These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Friday, January 27, 2006

old brown bear part 1

the old brown bear walked around his den. it was a comfortable den he shared with his wife. its walls were smooth and worn from ages of living there.

old brown bear came up to the entrance and looked around. the woods were still and noiseless. he frowned. his appointment was late and that's something he hated. he was a busy bear and he had things to do and people so see. or was it the other way arond.

old brown bear was head bear of the little group that lived in the section of the woods. he'd been their leader for years. never been contested for it. sure he'd had seveal young bears try to take over, but he was much too strong and powerful. he had th support of the entire group. he could very well die as leader of this little clan.

he stepped out of his den and walked over to a tree and began to claw at the bark. he needed to sharpen his claws; they were getting a little ragged in his old age and he liked to keep them nice and clean -- and sharp of course.

he's only begun his ritual when he heard rustling behind him in the bushes. he turned arond and saw tree branches clearing. out stepped a small, light-colored bear. there was a look of worry on her face as the bear made its way toward old brown bear.

before the bear could speak, old brown bear turned on her, quick. he bounded to the bear in a few bounds and over took the smaller bear. before the other bear could react, old brown bear was on the other bear, his open maw revealing long jagged teeth.

"you're late, sonia," old brown bear said, thick droplets of saliva dripping from his mouth and onto sonia's fur.

"i'm sorry, old brown bear. i'm sorry," sonia said, eyes closed.

old brown bear grunted and stepped off of her. he went back to the tree and began clawing at the tree again with both front claws. he ignored sonia.

sonia, meanwhile, got on all fours and shook herself of dirt and leaves. she wiped at her face where old brown bear's saliva had dripped on. she walked up to old brown bear.

"i'm sorry, old brown bear," she repeated. "i was detained at the lodge. there was a discussion on what berries were better to eat and i got caught up in it."

"silly convesations, merit silly excuses, sonia," old brown bear said, still not facing her. "one of these days you'll be engaged in some inane conversation or discussion and miss the train at the station. and you'll have no one to blame."

sonia reddened. she hated when he chastized like that. he had a knack for it. that's one of the reasons she hated to talk to him. and it made no difference, alone or in a group,he'd still hadve the better of you and embarrass you.

"well, i came to talk to you because i found a new berry patch," sonia said. "that's one of the reasons why that discussion interested me."

old brown bear stopped clawing at the tree and turned around to look at sonia. his expression had changed. he's gone from annoyance to being pleased. he sat on his large haunches and scratched at the bald spot on his head.

he'd received that spot during a forest fire when he was leading his group of bears away to safety. a falling branch landed on his head as he bounded away. the smoldering branch had burned off a large patch of fur between his ears and it had never grown back.

perhaps it was this permanent reminder of his heroic action that kept him from being booted as the clan's leader or from a serious challenge from the older, more stronger bears in the clan. either way, this had served as his badge of courage. and he wore is proudly, often walking with his head slightly inclined so the other bears could see it.

as he approached, it was often the first thing the other bears saw. it was a constant reminder of who old brown bear was.

"berry patch," old brown bear mused. his eyes had glazed over as thought of eating fresh berries raced through his head. he licked his lips with his tongue.

"I thought you'd be interested in that," sonia said, now relaxing, though still standing several feet away from old brown bear.

"tell me how did you find it?" old brown bear inquired. "we've searched all over and have found nothing."

sonia didn't reply. she remained quiet eyes fixed on the ground.

old brown bear sensed her hesitation to divulge the location and grew both anxious and angry. he wanted to know the locaton. more berries would be helpful to the clan.

he decided, though, like he had in many cases that showing his anger would not be prudent. aftera all, you draw more flies with honey instead of vinegar. inwardly, he smiled. he had always liked that particular saying. a personal favorite of his.

"come now, sonia," old brown bear soothed. "you can trust me with the location. after all, i am the leader of this clan of bears. one of my main attributes is trust."

sonia moaned. she had heard about his wily ways and how he poked and prodded until he got his way. that's how many things got done, for good or bad, in the clan.

she finally looked up. old brown bear was smiling at her. his old eyes stared at her with no sign of malevolence or deception. they were almost fatherly, wise.

"it for the good of the clan," old brown bear said, knowing he had sonia exactly where he wantd. he knew the look of someone who had conceded. he'd won. again.

sonia sighed. "okay, i'll tell you. you're right. it's for the good of the clan. but..."

"but what?" old brown bear said quietly.

"but...i just want credit for having found the berry patch," sonia said.

old brown bear's brow furrowed and his eyes blazed with anger. but just for a second. then it was gone and the furrowed brow emained. and it looked more like a questioning gesture than anything else.

"rest assured, sonia," old brown bear said. "rest assured."

even though a voice deep inside her mind said not to believe old brown bear, she went against it and told him where she'd found the berry patch.

to be continued.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

the lost weekend

the other day i sat down and watched "the lost weekend." i'd heard about it and had seen the tape at the library, but hadn't picked it up until this past week. i hadn't even read the synopsis on the back cover to find out what it was about.

so i grabbed it and read it was about an alcoholic. sounds interesting. ray milland played the role. he won an oscar for it. it won best picture in 1945, best director (billy wilder) and screenplay.

since it played in 1945, i wasn't sure what to expect. i thought maybe a watered-down version of an alcoholic doing through a bad weekend. well, i was pleasantly surprised by what i saw. it had everything you'd expect from a modern-day movie - minus the sex and language.

quick synopsis: milland's character and his brother wick are supposed to go off to a farm for the weekend. milland's off booze for 10 days.but when wick and milland's g-friend go off to see a show (on milland's insistance instead), milland goes off ona binge he spends the weekend drinking instead. eventually he falls down stairs and ends up in an alcohol ward, where he escapes and makes his way back home. his g-friend is there and attempts to prevent him from killing himself with a gun.

milland played the role with such intensity that you'd think he was actually craving the alcohol. he had such desperation in his face and body language. he wanted the alcohol. it was sad to him beg and steal (in a flashback scene) to garner enough money to buy a bottle of rye or whiskey.

one of the most intesting parts of the movie took place in the detox ward when one of the patients starts screaming that he's seeing beetles. that's what he sees at night when the lights go out and he's going through the withdrawals. so when milland escapes and makes his way home, he wakes up and sees a rat sticking out of a hole in the wall. thenhe sees bats flying. one of the bats lands on the rat and is eaten by the rat. blood oozes down the wall. it's crazy. never expected that.

i enjoyed the movie but was saddened by it. while i am not addicted to alcohol or anything, i know what it's like to see one. my grandfather was an alcoholic for many years. but unlike milland's character who is a pitiful one, my grandfather was a mean one. i was old enough to see him get liquored up and become nasty a few times. his eyes would get small in their sockets as he'd chug half a can of beer. he'd start slurring and laughing. and he was ok like that. but if you said the wrong thing, he'd go off.

i remember once when i was probably 12 or so, we were there one saturday night and he was boozed up. my mom made some comment about some politico in the town. they got into it and he became really nasty. my dad keep telling him to stop. we left, my mom crying. they didn't alk for a long time after that. even us kids, me and my brother, wouldhave a hard time going over. he wouldn't really talk to us much. it was pretty shitty. and that was my grandfather in his late 60s. i never knew what he was like in his 30s, 40s and 50s, when he was worse.

don't get me wrong, i loe my grandfather. he's now about 87, still married to my grandmother. he stoppd drinking (a six-pack a day in his older years) and smoking (several packs of pall malls unfiltered) a day when the doctor told him to stop or he'd die. so he did cold turkey. pretty amazing, i must say. he fell of the wagon a couple of times, sneaking a beer here and there at gatherings, then he simply stopped drinking altogether. now he's picked up another habit: pop.he downs cans of them like crazy. but it's better than booze any day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

sounds of their voices

the insanity. insanity. insanity. insanity.
insanity. insanity. insanity. insanity.

picture this. the deepest, darkest ring of hell in dante's inferno. a man sits in a corner of a small, bare room. sitting in front of him around a rectangluar table is a group of people talking endlessly. their voices are droll, monotone, filled with jargin, complete nonsense. the reel of conversaton is about six hours long. then, it rewinds and it starts all over again. and again. and again. and again.

the sound of their voices impresses the people around the table. their chests swell with pride at their knowledge as the dialogue moves from topic to topic. despite the length of dialogue, there are only four or five topics to discuss. still, they stretch the topics. on and on. on and on. from one end to the other, each person puts in his or her two cents worth. they all nod in understanding, smile, agree, and continue the rattle of conversation.

they love the sound of their voices.

the man in the corner cringes as the voices rise and fall. he huddles tightly, placing his head hear his knees. his arms are wrapped around his legs. he shudders.

in his head all else has been wiped clean. anything he learned and loved is gone. every image he ever saw, sound heard, thing smelled, object touched and food tasted are erased. there is nothing but an empty void in his cavernous mind.

the void will be filled. slowly. slowly. over time. it will be filled with their conversation. the never-ending reel will play in his mind over and over again until all the recesses of is brain are filled with it.

near his ordeal's end around the sixth hour, for one split second as the reel winds down, he lifts his head in what could be conscrued as relief. he lifts his head higher. as he relaxes, though, their is a whir. and the tape begins to play again. he lowered his head once more. the sounds of their voices ehcoing madly in his head, terroring his every moment with mundane conversation.

it's his punishment. he must endure this until...until. he must endure it.

sinsanity. insanity. insanity in the sounds of their voices.