Saturday, July 28, 2012

Remember when . . .


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Ever since I’m OK − You’re OK, by Thomas A. Harris, appeared on bookshelves in 1969, everyone wanted to know where they fell in the Transactional Analysis matrix even if they didn't understand what it meant. There are four simple choices:

I’m OK − You’re OK
I’m OK − You’re not OK
I’m not OK − You’re OK
I’m not OK − You’re not OK.

Shortly after it appeared, the "I'm OK - You're OK" sensation morphed and appeared on bumper stickers that insisted, " I’m OK. You’re a shithead."



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

The other day in the mall,
A lady bumped into me.
I said, “I’m sorry, madam,”
Even though it was her call.

Well, she got really huffy
And ’fore I knew what happened
The whole group from her hospice
Wailed on me. Their umbrellas,
Canes and walkers flying.
I come close to nearly dying.

Well, I’m no spring chicken,
But not one to take a lickin’.
I slipped from that half nelson
She had on me and
Pushed that old bitch down the stairs,
Cast, neck-brace, wheelchair and all.

Adverb Adversaries

C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Scribes and scribblers
Paragraph nibblers
Went out for a working lunch.
They parsed and deleted
And finally succeeded:
Not an adverb
Escaped the bunch.

Throughout the land
They had adverbs banned
From sea to shining sea.
When they took to their beds
And had their last rites said,
They left this world

Viva Viagra!


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

I can’t remember what I’ve got
Or what each pill is for.
Two blues, one red
Three times a day,
One white one just ’fore bed.

I’m strutting like a whole new man!
And then the doctor said,
“Two whites, one red
Three times a day,
One blue one just ’fore bed.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Flash fiction, 100 words or less, a great exercise.
I finally got this one down to 99 words.

                           C. Neuroticus Absolutus

                                        The Kid

 “Give back my wallet, punk!” I panted.
  “Ouch!” Shaggy-Headed Kid squealed. “I’m gonna sue!”
   Pain slammed my chest, knocked me down. I dialed 911.
   “Heart attack . . . don’t know where I am . . .”
   The kid took the phone. “Next to Federal Bank, downtown.”
   He took my wallet and phone, looked at me and ran.
   I woke in a hospital room. The kid was at my bedside.
   “Mom said to give it back.”
   “You can keep the cash.”
    Shaggy Head smiled.
    We shook hands.
     That was five years ago.
     He graduated yesterday. I was there.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review
C. Neuroticus Absolutus
      I just finished reading Porch Lights by Dorthea Benton Frank, another story about life on the barrier islands of South Carolina. They say write about what you know best. Ms. Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island and weaves a treasure trove of knowledge and experience into one story after another about the South Carolina Lowcountry. I’ve read eight of the dozen books she has written, each with charming, lovable characters who draw the reader into real-life predicaments where Ms. Frank lets the characters lead the reader to happy endings. She writes feel-good books that go well with sun block, sand, seashells, colorful beach umbrellas and pitchers of Margaritas. She has mastered the art of storytelling with an occasional twist of humor. Moreover, whereas the average chick-lit authors write to fit the formulas of the Harlequin ilk, Ms. Frank skillfully constructs entertaining narratives outside the constricting formula mold.
      Porch Lights features Jackie McMullen, an Army nurse with multiple tours of Afghanistan who is widowed when her firefighter husband dies in the line of duty. She comes home to a ten-year-old son Charlie who is devastated by his father’s passing―as is she. The boy’s depression leads her and her son from New York back to Sullivans Island and her long-separated mother and father. Jackie refuses to believe that she will ever love again and plans to return to Brooklyn before the next school year begins. But Charlie develops a relationship with his grandfather and the kind bachelor doctor next door and refuses to leave the island. An approaching hurricane provides the impetus for Jackie to leave Sullivans Island quickly, but Mother Nature moves in to put the kibosh on all human plans.
      Oh, did I mention that Steve Plofker, the handsome doctor next door, eyes curvy nurse Jackie from the moment she arrives home. Before you can say Bob’s your uncle, he develops longer-range plans for Jackie than she is willing to consider. As they say, love will find a way. Or will it?
      Each chapter in Porch Lights is preceded by a quote from Edgar Allen Poe, whose work The Gold Bug captures young Charlie’s imagination and leads him to discover the marvelous history of Sullivans Island, which Ms. Frank skillfully intertwines in her story. What’s more, each chapter alternates the point of view between Jackie and her mother Annie - an unusual approach considering that most agents, editors and critics say never switch points of view. However, in Porch Lights, Ms. Frank accomplishes this with a story that changes POV effortlessly and seamlessly, a credit to her mastery of her craft.
      I like action/adventure Uzi-toting bad guys and all-American, Glock-in-hand heroes who look like they stepped out of a WWII Army recruiting poster. Still, with all that tiring action, I occasionally need a laid-back story that tugs at my heartstrings and lets me unwind. That’s when I turn to Ms. Frank’s creations, books guaranteed to warm your heart and let you relax.
      I admit that Ms. Frank’s books are getting more predictable with the printing of each new novel. I believe her best work lies in her earlier books.  Nevertheless, I like her stories. I know pretty much what I’m going to get when I take one of Ms. Frank’s novels to the cash register. No disappointments.
      Bedtime or beach time, poolside or plane ride, Porch Lights is a good read.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

 Days Gone By

Several years ago, in May of  2008, at the Valley Writers Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, Rodney Franklin, Jim Morrison, Millie Willis, Richard Raymond III and others thought about leaving a legacy of works – perhaps an anthology - about Appalachia and the surrounding lands. I wrote several poems - although certainly not my primary genre - and we all unabashedly presented our work at Rams Head Book Store and a couple of other venues. Just so they won't go to waste, here are the four I wrote. 



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Leaves leap
From their branches
To float on the wind,
Twisting, fluttering,
Down ever down,
Pirouetting on the ground
Waiting to be swept
By strong gusts
To dance their hearts out
With a cast of millions,
Dead to all but me,
Perhaps the only one
Who has seen them dash
Through the neighborhood
And purposely congregate
In my damn yard!



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Follow the blue rivulet’s sigh
From way atop the mountain high,
Tricklin’ past a mystic glade
Where Appalachian whiskey’s made.

A rustic shack might near unseen
In forest, fertile − evergreen.
Inside a long-forgotten mill
Moonshiners hide their precious still.

Cut the branches from felled trees.
Copper boilers heat with ease.
Bring the mash to roiling bubble
Makin’ revenuers’ trouble.

Telltale wisps of chokin’ smoke rise
Chasin’ ’way hot summer flies.
Mason jars, brown jugs abound.
Ain’t no smokin’ here around.

Chop some wood and have a chew.
Thrice-distilled, man, taste that brew!
Run the still throughout the night.
Smoke fills the darkness, out of sight.

The law’s a-watchin’ all the roads
For yeast, taters, mash-makin’ loads,
Like sacks of sugar in a truck.
Hope no one sees, but that takes luck.

Ain’t no roads come up this far,
No passing truck, no speeding car.
Everything comes up by mule,
The food, the makin’s, every tool.

The mule hauls back white lightnin’ brew
So pure its flames burn near sky blue.
Warm you up when it goes down,
Make you shiver, lose that frown.

One ear cocked so’s you can hear
Anyone what might come near.
One eye open when you sleep,
Can’t allow no slumber deep.

Hear the hounds a-bayin’ now?
Time to run! They’re close. But how?
Ain’t nobody knowed we’re here,
No wives, no gals to interfere.

Go down the back way, circle ’round.
Run hard! They’ll lock you up in town!
Get to the car! Run, get away!
Can’t afford no jail today.

Got no job and got no pay
Brewin’s ’bout the only way
To help my brothers, sisters, Ma
Since angels came and took our Pa.

Fly down the mountain, mind the gears.
They’ve never caught you in past years.
V-8 a-throbbin’, screamin’, fightin’,
Built for runnin’ pure white lightnin’.

Those revenuers lack the nerve
To stay real close on every curve.
They’re fallin’ back too far to see,
Ain’t that somethin’? Slap a knee!

Cross the county line to hide out.
Cousins help you, check your ride out.
Start to itchin’, feelin’ frisky?
Make more Appalachian whiskey.

C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Feel the Appalachian breeze blow
             Its warm breath on melting snow?
It’s sharing all its secrets
       For those who want to know.

Smell the honeysuckle breeze?
                  Appalachian dogwoods vie to please
      Your tired and hungry eyes,
           Put your ravaged mind at ease.

Hear the Appalachian songbirds,
           Not some ordinary wrongbirds,
         Sing to soothe a restive heart,
    Without the use of words?

See Appalachian critters courting,
                 Their new springtime furs a-sporting?
                     They’ll make you giggle, laugh out loud
          With their humorous cavorting.

Taste Appalachian kisses’ thrill
                 From a lass who’ll break your will.
               Get the preacher from the hollow,
        Build your house upon a hill.

Back in the Day


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Back in the day,
We thought ourselves immortal,
Racing along the bluff-shaded road that followed the river,
Foot heavy on the throttle.
It’s a wonder we didn’t kill ourselves
Or someone else.

Back in the day,
Our far-less-jaded dreams
Dripped with the impertinence and arrogance of youth.
The only dragons and demons we knew
Lived in the pages of children’s books
At the library.

Back in the day,
We’d sit around the drug store
Boasting of things we’d do, the fortune and acclaim we’d win.
Sweethearts sat close in a booth and drove each other crazy
Holding hands under the table
Or rubbing a leg or two.

Back in the day,
We parked at the drive-in and
Ordered homemade fries and the best burgers in the world.
Later, at the parkway overlook,
We studied biology and anatomy
And traded mustard-flavored kisses.

Back in the day,
Neighbors said hello and more,
At church, on the street or at a high school football game.
Gossip raced through a switchboard and along party lines,
Keeping us in touch with a human warmth
Much kinder than today’s instant messaging.

Back in the day,
A quarter bought a day at the movies,
With serials, the news, the Three Stooges, cartoons, popcorn and drink to accompany
A double feature in Technicolor and a chocolate bar high.
Six hours of exploratory groping in the dark
Was exhausting.

Back in the day,
Movies brought the world closer,
Fantasies until ghosting, snowy-screened televisions came into our homes
And showed us ordinary people prospering in the world beyond our mountains.
That storybook life beckoned
And we answered its call.

Back in the day,
We fought two wars we thought
Would finally make the world a place where men were free
And the skies were always blue.
But then came Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan where many, too many, died
And we never understood why.


Monday, July 2, 2012


 C. Neuroticus Absolutus

The rich profit from it.

The middle class pays for it.

The poor fight it.