THURSDAY’S CHILD

I am still taking a break from my novel, “Strawman” and in the interim I wrote a Novella titled, “Floaters”.  I have also been revising my novel, “A Time In Time”, which is published as a Kindle book.  Its singular reader felt the love story was a bit lacking.  So, if only to please one person, I am at work.  Meanwhile, having looked through old manuscripts, I soon came upon “Wednesday’s Child”.   Still one of my favorite writings.  For only the third time, if you count “Floaters”,  had I made the primary protagonist a woman.  It began in the Sixties and included fictionalized domestic terrorism. To a great extent, the accompanying story was autobiographical in that it, again to a fair extent, depicted my own family. The first chapters of the original version of it were reviewed by a good friend, who had many helpful suggestions.  The second reviewer was my brother, who invariably felt his phrasing was superior to mine.  Finally, between their both well-meaning efforts and corrections, I told my brother that I hardly recognized a page of the original manuscript.  Angrily he declared he would have nothing more to do with the project . . . and he meant it.  I proceeded alone and finished the novel.  When he kindly skimmed its contents, he declared it a disaster.  For starters he deemed my version of the Sixties and its Vietnam turmoil to be an insipid description of the age’s true action and basically ignored its true revolutionaries: SDS and the Weathermen.  Secondly he disliked the fact that I killed off the only character he really liked.  He found my version of crime and punishment and the story’s ending to be unrealistic and downright ridiculous.  Mostly though, he greatly objected to my depiction of him and my fictionalized version of his youth.  He said that, if by the remotest act of kindness the book was ever published, anyone in our hometown, who might stumble upon it, would know exactly who I was writing about. Such lack of decency and dismissal of privacy, on my part, was inexcusable.  I sat down and rewrote much of the book then filed it away unread by any other.

Nevertheless, I consider its first chapter to be some of my finer writing, so I intend to repeat it here.  It begins:  It is now 1993 and I approach middle age with no great ambition fulfilled.  I have had no great novel published, nor can I claim any other of the great accomplishments the idealism of my youth had promised.

I was born in 1944 to parents bound in a marriage founded on opposite desires and ambitions.  Having lost their mothers, while young in life, both hungered for stability and security while each pictured future achievement from decidedly different interpretations of same.  He was raised a city boy whose interest lay in farming, which would have been possible due to farmland holdings of a willing uncle.  She came from the hard-scrabble plains of the Oklahoma panhandle.  She had no interest in the hardships and vagaries of farm life and, by the time he proposed marriage, she had graduated from nursing school and lifted herself to professional nursing status.  She would marry him only on the condition that he give up any plans for becoming a farmer.  He succumbed and instead learned the electrical trade under the tutelage of a much admired older brother.

A year into their marriage, a first daughter was born.  They named her Joanne.  Five years later, I, named Diane, became the second of four daughter, the third and fourth being named Julie and Sue.  Finally, thirteen years into the marriage, a son was born and named Winfield Henry, Jr., after his father.  Not being the first-born, of whom much was required, nor the son, of whom much was expected, nor the third daughter, Julie, who became the family’s shining adolescent success, I fell, in my perception, into an abyss of insignificance.

By early youth I had honed a repertoire of clever and cutting statements to mask my own perceived shortcomings.  I also became a student, as learning came easy . . . a reader of popular fiction and classics, which confirmed my belief that humankind’s cruelty greatly overshadowed its goodness . . . a seeker of solitude, where a penchant for grand dreams of grand accomplishment was my chosen world.  Certain that I would one day write something significant, perhaps the greatest of American novels, I took to heart a treasured quotation, which read: “It is great to be young and to have the talent, because then the world will want you.”

By young adulthood, I had added the last accoutrements of pseudo-intellectualism.  Having come of age after the pinnacle of McCarthyism, I joined a generation that would once again rise up, and became a determined, though quiet, rebel in support of democratic ideals and lost liberal causes . . . all of which insured my moral superiority.  Having endured the god-fearing conservatism of Kansas, I chose Democrat for political obligation and labeled myself atheist, or at best agnostic . . . which proved my intellectual superiority.

In my imagined future, romance would be brief but fulfilling affairs whose only offspring would be meaningful literature.  Certain that writing required, of its serious practitioners, the experience of tragedy, agonizing strife, dangerous venture, debilitating illness, possibly even alcoholism; I was prepared to bravely face any and all such dangers.  Hadn’t those aliments been experienced to one extent or another by Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dostoevsky, and Poe among countless writers and poets?  Moreover, what danger or matter of any consequence ever occurred in the parochial monotony of Kansas?  Therefore, immature dreamer that I was, I set my sights on an unlikely goal never anticipating the quirks of human nature, the accidents of fortune, or the events that would turn my heart to love, my soul to anarchy, and my world to a chaos of my own making.

And though Joanne would die at the age of nineteen; and though Julie’s early success would stumble through four failed marriages; and though Win would fall victim to depression, attempted suicide, and eventual imprisonment; and though Sue, the most normal of all, would later blame me for much of what happened . . . almost all of that lay in the future when, at the age of twenty-two, I, once and for all time, left home and all that was Kansas, to begin my life.

Film Noir, Bogart, and Obsession

I have been taking a “time out” from writing, re-writing, and the tedium of after-thought.  The fact is, I am bored.  The prod for this particular input was my recent viewing, for the umpteenth time, of the film noir classic:  In A Lonely Place, which I will get back to later.   Most films these days don’t hold much lure for me since special effects can’t begin to compete with plot in my opinion.  What interests me more than visuals is a sense of foreboding . . . the blatant presence of evil.  I think evil fascinates all of us as it falls outside the realm of most of our lives, but is so tempting to contemplate.  And that alone is the essence of Film Noir.

In Film Noir, character is of great importance and the essence of duplicity.  It’s heroes’ characters are usually flawed; its women’s characters are invariably evil.  It is your everyday schmoo against Medusa: a man, such as you and me, so wanting in character that he can’t resist being seduced into deceit and murder by a woman of no morals whatever.  One of the best writers of this genre was James M. Cain and films of his novels are classics.  Those films include: The Postman Always Rings Twice, with my favorite version starring John Garfield as the obsessed handyman and Lana Turner as his downfall;  Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford and littered with deceitful, disgusting characters, the worst being her own daughter; and, unquestionably my favorite, Double Indemnity. Indemnity involves insurance salesman Walter Neff, played by Fred MacMurray, and the evil tart played by Barbara Stanwick.  She wants Fred to gimmick up an insurance policy on her husband and then help her kill him in an accidental death which will pay double indemnity.  Of course he is complicit simply because the script says he does all this, not for any logical reason that I can fathom.  Barb is about as attractive as a black widow spider yet by their third meeting he is saying, “I’m crazy about you, baby.”  Poor Fred, he’s just crazy to fall for her.  Of course, this same basic plot, sans insurance, is used in Body Heat, with Kathleen Turner far more attractive but no less deviously addictive than dear Barb.  I consider Body Heat and Chinatown  to be the two best recent classics.  In Chinatown Jack Nicholson is a private eye of questionable character, Faye Dunaway is just a mess, and John Huston is the overwhelmingly evil presence.  How can one forget Nicholson slapping the crap out of Dunaway as she confesses, “She’s my sister, she’s my daughter, she’s my sister , she’s my daughter.”  Poor Faye, poor Jack; will evil never by punished?

In most cases yes, if you look hard enough.  For example let’s take The Maltese Falcon.  That was the name of the movie on its third remake and hardly the name of the serialized story written by Dasheill Hammett.  Nevertheless, some consider it to be the first of the Film Noirs.  It introduced us to private investigator Sam Spade as played by Humphrey Bogart.  In the book Spade was an immoral, disgusting character who lived by a code of his own; in the movie he was Bogart.  As Bogart he was almost loveable; in both genres he was acceptable only because he was less sleazy than the rest of the characters.  In each case the story began with his partner being killed.  Slade didn’t even like the guy, he was making out with the man’s wife, he showed little concern about the man’s death other than the fact that it made dumping the man’s wife easier.  Instead he was somewhat intrigued and eventually involved with the story’s female lead: a lying, conniving, murderous bitch.  In the end, primarily to save himself, he gives her up to the cops with the declaration that she was “taking the fall” that she was “going over for it.” His excuse: “When a man’s partner’s killed, he’s supposed to do something about it.” Really?

Sam Spade leads us to his counterpart, Phillip Marlowe.  Marlowe was Raymond Chandler’s private investigator.  Marlowe was Spade’s antithesis: honest, decent, trustworthy . . . more or less, and ever resourceful.  He was portrayed in movies by several actors including Bogart.  Chandler’s novel, The Big Sleep was a movie that made little if any sense other than mayhem and murder.  It was rescued by the presence of Bogart and Bacall. Bacall was the oldest daughter of an elderly and dying oil baron who hired Bogart, as Marlowe, to solve the disappearance of a former employee.  Said oil baron was also concerned about his youngest daughter who was a bit wild.  The story began with Marlowe entering the baron’s mansion and being met by the youngest daughter who was sucking her thumb, thought Marlowe was cute, and as Marlowe told her father “she tried to sit on my lap while I was standing”. You can take it from there.  Among other movie portrayals of Marlowe, I consider Robert Mitchem’s takes among the best.  He even did a version of The Big Sleep in an entirely different setting, yet I cherish his performance in Farewell, My Lovely.  He was maginficent throughout the beating, dopings, murders and mayhem.  He was trying to find Velma for an ex-convict client, Moose Malloy.  Ah, had Marlowe but known that the knock-out portrayed by Charlotte Rampling was not merely the sluttish wife of a millionaire but also Velma.  It was a very good movie right down to the gun blazing, dispicable end!  Shame on you, Velma; Moose loved you!

Which brings me, at last, to In A Lonely Place. What do you do when you suspect the man you love of murder?  That is a problem for Bogart, a screen-writer with vicious temper, and his love, Gloria Grahame, to sort out.  Will the truth come in time, or will all be lost?  Who can say?  The facts are that the girl was killed after visiting Bogart’s apartment and the cops are certain he’s their guy.  His displays of unreasonable and distructive temper scare the you know what out of her.  The main thing missing from this film is the great mood music that is always part of film noir.  However, it almost makes up for that with dialogue.  Bogart quotes from the screen play he is writing throughout all this turmoil: “I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.”

Ahhh, Hollywood.  Sometimes you get it right.

Whidbey

Washington State’s Puget Sound is home to Whibey Island; the longest island in the contiguous United States.  For the greater part of the last thirty-five years, it has been my home. Whidbey lies directly east of the Strait of Juan de Fuca which is the Pacific Ocean’s entry to Puget Sound.  It sits atop an earthquake fault, gives land to two national forests, and its western shores are littered with remnants of the state’s timber industry and debris from the Pacific Ocean.  In the Fall and Winter, fog is a problem.  This year, thanks to La Nina, we will probably get more snow than usual.  I won’t mind.  In my opinion the climate is ideal.  Rarely does the temperature fall below zero and, in the short Springs and Summers , if temperatures rise above the seventies, we are having a serious heat wave.  Our industries are the Navy, farming, tourism, and limited boat building and marine services.  We have a vineyard which harvests berries not grape.  We sport a lively artist colony of painters, potters, photographers, iron sculpturers, and writers.  We also supply much of the country with Penn Cove Mussels.  Penn Cove is the island’s main inlet and, at one time, was also the basin for sewage disposal from beach front homes and businesses.  Penn Cove has a poor reputation for flushing.  Now its waters are littered with rafts of the mussel growing industy.  I once ate some of their mussels and survived, so I guess it’s all a matter of taste.

The town of Oak Harbor has a healthy theater group.  My own doctor has starred in The King And I, The Music Man, Chicago, and I suspect he is now appearing in Meet Me In St. Louis.  If you go on line you can find comments about your doctor.  One of the comments made about my physician was by a disgruntled patient who questioned something he either did or said.  My doctor’s response: “What medical school did you attend?”  I love it.  My dermatologist is in deep trouble.  After ten years of attempting a divorce, he skipped owing everyone a bundle, including the IRS, his office staff, and his staff’s retirement funds. Shame, shame. He was hauled in and apparently cited.  When his court appearance came due, he skipped that, too.  The last I heard of this saga was that the cops were after him.  Too bad.  I liked the man and his office showed great taste in art.  Fortunately our police and sheriff’s departments are no better or worse than anyone elses.

When I first arrived on the island, one of the grocers issued grease pencils and you marked the price on your purchases.  They have since moved, changed ownership, and adopted more modern pricing practices.  The store also has a small Post Office outlet which is run by a woman of my generation.  I have been so cruel as to name her “molasses”.  She can be a trial and, though she wears a store uniform, I suspect she actually belongs to the Post Office.  Our home delivery postal service is absolutely great, but try counter service and you will be disappointed.  You are better off driving south to Coupeville, the County seat, and visiting their facility.  There the Postmaster and his staff know why they exist: to wait on you . . . expeditiously and with courtesy.   Oak Harbor is littered with fast food restaurants although KFC recently fled the coop.  Walmart, Home Depot, and Applebee’s now honor us with their presence and meet our every earthly need.  The local, smaller business have suffered a recent debacle.  The town’s main business street, Pioneer Way, was found to be an Indian burial ground.  Apparently that snag has been corrected since black plastic drapes are now removed and the street repaving and restructure are again underway.  What a relief, except for the fact that it will now be a one way street which pisses off most citizens since they weren’t told of this revision before hand.

The island was originally settled by the Dutch, so the annual celebration of Holland Days, with its mainstreet parade, is a major community event.  As is the Lion’s Club annual yard sale  and the Coupeville Art Festival: they really draw the crowds.  On the Fourth of July, the city shoots fireworks into Penn Cove taking care to miss the Yacht Club and any boaters who want a front seat to the excitement. There really are no great leaders in this community and I don’t mean to demean our Navy heroes.  However, having spent twenty-two years in the Air Force myself, I am well aware of the military’s addiction to normalcy and conformity.  We do, nevertheless have a few celebrities in our midst.  Gary Locke, Washington State’s former governor and current ambassador to China, has purchased property in Coupeville according to my dog groomer.  Shirley Collins, the founder of Sur La Table, runs a stylish little farmstead that would make Martha Stewart envious.  And, I think writer, Elizabeth George, still lives somewhere on the island.  Still not all our inhabitants have been desireable.  One of the state’s most notorious serial murderers was born and raised in Oak Harbor.  Also, not twenty-five miles south of where I live, the Feds ran the founder and leader of The Order to ground and killed him.  The man’s life and death are celebrated by his Nazi adherents as they honor us with an annual reunion.

Kansas

When I grew up in Kansas, it seemed a decent enough place to live despite its bloody history and blatant racial discrimination.  It was solid Republican, home of Dodge City’s Boot Hill, and birthplace of Ike, who had a two term Vice President named Richard Nixon.  It was monotony except for the massacre of the Clutter family, the foundation for In Cold Blood, and Wichita’s BTK killer.  It was the setting for a few movies.  I don’t think The Wizard of Oz was actually filmed there, though the terrain and fantasy would certainly apply.  I remember Wait Til The Sun Shines Nellie in which Jean Peter’s character deserts her husband and runs away with her adulterous lover.  The film I best remember is Picnic.  Its scenes of grain storage elevators; the waterfall, which Holden ran through in escaping the cops; and the setting and action of the actual picnic were all fimed in my hometown.  According to one of the town’s telephone operators, Holden told a friend that we were all a bunch of hicks.  By west and east coast standards we most likely were.

The summer before last, I made a solo cross country trip to Missouri to visit a dying relative.  In Nebraska, when I left the Oregon Trail, these days called Interstate 80, I dropped down through Kansas and its flat prairie lands.  Herds of cattle and fields of corn brought no moments of nostalgia.  Had I not been determined to reach Missouri by nightfall, I still would have by-passed my birthplace and the opportunity for Auld Lang Syne.  Years earlier Kansas’s news maker was Senator Robert Dole.  Despite his reputation for political viciousness he did have a sense of humor as partly demonstrated by his marriage to a poof sleeved southern belle who had her own eye on making the White House home.  These days the state’s news makers are a group of nuts: the religious sect that rejoiced at the death of a young gay, named Matthew, who was severely beaten and spent his last hours of life entwined in a barbed wire fence in Wyoming.  Lately they have been demonstrating their hate at the funerals of our soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This hatred and lack of conscience and decency do none of us credit.

A Time In Time

A Time In Time is finally on line.  My version of the legal profession, courtroom drama, and the trauma that befalls it all. I hope readers will accept my literary license in presenting each trial.

A Time In Time Cover

Kindle Edition

Now that it is finally published, I am working on my next book.  It’s title is Straw Man and is a detective novel involving Seattle P.D.  It is peopled by several folks you will hopefully remember from my book: Messenger.  Thank for your interest and good reading.

If you’d like to preview the first few chapters of A Time In Time you can find them here.

Dreams

I have vivid recollection of my dreams or, perhaps, I should say nightmares.  Often I am on foot and attempting to reach a known destination, but my lengthening journey is blocked by great stretches of water, rough terrain, and nothing I pass looks familiar.  I am lost and terrified.  I dream I am in houses with rooms which I am afraid to enter. When I dream of my husband he becomes angry, for no understandable reason, and leaves me deserted. I have dreamed that I am a killer and that members of my family kill each other.  One frequent dream seems so much less threatening.  I am a waitress with many tables of customers, but I can’t take their orders because I have nothing to write on.  As they become restless, due to lack of service, I panic and leave.  Or, at times, I am back in the military but I can’t find essential parts of my uniform.  If I go about without a hat or other essential piece of apparel, I know I will be in deep trouble.  On two occasions I have dreamed that I am crazy and the sight of my insane face scares the hell out of me! Recently I dreamed that, when I looked in the rear view mirror of my car, the back seat was filled with ghouls who were getting ready to climb over the back of the front seat and get me.

I attribute these dreams to a deep seated sense of insecurity.  They began in the late 1980s when my husband died.  They became progressively more frequent and frightening in the mid and late 1990s, when my parents each died.  They were the rocks on which I built my life and each lost was wrenching.  Each passing removed one more bit of security.  I suppose it may be silly of me to attribute my nightmares to such obvious happenings.  Perhaps it is just a case of over-active imagination.  Perhaps I’m just a bit crazy, yet the only thing similar that I remember occurred during my childhood.  I would dream I was holding a piece of paper from which I would tear a piece, then another piece, another, and another with increasing speed until I was in a frenzy of paper tearing!  And paper wasn’t my only venue.  At times I would begin rolling string into a ball, then the activity would increase in velocity and violence until I reached ball rolling frenzy!  As frightening as these early dreams were, if I had a choice between then and the present, I would choose paper tearing and ball rolling any night of the week.

While I Was Sleeping

When I go to bed at night I usually spend time dreaming up plots and dialogue.  Occasionally though, other things enter my mind and recently it was my love of political cartoons.  The one in mind appeared years ago and was probably the work of Horsey.  It depicted our then three latest presidents: Ford, Carter, and Reagan.  In each case the first caricature pictured the man before taking office.  Directly below that was an old, haggard, wrinkled view of his visage upon leaving office.  In Reagan’s case, the caricatures above and below were the same.  Reagan was obviously the butt of the joke and apparently not a favorite of the artist; nor of me.  It is said that during his presidency the greatest transfer of wealth in this country’s history took place, straight from the hands of us commoners to the pockets of the rich.  A habit that is still present today.  However, one of my greatest disappointments in the man was the fact that, during those eight long years, little or no federal monies were spent on AIDS research.  It wasn’t a disease of nice people.  How much unnecessary heartbreak and needless deaths can be attributed to the man’s moralistic attitude.  Shame on you Ronnie, you should’ve been better than that.

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