Buddies

Dear John,

I think it would be best if we broke off our engagement, for now.

Sincerely,

Nel

There were other words in the letter, but these were the ones that kept repeating in John’s head. It wasn’t bad enough that he had been away from home a long time and about to see combat action. Now this. He was feeling very depressed as he left the darkness of the pub into the afternoon sunshine.

A missile shot over John’s head of blond hair, cut short in military style. The American airman ducked and saw the missile end up in a tree, stuck between the branches.

John looked down and there stood a rather sullen looking boy, about eight years old, with black unruly hair covering his forehead and sad dark eyes.

“What’s your name, son?”

The boy looked blankly at John and whispered, “Ian.”

“Well Ian, I’m John. I’ll get your ball out of the tree.”

John climbed up the tree and retrieved the ball. Ian took the ball and started to walk away, without even looking at John. The airman stood there looking at the boy walking away. He had sadness in his blue eyes very similar to the sadness in Ian’s dark eyes.

“Hey buddy, would you like to learn some American baseball?”

Ian turned around, and showed a faint smile. The sadness left his eyes for a moment. He took a long look at the blond giant in the blue uniform. Was he worth his trust?

The smile from the boy lightened John’s heart and took his mind off the war and his depressed feelings.

Ian told John he was evacuated from London. He had seen some terrible bombings and he missed his parents. He had been from home to home as an evacuee. Apparently, he was quite a mischievous handful. The people that took him in said he was too much to control, when they gave him back to the evacuation officials. John told Ian that you shouldn’t take things that happened to you out on others.

During John’s explanation of baseball, man and boy were oblivious to their wartime situations. John told Ian about his hometown baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. The boy was spellbound.

In the weeks that followed, when John could get away from his base, he and Ian met at the field next to the pub. John would bring some baseball equipment from the base. They would pitch and bat the baseball or play catch wearing the big baseball gloves. They were becoming good buddies, as John often said.

Ian would say, “John, you’re my good mate.”

John would reply, “And you’re my good buddy.”

Ian was coming out of his shell, thanks to John. The people that he was living with said he was a changed lad, and they didn’t talk about giving him up anymore. John was seeing through Ian’s eyes that life was still worth living even in wartime.

Then one day, John was told that he was to be transferred out of the country for combat duty. Where? He wouldn’t know until the last minute, it was part of the secrecy of war. How would he tell Ian? How would Ian take the news? How would it affect their relationship?

These thoughts kept racing through John’s head as he walked to the field to meet Ian. He thought he would give him a gift to ease the shock of separation. They may never see each other again.

They played catch, both wearing baseball gloves. Ian trying to pitch fast balls to John. The day was full of happiness.

But finally, the moment came when John had to tell Ian the bad news.

“Hey buddy, come here for a minute,” said John, walking over to a park bench, “Sit with me, I’ve got something to tell you and something to give you.”

Ian looked up at John with happy eyes.

“What’s up, buddy?” said Ian, imitating John’s American way of saying things.

“Well buddy, I’m going to be leaving in a few days and this will probably be the last time we will see each other for a while.”

Ian’s expression abruptly changed and he looked almost as sad as he did the first time they met.

Suddenly, Ian jumped up and ran into the woods shouting, “You never really cared about me, we’re not buddies anymore!”

John called after Ian, but he was gone. He ran into the woods to search for him. After a few minutes, he came across and old abandoned shack. John spotted the baseball glove Ian had, it was on the ground near an old well hole.

The airman dropped to his knees at the edge of the hole.

“Hey buddy, are you down there? Are you okay?”

No response, only dark silence.

John’s thoughts raced through his mind. Ian had become a happy boy and John had lost his depression over his situation. Life seemed to have meaning again. What the two buddies had accomplished can’t be all reversed now!

Tears were running down John’s cheeks.

“Hey buddy, I’m over here.”

John turned around and there was Ian, trying to look brave.

“Why did you run away?” said John, greatly relieved.

“I’m afraid I’ll never see you again and we had so much fun,” stammered Ian.

Putting his arm around Ian’s shoulder, John said, “Look buddy, what I’ve got here.”

John pulled an old worn baseball out of his pocket. Ian’s eyes widened in amazement, as he admired the ball.

“I got it when one of the Cubs hit a home run into the stands. This ball is signed by some of the Chicago Cub players. It is my most treasured possession and I want you to keep it for me, because I will be back for it.”

“Oh, I’ll keep it safe for you, John,” said Ian, fondling the ball like it was gold.

“We will always be buddies, Ian,” said John, “And I’ll write to tell you of my experiences.”

Man and boy walked out of the woods side by side.

They were real buddies. They had a bond that couldn’t be broken by any distance between them. John had faith that the war would come to a successful end for the Allies and that there would be a brighter future for the two buddies.

The Dreaded Grammar and Punctuation!

My friend, Jonah, who just started writing short stories and going to a writers club, dropped by my house unexpected one day. He looked haggard. I showed him into the lounge and we sat down opposite each other.

“What’s the matter, Jonah? You look down in the mouth.”

“I am, I just received a critique on one of my stories, saying it’s a great story and it should appeal to readers BUT it is ruined by grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and that nullifies the story.”

“It depends on how many mistakes were in the manuscript. Relax and we’ll talk about it,” I said.

“I can’t relax. I feel like ‘The Great Writing Oracle’ has thrown me in at the deep end and I’m in a dark place.”

“Well, your name is Jonah,” I smiled.

“Very funny, Dave, but this is serious.”

“So, your story, according to the critics, is an entertaining and compelling read BUT it is spoiled by grammatical mistakes and wrong punctuation. Consequently, readers will stop reading the story.”

“That’s right, but I don’t see it that way. I think a great story is of prime importance.”

“I agree, as long as the number of G&P mistakes are low.”

“Sometimes, I really get confused by the rules of grammar and punctuation,” said Jonah, dejectedly.

“Don’t feel bad, my friend, because G&P are the fiends that lurk in the shadows of our lives, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting writer, leaving confusion in its wake.”

“I know from my own experience if a book grabs me and pulls me into the story, I don’t mind a few grammar and punctuation mistakes,” said Jonah, confidently.

“Even though the story might be of prime importance, G&P are the framework that hold you story up.”

“Doesn’t it get up your nose, all this nit-picking by the pedants?” said Jonah, with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Well Jonah, it can tie you in knots at times, but G&P are necessary elements in a piece of writing. You want to communicate effectively, don’t you? So, if you want to make the meaning of your great story CLEAR, G&P are there to help you.”

“So Dave, what do you suggest I do?”

“Learn the basics of G&P, they aren’t the meat of your story, but they are the tools of your trade.”

“What about my readers?” said Jonah, quizzically.

“Don’t worry, your readers are NOT going to reject your story because of a few typos and G&P mistakes. They know how to recognize a great story.”

“I’m so glad I have you to guide me through this linguistic labyrinth,” said Jonah, smiling.

“My pleasure, but remember to study the mechanics and your stories will have a good foundation.”

We shook hands and I said:

“Remember, you have to know the ropes in order to pull the strings!”

The Skeptic

I was sitting next to a chap in the pub, watching TV. And he blurted out:

“I don’t believe it.”

I said, “What don’t you believe?”

“That man on the telly said, if you pick up baby birds and return them to the nest, their mother will reject them. I don’t believe it!” He was shouting now.

“Okay, okay, keep your shirt on. You must be a skeptic.”

“You bet I am, I question everything!”

“That must create a lot of stress.”

“No, no, I don’t have any stress. I love being a skeptic. My motto is:

I’ll believe it, when I see it and I’ll see it, when I believe it!”

“Well, you were right about the birds in the hand being rejected. Birds don’t smell too well, so they wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not humans handled their chicks.”

“I knew it wasn’t true, that’s why I questioned it.”

“But isn’t it strange that so many people hold on to this belief when it’s not true?”

“People are gullible,” he said knowingly.

“I’ll buy you a beer. Two more beers here bartender.”

“I don’t believe it! You are actually buying me a beer! Someone told me you were a tightwad.”

I smiled, “See don’t believe everything you are told.”

“The other day, a fella said to me, “Chameleons change their color to blend in with their surroundings. I told him, I don’t believe it.”

“You are spot on to not believe it, because it’s not true. They change color to communicate their mood, territory and it’s part of their mating behavior.”

“You see, I learn a lot because I question things.”

“So, there’s a reason for you madness?”

“Right.”

We both laughed.

“A lot of people accept faulty reasoning and erroneous beliefs because they don’t think straight about the world. People need more critical faculties.”

“You know you’re a pretty smart chap.”

“You better believe it. I try to be less accepting of superstition and sloppy thinking.”

“So, you have an accurate view of the world.”

“Right, now please excuse me, I have to go home and watch my favorite movie, “Coincidence on 34th street.”

“I don’t believe it,” he shouted.

Two Minds

It was raining that day I met my friend at the pub.

“I have just lost my girlfriend over a heated argument because she was seeing someone else, behind my back, and wanted to break it off between us.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I hate her and I never want to see her again. I’m better off without her. I feel free now,” my friend shouted.

But as he was saying this, tears welled up in his eyes.

“It’s funny though, I still feel sad when I talk about her. Why is that?”

My friend was looking for answers.

“Bartender, two beers here, please.”

The beers came and we both took long gulps.

“Well, my friend, we all have TWO minds.”

“Two minds? I thought I only had one,” my friend said quizzically.

“No, you have TWO. One that THINKS, the rational mind, this one is very aware, thoughtful and able to ponder, reflect and analyze. And one that FEELS, the emotional mind, which is impulsive, powerful and sometimes illogical.”

“So, how am I to know which one to use?”

“It’s difficult because we can be so reasonable at one moment and so irrational the next.”

“This is getting confusing.”

“Sometimes you don’t have time to decide which mind to use because the emotional mind is quicker than the rational mind, it springs into action without considering what it is doing.”

“Yea, that’s right, sometimes I jump into action and then later think, “What did I do that for?”

“That’s your rational mind kicking in.”

“How can I control these impulses?”

“Well, our feelings come to us as a fait accompli. A thing that has been done and decided and can’t be altered. But the rational mind can CONTROL the course of your reactions. So don’t be overly emotional and react, wait until your thinking can control those reactions.”

“Easier said than done.”

“That’s right, but it can be done if you get into the right habit of thinking before acting.”

“Not all our reactions are shaped by rational judgments, a lot are shaped by our distant past.”

“How’s that? Said my friend, looking perplexed.

“We have lots of automatic reactions left over from our evolutionary history. These reactions were the difference between survival and death.”

“Now it’s getting scary!”

“Relax, I will explain. In the Stone Age we were wired with these emotions(fight or flight) to guide us. It worked well for thousands of generations, but certainly NOT the last ten. The forces of evolution have shaped the way we react and it worked well for a million years, but with the rise of civilization, this emotional evolution sometimes hinders us. So, we confront modern dilemmas with the emotional reactions tailored to life in the Stone Age.”

“WOW!” My friend was gobsmacked!

“Another problem I have is that when someone scowls at me I react with fear.”

“Well, you told me once that you were beaten by your father when you were a child. Your father probably scowled at you before the beatings. Now, you react with fear when someone scowls at you, even though the scowl carries no threat to you.”

Everything you’re telling me is scary. Now you are telling me the PAST imposes itself on the PRESENT.”

“That’s right. But the good news is the two minds, the emotional and the rational operate in harmony for the most part and they guide us. There is a balance between feeling and thinking minds, with emotion informing the thinking mind, and the thinking mind refining and maybe vetoing the emotional inputs.”

We both finished our beers and walked out into the SUNSHINE.

The Man That Had All Three!

I was taking a walk in the park, enjoying nature, when I decided to take a load off my feet. So I sat down on my favorite bench. I regarded it as my bench because I sat there so often. When out of nowhere a bloke sat down next to me.

He seemed to be in a conversation with himself.

After a few minutes of distraction, I said:

“Are you okay, fella?”

He turned to me and gave me a blank look.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there. Oh yes, I’m okay, I just hear voices and see ghosts.”

“Oh, you have hallucinations?”

“Oh no, they are real.”

I was taken aback. My bench mate continued:

“I’m a very important person, you see, so somebody is interviewing me.”

Delusions of Grandeur, I thought.

“I saw a women sawed in half once at the variety show.”

“I think that was an optical illusion.”

“No it wasn’t, I know, I saw it!”

I wondered how I could help this fella.

“People don’t take me seriously,” he interrupted my thoughts.

“It’s no wonder,” I said, “You are an unusual fella in that you have illusions and don’t realize they are illusions. Also, you have delusions and hallucinations. You have all three things that defy reality!”

“What’s wrong with that?” he said, happily.

“Back in olden times they took these things as signs of madness,” I said, trying to shake him loose from his demons.

He smiled and then started laughing.

“Okay, what’s the difference between the three?”

“Well, I’m no psychiatrist, but here’s what I think. An illusion is like when your eyes play tricks on you. Something that seems to be something it is not. A delusion is a false belief with no basis in reality. And, finally, a hallucination is the perception of something, a noise, smell, a sight, that is not there.”

“Well, now I know how I think,” he said, laughing

“You should see a psychiatrist.”

“No, I’m perfectly happy the way I am, thank you.”

And with that, he walked away mumbling to himself.

That Shell Is Heavy, Break Out! Be Bold!

I was attending a Literary Lunch in London with my friend, Jim. He is a short story writer in his spare time and he is considering self-publishing a collection of his stories. I am a full-time writer in my retirement.

There must have been at least a hundred people milling around talking and checking out the books for sale.

We sat down at a table with four other people. After the introductions, I immediately told them I was a writer. All of them asked me about my writing and my books. Once they got me started talking about my passion they couldn’t stop me.

But, Jim just listened and kept quiet. The same happened at the lunch table!

Afterwards, Jim and I went to a pub for a drink.

“Jim, why didn’t you talk about your short stories and your writing?”

“I guess I’m not as bold as you are, Dave,” he mumbled.

“Jim, you have to break out and be yourself instead of being someone you are not.”

“How do I do that?”

“By talking about your passion, writing. Otherwise, your lack of boldness will cause the world to pass you by. Remember, boldness atrophies from lack of use.”

“You seem okay talking about your writing,” said Jim, glumly.

I smiled.

“Of course I am. I’m so wrapped up in my writing that I forget to be afraid of strangers and their judgments!”

Jim was silent for a minute while he contemplated his glass of beer.

“I fear people judging me.”

“You lack boldness because you fear being perceived as a failure. But, the paradox is your lack of boldness is failure!”

Jim was taken aback by that statement.

“I get so nervous when I’m mingling with strangers,” said Jim, wringing his hands.

“The trick is to use your nervousness to your advantage.”

“How do I do that?”

“Take a deep breath and think about your writing and how much you want the public to read it. That should motivate you to start talking. When you act with boldness life will be more exciting and meaningful.”

“Bartender, two more beers here!”

“Now, lets talk a little about our passion, yours and mine, and how it inspires me but so far hasn’t motivated you enough to breakout.”

“Do you recall the conversation at our table?”

Jim nodded.

“I said, “I’m a writer in my retirement.”

“What do you write?”

“Short stories, articles and novels and I have a blog.”

“I then handed out my business cards. I told them about my books and how I come up with ideas. The questions kept coming and I kept talking about my passion.”

“You sure looked like you were enjoying yourself.”

“Jim, you should have jumped in and told them about your short stories. But you kept your light under a bushel. Do not conceal your talents and abilities!”

“I don’t like criticism,” said Jim, sadly.

“You’ll always get criticism when you put your writing out there in the public arena. Most of it will be constructive and positive.”

“I’ll have to psyche myself out.”

“Someone once said and I remember it every time I don’t speak up when I wanted to. The quote is: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“I see what you mean.”

“Jim, our passions are powerful motivators. They are a state of being. With passion we can accomplish boldness in life.”

“I think I’ve got it! I’m going to put myself out there.”

“Great! Putting yourself out there creates a sense of energy, accountability and support for you. It cements your dreams to be more possible.”

Jim was smiling now.

“Remember:

BE BOLD AND MIGHTY FORCES WITHIN YOU WILL COME TO YOUR AID!”

Self-Publishing Is Great!

I  HAVE  TWO  EBOOKS  AND  ONE  PAPERBACK  FOR  SALE  ON  AMAZON.

I  AM  WORKING  ON  MY  THIRD  NOVEL  AT  PRESENT.

WRITING  IS  A  SATISFYING  CREATIVE  HOBBY  OF  MINE.

NOW,  ANYBODY  CAN  PUBLISH  THEIR  WRITING IN  THE  SELF-PUBLISHING  WORLD.

NO  AGENTS  OR  PUBLISHERS  TO  VET  YOU!

HOLDING  A  BOOK  IN  YOUR  HANDS  THAT  HAS  YOUR  NAME  ON  THE  COVER  OR  LOOKING  AT  YOUR  TITLE  LISTED  ONLINE,  IS  A  WONDERFUL  FEELING.

AND  IT’S  GREAT  TO  EVEN  SELL  SOME  BOOKS  AND  GET  READ!

WHEN  YOU  WRITE  A  BOOK,  YOU  GIVE  IT  YOUR  BEST  SHOT  SO  YOUR  NOVEL  HAS  THE  BEST  CHANCE  OF  FLOATING  IN  THOSE  SHARK-INFESTED  WATERS!

SO,  IF  YOU  WANT A GOOD EXCITING  READ,  BUY:

“WEB  OF  GUILT,  A  CHICAGO  STORY”,  AN  EBOOK.

OR  “24  TRAUMATIC  HOURS,  TWICE!”  AN  EBOOK  AND  IN  PAPERBACK.

 

“I Get So Many Premonitions!”

I was sitting at the bar in my favorite watering hole, wondering what I could write about next. This wasn’t unusual because I am a writer in my retirement years.

Just then a nervous chap jumped up on the stool next to me.

“That looks good,” he said, looking at my drink, “What is it?”

“It’s a gin and tonic with ice and lemon.”

“Bartender, I’ll have one of those gin and tonics.”

He smiled at me and I noticed a facial twitch near the corner of his mouth.

“My name is Jonah, what’s yours?”

“Dave,” I said reluctantly.

“I’m very nervous today, Dave.”

My stool mate, Jonah, started to shake like he had Parkinson’s.

“What’s the problem, Jonah?”

“I’ve had another premonition. I think I’ve got a sixth sense. It’s scary.”

I smiled and ordered another gin and tonic.

“Psychic abilities are not recognized by the scientific community.”

“But Dave, there is so much evidence and support for ESP, even celebrities have premonitions. I get many of them.”

“Jonah, remember the old joke: one person says, “The food in this restaurant is not good.” And the other person says, “I know, and they don’t give you much on your plate either!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Jonah quizzically.

“What the joke tells you is: people tend to think that a large quantity of something can compensate for the lack of quality. What was your recent premonition?”

“Oh, you mean because ESP is in the news so much, there’s got to be something to it.”

“That’s right.”

“My premonition was that I dreamt I would meet an old friend I haven’t seen for years and low and behold, I ran into them in a restaurant. They were at the next table!”

“That’s a sort of coincidence, isn’t it? It’s a coincidence between your dream and an event in the outside world.”

“I still think I have a sixth sense. And anyway, there is so many ESP stories reported in the media, it has to be true. ESP is a fact of life!”

My friend was getting excited now.

“Yes, I will agree that the media reports a lot of strange goings on, and that reinforces your belief.”

“There’s something inside of me that wants to believe in the unknown and the supernatural. Something is willing me to believe,” said Jonah, twitching more than ever.

“Jonah, I know it’s comforting to suggest a belief in, lets say, an afterlife. This can be a very seduction thought.”

“Oh, I had a premonition about that too. I think there is an afterlife!” Jonah interrupted.

“Of course you want to believe, because it opens up the possibility for some part of you to survive death.”

“Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful, to survive death?”

Jonah’s eyes were gleaming.

“A lot of people would like a ticket to immortality if only there was evidence to back it up, but there isn’t any.”

Jonah looked demoralized now.

“When you say that ESP or any transcendental things don’t exist, you’re taking something away from me that I need,” said Jonah, shouting now.

“Relax Jonah, it’s human nature to want to believe in the unknown and the supernatural, but you’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you face up to the fact that science does not back it up.”

“I’m sorry Dave, I have to believe, even if it just ain’t so! I can’t stop these premonitions.”

Jonah got up to leave:

“I will probably be miserable and depressed until my 50th birthday.”

“Who told you that?”

“A fortune teller I know.”

“Will things improve then?”

“No, she said, “I’ll just get used to it by then!”

I never saw Jonah again!

Chicago Doppelgänger

“Chicago is, and always has been, a grim, violent city, a tough city of many tongues and curiously Chicago is proud of this description.”

This was the blurb on my guidebook to Chicago Crime.

I was on holiday, revisiting my hometown of Chicago. I was passing Holy Name Cathedral, which was on my list of crime sights. I walked up to the cornerstone of the church and touched the bullet hole from the North side gangster’s assassination in 1926. Hymie Weiss to be specific.

Before I walked away, another fella followed me and touched the bullet hole and smiled wickedly. He was a heavy-set chap with a round face, heavy eyebrows, dark eyes and thick lips. There was a slight mark on his left cheek. He was wearing a black suit with white tie and two-toned shoes.

When he was finished stroking the bullet hole he approached me and said:

“That’s where O’Banion’s old flower shop was, right across the street,” he pointed his chubby finger.

I backed away from him, wondering why this stranger was talking to me.

He continued:

“Weiss and his side kick drove to his office above the flower shop. They parked the car and walked past the church. Then Tommy gun fire came from the third floor window of that nearby building. The spray of bullets tore away portions of the church’s cornerstone. As you can see the hole remains today.”

He walked back and touched the bullet hole again and said:

“Pedestrians scattered screaming as the shots broke the silence. Weiss took ten bullets and died at a nearby hospital. His side kick died instantly.”

The stranger then walked away laughing, and seemed to disappear into the distance.

I stood frozen to the spot for a minute. I wondered was this Edward G. Robinson look-a-like really the ghost of the leader of the “Chicago Outfit”, Al Capone?

Did I have a hallucination because of all the crime stories in my head?

My guidebook stated that the police chief announced after the Weiss shooting:

“If people have to be killed, it’s good that the gangsters are killing themselves. It saves trouble for the police!”

I walked away wondering:

DO DEAD MEN TELL STORIES?

 

Write, Writer, Write!

At a literary meeting and lunch I attended, a chap at my table asked me, after discovering I was a writer in my retirement.

“What makes a writer write? Or to put it another way, why do writers write?”

We were all on our second glass of wine, so I wondered if this fella was trying to wind me up or was he serious with his question.

“Do you do any writing?” I asked probing.

“Not really, but I love reading.”

So I decided to take his question seriously.

“There are many motivations and reasons that writers write.”

“How about you personally?”

“Writing gives me great satisfaction but ultimately I want to be READ,” I said forcefully.

“Some people say writers just write in hopes of making lots of money,” said my lunch mate quizzically.

“That is simply not true in 99% of writers.”

“What do you like to write about?”

“My recent book, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice!”, has a dark theme with plenty of drama and tension. I also throw in a bit of  philosophy.”

I reached for the wine bottle on our table and topped up our glasses.

“What are some other of your reasons for writing?”

“Well, I started writing full time in my retirement. It’s what keeps me alert to the world. There is so much ego food in sharing my unique voice and point of view. There’s a sense of fulfillment that comes with that. My mind is filled with characters and stories and I’m eager to get them on paper.”

“So, you keep a hold on life by writing?”

“That’s right! Writing also allows me to unload my emotions, impressions and opinions. My curiosity about life is my driving force. Writing is therapeutic.”

“Do writers get lonely when they’re writing?”

I smiled and said:

“Writers have a world inside their mind, usually more than one, and you’re never really lonely with all those characters and stories in your head.”

“What are the major goals of writers?”

“To entertain and to inform,” I said confidently.

“Can you elaborate, please?”

“Well, writers are driven by the need to Communicate. With that need is another need, the need to Share, and behind that is the need to be Understood.”

“Writers have lots of needs!” said someone laughing.

“Doesn’t everyone?” I countered.

“How would you conclude this interesting conversation?” said a chap taking a sip of his wine.

“Well, writers write because it’s the way we EXPRESS ourselves best. Everyone has their best method of expression. With writers, it’s words on the page and using those words to connect to an audience. We also desire to leave a legacy. We want to leave something behind that lasts.”

All the lunch guests clapped.

I continued:

“There’s an old adage that says, “The spoken word passes away; the written word abides.”

With that we all clinked our glasses together.