Maybe it's because of springtime, you know, all that fertility busting out all over. Finally, this year.
I am tinkering with the ending of a third book, and having a lot of trouble getting started on the next project. I talk to someone and get a great idea for a poem, story, chapter, and i can't wait to start working on that as a current project. The next day, it happens again. Consequently, my Work-in-Progress smart stick keeps getting loaded upper, but I am not really progressing any work.
The thing is, my brain gets twitterpated with each of these new ideas. I don't know about anybody else, but i know for a fact that my mind has a mind of its own. I'm worried I may not be able to get the thing under control before the dog-days of August, when it has the excuse of seasonal lethargy. I removed the cushion from my desk chair, you know, so the "Apply Butt to Chair" process adopts an additional degree of intimacy. Gave me a pain in the butt in mutual exclusivity from the twitterpation process. I tried banging my head against the closet door and all I did was knock the rollers out of the track.
I need a headache pill that induces migraines, or on demand writer's block. Good luck with that.
Lieutenant Robert Redmond, flight instructor at Meridian Naval Air Station
Lieutenant Robert Redmond had three nicknames: Red, Redass, and Refly. He wasn’t a screamer. He had his own way to make a student pilot’s life miserable. The rumor mill promulgated a number of Refly stories. In one of them Refly asked an ensign what he was.
“Sir, a student naval aviator, sir,” the academy grad had responded.
The student was a couple of inches shorter than Refly, and Refly had stepped very close to the student and looked down on him. With a soft, totally controlled voice, he’d said, “A naval aviator wears wings. A naval aviator is something. You are nothing. It’s not likely you will ever not be nothing.”
Harry watched Sam Germaine fork up a mouthful of coffee cake, take a sip of coffee, and set his mug on the Formica tabletop of the diner booth. Crumbs floated on the surface of the white coffee.
“So how’d it go, Harry?”
He looked up and saw the sweat beads dotting Sam’s forehead above his round white face. Harry wondered if it was hot in the diner, but he was too tired to try to figure it out. His head hurt, and his eyes felt like sand coated the inside of the lids. He’d been awake a long time.
“Sumpin’ go wrong, Harry?”
“It was a goat rope. Those Henley guys showed up with a ten-gauge shotgun and twelve-gauge shells. They had a stick to poke stuck shells out of the thing.”
The diner was crowded, but nobody looked at him. He lowered his voice anyway. “Chevy talked the whole damn time. Never shut up once. Jesus.”
“Did you get the mission done?”
“The mission, well, sort of.”
“You blow out that dentist’s window or not?”
“Yeah. Chevy hit it with the first barrel, but he was so excited he missed the whole damn house with the second barrel.”
“You blew out the window though?”
“Yeah. It took out the glass and the curtains. But the dumb bastards only had birdshot. Hell, I was thinking deer slugs.”
“Whatever the hell they used was okay, as long as there was the roar of a shotgun and you blew out the window. Fine job, Harry.”
“Felt like a major screwup.”
“Loosen up, Harry. Your first mission and you pulled it off. You’ll get better with each one you do.”
“I don’t want to work with those Henley boys again.”
“You gotta. We just established good connections in Meridian, and they’re part of it. This was the first time we used them too. They’ll get better.”
“You said they were twins.”
Sam laughed. “There’s a story about them boys. Just a little farther down that road where you met them last night, there’s a moonshine bar. The twins’ momma was fond of shine, and she hung out there a lot. Story is them boys was conceived right outside that bar in the backseats of the cars they was named after. Mind you don’t say anything about it though. Ford, especially, is touchy about it. He looks kind of fat and soft, but he’s strong as an ox. Word is he’s one a those don’t feel pain. Just as happy tasting his own blood as seein’ another’s. Ford’ll make a fine soldier, with the right sergeant lookin’ after ’im.”
“Chevy though. Jesus.”
“He’ll take a little more work.”
Sam laughed. “Roll down a window.”
The usher started purposefully down the aisle. Teresa followed. Jon caboosed the tiny train.
The large windows let plenty of bright, cheerful light into the nave. But he thought the stained glass seemed off, too modern maybe. The colors, he decided, were too bright, vivid, stark.
They stopped. The usher attempted to eople in a crowded pew to scrunch together more.
Teresa put her hand on the usher’s forearm. “Move back,” she whispered. He just stood in place and gaped at her. Teresa grabbed his arm, and he closed his mouth and allowed himself to be moved out of the way. Then Jon saw the young colored woman on the second kneeler in from the aisle, alone in the eight-person pew. She knelt but rested against the seat behind her. The people in front of her were sitting. Behind her, a man and a woman were kneeling, their arms on the back of the pew. The young colored girl—Jon thought she was about eighteen, nineteen maybe—stared straight ahead.
At his Navy duty stations, at Purdue University, colored people attended Mass. Not many, but some did. He had always assumed Negroes preferred other religions, but if they wanted to attend Mass, well, certainly they’d be welcome. No big deal.
If he had been paying attention, instead of gawking around at the windows, he wondered if he’d have had Teresa’s presence of mind and courage to act. I doubt it, he confessed to himself. I’ d probably have allowed the usher to shoehorn us into an already-crowded pew.
This is a 1968 photo of an anonymous student naval aviator going through flight training in Meridian MS. The character, Jon Zachery, just might be somewhat like the photo.
I hadn't asked myself the question before I started working on the Ensign Locker. Fortunately, I found a critique group that would have me. I brought in a short story I was working on. It was about being in the Navy for eleven years and never having been anything but a newbie. The story began in a bar. After I read my allowed five pages, a woman said, "It's just a story about stupid men drinking in a stupid bar. I'm not interested in it."
Spilled the wind out of my sails it did, but it got me to thinking too. I went home and looked at all the books in my personal library. About 2% written by women. Heretofore, not too many women write about wars and the branches of the service, which is the great majority of my library. But I also looked around in Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. More women than men in there, like by two to one. In my critique group, too, mostly women. So I took to heart what the woman said, and I paid attention to the women, how they wrote, how they treated violent acts and vicious behavior and compared to how I did it. I figured I learned something from that input. So in answer to the question, I try to put something for women in what I write, which is an answer to the question to about the 33 and a third percent level. The other two thirds answer I am still working on.
Best writing advice/criticism I ever got: see above.
It was a fine winter. I didn't have to mow the grass until April. But ...
It was about time it got to be April. Sometimes I wish I could be a bear, you know, eat a lot in the fall, get fat, sleep all winter, and wake up skinny. But of course, I do it the other way. I'm skinny (as I can be) in the fall because of mowing the grass for nine months. Then I eat like crazy all winter, and generally have to mow grass in March, more to avoid having to buy new pants than to crewcut the lawn.
Writing for me goes through seasons too. I get into a kind of down season when I finish a draft of a book sized project, which I just did. It's a 40, 000 word story, and I spent a couple of weeks in the dumps. I get to liking the people I guess, and parting from them is not sweet sorrow.
Physical activity is good for things besides pants size. I mowed today and am ready to go to work again.
Ah springtime of the writing seasons.
John Zerr is the author of four novels, The Ensign Locker, Sundown Town Duty Station, Noble Deeds, and The Happy Life of Preston Katt.
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