Random Acts of Kindness — #WATWB February 2019

We Are the World Blogfest

Here is this month’s post celebrating good news stories from people around the world. People doing good for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. This month, I found a reprint on the Good Housekeeping website of an LA Times story about a foster parent. A serial foster parent if you will. Someone who only takes in terminally ill children.

Mohamed Bzeek first started taking in foster children with his wife Dawn in 1989. A few years later, the couple committed to caring for terminally ill boys and girls because no one else would. When Dawn died in 2000, Mohamed kept up with their work. “The key is, you have to love them like your own,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”

man sitting on his living room sofa
GETTY IMAGES/GENARO MOLINA/LOS ANGELES TIMES

You can find more posts like this by searching for the hashtag #WATWB or checking the pages of these cohosts for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest:

Inderpreet Uppal Shilpa GargSylvia McGrath , Peter Nena, Belinda WitzenHausen

 

The Leap–a Short Piece

The memory and the imagination–tools in a writer’s bin. A story of devolution that began with a travel piece on Views from Eagle Peak. Modified a bit–with more fiction and less fact. Some remains. Writing from life some call it. 

I looked down at the dull gray boulders, thirty-feet below the clear water of Lake Superior. They called to me—well, maybe not them. Something did. Like the views from places there were no fences. No guardrails to keep the clumsy or the foolish from venturing too close. I was neither then. Just drawn to leap. Leap the 100-feet or so to the water below. To meet the rocks that called. Called me to a watery grave. I was a kid then. My much older brother pulled me back, sensing an unhealthy attraction, an unspoken intention. The psychic intrusion, the unwelcome desire quickly left at his touch—the spell broken.

Now and then an image has appeared in my mind, a recollection of that day. That day my life might have been cut short by an urge of unknown origin. Since then, I’ve looked down from countless vistas. Some were far higher than that Minnesota cliff. At the Grand Canyon. From a bridge over the Colorado River near Taos, New Mexico. At Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah. From visitor’s platforms at tall buildings here and there. The odd urge never returned. Until that trip to a resort in South America. That’s when I knew. Knew from where the call came.

I knew then, on that 20th story walkway, that someone must have jumped to the pavement below. A jump that shattered bones and splashed blood and gore that passersby witnessed. By the time we visited, the resort had scoured it all away. After the police officials allowed them. I could not be sure of the spirit. I have no proof. I have no news reports. No stories posted to social media or travel sites. No confirmation from the resort. Nonetheless, I knew. I told her about it. And the time on the cliff over the lake.

I felt the pull to climb atop the wall and take the plunge. A pull from an evil spirit. An evil spirit that caused the previous corporate owner to sell the resort. An evil spirit that found an opening into the minds of visitors. Happy visitors. Visitors with no death wish. Wishes only for fun and frolic on the beach. So, not a remembrance from the sad soul of the recently departed. No, the demon that instructed them. Them and others. Others who might have chosen the path of walking out into the bay during a riptide. A riptide that drowned an inexperienced swimmer.

She didn’t believe me. She humored me, though. We were there to put us back on the track. The track of a happy marriage that had become strained over time. She had always been afraid of heights. But she didn’t mind walking next to the wall, letting me walk next to the room doors. On the long walk to the elevators. I could almost hear the voice in my head. My head felt funny that day, the first day I felt it. She gave me the pills, the pills that made it all better.

The demons are out there. I know they are. You must resist them. Do not let them delude you. Don’t look. Don’t read those scary stories. Don’t watch those movies. You know the ones. The ones where the teenagers stupidly go into the deserted house on a dare. You believe, don’t you? I must go now—someone is calling. Calling me to dinner. It will be a tasty dinner I’m sure. Fugu. Fugu prepared by the former sushi chef at a local Japanese restaurant. They asked him to leave after that incident someone said. There’s no truth to that rumor, she insisted. She met him at a fitness center she told me. He offered to make lunch for his new friend. She was having Ahi (tuna), said she just didn’t care for pufferfish. I can hear her voice. In my head, that funny feeling again.

 

He Awoke at Dusk and an Update on the Short Story Collection

The Vampire Bodhisattva

After a brief time away in a sunny and warm Puerto Vallarta, it’s back to writing. This story has been sitting around for a few years. I hesitated to include it in the collection coming late this fall. Then I thought, ¿por qué no? Did I mention the Mexican beach trip? Anyway, here’s a first draft. You may reasonably expect some changes before it’s release in final form. But since you’ve never seen it before, here it is. BTW: the collection will be eclectic–don’t take this as at all representative of the whole.

He awoke at dusk, blood crusty and cracking at the corners of his mouth. Evidence that he once again had broken his vow. What kind of Bodhisattva could drink the blood of others? Ever since he had learned the path of peace, the practice of Buddhism, he had tried to leave the way of the vampire. Each night he awoke, renewed his vow to be a Bodhisattva. He must respect the humanity of others, leading them to the law. Instead, the hunger overcame him again and again.

Somehow, he must find a way to resist. Resist the flavor of warm blood coursing through the veins of passersby. Passersby he might otherwise lead to happiness. Happiness he himself was denied by guilt. But he couldn’t resist, not from twenty feet away or more. The redolence exuded from their pores—the lifeblood he wanted and needed, since the change.

In the meantime, he encouraged his fellow vampires to take up the practice. They laughed when he explained karma. How causes created effects in one’s life. That the karma from one’s current life carried forward into the next—in cycle of death and rebirth.

“Seriously?” one said, “A vampire is already eternal—we never die. So how could we be reborn?” The laughter echoed so loudly it pained his vampire enhanced hearing.

“Well, all of us don’t live forever, you know,” another said. “Those who get caught in the sun or are staked by a hateful human do suffer the true death.”

He realized then he had no other choice. Be true to his new found faith or remain a vampire. He fed one last time that night, before praying earnestly for rebirth. He walked outside just before the dawn, awaiting his flaming fate. He would never know for sure if his prayers were answered. The reborn don’t remember their past existences. Only their karma endures.

§  §  §

“Hello Mr. Burke. Back again for another donation?” the nurse said.

“Yes, I just can’t help myself—after I learned how valuable my O negative blood is,” he said, baring his arm with a smile.

“All right then. My goodness Mr. Burke, you’re due for your gallon-pin today—congratulations!”

Collection Update

We are running a little bit behind schedule, but we will catch up with a goal of first drafts on all stories by March 31st.  Where are we right now? First drafts on five flash and micro stories. Two third-thirds through a first draft of a full-fledged short story. We will be pounding the keyboard for the next seven weeks. We will get there! Must have the collection out to beta readers before summer.

 

#Chef Andres Feeds the Feds

We Are the World Blogfest

#Chef Jose Andres Expands His Program to Feed Furloughed Federal Workers

World Central Kitchen, people eating
Copyright ABC News.go

It’s more than a pity, it’s a disgrace, that US government employees have been working without pay for over a month. Some aren’t working at all–and of course are unpaid. All due to the Trump Shutdown. The cost to the US economy is one billion dollars per week, as those businesses which rely on those employees also are facing financial hardships for no rational purpose. But it’s those federal workers who Chef Andres is striving to help. Here’s the story from a different source than usual for this site. Delish.

Celebrity Chef Jose Andres‘ mission to feed those in need continued earlier this week when he announced that his program, #ChefsForFeds, was expanding nationwide. The program, which operates in partnership with World Central Kitchen, has been feeding furloughed employees in Washington, DC since the government shutdown started last month. Now he wants more communities to get involved.

“We believe this is a national food emergency and we will be there for the American federal workers,” Chef Andres said in his Twitter video. He also mentions the possibility that food stamps, or SNAP benefits are about to run out if the shutdown goes on much longer, which Delish also reported on Friday.

A post on World Central Kitchen’s website is encouraging anyone who owns a “restaurant, food truck, non-profit, or business interested in serving meals in your community” to fill out their form to be considered to join the #ChefsForFeds program. The program will provide branding and resources for businesses that want to help feed hungry workers. Find out more at worldcentralkitchen.org. If you are a worker that has been impacted by the shutdown, follow #chefsforfeds on Twitter and Instagram to find out where to get a free meal.

Cohosts for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest are:  Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Damyanti Biswas Please visit their sites as well!

The Angry Agave

Agave Revenge

The base and leaves of a dead agaveFifteen long years had passed. Years of sunny days, windy days. Cold wintry days, some with leaf-blade-coating snow. Hot days without a drop of rain. Only the moisture stored in fat, succulent leaves sustained it and its neighbors. Still, it was not yet time. The sharp spear-tipped leaves grew taller and wider, outward from the once tiny core. A core that emerged from the rocky limestone soil as a bud no larger than a human thumb.

Now five feet across and three feet high it grew proudly, awaiting the day it would bloom—before dying. Not yet, maybe next year—maybe two, three or more years from now. The center knew but kept its secret. Serrated edges kept some herbivores away, but the tough-tongued cattle left a few wedge-shaped bites on outer blades. The agave sealed the wounds, leaving a papery edge.

Finally, more seasons than it could count—if it were able to, the stalk began rising from the core. Inches day by day it rose. A foot or more each week until it crested at seventeen feet. A bit shorter than some but taller than others. Pods appeared. A few weeks later they opened, their sweet nectar drawing all near. Deer, elk, birds, bees, ants and more delighted in the agave’s offering. More weeks went by and the pods went dry. Flowers fell, replaced by seeds.

A slow death began. The plant had given its all to nourish the blooming stalk, whose seeds would in time grow into progeny. It dried over time until only burrowing insects visited the stalk, followed by the woodpeckers—who pierced the decaying shaft. The entire plant dried, fading from green to dirty white in death. A few years later, the man came. The man pushed and pulled the stalk, hoping to hasten its fall.

My stalk, my roots and my leaves are one. We all fall together, when our time has come. Some might believe it mindless, but the plant lived by its code. The man persisted, breaking the stalk free. He paid in blood for his crime, falling forward across the agave with the stalk in hand. Drying, dying but still-sharp shards remained that pierced his flesh. He limped away in red-soaked jeans.

Nine More Books Coming from John Maberry from 2019-2031

2019—a fresh start on writing

 A quote about creativity

2018 was a slow year for me as far as writing books goes–little progress on a single one. Not an excuse, but the fact is, there were some health issues in 2018. So, I’m stepping on the gas for 2019. Not only the New Year but the next one and well beyond.

Several years ago, I determined I’d publish ten more books after Waiting for Westmorelanda memoir chronicling the path from Vietnam to enlightenment. I won’t count a Tenth Anniversary Edition of that book which came out with modest changes in 2017.

The Fountain does counta collection of seven short stories of fantasy and sci-fi which also arrived on Kindle in 2017.

In time for the 2019 holidays, I will put out a new assortment of fifteen stories—double the word count of The Fountain! You’ll find some tasty tidbits of micro and flash fiction along with many traditional short pieces running three to seven thousand words. Many of these items began as snippets posted right here on John Maberry’s Writing.

What will you find in this as yet unnamed collection? Here’s a sample: 

  • The Grelm—recounting the effects of climate change on an alien that takes root on America’s coastal wetlands.
  • Precog Prez—you can guess what this about; it’s a somewhat longer story
  • The Dog Star—a bit of whimsy
  • Jacob’s Designer Gene—what happens when gene mod goes awry, and the biotech company has folded?
  • The Wishing Bell—Remember the Monkey’s Paw? This is a variation, sort of
  • The Jumping Cholla—They’re all around us in New Mexico, but not like this one
  • The Time of Your Life—A company promises it can create a VR recording of your life (edited excerpts) from interviews and a memory scan—what could go wrong?
  • Dog is My Copilot—werewolves at play–some who might have a conscience
  • Plus, an updated extended sample of The Vacation, a sci-fi novel is about rich kids from another planet getting their kicks on Earth at the expense of the locals. Yes, it’s the much delayed book that opens with Sam Andrew’s amnesia of being fired for unseemly conduct and how he discovers how and why it happened.

Speaking of The Vacation–the novel will be released in late fall, 2020-come you know what or high water.

Now for the big plansseven more books that will meet my goal of ten books after Waiting for Westmoreland:

  • I will start writing a sci-fi trilogy in 2021—with the books out in 2024, 2025 and 2026
  • In the meantime, a third short-story collection arrives in 2022with a novella anchor
  • The sequel to Waiting for Westmoreland will be out in 2027–paper and digital
  • 2029 will feature a mystery double novellatwo stories in one book
  • Finally, way out in 2031, comes a big novel, time travel–my way. Get just a hint of it from this brief snippet, but expect much more. I’ll need the time to get this one done

Ambitious? Bold? Yes, but not foolhardy. You should have seen the first cut, 15 books—one a year and more. My wife brought me to my senses. We want to have a life—including travel and other pursuits in our senior years 😊.

Can I do it?  Yes, you’ll have to see my other blog to believe it. That’s where I’ll tell you all about how my determinations come through once I both make them and take them seriously as a Nichiren Buddhist.

I WILL be posting periodic updates here, so you can track my progress. 😊

A New Review of Waiting for Westmoreland

Brent Hightower posted this wonderful review on Amazon one month ago, of the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Waiting for Westmoreland. I missed it at the time but discovered it yesterday.

Waiting for Westmoreland is the narrative of one man’s life during the Vietnam era. The story is subjective, at times perhaps too much so, written with a matter-of-fact minimalism reminiscent of Camus. The protagonist is so representative of the generation who grew-up believing in American values, and then, through Vietnam, came to see those beliefs as merely an insincere cover for an uglier reality, that he can be seen a universal. Westmoreland’s lies about the successes of the war, and the protagonist’s resulting alienation, reflect the loss of his own parents, and his own feeling of personal abandonment. His struggle to overcome those feeling again makes him representative of his generation’s larger struggle to heal from disillusionment. In that sense Waiting for Westmoreland is an archetypal book that perfectly embodies the conflict of the era it chronicles, and is well worth reading.

I plan on publishing a sequel to the original in 2027–or one could say a 20th Anniversary Edition, but I probably won’t do that. I have a bunch of fiction to write between now and then. I’ll say more about that closer to the end of this year. Stay tuned.  😎

Socks for the homeless–a business model for #WATWB

November’s #WATWB–helping the homeless with what they really need

We Are the World Blogfest

I’ve heard of these guys before in a radio ad, now the founders of Bombas socks are featured in this CNN Business article. Yes, for you or me the socks aren’t free (or too cheap) but for each pair sold a free pair is donated to homeless shelters. As it turns out, that’s what the homeless need most.

David Heath walked up to a homeless veteran and telling him he had no money to give him but offered a pair of socks. The article says:

“Heath remembers watching the man take off his shoes and seeing that one foot was wrapped in a bandana and the other was wrapped in a plastic bag.
‘Seeing that — just how much I could imagine being in that situation and what having a nice clean pair of socks at that moment would do — I’ll never shake that moment,’ he said.”
So he and his co-founder created a company that has donated 10 million pairs of socks. The socks are durable, made of cotton and wool and reinforced–at $12, there apparently is enough profit to give away a free pair for each one sold.
Socks being given away
Socks and toiletries are handed out at a women’s shelter on the Upper East Side in New York. Photo from CNN Business article

“Heath acknowledged that no one grows up dreaming about creating the perfect sock or building a ‘sock empire.’ But he said his ultimate goal is to ‘develop relationships with people as a result of the work.’
When Heath realized Charlie [a two-years-homeless man] liked books, he bought him a Kindle and a solar charger that he reloads every couple of weeks. Charlie, an avid reader, no longer has to walk 50 blocks uptown to borrow books from a shelter on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and lug them back downtown.”
Please visit the sites  of this month’s co-hosts of the We Are the World Blogfest for more positive news: Eric Lahti , Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Peter Nena, Damyanti Biswas

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Black Friday–Nah, Not For Me

Don’t need new electronics. Don’t need major gifts this year. What I do need is to get some more exercise in the pool. That’s possible today because I have to charge the sensor and reattach it to a new patch to keep checking the old ticker for AFib or some other form of arrhythmia. Nothing abnormal so far after two weeks; two more weeks to go. Ah, nothing like an idiopathic event to keep you guessing.  😕

Just to keep the posts coming, let’s revisit one from about four years ago. I’m not going to rewrite it so you can take it as a writing tip. No, not that it needs so much editing–just an example of what fiction writing is like versus other kinds. You’ll understand.

It took a few years, several years actually, to learn how to write simple declarative sentences again after three years of law school and 25 years working in local government writing reports or finishing budgets. It seems almost quaint and a little humorous now to read a legal brief or the near paragraph length sentences of a Congressional enactment. Now I write prose again, with readable narratives filled with imagery and dialogue. I can still read CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) or actual legislation, but I would prefer not to unless absolutely necessary. Regulations are worse in their density and compound clauses. [Ever heard of the Flesch reading ease formula?] Now in a few words I can vividly describe the morning of our recently adopted dog.

Always observant, even in sleep, Max knows by the rustle of sheets or the clearing of a throat that I am awake. A nose and a pair of paws quickly appear bedside in greeting. Later, after a pit stop and breakfast, he enjoys his morning show. With paws atop the low window seat he watches the birds above and the squirrels below the seed feeder out front. With no barking and no whining, Max sits in rapt attention until some activity indoors breaks the spell.

I Think, Therefore I When

Just a little variation on Rene Descartes, perhaps the title of a novel to come. It all started with a post from April last year, Derek’s Dominoes, that’s been running through my mind of late. I plan on working on two or more series steadily the next few years doing what the “experts” advise–getting them done before putting out even one. In the meantime, this time travel piece has come to dominate my heretofore dormant 2018 writing consciousness. So I simply must post another snippet about Derek now. [More on 2019 and beyond writing/publishing plans in late December—here OR on Views from Eagle Peak, TBD]

 

The first incident happened like this.

An old mix resurrected from a bin overdue for cleaning played in his ear. He didn’t know the song was on it. “Voices Carry,” took him back to that day when she told him it was over. She’d had enough, she said, and played the tune to illustrate why. A sudden gust tossed unbound hair in his face. He tied it back before moving on and looked up in shock.

“What the hell!” Derek said. He wasn’t recalling the event with Susan anymore—she was there in front of him, physically, in their apartment with Aimee Mann’s voice carrying as loudly as her own.

“No! No! This can’t be happening, again” he said, “We’ve been through this before!

“Yes and that’s why I’m leaving. I’ve had enough, Derek—it’s over! I’ll come back for my stuff in a couple days,” she said, slamming the door behind her, drawing air through the open windows.

The breeze brought Derek back to the present, stumbling along the sidewalk barely missing an older woman passing in the other direction.

That was then; this is now. A memory and nothing more. That couldn’t have happened. Maybe that green chile cheeseburger overpowered me. Maybe I’ve been working too hard. 

After a few days of worry and bewilderment, he put the strange event aside. An episode of the Twilight Zone that he’d probably watched in syndication, perhaps. That is, until it happened again–another trip in time.