20 December, 2016

Repost: It's a Wonderful Bike - 19 December 2013

Note: From now on, I will try to re-post one of my favorites of my dad's writing every month or two. Here is "It's A Wonderful Bike", first published on 19 December, 2013

Sure, I know lots of adults don't, and if the truth be told, lots of children don't either. Nevertheless, I do - always have and always will. Please don't try to make something of it.

And it's not that people haven't tried to dissuade me from believing - even my parents, by the way.

Consider Christmas of 1960. We had moved into our new home in Virginia Beach in October of 1958, and this was our third Christmas in that home. I was 12 and was asking Santa for a new bicycle. Full size for this soon to be teen. Blue. Schwinn. Black Panther model.

My nearest neighbor - a year or two younger than I – had that bike, and I wanted one too. My friend's father, however, was a local TV celebrity - which is to say they had more money than we did and could easily afford to spend a little more. Santa brought a Schwinn Jaguar III model, the next “class” down.

I don’t really recall if I had been told to expect that model or not. I don't remember any discussion of the Black Panther vs. Jaguar III issue at all, but since I wasn't disappointed with the Jaguar III, I’m assuming I already knew. That can mean only that I had previously agreed with my parents on what I should ask Santa for.

Anyway, I was already in bed on Christmas Eve, but around 11:00 my parents called me to come downstairs. It seems they had begun to a uncrate the bike Santa had brought so that my father could assemble it. Unfortunately it was not blue, but red - not the kind of mistake Santa typically makes. They didn’t want me to be disappointed in the morning, and at the same time, showing me now might encourage me to begin to accept there was no Santa.

This had never really been discussed in our home, and although I knew my parents were skeptical, I never pushed it. So at the age of 12, I received my first suggestion of what most my age already believed, but I wasn't buying it. For me, Santa existed then and still does.

That bike is in my garage right now; I just went out and looked at it. It will be 53 years old in a few weeks and has a little rust, but I saw one just like it (without rust) for sale online at $2900. It doesn't matter; I'm keeping mine. It has come to symbolize far too much. For example, knowing that Santa sometimes makes mistakes has made it a lot easier to forgive myself when I do. That's a useful skill I recommend regardless of how you come by it.

And those Christmas bells. They "still ring for me, as they do for all who truly believe." I feel sad for you if you don't know that reference, but it's not too late. Go watch or, better yet, read The Polar Express. It might just turn you back into a believer, and how wonderful it would be to hear those bells again. BELIEVE. And just as important - tell a child you believe. It won't hurt you a bit, and in fact, watching that child's reaction might just begin to convince you it is so. Happy Christmas.

19 December, 2016

Flash fiction #1: What Lies Beyond the Edge, Beyond the End?

All my life, I've been told I'm a very good or even great writer. And while I love all sorts of beautiful writing, my dream has always been to write novels. But the sad truth is that I stopped writing fiction after my first year of college - a story best saved for another day - and for a long time, the story kernels in my head never became anything more.

In the past few years, though, I've realized that I can't expect stories to blossom fully plotted in my mind. I have to put words on the page, and I have to share them if I'm ever going to make any progress. Recently, I decided to look for a writers' retreat to attend - a serious one, for serious writers, not one for people with plenty of money just looking for an easy escape and an ego stroke.

Alas...I am 0 for 2 on my attempts to score a scholarship to the Iceland Writers Retreat. But, because my rejection e-mail mentioned that my eerie little tale was one of the finalists, I decided to take a chance and share it. Parts of it may be familiar to those of you who read my previous essay about a road trip in Iceland many years ago, but I assure you, this is fiction!

What Lies Beyond the Edge, Beyond the End?

Selene floats in a milky electric-blue sea, her gray eyes open. Towers from the power plant and billowing clouds curl around the edges of her vision, surreal and strangely familiar. Aditi drifts nearby, eyes closed, seeking a private world. The water laps against her flushed cheeks.

 They find their hired car waiting in the silvery mist. Selene remembers her sixth-grade geography teacher as they drive. He loved to joke that Iceland was green and Greenland was icy. Not in March, she thinks. Iceland in March is as beautiful and desolate as the moon.

Selene and Aditi have an entire farmhouse to themselves in Fljótsdalúr, . By dusk, their initial delight has faded into a vague and crawling discomfort. The staggering views of the glacier-capped volcano Vatnajökull have been devoured by the night; the world beyond has fallen away. None of the doors lock, though their fears are not the kind that can be locked out. They leave again at dawn, Aditi now driving, though she stalls on steep hill and cannot restart, so they frequently switch places. Selene knows then that she will never teach her children to drive.

The girls stop to watch icebergs drift out of the bay in Jökulsárlón. Soon they will be specters. Aditi offers a gentle prayer, an apology to ancient gods in an ancient land. They drive deeper into the eastern fjords. It begins to snow steadily. Selene’s knuckles are white on the wheel, but she keeps going, toward the edge of the world.

 As they descend, the moon rises over Seyðisfjörður. The sight surprises Selene. She was expecting a different orb.

 At Lake Myvatn, they stand still among the craters. Outside the cave Grjótagjá, an ominous sign warns that the spring has been known to boil abruptly. Inside, Aditi takes a picture. The surface flashes - a black mirror, reflecting the stalactites above in shades of blue, green and gray. Selene cannot see where one begins and the other ends. What do we know of the oldest things, in the deep places of the world?

 Aditi kneels, whispering another prayer, a blessing. Something compels her to touch the surface, to break the spell.

 Selene was wrong. The water is clear, the cave fathomless. When she leaves, she is alone.


Selene opened her eyes to a pale blue glow and a pattern of obsidian hexagons. She stretched, letting the memories settle and set.

 She swiped her palm against the wall, changing the hexagons from opaque to crystalline. She could see Earth hovering beyond, neither rising nor setting. It gleamed blue-green and red-violet against the ebony void.

 Selene reached for a tablet. She needed to reproduce the images from her dream before the detail faded. The sketches went to the architects and engineers, those survivors with the expertise and arrogance to recreate one of Earth’s most singular landscapes here on the moon. Maybe then, she thought, the ancient gods would return.

 She tried but found that she could only draw Aditi’s face.


So, readers...what did you think? Did this work for you? Why or why not? Let me know!