Tag Archives: Author: Sal Buttaci

THE NEIGHBORHOOD WARS by Sal Buttaci

 

a

“Not anymore,” Giosif said. “Remember? It’s 2212. Nobody needs no permit to fire one of these.”

The old man shook his gray head as the boy tapped his thumb on the hammer of the gun.

“We gotta defend Dartmouth Street, Gramps. Ain’t no other way.”

“Don’t go out there. It ain’t safe,” he said, but even as he spoke the words, he knew warning him was a waste of time.

Great-grandpa Alowishis remembered when he was even younger than the boy. Porch-chair afternoons found his ears glued to the stories his own great-grandfather recounted of Old America when the national pastimes were baseball, football, hockey. It was a happy time when spectators in sweating shirts came in droves to cheer their teams.

Now the pastime was fear, a wave of quaking civilians cowering indoors behind their conviction that life was a brief candle. Still, the unwritten gang law of “Tutum Domi,” (safe at home) declared them untouchable. It was only a matter of time before home became a cell and death by escape seemed preferable to life by containment. A step outside meant leathered delinquents on the streets would snuff out that flickering flame.

He felt sorry for the twelve-year-old. The boy had lost his parents in the Neighborhood War. They had ventured from home onto Dartmouth Street, claiming some false sense of courage compelled them. The old man knew better; he called it reckless bravado, an agreed-upon pact to take that final walk.

Giosif’s father made light of the gunfire deafeningly flashing overhead. “We’ll pretend it’s a rainbow,” he joked. And Giosif’s surrogate-mother added, “Or an arch of flowers above us as we walk.” The two held hands but the old man could detect, even with fading eyesight, both their hands trembling.

They never came back.

Giosif and the old man. Prisoners in their stone house, nibbling rationed morsels unfit for rodents. How much longer? he wondered.

Suddenly, the stars and stripes of Old Glory waved proudly in the old man’s memory. He bit his lip to dispel it. He remembered placing his hand on his chest like school children of old who for so long recited allegiance to one nation, this nation, this home of the free and the brave and now the center of siege. Foreign oppressors he could have predicted, even in his youth. They stormed the skies, bombed the cities, planted their dark flags as they burned ours, but instead of freedom fighters banding together to save the nation, street gangs grew in numbers and strength. Their objective?  Retake the cities for themselves.

“Life’s different now,” Giosif said without looking up from the green Spetzer in his hand. Hypnotically he ran the chamois up and down the green triple barrel. “We gotta show them.” Show them what? the old man thought. That we could possibly put a stop to this? To these neighborhood terrorists? Even the Radical Armies are afraid to march down our streets!

“Ain’t a crime no more.

Then the boy walked towards the door, released the deadbolt, yanked down the chains, and stepped into the light of machinegun fire. He raised the shiny Spetzer, aimed it with a cool hand and fired at Clara somebody from Arbor Lane, Jacksonville Jack’s woman who co-led the Z-Ford bikers up and down city-block streets. Clara fell, her bike spinning where she lay.

“Stay your ass on K Street,” Giosif shouted at the dead woman.

Alowishis gasped and called to him. “Cold-blooded murder.” But the boy laughed, reloading for Jacksonville Jack. He’d take no chances. He vowed he would never make the mistake his close friend Daveed did. Turning his back on the street, heading back into his Dartmouth Street home, Daveed was shot dead by a survivor from a Harris Road family he was so sure he had wiped off the asphalt face of their street

Giosif walked backwards into the dark house. He shut the door, chained it, threw the deadbolt, and puffed his thin lips into a full-of-pride smile. Then someone knocked on the door. The only sound Giosif offered was the click of his Spetzer’s hammer.

“It’s me, Giosif. Your neighbor here on Dartmouth. Margie. Margie Pederson. You knew my dead husband Sam. Please let me in.”

His inner voice said No, let her die out there; that ain’t Sam’s widow, but tough boy with gun was still boy with a heart full of street honor. He unchained the door. Slid the deadbolt free. Expected Margie to dash inside quickly enough for him to slam the door behind her.

Instead, he saw Jack. Margie was gone. Armed with a Thompson-Abdul M9, Jack forced his way inside.

Straight off, he sprayed the peeling walls, then shot the boy. Giosef lay crumpled and bloody on the faded green living-room carpet, his unfired Spetzer clenched tightly in his hand, blue unblinking eyes locked open as though in rapt attention to what Jack had to say.

Alowishis furrowed his stubbled face into waves of wrinkled skin. Jack had set down his machinegun, then removed from his leather jacket a Ruger pistol, plunking the barrel hard against the old man’s temple

Giosif lay dead at his feet. Through the still-open door Alowishis could see the sun, so many years a stranger, sting his eyes. He shut them. Filled his mind with happier times. The Independence Day Parade up and down Dartmouth Street. The neighbors from every street and avenue marching proudly to patriotic tunes. Ice cream cones and blue cotton candy. Mayor Billy Quince shouting to visitors, “Welcome, neighbors! Welcome! Welcome!” Old Glory filled with the promise to wave forever.

The old man sighed at the volley of first fireworks.

Jack squeezed the trigger.

  * * *

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widelyHe was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

His short-short fiction collections, published by All Things That Matter Press, are available at Amazon.com:

Flashing My Shortshttp://www.amazon.com/Flashing-My-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984259473

200 Shorts: http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984639241/ref=sr_1_1?Ss=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314991699&sr=1-1

A Family of Sicilians, his book portraying a true image of what it means to be Sicilian, is available at https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=A+FAMILY+OF+SICILIANS&type=

Sal Buttaci lives in Princeton, West Virginia, with his loving and much loved wife Sharon.

CONFESSIONS OF A WORD FLASHER by Sal Buttaci

a (7)

 

When I was a boy, caught in my mischief, my father would sit me down and ad-lib a story with a not-so-subtle moral attached. The protagonist had a different name, a different appearance, sometimes committed even a different infraction. The antagonist never changed. He was the one who lured Pete or Billy or Nicky off the path where the honest and self-respecting walked, heads high, posture straight, conscience specklessly clean.

Papa pitted one against the other as if to say, “Sal, I know why you took that pencil sharpener, but look at what you need to do now to make things right.” Then he’d touch my shoulder or wink at me. I had disappointed him, but that touch, that wink, were reminders that Papa still loved me no matter what. “Pete’s a good boy,” Papa would say, “but he’s got lessons to learn so he can become a very good boy.” Or “Billy loves his sister and didn’t mean to hurt her. He claims he’s sorry, but words are cheap if Billy can’t back them up by not hurting Maria again.”

I learned much about writing stories from my father. Though unschooled in the craft, he had an innate ability to weave characters in and out of conflicts. He knew how to cleverly move the action, give believable voices in dialogue, create suspense, and effectively resolve the conflict with a powerful last sentence or two that remained with me long after the telling. He orally fabricated those stories without hesitation, without an uh-uh pause filler, without unnecessary words. To this day I carry those writing lessons and life lessons Papa taught me.

My mother likewise unwittingly taught me how to tell a story in as few words as possible. Before we closed down the day, the last of evening before sleep, Mama would tell us Bible bedtime stories from the Old and New Testaments. Brought up in Sicily, she had never learned about Sleeping Beauty or any of the fairy-tale characters that so delight American children. I did not know about nursery rhymes either. Jack Horner? Miss Muffet? And just what was that tuffet she was sitting on anyway? Curds and Whey? Whatever they were, no way would I ever eat them!

In 2007 I retired after nearly thirty years of teaching English from 6th grade elementary to senior college classes. What I enjoyed most during those years was helping students improve their writing skills and encouraging them to submit their work for publication. It seemed the logical progression: create it and share it. An essential by-product of seeing one’s words in print was a bolstering self-confidence that riveted young writers to the literary track beyond school years. I am pleased to say many of my former students since 1966 continue to write, a good number of whom have become English teachers.

Writing poetry and fiction, especially the flashy shorts, is the love of my life, second only to my wonderful wife Sharon. I try not to let the sun go down on a day without writing, even if all I write are see-you-later notes in my pad or a poetic line to build upon or a sentence I suspect could and often does serve as the opener, the hook, for the rest of the story.

As a child I dreamed of becoming Batman’s new sidekick in the event Robin lost interest in fighting crime. Then I envisioned myself in the cockpit of fighter planes. At fifteen I learned how to box for the Police Athletic League, I saw myself as Kid Tuff, champion in the ring and future Lothario in the field, but in my second fight a better boxer knocked me out. Goodbye, Kid Tuff.

One day I told Papa I wanted to be a comedian. He punched my arm and said, “Don’t make me laugh!” He wanted a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer for his son. I became a teacher, but I never stopped writing. Did I dream of becoming a bestselling author like my literary heroes? I just wanted to write. After all these years, my first and foremost dream remains: to continue typing out of me those frisky pre-poems, those hopping hyper flashes driving me to the keyboard or the pen.

Philip Harris, the publisher of All Things That Matter Press, took a chance on my first flash collection, Flashing My Shorts. After that he took another chance and published my second: 200 Shorts. For his faith in me I will always be indebted and to all who have read and reviewed both books, finding neither one a flash in the pan.

I also wrote a book in 1998 called A Family of Sicilians: Stories and Poems, which I self-published and personally sold nearly all of a 1,000-copy first run. I wrote it to show readers the true image of Sicilians and Sicilian Americans in response to the gangster portrayal of the biased media. In 2008 I made it available at Lulu.com and copies continue to sell.

A Family of Sicilians…        http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

Flashing My Shorts     http://www.freado.com/book/6562/flashing-my-shorts

200 Shorts                   https://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-         Buttaci/dp/0984639241?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

 

BIO

Sal Buttaci has been writing since childhood. His first published work, an essay entitled “Presidential Timber,” appeared in the Sunday New York News when he was sixteen. Since then his poems, articles, letters, flash and short stories have been widely published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Writer, Cats Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others here and abroad. In 2007 he was the recipient of the $500.00 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. He lives in West Virginia with his wife Sharon, the love of his life and his work’s inspiration.

INDEPENDENCE BLUE by Salvatore Buttaci

ZZ.Blue Planet

A hero had fallen. At least that’s how I regarded Spicio-Major Leonid Martinez. On Terra Rica 26, he had risked his own life saving my father’s from a spice slide. Did I hold Martinez in the highest esteem? You bet I did, but it all came crashing down with four little words.

“It ain’t our fight.”

Here we were, seven years already on Giallo Finch, and the tension between the Padronistis and the working miners honed sharply. The Padronistis, who ruled with the proverbial iron hand, had invaded the planet for its rich deposits of Independence Blue and staked a claim to what had been the natives’ for millennia. They took the land and enslaved the  wingless yellow bird-like natives who called themselves the “Xybo.” But revolution was in the air. I smelled it and thought of our own history five hundred years ago when brave men stood up and fought the good war for independence.

“It ain’t our fight, Spicio-Captain Stanton. We’re here to mine the Blue. That’s our job, remember? Don’t go soft on me, hear?”

My father, dead these past years, must have rolled in his grave to hear his old comrade bad-lip freedom. Spicio-General Tyger Stanton had died defending the home front against the Eastern Hordes. Had he known the war tolled the knell of democracy, ushering in its rhymed nemesis, plutocracy, he would’ve died a thousand deaths to prevent it. The old America of, by, and for the people was tossed into the past. Now the rich ruled. A council of seven trillionaires who controlled the galactic space trade the way a mother protects her newborn.

Time travel changed the irredeemable fate of Old America. The American astrophysicist  Gustav Brandt had discovered a formula to harness time portals, twist wormholes, create instantaneous shortcuts that shaved down millions of light years to a voyage lasting  minutes. The Earth we left was the same Earth to which we returned. Parallel worlds with its myriad strands of time channels was a myth.

Space travel was now irrelevant. Stars and planets not even telescopically visible could be reached by tapping one’s wrist to the proper spatial coordinates and the chrononauts could be landing with or without their ship on planets similar to our own Earth.

Then one of the chrononauts discovered unknown spices on these unknown worlds. Cargoed back to America, these spices attacked and killed deadly cells like cancer, the plagues, the Pyrenees Virus, and the Flux. These pernicious diseases remain gone.

Martinez and I were leaders of a spicer crew of twenty that mined Independence Blue on Giallo Finch. The same SpiceCorp mined Incardine Red on Turo Venida and Ghost White on Como Mars –– all three of which had become the new significance of Old Glory’s colors. Three color spices had replaced the valor of the old red, the purity of the white, and the justice of the blue. It had transformed America into the lucrative land of the greedy and the home of the depraved. I was glad to be light years away.

###

The fight that was not ours erupted one green-sky predawn when the Padronistis rolled out their tincan tanks into the highlands of the Xybo, firing away at anything that moved. They had already sent Padronisti assassins to SpiceCorp House, slashing the throat of Spicio-Major Martinez, then blasting away the entire spice crew in their beds.

I escaped.

###

With three Xybo eggs under my protection, I tapped my wrist in search of some faraway freedom-loving planet, far from spice mines, to start all over again.

#

 

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

ACE THE COURSE OF LIFE by Sal Buttaci

ZZK.Menu of Life

I know what you’re thinking. Since when did Sal Buttaci become an authority on life? How presumptuous! He is neither a guru, a licensed counselor, nor an aging whiz kid privy to all life’s answers. So let me suggest you return the arrows of criticism to your quiver. Let me state from the start: this is merely an article in which I express my opinions about how to make the best of the life we are given.

(1) Face life.

Keep fear at bay. Too many of us hesitate with every step because we are afraid of the outcome. If we choose this and reject that, what will happen to us? Given a particular opportunity, we sometimes show our cynical side by distrusting the offer, suspecting the opportunity to be a masqueraded danger to avoid at all cost. It is certainly acceptable if we cannot move our feet in the clutch of nightmare, but we should not regard life as  a frightening experience. We must never allow fear to become irrational. Never permit it to stop us from living as fully and as honestly as we can.

(2)  Embrace life.

See the good out there. Realize you are the beneficiary of all those wondrous things for which too many take for granted. Simple things. A sunny day. A snowfall on the doorstep of holidays. Rain teeming down on a windy autumn day. Wisdom out of the mouths of children. The ring of laughter. Do you see what I mean? Life is replete with goodness that increases its value with our appreciation. Look around you. Beauty is everywhere

(3)  Chase life.

Don’t wait for joy. Seek it out. Avoid false joys that come when we negatively indulge ourselves in drugs and liquor and whatever other bad habits deplete us. Never chase the dream you know can never be caught. Seek instead the attainable and when you find it build upon it. Avoid deluding yourselves that material gain heads the list of what makes life worthy of an A. It isn’t. Ask those who acquired millions and lost it all in downward spirals of economic distress. Instead, be compassionate towards the poor and needy. Give what you can in dollars and time. Be loving to your children by spending quality time with them. Toys and gifts temporarily please them but the heartache of lost love endures. Those working hours spent earning more money for material gifts cannot be recalled. From our childhood, what we remember most vividly is the love we received or the love we were denied.

(4)  Pace life.

Rome was not built in a day, nor should our lives be lived like a race to the finish line. Pace yourself. As parents, allow your children to enjoy their young days. Let them be children, keeping in mind how few those years compared to adulthood marked by the daily responsibilities of life.

I remember one day at about ten years old I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror drawing a black mustache under my nose when my father walked in and stood behind me.

“Going to a Halloween party?” he asked, which I knew was silly. It was summertime. “No, Pa. Just wanted to see how I look in a mustache.” He smiled, then made a life prediction: “Someday you won’t need a crayon. The hair will grow on its own and you’ll wish it didn’t.” I looked at him with knitted brows. “Shaving’s no fun. You’ll see.”

Don’t be in a hurry to grow old. And when you are old, don’t think for a second you must at all times act your age. Find things to laugh about. Sing a song now and then. Don’t let love rust away. Wear your many years like a badge. Be happy you’ve done the best you could with your life.

 

#

 

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

 

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.
www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

THE THANATOPSIS PROJECT

a
The second time he died was a Thursday. He had prepped for it since April’s last snows piled a perimeter of walls surrounding the institute like some fortified castle. Here it was now, deep into June, and from his window Trebor Patrokos could detect the late appearance of saffron crocuses on short stems, poking yellow crowns through garden beds. The mystery of nature: the cyclic journey from seed to bloom to death to seed again.

 

Scientist Carr had asked, “Why not human beings? Why not after death to blink one’s eyes like newborns and awake to the flash of new sunlight?”

 

“What do the mort-pics show?” he asked Carr. “Was I dead again?”

 

“Very much dead, Trebor. Deader, as they say, than a doornail. Dead as stone.”

 

Trebor Patrokos raked a quick hand through long graying hair. “How long this time?”

 

Scientist Carr checked his notes and read the Thanatos-meter he had attached to Trebor‘s temple. “You were dead for nearly thirty hours. No heartbeat, no brainwaves, no coursing of blood, organs somewhere down in Death Valley. Total inertia. I’d call this one even more successful than your first outage. You did just fine, Trebor. Once we set the Thanatos-meter at zero, it sucked the life out of you. For all intents and purposes you were a corpse, but the meter took on vital operations so that, yes, you were physically and mentally gone, but it transferred your life force into itself.”

 

Twice Carr had sloughed away the multi-tiered personas of his ersatz life. Trebor had been pronounced dead, a fact he had known all his life. The bald truth? Trebor Patrokos regarded himself a nothing, a kind of Invisible Man divested of clothing and facial bandages. Volunteering for the secret Thanatopsis Project, he had harbored a secret of his own, a longing that the Thanatos-meter would fail, and the death it had delivered him and then stored in its chip would prove his undoing.

 

Scientist Carr had, in an accidental but momentous experiment, managed to defang venomous death. In his laboratory he had failed to unravel the mystery of insidious cancers, find cures that would prolong lives, but all that was moot now. He had bypassed the long winding road through the mire of failed steps, leaping from Point A to Point Z in a single bound. He had conquered death! And those who would flock to his door would pay heavily to relinquish their fear of endings.

 

“To you and to the others in this study I am indebted beyond words,” said Carr. “In these experiments, time and again, the Thanatos-meter has replicated death and then restored the dead to life again. This tiny black box,” Carr said, raising the meter as if to announce it to the world, “attached to the temple…” The scientist allowed himself to drift off into fantasy. Then to Trebor Patrokos he said, “One more time?”

 

Trebor nodded, proceeded to lie down on the white surgical table where shortly before he had returned after thirty hours dead to the world.

 

Scientist Carr sang off-key while he attached the Thanatos-meter to the supine Patrokos. It was a song made popular decades before when Carr attended Columbia Med. School and wanted so much to show them all he had what it took to realize his dreams.

 

“And the world will be better for this

That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.”

 

Trebor felt the cold black metal of the meter against his forehead. Carr’s voice trailed away. Trebor’s eyes lost their grip; objects in the lab were fading fast. But so far his mind was clear. He did not want to live again. For what? Life had not been kind.

 

When Trebor heard the whining blue siren beating inside his head, he reached up his hand, touched the pulsating Thanatos-meter and yanked it from his temple just in time to take death like a man in despair.

 

Scientist Carr screamed Trebor’s name.

 

#
BIO
Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

 

Sal Buttaci’s recent flash-fiction collection, 200 Shorts, was published by All Things That Matter Press, and is  available at  http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts

 

 

 

FLASH BULLETIN: Today’ s the perfect day to order copies:

 

 

Avoid Love at First Draft by Sal Buttaci

a
Part 1: The Pre-writing Step
Franklin P. Jones, an American businessman during the Roaring Twenties, once wrote that “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.” How true, especially for writers who tend to fall in love with their first drafts. But the hardest criticism regarding their work must come from writers themselves.

 

They need to keep in mind that the craft of writing is a process. The first draft is almost never the final draft. In fact, the first draft is not even the first step in the writing process. If you consider your own published pieces, you would admit they enjoyed an editor’s acceptance because you took the time to ready them for publication. Too often writers tend to attribute first drafts to the inspiration of the literary Muse. In their indebtedness to the Muse, they decide not to revise at all. Big mistake!

 

Let’s back up a bit. Let’s begin the writing process at its logical beginning: the planning stage. Nothing is more frustrating than to invest writing time in a short story or article without knowing how it will develop and where it will finally end. Writing is a trip that requires a road map; without one, writers get sidetracked, stories are weakened, and readers are never fooled by any of it.

 

The enthusiasm which motivated writers in the first place tends to dissipate as roadblocks are encountered. What should have been a straightforward, easy-flowing piece, in the absence of a plan, becomes a wheel-spinning exercise in futility.

 

Short stories fare better when writers spend adequate time at the planning stage. A sequence of the story’s major events will keep writers on track. While these steps can be changed, deleted, or expanded, this sequence affords writers a clearer plot path to follow.

 

Another helpful planning device is the observation chart, which invites authors to gather descriptions of characters and settings. Across the top of the chart are the column headings: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, and Taste. Down the left side of the chart are the names of characters and places. One of the secrets of good short story writing is providing readers with crystal-clear imagery. If readers can visualize scenes, the written piece is successful.

 

Serious writers wouldn’t be caught dead without a pocket notepad where they constantly jot down ideas, bits of dialogue, phrases, descriptions –– anything that can be helpful. When writers feel confident about the information they’ve gathered, they can study their pre-writing notes, then cull from them some degree of organizational sense to propel them into the next logical step: The First Draft.

 

Part 2:  Revising That First Draft
If you took a survey of writers and asked them which writing step did they find most pleasurable, I would bet most, if not all, would agree it is the first draft. Pre-writing is slow. Sometimes it take weeks, even months, for everything to come together. A jotting of a word here, a question mark there–the brain is working things out. It is assigning organization to what will become compositional piece.

 

Writers have all experienced that surge of creativity as they begin the first draft, which I call “the bridge of sighs” because I know without that first draft I am going nowhere. All those ideas swimming in my head somehow are drawn into a unity that begs recording.

 

While pre-writing is slow, first drafting is frantic. Writers need to get it all down on paper or onto the monitor. As they write, they keep themselves focused on that one objective: to complete the first draft. Nothing else matters except taking the composition from start to finish. In longer works like novels and plays, the focus is the same but on a chapter or a scene of the eventually completed draft. Short stories and poems, on the other hand, can be –– and I believe should be –– written in one sitting!

 

After completing first drafts, writers should put them away for a day or two so that they can return to them with a different eye. I did say writing first drafts is a pleasurable experience. In the act of getting our writing down, we tend to fall in love with what we’ve written. We re-read it and we love it. We might even kid ourselves into believing the first draft can stand on its own without the interference of revision and proofreading.

 

So putting the draft away is akin to putting aside temptation. It doesn’t pay to try and move from creator to critic in one leap. Take a rest. Go read the newspaper. Play “Go Fetch” with your dog. Come back tomorrow or the next day or even next week.

 

When writers do finally come back, they find themselves less attached to the first draft than they were before. Now they can detect a weak beginning, insufficient detail, poorly constructed sentences, empty dialogue, unnecessary or amateurish descriptions, poor choice of words, and a host of other errors that need fixing.

 

Though some writers will insist the pleasure of writing the first draft continues well into the revising stage, I myself do not agree. Admittedly, it is challenging but done properly, it is also hard work. And it takes time and patience to transform the first draft into as perfect a draft as one can make it.

 

During the first drafting, writers create a new reality. They are independent creators who answer only to themselves. Nobody tells the first drafter what to write. There is a delectable sense of freedom at this writing stage. But revising is a different matter.

 

Writers need to add, delete, change and move words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, and all the while do so with the reader at their shoulders.

 

Often this reader is the editor of the magazine to whom they intend to submit their work. Ask yourself while you are revising that story, “Does this make sense to the reader? Does the opening sentence hook his interest? Is the reader asking too many questions because I am not clearly telling him what he needs to know at this point? Am I telling what would be hilarious only to me? Have I remembered to add foreshadowing early on in my story so the reader doesn’t reject my resolution? Do I have enough transitional words for my reader to follow my story as it flows smoothly from word to word? Does my story stay on track, hold together, keep the reader’s interest?”

 

Considering those whom you hope will get to read your story, you will improve your chances of getting that story published and widely read.

 

But don’t stop at the revising stage or stop too soon. After you are comfortable with however many revised drafts are necessary, move to the next step in the writing process: proofreading.

 

Nothing annoys an editor more than to receive a well-written manuscript laden with spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, lack of proper capitalization, and even misused verb forms. Does the editor have time to waste proofreading beyond an error or two? I don’t think so. What we send an editor should be neat and without errors.  Our submissions need to make a good impression. Proper format rules need to be adhered to or the editor will suspect we are not professional enough for his or her magazine.

 

When you are finally done writing, compare your final draft–that neat piece of work you are sending out–to your first draft. A world of difference, right? Had you made the mistake of stopping with your first draft, you would have added one more “not-ready-to-be-published piece” to your cardboard-box collection.

 

We may fall in love with first drafts, but it’s rarely a love that endures. Like any good relationship, the one which writers enter into with their writings requires time and hard work. Writers will agree it’s worth it all.

 

    #

 

 Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor,and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

 

Sal Buttaci’s recent flash-fiction collection, 200 Shorts, published by All Things That Matter Press, is  available at  http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts

 

 

 

He lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.

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

 

 

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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

 

October 26, 2014: Mother-In-Law Day

 

Mothers-in-laws are a favorite butt of jokes for stand-up comedians.  Rumble seats in the old coupes and roadsters were called mother-in-law seats because those who rode in them were out of the passenger compartment, and presumably out of the driver’s hair.  If you google “mother-in-law jokes” you will have page after page of sites listed.  A few of the less offensive ones are listed below:

Adam the happiest man who ever lived because he didn’t have a mother‑in‑law.

My mother‑in‑law’s second car is a broom.

A man in a bar says to his friend, “My mother-in-law is an angel.”  His friend replies, “You’re lucky.  Mine’s still alive.”

Q: What’s the difference between an outlaw and my mother-in‑law?   A: An outlaw is wanted!

The definition of mixed emotions is seeing your mother‑in‑law drive over the cliff in your new Porsche.

So is Mother-In-Law Day a joke, too?  Absolutely not.  Started in 1934 by a newspaper editor in Amaraillo, Texas, it is now observed on the fourth Sunday in October.  Or not.  Over the last eighty years it has not exactly caught fire.   But do mothers-in-law deserve the almost universal vilification and lack of recognition they have received?  Maybe some do, for there are both good ones and bad ones.  Yet, if anyone suggested ignoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because some mothers and fathers have not deserved to be honored, they would be booed and driven from the stage in a shower of rotten tomatoes.  In that spirit, some of us who had or have a great mother-in-law have written about them to honor them on Mother-In-Law Day.

From the moment we first met, my mother-in-law and I hit it off.  She was attractive, lively and had an incredible wit.  If she were angry with someone, that wit could have a razor edge.  However, in the 36 years I knew her, she never turned her quick mind against me.  In fact, my wife (an only child) used to say that she knew we had to work any disagreements out because she could never “run home to Mama.”  She said that Mama would have sent her back to me, her buddy.  After college, I ended up working in my in-laws’ family business.  I ran one of two locations and had pretty much total control of its day-to-day operation.  They also almost always had a house close to my wife and me.  For 16 years, they even had one on the same property as ours.  We went on a number of cruises as a family over the years.  Normally, that would be a recipe for disaster: working, living and playing in such close proximity with family often causes friction.  Such was not the case with my mother-in-law.  While there were a few occasions when my father-in-law and I had problems, my mother-in-law stood as Horatio on the bridge against his angry outbursts (which he did have).  Her rapier wit provided a great defense.

My mother-in-law thought that the term “in-law” was demeaning to me and seldom used it.  At a dance at a country club to which my in-laws (sorry) belonged, we danced together.  A woman who was also a member asked her who I was.  “My son, Ron,” she replied without hesitation.  The lady smiled.  “Oh, I can see the resemblance.”  We both had a hard time refraining from laughter until we were out of the woman’s earshot.

To say we were simpatico would be an understatement.  We both enjoyed a similar sense of humor, oft considered warped by those who did not think in the same way we did.  We both were avid readers, devouring books.  We both enjoyed crossword puzzles.  We both took Latin in high school, the “dead language.”

Sadly, she was stricken with Alzheimer’s.  Even as this horrendous disease attacked her, she kept her sense of humor.  “There’s one advantage,” she once told me.  “I can read the same book over and over again.”  As the disease progressed, she forgot my name, but she would look at me and say, “You’re a good man.”  After her passing, I wrote her eulogy, which was sent to all who knew and loved her.  It was a woeful duty and a great honor.  As her son, it was also my right.  So I now honor her memory on Mother-In-Law Day, although Altera Matris Diem, translated from Latin as “Other Mother’s Day,” would be much more appropriate and I am sure one she would prefer.

For about eight years, Ron Cherry has written a column about classic cars and street rods in The Union newspaper. His short stories have been in several online magazines, including The Dan O’Brien Project, Devilfish Review, Writing Raw, and Ineffective Ink.  He has two book on Amazon, Christmas Cracker and Foul Shot, with another due before the end of the year.

www.rlcherry.com

Mil- Ron's true friendMy Altera Matris Diem and true friend.



Determined—Yep, That Would Be the Word
By Kenneth Weene

We hadn’t expected that call, in the middle of the night, like in the movies.  I answered.  “What?”  It took a moment to register.  “How?”  Then the news hit.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

My father-in-law was on the phone. His words gurgled through tears. Isabel, his wife, my mother-in-law, was dead.  She had gone into the hospital for a hip replacement and was coming out with toe tags.  “An opportunistic fungal infection,” we were told.

After a few more hours of sleep—fitful at best—we packed and headed for Washington, where Sid, my father-in-law, awaited us.

While we packed, we talked about what we would need.  Funerals and sitting shiva meant clothes we didn’t usually wear.  My immediate reaction was to pack not a suit or sports jacket but sweaters,. Why? Because Isabel had knitted all my sweaters, and I had many.  Actually, I still have plenty of them, even after all these years and having given some away to charity.

Isabel knitted with the same determination she brought to every task.

Some years earlier, my wife and I had joined Sid and Isabel for a trip up the Pacific Coast.  While Sid drove nonstop, swinging into parking lots and right out again unless my wife or I demanded he let us jump out to actually see the sights, Isabel didn’t even glance out the window.  She was knitting.  A sweater for me, one for Jay, their son, perhaps one for Sid, on occasion one for my wife.  The needles never stopped clicking, and the results were always gorgeous, but not as gorgeous as the giant redwoods or the coastal views she was too busy to appreciate.  But, she was always determined to finish that sweater and get on to the next.

My wife Roz insisted I had to wear a suit, at least for the funeral. She was, of course, right.  After all, Isabel was also a lady, a very proper lady.  She would have been scandalized by me wearing a sweater, even one she had knitted.  We compromised;  a sweater would do for the house, when people came to offer their condolences.

After the service, we sat around and told stories about Isabel—yes, me in a sweater.  We talked of the dinner parties she threw and the work that went into them; each dish carefully made, with the table groaning under properly garnished plates, always including the chopped liver that she made especially for me.  We talked about the time she refused to leave work early even though there was a major snowstorm coming.  That evening, her car got stuck and she had to walk the last mile home in high heels through deep snow.  It never occurred to her to call a cab.  She just trudged on.  We talked about her reaction when Sid’s business had failed.  Isabel had insisted on going to work and helping pay off every creditor, leaving no one holding the bag of their bankruptcy.  Sid might have folded, but not Isabel.  Isabel never  folded.  She was a strong woman, a lady, and, above all, determined.

Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil about. Ken will, however, write on until the last gray cell has retreated and there are no longer these strange ideas demanding his feeble efforts. So many poems, stories, novels; and more to come. http://www.kennethweene.com

mil-keninsweaterYes, this is one of the sweaters.


“Mom-in-law”— My True Mother
By
Micki Peluso

Our first meeting was, shall we say, rather rocky.  Six months before, I had eloped with her son and the two of us were about to tell her and my father-in-law that we married outside the Church.  Not only that, I was three months pregnant.  She wept. Her husband muttered things in Italian whose meaning needed no translation. I was almost 18 and she was in her late 40s.  At first, her tears flowed because marrying outside of the Church was a mortal sin.  However, she rose to the occasion with dignity, compassion and an iron will.

Butch, my new husband, and I lived in his parents’ home but were placed in separate bedrooms until we were married “legally, in God’s eyes.” This lovely, persistent woman walked the hall nightly, making certain we never got together in the Biblical sense. Yet she liked me and I liked her. She was a health-food fanatic and I constantly slipped contraband like cookies, milk and the dreaded white bread into her home to compensate.  She served us good steak, which she broiled into beef jerky, with boiled escarole.

….Graciously, “Mom” looked the other way on my junk-food smuggling.  After all, she’d achieved her goal by coercing me into being tutored to raise my children Catholic in order to marry her son.  That was difficult for a feisty Baptist, raised on “fire and brimstone.”  After instructing me, the young priest was sent to a home for distressed clerics.  I felt vindicated.  Mom and I had a draw on this one

After the marriage in the Church rectory (at which time Butch fainted), Mom threw a huge reception with dozens of relatives, all Italian, all looking alike, all loving me unconditionally. After our first child was born, we moved to three hours away, where jobs were better.  I remember Mom driving up to see our two room apartment over roach-infested dry-cleaners. She once more wept and begged us to come back to her home.  We didn’t.

Over the next 10 years we had five more children and Mom babysat them whenever we were away.  The kids worshipped her — I often thought more than me.  Whenever I needed her, she drove to wherever we lived to help.  My own mother was always “too busy.”  The only time in my life that my mother-in-law couldn’t be there for me was when my 14-year-old Noelle was killed by a DWI.  Her intense grief paralyzed her and, like my own family, she suffered alone for a long time.  She had spent each night for ten days praying outside the ICU, hoping for a miracle for her granddaughter.

As my other children grew, married and gave her great-grandchildren, holiday celebrations were held at her home where she prepared delectable feasts, a far cry from her earlier disasters.  She was the Matriarch, loving, patient, yet stern in her beliefs which she expounded upon whenever she felt that a family member had strayed off the path of righteousness.

After my father-in-law passed away at the age of 79, Mom devoted her life to the Church and helping others. She maintained her wonderful, 150-year-old house into her 90s and had the strength of ten women.  Now, at 98, her blood tests are that of a 20-year-old.  She’s often tired and doesn’t do much, but is still able to live in her beloved home.

I call her every day and together we reminisce the wonderful past days and years — the good and the bad.  She has outlived her entire immediate family, older friends and a few doctors.  I treasure our calls as I try to prod her memory which is failing; dreading the day when this woman, who’s been mother and friend for most of my life, passes on to another Realm — to meet her Creator whom she’s served devotedly all her life.  She will leave a void within my heart that cannot be filled.

Micki Peluso is a journalist, book reviewer, editor and author of . And the Whippoorwill Sang. Her short stories are in several anthologies and her next book, Don’t Pluck the Duck, a collection of published essays, slice of life and short fiction will be released by December of 2014.

 MIL- Pelosi clanMom-in-law with the Peluso family

 

VIRGIE AND HER OLD CHEVETTE
By Sal Buttaci

 My mother-in-law Virgie Bateman poked along the winding roads of War Mountain in West Virginia on her way to do some food shopping at Jones & Spry. Her 1980 Chevette, once upon a time vibrant candy-apple red, now an almost dull orange, chugged its mechanical best to keep itself from stalling. When her husband  died in August 1989, Virgie  started driving again. Except for Sunday church, shopping, and an occasional visit to friends in the next holler, Virgie’s eyesore sat resting on the gravel outside her house.

Sharon and I shared the dream of one day cruising to Hawaii or lacing up and down the boot of Italy or buying first editions of bestsellers by one or more of our favorite 19th Century authors. With pleasure we could take that plunge and hopefully dive into one of those dreams. But then what about Virgie?

How would we feel dancing the night away in a Roman nightclub or lounging on the beach of Waikiki or walking out victors in an auction deal that net us an original Dickens, if Sharon’s mom had to tackle War Mountain in that old Chevette, shaky on its last wheels? Where would the joy be in that?

The grandest dream of my life has always been to realize the grandest dream of someone else. No way could Virgie Bateman’s dream come true unless Sharon and I won the Big Lottery, that in itself a dream, but if it had come to pass we would have laid aside our own wishes, and attended to hers.

Often we’d delight ourselves imagining the look on Virgie’s face when her blue eyes alighted on her sparkling white Toyota Corolla CE automatic sedan sitting like a miracle on the gravel her old Chevette no longer occupied. Could there be three happier people in all of West Virginia or anywhere else in the world?

Well, it never happened. We did not win the lottery. Virgie drove her old Chevette until it puttered its last, then, instead of returning to its graveled spot in front of Virgie’s house, it bummed a ride with a tow truck on its way to the county junkyard.

On January 14, 2013, brain cancer took Sharon’s mother away from us. She was eighty-three and we could hardly believe within days Virgie would be gone. She digressed from her usual cheery self to a hospital deathbed in Morgantown. How surreal it seemed!

Sometimes we hear comics cast aspersions on mothers-in-law. They label them meddlesome, demanding, opinionated, possessive, and a list of other negative name-calling. Virgie Bateman was none of these. I loved her as I loved my own mother. She was kind, affectionate, God-fearing, just, and everything good about a woman who had lived her life according to God’s Word and who loved her daughters and the spouses they chose with all her heart.

My dream for us now is to one day win for our souls life’s greatest fortune –– Heaven, where Sharon and I will meet Virgie again and stand with her in God’s glorious Light.

#

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.

www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com
www.twitter.com/sambpoet
www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

Mil-Virgie Bateman,Sharon's mom in 2006Virgie Bateman, Sharon’s mom in 2006


ENCOURAGE THE YOUNG TO WRITE by Salvatore Buttaci

ZZ1.Remington Typewriter

 

When I had my first writing published in the New York Sunday News in 1957, my parents thought it justified buying me a Remington typewriter. I loved that machine! I kept it in the corner of our kitchen, safe in its dark brown case, and after homework, I would carry it to the kitchen table, remove it from its case, and sit there thinking of what to write.

Sometimes not a single idea would come, but my father would remind me that success one day would depend on my own willingness to persevere. He encouraged me to learn the writing craft and to practice it daily. So when I would sit there staring at my Remington, my sisters occasionally poking fun at me, my parents would scold them. “Sal’s thinking up a story,” Papa would say. “Go watch television!”

And there were nights when poem or story ideas came late and I’d be banging away at the keys while Mama and Papa slept in the very next room. I’d typed a poem, a story, a dance of words that at the time I doubted was anything to sing about, but I so loved my parents! How could I give it all up? Find a new hobby when they believed so strongly in me? How? When they loved what I wrote, regardless of how amateurish it was? When they read everything I wrote? I kept writing. I have not stopped since.

From an early age I realized that if I shared my writing with family and friends, it encouraged me to write more often. It provided me with a reason to study hard and earn A’s in English. Metaphorically to me, the act of writing was a bird that could grow wings only if I shared it with others.

A favorite college professor of mine, Dr. Shahani, an author and friend of T. S. Eliot, once told our creative writing class, “A true poet is not one who pens his words in a garret, alienated from others, but one who shares his talent and his poems so others might learn to love poetry and want to become poets too.”

Writing is a craft we learn and practice day by day. If writers claim they love the craft but do not indulge in it daily, the question is, Why not?  They should try to write at least a poem a day or work on a short story –– something!  They should also become avid readers of books, including those on the writing craft. By writing a lot, they will always have new material to submit for possible publication.

Writing is like finding a treasure too precious to keep hidden. As an English teacher in middle school and high school, as well as a writing instructor in college, I did my best to teach my students to love writing. Once they were caught up in my own enthusiasm for the written word, they too wanted to write. Achieving that, I knew they’d be more inclined to learn grammar and composition, improve their writing, and finally be anxious to submit for publication their poems, stories, and letters to the editor.

Once published, they were encouraged to keep writing and what fueled them was a stronger self-esteem, one prerequisite for success in any endeavor. They learned not to fear letters or notes of rejection, but to enjoy them because they came with the writer’s territory. There would be less of them as they improved.

I told them the story of my rejection wall in the basement where I would paste those rejections from editors and publishers. I explained that rejection was a necessary and natural condition because no one is a perfect writer and no writer can please all editors.  I have been writing for over 60 years. Each week I submit my work: some earn acceptance, some, rejection. I edit the rejected, if necessary, and submit it elsewhere.

I never allow the market to scare me away. Last year I had two letters in the National Enquirer, one in February and one in March.  I was paid $25 for each letter of 50 words!  Now this periodical with over 8 million readers should have scared me away, but I tell myself: What do I have to lose?

I never loved anything more than writing since age nine.  Stickball and poker may have come in second and third but never first. I consider my ability to write a gift from God Who loves us enough to give each of us some kind of gift. To thank Him, I write daily, I submit my work to publications so that my work can be read by others, but I never regard writing as my ticket to fame and fortune. I am just one more writer among a billion out there. I do enjoy being read. I love it when folks buy and like my books Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts. I too would like to be recognized as a great writer, but what is more important to me is that I can continue writing every single day. My satisfaction is derived in the act of writing. That’s why I keep doing it!

I believe God gave me the writing gift because He knew the kind of boy I was and the man I would become: easily discouraged, not tough enough to accept life’s negatives,  weak in faith, unsure of myself –– all these things to which I answer daily with poetry and fiction. It is my way of confronting life, saving in my work those I love who passed from this Earth, accepting the harshness of life’s bad things and remaining hopeful they will be followed by good things, and loving God more each day for loving me more than I deserve. So no matter what, I write because it’s the way I fight my demons and remain on the right road to where my soul dreams one day to be.

ZZ1.-clipart-boy-writting

Parents and teachers, be on the lookout for talents in your children and then  encourage their development. Without your help, children usually never realize they have any talents and consequently lose them.

As a boy I was fortunate to have had perceptive parents who made my writing appear to be a good way for me to please them. How they beamed when I would read my new poem or story! I also had several teachers in my youth who also encouraged my writing. So, now as parents and teachers, you must do the same.

#

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.
www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

BETTER THAN AN APPLE A DAY

 Sal relaxing on Virgie's porch in Yukon.2003
Thomas Marshall is reported to have said nearly a century ago, “What  this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.”  But what did he know! As Vice President of the United States in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration (1913-1921), he once told a bodyguard that his V. P. job was pointless. “Nobody ever shoots a Vice President.”

 

Let me add that since the Surgeon General’s report in 1964 linked smoking to lung cancer, cigars, cheap or otherwise, along with cigarettes, are best left unlit.

 

So what then does this country really need? My father used to say, “If you want answers, go ask somebody who knows what he’s talking about.” So don’t you think it makes good sense to ask King Solomon, reputed to have been the wisest man who ever lived? Looking him up in the Good Book, I found, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17: 22). Ah hah! A merry heart, of course.

 

And what does a merry heart do? Henry Ward Beecher said, “Mirth is God’s best medicine.” Mirth is gladness expressed by laughter. Of course, his sister Harriet might not have agreed. The abolutionary author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was all seriousness, and in that novel, rightfully so.

 

How can laughter be precisely what our country needs? Looking around, can we find much of anything to laugh at? Wars and natural disasters are not so funny. Neither is hunger and homelessness. Politically, we are at the mercy of two parties who have traded in their dedication to service for a senseless Mexican standoff. Ecologically, our beloved Earth is in a heap of trouble, inspiring naysayers to predict our planet’s imminent demise. How can laughter in some small way smooth the wrinkles on the face of our nation?

 

Norman Cousins (1915 – 1990) was an American political journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate, who suffered a massive heart attack in 1980. Three years later,W.W. Norton and Company published  his book The Healing Heart. Its main premise stated that laughter could heal a literally broken heart.

 

I have always believed in the health value of laughter. To me it is truly the best medicine (except where a good strong prescription is required; let’s say, in the case of contracting a flesh-eating virus. You want to laugh, but honestly, it’s hard to laugh off a virus with a voracious appetite).

 

As a child growing up, I delighted in making my parents and siblings laugh. I told jokes. I performed ridiculous slapstick that usually backfired and earned me a few slaps from Mama or a belt, in absence of a stick, from Papa.

 

My older brother Alfonso once reassured me that I would never suffer a heart attack because I knew how to laugh away stress. My sister Anna once warned me, “You do that one more time and see what happens.”

 

My father was my best fan. He loved my humor. I’d get him laughing so hard, tears would pop out of his eyes, he’d reach for his back pocket and withdraw a large white handkerchief that he’d wave for truce. Mama would beg me to stop when Papa would laugh that hard. She’d pull on my arm as if the jokes were flowing out of my fingertips. She’d shake me like a jar of Ovaltine and milk, but I kept it up until my father wiped the last of his tears, sat down, and shook his head. If I said a word, his hand shot up and I knew he had had enough medicine for one day. An overdose would not have been in his good interest nor in mine.

 

I like reading stories and novels that make me laugh. In my younger days, I read Max Shulman’s hilarious novel Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys; Jack Douglas’ My Brother Was an Only Child and Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver; Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; Erma Bombeck’s  If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

 

Humor, like music, soothes the savage beast, and while we have so many bloody novels about zombies, vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and spies, I think authors should try their hand at comedy. Come on, make us laugh! Remember that during the Great Depression (when almost everyone was depressed), folks spent their nickels at a picture show. They’d go to the movie houses and howl at the silent antics of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Ben Turpin, Mabel Normond and a monkey barrel full of other very funny stars.

 

For some writers humor comes easily. One of them I know is Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, which is not a funny book, a rather serious one set at the 1936 Olympics, but Bob is one of those people from whose mouth and pen gushes out humor, sometimes unintended. On the death of Sid Caesar he wrote on Facebook, “I remember his zany antics … the Japanese theater when he introduced his lovely daughter …Schmata. He was a man who fought alcoholism, drugs, and maybe that was the reason his life was cut short at 92. Who knows?”

 

Have I made my point that laughter is just what the doctor ordered? An apple a day is good but a laugh now and then everyday is even better.

 

I’d like to end my article with a truly funny event that literally knocked me off my feet

 

Many years ago at a dinner party in our apartment, my friend Pete told a very funny joke about an old Englishman who had loved going on safaris when he was much younger. Speaking in the British dialect of royalty (the old man was an earl or a duke), Pete told how one day while hunting the ferocious tiger, the beast suddenly lunged upon him and he screamed, “AAIYY!“ then fired his rifle, explaining that, out of fear, he had embarrassingly soiled his trousers.

 

Changing his voice somewhat, Pete spoke for one of the old man‘s young friends, “But Sir Henry, that is quite understandable. After all, it was a ferocious tiger that attacked you, and ––” Then back to the old man’s voice, Pete delivered the punch line, “No, you do not understand. When I just now screamed ‘AAIYY!‘ I soiled my trousers.”

 

Well, we all laughed for a long time. I let myself drop to the dining room floor. Then John followed suit, then his wife Barbara, then Tony and Rosalye, and then Pete and his wife Barbara.

 

At that point, all of us still rolling on the carpet, my ex-wife, the only one standing and the only one not laughing, made this prediction, “Sal one day is going to die laughing.”

 

From her mouth to God’s ear.

 

      #

 

BIO:<[/BR]/div>

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

 

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

 

 

 

 

FLASH BULLETIN: Today’ s the perfect day to order copies: