youth was gone, chased away by a menacing word that hovered like an albatross over my troubled psyche.

I sulked most of the nine months preceding the arrival of the one responsible for my fate. I was proud of my daughter, excited by the prospect of a new baby, her baby, joining the family, but I couldn’t adjust to my novel role. I laid claim to many titles in my lifetime, from Miss to Mrs. to Mommy, a brief encounter with Ms., plus a few titles that didn’t need capitalization. There was something about the word, Grandma, which stuck in my throat. My friends smirked and made the usual jokes, perilously endangering our friendship. They could afford to be cute. None of them were about to be grandparents. I would be the first.

It wasn’t fair. I had raised my children, gave my all in the name of motherhood, and faced the daily grind of bottles, diapers and finicky eaters. I lost sleep during middle of the night marathons with teething toddlers, and suffered through puberty and adolescence with only a hint of martyrdom. Now when the “best was yet to come,” some small stranger, still to be born, was transforming me into an old woman; a grandma.

My daughter’s delivery came, as most do, in the middle of the night. It was a long, hard labor, beset with life-threatening problems for both herself and the baby; problems which made my own insignificant. My pleas, that night, to a higher authority, did not concern my apprehension of grand motherhood. I begged for the safety of my child and her baby. Nothing else mattered.

After an agonizing wait in a room full of people mutely sharing similar concerns, the doctor burst through the delivery room doors. Ten agonizing hours had elapsed since we entered that room. It seemed a lifetime. The doctor spotted us and rushed over. My heart was in my throat as I rose to meet him.

“Your daughter’s fine” he said, smiling. “Congratulations, Grandma! It’s a boy!”

He had to say “Grandma”. My husband breathed a sigh of relief and began passing out cigars. I sat silent, relieved for my daughter, uncertain of the reality before me.

I finally walked over to the glass windows of the nursery, where “Grandpa,” beaming proudly, had preceded me. I looked down upon a tiny, screaming infant, who, with flailing arms and red, wrinkled face, was a miniature of my daughter. He stopped crying, and gazed up at me with unfocused eyes, appraising me as I did him, his mouth turning up in a crooked grin. I loved him at once. Suddenly the word “Grandma,” the most beautiful word in the world, seemed to fit like a pair of broken-in running shoes.

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Micki Peluso is a Journalist, and humorist, writing for several newspapers, plus publishing short fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and e-zines, winning many contests and awards. Her short works appear in a half dozen book collections, including the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, in “The Speed of Dark” published by Clayton Bye. Her first book, . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, a funny, bittersweet story of love, loss and survival won the Nesta Silver Award for writing that “Builds Character.” “Don’t Pluck the Duck” soon to be released is a collection of her published slice of life, short fiction and non-fiction. http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK

 

 

a

Make a Conscious Choice by C. Clayton Bye

Many years ago, while on an evening stroll in Toronto, I came upon a young couple who were being harassed by three thugs. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the young man was in the kind of situation that tends to turn out badly. In fact, I figured one of two things was going to happen: he was going to receive a beating, or he was going to lose face with his girl.

Everything about the fellow’s demeanour indicated he’d reached a similar conclusion. Take your pick of emotions. There was fear, frustration, anger, even humiliation: each appeared and disappeared on this victim’s face like the shifting scenes in a suspense film.

One of the aggressors laughed, and I found myself thinking about what most people would do when encountering a situation such as this. The answer which appeared in my head was to mind my own business. No surprises there, right? However, I profess to be a Contrarian. According to my personal definition, this is a person who always considers doing the opposite of what most people do—as a way to identify opportunities to be extraordinary.

I walked up, inserted myself between the two lovers and quietly told the young man I was there to help. The response was wonderful to behold. He drew himself up to full height, his face relaxed and hope shone in his eyes. Then, obtaining a silent nod of agreement from me, and giving the girl’s hand a quick squeeze, he stepped forward to face the bullies.

Keeping my mouth shut, I let my new friend take control of the situation, allowed him the chance to look good in front of his lady. He handled himself well, and the thugs, visibly uncomfortable with the new odds, were soon gone.

A similar event was recently reported by local media. Unfortunately, the results were tragic. A young man attempted to help some people in trouble and was knifed to death. No one else was hurt, but a bright future was cancelled in an instant.

Individuals reading my column might ask, “Doesn’t the preceding story prove it pays to mind your own business?” My answer would be, “No!” I believe the young man who lost his life did the right thing. I’m sorry he died, but I’m also certain he acted as he did because he understood that the safe alternative, the choice of inaction, of tolerating a wrong or an evil, would have made him part of the problem.

The habit of taking responsibility for yourself, of consistently making the right choice, rather than the safe or easy choice, is the most difficult way of life I know. And we, as a society, need more of it! How many times has that tiny, seventy-something lady walked past your doorstep in frigid weather, bags full of groceries scraping the ground, without someone coming to her aid? What about the foul-mouthed teenagers at the mall? Why  is their behaviour tolerated? Closer to home, who monitors your own decision making? What checks and balances do you have in place for those times when your behavioural choices are less than perfect?

Doing nothing to change what’s wrong in and about your life is a choice. It’s a form of behaviour. And in spite of what you might have heard to the contrary, when you say and do hurtful things, you are a hurtful person. This modern notion that we aren’t defined by our actions is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. We’re nothing if we aren’t our behaviour.

You and I don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be consistent in what we choose to do. The best analogy I can offer comes from baseball. A player with a .300 batting average is a treasure, yet he gets on base just three in every ten trips to the plate. He understands that if you keep swinging the best way you know how, you’ll get through the outs and achieve some hits. We can do the same.

When you see a person bending under the weight of their load, make a conscious choice to help. The next time you’re tempted to say or do something in anger, bite your tongue. Better yet, find something nice to say and do. Make the responsible choice. Then make another. And another. And another.

Sure, you’ll take some strikes. But your batting average will improve over time. That’s what practice is all about. Actions create results; we are what we say and do.

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Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, he has also published  3 award winning anthologies. Shope at his estore: http://www.amazon.com/Clayton-Bye/e/B002BWULO0

 

Introduction to Freemasonry by Clayton Clifford Bye

When Ken Weene suggested I write a piece about Freemasonry for The Write Room Blog, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I am an active Freemason who loves to teach people about what it is we do. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized I was overwhelmed. You see, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons or Freemasons or simply Masons represent the largest, most complicated and dreadfully misunderstood fraternity in the world. People I know have called us a cult, a religion and a secret society. The following will explain why people think these things and will, at the same time, give you a reasonable introduction to Freemasonry.

No one is clear as to when the fraternity known as Freemasonry began. Our own, carefully preserved records claim we were around in the times of King Solomon, when the craftsman lodges of operative Masons began to turn away from the physical labour of building the temple at Jerusalem and moved towards the more speculative nature of the mind and soul, their working tools becoming symbolic tools with which to build a man with spotless morals and good character. Historical research, however, tends to suggest Freemasonry began in the 1300’s (when the first written records became available) and indicates the stories we use to teach our members are only complicated constructs.

Why the confusion? Well, originally, all the work presented to the initiate or candidate for admission to the Lodge was done strictly by memory. Vast lectures were learned word for word by one brother who would then teach it to a younger brother, and in so doing pass the knowledge along from generation to generation. Plays were put on with intricate costumes and great flair, all language being archaic in nature (and kept that way). There were no books to be passed down through the ages, just keepers of the work. If you were an authority seeking to destroy a Lodge—more about this later—all you would ever find were symbolic paintings and drawings that meant nothing to you. The real Lodge was kept safe in the minds of its members. Sometimes Lodges were even mobile, being set up wherever was safe and then taken down when the meeting was done.

There is also another reason the origins of Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time: all Lodges conduct their business behind closed and guarded  doors—in secret! Why? What’s the big deal? After all, the only reason Lodges exist is to take good men and make them better. Could it be we are protecting the fact that our initiates are taught a beautiful system of morality that is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols? No, it is generally understood that our system is taught via stories, poems, paintings and special symbols that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden, moral meaning. The problem actually goes back to the days when teaching a moral message, other than that approved by  the Church, was forbidden and its purveyors persecuted.

Today, however, Masonic Lodges are not secret in and of themselves. They stand in the heart of every town of decent size in most countries of the world. You drive by these buildings every day. Some are ornate and some are plain. Almost all of them have our main symbol located somewhere on the front of the building. It is a square and compass surrounding the letter G, which stands for God …

 Square and compass

And if our existence isn’t secret and our meeting times are usually posted on the doors, why do the rumours of secrecy still exist? Well, prejudice for one thing. Freemasonry was non-denominational long before separation of Church and State, making it a very unpopular organization. The fraternity, was, quite simply, a form of heresy. Secrecy was oftentimes all that stood between a Mason and prison time or even an untimely death. In fact, even as recently as World War II, Masons in Germany had to go underground. You see, they supported Jews like they supported all other people of the world, and because of this they were persecuted as fiercely as were the Jews. Why,  until just a few short years ago, the Catholic Church wouldn’t allow any member to be a Mason. They even went so far as to create their own competing fraternity—The Knights of Columbus. I, for one, am thankful that practice has been stopped. Still, persecution persists: many religions believe an organization that doesn’t follow their particular path of salvation must by its very character be an agent of Satan. And this attitude is the big problem. For a man to be made a Mason, he must swear that he believes in a Supreme Being. We don’t care who or what that is—other than he/she/it must punish vice and reward virtue. We don’t even care what book you study from, be it the Bible, the Quran or some other written work. Freemasonry simply urges you study daily from the pages of your holy book or from the words of your religion. We want you to have a strong moral guide from which to learn. Freemasonry will teach the initiate many lessons about morality, charity, truth, upright character, brotherly love and … but he will learn much more by studying his own religion every day. Some people (religions) just don’t like these practices.

Are such problems, mostly in the past, the only reason Lodges have secrets? No, Freemasonry has always been careful about what it reveals to the uninitiated. For example, we all take an oath never to reveal the secrets or mysteries of a Freemason. Why do we do this? There are several reasons I can’t share, but I can tell you this much: some of the secrets are nothing but ways and means of identifying another Mason when in public. These methods, if revealed to you, would seem foolish. All I can say is remember Hitler. In his day if you couldn’t secretly identify yourself to another Mason, you were as good as dead! I believe these secrets that we must keep also teach us there’s a time to hold your tongue, to keep silent. They make us think about what we say and how we say it, thus helping us maintain a favourable image of ourselves (and thus Freemasonry) when out in the wide, wide world. Because, yes, we are taught to take what we learn as a Mason and use it in our daily life so as to be a leader, to be someone people look up to, to be a man people know is of good character and morals.

And finally, what about the mysteries? What are they and why are they to be kept inviolate? Here you’ll find the strongest reason Freemasonry has been deemed a secret society. Most Masons never study the stories and lectures hard enough and long enough to figure out what the mysteries are. There has been many a book written about the mysteries of Freemasonry, posing hypothesis after hypothesis. But given all the hidden meaning in our teachings it’s really no wonder the average Mason doesn’t know quite what it is he isn’t supposed to reveal. So, do you know what he does? He says nothing at all. In truth, many never even divulge their association with Freemasonry. I was in Masonry for 10 years before my favourite uncle told me he, too, was a Mason. He belonged to a different Lodge than I did and had no reason to expect me to identify myself to him as a Mason. It was just a chance remark I made one day that twigged it for him. So he challenged me with one of our forms of recognition, and I passed the test.

If we, as Masons, don’t know for certain what we can tell you about our unusual fraternity, then who are we to cry out when someone says we are a secret society, a religion or a cult? Only education, spurred on by us Masons can do that. Here’s what I tell people: We are not a secret society; we are a society with secrets. Freemasonry is not a religion; it does have religious aspects. Our fraternity is not a cult; it does teach a moral system through the relating of ancient stories and through the description of certain symbols, like the square and compass.

May I finish with a poem? It tells about our obligations and some of the ways to recognize a Mason (you can find them all on the internet, by the way, I just won’t tell you them myself); it also gives one the sense that there’s depth and goodness at the heart of this thing we call Freemasonry.

 

The Old Master’s Wages

I met a dear old man today
who wore a Masonic pin.
It was old and faded like the man,
Its edges were worn quite thin.

I approached the park bench where he sat,
to give the brother his due.
I said, “I see you’ve travelled east.”
He said, “I have, have you?”

I said, “I have, and in my day before the all seeing sun,
I played in the rubble, with Jubala, Jubalo and Jubalum.”

He shouted, “Don’t laugh at the work my son,
It’s good and sweet and true,
and if you’ve travelled as you said,
you should give these things their due.

The word, the sign, the token,
the sweet Masonic prayer,
the vow that all have taken,
who’ve climbed the inner stair.

The wages of a Mason
are never paid in gold,
but the gain comes from contentment
when you’re weak and growing old.

You see, I’ve carried my obligations,
for almost fifty years,
They have helped me through the hardships
and the failures full of tears.

Now I’m losing my mind and body,
Death is near but I don’t despair,
I’ve lived my life upon the level,
and I’m dying upon the square.”

Sometimes the greatest lessons
are those that are learned anew,
and the old man in the park today
has changed my point of view.

To all Masonic brothers,
The only secret is to care.
May you live your life upon the level,
may you part upon the square.

Author Unknown

Big Trout Lake Blues (a Mike Money short)

 Beech King Air

Mike Money wasn’t enjoying this at all. It was one of a few recurring tasks that he, as the “town cop,” couldn’t ignore. There was too much of an opportunity for trouble to arise.

Why these young pilots couldn’t manage to keep it in their pants, when they had been warned, he never understood. Yes, many of the young First Nations women were stunning, and they were almost always willing partners, something the white boys were completely unprepared for. Which is why they were warned. Sleep with a local girl and you faced a BCR, a Band Council Ruling, ordering you off the reservation.

The owners of the airlines (Big Trout Air and Bearskin Air) had no choice but to fire any employee who received a BCR and ship them south. If they didn’t they would find themselves unwelcome on the rez.

And the girls? Well for the most part it was boredom that had led to the formation of the game. It was a simple one—seduce a pilot and then let the chips fall where they may. The council was always there, just in case.

It was too much for some girls to resist. They were often as curious about the white boys as the boys were about them. And there probably wasn’t a girl on the reserve who really expected a BCR. After all, that would mean all sorts of trouble for them, parents being parents. But it did happen. Yes, it did.

Mike knocked on the door of the pilot’s shack. He soon heard someone shuffling toward the door.

It opened on a blond-haired, good looking kid. It was hard to believe this was a pilot with hundreds of hours under his belt. Bush piloting was definitely a young man’s game.

“Morning, John,” the policeman said.

The kid nodded his head and looked confused.

“Can I come in, John?” Mike queried.

“Yah, lemme get a shirt on,” he said, heading for one of the 3 bedrooms that opened onto the main room—living room and kitchen as one. It was a beautiful building, really, an all log construction that was meant to create a sense of home for the young men who flew all over this part of the country, from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario and as far up as Moosonee, Ontario, on James Bay. Mike had once flown a twin engine Seneca to Winnipeg, with a friend. There was nothing but bush and water all the way there.

“What is it, Mike?”

Mike turned his attention back to the friendly man who now stood fully clothed in the middle of the great room.

“I’ve got some shitty news, John, and I don’t know how to deal with it except straight up.” He walked over to John and put his hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “You’ve been BCRed, John.”

“What the fuck?”

“I know it’s a bad deal. But you know as well as I do that it’s a risk anyone sleeping with the girls must face. Whatever’s going on between you  and Josie is done.”

“I get to talk with her?”

“No. this thing is all done for but the crying. In fact, there’s a plane headed for Sioux Lookout in about 15. That’s how much time you have to pack, then I’ve got to escort you up to the runway.”

“This isn’t fair Mike.”

“I never said it was, son. It’s political mostly, with some racism thrown in.”

“Don’t suppose the fact that I love her makes any difference?”

“No, it might even make things worse. You’ve got to clear things with the elders when relationships get serious. It’s not so different from the way things are down south, except for the fact that the southern parents have no real power of influence in a bad situation and the band council does.”

The young man stopped asking questions and began packing. You could tell he had some guts, considering how busted up inside he must be.

* * *

Next on Mike’s list was another contentious duty: the dog shoot. The guys were heading back from the air strip when he put John on the Beech King Air.

Dogs on the rez ran free. Some were mutts that had been starved at home or had been abused. Whatever the reason, they were homeless and slowly reverted to a feral state—which pissed Mike off to no end. Once they reached such a state the dogs were ruined and had to be shot. He found the process barbaric, as it was not the dogs’ fault. They had once been loving creatures with an emotional age of a 5 year-old child. No one would ever put a child on the street, would they?

But now… The wild dogs would think nothing of cornering and pulling down a child. This reserve had been lucky in recent years and only had  a few maimings on its record. Not like other places where there had been deaths. Hell, he remembered the day when the crazy French man who lived in the village had flown over to Osnaburgh for some reason or another. Mike was on the same flight. And when it came time to go—no French man. Mike had to go looking for him. The guy had gotten himself cornered by a pack of about 10 dogs with a ringleader that was this small poodle-type mutt. Its constant yapping had built up animosity in the other dogs until they began to close in. The only thing that had saved the French man was his walking stick. With the man swinging the stick like a wild man Mike booted a number of the dogs, catching them by surprise and breaking up the ring. He was able to rescue the French man, but the dogs—unafraid—sat off a ways and just watched, sullen and hungry.

This time, Big Trout Lake had a pack just like Osnaburgh’s, and the band was going to do what they always did. Two shooters would stand up in the back of a truck, rifles steadied on the roof of the cab while another fellow drove around looking for the pack. Sometimes, there would be someone in the front passenger seat with a loaded weapon and two extra shooters sitting in the back of the truck on low chairs. Mike’s job, even though he understood the necessity, was to stop them. He couldn’t condone the use of firearms within the limits of their little village. The shoot had been advertised heavily, so everyone would stay indoors for the next few hours. But that just didn’t cut it. One stray bullet and someone could end up dead.

But stopping the hunt wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Everyone carried firearms in their trucks. Usually on homemade window racks. Others just threw them in the back of their vehicle or along the runner of their snow machine or under a heavy fur on a dog sled.

“Hey, Ben,” Mike said to the tall fellow in the back of the truck.

The first nations man gave a nod that was almost imperceptible. It was the white man’s way to say hello and goodbye, not those of the first  nations.

“You seen the dogs?

“They were over on the mainland early this morning,” Mike said.

“They got Mary Land’s dog last night. Killed it bad.”

Mike shook his head.

“You guys the hunting party?”

No answer, and no guns in site. They might be a decoy. Hard to tell, as he hadn’t heard any gunshots yet.

They banged on the roof of the truck, hollered directions at the driver and drove off.

It was about an hour later that Mike found the men at the garbage dump. He had been on the mainland when he heard the shooting. There were about 15 carcasses and no guns in site. Not even in the window rack.  Mike sighed in relief. Out here there was no way anyone could get hurt by accident. He nodded to Calvin Skead, took a deep breath and walked away. The landfill was set up in such a way that the pack had been pushed up against a hill of garbage. There was nowhere for them to go. And even though the shooting had seemed to go on forever, the job must have been done in mere minutes.

Mike was so upset he didn’t even comment when the driver put the truck in reverse and drove away. What was a dump for anyway?

* * *

Mike went home for lunch. Marion had a rich and creamy potato soup on the stove. She met him at the door with a big hug. These shoots always left Mike in a terrible state. They talked about it after Mike had finished up the deeply warming soup.

“How many this time?”

“Fifteen.”

“Are you okay?”

“Not really. I didn’t catch them in the act.”

He sat silently for a few moments.

“If the people would just think before getting an animal. Most of the families barely squeak by. It doesn’t take very long before they realize how expensive a pet can be, just in food costs alone. Then they just boot the dogs out, leaving them to fend for themselves. It’s no wonder they pack. Think of a bunch of 5 year-old kids thrown out on the street. How long would it take them to go feral? Either that or die.”

Mike shook his head in disgust.

“There are times I really hate this job”

“Can’t the dogs be reintegrated into the community?”

“Not once they’ve gone wild. You could never really trust them again, and they wouldn’t really trust you. Sooner or later someone or a dog would be hurt. And we both know what the solution to that is. No, these guys did the right thing, even though the law doesn’t agree.”

Marion changed the subject.

“How did the eviction go?”

“Eviction? Oh, the pilot. He was a nice kid. Deer in the headlights though. He didn’t know what hit him. It probably didn’t begin to sink in until they were in the air and headed down to Sioux Lookout.”

“Girls will be girls, hmm?”

“Something like that. Can’t say he wasn’t warned.”

Mike rubbed his face with his hands.

“What people don’t understand is that they’re submerged in another culture. They would take great care not to offend if they went to Japan or just about anyplace foreign. It’s like this in Quebec too. A whole different culture most of us know nothing about.”

Marion got up and massaged his shoulders.

“Strangers in a Strange Land?”

“That’s about it, honey.”

She kissed him softly and deeply.

“What was that for?”

“Something to look forward to at the end of the day.”

Mike smiled and said, “I love you a lot, honey.”

With that, he got up, put on his Jacket and stepped out into the bright sun. It was a beautiful spring day, with the snow sparkling like diamonds and the air so clean and cold it almost hurt to breath. He thought for a moment and made the decision to go ice fishing later in the day. For some reason this end of the lake made for poor ice sport, but it would be a nice way to relax.

However, he had one more unpleasant job to do. But it was necessary, to say the least. One of the elders wanted to talk to him about his grandson. He was pretty sure he was sniffing, and he thought Mike might talk to the boy. They both wanted to find out who had the supply of glue that had recently appeared on the reserve. Maybe he could get the boy thinking straight and maybe he would talk. One never knew.

Another problem of heartbreaking proportions.

***

Mike, drove silently, thinking hard about his decision to become the first stationed policeman at Big Trout Lake. It used to be the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) had a regular rotation of visits and were always on call in Sioux Lookout, some 250 miles south. Now, here he was, an OPP officer by training, but a band cop in principal. After all, they funded his paycheck.

Things were strange here. Mike was native. Ojibway, mostly. But this was a Cree reservation. He was almost as much an outsider as the whites who lived and worked on the rez. The young people were highly suspicious of him, the elders tolerated him (It was their decision that had led to this pilot program) and the old ladies loved to poke fun at him. Their last joke was to send him a plate full of Elk strips. They had been delicious when fried like bacon, but Mike knew darn well he would never want to know how the meat was cured. He still shuddered at the thought of the moose meat Old man Beardy had offered him. The gutted moose was lying, hide on and all, in the middle of the warm kitchen. It appeared to have been there for some time, the old man just lifted a flap of hide—showing that about a third of the moose was gone—and sliced off a nice sized roast. Mike knew he couldn’t refuse the meat.

He never remembered such behaviour when he was growing up. A moose was hung in a cool room for 3-5 days, depending on how warm the weather was, then it was butchered. And the meat was damned fine. As good as the Beardy roast he had forced himself to eat. The dogs? He had seen plenty of dogs kicked in the ribs, but he had never heard of one being abandoned. The girls? If they wanted a white man, they had to move off the reserve. Mike supposed it was a form of BCR, but at least the couples were allowed to stay together.

No, Big Trout Lake was different. About the only thing he approved of was that it was a dry reserve. Natives just can’t hold their liquor. There must be some sort of missing gene, because it was a fact that held true throughout all the Indian Nations. And it wasn’t any different with glue or paint or gasoline. These things were easy highs for those willing to risk the substances, and they were most definitely habit forming.

Mike stopped in front of the Elder’s home. The boy, Martin Redsky, was at home and waiting for him. Mike accepted tea and passed some time talking with the senior Redsky. The man was in his 70’s but he looked a lot older. The rawness of a life lived in the outdoors had taken its toll on his skin. Eventually they came to the problem at hand.

“How long have you been sniffing, Martin?”

“Didn’t say I have.”

“Your grandfather seems to think it’s true.”

“He’s old. His mind runs off with him.”

“Maybe, but I notice you’ve got a bad case of the slurs.”

“So what.”

“I can get you into a program that will help you get sober.”

“Don’t want to.”

“Do you respect your grandfather?”

“When his mind is working right.”

“Then don’t you think you owe it to him to try and kick this thing.”

“Ain’t got a thing.”

“Do you mind if I check your room.”

“You gotta have a warrant Five-oh.”

“Not if you say it’s okay.”

“Not gonna do it.”

Mike looked at the elder and shrugged. “I can’t help if he doesn’t want help.”

The old man nodded and swung his palm low and flat.

They were done here.

Mike left without saying goodbye. He was that much of a native, anyway. Then he thought of his wife, waiting for him at home and he decided fishing could wait. There was nothing better than a little lovin’ to cure the Big Trout Lake Blues.

 

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

The Disappearing Frying Pan by Clayton Clifford Bye

old cast iron frying pan

The young pilot who picked him up at dawn hit the tops of the trees with his skis during take-off, grinning from ear to ear all the while. Not that Mike Money really minded. After a night at Webequie he was happy to see anyone. The place bothered him. He was pretty sure it was haunted.

And now that he was back at Big Trout Lake things seemed to be as normal as they ever got. He saw a pack of at least 15 dogs. The band would be having a dog shoot sometime soon. A clutch of old ladies giggled when they saw him at the Hudson’s Bay store (though to be fair, the old women giggled at most everyone). Several young bucks pretended he didn’t exist. It didn’t matter that some of them were his age. He was the law. The guy who checked luggage whenever a plane came in, making sure no liquor was making its way onto the reserve. The cop who went after sniffers, wife beaters and trouble makers. And even though the band paid his wages, he was the “white man’s watchdog.”

Mike was also the one to relieve a nurse who had sat up all night with the body.

Jillian Saunders—new to the rez, just like Mike—was a pleasant change. Someone who was happy to see him. They chatted for a few minutes before getting to the business at hand.

“Jillian, what you know about last night’s incident?”

“Sure thing,” she said. “I got a call from one of the elders. It was James Beardy. He told me that Tom Fisher had killed his brother Jack. They had been playing cards when Tom suddenly stood up, grabbed the frying pan off the potbelly stove they’ve got and whacked Jack so hard his head has a big dent in it.”

“Do you know how the elder came by these details?”

The nurse shook her head and said “Tom’s wife was there. She said that Tom just turned and walked out into the snow. No coat or anything, just his runners.”

“So, Tom’s wife told the elder, who told you. Did you observe anything yourself?”

Jillian gave Mike a bit of a dark look for that question. “Well yeah! I’ve been here all night.”

“Could you tell me about it, please?”

“Well…  Jack was cold when I got here, so he’d been dead awhile. I mean, you can feel how hot they keep it in here, right?”

Mike nodded.

“And his head is most certainly stove in. His skull has been crushed. I swear I can see the makers mark indented along one side of the wound. No frying pan, though.”

Mike actually sighed. That was just the way his days had been going.

“Care to speculate as to where it might be?” he asked.

Surprisingly, Jillian nodded. With a little bit of a grin she said “Tom’s wife walked out of here with it. Have to ask her, ’cause she hasn’t been back since I showed up.”

Mike got the wife’s name, asked a few more basic questions, took the body into custody and let Jillian head back to the Nursing Station. Apparently she had a shift to cover. Most white people who came up here worked a lot. They had to spend a long time to win favour with people on the Rez. So, mostly they worked and partied with each other. There were pilots, nurses, weathermen, Hudson’s Bay store employees, a few Bell technicians, two teachers and a big guy who did all the maintenance. Everyone called him Carl. No last name. He’d been up here long enough it was pretty much a foregone conclusion he was running away from something.

Mike spent the morning wandering about the rez, talking to James Beardy, listening to more old ladies giggling, watching the young and beautiful women smiling at him (Yes, they knew he was happily married.), drinking boat loads of tea and entertaining the old men.

It seemed that the frying pan was making its rounds, catching Mike up in a game of hide and seek that he suspected was entertaining everyone but which would spoil his evidence with the grasping of many hands. And his only eye witness always seemed just a step ahead of him.

Then darkness fell. Mike hadn’t been in this part of the country long enough to get used to these early nights that seemed to just fall out of the sky. On he went by flashlight and by Ski-Doo®.

Some time later, cold and bitter, he found Tom’s wife, Meomie. She was one of many dark shapes who stood in a ring around a burning house. No effort was being made to save it; but then where would you get the water in time? There must be a good 4 feet of ice on the lake. Good luck chopping a bucket hole. Meomie explained to him that the husband had gotten drunk and beat his wife. (She was at the nursing station now. Meomie, who had come into possession of the frying pan once again, had given the woman the pan to make her feel safe.) The fire started after the wife was taken away by friends. Apparently, the husband had continued to drink until he fell down and knocked over the stove. Hot coals and burning chunks of wood spread everywhere. He was lucky to escape with his life.

Nobody knew where the husband was, Meomie answered. But Tom was just across from them, should Mike be interested. She stopped talking then.

And everyone stood in silence and watched the falling snow meet the flames of the burning building. The snow dampened all sound and made each shadow dance in the firelight. For once Mike didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t go and arrest Tom. Something sacred or mystical was going on here. Even he could tell.

So Mike Money stood in silence too, communing with old spirits that live in fire. Spirits his grandfather had taught him about.  Not that he’d ever admit to believing in such a thing. Anyway, who knew what was going to happen—if anything. And sure enough, after a long while, one of the shadows disappeared and then another and then another. With things coming to an end here, Mike knew he’d better take his chance now. Walking around the circle so as not to disturb anyone, he gently grasped the fugitive by the arm and said “Let’s go old Tom.”

The man never said a word.

Even when they came to the police station and Mike locked him up in the spare office, the man didn’t speak. The office had reinforced walls, no furniture other than an old fold-up bed, and it was meant to double as a jail cell, should one ever be needed. The man didn’t even laugh when Mike asked him if he had seen the frying pan. He didn’t have to. The gleam in his dark eyes said it all.

Back at the nursing station, Mike tried to get details of the assault, but the woman wasn’t talking either. Mike couldn’t blame her. She’d lost her house; why lose her husband as well? Didn’t matter, though. It sounded like there were witnesses. At least he’d be able to pull the man in and give him a good talking  to.

“Could I have the frying pan you were given?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Grandma Skead needed a new one, so I gave it to her. She brought me tea.”

Mike was now certain that there was a game afoot and that he was the centre of amusement.

“And where does Grandma Skead live?”

“Over on the mainland. First house.”

She meant at the end of the causeway that connected the island to the rest of the reserve. Mike thanked her and turned to go.

“She ain’t there though,” offered the injured woman.

Mike just stared at her.

“She’s helping out at school. Makin’ bannock for the kids’ breakfast.”

So much for his evidence. Mike headed back to the station.

Tom said nothing when he was read his rights or when he was taken up to the airstrip. But when the twin engine Piper Aztec pulled alongside, the older man looked at Mike with a sharp eye. “Funny name,” he said, and got on the plane.

The sun was coming up. Clouds shone pink in the East. And Mike Money shook his head. What a hell of a posting this was going to be.

 

Note: Big Trout Lake is a real place. Everyone in the story and all events have been fictionalized.

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

http://www.claytonbye.com     http://shop.claytonbye.com

 

A Poetic Journey

The following poems are tied together by a common theme. They were taken from my book of poetry called What I Found in the Dark. But they also follow each other chronologically. Think of each of these poems being written by one man regarding the same woman. Watch the story develop. Get a sense of the love involved. And I hope that maybe, just maybe you will get a sense of what it was that he found in the dark.  – Clayton Clifford Bye, 05/02/2014 –

Age and Onyx

Near an ivy covered castle wall,
down among the leaves and dirt,
an old, black-stoned necklace lay.
Have you a story, my dear old friend,
of these many days passed by?
Does the fire of love live on?
Is her heart yet young enough to care,
and her hair still raven-dark?
Or have these years been too long,
my war making me a stone killer
on those plains so real and red,
that the heart, as the stone, lost—
left the lady to cry once again.

 

A question

You are beautiful;
I am no longer:
sleek angles, dark shine
to softness and gray.

The miles hide so much,
a gloss of bright words
drawing passion out
to become new love,

strong behind pictures
etched in minds by time—
childish hopes still held
against beating hearts.

When I step to you,
does the drum falter
as dreams are ended
by light on faces?

Or, perhaps, love lives
in a deeper place
where the wrath of time
falls on blinded eyes.

I hope in waiting,
warm thought and cold truth:
for that day to come
when you touch my skin.

 

The Reunion

You drew down the moon, but I didn’t see;
no Jim Stewart and Donna Reed are we.
Pain and love can blind the searching soul
from what might be a most fitting role.

Now, layered clothing keeps my embers low.
Was it on purpose? I’m sure I don’t know.

Yet nothing can hide the face or the eyes:
your calm exterior gives up its lies.
The pain of love suppressed is there,
eddied smoke those dark orbs do wear.

So, my passion still released strives for the smile—
a flash here, a moment there, makes all worthwhile.
For in the eyes your smile reflects
more than one such as I expects.

A day, then two, three and part of four,
our weekend ends on a marble floor.
You turn away to hide the tears,
walking forward through all the years.

Time, the beast, is now again,
set right with a flash of pain.
No looking back, no warm smile,
your shoulders braced all the while.

But we have our joy, the days we shared,
those secret moments our hearts were paired.

 

Don’t Be Sad

The crying beauty of the rose
always fades and dies;
so too the blush of youth.

Yet the searing passion we had
melts in deep comfort
to the full grace of love.

 

     Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, he has also published (under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing) 3 award winning anthologies of excellent short stories by some great talents from around the world. The 1st book featured general fiction, the 2nd offering is horror and the 3rd is a book of detective short stories. His current releases are 2 children’s books and a memoir.
     Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing services, including small business management for writers.
     You may reach him at:
     1 (807) 466-7642
     ccbye@shaw.ca