Voices, The Interviews: Danny

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here: HERE). If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.

SESSION 12

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMShe had not been ready for the final words Lewis said to her before looking down at his leathery hands and seeing tear drops strike the floor between his feet. He takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair. He gives a dismissive wave and shakes his head. He doesn’t have the heart to go any further.

Lisa’s mouth hangs open and she shakes her head from side to side, not knowing what to say. She wants to get up from her seat and give him a hug, but that won’t happen. 

Laughter comes from her right. Mr. Worrywart bends down beside her, his shadowy face just inches from hers. She can smell his fetid breath, feel the heat from it on her cheek and neck. “Way to go there, Lady,” he says in his smooth, sinister voice. “You’ve done went and made him cry.”

Lisa swallows hard. Though she disagrees with him, she also thinks he is right. Lewis was bound to cry at some point between his story and his interview. He doesn’t feel guilt about anything he’s done. He is lonely and had been since he found out his Michelle divorced him while he was in prison. Her questions—her final question—and his answers—his final one, specifically—was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It cracked the dam and tears were bound to flood his face as he thought about being alone for the rest of what was left of his life.

“I didn’t cause this,” she says.

Mr. Worrywort laughs again. “Sure, you didn’t.”

“I didn’t.”

“You didn’t what, Ma’am?”

Lisa turns at the sound of someone else’s voice. The man kneeling in front of her has kind eyes and dark hair, peppered with white streaks. Though his face doesn’t hold a lot of wrinkles, making him appear younger than he probably is, his eyes hold an age and wisdom in them that is unmistakeable. A half smile is on his lips, and Lisa knows instantly he can be a charmer when he wants to be.

“I … umm … I don’t know,” she says. The world around her shrinks a little. Her face grows hot. 

“You look a little upset,” the man says. He glances at Lewis, who has his hands between his knees and his eyes to the floor. “I guess I understand. The old man got a little emotional there.” 

“Yeah, he did.”

“It’s okay, Ma’am. We all have those moments where someone else’s life affects us.”

Lisa smiles, takes a deep breath, smiles and says, “Hello, Danny.”

“Hello.”

“Do you prefer Danny or Coach?”

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. All the kids called me ‘Coach,’ but no one outside of baseball ever has.”

“Then Danny it is, if that is okay with you?”

“Absolutely.” Danny stands straight, walks to his chair, picks it up by the metal back, and sets it in front of Lisa. He sits down, crosses one ankle over his knee, and places both hands on that ankle. He smiles and nods to her. “Do you have some questions for me, Ma’am?”

“I do.”

Lisa looks down at her notepad, turns the page and reads the one word at the top: COACH. She looks up at Danny and asks the first question. “Being dubbed ‘Coach’ is a respected honor where I’m from. You must have done great things with those kids.”

DSCN1640Danny shrugs in an aww-shucks manner. “I wouldn’t say I did anything great. I just listened to them, their words, their body language. Kids are fairly transparent when they are young so reading them is easy. It’s when they become teens that you really  have to pay attention to what they are saying. Being a coach isn’t about winning. It’s about teaching; it’s about showing these young people how to become young adults and then young men and women and how to respect themselves and others. Show them respect, and they are bound to respect you back.”

“Well, if we can get right to it, how old were you the first time you saw The White?”

Danny rubs his hands together as if he is cold. His brows crinkle as he thinks. “I guess I was in my early teens the first time it happened. I got really sick—bad headache, an odd dazzle in my eyes that were similar to the washed-out spots on old film reels. I was sitting in the dugout. My dad was the head coach of that team. It was the championship game. I remember that easily enough. I had a hit on three at bats and made an error in the top of the inning that got me benched for a defensive replacement. I was pissed. I couldn’t believe my own dad would take me out of the game because I made an error.”

“There was this kid on the other team—his name was Scott Hall—and he was the team’s star. He struck out to end the game. I’ll never forget the look on his face—or the half look, I saw mostly white where the left side of his face should have been. I remember the intense pain bloom behind my eyes. I remember sitting on the dugout’s concrete floor, my head in my hands and crying like a baby. My dad thought I was upset that he benched me. I was, but that wasn’t why I was crying. One look at my eyes and they knew something was wrong.

“We won the game. While everyone else went out for pizza and ice cream, Dad’s treat, I went home and went to bed. Six days later, Scott Hall came up missing. A few years passed, and some kid named Reed Baker decided to dig a hole at the ball park. He found Scott’s body.

“So, I would say that was the first time the White came on. I just didn’t know it.”

“You mentioned thinking it was a migraine. Do you get migraines often?  More specifically, have you been diagnosed with migraines by a doctor?”

“Yeah, clinically the types of migraines I get are called ocular migraines. They start in the eyes and within twenty minutes or so, if I don’t take any medicine, they become full blown explosions in by head. It sucks, and when one comes on, I can never tell if it is the White or just a normal migraine, at least until I see the white wash over someone’s body. Then I know.”

“Can we talk about Coach Davis for a minute?”

“Sure.”

“To be blunt, Coach Davis did not seem like a nice man or a good person. Tell me about why you were so driven to try to save him when you knew trying to save people had not worked in the past.”

DSCN1668“There’s always a first time for everything, right?” Danny pauses. “Peter wasn’t such a bad person. He was just a bad coach. He wanted to win more than anything else. He was a lot like the guy who coached Scott Hall. His name was Barry Windstrom. I don’t remember much about him—I never played for him—but what I do remember is he yelled a lot on the field, but off of it, he was supposedly a kind man, wouldn’t harm anyone. Turns out, he was the person who killed Scott Hall. 

“There was good in Windstrom. There was good in Peter. Most people just didn’t get to see it because they saw his on field antics, specifically on the day he died, and that is what they remember about him. 

“Besides, if I didn’t try, I would have to live with the ‘what if I would have tried to help him?’ thoughts running in my head. Guilt is a horrible thing, and I didn’t want any unnecessary guilt.”

“You were shot for your trouble. You could have been killed. How do you feel about that?”

“How do I feel? Well, it told me to stop waiting around for life to happen. I had spent the majority of my kids’ lives coaching them. My wife divorced me, and I went into a small bout of depression. When I came out the other side of it, I told myself I wouldn’t ever date again. That was a mistake. I let one thing, one person, change how I viewed an important aspect of my life. When I got out of the hospital, I went back to the ball field and sought out an old friend, a team mom, and I stopped wasting time wishing I had married her instead of the woman I chose to be the mother of my children. It gave me an appreciation for life.

“On the other end of that, a good man went to jail. I’m not happy about that.”

“I can’t help but wonder why this manifests as White when other people who report similar, um, abilities describe it differently.  Where do you think this ability to see when people are near death comes from?”

“Head trauma,” Danny says matter-of-factly. “At least for me. A couple of days before I saw Scott Hall, I had been hit by a pitch.” He touches a spot above his left ear. “Right here. I walked it off. That’s what we did back then. Right after the championship game, my parents took me to the doctor. There’s a dent in my skull where the ball hit. The doctor claimed that is where the migraine came from, and I chalk it up as the reason I still have them and why I see the White.”

“That makes sense. Does it frighten you?”

“Every time.”

“So, how do you think you will handle it going forward?”

“The same way I always have. If there is a chance I can help them, maybe alter the course of their life so they don’t die, then I’ll do what I can. It’s a burden, but I have to try, right?”

“I guess so, Coach,” Lisa says. “Thank you for your time.”

“And, Lisa, whatever is there, that voice you are hearing right now, it can’t harm you. It won’t. I think it is scared of you. I think it knows the only way to get to you is to taunt you.”

“Can you see him?” Lisa asks. 

“Oh yeah. But he can’t see you—not the real you. It only sees what you allow it to see.”

With that said, Danny stands, picks up his chair, and takes it back to where he originally sat. He sits, and Lisa turns her attention to the notepad once again.

TO BE CONTINUED …

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Words and Soul

Le_Penseur_de_Rodin_à_Saint-DiéI think too much. I know I do, but I can’t help it. Even when I try to switch my brain off and do something mindless like watch NBA basketball, listen to the news or sleep, my brain is always moving in eighty-two different directions. There is usually a song playing in the background of my mind as I sit and try to do nothing, but fail. Currently, that song is Any Way You Want It by Journey. When there should be nothing going on in my head, there are voices whispering about my job, my marriage, my kids, story ideas, failure, the fear of failing, frustration at not being where I would like to be at this point in my life, all at the same time. It’s a true cacophony of noise. It’s like a real life Babble-onia. 

Sometimes, one voice will be the loudest and will say, ‘hey, y’all shut it, so I can talk to the man here.’ Usually most of the other voices quiet down, with one piping up every once in a while with something like, ‘who died and made you the boss?’ That voice gets sushed quickly by the other voices and gets a mean eat crap and die glare from the main voice of unreasonable thoughts. When this voice finally has its say, it tells me things that frustrate me, most of them about my writing abilities or the lack of readership. That voice is a real jerk. I’ll call this voice Manny because it is so close to the childhood whining complaint, Meanie. 

There is another voice, the main competitor for time in my brain with the other one. This voice is all philosophical and serious in a manner different from the first one. I will call this guy Phil. 

So, Manny is the blowhard jerk who likes to tell me I’m crap. Phil is the thoughtful one, always with something to say about the world I reside in (both mentally and physically). Of these two guys, which would you say would be the one who irritates me the most? Go ahead. Think about it for a moment. I’ll wait.

Okay. What’s your guess? How many of you said Manny? Come on, be honest. Raise your hand or leave a comment below (I can’t see you raise your hand, but I can read your comments, so please feel free to leave one). Why did you say Manny? I can give you the reason I would have said Manny if I were in your place, reading this instead of writing it. Manny is a jerk. He is negative and somewhat of a bully, always putting you down and telling you that you suck. Honestly, that’s pretty accurate in many cases. 

Though Manny is everything you think he is, he is not the one that irritates me the most. Phil is. Yes, that’s right. Phil is my thinking voice. He is the one who wakes me in the wee hours of the morning asking me questions I have no answers for. He is also the one who incites my temper and aggravations, points out the things I dislike about aspects of my life. He is as negative as Manny, but he actually points things out; he actually tells me exactly what’s wrong with the things I dislike in this world and why. He is, after all, a philosopher. He philosophizes. Is that even a real word?

Though more often than not, Phil angers me and puts me in a state of deep thought, he also opens my eyes to new ideas and a different way of seeing things. Some of his long winded thoughts have lead me to some of my best stories and characters. Hank Walker is one of those characters. Homer Grigsby is another. If you have read the stories those two characters are from, I hope you will agree that they are smashingly good.

The other night while in the shower, Phil popped his head in, silencing the other voices, though they all let out groans before going quiet. Even Manny grumbled about his appearance in my brain because he knows that once Phil begins to talk, I will listen to him before I listen to the others, including the Voice of Reason, or as I call her VORonica. 

8f0565ba80e0e1ced7ccbea99c01603fPhil stood up on his soapbox and lifted a finger in the air and began to lecture in a Scottish accent, bringing up some of my favorite terms: Word Whores, Paragraph Pimps, Wordgasm. He showed me how wrong I was about the definition of the first two terms and how, as a story teller I should strive to give every reader a wordgasm. Don’t ask what the first two mean. It’s quite complicated. However, the third term is exactly as it sounds: a wordgasm is what a reader should feel after reading a particularly good book or even just a particularly good portion of a book. It is the feeling you get after reading a story by someone that makes you say, “I really want something else by this author, and I’m willing to pay for it.” (It really is like having amazing sex. When it is over, you lay in bed next to your butt naked partner and say, ‘yeah, that is how sex should be every single time. You know it won’t be that way, but that is what you want it to be like.) You should want a cigarette after reading a book so good it gave you a wordgasm. 

That’s not the most important thing Phil said as I showered myself clean. He said to me, “Stop worrying about those who don’t put any soul in their work. You do you and you keep putting your heart and your soul and your mind into your words and you’ll be okay.” 

He paused as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair. I imagine he took a sip of whiskey, smacked his lips, then wiped them with the back of his hand. Then he spoke again.

“So many stories these days have no soul, have no heart, have no feelings. They are just words placed one after another and they mean nothing. They are zombies—shells of what they could be, put on paper. When they are read, they are forgotten. They mean nothing.”

Words like zombies. When he said that I pictured a person struggling to read a book, turning each page slowly, hoping for something to grab their attention, hold it and then squeeze their heart and suck the breath from their lungs; anything to give them a reason to continue on. I could see the eyelids dipping, dipping, closing, the sockets like hollows on the face; mouth open and a dribble of sludge falling from the corner of the mouth in boredom. Empty words with cracks and wrinkles and holes where there shouldn’t be any. 

It reminds me so much of the song Words, by Missing Person that was released in the early eighties. One of the lyrics is as follows:

“It’s like the feeling at the end of the page

When you realize you don’t know what you just read.”

As a story teller, that is probably the worst thing a reader can say about your work. Not only did the words do nothing for you emotionally, you don’t even know—or remember—what you just read. 

This is what Phil was telling me. And this is what I am going to tell you. If you are a writer, an artist, a singer, or whatever creative endeavor you take on, boldly put your heart and your soul into your work. Own your work as if it is the most important thing in your life. Own it as if it is oxygen and without it you can’t live. Whatever you do, don’t settle. Don’t do what everyone else does. Be you. Why? Because you don’t want anyone coming away from your work wondering what they just read, saw or heard. 

My oath to every reader who picks up my books is to give you my best, my heart, my soul … to give you a part of me. As readers, if I ever give you a story you feel has no heart or no soul, you let me know. Contact me at 1horrorwithheart@gmail.com and let me know. Don’t be a jerk about it. I don’t respond to that type of behavior. On the flip side of that coin, if one of my stories or anything I write touches you, makes you think or feel, you can also contact me at that same address. 

There is too little soul in stories these days. I won’t settle for that. I can’t. VORonica and all the other voices won’t let me. 

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

From Somewhere

For those who don’t know me, I’m a funny guy, as in funny ha ha. I like to tell jokes and I say quite a few inappropriate things at inappropriate times but draw laughs while doing so. There have been folks who have said I should have gone into comedy instead of writing, or that I should write comedy. When it comes to writing, the hardest two things to do (in my opinion) are to scare people and make people laugh. I prefer scaring people.

However, I love comedy—good comedy, and I don’t feel there is enough of it out there. One of my favorite standup comedians is Gabriel Iglesias, better known as Fluffy. If you’ve never seen Fluffy, look him up on Youtube and you’ll find a large sample size of his work. Netflix recently released a special titled, One Size Fits All, filmed in Houston, Texas. I watched this special recently and laughed—a lot.

Near the end of the special, Iglesias made a statement that made me pause the show. He was talking about the beginning of his career twenty years earlier when he said: “Everything comes from somewhere.”

That may not seem groundbreaking, but then he went into the beginning of his career, where he got his start. According to Fluffy, it was in this couple’s garage and then at a little club in California. The couple attended many of his shows, bringing friends with them. They were important to him—so important he flew the couple to Houston so they could attend the taping of the special. 

Though Fluffy used the term ‘comes from somewhere’ when referring to where he got his start, I believe he meant, everything has a beginning, or everything starts somewhere, or possibly, everyone comes from somewhere. 

As a writer, I remember very clearly the first story I wrote, where the idea came from and how I felt when I finished writing it. Here is my beginning:

Early in 1993 I began having a nightmare that repeated itself almost nightly for months. The first time I had the nightmare, I woke with the typical heart thumping, out of breath feeling of an especially bad dream. I remember not wanting to go back to sleep after I woke because I thought I would have the nightmare again. I eventually dozed and slept the remainder of the night with no issues. The next night the dream returned, followed by the one after that and so on. 

For several months, I had the nightmare and got to where I would go to bed later and later, hoping I would be so tired I wouldn’t dream at all. No dreams meant no nightmares. It didn’t work.

One day someone asked me why I looked exhausted. I explained the nightmare. She told me that next time I should write the nightmare down after I have it. Supposedly, on advice from his physician, a famous writer did that after having a recurring nightmare. The story goes that the writer had the nightmare soon after visiting the doctor and then sat and wrote the original draft. Long story short: the author supposedly never had the nightmare again. 

Chuckie Manuscript.jpgWith that in mind, that night I placed a notepad and pen by the bed. When I woke after having the nightmare again, I grabbed the pad and pen and spent the next several hours hand writing what I could recall. By the time I was done, I felt as if I had exorcised a demon. Who knows? I might have.

Though I’ve never been a great sleeper, I laid down and slept through the rest of the night and then slept well the next one also. 

A few days later, I sat at a computer and typed out the first short story I ever wrote outside of school. I titled it, Chuckie. When I was finished, I read over the story. I thought it was good. What did I know? 

But there was so much more to it than just thinking it was good. I enjoyed telling the story, creating the two main characters, Chuckie and Alex. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesiness of it—it had the distinctive bad humor feel of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I found that for the first time in my life, I had enjoyed writing something. The writing bug had bitten me and it itched. I had to scratch it and scratch it and scratch it. 

I’m still scratching it.

I hand wrote Chuckie in June of 1993. I typed it a couple of days later. Since then, I’ve written over one thousand stories. No, you did not read that wrong. In fact, I’ve written 1060 stories. Honestly, I thought that number would be higher—it feels like it should have been. 

Let’s go back to Fluffy for a minute. “Everything starts from somewhere.” He is right. I began writing in 1993 while sitting in my bed on a hot June night. That’s the where and the when.

Two things before I finish. First, Chuckie is a bad story. It’s cheesy and poorly written. It’s lame and the action is typical horror movie action. Second, I warn you now: I am posting Chuckie at the end of this blog. Read it at your own risk. It is completely unedited and raw and … bad. Do you understand what I’m saying here? The first story I ever wrote is MASSIVELY BAD. You’ve been warned.

The point to this post? Everyone starts somewhere. Often, those starts result in an accomplishment that isn’t too great, but it is still an accomplishment, and that can lead to other accomplishments of much more significance. I hope my start, which was bad, led to something better you have come to love.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

Okay, last chance. You can turn back now, click that X in the corner and move along as if this post is over. Don’t blame me if you read the utter dreck that follows this sentence.

CHUCKIE

(completely unedited)

By A.J. Brown

A good night’s rest is all Chuckie Benson wanted.  Lately, though, it seems he can’t get a decent hour’s rest without dreaming about someone; someone who has been dead for seventeen years.  

Lightening flashes suddenly outside, interrupting the stillness of the night.  A loud clap of thunder follows quickly, shaking him from his troubled sleep.  As he sits up bolt right in his bed Chuckie screams.  

“Another nightmare,” he tells himself, “Just another nightmare.” 

The storm outside is a violent one.  The wind bending trees and snapping power lines to the ground.  The rain, coming down in the same direction the wind is blowing, is mixed with hail stones the size of golf balls.  The sky is pitch black with no sign of stars or the moon.  Bolts of lightening streak from the sky followed by the explosive sound of thunder.

Ring. . . ring. . . Chuckie jumps at the sound of the telephone ringing.  Standing up, he answers it quickly.  

“Hello.  Hello, is anybody there?”

“Remember me Chuckie boy?” came a cold and almost sarcastic sounding voice from the other end.  “Come on Chuckie boy, you’ve gotta remember me.”  

Chuckie sat on the edge of the bed, his tan complexion turning white.  He breaks out into a cold sweat, and his mouth begins to feel dry.  He hasn’t heard that voice in seventeen years. 

“Who. . . who is . . . is this?”

“Ah. . . Come on Punkin, you know who I am, or has the last seventeen years made you forget?”  

Chuckie tried to keep from screaming from the fear that was overcoming him.  He put one hand over his mouth, and his eyes grew large as tears swelled up in them.  He tried to muster up the courage to speak but could only manage a few slight whimpers.

“What’s wrong Chuckie, cat got your tongue?  You know what tonight is don’t you Chuckie boy?” the voice was growing meaner with every word.  “Look out the window, Chuckie boy, I’m coming to get yah.  This time I’m taking you with me.”  

“Alex!  Alex, wait!  What is tonight?  Alex?  Alex?” Chuckie cried as the receiver went dead.  He stood up in a panicked hurry, dropping the receiver to the floor.  Quickly he ran to the window of his apartment.  The complex overlooked the J.C. Recreational Center in which there were half a dozen phones by the building.  Pulling the curtains back, Chuckie looked down toward the phones, only to see all six of them on fire, and what looked like a person trying to get out of one of them.

Chuckie hurried to put on a pair of socks, and blue jeans.  He stepped into his slippers, ran out the door and down the eight flights of stairs to the lobby.  He ran out the main doors and out into the storm, which had calmed down to a steady rain.  Chuckie stared at the phone booths by the recreational building.

“It’s impossible!  They can’t be on fire, it’s pouring out here.” he says aloud.  The man in the phone booth was slouching in the cramped area.  He was no longer trying to get out.  Chuckie picked up a rock by the road and threw it at the phone booth, shattering the hot glass.  Pulling off the shirt he had slept in, Chuckie ran to the phone booth, and grabbed for the man, pulling him out and away from the fire.  He patted the man down with his shirt to distinguish the fire, and hopefully save the man’s life.  

“He’s dead.  Damn it, he’s dead!” Chuckie yelled in an agonizing voice.  

“Run, boy.  He’s coming to get you.” the man surged upward as he spoke in a haggard voice, grabbing Chuckie’s arm with his burnt hands.  Chuckie tried to get free, but the man’s grip was too strong.  “Run Chuckie, run.  He’s coming back.  He’s. . . coming back.”  The man’s grip loosens as he lays backwards, dead, on the concrete, his eyes still wide open.  As Chuckie went to close the man’s eyes he sees a face in them.  It’s the face of another man; it’s Alex’s face.  

As he ran back to his apartment the storm began to pick up again.  The winds were getting stronger, the rain fell harder, and the lightening seemed to touch ground with each flash.  

Chuckie remembers Alex Morrison.  Alex was known in town as a trouble maker.  He had been arrested several times for beating up the old folks in town and then setting them on fire, but since his father was the town sheriff, Alex always managed to get off with a probation of some sort.  He was a mean kid with an evil smile who liked to hurt those weaker than him.  He once bragged that they probably wouldn’t let him into Hell because he was too mean. 

Alex was nineteen when he died.  Chuckie was eleven.  Alex had tried to rob the Benson’s house one night, while they were away.  He didn’t expect them to come back while he was still there.  Mr. Benson confronted Alex.  Alex pulled out a gun and shot both of Chuckie’s parents.  He then looked at Chuckie with an evil grin.

“Go ahead, Punkin, I’ll give you a fair chance to run.”  Alex had said.  

Chuckie ran around the staircase and hid in a hide-away closet.  Trying not to cry he listened and hoped Alex would leave.  

“Come out Chuckie boy.  I got a surprise for yah.”  Alex had laughed.   Alex laid the gun down on the staircase as he went over to the back window.  “Well, if you won’t come out, I guess I’ll have to flush you out.”    

From the hide-away by the staircase Chuckie could see Alex walking away, without the gun in his hand.  He looked around and saw the gun sitting on a step on the staircase.  Running from his hiding spot Chuckie grabbed the gun and ran back to the hide-away.

“Hey Chuckie boy, you know what we’re having for dinner?  We’re having roast beef!”  Alex yelled as he set fire to the back room curtains.  He turned to get the gun and Chuckie was waiting for him.  He sprang from his hiding place with the gun pointed at

Alex.  Bam!! Bam!!  Two bullets plunged deep into Alex’s chest and he hit the floor.  Chuckie dropped the gun and ran out the house.

Alex struggled to stand up.  He kept yelling at Chuckie to come back and help him.  Alex never made it out of the house before it was engulfed in flames.

The whole town mourned the death’s of Bill and Maria Benson at their funerals, but no one appeared at Alex’s funeral, not even his father. Thunder snapped Chuckie out of the past and back to the present.  He went to the bathroom and started to wash his face in the sink.  “This is to unreal.”  he whispered to himself. 

Glancing up into the mirror Chuckie was faced with the gruesome sight of Alex’s face staring back at him.  

“Don’t put the coffee on, Chuckie, we’re not staying!!” boomed the evil reflection in the mirror.  

“Ahhhh!”  Chuckie yelled as he stumbled backwards out of the bathroom and into the hallway.  He grabbed his keys and ran out the door slamming it behind him.  

Chuckie was panic stricken as he cranked up the car.  “The cemetery.  His body is in the cemetery.  I’ll find his tombstone and prove he’s dead.”  He proceeded to drive to the Greenlawn Cemetery with the eerie feeling of someone watching him.  As he approached the graveyard, he looked into the rear view mirror; Alex was in the back seat.  Chuckie swerved off the road, crashed through a gate, and into the cemetery, where he came to a stop at a grave that had been recently dug.

Chuckie scrambled to get out of the car, falling forward as he opened the door and landing in front of the tomb stone that was in front of the newly dug grave.  Looking up, Alex was standing in front of him.  

“Take a look Punkin; look at the tombstone, it’s yours.”  Alex sneered with an evil laugh.

Chuckie looked around.  The cemetery was dark and there were no lights to be seen.  Haunting trees overhung throughout the graveyard.  The night was pitch black and the storm had ceased.  The ground was wet and muddy from the rain, and there was a very distinct odor in the air.  

Chuckie mumbled under his breath “What’s that smell?”

“That’s me. . . ” Alex said “We don’t have deodorant in Hell, Chuckie!”  Alex’s tone of voice was now sadistic, and very evil sounding, and his laugh was as cold as any Chuckie had ever heard.  “Now look at the damn tombstone!”  Alex yelled angrily.

Chuckie slowly stood and turned toward the grave site while watching Alex.  Looking down he read the tombstone, and then fell to his knees again.  “Charles Alen Benson.  Born February eighth,1963; Died September 13, 1991.”  Tears streamed from his eyes, as he looked at the tombstone then at Alex.

“Ah, you’re not going soft on me, are you Chuckie?”  Alex sneered.

“But you’re dead.” he cried as he stood up.  “You’ve been dead for seventeen years.  I can prove. . .”

“I know you can prove it!” Alex interrupted.  “All you have to do is find my grave, right?  Well, go ahead and look for it. It won’t be hard to find, Chuckie–it’s the one on fire.”  Alex was yelling and pointing toward the south side of the grave yard.  “You know what’s over there, don’t you, Chuckie?  That’s where they bury the people like me.  On the Darkside, Chuckie.  Nobody goes over there, not even the dead.  I’m the only one over there, nobody else!  I’ve been there for seventeen years, rotting away, while you’ve been enjoying your life, Chuckie!  You’ve never even come to visit me.  Go ahead, prove to me that I’m not really here.”

Chuckie slowly walked to the grave that Alex had pointed to. The grave was on fire, just as Alex said it was.  Chuckie shielded his eyes as he got close enough to the tombstone to read it without getting burned.  The tombstone stated:  “Alex Vann

Morrison, August 22, 1955 to September 13, 1974.”  

“You’re. . . ” Chuckie started.

“DEAD!”  Alex finished.

Chuckie looked at Alex and for the first time that night he saw exactly what Alex looked like.  Alex was, indeed, dead.  What was left of Alex’s skin was charred a deep black and flaking somewhat.  The right side of his face was completely void of skin while the left side had patches of skin left on it.  He was missing his right eye, and his left eye was of a deep purple color.  He had no nose and no ears, little patches of hair on his

head stood out like a sore thumb, apparently most of it had been burned off in the fire.  His clothes were burnt but still intact, and his shirt had two holes in it, and what looked like dried blood.  There was a lot of decaying flesh still left on his body, with the exception of his hands and forearms, which were all bone.  The glow of the flames off of the grave made Alex look even more horrifying as he moved toward Chuckie.

“What’s wrong Chuckie, don’t you like my rugged good looks?” 

Chuckie stared at Alex in disbelief, as tears streamed from his eyes.

“It’s time, Chuckie.  It’s time to go home.”  Alex sneered as he moved closer.

“Please stay back.  Leave me alone.”  Chuckie pleaded as he backed away from the tomb.

“You still don’t know what tonight is do you?” Alex said in a childish voice.  “It’s the seventeenth anniversary of my death, Chuckie, and now you’re going to join me.  Tonight, Charles Benson, you shall join me in Hell!”

Chuckie started to run, trying to get away from Alex.  

“You can run, but you can’t hide Chuckie.”  Alex was laughing vehemently now.

Chuckie ran out of the cemetery and toward town.  He ran for what seemed like forever.  Finally, he stopped on the Dunbar Street Bridge, which leads back into town, and looked around to see if he could see Alex anywhere.  

“I must have lost him.” he said with a sigh of relief as he looked back toward the cemetery.  “No, he’s here somewhere. . . I gotta keep running. . . get some help.”

As Chuckie turned to head back toward town, there stood Alex.  Alex was on fire from head to toe.  Swiftly he grabbed Chuckie by the neck and hoisted him off of his feet.  

“Last time you saw me I was on fire, Chuckie!  It gave me a hell of a heart burn!”  Alex yelled as he held Chuckie in the air, his grip on Chuckie’s throat tightening, the fingers sinking into the flesh drawing droplets of blood.  Chuckie pried at Alex’s hands, trying to break the grip somehow, so he could breath.  The flames from Alex’s body were burning against Chuckie’s clothes and skin.  Chuckie’s eyes were growing wider as he felt faint.  “Say ‘Good night’ Chuckie, it’s time to go to sleep.”  Alex said as he tightened his grasp on Chuckie’s throat, sinking his long bony fingers deep into his flesh, and snapping Chuckie’s neck, drawing a flow of blood.  Chuckie stopped struggling and his body went limp and his hands fell to his side.  Alex stood and laughed as he held Chuckie’s lifeless body by the throat, blood running down his bony arm.

“I’m sorry to be such a pain in the neck, Chuckie, but I really must be going.”  Alex said as he threw Chuckie’s limp body over the edge of the bridge, then turned and walked off in to the night.  

The storm had picked back up and was worse than before. Lightening flashed and hit trees, splitting them in half.  Thunder boomed as if it was a bomb explosion going off.  

“Noooo!!”  Chuckie yelled as he sat up in bed, sweat pouring off of him.  It was eight thirty and the alarm on his clock was ringing; it was Saturday, September 13, and time to get up. Chuckie got out of his sweat soaked bed.  

“Another nightmare. . . it seemed so real.”  he said to himself breathlessly.  

Chuckie took a long shower to relax.  He looked in the mirror, still shaking his head and trying to figure out why the nightmare had been so real.  

Knock. . . knock. . . knock. . . knock. . . knock.

Chuckie jumped at the sound of the door; “That must be Jessica, she’s early.”  he thought to himself.  He finished drying off and rapped the towel around his waist as the knocking grew more insistent.

“Hold your horses, I’m coming.” Chuckie yelled as he opened the door.  

“Remember me, Chuckie boy?”

AJB

June 29, 1993

Creating Shadows

“To cast a shadow, you have to do something.”
–Bill Walton

5dfa6c90a5f9ed88cfe6038fd12a7e7aBefore I get into my blog, let me give you a brief history on Bill Walton. Stick with me for a paragraph here. Bill Walton played basketball for the UCLA Bruins in college, where he was on two national championship teams and was part of one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. He then went on to play professionally for the Portland Trailblazers, San Diego Clippers and Boston Celtics. He was part of two NBA championship teams. He is currently a commentator of NBA games. Walton, in my opinion, sees the world differently than most people and his seemingly joyous outlook can sometimes be hilarious when he goes on one of his humorous rants.

Okay, now that you know a brief history on Walton, et me give you the context of the comment above. On Saturday, February 2nd, 2019, Walton was on either ESPN’s Sportscenter or one of the various NBA shows the network airs. He was talking about the groundhog and whether or not it saw its shadow. Apparently, he did not see his shadow. This prompted the statement, “To cast a shadow, you have to do something.”

Immediately, I wrote it down. It struck me as something more than just about a groundhog seeing his shadow. It struck me as a giant casting a long shadow over a small town.

So, what is a shadow? For the purposes of this blog, it will be what we all think of as a shadow: a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.

Also for this blog, we will look at this meaning as well: in reference to a position of relative inferiority or obscurity.

These two definitions go hand in hand with my personal interpretation of Bill Walton’s statement. (For the re

cord, I doubt Walton meant his comment to be taken the way I am taking it, but I’ve chosen to see it deeper than it was probably intended.)

1081455_1First, the shadow as a noun. We’ve all seen objects casting long, gray or dark shadows in its wake, especially in the early morning as the sun rises or in the early evening as the sun sets. Trees, buildings, mountains … people casts shadows as the sun’s rays hits them, blocking those rays from reaching the ground. A lot of reference to shadows in fiction are negative. He hid in the shadows. What loomed in the shadows? It lurked in the shadows. All statements that imply dread or something sinister. A shadow in and of itself is not scary at all. It’s what could be in those shadows that terrifies people.

Let’s add the other definition, because that is the one that I think is more powerful, when coupled with the first definition above. How often have you heard something like, ‘he is in the shadow of this great person,’ or ‘His people live in his shadows,’ or something like that?

As I mentioned earlier, when I heard the statement Walton made, I immediately thought of a giant standing on the outskirts of a small town, looking down on the terrified peasants beneath him. He cast such a long and ominous shadow over them, they can’t help but be scared. But what if that shadow was a good thing? What if that shadow was something good that someone has done that everyone else tries to strive for? Take away the doom and gloom and you get something far better.

michael-jordan-dunkMichael Jordan did things in the eighties and nineties on a basketball court that no one else ever had. From that point on, every great player that came into the NBA was compared to him. I don’t know how many times I have heard, Is he the next Michal Jordan? Kobe Bryant came along and did things that Jordan didn’t do. Lebron James followed. Teams built their rosters around the notion of how do we get by Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers or any team James has played for. The standard of excellence keeps getting pushed higher and higher because there was a shadow of greatness left behind by someone who came before them. In order to cast a shadow, you have to do something. In order to be the greatest, you have to do something greater than the person before you.

What about Wal-Mart? Amazon? Apple? The Beatles? Michael Jackson? Prince? Stephen King? Nicholas Sparks? All of them had an idea and all of them became better than what and who came before them. They were innovative. They changed the industries they were in, and in some cases, changed the world. They did something and now they casts long shadows over those who follow. 

There was a man at the place I work. A big man, in size and stature and notoriety. He was known internationally for the great things he had done in the field he chose to excel in. He taught many people great things and he helped others achieve some of the most amazing things in their lives. He not only made his industry sit up and take notice of who he was, but he helped a lot of people along the way. He cast a vast shadow over those in his field of expertise. Many wanted to be like him. He had a little plaque on his desk that read simply: Quality is giving your best every time … with a personal touch. He lived by that quote and he achieved something that allowed for a huge shadow to be left in his wake. He was the giant on the edge of town. 

What does this have to do with me and you? Some artists—writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, craft makers, anyone who takes on an artistic endeavor—have this innate desire to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed, to be read, to be listened to. They are, in one way or another, exhibitionists waiting to happen. But it’s not enough to be seen, heard, read, noticed, listened to. They have to be felt. They need you, the fans of the various forms of artistic fields out there, to feel what you read, feel what you hear, feel what you notice, feel what you see, feel what you listen to. They need to touch you on a higher level. They need to move you to tears, to laughter, to anger, to something, to anything, but they need you to be impacted by what they do and how they do it. 

imagesArtists, such as Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Kiss created music and songs that were different from the norm of their day. They either disturbed the listeners, disgusted them, or excited them. Either way, people noticed, people listened, people heard, people saw and people felt their impact. They casts shadows, no matter how large or small they may have been. 

That’s what I want to do with my writing. I’ve always done things my own way. I’ve always said I don’t want to be a cookie cutter writer or word whore. I want to pull on your heart strings. I want you to remember Hank Walker and Cory Maddox and Humphrey. I want you to remember the Claires and Danes and Charlies of my stories. I want you to feel the heart ache of Art as he stands on top of the Seth Building looking at a painting he did right before his son died. I want you to feel the pain of the scars on Nothing’s body. I want you to feel the distrust and dislike Cassidy has for Cap’s former girlfriend. I want you to understand Mickie and why she makes stick figure dolls. I want you to feel the needle pricks as Irene sews herself together. I want you to smell the grapes. I want you to have the sense of loss and confusion at the end of Homer’s days. I want you to feel the desperation of Liam as he deals with the death of … himself. 

I want you to feel something when you read one of my stories. I want it to touch you deeply, so deep that you have to share it with others. 

To cast a shadow, you must do something. 

You don’t have to be Michael Jordan to cast a shadow. Or Prince. Or some big corporation. You just have to be willing to work at it, and work hard. You also need help and you have to know when to ask for that help. Nobody gets anywhere without help. Anyone who says they got to the top without help is probably not telling the entire truth. So, that is what I am doing. 

Help me cast a shadow. 

If you’ve read my work and I have touched you in any way, tell someone about it. Leave a review on Amazon or post one to my author page. Share this blog with people. Share my Amazon author page with people. Purchase books. If you share my work on social media, use my hashtag, #horrorwithheart. 

If you’ve never read anything I’ve written, other than the blog posts on here, get one of my books. Start with Cory’s Way and go from there. Here’s what I know: you won’t be disappointed. 

I work hard at this business, but right now I’m the groundhog who doesn’t see his shadow. That will change. I’m as sure of that as you are reading these words. So, let’s go casts shadows together. 

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.
A.J. 

Musings And Such

Musings from the week of 1/13/19-1/19/19 that may interest only me.

On Tuesday I discovered you can hear yourself brushing your teeth. It’s not quite disturbing, but this type of epiphany startled me. I’ve been brushing my teeth my entire life and I never noticed the sound of brush on teeth. What makes it even more interesting is the difference in the sound depending on what part of your teeth you are brushing. For me, when I’m brushing my upper back teeth, the sound is so much louder than when I am brushing the lower back teeth. It’s also a little more hollow than when I brush the front teeth. I know, right?

My dislike for Amazon keeps growing and growing. 

On Thursday, I turned on the turntable and listened to the soundtrack for Grease on vinyl. It was a glorious sound. The next day I could not stop singing, You’re the One That I Want, getting particularly animated at the Oo oo oo parts. 

screen shot 2019-01-20 at 5.51.43 pmHere is a picture I took on one of the photo filter thingies. 

My son has a weird dance he does that makes me laugh every time. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure if his dance is funny or lewd. Either way, it is entertaining

I’ve been complaining about customer service a lot lately. I just don’t feel that most people in customer service understand that the easiest way to diffuse the temper of an angry customer is to actually act like you care about their problem. 

Speaking of customer service, there is so much more of it now than ever before. What? Am I serious? After complaining about bad customer service, how can I possibly say there is more customer service out there than ever before? It’s simple: self checkout. Customers are servicing themselves more and more these days. I guess bad human interaction will do that for yah.

Every time I shave, I look in the mirror for several seconds. That’s not too unusual, until you consider I do it as if I am Steve Perry from Journey in the video Faithfully just before he shaves off his mustache. Sadly, I can’t sing like him and the closest I can come to actually growing facial hair is akin to mimicking a porcupine’s bristles. 

1 DUM COVERAs much as I loathe Amazon, another author made a very good point in a discussion on social media. She said having your books on Amazon gives you credibility with the reading populace. I thought about this and I believe she is right. How many times have I been asked if my books were on Amazon or available for Kindle? A ton. So, I may not care much for Amazon, but it has become a necessary evil for the authors on the lower to middle of the totem pole. With that in mind, I shamelessly plug my Amazon Author Page. Check it out, purchase a couple of books, read them, leave a review. Please.

I think there needs to be a new law passed concerning elevator etiquette. I believe if you are a violator of certain unwritten rules (which I will write here for you) of elevator etiquette, you should get crotch punched by everyone on or waiting for the elevator. 

(DISCLAIMER: this is all in good fun. Please, don’t take any of it seriously. It’s a joke. Laugh a little.)

Here we go:

If you are a man and you step in front of a woman to get on the elevator instead of holding the door open for her, you should get crotch punched. Don’t tell me your defense to that bit of douche baggery is because of women’s rights. It’s called respect. If you can’t show it for a woman, then you deserve to get your junk punched.

To go with that, if someone is already in the lobby when you walk up and the elevator door opens and you step in front of the person (or people) who were there first, you get a swift jab to the boys and then you get dragged off the elevator so you can wait your turn. 

If you get on the elevator and then hold the door open for fifteen other people who aren’t even close to the elevator, you should get your crotch punched. Speaking for myself, I don’t do well in small, cramped places with a lot of people. I’m not claustrophobic at all. I just don’t like people that much to stand arm to arm, butt to crotch close to people. It’s one thing if there is someone right behind you. It would be rude if you closed the door on them, but for those people who are off in the distance, let the door close.

On the same token, but the other side, if you are the person who hits the CLOSE DOOR button several times once you get in the elevator, you should get your crotch punched. No, I don’t want you holding the door for every Tom, Dick and Harry off in the distance, but dang, how about just letting the door close on its own, Mr. Impatient.

If you fart on the elevator, you need your junk punched several times. Period. 

If you fart and then get off the elevator, everyone on there with you should be allowed to go back to the floor you got off on, hunt you down, pin you to the floor and punch you in the crotch. We don’t want your dust cropping, thank you very much.

If you get on the elevator and do not move to the back of the car so others can get on, yeah, you get your junk punched. On the same hand, if you stand by the buttons that people need to press and don’t move or, at the very least, offer to push the button for the floor they need, you get punched in the family jewels. 

If you can’t say excuse me when you bump someone with your hand cart, briefcase, shopping bags, box or whatever, yup, you guessed it, a good old crotch punch is in your future. 

If someone holds the door for you and you don’t have the courtesy to say, “Thank you,” get ready to double over. 

If someone says ‘hello’ to you on the elevator, please don’t be rude and say nothing or grunt or roll your eyes. It’s a ‘hello.’ There is nothing committal in responding in kind. Yeah, I know some folks might say they don’t have to talk to anyone if they don’t want to. You are correct, but I reserve the right to junk punch you if you are rude when someone greets you. 

If you try to get on the elevator before everyone has had a chance to get off, you need your crotch smacked. It’s simple: Don’t get on until everyone else is off.

There are others, but these are the ones I experienced in the past week. I’m sure I will amend this by the end of next week. 

My favorite Metallica song is I Disappear. 

map_img_1013283_1487183286One last thing: if you are receiving snow, make me a snowman. I live in South Carolina and in the half of the state that never gets snow, so I live vicariously through you.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

(Now, go and brush your teeth. You know you want to.)

He Said, “I’ve Had A Good Life.”

1/15/2018

Let me tell you a quick story for context’s sake:

Back in August of 2017, a longtime friend of mine went to the hospital for heart surgery. During surgery, he had a stroke and went into a coma. I saw this on his social media page. His lady friend (my buddy never married) posted about it and then updated everyone on his condition over the course of three days. I contacted her directly, seeing how I had known this guy since I was six-years-old. She and I PM’d back and forth for the next several days with her giving me more detailed information than what she posted on social media. 

Three days after my friend had his stroke, he passed away. His lady friend sent me a message before she posted it on social media stating simply, He’s Gone. One of the friends I had had for over forty years of my life was now gone from it forever. 

A couple days passed and I contacted the lady, wanting to see how she was, how she was handling the death of our mutual friend. She was struggling, but she said something that has stuck with me: “He said before he went into surgery, ‘If I don’t make it, I had a good life.’”

My friend did have a good life. He did well for himself, having gone into the military and then being successful when he got out of the military. He had a good life. He did the things he wanted to do with his life. He enjoyed his life. 

a-good-life-is-whenI. Had. A. Good. Life.

Recently, I talked to another friend of mine. I asked him how he was.

“I want a do over,” he said.

“Today’s been that bad?”

“No. I want a do over and go back to high school. I would have paid more attention in class. I wouldn’t have given up on what I wanted to do with my life.”

“What did you want to do with your life?”

“I wanted to be a graphic designer.”

“My friend, just because you are older now doesn’t mean you can’t still be what you want to be.”

He shrugged his shoulders at this. “I wish I had the discipline back then to just pursue it.”

“That was then. Who says you don’t have the discipline now?”

My best friend went to college at forty-five (the same age as the friend I talked to recently) and graduated in October of 2018 with a Masters in Business. I know a woman who went to law school at forty because she wanted a change in careers. She became a very successful attorney.

My friend shrugged several times during our conversation. That has always struck me as the universal sign for ‘I give up,’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ It’s the sign for ‘I don’t want to put the effort into it.’ (Let me state that this is a generalization and this is my observation. You may not see things the same way.)

I relayed the story to him of my deceased friend, going into a little more detail than I have here. I looked him in the eyes and stated, “He had a good life. We have one shot at this game called life. For me, I want no regrets. When I get to the end, I want to say, I had a good life.”

Isn’t that what we all want? To say we had a good life? To say I lived the best I could? To say I experienced life?

I’ve been known to say to people when they say “I can’t do something” the following: “You can’t or you won’t?”

Wait. Before you get offended, understand something. There is a vast difference between can’t and won’t. Some people physically can’t do things. They may want to do something, but it is an impossibility because of a physical or mental limitation. That is not a won’t, but an actual can’t. What I mean is there are folks out there who will say ‘I can’t’ because they don’t want to try or they feel like they won’t succeed, so why bother? Can’t verses Won’t. 

Here’s the thing: I’m guilty of this very thing. I’ve said I can’t do something because I thought I would fail at it. So, I didn’t try. I regret those decisions. I don’t want others to regret not trying because they … are afraid they won’t succeed, or maybe they don’t think it is worth the effort. What do you have to lose? An experience you might never forget is one thing. Success at something you never thought you could do, is another. 

I’m at the point in my life where I would rather try and fail than wonder if I would have ever succeeded at something I didn’t attempt. 

Each person has to live their life according to how they see fit. I don’t fault anyone for being how or who they are. You and I have to do what is best for ourselves. For me, the options are simple and there are really only two of them: you go after life like you want it, or you sit by and watch it pass you by. At the end of life, I want to be one who went after it. What if I got to lose? What do you have to lose? 

Go back to school. Chase a dream you let go. Ask that lady or man out that you have had your eye on. Go after life. Go after it and live it and enjoy it.

Until we meet again my friends, have a good life, and be kind to one another.

A.J. 

Closing the Wound

Some stories are harder to write than others. They take on a different meaning, a different feel. The emotional grind of killing off a character or breaking up a relationship between two lovers or two friends or even family members to further a story along, can be taxing on the writer. That grind amps up when the story is either based on real events or are the actual events themselves.

coverThat leads me to my first nonfiction book, Closing the Wound. The people in the book are not just characters, but were, at one point, living, breathing human beings and part of my life in one way or other. The events are not figments of my imagination, but the truth how I remember it. I say as I remember it because time has a way of distorting things. It can turn the eight inch bass a fisherman caught when he was twenty into a six foot marlin at the age of fifty-three. It can take the task of reeling that bass in, feeding it some line, pulling the rod back, reeling, reeling, reeling into an epic battle for survival between man and beast. Time has a way of sneaking up on us and blurring the edges of reality and fiction, sometimes to the point we don’t know which is fact and which is make believe.

When I sat down to write Closing the Wound, I was very careful about those facts and falsehoods. I recounted the events over and over how I remember them. I thought about the people, all of whom the names were changed, and the roles they played in this chapter of, not only my life, but theirs and the main topic of this story, a young boy—no, young man—who died far too soon, taken from this world by another person. I thought about how folks who know about these events might feel about them being rehashed so many years later. I thought about how some of the people are portrayed. 

I thought hard on just who is telling the story. And this was the sticking point for me. Everyone has their versions of events, from as close to factual as you can get to the downright outrageous. For me, these are the facts as I recall them. The key to this entire story is it is my recollection. I didn’t seek out anyone else in the telling of this story. I used the facts and my memory to tell it. If someone else wishes to tell this story in their own manner, from their own perspective, then have at it. But for me—and for you—this is my story. 

Before I go, I want to talk about the cover. It’s a rusty lock on an old door. It symbolizes that this story is over for me. I have closed the doors on it and have locked them. It symbolizes that there is nothing left to tell; I have poured my soul out and I can’t pour anymore.

I hope you will consider coming along with me on the journey to the end of this story. If you do, I hope you will consider leaving a review as well. Those things are important to us little guys.

If you would like to pick up a digital copy of Closing the Wound, you can do so by going here.

If you would like to pick up a physical copy of Closing the Wound, you do so by going here.

As always, thank you for reading, and until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.