A World’s Eye View – 1

This is a post of the beginning of ‘A World’s Eye View’, a story that I’ve been working at off and on.  It’s somewhat in the vein of the ‘Last Man on Earth’ idea.

Entry 1:

 

I can’t believe what just happened. I can’t believe anyone didn’t try to warn us. The first thing any of us up here had a clue about was when the bombs started landing. There’d be this small flash, and then another. They were always around major cities all over the world, and dust would make everything hazy. We could see the dust, spreading out like a funeral shroud from the impact. Our little telescope showed the mushrooms of atomic blasts growing up and out. No warning, nothing on the news, nothing on the internet. What the hell happened?

 

Roels started screaming when Antwerp was hit. His family was there. Nothing’s there now, and the dust has spread so that the world looks like it’s surrounded by dark streaks that spiral around the planet like ribbons on a maypole. I can’t think about my fiance’ until we know what’s going on, or I’ll lose it too. Worse, we’re trapped up here. Telemetry from home isn’t getting to us. Without it, the capsules here are just inert, with no way to power systems up for launch. The redundancy built in to stop accidental launches keeps us trapped. We don’t have the ability to hack our own systems. None of us is a computer expert. No one answers on the ground. If only the shuttle hadn’t been retired, we could have flown it down somewhere. These Chinese capsules are ground controlled. No flight operators. It’s got emergency controls, but who reads Chinese? None of us. Some of the controls are in English too, just not all of them, and no one here is checked out on them.

 

Talk about big brother. Six of us stuck in a station a little bigger than a eight bedroom house. We have privacy, but no place to go. We can’t leave, and we can’t stay. The air supply is pretty much recyclable. It’s not the problem. It’s heat, and food. The systems could cook us if the cooling systems fail, and without a re-supply, we’re dead when the food runs out. We’re pretty much dead anyways. Right now I’m just numb. Talking this out on the recorder, in case there’s a rescue or expedition here, in the future. God what a delusion. There’s no way we’re ever seeing earth again. It’s got to be a radioactive husk! Whoever’s still alive down there sure can’t help us. None of us had any idea the world was so tense. My god, we just got up here a week ago. We were supposed to run tests for a Mars longevity mission! That’s just ironic! We’re supposed to stay up here without re-supply for the duration of two mars mission flights, plus two weeks for ground exploration. What were people thinking?! -long pause of ten minutes with the sound of quiet sobbing-

 

Six hours ago…

 

David Thompson looked over the charts on his tablet. “Hey Kim? How much ammonia did we get with the last supply? And did you see that babe come up with Vyhovsky yesterday? She was absolutely smoking hot.” Xian-Xing Kim nodded with a smile. “Very pretty. She is .. big star in Bollywood films.” Thompson nodded, then ran his hand through his shock of black hair. “If I wasn’t going to be married when I drop, she would be someone to talk to.” He shook his head. I am so glad she’s only up here for a week. Any longer and we’d all be rioting. I wonder how many suitors she’s got back in India. They must be lined up for blocks. He looked over at Kim again. Short and stocky, with yellow-tan skin and a shock of jet black hair, Kim was the first astronaut from North Korea to the new Cooperative Space Station. Thompson found him to be a competent scientist and very willing to lend a hand whenever needed.

 

Vyhovsky, a Ukrainian, had just come on board to take over day-to-day running of the station. Since Russia had invaded his country years ago, it had been summarily banned from participating in the Space station, and had it’s equipment on the station confiscated. China had stepped in to do the ‘heavy lifting’. The U.S. And others had found it’s space program very inexpensive compared to the Russians. Probably because of the mafia running things for that wanna-be Stalin. I remember the NASA bigwig chewing his moustache because he had to add a ‘ ten-percent convenience tax’ to the cost. I mean really, one ruble in ten to the mob? Mexico isn’t that corrupt.

 

Koll Ingers turned the corner and used handholds to float himself to the galley. Thompson saw him talking with his cell-phone. Probably home to his wife. They’ve been having troubles because of something. Wonder if this is a talk, or something more? Ingers chose that moment to slap the phone into it’s holster. The angry scowl on his features told Thompson that now was not the time to be asking any questions, as the big Swede looked ready to burst. I hope they can get it patched up, but him here and her back in Stockholm is not going to make anything easy. Ingers pulled a pair of energy bars from the galley, then heated them in the microwave. They were supposed to soften and texturize like meat, but Thompson thought it was like chewing warm cardboard. It didn’t taste right and sure didn’t have a meat texture.

 

He turned towards bay three and glided to the air lock. It was time to measure the ammonia levels. Ammonia here was the primary coolant in space. With the station hanging in orbit, and no artmosphere to cut the solar energy, the crew would cook alive without some form of cooling. Water as too volatile. Ammonia happened to be the answer. While there were cameras to check for leaks, Thompson still made the personal spacewalks. The computers were state-of-the-art for fifteen years ago, meaning they were adequate for maintaining the station and running experiments, but not much else. Cameras were set up to cover the panels, but detail was lacking, so a spacewalk was made to check the panels. He had three reservoirs to check, starboard panels, port panels, and station. Even after countless EVA, he still needed help to get into his suit. The entry panels in the back had to be closed properly or he’d leak air and while he had a reserve, a leak could lower his air pressure to where he’d pass out, and possibly asphixiate if rescue wasn’t fast neough. I’m going to enjoy the quiet this time. It’s always awkward meeting the new crew, and that Shukla woman is just too hot to handle. She’ll be one heck of a distraction for the next five days.

 

How to stop worrying and love the bomb…err, story

As a writer, I am a bit neurotic, and prone to worrying if I’m doing the job of writing  right.  I want to be perfect, (which will never happen) and write a story that doesn’t need one edit (which also will never happen).  The thing is, these worries, and fears of my own inadequacy can clobber my writing on their own, wrapping me up in so much anxiety I begin to hate writing.  Honestly, its happened a few times.  But the big thing that’s kept me going is that the story has been started, and now it wants to be completed. 

My desire to see what happens next has been strong enough to overcome the ‘omigod I can’t do this, I’m horrible!’ neurotic anxiety, and finish the story. It isn’t easy, but I believe that I want to see the story more than I want to be neurotic crazy and hide in my closet where the computer can’t see me. I want to see the story. That’s how I get past my fear of writing.  The story is more important to me than my anxiety is.

Fear and anxiety aren’t fun. Everyone goes through those feelings. It’s scary and unpleasant, but what we need to realize is that it doesn’t have to stop us, we just have to acknowledge it’s existence and decide something else is more important that beating ourselves up about ‘what if they don’t like me’.

Let the story lead you.  I think you may surprise yourself.  

Redleg part 3

The gin was his way of hiding from the world, and Archie very much wanted to hide. He wanted to hide from his memories, from the nightmares, and from the ‘concerned citizens’ that attempted to make his life better by telling the things he should do for himself. He often thought of asking them why in god’s name did they think he could do those things? If he was capable, he wouldn’t be in this absolute craphole now would he?

Instead of screaming, he would duck his head, nod at the right moments, and then move on as soon as the person wound down. No use sticking around to hear everything again. He ran a hand across the stubble on his face, grumbling yet again about having to see his haunted eyes in the mirror. He trudged the ten steps to the bathroom, with it’s toilet and leaky stand-in-the-corner shower. He didn’t look up, not wanting to acknowledge his own reflection.

He reached over to pick up the razor, and stopped. He lowered his hand, and in a fit of courage, raised his head. His reflection stared accusingly back at him. The sunken eyes bruised all the way around from lack of sleep.

The more he stared, the more angry and despairing he became. His rage beat impotently on his brain until the pain of it all closed his eyes and forced his arms around his body, trying to stem the self recrimination. He had lived, his buddies hadn’t. He lost a leg, and they lost their lives. How in all creation was that fair?!

In a fit of blind, screaming despair, he threw his clothes on in a frenzy of activity, pulled his one boot on, and stumbled out the door, leaving it unlocked as he kept his hand jammed in his pocket where the 9mm pistol sat, lethal and crying to be used. He panned on answering those cries, the ones in his head that he couldn’t stand any more. The eyes of his squad, the one he had been responsible for, and failed.

It was time to make the voices go away. He turned east on Granville street, and began walking, head down, hurrying away from the emptiness he’d tried to live with. Granville arced to the northeast, and eventually crossed a rail line. This was what Archie had been looking for since he’d woken up. He had a purpose, he had a plan. He was on the way to execute that plan, follow through, where so many things he’d started never had.

He turned onto the rails; two shiny silver ribbons on top of blackish brown wood. The track went east, then angled slightly north of east, cutting a straight line through the dense green and over the soft earth. It was easy to walk, and he did it, his mind focused on silencing the yammering in his brain, and getting the guilt of living off of him.

It was hours before he slowed and took a look about him. He’d gone close on to evening. The sun was a swollen yellow-orange tick just above the trees when he finally halted walking. He wondered if his place had been stripped yet. Art shrugged, it didn’t matter any more, it was a part of his life, just like the rest he was going to get rid of.

The crickets, frogs, and alligators offered their voices to the fast-coming night. It was nothing like Afghanistan. There jackals might yip or yodel at night, but mostly it was the unceasing wind that ran icy fingers into his clothing, and had him burrowing into his cot when he wasn’t part of a patrol.

The Deep End

Here is the star of a new Glass Bottles related short story.  It stars Dean Youngwood from book III as the main character, and details the heroic rescue that cemented his reputation as a hero.

Welcome to ‘The Deep End’

“Hey Dean, how did the test go?” Carny Weston walked over to Dean Youngwood, giving him a fist bump as a greeting, and falling in next to him as Dean walked to his car. The sidewalk was full of pedestrians in a hurry to get lunch. The noon whistle had blown only a minute before Dean had exited Precinct Four after taking his test. He’d come dressed for the weather, and Dean was thankful for his bit of preparation. The snow was coming down thick and slushy, sticking to anything it landed on. The weather station had promised wet snow and the station had got it right. Dean smiled at Carny a little wistfully, then stuck his hands in his jacket pockets.

“You know, I think I did pretty good. But…,” he paused and Carny’s face fell. His blonde beard was already festooned with fat flakes that were threatening to turn his whiskers into an ice sculpture. Carny’s blue and black checked hunting jacket was doing much better, the snow giving Carny the look of a man with a completely out of control dandruff problem. His shoulder length blonde hair combined with his beard made him look like a modern viking.

Dean by contrast to Carny’s appearance, had short black hair irregularly cut, a testament to ‘don’t do this at home in a mirror’, and dark brown eyes that almost looked black. He’d put on weight since his days in the Canadian Air Force, and had a slight gut. His swarthy skin made him look piratical, but in fact Dean was a full-blooded Cree. He wore a pair of thick blue denim work pants, and a matching blue coat to protect him from the cold. His last name, Youngwood, was his adopted parents name. He chose it for his own despite some protests by fellow Cree.

“Aw man that s…,” Carny started to say, but Dean pulled a piece of yellow paper out of his jean pocket and held it in front of Carny’s nose.

“I think they believed so too, because they gave me this little piece of paper.” Dean smiled as Carny whooped and enveloped him in a bear hug.

“Way to go, man! Way. To. Go!”

He ceased hollering as people around them stopped and stared at the exuberant spectacle. Carny put Dean back on the ground and the two continued their walk back towards Carny’s pickup. When they reached the battered green truck, Dean glanced at Carny as he opend the passenger door, “How about lunch on me? I passed the exam, I think we should celebrate at ‘The Shake Shack’. I haven’t had a artery-clogging hamburger and fries for a couple weeks.”

Carny laughed, and opened the driver’s door.

“Sounds great! how ’bout we sop by Tim Horton’s afterwards to get a coffee and donut as dessert?”

Dean grimaced. “I’d love to, but I think I’ll pass on that. I can only handle so much decadence.”

“Wimp.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Dammit, it’s no fun if you don’t insult back. Where do you get off being agreeable?”

“The same place you get off by trying to start something.”

Carny laughed again and pressed the start button on the dashboard. The vehicle rumbled as the engine refused to start, then caught with a roar. Dean settled back in his seat as Carny wheeled the vehicle out of the parking lot, and into lunch-hour traffic.

While they slowly worked their way towards their destination, Carny asked Dean, “So where are you going to hang your shingle?”

Dean stared forward out the windshiled, watching the fat flakes of snow descend on the barely moving vehicles.

“I was thinking up around Shannon Park. The place is old and poor, but a lot of decent sorts there. I could probably get by.”

Carny looked over at Dean as though Dean had sprouted a second head.

“You’re nuts, you know that? I understand wanting to help people, but first you gotta get on your own feet. helping people is good, but if you can’t keep a roof over your head, how you conna help someone else?”

Dean shrugged, then looked over at Carny.

“You blew big holes in that idea. Yeah, I’d like to help out that way. Lots of folks could use a little help to solve problems. Hell, maybe solving the problems would fix something.” He sighed and turned back to watch the traffic in front of them. “But you’re right. If I can’t keep a place open, I don’t do anyone any good.” He turned his head towards Carny again. “So what would be your plan?”

Carny shrugged, then replied, “What about joining a detective agency for a bit. Get a name, take care of a few cases. Hunt down a few bail jumpers. Whatever. An agency would get your feet wet for a regular paycheck, and getcha experience without worrying about rent.”

Dean listened quietly. The traffic began moving once more and the two lapsed into silence for the three minute drive over to ‘The Shake Shack’.

After thy sat down with their food, Dean took a bite out of his burger.

“You’re angling for me to work with your cousin, aren’t you?”

Carny smiled and took a hefty swig from the straw in his drink.

“See? That’s why you’re the detective. You can figure things out.”

Dean shook his head. “I know you think your cousin’s a good guy, Carny, but I’m not sure he’d be the best one to work for starting out. I mean, he’s a skip-tracer, not a private investigator.”

“That’s why he’s perfect to work with. He’s been there, done that, and can give you pointers into how to use your newfound legal license the best way possible. It’s a steady paycheck, and you help by getting bad people off the streets.”

“And I have to track down people who’s only crime was that they can’t pay on their car, and I have to take it away, and they lost their job because they can’t get to work to pay bills and help their families.”

Carny’s face drooped. Dean figured he’d tried to be helpful. Carny was always trying to look out for friends. He and Dean had spent a hitch in the Canadian Air Force for four years as mechanics working on the old F-22 Raptors that had survived The Change. They’d gotten along and worked well together. Then became in-laws when Carny had married Dean’s adopted sister Carol. in the three years they’d been married, Carol had two pairs of twins. The first pair were girls, and the second were boys.

Dean shook his head. then took another bite from the burger.

“Say I join your cousin, do you get anything for referring me?”

“No, I just thought he’d be a good place to start.”

Dean nodded. “Okay. I’ll go see him. No promises. I’m still not certain that I want to do this, but you’re right, I have to start somewhere.”

“Cool! I’ll drive you…”

“Ease up Carny, I’ll drive over this afternoon. You need to get back to work, Carol’s probably going crazy with four crazed munchkins running around.”

Carny set his drink down and grabbed at his potato wedges, stuffing two in his mouth. he chewed, then swallowed.

“She probably is, eh? Carol’s a great mom. Though she’s got a temper.”

Dean shrugged. “Well, you would too with four kids in diapers and needing constant supervision. I bet she’s exhausted by the time you get home.”

“Yeah, she is.” He turned to look at Dean. “Speaking of that, wanna come by and spend time with your nieces and nephews? I could take Carol out on the town, maybe a movie, eh?”

Dean chuckled. “Okay, okay. I get it. When do you want me by?”

“How about five-thirty? I’ll be home by then and you can show up. the kids’ll love seeing you.”

“Yeah, I bet. My back’s still sore from the last time they loved seeing me.”

Carny chuckled and finished off the last potato wedge.

“You adore them as much as they adore you. Admit it for once.”

Dean shrugged, smiling. “What, and ruin a streak?”

A word from the Author

With the third book being released, I’m certain there are a few wondering what all this is leading to. A snarky author would say, a climactic last book! Well, snarky or not it’s true. At some point in the future, this series will finish up and a new one will begin. I expect this series to be five or six books long. ( I know which the publisher would like  )

As it continues, I will be adding more and more about what’s been going on, and back-linking to the earlier books. There is a reason for everything. The bad guys may seem like they’re not motivated by anything other than being bad, I can tell you that’s not true. Each has a reason that they have behaved the way they have. with only two or three books left, it is now my intention to start pulling back the curtain, and showing you what’s behind it. Not fast, mind you, that would spoil the suspense.

And, to all those that have read these books, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m honored you took a chance on me to entertain you, and I appreciate it so very much that I had the chance to make your reading fun and enjoyable. Now, back to NaNo, and stay tuned for more books, more stories, and more fun!

OFFICIAL RELEASE – BEGUILING WORDS

This is the official release date of Beguiling Words, the latest of the Glass Bottles storyline.  It’s been a great honor to be able to keep writing stories and I want to thank Paper Angel Press for their belief in the story, and Niki Lenhart for the fantastic cover!

To those of you who have read the previous volumes, thank you and I hope this story entertains you as much or more than the others.  See you in NaNoWriMo!  Just look for JDark, no spaces.  That’s me!

Redleg

This is a few opening pages to ‘Redleg’. comapred to ‘Skid Style’, it is darker and less light-hearted.

Archer ‘Archie’ Gunnison woke that morning to the strident buzzing of his watch. The cicada-like screech jolted him from sleep and his hands flailed about, seeking the offending noisemaker. His right hand finally caught up with his left and pressed the delay button, giving him a ten minute window to wake up and turn the alarm off for the day. Archie sat up in bed, letting the beige comforter droop into a pile on his lap. The dark blue curtains over the small bedroom window were closed, but the sharp, crisp air of autumn swirled through the open window, ruffling the cloth, and letting peeks of gray morning flit across the bed. He yawned, then stretched his arms and good leg for a moment, enjoying the sensation of muscles waking up. He turned in place, dropping the right leg over the edge, then leaned down and picked up his prosthetic left leg.

The leg was a marvel of engineering, fitted with self adjusting spring tensioners that adjusted to the weight he put on it. The covering for the prosthesis was something else again. Bright, fire-engine red painted scales covered it, like some monstrous creature from the Red Lagoon. There was no way to ignore it, which was the reason Archie had it decorated. No one would mistake it, or him, for anyone else. Archie gazed at the leg as he rubbed the stump of his left thigh. He’d been a marine. Hoooah! All the way. He was proud of his service, proud of his buddies, and proud, maybe a little envious of the ones who made it home in one piece. He left part of himself in a Hummer after an IED had blown it through one and a half revolutions before it had come crunching back to earth. He didn’t remember any of it. The medications he took kept him from screaming in his sleep and stopped the terrifying flashbacks that occurred when he got stressed.

Others kept the red-hot phantom pains at bay. There was no telling when they’d strike. The pain seemed to happen most when he tried to do something like dodging an obstacle without thinking. His leg would seize up and drop him screaming to the ground. He’d learned to think about the prosthesis before trying to do anything sudden. But the pain still caught him unawares. Finishing pulling the leg on, he strapped it in place, then bent over again to pull the blue jeans from the floor. He slid them over his prosthesis first, then his real leg.

A rumpled green t-shirt was next. he pulled it over his head, then stuck his arms through the sleeves. He looked down at the car-toon on the front. It was a coffin with a raised back, with two large tires on the rear and two small ones up front. The cab was black except for two yellow eyes and a toothy smile from inside the cab. A cigar clamped between the teeth, and the words ‘Coughin’ Coffin’ were spelled out in smoke behind it. Standing up, he clumped awkwardly to the small storage drawers that served as his dresser. Next to it were his ankle-high sneakers.

The black Converse were made of canvas, so they wore a little better around the fake foot, with just enough cushion to make walking feel like semi-natural. He laced up the sneakers, grabbed the belt off the top of the left stack of drawers, then finished sliding it through the loops. He finished up by grabbing the pack of cigarillos off the top right set, and sliding one out of the top. He grabbed the lighter, and lit the brown tube of tobacco. That first inhale centered him, and got him ready to face the day. He slid the pack in his back pocket, the lighter in the front left, and plucked his wallet off the drawer and shoved it into the left rear pocket. Another long inhale and exhale soothed the nicotine jitters and he was ready for breakfast.

Skid Style

Charlie ‘Skid’ Moore sat on the edge of the warehouse roof. To the north of Pier 17, a few areas were still unloading containers for transport. Boston Harbor never stopped, it just slowed down in the evenings. Charlie, in his bright red and blue costume, was impatient for something to happen, yet oddly comforted that nothing had.

I don’t think I’d have ever thought I’d be here. Charlie had always been fast. Fastest in his grade school, then in middle school, then in high school. There was talk of scholarships for college. Even though he was still a junior, recruiters had stopped by and talked to his folks. Then, a short while after the recruiting started, Charlie got fast.

It happened at a school crossing. Classes had just let out. The students were queuing to load up on buses. A line of primary students were crossing the street. As Charlie watched, a red sports car with a driver talking on a cellphone whizzed past him, and towards the line of children. He heard the car’s tires screech as the driver realized, too late, that there were children in her path. Charlie’s heart was in his throat as he started to run. I’m not going to make it! Those kids are dead!

The world blurred. Sharp images stretched and blended into a chaotic display of color. His ears were assaulted by a loud roaring like a jumbo jet taking off right next to him. An impact knocked the breath out of him. His eyes cleared at the sudden stop, everything returning to sharp focus. The red sports car spun wildly away, the right front side crumpled like cardboard, the right front tire blown and half off its rim. It skidded across the oncoming lanes and hit the curb, blowing both right tires. With a screech of grinding metal the car ground to a stop on the sidewalk. The children were untouched, the driver had fractured ribs, whiplash, and a concussion. Charlie had bruises, and a new life.

Overnight he went from promising athlete to something he’d barely ever thought about: super hero. He was no longer a candidate for a scholarship to college. Now, he was a metahuman. A person with power to change things. To stand up to those who used their power for terror and personal profit. Charlie, being the young, idealistic high-school student, and raised on morning cartoons, embraced his new life.

Saying Goodbye Part 4

The back window was actually a sliding glass door. It had stacks of paper all the way across the bottom that were as tall as my chin when I looked out. The curtains were a old brown color that reminded me of mom and dad’s linoleum floor back home. I could part the curtains and look out into a cement back yard with a strip of ground that was an amazing green color. All the grass in that strip was the same height, and a lush texture that didn’t look at all like the ground around mom and dad’s trailer.

The ground around the trailer was brown, mostly. Small single plants here and there poked up out of the dirt here and there, looking like grasping hands to me. I didn’t like the yard, and stayed inside when I could. Mom and dad would make me go outside when they want quiet time. Everything around the trailer, and the other broken down trailers made me think of animals crawling off to die. Which is what trailer parks remind me of whenever I drive by one. They’re not dead ends for broken dreams, there are many families that do well. It’s my own memories that create the image that I see whenever I pass by one.

The trailer park we lived in, the ‘Western Spur’, was truly the last refuge of broken dreams and wasted lives. I didn’t like it, but children can adapt, and I was able to make some friends, or make up others when the few other kids like me weren’t around. Being the youngest meant that I was always the last one to be able to do anything if I was in a group. That was, I think, what made me value time alone. I didn’t have to wait, and I didn’t have to do what the bigger kids wanted to.

I could go at my own pace, explore what interested me, and not what someone else decided was the thing to go do. It was kind of how mom and dad were after the scary man came by. They quit seeing friends, except for Uncle Soap, and kept the curtains pulled so there wasn’t any way to look outside. They still put me out to play, but it wasn’t the same. Most of the other kids had moved away, or were now in school, so there was no one to play with and I wasn’t enrolled in kindergarten. So that meant I spent most of my home time alone outdoors.

My days were of being pushed outside when my parents woke up, being given money to go to the little general store at the entrance of the park, buy a snack for lunch, and then stay outside until the afternoon, when mom and dad let me back in to play in the house, eat dinner, watch TV, and then go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.

This went on, until the day that next spring. Mom and dad dropped me off at Uncle Soap’s. I don’t know if it’s me looking back and trying to put some prescient thought into that day in my mind, or I did actually pick up that my parents were more excited than usual for a camping weekend.

Saying Goodbye – Part 3

Mom and Dad started going out camping together. Both came back happy. Both gave me attention that made me happy. It was exciting. Neither of them were fighting any more. The bad old days had disappeared with the visit by the scary man. I got things. Toys. Clothes. Not just new clothes, but new clothes so stiff they itched me. They had funny tags on them. The food was sweeter, and more of everything.

Mom and Dad would go out camping a lot over the next year, according to Uncle Soap. He would take care of me while they were away on the weekends. Uncle Soap was a short, round man with white wisps of hair making him look like the character from the back to the future cartoons, only not quite as tall or skinny. He was always talking to himself. All day long he would mutter about rain, about warming, about trash overload, and people overload. I think he was a researcher of some kind.

His apartment was more cluttered than mom and dad’s, only, it was paper. Paper was everywhere. News papers stacked nearest the door. Sometimes they would be a whole stack, other days almost nothing. In the small living room, there were so many stacks of paper that it was a maze. Uncle Soap had paths to the TV, to the kitchen, to his old yellow sofa he slept on, to the bathroom, to the faded blue easy chair with a brown stain where I threw up when I was sick once, and to a locked door at the very back of the house that he never opened while I was there with him.

Uncle Soap was a good man. I liked going to see him. He was never cross or angry at me, and he never hit me about anything. He answered any questions I had about anything. He always watched out for me. The attention was so much that it was smothering on some days. I’d go hide near the faded blue easy chair in a small square of empty space just behind it, and look at the papers, imagining tall white buildings that things went on in like a person making a stamp like mom did, and stamping out comics.