A Detective Gaston Mystery

A Murder Mystery Snippet

Maybe this will become a short story, maybe a novel—even a book in a series. For now, this is all there is–it all started with a writing prompt, from which I took only the two character names. 

“She had a thyroid problem. Do you suppose that killed her, detective?”

“Not unless it caused her to fall on a knife, Mr. Conistone,” Detective Gaston said.

“Ah, I didn’t see the stab wound.”

“Of course you didn’t; it’s in her chest and you didn’t turn her over like I just did–did you, Conistone?”

“Oh no, I know better than to touch a body. I watch those crime shows all the time, sir.”

“Well then, you might have noticed the blood on the mattress–and wondered where it came from, eh?”

“What? Oh, damn! Now I’ll have to replace the mattress again. I just put that one in this unit two, or maybe three years ago.”

“Your concern for the woman is really something, Conistone. How long has she been a tenant?” Gaston asked.

The aging apartment manager shook his dank gray hair and looked down at the faded carpet. “Well, it’s been ten years now, I guess, since Mrs. Weaver moved in. Yes, right after that big snow in ’08–must have been February. She kept to herself mostly, so we weren’t really close or anything. Still it’s a bit of a shock. Nothing like this has ever happened here at Finger Lake.”

“So you don’t know of any friends or family then? Or people who might want to do her harm?”

“No, she was so quiet–never any complaints about loud noises, arguments or that sort of thing from other tenants. I’ll have to check our files to see who she might have listed for any emergency contact. We started doing that after an elderly man passed away some years ago and we didn’t know who to call.”

“I suppose he did die of natural causes?”

“Oh yes, no stabbing–did need to buy a new mattress, of course, him dying and all.”

A Happy Birthday Song Brings Tears #WATWB

We Are the World Blogfest

Just a little web surfing produced this gem for the monthly #WATWB. A kindergarten class signed the Happy Birthday song for a hard of hearing custodian at their elementary school.  It brought a smile and tears to the man.

Custodian James Anthony reacts to the group of kindergartners signing “Happy Birthday” to him. photo © CBS Interactive

For more on the story go here. For a related video, go here.

Cohosts for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest are:

Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese and Roshan Radhakrishnan

The Writer’s Eye–Seeing A Scene Around You

Not a story this time, a writers tip fleshed out.

After an early doctor’s appointment, my wife and I stopped for breakfast at a local Arby’s last month.

I asked the manager, who happened to be working the counter, “Did you use to work at Wendy’s?”

“Yes, for ten years,” she said, “that seemed long enough.”

I explained to my wife how I recalled seeing the woman talking to staff over some food and drink, explaining how she expected things to go. She seemed diplomatic or tactful and her comments were well received. Over time, I don’t recall seeing her there again, but service improved greatly after that.

I also mentioned to my wife how every time I’d been to Arby’s for breakfast in the last few months, I’d seen the same guy eating there–concluding he must be a regular. Neither of us are; the only time we eat breakfast out is when we have a fasting blood test or an early doctor or dentist appointment. I recalled how when we first arrived in Silver City, the local Arby’s had a tray of clean porcelain coffee cups laid out on one end of the counter. I asked the server about it; he told me it was for the regulars. I never saw the cups again–maybe a subsequent manager or some higher put the kibosh on it. Not exactly what one might expect in a chain fast-food site.

My wife observed that I had a writer’s eye–remembering all these details. I agreed, explaining how it helps for filling in the background of a story–making it more real. If you’re a writer, you probably do this too. If not, you might want to start.  😉 

#WATWB for September 2018–The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

We Are the World Blogfest

Sorry, a few days late on this month’s #WATWB post due to some unexpected challenges. While dealing with them, I struggled with who or what to profile this time around. In light of all the hyperpartisan issues in America and the multitude of ethnic, racial and religious conflicts around the world I came up with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. For those unaware, the Red Crescent serves Islamic countries and the Red Cross most of the rest. There’s no value in my researching and delineating humanitarian aid distinctions here. So instead, I’ll just blockquote the summary from their website along with adding the icon used in certain appropriate cases.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a global humanitarian network of 80 million people that helps those facing disaster, conflict and health and social problems. It consists of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The logo is in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish (the official languages of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent).

People around the world are served by the constituent members and volunteers–sometimes in unexpected ways. Food, shelter and medical care in response to disasters are well known. Here’s a link to another form of aid, communication with family.

The Cytherians

A snippet from a prompt at the Gila Writers Group. Maybe something to use in a short story or . . . ?

The Cytherians, by necessity, are a shiny sort of people. The planet is very near its sun. The surface is very hot–too hot for more than a brief visit from the underground cities of Cytheria. With a thin atmosphere, the UV rays could be fatal. But at times, they have reason to emerge in daylight hours. When they do, any exposed skin must reflect all rays which touch them. Of course they could wear protective garments to do the same, but they evolved before resources to create them were developed. So most continue to rely on their nude bodies, wearing clothes only for ceremonial occasions.

The mirrored surfaces pose a challenge when meeting one another face to face. A reflection of oneself is what each sees on the other. Only the distinctive shape of the other’s head, torso and limbs differentiates the image seen. Words and gestures make the most important tools for connecting, for communicating. But in that respect, perhaps they’re not so different than their human counterparts on Earth. Body language can be important even when it’s a mirror of oneself, but words and gestures are more important.


The Quiet Deer

We are blessed with lots of wildlife at our home high atop a hill in southwestern New Mexico. Yesterday a quail with two young ones walked in front of the house; today, four adults walked along the short stone wall 15-feet from the house. Hummingbirds are in abundance, as a recent post briefly noted. Today, a description of the deer from last week.

The two brothers and a younger buck floated across the dirt and gravel road, gliding silently 30 feet in front of my dog Max and I. They might have been an illusion for their soundless motion, stepping so softly I heard no footfall. Only two shallow hoof-prints marked the road in the ground, wet from the light rain covering my coat. They must have been real–Max looked at them too, although he made no attempt to give chase or even bark. Still, so odd that that the paws of a 45-pound dog left a deeper track than those deer three or four times his weight. Nothing like the elk, whose hooves clop heavily on the limestone rocks throughout our property.

#WATWB Lions of Justice

Something a little different this month–with a bit of secular humanism. OK, a little faith-connection too. I’m talking about a national event happening in the USA in nine cities. It’s a festival intended to welcome 50,000 youth–aged from 12 to 39.

It’s happening September 23rd and registration ends September 4th. So if you or someone you know falls within those ages and may be interested in attending, time is running out. First, let me give you a few highlights, a link to more information and registration. Also a short video trailer of two individuals who will be at one of the event locations.

The Mission Statement identifies the goal of the event as:

At the Lions of Justice Festival on September 23, young people from all backgrounds will gather in nine locations to stand up for the dignity of life—to proclaim that all people are worthy of respect and must be treated with the dignity they deserve.

Through musical performances, films, inspiring speakers and the shared experiences of youth taking action in their daily lives to transform society, we will further affirm our determination to make the 21st century one of lasting peace and awaken profound courage and hope in our friends, families and communities throughout the country.

Seems like worthy objectives in a world where the youth represent the World’s future and are also among those who suffer much when hope and respect are lacking. The gathering is sponsored by the SGI-USA, a lay Buddhist organization founded decades ago. There is a modest registration fee of $20. Otherwise, costs are primarily for travel and lodging if needed.


It’s happening in these cities:

  • New York
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Dallas
  • Phoenix
  • San Francisco
  • Honolulu

Cohosts for this month’s blogfest areSimon Falk, Andrea Michaels, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia Stein, Belinda Witzenhausen.

We knew it when we saw it

A short piece about the place where we really live–transformed far, far away. A sketch for a short story perhaps.

We knew it when we saw it, the place for our dream house. We climbed the rocky slope, over and between the boulders left by the upthrust of tectonic events millennia ago. So much like the land we had left behind in the American Southwest, even to the thorny plants that could pierce heavy denim. New Mexico had been arid for so many generations, then the unending drought that came with global warming emptied the wells and killed all but the hardiest cacti. When the opportunity came, we joined the exodus to a new planet. The promotional videos showed a verdant world. Rivers, lakes of a peculiar purple and trees in hues we’d never seen on Earth. There might have been such places on Eleuthra, but not in the area open for settlement when we arrived. But it looked so much like the home we’d left behind, we weren’t disappointed–too much.

Away from the few other settlers who dared the village outskirts, we sat on folding chairs we’d carried high atop the hill. First here, then there, we moved the chairs until the best view of the valley emerged. Semiarid like New Mexico, yet small streams flowed in a few places, sheltered by dull orange-colored trees. Mountains rose in the distance, with snow covered peaks rising several thousand feet above us. Yes, we could live here. We could write, we could paint, we could quilt. So much beauty, even amidst the danger. The deadly predators the Authority had failed to warn us of. Our future neighbors showed us the pictures and the defenses they’d erected. Still, if they could survive so could we. Not without some hardship. Not without some close calls we didn’t expect.

I Used to Dance

A little something from the Gila Writers Group last week.

I used to dance, long ago, once I overcame the fear of ridicule or looking foolish to those who actually knew the footwork and possibly other associated motions that certain Sixties dances required. By the Seventies, free-styling was the dominant form on the floor. With just the right number of tokes, who cared what anyone else thought anyway.

Actually, I think I got it all down pretty well by then–syncing my moves to the music of the day, or night to be more precise. There really were no prescribed moves anymore. Then came disco, that short-lived excursion into far more moves than ordinary rock and roll ever had. Kind of like a return to decades past. Many mocked the music but plenty did the steps. Not me. No time for learning that in the midst of law school–even if I’d wanted to. I suppose the freestyle and disco coexisted for a time, with disco fading first. But by then, age and marriage made clubs and the party scene a thing of the past.

Now I’m living just outside Silver City. A small town in New Mexico. I’ve seen bumper stickers that say

Old hippies never die, they just move to Silver City

There’s some truth to that. You can verify it with a trip to the Blues Festival that happens every Memorial Day Weekend. It’s FREE! Occasional name groups or individual singers show up. More often it’s people you’ve never heard of–but that doesn’t mean they’re not smokin’. Many folks just sit in their canvas event chairs, with or without umbrellas. But many others surround the stage set up on the pagoda in the middle of the town’s park. With music blasting, they make their own unique contribution to the dance vocabulary. No two individuals or couples move alike. From their apparel, it’s obvious some are reliving the good old days of wherever hippies and wannabes frolicked.

More than a little overweight and without the aid of still prohibited recreational drugs, I’ve eschewed the dancing myself. Now that I’m nearly svelte, next year has to be the time to revisit those days myself. Who knows, by then New Mexico may join the legalization movement that’s already taken hold in Colorado.