Tales of Tadeusz

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tennessee Writer: Death of a Blogger Excerpt

Prologue and Chapter One of the World's First Blogospheric Mystery Novel...
Previously goes to Chapters Three and Four...
Next goes to Chapter Seven
And now comes Chapters Five and Six...

Chapter Five: Blog People

Wounded of heart, and feeling guilty as she sat around the blonde wood of the kitchen table, because she could not offer much beyond futile phrases, to assuage the terrified and grief-pulverized children, she had at last turned to prayer which was not her most common redoubt. In the midst of doing, and great in number was the list of all her doings; she had not time for many things. And one of them had been prayer.
But after a few minutes of awkwardness, staring at the shiny table with linked hands, it was like after seeing a friend one had not talked to for over a decade. Ease came back into her voice, and she found a point of balance and increasing strength. She prayed two prayers at once. One a verbal prayer for the children’s ears, and it was full of requests for healing, and some questions as to why, and so forth, but her private prayer of thought was overflowing with questions, and scorching anguish which would have been too much for the children to bear.
Finally, assurance that no matter the outcome, in the end, all would be well, touched her. It did not fill her heart, for that hurt too much, but a suggestion that all was in the Creator’s hands was heard by her soul, and she accepted it as the only alternative to madness. And from her renewed strength, she found words to soothe her children’s horror.
But still Jenna’s plea to her to “Can’t you make this go away?” stung her, and standing in the hallway, and listening to Samuel bawl into his pillow, trying to muffle his own agony out of kindness for others, and so that he could not hear his own pain, and find it reflected and magnified in his own ears, well it made her collapse against the wall heater, and cry fresh tears with shakings that racked her body. But she held herself silent, so as to not add more to her children’s shoulders. Not clearly able to see, she made her way by touch and memory down the upper hallway, and to the stairs.
An older neighbor woman, Elizabeth Camwood, from down the street had come over to offer assistance, which kindness had greatly surprised Sharon. For it was not like they had shared more than a few minutes a couple times a month. Now, Mrs. Camwood had coffee brewing, and a thick, dark coffee cake to go with it, plus a bowl of fragrant soup sitting in the kitchen atop a marble counter.
“Sit, please eat. Sugar is good for you in times like this.” The comment was spoken quiet and non-challenging, but Sharon found herself clenching her hands, ready to scream at the woman. How dare she order me around at a time like this? And then she felt ashamed of herself. And her hands relaxed.
“Dear neighbor, if you need to scream at someone, then please, go ahead. Better me than your children.” Elizabeth paused, and Sharon tried to rush in with a denying apology, but a sudden sharp chopping gesture by Elizabeth stopped her.
“I am married to a fine man, but well before we met, I had another fine man. He …died. And I’m not saying this is what is going to happen to you. I just remember one day, the postman came by, and offered some comment, I can’t even remember what he said, but I know now it was in sweetness, for old Joe McCormack, now in the retirement home, was that sort of man. But I came this close …” The older woman shook her mostly white-haired in a creamy sort of way hair violently, and held up two wrinkled fingers a half-inch apart. “From grabbing my butcher knife, and doing something to him. I was that angry.”
Sharon looked at the older woman, standing there, still tense from a remembered fury, at least two decades past, and felt inside her own soul, the similar need to lash out, to hurt something, somebody. She breathed in and out, and felt her convulsive grip relax a trifle.
“I’ve gotta look at his stuff. Doctor’s orders. Bring that along.” It was rude, vague, and Sharon felt reassured that Elizabeth would not take offense. The grieving accountant did not have energy to spare to be polite.
Sitting down in Charlie’s chair in his den brought back another wave of tears, which Elizabeth ministered too with a tissue, after putting the food down on an extendable sideboard. She departed saying she would be in the kitchen. And again, Sharon felt relieved that at least one sane person was in the house tonight.
Looking through his papers for a suicide note, a doctor’s report, directions for medicine was wearing. You kept turning over rocks, expecting to find a coiled rattler underneath, and finding nothing. But it started to reassure her, until she remembered that her husband was a computer person.
Habit had the coffee cup half to her mouth before she noted, and then deliberately she sipped some. The cake was sweet, and heavy, and tasted like cardboard except for the densest spots of encrusted sugar. Even looking at the soup roiled her stomach.
She looked away, and saw the plenitude of pictures of her, her with the children, her with Charlie, his brothers (whom she needed to call, and one was in the military and far away in a dessert land), his parents (sadly not in any condition to understand events), and a couple pictures of a much younger Charlie. The shrine occupied the wall along with the computer equipment. In fact, it framed the computer. Anyone sitting here for a length of time would unavoidably see his dearest ones.
And I begrudged you time in here, dear heart. Sharon wept fresh sobs, with guilt over her treatment of her husband adding fuel to the fire. And the look of happiness, radiant contentment, in his eyes in some of the pictures with her, was an accusing finger. If only he knew what a bad wife I was.But the surge of emotions settled, and the testimony of that happy face in the pictures kept saying she had been deeply loved.
Knowing that she was avoiding turning on the computer for fear that the first thing she would see was a letter to her, in a pop-up window, she made herself reach over, and despite increasing resistance, and sudden lack of strength in her fingers, push the “On” button in the hard drive tower.
Nothing came up, but the regular starting screens, and a wallpaper picture of the three children in last year’s Halloween costumes. A weight partially lifted off her shoulders, but still she renewed her strength with a prayer, and then a bite of soup, which became half the bowl because Mrs. Camwood was a surprisingly good cook. I have to get the recipe, Sharon thought.
And then she felt like she had betrayed Charlie, by enjoying the soup, and planning for a life without him. But seeing the pictures, particularly the one of him she had shot when they were dating, and he had laughingly caught her shaking the Christmas presents reminded her of the amused and mild condescension that he would greet such an idea. With a partial feeling of release that provoked a crooked smile, and another tear, she put such delusion behind her for the moment. She wiped the salt water away, and grimaced as more pain stabbed through her, the pain of loss, which she had been trying to hide from.
I can’t lose you, Charlie. We have something too good to let go of easily. Even the way you tease and provoke me when I’m being silly-headed is precious to me.
Fortified, she began to search around his computer. Shortly, she had verified that there was no suicide note. If he had one, then he would have left it where she could easily find it. And while she was not a consulting expert like Charlie, she knew her way well around a computer.
More searching, and she decided that unless he had gone to unusual efforts to hide something, there was no record of unusual doctor’s bills, or anything of the sort either. And such efforts were not like Charlie. He had for the longest time, not locked the door of the old car he had when they got married.
“If someone wants to steal it, then they must be pretty desperate.” He would say with a laugh, and a thump of the late eighties era Honda Civic®. It was white, of course.
So, it was perplexing. No suicide note, no doctor’s doom, and in fact she had found a number of lists of things to do, and plans that grew increasingly sketchy, of course, but plans for possible vacations later this year, next year, and two years hence. It was not the computer of a man on the verge of dying.
Biting her fingernails, and leaning back in the chair, Sharon let the conclusion be evaluated in her subconscious mind. She sipped coffee, and ate cake as she let the idea settle. An unexpected medical trauma had laid her husband low was the logical conclusion.
Sharon was no innocent, and was well aware such things happened all the time. But still she spun up her mental modeling skills, which she used primarily for tax accounting, and made a pattern in her head. Startled, she examined it. So many empty spots where knowledge should provide structure. She needed to know more.
But still it was a relief that it had not been otherwise, a suicide whether of financial despair or cancerous doom had not laid on him. There was another possibility, but beyond a faint niggling itch at the side of her brain, and a blinking cursor in her three-dimensional mental model made of shimmering planes of multiple colored light, it received no notice.
She saw the icon for the “blog” on the desktop screen of the computer, and remembered his frequent comments of “that will go good on the blog.” She had ignored such, finding the notion of a “bleg” or whatever it was to be nonsensical, and pointless. Still, she hesitated, there might be some information, in there, somehow stored.
So she tagged the icon with her mouse‘s arrow, and was transported to a screen that asked for her password. That was easy enough. She reached into the faux wood shelves of a cheap bookshelf that stored computer manuals only, except for a certain notebook. It sat next to the computer, and she pulled out the thin volume, a notebook, that listed all the family passwords.
One of the more recent was “Hyacinth” which was one of her favorite flowers, and beside it was written “High Mountain Travels Blog”, and a starting date.
She entered the password, and a username that was simply his first initial and last name squashed together, cwalker, and entered his blog. It took her very little effort to find her way around it. The whole thing had been arranged with an intuitive grace and elegance, and an eye for the ease of use of the end consumer.
Posts comprised of one to fifteen or so paragraphs, mostly about four, ran down the screen, and below it resided a “Comments” hyperlink followed by a variable number, which she soon ascertained was the number of comments. The comments were similar to the posts, but they usually ran from a single line to twenty lines or so. And each person commenting had their own name or handle with names like “Morgenstern”, “MomofFive”, “Kid Vicious”, “VampHunter”, ”Mike Haversham”, and “MaxtotheMax” commenting on the current thread she was examining.
The material was fascinating. She had known her husband had political interests, and that he had some offbeat ideas, but she never had the time, or to be truthful, much of the inclination to sit down and let him share them with her. In fact, sometimes, she had wondered why they did not talk so much anymore. The answer to that stared her in the face.
And before she could get too jealous of these other people sharing her husband’s thoughts, she noted that he had a post on the Cat Allergy Problem of Jenna’s as the title of the post put it, and in the midst of the comments he had put in a sentence that extolled her, his wife, for her patience with the whole problem. Sharon did remember biting her lip a lot when explaining to Jenna “While cats are fun, they make you sick.” And Jenna’s reply was “But I want to play with them.” As if that trumped all other considerations.
And then scrolling down the screen via the arrow at the right, she came to a post entitled Wife’s Birthday Suggestions. He began by admitting he was terrible at buying for the Lady, as he always referred to her in all the posts, gifts for Christmas and anniversary, and a dreaded birthday. She knew why he feared the day, and was surprised at his mix of realism and romance in his assessment of her. He always took the most positive interpretation of her actions, but he was not blind to her flaws. The birthday was especially bad, he said, because she got blue on the day since it was one more reminder that her youth was receding, and along with it her flawless, peach complexion. And she did not listen well when he told her; she looked the same as always--wonderful.
But, then I’d think she looked wonderful if dragged in the mud, and doused with a cooler full of Gatorade®. Prejudiced that way. Charlie.
No, you just like the image of her mud wrestling. Men. MomofFive.
Sharon bit her lip to keep an outright laugh in, and then let it out just a bit. It felt good.
And then Charlie asked for advice.
A whole slew of comments came back, some banal, some astonishingly perceptive given that they only knew her from her husband’s comments, and there were a number of hyperlinks to gift sites on the World Wide Web. She checked the first one by MomofFive which had been cryptically titled “How three becomes five.” It led to a rose bikini and silken robe which was definitely designed to be only worn a few minutes, and the sight led Sharon to imagine herself wearing it, and then Charlie “helping” her with it. With her pale face flushed, and lips a bit parted, she read on down further.
That could well do, MoF. But I thought you were happily married and did not need accessories.
Well, I am. Very. But I needed to convince the Stud that he wanted two more rugrats interrupting his football on TV for playing football in the backyard. Now he tells me he thinks he can get them trained well enough in basketball for them to be a whole first-string team. And of course, that would make him coach. And that means I get the TV remote. MomofFive.
Well, we are grateful MoF only wanted the remote, and not world domination… VampHunter.
It’s my experience you find something nice, and then if you want to stun the woman, you go an upgrade or two. Morgenstern. Another link followed to a website displaying a confection whose utter shamelessness exalted its female wearer to a demigoddess of romance.
Whoa, Morg, that’s, ah, quite something else. Charlie.
Us old geezers got a few things going for us, experience for one. My lifelong partner loved it. Morgenstern.
Curious, Sharon checked the debit card, and found that Charlie had bought the exotic confection, and made a significant dent in the bank account for a few ounces of fabric. She wanted to be happy, she wanted to give him a big kiss, but instead it was all bittersweet, and the source of unfulfillable longings.
Reading on, Sharon realized that there were a number of regulars. And some had definite areas of expertise. A few went by their real names, with some just going by a first name and a location, but most hid their identity behind a handle, a nickname. While at the same time, revealing more of themselves than most people did, sometimes even to their spouses.
These were Charlie’s friends, or at least acquaintances, as well as the people down at the church, and the neighbors, and their family and college friends. Definitely more friends than many of the businesses he consulted for, and would not that be a headache explaining to all those technophobic klutzes (as she thought of Charlie’s customers) that their wizard was laid low, and that Gandalf had fallen into the Abyss, perhaps not to return.
With that poetry, she faced her fears, and doubled up in weeping agony for several minutes until she forced herself to begin writing in a WordPad window® the list of people she needed to contact tomorrow. Halfway down the list, she hesitated, and then added “blog people”
End of Chapter Five.
Chapter Six: Communities of Kindness

The next morning, Mrs. Camwood had cereal ready in the good china bowls on the kitchen table, and bacon hissing and snapping until it settled down on their plates. The incongruously cheerful kitchen with its yellow daisy pattern scattered in intermittent tiles about the room hurt the souls in their grief to look upon. But, with sniffles, and long looks into their orange juice, or coffee, the morning was past, and the children were bundled off by Mrs. Camwood to her station wagon, and to their schools. Act One of the day left Sharon exhausted, but still determined.
First she rang up her office, and told her secretary, Kate, of the family tragedy, and that she was taking paid time off, effective immediately.
“I wouldn’t really be much good for anything today, anyways.”
Her new apprentice, George, also got on the line, and assured her that he would personally make sure that her projects were kept up to speed, so that her office would be ready for her when her husband got better, and she came back. His determined optimism about her husband’s fate was an infusion of hope.
The next person she called was the doctor, in her husband’s case. Traditionally one visits a doctor and asks in person, but in her stress, she had no thought of common etiquette or practice and simply dialed her cell phone.
“Ma’am, we are still uncertain of the cause, and until we do find it, we can’t really begin to treat the illness, but we have had some success with the symptoms. I’m also going to be trying a new drug later this afternoon to stabilize his sub-optimal and erratic heart rate, and of course, he is on a heart monitor. But he seems to have passed the initial crisis, and that’s a hopeful sign.”
He paused, letting her say something if she was of a mind too, but nothing came to her.
“We’ve irrigated his stomach, just in case something got in there that did not like him, and I have him on an intravenous drip to supply water to his system. His mouth and throat look irritated.”
The words, uncertain of the cause, kept hammering in her mind even after she hung up, and she first tried to dredge up anything she might know about such symptoms from her memory, and then restlessly driven by her inner fear, she got up, and wandered in a wide path looking about the house for medical dictionaries, but always heading toward the computer, and the online medical databases.
There she found irrelevant data about pregnancies, and muscular sclerosis (she hoped), and fearfully, she saw the use of a pacemaker was listed as one possible response to heart rate problems. Another was the use of atropine in some cases. It seemed to depend on what caused the problem in the first place as to whether one administered it. She realized she needed more data from the doctor, for she did not know whether Charlie had tachycardia (too fast) or bradycardia (too slow), or if it was something else altogether. The too fast seemed more serious to her novice’s eye since it was felt the other was easily treated with a device; she guessed they probably meant the pacemaker. So that eased her fears of a pacemaker.
She found that she could not bear looking up information about comatose patients. Every time she started, both her arms began to tremble violently. And so she put the questions aside for now.
The medical website had relaxed her fears a little, and since she was already on the computer, she decided to essay leaving a message for her husband’s readers. Odd to think that, but he might be considered some sort of journalist.
I guess that makes me the substitute columnist.
The Blogspot™ blog remained relatively easy to navigate, and intuitive enough that she only had to go once to the Help section for advice on posting. Another screen came up, and she saw an empty white space to fill.
A long pause, and then she moved her mouse over to click in the space.
Charles has had a sudden illness, and is in the hospital. He is unconscious. This is his wife.
Her writing was crude and awkward, but suddenly angry, for what did she care or owe these people? She posted it with a jabbing finger, and then re-posted her, well his blog, and saw her note. Probably no one would read it. The mere notion that others would read it, and care seemed just too fantastical.
She used her anger to begin pushing her through the list of people she had to call. The unpleasant ones first like the current business he consulted at. The receptionist there seemed to feel that Charlie’s illness was a personal insult deliberately aimed at inconveniencing her.
And she allowed that she would get the message to the boss at such time as seemed appropriate, rather than directly taking it now. In other words, I’ll do it if I feel like it, and when I get good and ready, if I get around to it today was the idea. The thought of Charlie’s reputation being smeared by an accident not his fault burned Sharon.
“Listen honey, you get your fat thighs up now, and deliver this message. Or I will come down there myself, and explain to your boss in person your sloth and incompetence.” Sharon paused, startled at her own rudeness. Oh, well, in for a penny… “Do I make myself clear?”
There followed a long pause, with Sharon breathing thunderously into the line like a bull about to charge.
“Yes, ma’am.” It was a very subdued response. “Right away, indeed.”
“Good.” Sharon bit out, and slammed down the phone.
“Idiots, I’m surrounded by idiots.” She yelled at the walls of the small room, which only heightened her sense of isolation as the noise flowed oddly in the empty house. And the sound came back seeming to mock her with an awareness of her misdeeds to a probably innocent secretary.
A glance down at the end of her tirade showed that a small window in the corner of her screen was blinking.
Replies are up, it said.
Curious despite herself, she opened back up the screen to her blog, High Mountain Travels with its subtitle of “and facing the wild airs of life”, and noted that Charlie had unexpected depths for she would not have thought him the least poetic.
Five, no seven replies were up. The number changing right before her eyes widened those orbs in shock and fear. Clicking on the comments link with her mouse she saw expressions of concern, mingled with requests for more information (some polite, some rather insistent), offers of prayers and offers of assistance, and that was only in the first nine, no eleven replies.
“Where did you people come from?” Sharon asked the walls of her empty house in wonder, and then drew herself back into the more warmly welcoming embrace of the blog rather than the tomb-like, as dim lit, and cool house.
She paused, not certain what to say, and finding herself choked up even as she tried to think of what to reply.
Another post is the thing, she decided.
My name is Sharon; Charlie called me the Lady, which was typically sweet of him. He…
And here she paused, feeling a sharp pain in her chest, but it subsided to be replaced by an ache of loneliness.
…He went to meet a friend of his from the blog, and took suddenly ill, collapsed, fell off a small footbridge, and into a creek, and bas-hurt his head on a rock. He’s being taken care of at a local hospital, and they are still not certain what caused his fainting spell. He is…
It was very hard to type the next phrase.
…Is still unconscious. The family and I appreciate your prayers and good wishes. Now, I need to go and contact the list of Charlie’s business associates.
She posted. The last sentence was a complaint, and also trying to get these people to step back because suddenly she was tired of the conversation.
But she waited despite that, drawn by curiosity, and looked for any replies. Sharon was only planning for a minute’s wait, but the replies kept coming in.
A couple stuck out in her mind.
Sharon, I’m a colleague of your husband’s in the sense that we are both computer geeks. Why don’t you email me your list of contacts, and I’ll handle getting the information to them. Morgenstern.
Sharon, you can also reply in the comments section. Save you the difficulty of making a new post. VampHunter.
Wanting to smack her head for missing the obvious, Sharon did as “VampHunter” suggested. What an odd name, she thought as she typed in a response to “Morgenstern“.
No, that won’t be necessary. Sharon.
If you like, Sharon, but I really would like to help. Besides, its raining on the deck so I can’t go out and look at the Pacific, and I’m retired, and my dearest one is busy in her pottery/gardening shed where She Is Not To Be Disturbed. Morgenstern.
Sharon paused. Charlie had occasionally mentioned some of his commenters, and Morgenstern’s name had come up frequently, and with a great deal of respect. Besides, her breath caught a little bit at the notion of a deck overlooking the Pacific. That implied a degree of economic success, and thus hopefully dependability.
It was a thin reed, but Sharon took it, in part because she did not really care that much. The key thing was to have her responsibility honorably discharged.
Ok, Morgenstern. Send me an email, and I’ll bounce the list back to you. And thank you. Sharon.
A few minutes later, Sharon’s task was accomplished, and with a sense of fading wonder, she saw that her post had nearly seventy replies.
But then the phone rang, and she went to get it, expecting a telemarketer, or a relative, but getting the school nurse.
“Sharon, I’m so glad I caught you. Samuel has taken ill, and is being transported to the hospital. Faintness, acting really tired, scratchy throat, and he complained of being light-headed. So if you could meet us at the hospital?”
Standing there with her own strength draining away, wondering what she had done to offend God, and her mind flashed back to the medical website, and the great similarities of the husband‘s condition, and her darling boy’s hurt.
The nurse came back to say something which Sharon did not catch.
“Mrs. Watkins, I hope we did right. I know we are supposed to call the parent first, but I really felt that we needed the EMT’s…” The nervous voice of someone possibly about to be fired jerked Sharon out of her terrified trance.
“No, ah, tell them to check for vasodilation, tachycardia, ah, also dyspnea which is air hunger, got it?”
“Yes, vasodilation, that’s low blood pressure isn‘t it? Is there a family history of it?””
At first Sharon wanted to say “No”, but then with Charlie in the hospital, she spoke. “Yes. And Mrs. Norton, you are now on my Christmas list. Thank you.”
And dazed, but cognizant of the horror of a bureaucrat denying medicine to a child because of foolish rules, as had happened in schools which feared a lawsuit more than they feared killing a child, Sharon walked out of the house, and left her house phone dangling over the edge of the central cleaning station in her expansive kitchen. She staggered up to her car, and clambered in stiffly, and somehow arrived, after a multitude of beeps of horns and two near misses at the hospital just in time to catch the ambulance as it pulled up with Samuel.
Not breathing right, and gasping from running across the insane uphill parking lot, she came to his side as they pulled the stretcher out of the back of the ambulance. One look at her, and the EMT’s knew this was “Mom”, and so they guided her along with them, but out of their way for she had no eyes to spare for the path of her feet.
Samuel looked up at her, and winked from behind his oxygen mask. She stifled a sob, and gripped his hand hard enough to bend finger bones while tousling his red hair with the other hand. He winced, and held back his own laugh, but not the smile.
So she followed mouthing, “I love you.” over and over as they got into the admittance area, and then directly up to the Pediatric ICU in the elevator.
The doctor, an auburn haired woman, Dr. Lindsay, came in coolly observing the situation, and sizing everyone up. The EMT’s left with a couple pats on the shoulder for their cheerful and gutsy patient, and his stricken mother.
Not wanting to essay the impossible, and eject Sharon from the room, Dr. Lindsay asked one of her nurse’s to do the very hard, and ask Mrs. Walker to back up to give the doctor some room to work.
Sharon did so, and then feeling that it might be terrifically important, and that she was dilatory for not mentioning it before now, she spoke of her husband’s condition.
“My husband is also admitted for fainting, and I wondered if it might be vasodilation or tachycardia or something, ah, atrioventricular first order blockage. The symptoms the school nurse mentioned seemed to…”
Sharon paused not wanting to be a foolish parent and make the expert’s work harder, but Dr. Jenn Lindsay was a new doctor and had grown up in a world where the amateurs often knew a great deal more than the patients her father had treated.
She changed her examination to an immediate check with stethoscope on the heart rate. And then she ordered a heart rate monitor, and an electrical stimulator brought in, stat.
“Yes, ma’am. That would be a possibility, but there’s another that mimics tachycardia, and that is bradycardia, which is the reverse of that. The body is funny that way. Sometimes exact opposite conditions cause similar symptoms.”
“Bradycardia, right, I’m also a little familiar with that.” Sharon breathed in and out, and shared a smile with Samuel that was meant to reassure him. The web site had said it was easily treated with a pacemaker. The notion of her little boy being equipped with a pacemaker, and probably slowed down from his tornado-like pace hurt like a dream shattered suddenly and without remedy. But she put that away from her. The important thing was keeping him alive; they could somehow find a way to fix the rest.
Dr. Lindsay nodded to herself. The look of panic was gone, replaced by a steel will that would face a machine-gun without flinching for her child. It was typical, and yet, absolutely astonishing every time she saw it.
“So a pacemaker might be in order?” Sharon asked trying to be calm and rational.
“Possibly, Mrs. Walker, but I think an administration of atropine might be all that is needed.” Dr. Lindsay replied looking at the numbers on the medical log sheets. “But I cannot say yet. We will have to wait and see. Right now, he’s doing fine. His blood pressure is a little low, but not so much as to unduly concern us yet. We just need to keep a close eye on him, which we will do.”
The doctor made a few more notes on the sheet, gave the nurse some orders, and then with a concerned look, Dr. Lindsay drew Sharon to the side, and summoned another nurse with a glance.
“Tell me…” And Sharon was prepared for another interrogation.
“Have you or members of your family been overseas, recently? Been exposed to environmental toxins?”
“No, we have a very typical suburban home. Charlie works in computers, consulting on software when he can, and sticking hardware systems for a whole company together when he can’t. I’m an accountant. Can’t get much more bland than that. Five years ago, we went on a cruise in the Bahamas. That was the last time we were out of the country.”
“No, not the Bahamas.” The nurse murmured, and Dr. Lindsay nodded. “What about your husband, any business trips to say the Congo? Or somewhere tropical?”
“Congo? No.” She laughed in sheer incredulity at the madness of the question. Unnoticed by her, the two medical professionals relaxed a fraction. An infectious outbreak of one of the many deadly tropical diseases leading like a juggernaut to an epidemic in an American city was one of their worst nightmares.
“Think about it. This list is a series of questions for you to answer. We don’t want you to answer right away, but return it tomorrow, alright?”
“Ah, okay.” Sharon took the sheet without reading it, and then recalled. “Oh, by the way, I had a collapse the other day when I was told of my husband’s condition. Stress, the doctor said.”
Lindsay, and the nurse shared a long look. And then Dr. Lindsay pulled out a business card.
“I want you to call this number, if you or anyone else in your family has any medical issues in the next week. Even as innocent or mundane as an elevated temperature.” Her voice took on an unusual directness, and she caught Sharon’s eyes with her own.
Sharon was startled at the sudden seriousness, and wondered if perhaps something was going on. But what that nebulous something was she could not fathom. Perhaps there might be something to this list of fears of environmental toxins, and strange visitors from foreign countries after all?
“Yes, I certainly will, Doctor.” She said and pocketed the card in a secure spot in her well-arranged purse.
End of Chapter Six.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hohenwald News: Zoning Fallacies

Our local paper has a definite viewpoint, which I don't object too, since your local internet portal (that would be this blog that you are gracing with your presence) also has a definite view. Occasionally those views clash like bad SF robots shooting eyebeams at each other.

It seems that a Mr. Criswell has a problem. He wants to sell his property, but the unnamed bank won't offer financing. First why is the bank unnamed? Its not like banks have anything to be embarrassed about, every one already knows you're a banker, it can't get much worse than that.

We'll return to the bank in a bit.

Why no financing? Because he built a building without referring to the code for the county which is completely legal since such code does not exist. So, he's a hard-working person with initiative. Good for him.

But without a Stamp of Government Approval in Day-Glo Colors on the outside of the outbuilding (probably just a shed for some tools but that is not made clear) visible from orbit, the bank refuses to okay the loan.

So the citizen was stung, and the bank demonstated the habit of mind (not the presence of mind) to be a bueraucrat, and the paper's solution is for the county to get zoned and have regulations.
If we did that, I assume we would have to have a lot grand-fathered in because otherwise there would be a lot of people annoyed at having to scramble for the suddenly limited resource of handymen who could charge a premium. And otherwise it would not pass.

So, one of these grandfathered in people needs to sell their house. They still need the gov't approval from Orbit (etched in with the mind-control rays) to sell, so the poor building inspector still has to trot out to their place, probably separate them from a chunk of their cash, inspect, proclaim it a wise course chosen by the gods...ooops, sorry forgot this was a modern democracy, and not a pre-modern tribe sacrificing a chicken to divine the fates...

In other words, lets cut out the foofarah, and make a small addition to the law. For the benefit of brain-dead bankers, allow a county person to petition the building inspector (aka fill out a simple postcard) to come inspect their property and see if it meets a basic code such as the one used in Hohenwald proper.

There might be a few wrinkles needing ironing here, but thats the whole shirt mostly done. And without saddling the hard-working and sometimes barely surviving residents of Lewis County with yet another burden.

We need good laws. Really, we do. They form the structure to support growth, but they don't cause growth in and of themselves. And bad laws retard or kill growth, and laws like this one, that are mostly innocuous, but a weight, just slowly strangle the growth, and people in a decade will still be wondering why Lewis County failed to take off economically.

Let me be clearer. You can't legislate success. You can legislate conditions that will help create success. Don't zone the suffering people of Lewis County.

Hohenwald News: July 4th Weekend

There is a lot going on in Hohenwald this weekend. Making plans was easy, the hard part was keeping it down to a list of the doable. Here's a few suggestions, and yes, there's lots more to choose from like watching the neighbours duel the stars for brilliance and the thunder for sound for over an hour. Its always an impressive show (but I'm too much of a cheapskate to go that deep into fireworks, but I can watch and oow and aah with the rest.)

On Friday, Lewis County Manor is having a 30yr. celebration with free carnival activities for the kids like an inflatable slide, and an adventure bounce house.

Admission is free (although the add is a bit unclear. I'm thinking the concessions provided will cost, but it seems to maybe say they won't. I'd bring a ten-spot anyhoo.)

After the activities, there will be fireworks.

Next day is Saturday with the Lewis County Saddle Club from 10-4 at their arena on Hwy. 48 (which I'm going to have to crack out the map for). Maybe Mr. C can get a horsie ride if we make it over there?

Hardees is also offering some pretty decent coupons so you can fill up, go back home for a bit, and then head out to the Pink Cadillac for outdoor movie night if you're not dragging by then.

Hohenwald News: Pink Cadillac Runs Smooth!

With just a bit of a miss in the fifth cylinder, but not too bad at all, in fact, quite sweet.

The outdoor drive-in theatre, the Pink Cadillac (YOU though they were all dragged to the junkyard, right?) near Centreville and Grinder's Switch??? or is it Notch (made famous by Patsy Kline) is having their regular two-fer.

Sometimes, they hit a solid double, like this weekend.

War of the Worlds, with Tom Cruise in what looks like an outstanding redo of the classic will be followed by a Herbie movie which the kids should love. If only they were flipped, and then it would be perfect.

Hohenwald News: Blog Problem

I started a post, and then did not finish it, and perhaps posted it, but I thought not, and now I have an empty section that appears at the top of my blog. Drat.

I'd probably dig around and try to fix it, but I've been down with an enforced vacation from stressing too much, and thus getting sick over the last few days. I'm mostly better, but I want to be cautious since last year I kept it going for three weeks.

Hohenwald News: Thought for the Day

People are always telling each other how important and hard-working they are, and thus deserving. What they don't see is how much mercy plays a role in what they receive.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Too Much Respect for Law

Lee Harris argues quite well that we Americans have too much respect for Law. I would agree. The Terri Schiavo case is one that showcased this tendency among Libertarians, and Liberals. Harris does not use the TS case to make his case, although he might well have.

And he ends with an intestesting question about whether a nation gets destroyed by an excess of the things that it loves. Which is an intriguing idea, to be sure.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hohenwald News: Flag-burning Amendment

I'm not really that enthused either way about this amendment. It would serve some useful purposes, mostly rubbing the Left's face into the gravel, and forcing them into openly illegal acts of unpatriotic behavior that they could then be jailed for.

Y'see, many on the Left are patriots who are mistaken about how to win, but a goodly (or is that evilly?) number are traitors to America. Now my patriotism is pretty utilitarian (I suspect this is a character flaw, but I have real issues with trusting organizations), and as such, if someone came along with a genuinely better idea than America, I'd probably sign on pretty quickly. Problem is, for would-be utopians and world dictators is that the latest brilliant insight which will lead us all to utopia is just another tired retread, been tried, failed, tried, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

And as Mark Steyn points out here, one of the useful side effects of allowing flag-burning is that it so clearly demonstrates just who is who. You burn the American flag, and you pretty clearly demonstrate that we want to do the opposite of whatever you say (its just a general guideline, I won't stop eating hamburgers just cause some nut also does so.) But I think I demonstrated in my first paragraph that the effect of the FBA would be the "flypaper theory" of hunting terrorists applied to domestic politics. Every worthless nut who hated America would feel compelled to test this law, and then once they got their thirty days in jail, they might reconsider this whole Revolution Thing, Man.

Hmm, reading Steyn made me support the Nays, but then this is slanting me toward the Ayes.

On the other hand, an insufficient punishment will only make heroes of the Left Thirty Day Men. So, we could slap them all with ten dollar fines, and a day in jail, or we could put them in for longer.

I'm tending myself to a realist, "stability" here, which worked real well (insert sarcasm) in the Middle East giving us such friendly nations as the House of Wahabi and the Mad Mullahs.

Perhaps we do need to call the Left out. I mean they are going nutszo here. It might be time to manifest the cluebat, and say "I expect decent behavior, or else."

Hohenwald News: Alice Cooper Explains Geopolitics

The noted rocker explains his view on geopolitics ("Bush is a pit bull" which is to his mind a good thing), and he supports the separation of rock and the State.

Rock and roll is about escapism. He further claims that rockers are morons who sleep all day, and make music all night, and don't read the Washington Journal.

So why are we supposed to take rockers political pontifications seriously? We aren't according to Alice.

Me, I'd take a rocker's viewpoint as that of a successful person, and value it accordingly. But no way should we view rockers as some sort of priests who bear the Inner Truth for all Subjects to the Masses. Because that would be bloggers...just joking, really...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Hohenwald News: Esmay University Offers Remedial Politics 090

In a move sure to provoke the slow-witted, Prof. Dean Esmay is offering a repeat of a previous class on the nature of reality.

  • We had no plans to deal with the post-war....
  • Saddam had nothing to do with terrorism...

These canards will be debunked, yet again. Also Prof. Esmay offers regular courses on other aspects of reality, and unreality, and the distinction between the two.

Hohenwald News: Eminent Domain Abuse Explained

Stephen Bainbridge is one of several well-known lawyers in the leading ranks of the blogosphere. He's a Catholic, I believe, a political conservative, and a lover of wine.

I'm likely to agree with him, much of the time, even though I'm not Catholic, nor do I love wine (spilled alcohol smells like whats in the bottom of my garbage can when I haven't cleaned it out in the last year.)

He says in his Tech Central Station column that the Kelo decision is a horrible mistake, and one that eviscerates the Taking Clause of the US Constitution, and allows a coalition of tax-hungry city councilmen and greedy developers to mess over the private landowner.

He's right. Go here for more.

"Put simply, cities cannot take someone's house just because they think they can make better use of it. Otherwise, argues Scott Bullock, Mrs Kelo's lawyer, you end up destroying private property rights altogether. For if the sole yardstick is economic benefit, any house can be replaced at any time by a business or shop (because they usually produce more tax revenues). Moreover, if city governments can seize private property by claiming a public benefit which they themselves determine, where do they stop? If they decide it is in the public interest to encourage locally-owned shops, what would prevent them compulsorily closing megastores, or vice versa? This is central planning." Thats from the Economist, btw. And they are dead right.

Hohenwald News: United Methodist VBS--Thanks!

The UMC church in Hohenwald just had their week of Vacation Bible School. They were great. Mr. C loved it.

Last day, they had a water play day, which was today. And they found his cowboy hat which they had given him, too. He's sleeping the sleep of the justly tired right now, or he should be, but I hear noise from the other room...

Toddlers are tricky and inclined to get into mischief; got to keep an ear out for them being up to stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hohenwald News: Rabies in Lewis County

A rabid fox attacked an elderly 80-year-old man several times. The first time he confessed that he had the ammo in the truck, and the gun in the house, which he joked was not good planning.

We can identify as I was a near-victim of a robbery some years back outside my locked truck with my .45 Firestar inside in the glove compartment, not doing me much good.

Later it attacked again, and after chomping on Dr. Culbreath's shoe, it was shaken loose, and shot. While it did not pierce the skin, still due to the amount of saliva, Dr. Culbreath is taking prevention shots.

He said that he had lived through mid-air collisions in WWII, and a little fox would not do for him.

Prayers should go up, and a great deal of respect should go to this man for his coolness of mind, and gallant laughter.

Hat tip: Lewis County Herald

Hohenwald News: Property Rights Trashed

Eminent domain is the right of the government to take property from a private property owner, offer the owner what the government considers a fair price, and move the bulldozers in. Its considered necessary, but not lovely.

Sometimes the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few, but go to far on that road, and you end up in a Third World nation. But because our system is not perfect, because we live in a finite universe, we need Eminent Domain.

Its for roads, and dams, and building hospitals. And even then it can be and has been greatly abused. There was back in the old days a valley full of clover farmers, an odd farm to be sure, who earned thousands each year from their crop. And then the gov't valued their property as if it was not a productive business, and gave each farmer slightly more than what they would usually earn in a year.

Only one guy got a fair price, but thats because he basically spent the next six months with his cowboy boots atop the gov't official''s desk who was handling the deal. Badgered the guy until justice was done. But that still left a whole valley full of farmers who didn't have the moxie or the time to defend themselves.

Okay, thats bad enough.

Now imagine that a developer wants to build a strip mall on top of your house. And the local city council sees the tax benefits that would flow to the city, and gives him the keys to bulldoze down your family home. With you getting whatever the government thinks is just.

For a hospital, you might stand for this, but for a strip mall !?!

And the Supreme Court has come out in support of this. Okay, now I'm afraid.

Hohenwald News: Orianna's Bitter Laughter

Orianna Fallacci, a noted thinker and writer, is woman of style. She has cancer and cannot eat solids, is seventy years old, and is on trial in Italy for saying harsh, but probably accurate things about Islam. So she drinks champagne, and occasionally laughs bitterly.

She devoutly fears that Europe is becoming Eurabia, a colony of Islam, that the Moslems are completing the conquest stopped so many centuries before at Vienna.

I have to say, I fear she is right. And won't that just be peachy-keen when Islamofascist trigger fingers are poised above the control buttons of French nuclear weapons? I'm sure they use them responsibly and sensibly.

Lets start thinking about ways to 1)Get Europe to wake up. OR 2)Deprive the Europeans of any dangerous weapons they might still have left after their demilitarization of the last fifty years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hohenwald News: European Disunity Heightens

After a contentious summit in which Britain demanded alterations in the Common Agricultural Policy (which helps prop up the French economy) in exchange for its cutting of the rebate it receives for its large payments, and the other side refused, there came more. The Dutch and the French voted "No" to their so-called betters' plan for their lives, the seventy-thousand word (as much as some of my novels, for crying out loud!) European Constitution.

When it was openly noted that people could not understand this monstrosity, and yet it somehow does not manage to mention just once the historic role of Christianity in the formation of Europe, its little wonder that the ordinary person said "NO" as loud as he could.

And now, the backbiters are blaming Britain for causing a serious problem, a change to a deeper level of problem, since the Brits seem to want some open markets, and a slant toward training and innovation. But the British, led by the redoubtable Tony Blair, are standing firm.

It also helps that Britain is next in line to hold the presidency of the EU. But already people are warning Blair not to try to enforce Britain's views. Hmm, that makes sense. I'll run for office as a city counsellor, and then put into practise not my own views, but the views of the guy who lost...Wait where was I?

Oh, must have drifted off to Bizzarro Land. A place visited by those in need of medication, or a firm talking too. But I suppose an elegantly raised eyebrow, and a drawled "Really now", a most graceful English dismissal might do the trick.

So lets raise a cheer for the British.

Hohenwald News: Q&A by James Lileks
--Political humor

Afghanistan is a large, mountainous country that suffered an unimaginable geographical calamity a few years ago, when the entire nation slid off the front pages of the newspapers. Poor country: not a single runaway Caucasian bride to interest the media.

Very good stuff by Lileks which means good stuff indeed as he is probably in the top five of humorists today. Sharing that exalted position laughing on the curb of life with Mark Steyn, P.J. O' Rourke, and hmm, maybe top three...?

Weekly Update: Gigglebox Stands!

We'd just finished watching a movie, the Ladyfaire and I, and Mr. C was off at VBS, and then the Ladyfaire asks me to come into the room. I do, and she tells me that he just stood.

He's got a plastic box, no cover, and about three inches high that he likes to climb in. Its meant to be slid under the couch and hold the toys, but you know how babies are. Things get re-purposed. He thought outside of the box, by thinking inside of the box.

The walls of the clear, plastic box provided him something to grab, and I suppose the box offered emotional security, because within a minute, he's standing up again. And again.

We two just stood there, and beamed, and offered him encouragement while he crowed about his accomplishment in a continous song.

Congratulations, Gigglebox, Daddy's very proud of you.

Hohenwald News: Glenn Reynolds on the State of the War

While Prof. Reynolds faults Pres. Bush for inadequate efforts to explain that we are at war, and suggests that asking people to sacrifice with say war bonds might be a good thing; he goes on to fault the other side for putting their own personal political objectives above the good of the nation.

He also supports the analysis, as I do, that the war is going fairly well. Weariness is not defeat, its merely weariness. Stephen Den Beste was tired of the election many months before, and yet his candidate won. We, it seems to me, have to keep pressing on as more and more fruits of our labor have sprouted, and now hang from the tree.

Some are full and luscious, but most are still green and tart, but they are there, and growing, and its hardly time to burn the orchard down, or unleash hungry foxes amongst the trees because keeping the barbed wire fence taut is too much trouble.

Go here for more.

Hohenwald News: David Gelertner on Historical Ignorance

Wow, just wow. Its a great piece, and not very long. Go here for some good stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hohenwald News: A Round-up of Iranian Election News
--Foreign Affairs

Power and Control, known mostly for its visionary enthusiasm for ending the Drug War by re-stating the problem as trauma to be medicated (a notion I'm wavering on), comes out with a round-up of information describing the late Iranian 'elections'.

I use scare quotes deliberately as it seems only 10% of the people bothered to vote. Thats a pretty clear indication of the true vote--None of the Above is what the Iranian people voted for.

Also, Hoder, whom I've met at BlogNashville this year, is trying to get out of country. I would have advised him to not go in country in the first place, but I suspect thats because I'm not as brave as he is. Pray for him that he gets out safely.

For those not familiar with Hoder, he's the Persian Blogfather, the man who translated blogging tools into Persian, and thus made possible the Persian blogosphere.

Hohenwald News: Adopt-a-blog

Want to make a stand for free speech? Want to give the Chicoms indigestion? Would love to make Microsoft look bad?

Then visit this Wiki page for a way to help the Chinese bloggers who are being blocked by their government. It shows how bloggers on certain systems can host a Chinese blog on their system with minimal effort and cost, and at the same time give aid to freedom's friends.

The Chinese blog will sit outside its home country, thus the Chicoms won't be able to legally shut it down.

Unfortunately, I can't, as I'm on Blogger. Grrrrr. One of the few times, I'm annoyed with Blogger.

Tennessee Writer: Storyblogging Carnival

A new Carnival by Back of the Envelope can be found at the link.

Its got an amusing "fairy-tale" style story on why we should love Wal-mart, a good explanation for the existence of evil, and the World's First Blogospheric Mystery Novel. And a bunch of other good stuff.

Thanks, Donald.

Hohenwald News: Collegiate Level Examination of the Gun Control Arguement

Go here for a lengthy, but enlightening explanation for the right to bear arms. In short, those inclined to commit genocide would like you to be defenseless, it makes you easier to murder. But theres a lot more to it than just that.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Hohenwald News: Comics Page

Cox & Forkum point out that its the bad governments that are the problem, not the debt for Africa's poor. Cartoon link will be added (my copy-paste is working poorly for some reason. Might need a new keyboard).

Hohenwald News: Newspaper Sued Over Hostility to Christianity

The Indianapolis Star is in trouble as two former staffers sue it for racial, religious, and age discrimination. Of course, the most interesting part is the religious discrimination.

An editorial contained the word "prayer" which another employee did not like. Too bad, so sad, I would say.

For more, go here.

Hohenwald News: United Methodist VBS

The local UMC church, across from the funeral home, is having a one week Vacation Bible School focusing on the Ranch as their motif.

They were, to my surprise, set up with a nursery for babies, which would be nice, but the Gigglebox has a snotty nose, and it would be distinctly unkind to give that to all the other babies and Mothers and Dads who send their kids.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hohenwald News: Downing Street Memos--Fake But Accurate?

Well, the reporter, a Mr. Smith, admits that he destroyed the photos of the original documents, and returned those original docs to their provider. So he has what to prove that his docs are real?


And when he did his re-typing he did it on an old typewriter. Why? To make it look like they were real?

Sounds all too reminiscent of the Rathergate forgeries.

There wasn't much there to begin with, now its even less. A puff of smoke dissipating in a strong breeze.

Hohenwald News: Conservative Expectations

I'm a conservative. I have no great faith in politicians. If they manage to do their job reasonsably well, and don't too egregiously mess things up (see Don Sundquist), and actually handle a serious problem or two, then I proclaim them better examples of the species (as we all know they're not homo sapiens.)

I think that that is part of the problem with the Bush-dislikers (not the haters, those are on the Left, mostly) who seem to expect the man to manage the Global War on Terror, be its best spokesperson, charm the bribed into supporting our side, cut taxes, cut expenditures, end welfare as we know it, keep America safe from terrorism, fix the immigration problem with Mexico, never ever give in on any issue that the other side really wants even if it is not that important and kinda stupid, do all this without adding any new powers to the gov't even reasonable ones, and do this all with the media and the other side in a fact-free insane frenzy bent on destroying you, and make it look easy.

I really like and respect Bush, but evidently my respect for him is outshone by those of the Bush-dislikers. Me, I just thought he was a good, tough man; they think he's an archangel.

So then we go to Bredesen. He's done a few things that won't sit well with people. Okay, thats what leaders are for. TennCare was widely acknowledged as being messed up before he came along.

He came up with a plan to fix it, and he tried to squelch other plans to fix it. It might not be the wisest, but its understandable given how other plans can end up draining off vital momentum for a plan.

He played politics with it. Planned to drop people now, and then add them in an election year.

He said that the biggest problem was that he was risking his future as a pol. That's why I like him. He played serious. Not like most pols who are a bit of a joke. But some people whom I like think thats not nice for him to consider his pol career as serious; he should have always kept the fact that people's lives, 320,000 of them were more serious, ever uppermost, even in private communications.

And no, he's not allowed to assume that that would be obvious. He's got to make sure its spelled out by whomever types up his memos.

I understand that if my life was on the line, I would be sensitive. But I think that most people could call this innocent.

This does bring up the issue...he admitted that his policy would kill people. Thing is, most major policies kill people. Raise the speed limit...obviously people die. Lower the speed limit...and surprisingly...other people die. See that would slow down the economy, make research more expensive, possibly get some people on the margin fired and then some of them might commit suicide or have a heart attack...

So, I'm not sure if he's guilty of anything more than acknowledging the politically incorrect truth.

There's of course, the mass of money in the reserve which should be put to better use, but using it to avoid reforming TennCare doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Using it on a properly reformed TennCare and on paying off our debts sounds possible.

The fact that some fellow conservatives dislike this worries me. And I'm still thinking about my support for Bredesen.

But what I worry more about is people, specifically Republicans, playing Dem politics. Its real easy to say "Bush bad, I have a better plan." I'd like to see that better plan.

I'm willing to accept that Bredesen is not wholly virtuous, and that his plan has some serious flaws. Show me someone better, with a better plan, with a decent chance of success.

Hohenwald News: Downing Street Memo

Tim Cavanaugh, of Reason Online, who is one of those libertarian isolationists, and thus no friend of Bush, I believe, lays out the case that the Downing Street Memos hold no new information, and that despite the Left's sighs of relief at finally being able to "Get Bushitler!", its not going to happen.

American already knows, and quite frankly, dearie, doesn't care...

Go here for more detail.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tennessee Writer: Plans for the Next Month

Now that I've gotten the rough draft of the Murder Party Game out to my editor, I faced the challenge of deciding what to do next. I had planned to make a simple C-Y-Adventure Game at Border Raids, but it looks too challenging.

So even though Border Raids is a unique opportunity, I'm going to have to pass. I may still try to get some movies of people explaining their crafts while at Border Raids, and perhaps take a cruise of the area before the big party, but I feel the need for a stronger set-up, and greater credibility.

Perhaps, I should have been bolder, and more energetic, but frankly, I've been a bit worn down from all the challenges lately.

Besides, I think a simple documentary, perhaps thirty minutes long, of various crafts would be a very good starter. Thats one of my rules for projects--make it as simple as possible, because inevitably it will be more complicated than you like. And if you don't strive for simplicity, you will end up not finishing the grump-grump thing.

Now, I've started to work on The Ruling Rod, again. This is near complete rewrite I'm contemplating. I may turn the other 50k bit I came up with into another novel--we will see how that goes. Hate to waste that much good and not so good writing.

I did it for the second rewrite of Worldwalker. Wrote 20,000 words so I could find the right thousand to start it with.

Hopefully, at 2k per day, six days a week, I can have the rough draft cranked out in a month and a half. I'll try to keep posting my progress. So far, I have 4k plus done. 56k to go...

Hohenwald News: Pink Cadillac

A bit late, tis true, but here's the movies for this weekend at the Pink Cadillac.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith--pretty good, some amusing repartee', good chemistry, and lots of good gun fighting which turns into gun ballet (so to speak) at the end.

Batman Begins--although I liked the Michael Keaton Batman, after I got over my preconceptions of what Batman was supposed to be, I can hope that this re-launch will fit those preconceptions. But it might be too violent for the tykes, and so we plan to wait until we can watch it with the tykes babysat.

Weekly Update

We were going to go to Movies, Games, and Mayhem but the Ladyfaire was sick today with sinuses, and I slept in on Saturday until after noon, around 12:30 to be precise.

We've been taking it easy for most of the day, trying to recuperate from the stresses of the week. She got in some thrift store and garage sale shopping, and bought the tykes more clothes and more books.

So Mr. C got around five new books read to him today which will help in the Summer Reading Program. Gigglebox wasn't so interested in reading books, and opted to try to fly out of Daddy's arms, but happily your gentle host was quicker than he was. Its one of those reflex saves where you catch the kid before you realize what you're doing.

I also finished reading Howl's Moving Castle, which was quite good. Although I admit to enjoying it more when the Ladyfaire is reading it out loud.

Hohenwald News: Productivity is King

There is a new book out entitled the Power of Productivity, but here is a link to an interview with the author. I don't totally buy into his theories, but its a good place to look if you want to find out ways to make Middle Tennessee wealthier.

And with our major levels of unemployment, I think most of us want that.

I need to go back and re-read it, think about it some more.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tennessee Writer: Free SF

Charlie Stross is offering a free download of his book, Accelerando.

And he has a very interesting description of the process that led to the creation of Accelerando.

"Accelerando" is a creature of its time, and that time is the late 1990s. I spent most of the 90s on a kind of sabbatical from writing fiction (my first love), with my head stuck up the fundament of the software industry. In the early 90's I worked for SCO (back when it was a UNIX company, rather than the unholy terror that came back from the dead to haunt the free software movement). Then I discovered the web, back around 1993. I remember a wee daily email bulletin titled "what's new on the web" that came from an address at NCSA; I used to visit all the interesting new web sites every day, until the volume grew too great some time in late 1994. I was supposed to be writing UNIX manuals, but I distracted myself by learning Perl – and was inadvertently responsible for the development of the robot exclusion protocol (by writing a web spider that annoyed people who knew more about what they were doing than I did). I moved to Scotland to join a web startup that went bust, freelanced for a couple of years while writing a web architecture book, landed myself a magazine column about Linux, and joined another start-up that turned into a successful dot com, went public, and much to my surprise is still in business.
The last sentence covers a multitude of sins. I signed on with the company two weeks before its official formation, and left two months after the IPO – three and a half years later. Along the way I bolted together about thirty thousand lines of object oriented perl that swallowed credit card numbers at one end and talked to obscure British banking systems in strange protocols. And it had a psychotherapy bot wired into the middle just to help me de-stress when things got too heavy, which was almost every other day, because ...
You've probably never had to work inside a business that's growing of 30% per month. Take it from me, it's an experience you don't need. Especially when you're not a brilliant programmer, you know #%^& well your code has bugs in it – it's actually a prototype that they pressed into service six months too early – and it's handling millions of pounds of other people's money. If things go wrong they scream at you. And exponential growth means the workload is always growing faster than the budget for hiring minions to do the donkey-work. At first it's fun, a buzz like a caffeine high: but it goes on too long and you get old and feel stupid, and at some point you find you can't stop running because your feet are locked to the treadmill and there's a wall of spikes right behind you.
The germ of "Accelerando" dates to that time. To be specific, it dates to a particularly bad month in early 1999, when I was trying to brainwash Datacash into talking to a French credit card system (and if you think obscure 1970's-vintage British credit card protocols sound awful, you've never dealt with the French equivalent). I was under a lot of pressure, not aided by the French bank programmers not actually wanting to expose the guts of their communication protocol to, gasp, developers who were trying to communicate with their servers ... things were not looking good. One Thursday when things had been not been going well in an especially emphatic manner, I wandered over to my boss the CTO's desk and said, "I'm taking tomorrow off."
"But what if we need you – " he began.
"I'll be in Amsterdam."
He looked at me. Then he did a double-take: "Amsterdam. Okay." I hadn't taken any vacation time in the preceding year, my caffeine intake was measured in the direction of gallons of coffee per day, and I was developing an uncontrollable facial tic and a tendency to jump at loud noises. "Take tomorrow off."
This was very sensible of him. Most directors of a company that's going public in six months and has a server development team consisting of 1 (one) geek who is developing an incontrolable facial tic and demanding days off in Amsterdam might actually get a little bit nervous about the idea of said server development team fleeing the country on short notice. But my prepared fallback position to taking a long weekend somewhere with lots of beer and no French bank managers to scream at was to try to quit on the spot, and if that failed I was going to spring a full-scale nervous breakdown ... and it probably showed.
"Just come back on Monday," he said.
I think I nodded, but maybe it was just the caffeine pulling my strings.
Anyway, I was wandering around Amsterdam the next day – on a rainy Friday – trying not to fall apart at the seams. I'd spent the whole night lying awake, looping on re-drafting my resignation letter, and I had the shakes. Then my phone rang.
"What's gone wrong?" I asked, my heart sinking.
It was my boss the CTO. "The French %^&*(," he said.
I got that sinking feeling. "What have they sprung on us now?" I asked.
"Their parent institution is so unhappy with them that they're being shut down! I thought you might like to know ..." (In the background, I could hear the entire office cheering.)
I immediately headed for the nearest pub, and my girlfriend and I celebrated in time-honoured fashion. For a couple of bright hours in the middle of a rainy afternoon, the high pressure bubble in the core of the dot com boom actually looked like an optimistic, cheerful place to be. And something about the sudden release of stress took root, and began to germinate. I got far enough away from the coal seam to blink, look at it in amazement, and ask once more the classic science fictional question, what happens if this goes on? What happens if you keep piling on the changes? What kind of person can actually live on the edge of a singularity, keeping pace while all around them the world is melted down and re-forged monthly, daily, hourly?
I pulled out my Psion 5MX and scribbled a brief paragraphs about a very strange guy named Manfred. Then I proceeded to get side-tracked by beer for the next couple of days.
It has taken me nearly five years (until early 2004) to finish answer the question. The soil in which the seed sprouted had long since withered, the bust following the boom; the dot com IPO didn't make my fortune, but it left me with "Accelerando" by way of payback And I'm not unhappy about that outcome.

(I transformed the swearing as this attempts to be a family friendly site.)

The problem he's talking about is one that I've been considering since, oh forever. Well back in the '80's. But then like reading Newton's Wake, I get the feeling of old ideas, at least for me. But that probably means I've been way out on the avante-garde a decade ahead of most everyone else, and why didn't I use that to write this story already? Probably because I wasn't good enough then in work habits, or writing skills.

But you can use this as a chance to get up to speed, and for free, except for brain sweat, and time, so I think I will see what the competition is up to in a bit. I'd do it sooner, but I've just finished reading three books, Old Verses New by MJ Young, The Course of Empire by Eric Flint and KD Wentworth, and Ocean of Years by Roger MacBride Allen. All of them very different, but MJ's was the most fun.

Tennessee Writer: Thoughts and Research

I've got a great idea for a novel, Codeworld: Anoniblogger, and I found another site that will be most useful for research. Its on Global Voices, and its their Wiki for Anoniblogging. It smoothly and sweetly takes you in easy steps through an overview of the various levels of security one might need.

On the other hand, I have the start, and a very good start of a novel I've been working on for a very long time. The Ruling Rod. Its not immediately relevant like CA is, but the first chapter is brilliant.

I guess I ought to write TRR next, and let CA gather some more research.

I've also mostly set up my next d20 adventure for High Forest Games & Books, but in doing so, I discover that I missed a key segment. I need some bad guys's stat blocks. I have the bad guys, but just no numbers to describe them.

This is Abduction of Annastrianna. I've appealed to one friend who might have some numbers stashed somewhere. If not him, I think I can call up another buddy who is notorious for having three inch thick notebooks full of characters which he hardly ever uses. No, he's not the loser geek you're thinking of.

Its just that he and his wife, for a very long time, could not settle down to one game, and so made new characters every week.

But if you have some 7th to 9th level d20 fantasy characters that you'd like to see published for the fame and glory of it, then send me an email.

Hohenwald News: Profane Research

I've just ran over to Global Voices, and Rebecca McKinnon is playing games with Microsoft and the Chicoms. You see, the Chicoms wanted Microsoft to make it impossible for Chinese bloggers to use words like "human rights", "democracy", and the like.

Its profanity, you see, according to the Microsoft Chinese area for MSN Spaces, the Microsoft blogging platform. Hmm, brings to mind the Supreme Court Justice in America who said that he could not tell what obscenity was, but he knew it when he saw it. Better still, profanity is disrespecting the sacred.

And "Human rights" is disrespecting the sacred right of the Chicoms to murder, bully, and make a mess of their country.

I don't usually go in for boycotts, but if you are thinking about starting a blog...please don't go with MSN Spaces. Let this foul fruit rot on the vine, until Microsoft does the right thing, and introduces MSN Free Spaces.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Blog Update: Added Hello to ToT

Hello is a picture-publishing download by Picassa which will supposedly work with Blogger so that now I can add pics to Hohenwald News and other segments of Tales of Tadeusz. Way cool.

Did I mention it was free? Thanks Picassa.

You can download Hello here.

Hohenwald News: The Daily Ablution Dispenses Cleansing

The Daily Ablution describes what is wrong with the intelligentsia with swift, bold strokes, and clear insight that leaves one with the feeling of a mind that had just been dipped in a swift-flowing Tennessee waterfall--I know thats a wacky metaphor.

He takes out his Orwell, and skewers the highbrow pretensions of the so-called opinion leaders of society with a pen, and shields the ordinary folk from the poisonous rain of scorn with a book.

Quite worth reading if you desire to understand your society and time.

Weekly Update

Its almost eleven, and the tykes are still abed. Puir wee fellows, they are a bit under the weather, and sleeping it off. Which is one of the best medicines, and one rather hard to impose on babies and less so on toddlers.

Last night, Gigglebox was still bright-eyed, and energetic, and happy late at night. So I made him unhappy. I held him. He yelled, struggled, and hollered enough that Mommy got up to see what horror Daddy was inflicting on her precious baby. And then, after five minutes of this unmitigated horror of being held on my lap, the little rebel fell asleep.

Just had to get him immobile for a bit. That's one of the secrets of the universe, mind you. Kids get more energetic as they get more tired.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Roleplaying Gaming News: An Early Draft of Old Verses New

I just finished reading an early draft of Old Verses New, by M.J. Young. He and E.R. Jones are the guys who came up with the brilliantly innovative Multiverser role-playing game which broke me out of the stale categories I had found myself in, and not even realizing it.

The novel, a sequel to his first, continues the story of Lauren Hastings (housewife, martial artist, wizard, vampire hunter...), and Joe Kondor, and introduces Derek Browne who has a rough introduction to the Multiverse with a succession of horror-themed universes whose quickness of passing reminds me of my World A Week story, A Blurring of Stop Signs.

I've been pushing myself pretty hard, and so I took a couple days off to read it through. Its good, and when it comes out in hardcover, I'll be lining up to read it then, again. M.J. does a very good job with continuously presenting new plot twists which is aided by his micro-chapter format. Each micro-chapter is short and sweet, and gets across a point or two, and then stops.

Tennessee Writer: Storyblogging Carnival XXI

Back of the Envelope will be hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival. This ought to be cool. And of course, my story, Death of a Blogger, will have an excerpt. If you really want to buy it right now, then just go down to the button on the right.

Hohenwald News: Review on the Neutronium Alchemist

I enjoyed Mindstar Rising, although it wasn't great. And its been years since I made it halfway through the Neutronium Alchemist, but the horror is still seared into my memory. Y'see, Hamilton yields to temptation, and becomes a Bad Artsy Gamemaster.

Those of you too wise to waste your life rolling little twenty-sided plastic shapes will not understand, so I will use another analogy later for the hunting crowd. For the dungeon-hacker, you have no doubt met, the Half-Clever GM. He spins an assured story, with unusual elements, and seems to give you a great deal of respect as he then lets you step into his serious universe (but its a fraud....Soylent Green is People!!) Sure the foe is tough, but you've faced tough foes before. And the pain you suffer is strong, but you've fought on in agony before.

But always with a decent chance of victory.

There's the rub. You won't win with the Half-Clever GM. His world will be colored grim, but the color of your victory banners will never enter his picture. He'll have half-baked reasons and good reasons why you fail, but you'll always fail.

He will tell you that it will get better, but it won't. He will tell you that things change, but it won't. And when you get to the end, there will be no victory. If you do well, you might eke out an honorable retreat.

And at the end, where he promised you glory, you'll only find him shutting up the books, with a self-satisfied look, with him expecting you to thank him for all the agony he's put you through. Because now you can see the artistic beauty of the thing that he has created, with your minor assistance.

I promised an analogy for the Hunters as well. It will be shorter (really). You're a fish, you take the hook, it hurts, you flail about, the fisherman cheers your efforts as he wants a valiant adversary, but does he want you to win? Or even have a fair chance? Of course not. Your wriggles and strivings are there to provide him with a chance to test his strength. Since, I'm not with PETA, I'm okay with that, for fish. But treating people that way...

Lets just say, if I'm going to flail, I prefer to flail with a hammer on my enemies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tennessee Writer: Death of a Blogger Novel Excerpt

Prologue and Chapter One of the World's First Blogospheric Mystery Novel...
Previously in the Close of Chapter One, and the Whole of Chapter Two...
Next read Chapters Five and Six by tabbing the link at "next".

...being Chapters Three and Four commencing....

Chapter Three: Doom’s Calling

Sharon had gone to work, as usual, before the kids got out of bed. She found, unlike her usually slug-a-bed husband that she did her best work early in the morning before there were others around to bother her with incessant and interrupting questions. Not an expert, she told herself, but evidently to the under-qualified many her employer hired, she was the Tax Goddess. All you had to do was pray to her, and your problems would go away.
So when young George Kenneth strode, and stumbled to a stop in her office in front of her inadequate single metal and foam chair with the large packet of papers and brown folders looking tiny and out of place in his giant hands, she buried her head in her hands, and ran her fingers through her slightly dimming fields of strawberry.
“What is it this time, George, forget to carry the one, again?” George winced, which she could tell because he moved his feet, and the thud of foot to thin carpet could be heard outside the office, let alone across the desk.
“Well, I don’t know…I have these two pieces of paper, and I can’t rectify the numbers. One claims he paid this number, and the other this number…in truth, I’m worried my client ran some sort of scam, perhaps underreported what he paid to cut down on the taxes.”
Sharon looked up, and up to near the ceiling where George’s face was frowning in concentration, and felt a slight surge of interest in the problem, and a motherly urge to pat the poor boy on the shoulder, if she could reach that high, and offer him a cookie. But since he was officially a man, he probably would not appreciate the thought, she decided.
This reminded her of the problems with her kids, currently chief among them Jenna’s unrequited love of felines whose dander sent her to the emergency room. But no one in the office had a clue how to solve it, and certainly George did not look to be a hidden font of wisdom. So she passed on that worry for the moment.
She wearily motioned for the file, even as Mr. Weaselly Type walked around the cubicles that stood between her and the tiny bit of sunshine she might receive through the front doors in her “centrally located office”. He would be after her again to get her to “adjust” his papers, and almost as bad, he might even offer to take her to lunch again. She was running out of excuses. But the prospect of having to be socially polite to someone who was obviously a villain, but did not have the courage to just be one, but was always seeking someone else to be a potential fall guy, or in her case fall woman, well that prospect sent a spike of pain through her head.
She winced, and George asked her what the problem was.
“My client is here.” She said thoughtlessly as she started in on George’s problem. Weasel then came in and started to insist on her time, but at the edge of her concentration she heard George politely suggest he have a seat, or get a cup of coffee, it would only be a minute. And then George, thankfully Weasel, and the Office were gone, and she was on a field of numbers, and text strings of laws that floated about her, and a relationship began to seem obvious. And then it snapped into focus.
For Sharon did not think like most people when confronted with a problem. She could, if it was helpful, but mostly she saw a problem as a visual three-dimensional creation, which allowed all sorts of unexpected relationships to be teased out of it. It made explanations of how she did, what she did, very hard, and sound downright mystical. It was nothing of the kind, except for human consciousness, which was at the base of it, and she thought that might well be mystical.
What she did was an order of magnitude beyond pie charts, and solely in the province of her mind without hours of computer programming. She had once told her husband that his job was to make it so everyone, those without her peculiar imagination, could do what she did. And that if not for the likes of him, the likes of her would no doubt be great and mighty instead of obscure tax professionals. He had thought for a second, and then pointed out that more likely she would be someone like the inventor who had four-fifths of a brilliant idea, and could not finish it. Considering her pile of half-made dresses, vests, cloaks, belts, and shoes, in the corner of the laundry room at home he had a good point.
“Your client is correct, George. He probably forgot why, but the town he bought the boat in has a special tax. The IRS does not deduct for that tax, but the state income tax people do, I believe its because their director is a boating fanatic.”
George looked suitably enlightened, and Weasel clapped his hands sharply together hurting Sharon’s ears.
“Now that is what I am talking about. That’s the Sharon magic I’ve been hearing about. Now lets see if with these new files you had me up to midnight digging up out of my attic, we can find a way to cheat those Washington scum out of my money.” Weasel looked happy, and aggressive, and started to spread papers down on her desk while she remembered that it had been him who had been the one to insist on the “new files”. She had wanted to close the case yesterday.
She had little sympathy for Washington or the state capitals being intimately familiar with their deception, waste, and abusiveness, but the man owed a debt, a considerable one, but not to one of his means, and he wanted to dodge it. Even as a typical citizen mistrustful of Washington, she acknowledged there came a point when it really was a civic duty.
“Cheat, sir?” George asked with a quelling manner.
Weasel turned aside, a short man already, and not even half George’s size, and he looked up.
“Merely a figure of speech, young man. Of course, I would not want to do anything dishonest.”
“Of course not.” Sharon smoothed in, hating herself for the patent lie, but the boss would not be happy if a customer came to him with a complaint, no matter the reason. And Weasel was just the type to do that. And then try to turn the “insult” into a dinner, and free accounting services.
She examined the papers, and saw that George was helping her. At first, she wanted to tell him to go on, but then she thought that perhaps he felt like he was repaying her for her help. If so, that was certainly an attitude she wanted to encourage. If only more of her “congregation” felt like they owed the Tax Goddess more than a tossed off thank-you! Besides, with him looming in front of her desk, Weasel had to stand off in the corner off the room instead of his usual position leaning across the desk, and looking at the back of her neck, since she kept her medium length hair pinned up at work. And not surprisingly, it felt a lot different to have George there standing over her, than Weasel.
So she smiled to herself with her face down, and started to try to examine the structure she had constructed mentally for this case before, but George interrupted.
“I’m sorry, sir, but this deduction is not allowed for this case. At least I don’t think so.”
Sharon thought for a second as Weasel angrily stepped up to the mountain who blandly looked down on him. No, George was right. This really was a simple case; there was no need to get out her mental model, and try just one more time to make the laws read the opposite of what they meant.
“What do you mean?” Weasel yelled.
George cleared his throat. It sounded quite impressive.
“Well, unless you used this fishing boat, a fifteen footer, exclusively for business, you cannot take a hundred percent deductible on its expenses, and even if you did, you cannot write it off under the current tax law. This is a red flag. Any auditor worth his salt is going to want to talk to you about this. It’s not at all like this other case.”
Usually the word “audit” had a magic ability to calm the more extreme clients. Few indeed were the souls brave enough to risk a trip into the torture chambers of the Internal Revenue Service where you were guilty until proven innocent. But some clients still kept on, like Weasel, for she had used the magic yesterday to no avail. She felt vaguely sorry for George, but could not summon the strength to stop the car wreck in progress.
I’m not usually so listless, even with such a jerk, she noted vaguely, and scratched her throat. She reached for a glass of water to clear her mouth of the too frequent saliva. Actually, she’d been having problems all morning, but she just felt like she could not handle the stress right now.
“That is why I hired you, you are supposed to make that go away.” Weasel said pulling out his trump card of the ‘customer is always right’ even when he is insane and vanity-struck.
“Ah, did we make some representation to you that we guaranteed proof against an audit?” George asked mildly.
“Well, ah, yes…”
“Who precisely said this, and what were their exact words?” George asked intently leaning his great bulk forward.
“Why? I mean, what’s the big deal?” Weasel looked a bit flustered.
“Because they are going to be packing their desk in less than an hour. This firm promises no such thing. They are going to be fired. So who exactly told you this?”
“Ah, well maybe not those exact words, but the general intent…”
“What were the words?” Sharon was surprised to feel herself light of heart, and to find George’s sentiment in her mouth.
“Well, you…” Weasel turned to her in attack.
“No, sir, what I said was that if you followed my advice, then there was a very good chance you would not be audited. That’s what I tell all my clients.” Sharon found herself standing even as her arms twitched. So she put them behind her, and clasped them together.
“Well, look, I don’t mean to offend you. Perhaps I misunderstood, but isn’t there a way that we can solve this problem? I mean they are crooks in Washington. Why should I have to pay?”
George opened his mouth, and just as obviously the first thing in his head popped out.
“Because it’s the law.”
Sharon wanted to shake her head at his simplicity, but then wondered to herself for George still had not wrecked the car like she had foreseen.
“My colleague is quite correct.” She said, covering him.
“But isn’t there some way, you could, you know…” Weasel looked at her insinuatingly, and at the same time she felt some sexual interest in his gaze, and not for the first time she wondered if on some level, he saw the federal government as a woman to be preyed upon.
Weary beyond words, she sank to her chair, suddenly sick at heart, and the former lassitude came back with full force. This was the point, Weasel kept coming back to, sidling up to, hinting at, and she did not know what to say to make it any clearer to him.
“You can leave now.” George said.
“Whaaat?” Weasel asked surprised for he had almost forgotten George was there in his ‘seduction’ attempt.
“The door is that way, go now, unless you’d like me to escort you out.” The words were polite, but the flat menace, and the obvious gleam of enjoyment in George’s eyes gave the truth out.
“And do not come back. We will not be doing business with you.”
Weasel looked at her in mute appeal, as she looked up at George in bewilderment and dawning wonder. Why didn’t I do that? she thought.
Weasel, stomped, as best as he could, out, and the glass doors refused to cooperate with him slamming them. But he did catch the boss with a spiteful glance.
And so the boss came over to her office, but first she thanked George, and laughed at how easily rid of her personal nightmare she was.
“You know, Sharon, I’ve been seeing how hard you work.” George said, and suddenly Sharon had another thought of how this might have come about. George was big, a bit awkward, young, and while she was significantly his elder there was little doubt she retained most of her beauty. He was watching me, she groaned inside. Certain incidents over the last months with George unusually helpful popped up in her memory. Now the problem was to let the fellow down easy. Perhaps her husband could come by for a couple days, and share lunch with her. That often chased admirers away.
“Yeah, when Kim, my girlfriend at the time, and now my fiancé, came to last years’ Christmas party, she noticed how everyone was always having you solve their problems. She said it was like her mother who solved things, and people got lazy around her. But Kim told me to try to help you, if I could. You needed it, and besides, she said it was smart. People like you are obviously going places, and if I was to ah, apprentice myself, why I might come along for the ride.”
Sharon held her face still while she reassembled her thoughts, and bit back a laugh at the notion of her being some sort of rising star.
“Why, ah, thank you.” She said, and saw by his face that he knew her remark was terribly banal. “Welcome to your apprenticeship, then George.” She said, even though she had not thought out the consequences of such a decision. His face brightened like a sunburst, and he nodded deferentially from his great height.
And the boss walked in.
“What is going on? Why is a prize client going out the door?”
George looked at her, and Sharon found it hard to speak.
“He’s no prize, boss.”
“Hunh?” The boss turned sideways to survey one of his junior employers.
“Saw the whole thing. He tried to get Sharon here, and I guess me, to join him in criminal conspiracy to defraud the government, and well, I’d also say Sharon has a pretty good case, if she wants one for sexual harassment.”
The boss paused, looked long at George again, and at his apparently dumb looking countenance which he had reverted too, and reconciled that with the definite words, and turned back to Sharon. She paused, blew out her breath, and nodded even as her stomach rumbled in disquietude. Good grief, she couldn’t be having a diarrhea attack, that was all she needed, right now.
The boss bent his head down, and rubbed his face with his right hand.
“I’m sorry, Sharon, he got referred by a friend of a friend. If I’d known he was treating you that way, I’d have booted the jerk myself.”
Sharon looked up into the sincere blue eyes of her boss, and to her surprise was forced to reevaluate his nature. She had thought him the utmost skinflint who would ask her to submit to any indignity to get a buck, but instead she had found at his core, a gentleman. Not sure what to say because to apologize for her evil thoughts of him would be to inform him of them, she merely nodded her head up and down, suddenly unable to trust her voice. He bit his lip, and patted her awkwardly on the shoulder.

“Illegitimi non carborundum, my father always told me.” He said huskily.
“Um, excuse me.” Kate the Secretary said from the doorway.
“What?” Her boss snapped, not happy with the interruption.
“Sorry, boss, but its important. Sharon, your husband, he’s been taken to the emergency room, they say he’s doing okay, but…” There were more words, but the weight of emotion, and the drain of strength, and she could not bear more; instead with a strange weakness in her legs, she slid out of her chair, and onto the floor behind the desk. There she passed unconscious for a short time.

End of Chapter Three.

Chapter Four: Ambulatory

Sharon woke in the ambulance, as they took her to the hospital on Wade Lane, Hiller Memorial. Trying to ask for her husband’s state of health with her throat dry from the oxygen in her facemask, and quite irritated, to boot did not work. If only, he was okay, then it would be fine. She did not think she could make it without his quiet presence, and his quirkiness, and his startling insights that once or twice a month rearranged her mental universe.
If she had not met him, her mind would have fallen into dullard ways, and not even known what she was missing. Needing to know, she tried to reach up to remove the face mask, but her arms were strapped on both sides of the stretcher for safety as the ambulance wound through downtown’s right and left ninety degree turns with stomach-churning enthusiasm.
She began to work up saliva with ease, and got enough in a few seconds to rasp out a question. The dark brown eyes, concerned and alert, of an emergency medical technician were leaned over, and focused in on her eyes.
“Ma’am? You collapsed at your office. Your vital signs are strong, and everything is going to be okay. Its just a precaution.”
Wanting to rage at the gentle male voice that came clearly through the susurrus of mechanical sounds, but too tired, and too touched by the consideration of those eyes which was all that showed past a cap and a face mask, she shook her head, and tried again.
“My husband…”
“We will let him know…”
“No, “ Another voice interrupted, female. A switch was thrown. “George, check with the hospital on the patient’s husband.”
“Right away.” Crackled back over the intercom. A moment passed, and the other lady with a dark mahogany hand, reached up and patted Sharon’s shoulder, and then rearranged a heart monitor on her chest.
“Don’t worry, honey, we’ll sort it all out.”
“I-I don’t think you’re allowed to call me ‘honey’, not political…”
“Darling,” The male laughed, “We leave politics outside of this wagon. All we care about is making you feel better, and get better. OK?”
She nodded her head, wanting to cry, and feeling ashamed of herself for the weakness to tear up at some kind words by a couple of strangers. The intercom static came back, and the driver who had conferred with the hospital spoke.
“Sharon, Sharon,” The driver deliberately repeated the name to ensure that his passenger who was not in the best of condition, at the moment, was paying attention. “ I want you to know your husband is in stable condition. He’s in ICU right now with his own nurse close by to observe. Doctor Romley is your husband’s admitting physician, and I know him. Doctor Romley is a very smart man. He is getting the best possible care.”
After reassuring the others that she had heard and understood the message, they encouraged her to put her mind at ease.
About twenty minutes later, she was being examined by a female physician who pronounced her obviously overstressed, and in need of getting some sleep, but probably okay. Although they would prefer to keep her the night, just in case. Her vitals were a bit depressed, especially her heart rate was a bit slow, but still, just barely within the range of normality.
Sharon felt relieved, and rationalized that it must be a fainting spell.
Just like in the Victorian romances, I hide so Charlie won’t tease me about them. Some modern-day supermom I turned out to be. She griped at herself, as she levered her unaccustomedly awkward body out of bed. A nurse stood by to catch her if she fell, with the understanding that if she did, then she was definitely staying the night.
Since both of the sets of grandparents lived in other cities, the closest four hours drive away, and her regular sitter had gone away to college a couple months previous, Sharon did not fall, because then who would take care of her children?
The checked marble tiles under her feet were slick, and she wondered what genius had designed them, as she padded unsteadily over to her clothing. There, clinging to the large, functional metal chair with its rock-solid arm, she changed into her jeans and wine-colored terry cloth shirt, and flats, crimson slip-ons.
Now dressed, she nodded to the gravely watchful nurse who helped her into a wheelchair, because of insurance purposes, got her discharge papers, and wheeled her over to the ICU where Charles lay.
He looked horrible and terrifying. A large white bandage atop his skull, bruise marks under his eyes, pale, so pale in appearance that her hands moved of their own accord to see if he was a ghost. But as she reached out to touch him; Dr. Romley stepped in.
Ignoring him, she studied her husband’s bruised hands, as if he had fought someone fiercely, but mostly struck them as a karetka might with the sides of his hands rather than his knuckles. Whatever, her husband was, he was not a violent man. Only imminent harm to himself or another would have driven him to hit someone.
The doctor cleared his throat, drawing her attention.
“The bruising is characteristic of convulsions, ma’am. Those who pulled him out of the creek said he was flailing about, but I don’t think he felt anything by that time. Really.”
She could tell the doctor had not wanted to tell her this, and when he aggrievedly muttered something to a nurse standing by that “this man needs bandaging, ASAP.” She turned to him with a sorrowful smile.
“Its okay, doctor. I understand that abrasions are not as important as other injuries to fix. Of course, I expect them to get taken care of as soon as it can be.” She added the last bit to let the hospital know she would be watching them. It never hurt to add a little accountability to a situation. Especially when it was her beloved at risk.
“What happened?”
“Your husband suffered some sort of an attack. We’re not certain of the cause, although we are already doing some tests. He fell in Troubled Waters Creek over the railing on the small bridge, near the northern side of the park, you know which one, I’m talking about?”
Sharon nodded in understanding even as she felt the ground start to give way beneath her. Reaching out a hand to her husband’s bed, she saw the doctor eye her with concern. She waved him on after gathering strength.
“Right. Well, according to witnesses, he was trembling, and then he tipped over, and hit his head on a rock in the river somehow, either when he entered or later, we’re again, not sure. We think later as its not that deep of an injury. The MRI reveals a hairline fracture which we will need to keep an eye on, especially as he is suffering some vasodilation, low blood pressure, for reasons unknown at this present time. Then more convulsions as about a half-dozen people pulled him clear, and laid him on the bank, and then he passed unconscious after vomiting.
The police have checked, and while he made reservations at Wong Gardens, he had nothing to eat there, so it does not seem to be a case of food poisoning. Anyways, one of his rescuers used her cell phone, and got an ambulance there quickly. Which was good as he needed oxygen for a while. Now he doesn’t need it, which is a positive sign.”
Sharon nodded, trying to absorb the information, while inside, her mind kept screaming that it was not true. How could it be true? Charlie was fine, he had to be okay. She had sent him out this morning with not a problem, except for dealing with a company that defined gracelessness.
A necessary but dreadful, and yet insulting or hilarious depending on how one took it, interrogation began. Did her husband use downers, amphetamines perhaps to help stay awake, Prozac® which had been implicated in causing more suicides as it reduced all emotions including the natural ones of self-preservation so that macabre curiosities began to dominate the soul, and any other drug? She laughed, a bit harshly, and denied it. The doctor’s attempt at an eagle-eyed look got her furious, and she clenched her fists. It was beyond ridiculous.
But in the confined space of the B-Room ICU there was no room to pace, to work off energy, and so she bottled it up. White sheets hung from wire guides themselves hung from wires to the ceilings isolating beds in this short columnar room across a short stretch of hall from the glass box and cheerful multiple purple tones of the wavy pressboard of the nurses’ station.
It all looked beautifully designed and spacious, and terrifically expensive, and she guessed that a good chunk of her bill was being paid to architects. But they had good insurance, and a rainy day fund that might get tapped out, but unlike many, they had one. She had seen too many people, in her job as an accountant, who for lack of saving fifty dollars a month ended up at fifty-five in a one bedroom apartment with a bankruptcy to their name, and then in bitterness added divorce to their silliness.
Breathing out, she returned to the questions. Charles was not a teetotaler, but he had a beer at a party perhaps once a month, or to celebrate the completion of a major job. And that was it. Okay, they kept a few jars of wine in the cabinet, not even needing a holder they had so few, for either their rare adult parties, or for the ceremonial toast to the birthday of a spouse, or their anniversary.
She teared up remembering that Charles was not like other husbands who forgot anniversaries. It had been years before he confessed that he wrote a computer program in Basic on his desktop to remind him the day before and the day of. Dr. Romley, middling tall, dark-skinned with a golden tone, and black haired paused, and nodded at a nurse who proffered some Kleenex®.
“I don’t mean to offend, Sharon, may I call you Sharon?” She waved him on, while bothering her nose, and he nodded, continued. “We have good hope in this case, and an excellent hospital support staff. Its that we simply must ask these questions, and unfortunately, the closest are sometimes the last to know.”
She nodded, and then spent the next ten minutes describing Charlie. His neatness, his responsibility in large matters, and his occasional irresponsibility in small matters, and his reliance on his unfettered wits to do his job, and his love for his world. At the end, the doctor was convinced, and wrote down a note suggesting that minimal drug tests were needed. And thus a great problem started out of a great truth. Although, it might not have mattered anyways as the Troll had been quite clever in his choice of poisons.
The interrogation continued, and again they asked if Charlie had suicidal tendencies, and although she said no, she wondered for perhaps they had been right. She sometimes found herself utterly surprised at what the man in her life would do in some new situation. Other times, she could go to the store where she had left him, choose an aisle from the front of the store, and walk up it to meet him just knowing he would be there. But, but, she resolved to look through his things. See if, as they suggested, had he any new reading material. And check with the family doctor, Dr. Lewis, if he had any health conditions he had hid from her. Not that he would do that she was sure, and then she wondered.
Charlie might hide for a week or two that he had cancer, and he had seen a cousin die of it, rather unpleasantly too. He might have chosen the bridge over two years of pain. But if he did, there would be a note. An explanation. That was Charlie. It would not blame anyone, and it would be elliptical enough that only she could understand it, to avoid the insurance problems, but he would explain..
Sharon nodded, to the doctor, and to herself. It was time to fetch the kids home from school, and tell them the horrible news. After that, she would put them to bed early, and look through Charlie’s things.

End of Chapter Four.