500 Words on Grunge

Courtesy Easybranches

When I was growing up, and going through some bullying and shunning in junior high, grunge was on the rise. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden… these names were surging through the airwaves, videos playing on MTV, the sound was all around. For my part, I listened, but I found it difficult to really interface with the content of the songs. I was much more engaged by faster-paced acts like Green Day and the Offspring. I wasn’t quite ready to fully examine the meaning and thrust of grunge; the more obvious punkish sounds underscored my unexpressed frustrations and anger. It felt, at the time, more cathartic. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Since moving to Seattle, and especially in the last year, many of these bands and their music have come back into my life, and I find myself having a newfound appreciation for their messages and meanings.

Chris Cornell’s sudden and inexplicable death struck a melancholy chord deep within me. I feel that I missed some great opportunities. The more I listen to Soundgarden, Audioslave, and his side projects and solo work, the more I can see parts of myself and my inner struggles in what Chris conveyed in his words and his singular voice. I find myself in another situation where I feel I didn’t appreciate the influence and power of someone enough until they were gone from my life; now, I can’t deny a desire to say and do so much more, to this person and on their behalf, because they made the world, and my life, better for their presence; both are now the poorer for their absence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve handled my head weasels and the ways in which I’ve been pushed around by my errant thoughts and rampant emotions. While it’s good to know I’m not alone in this, it also breaks my heart at times — why would a thinking, feeling human being wish these things upon another? When I listen to grunge with the ears I have now, I find myself understanding the music and its motivations so much more, and wishing peace for those who feel the same, from the artists to their fans.

Mental illness is not something to be taken lightly. Even when things seem ‘okay’, the victim may simply be projecting an illusion of normality. Worse, something may appear out of nowhere to tip the scales into disaster — one unanticipated phone call, one bit of bad news, one pill too many. When these are conveyed to us, in speech or in song, we cannot take it lightly; we owe it to those we love to imagine them complexly, and offer love and support whenever we can.

We have the music of the artists who’ve left us; we have the good memories of the loved ones we’ve lost. There have been so many casualties — Kurt, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Ian Curtis, and now Chris — but we can hear them, and we can remember.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Bloody Streets Sample Chapter

I’ve been getting more and more mental momentum to get more writing done. I’m planning updates to my Patreon page. I’ve been carving out time for both Monday storytelling/art-making posts here and forward progress on my longer novel project and revising my shorter novella, the sequel to Cold Iron. Titled Bloody Streets, I’ve had a “final draft” sitting collecting metaphorical dust for a few years, now. Revisiting the draft, it’s clear to me that, while it might have been “final” back then, it certainly isn’t ready for consumption quite yet. It’s close, but it needs a bit more work. Still, I think it’s going to be a good follow-up to Cold Iron. You can read that novella by picking it up from Amazon or other sources (for now), and as for the sequel… well, here’s the first chapter. Enjoy.


Church of Saint Mary the Redeemer, Green Street and 5th, Philadelphia

July 1st, 2020, 12:21 am

Murdered nuns. Not something you see every day.

Morgan Everson had left her coffee in the car. The scent of it was unlikely to help her nausea.

Cops from other precincts kept onlookers from walking by, too far to get a good shot on any phone or tablet cameras.  The wind was coming at Morgan from behind, meaning the street was being spared the smell of death. In front of her, Doctor Leminovsky knelt by the scene, latex-gloved hands gingerly pulled dark fabric away from one of the slain nuns.

“Never seen someone have quite so violent a crisis of faith.”

“We sure it’s a someone, Lem? Not some animal?”

“I just got off the phone with Bowman.” Next to Morgan, Seth Fasil tucked his phone into his pants pocket. “All of the zoo’s animals are accounted for, and no domestic animals in this area are bigger than a bull terrier.”

“There’s no way a pit bull did this, not even an abused or rabid one.” Lem sighed and shook her head. “I’ve never seen a weapon in human hands do something like this, either. Even axe murderers leave cleaner wounds than these. It’s like they mauled by a big cat, or maybe gored by a bull. Ever seen what happens to a bullfighter who isn’t that good at his job? It’s not a pretty sight.”

“Neither is this.” Morgan moved the circle of her flashlight over the bodies. “Any other evidence of big animals?”

“Last rain was a week ago. We’ll be lucky to get many paw prints around here.” Seth was looking, in spite of his observation, his own flashlight prowling through the grass. That was Seth in a nutshell: aware of the problems but unwilling to give up. It was clear he hadn’t lost a bit of his cop instincts. The angry scar on Seth’s neck, just above his collarbone, reminded Morgan of Seth’s reason for joining the city’s Special Homicide division in the first place, and the means by which he’d come to their attention.

“It could have been an animal.” Lem rubbed her forehead on her wrist, away from the latex. “But without tracks or other evidence, I won’t be able to tell you much.”

“The animal theory does have another hole in it.” Seth’s voice was lower than usual. Morgan turned to look at him, and her eyes followed the beam of his flashlight. On the stone wall of the church, red letters stood out even as the blood used to paint them ran in rivulets down grooves of mortar.

LIAR

Morgan glanced over her shoulder, making sure any onlookers were still out of range or sight of the message. She approached, tying her auburn hair behind her head before pulling on gloves of her own. Seth produced a small evidence vial and a cotton swab from the kit he’d brought to the scene, and Morgan slid the swab against the blood. Sealing it in the vial, she walked back over to Lem.

“Probably a match for one of the victims.”

“I’ll be sure to let you know.” Lem dropped the vial in her bag and shook her head again. “I don’t know, guys. Something stinks about this other than the entrails.”

The medical examiner waved over her assistant, who carried the body bags. Morgan removed her gloves and walked back over to Seth. They were out of earshot of most of the collected professionals in the courtyard, but Morgan looked over both of her shoulders, just to be certain, before she spoke.

“Are we thinking wolves?”

Despite her circumspection, she still went for the abbreviated term for the most obvious suspect, rather than actually using the entire word ‘werewolves’. Seth frowned, just a bit, not wanting to give away what they were discussing to any onlookers. He didn’t look at Morgan. He’d taken a photo of the word on the wall, and was examining it on the screen of his phone.

“They’re usually pretty quiet. We’ve had an actual case with them… what, once, since I came on board?”

Morgan nodded, looking around again and brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes.

“And that was due to some greenhorn bloodsuckers deciding to take a joyride across the bridge. There’s a reason vampires aren’t welcome in Camden, and why we avoid it like the plague. If that pedestrian hadn’t been involved…”

“Isn’t Camden technically out of our jurisdiction?”

“We’re Special Homicide, Seth… anything around here that goes bump in the night is our jurisdiction.”

“And last time, they brought the perpetrator to us, before we’d even saddled up to cross the bridge ourselves.” Seth flipped back through his notebook. “There was a note tacked to the guy, from someone named ‘Pickett’. Asked us not to cross the bridge, either.”

Morgan frowned. “I wouldn’t count on them being that helpful twice. Not if this was some sort of hit or message.”

Seth nodded, then frowned for a moment as his fingers swiped at the screen of his phone.

“Any other problems with that thing?” Morgan let a change of subject take her mind off of the scene.

“I think I’m getting the hang of it.” He turned the device over in his hand. “Still hard to believe I’m basically holding a personal computer. Did you know portable phones used to be the size of bricks, and computers once filled entire rooms or floors, constantly monitored by dweebs in sweaters?”

“I think it was mentioned in school once or twice.”

Seth shook his head. “Technology marches on.” He tucked the phone into his jacket. He’d left the leather in his Firebird and was wearing a more stately if somewhat dated blazer on the job. Morgan smiled. So far Seth’s clothing seemed to be coming from thrift sources and other second hand sources. She reminded herself that she wanted to take her partner shopping. Just because he was essentially from the 1980s didn’t mean he had to dress like it.

Producing her own phone, Morgan took one more shot of the victims as Lem and her assistant began to close the body bags. Once the photo appeared, Morgan sent it to Neil Parkhurst, who would feed the photos into their secure datacore and dig up more information on his end. As the phone processed the images, she looked up at Seth, who was standing by the fence that separated the grassy courtyard of the church and its attached living quarters from the street. He was studying the fence, examining the metal closely.

“If it works the way I think it does, we can definitely rule out certain parties.”

Morgan nodded. The church was old, and the fence had never been replaced. The less iron was worked by human hands and methods, the closer it was to pure, or ‘cold’ iron, which Morgan had learned was repulsive to vampires. Myths of vampires being unable to walk on holy ground were likely tied to the presence of cold iron fences and gates. The savagery of this new murder was not beyond them, but looking at the wrought iron that bound the courtyard within the confines of the church around it, Morgan felt more and more that the fence had been vaulted by something even more savage, even more unhinged; something worse than a vampire.

They continued to work the scene. They marked and photographed the patches of blood and gore strewn around the courtyard. Seth kept searching for abnormal footprints, and Morgan scoured the bushes for bits of fabric or any other evidence. What little they found was bagged, labeled, and taken back to the district house. Neil’s skills at evidence analysis kept anything related to vampires from going to other CSUs, and thus limited the number of people aware of the creatures. If there was one thing on which Morgan agreed with the likes of Bethany Engelherz, it was the fact that people would not take wide-spread news of actual vampires roaming around terribly well, let alone werewolves. The cover story protecting Marshall Thorne, CEO of Comcast and the local Baron, said he had an atypical blood-borne condition that kept him on a nocturnal schedule. Others reported the condition, to try and transition into their night lives, but sooner or later, one of them would run afoul of Morgan and Seth. And then after that…

“I think we’re done here. Let’s go talk to the priest.”

Morgan looked up, unaware that she’d been daydreaming. Well, nightdreaming if you wanted to be technical about it. She followed Seth into the church. It was solid stone, showing weathering here and there, but there was something implacable about the building. The sanctuary had a high, vaulted ceiling, complete with stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and statuary in the corners, each one holding a different angel. Morgan didn’t go to church that often, but this was an impressive one, and as intimidating as it was in its size and eerie as the echoes were within its cavernous space, she felt a little more at peace within it.

The priest was in a small room behind the front of the sanctuary, beyond a tiny dressing area where several robes hung in a closet to one side. Dressed in a black shirt with a priest’s collar and faded jeans, he talked animatedly into a phone as Seth and Morgan walked in. Morgan knew enough that the man was speaking Italian, and using a very formal and roundabout way of addressing people, but other than that she quickly got lost. She kept telling herself she’d be brushing up her language skills, but somehow she never quite found the time.

Seth put his hands in his pockets as the priest wrapped up his call. Morgan had noted, on a previous investigation into a couple young vampires gone AWOL, that Seth could assume that nominally casual pose and still look intimidating. Maybe it was the way the gold flecks in his jade-green eyes reflected the light, or maybe it was just an effect he had on vampires who knew of him and what he had done to a member of their secret police.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Detectives. I’m Father Michael Jacobson.”

Morgan shook his hand. “I’m Morgan Everson, this is Seth Fasil. We’re sorry for your loss.”

“Not as sorry as I am. Sisters Florence and Gwendolyn were very active in our outreach to the homeless. Two fewer sisters ministering to the poor and neglected means more people will drift without assistance.”

Seth produced a small notebook and clicked his pen. Morgan had to smile a little. All the years of innovation since he’d last been a cop, and he insisted on doing things the old-fashioned way. “Let’s start right there. Do you know of anyone among the homeless who would want to hurt either of the sisters?”

“I didn’t know many personally, I’m sorry to say. I do know that those I did speak to held them in high regard.”

“Could we get the names of the ones you spoken to?” Morgan felt her phone vibrating in her pocket. It was the third time that night, and like before, she ignored it. “It would really help us.”

“Of course.” The priest began listing names and basic descriptions of several destitute people, as well as his numbers for the church and his cell phone. Seth diligently got it down on paper. Morgan took the opportunity to check her phone. The first voice mail was from last night’s date. The second, a message from her mother. The last one was from Bethany Engelherz.

If there was one person on the face of the planet Morgan didn’t want to talk to, it was Bethany. On a basic level, dealing with powerful vampires felt like spending time in a tiger paddock with a fresh, raw steak around your neck. Even if they weren’t interested in eating you right then, they still wanted to get a piece of you. Bethany, in particular, was a thorny issue for Morgan. Not only was she powerful, and an attorney on top of it, Bethany’s actions in sparing Morgan and Neil from a vicious if ill-advised vampire attack meant that Bethany felt entitled to call on Morgan whenever it suited her. Normally, it was to check on the status of cases in progress. But they’d wrapped their last fang case two nights ago. What was she on about now?

With nothing to say to last night’s date, Morgan decided to let the attorney wait, and stepped out to return her mother’s call, rather than listening to the voice mail.

“Morgan? I’m sorry to call so late, did I wake you?”

“No, Mom, I’m working.” Morgan’s mother knew that homicide detectives worked all hours of the day and night. She didn’t know Morgan worked with denizens of the night almost exclusively. The existence of vampires was not a widespread fact, and both the vampires and mortal authorities tried to keep it that way, to avoid panic. “What’s going on?”

“I thought you should know your father’s here.”

Morgan’s blood turned to ice and then immediately boiled before freezing again. “When?”

“Just a half-hour ago. He said they kept moving his flight around.”

Bullshit. “Can I talk to him?”

“Sure, sweetie.” There was hesitation in the elder Everson’s voice. She knew there was tension between father and daughter, but had never imposed upon the situation. “Here he is.”

Morgan waited, perhaps a heartbeat or two, before the voice of a man with millions of miles under his feet and more than a few encounters with cigars and booze in his throat came on the line. “Hello, Morgan.”

“Hi, Dad.” She swallowed. “Moved your flights around, huh?”

“Something like that.” There was a pause, and then his voice became distant. “Diana, can you get me a glass of wine? Whatever you have in the house is fine.”

He’s sending her out of the room. She waited. She hated waiting for her father to speak to her alone. It never ended well.

“You know I can’t talk shop with your mother in the room.”

“Why are you here, Dad?” She got right to business. Other children or family members might doubt Charles Everson’s involvement with shady corporations or government agencies as a security consultant, but Morgan knew better. She had access to his criminal records. A friend at Interpol had helped her fill in a lot of blanks, a lot of days and weeks unaccounted for, a lot of missing, silent years.

“I’m here because you’re in danger.”

That, Morgan scoffed at. “I can take care of myself.”

“I don’t doubt it, Morgan, but I’m here all the same. I take it your mother doesn’t know who you really go after at one in the morning.”

What? No. No way. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Deniability. I’ve taught you well.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I learned how to be discreet all on my own. It’s easy when you don’t have family to talk to.”

He paused. “Morgan, I didn’t come here to pick a fight with you. I can be in Philadelphia first thing in the morning.”

“Don’t bother. I’ve got things under control here. Worry about Mom. She hasn’t seen you in over a year and she’s been a mess since Mark died.”

“I know. I’ll stay here as long as I can. But I’ll keep an ear out for…”

“No, Dad. Just… just stay there. Take care of Mom. She needs you, even if she won’t admit it.”

“Redirecting on me, Morgan? I guess I deserve that.” She listened to him take a deep breath. He wanted to say more. “Look, just know I’m here, all right? Call if you need me.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” She took the phone away from her ear and ended the call without looking at it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Is Mark the name of last night’s beau?”

She jumped, turning to find Seth at the top of the stone stairs outside the church entrance. Morgan had walked down them while talking to her father. She looked down at her phone.

“No. His name was Leonard. And he works way too much.”

“You’d have that in common.” Morgan’s head snapped up, scaring away Seth’s smile and bringing concern to his eyes. “Come on, I’m kidding.”

“I…  Mark was my step-dad.  My mother filed for divorce when I was about ten. My dad wasn’t home that often, and…”

Seth blinked slowly. “I understand, you don’t have to say any more. I’m sorry for your loss.”

She smiled a little. “Thank you. It was six months ago, but Mom is still pretty wrecked over it.”

“Hey, if you want to call it a night, I’m fine with that. This is heavy stuff in and of itself, and we just wrapped the case with that vamp from Portland, you had a bad date last night…”

“It’s ‘heavy’, is it? Does that make it hard to hold?”

Seth gave her a look that wasn’t entirely pleasant. She couldn’t help but smile.

“Still a man of the 80’s, after all.”

“Next thing I know, you’ll be reminding me that we’re not at war with the Russians.”

“You’re the one who gave the stink-eye to the guy running that hot dog stand, not me.”

“I know Siberian prison tattoos when I see them.”

“That doesn’t automatically make him the enemy, Seth!”

“No, but it does make him suspicious.” He sipped his coffee casually, and Morgan held up her hand and turned away, trying to hide her widening smile.

“I think I’ll take you up on your offer. I need to sort some things out at home.”

“Good. Take your mind off of the case a bit. We’ll catch up tomorrow.”

She nodded. “Thanks, Seth.”

“Hey, it’s what partners do. Just get home safely.”

Morgan left the scene, and as she drove home, her thoughts was less with the dead nuns outside of the Redeemer and more with her father reappearing after years off of her radar. Once she got home, Morgan headed into her apartment, cracked open a fresh can of food for Nike, and unlocked the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet next to her desk.

Rather than keep data on her father digitally, she maintained hard copies of photos, articles, and snippets from files she had acquired one way or another. As much as her friend at Interpol and the occasional delve into her mother’s basement had helped her figure out places Charles Everson had been over the years, what he did day to day still eluded her. What he had said to her now begged the question: did his globe-trotting and mysterious ‘consultation’ profession have something to do with vampires, or something else that went bump in the night?

She spent more than an hour poring over the file, the Siamese cat occasionally making a plea for attention. Finally, when she could barely keep her eyes open, she wandered towards bed, Nike directly behind her, curling up beside her human as the detective drifted off into a fitful sleep.

500 Words From Heinlein

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

I lie. Not all 500 of these words come to you from the pen of Robert A. Heinlein. But most of them will. Mostly because, after several years, I once again picked up (or, in this case, began listening to) The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, a seminal book of my early teen years and the one that pushed me towards this writing business in which I engage.

… I have this one nasty habit. Makes me hard to live with. I write …

At the moment, writing is not my primary profession. But it’s always there. In the back of my mind, a prodding need persists. I’m a storyteller. I have to tell stories. It’s a basic imperative, like my need to eat and breathe and gallivant as urbanely, responsibly, and respectfully as possible. Those things cost, and writing, at least in the stage I linger at, does not pay.

… writing is a legal way of avoiding work without actually stealing and one that doesn’t take any talent or training.

I’m in a perpetual state of “I’m working on it,” with a few projects. I am, hopefully, in a place where I can carve out more time to do it. And none too soon, because it’s really started to bug me.

… writing is antisocial. It’s as solitary as masturbation. Disturb a writer when he is in the throes of creation and he is likely to turn and bite right to the bone … and not even know that he’s doing it. As writers’ wives and husbands often learn to their horror …

I of course am not so ignorant as to blame my writing for the skeletons hanging in my closet. My mental illness and prior emotional instability were the impetus for several bad decisions, but as any storyteller would tell you, a good character becomes aware of their shortcomings, and seeks to overcome them. So it is with me. And yet, if writing is a shortcoming, I do not seek to overcome it.

In a household with more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears …

If nothing else, writing is a way for me to express my emotions in a safe environment. The lines of journals become a padded room. And as plotlines and characters take shape and grow over the course of my writing, parts of myself and my experiences and emotions flow into them. I have professional therapists — and a battery of medications and vitamins — but my pen, perhaps, is the best tool for how I continue to get better.

Besides…

There is no way to stop. Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary … because it hurts less to write than it does not to write.

Indeed.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Delta-V: Furious Egress

Courtesy Frontier

The interior of a station access corridor resembles a telescope when seen from within; for Jason Frimantle, it gave the promise of freedom.

As a boy, he’d looked up at the inner surface of the Ackerman’s Market hub and its traffic with wonder, his head full of dreams. Once he was old enough, his father had entrusted him as an extra pair of hands aboard the Frimantle’s family freighter. Recently, he’d been given permission to run a few missions of his own in his grandfather’s Sidewinder, the same ship that had established the Frimantles as reliable and efficient traders in the Eravate system and several of its neighbors.

He stood alone in the control tower of one of the Market’s many landing pads, gazing at the familiar habitats and conveyance ways, blue eyes focusing on the bright fields dividing the hub from the blackness of space beyond. When he took in that sight, as the sovereign young man he was becoming, he did so with hope, and more than a little impatience. The need to exit Federation space and avoid its stations after said egress was becoming an itch under his skin.

He went down from the civilian observation area of the tower to the hangar below. Perched under the lights was an Adder, its cobalt blue hull shining in the overhead lights. It was freshly washed, fueled, and its stock equipment had been replaced with everything Jason needed. The plates declared its registration code, and the name Jason had given it: Wayfarer. With the Civil War having calmed down, and interdiction rates at an all-time low, Jason knew it was time for him to leave. He tugged at the collar of his somewhat weatherbeaten flight jacket, a relic of his grandfather’s time with the Federation Navy, and was about to climb aboard his new ship when he heard the door open behind him.

An unctuous and preening man in a suit about a size too large ambled towards Jason with a big smile. “Ah, young master Frimantle! I thought I’d find you in the Trader’s Lounge. I bring good news! We’re all set.”

Jason took the tablet from the man’s outstretched hand and gazed at its screen. It did, in fact, lay out all of the payment information for the Wayfarer behind him. It included the sale price he’d gotten for the old Frimantle Sidewinder, which tugged at one of Jason’s heartstrings, just a little. But it was a small discordant note in the growing feeling within him, like an orchestra tuning up.

“Are you sure I can’t interest you in a Cobra Mk III? It’s one of our best sellers!”

Jason smiled and shook his head. “For the last time, Mister Cornwall, no thank you. I have a long journey ahead of me, and the more credits I hold onto for that journey, the better. Besides —” Here Jason’s smile became knowing, his tone chiding. “— you and I both know there are no refunds on customizations like paint jobs and name plates.”

Abashed, Cornwall tugged at his mustache, a tick Jason recognized as his unconscious “I’ve been caught red-handed” expression. “Now, now, no reason I can’t make an exception there, my boy. Your old Sidewinder is in excellent condition; I’m sure I can extend a line of credit. I’m always willing to work out a deal! Remember, once you’re a Cornwall customer, you’re a customer for life!”

Jason stopped smiling. That my boy made him bristle, and the idea of being tied to Ackerman’s after today was too much. “My life isn’t going to be here, Mister Cornwall. Or anywhere near your dealership.” He pressed his thumb to the marked square on the tablet, and it chirped, indicating the finalization of the sale. “Thank you. I’m sure you’ll find that Sidewinder a good home.”

Cornwall’s frustration at a loss of potential revenue seeped past his genial expression, which suddenly froze on his whiskered face when he looked past Jason as another door opened behind him. “Well… ah… excuse me, master Frimantle, I have to finalize the transfers. Nice doing business with you!” The little salesman scuttled off. Jason didn’t turn around.

“I hope you have a damn good explanation for this.”

Jason shrugged. The irritated voice of his father no longer had the terrifying effect on his guts it used to. Now it just served as one more obstacle to overcome before he left this place forever.

“I do. I’m leaving.”

“The hell you are, boy. Your place is here. Just like mine is, just like your Pappy’s was. Why’d you have to go and sell his Sidewinder? It’s a better ship than this…” His father’s voice trailed off, as if he was searching for the right way to trash-talk the Adder, which was smaller, faster, and definitely prettier than the beat-up Type-7 his father used.

Jason didn’t let his father finish. Instead, he turned.

“Is it better because of the tracking device you had installed in it?”

Joseph Frimantle, his hair going more gray by the day, frowned. It exacerbated the worry lines on his face.

“You taking that tone with me over something I used to keep you safe?”

“It kept me on a leash, Dad. That’s all it ever did.”

“What if you’d run outta fuel out there? Huh? Or how about if you got jumped by pirates?”

“Then I’d be dead.” Or I’d call the Fuel Rats. Jason didn’t want to mention that aloud; his father’s opinion on the altruistic organization usually involved words like ‘socialist scumbags,’ ‘hippy nonsense,’ and more than a few expletives. “I don’t see how you knowing my every movement outside of this station kept me ‘safe’.”

“You’ll understand when you have kids of your own, son. Now, come on, let’s sell this flashy piece of crap back to Cornwall. I’ve got work to do.”

Jason crossed his arms. “I’m not stopping you. Go do work.”

Joseph blinked. “Now, see here…”

“No.” Jason glared at his father. “This is over, Dad. I’m leaving. I made my own credits, I bought my own ship, and I’m leaving.”

“Oh, is that so? And where is it that you’ll be going in your fancy new ship?”

Jason shrugged. “Away. What do you care?”

“What do I—? I am your father, you overgrown snot, and what I say goes.”

“I’m a licensed, independent commander, and I have no outstanding warrants or fines. I can come and go as I please. Emphasis on go.

“Your mother would be weeping if she were standing here to see you talk to me like this.”

“My mother is dead.”

“She’s turning in her grave, then.”

“She wouldn’t be, if you’d let her get the care she needed.”

“She was just sitting around the house, not lifting a finger to help us at all!”

“She was in pain, Dad, every single day, and the fact that the doctors we could afford couldn’t help her wasn’t her fault. And did you think the dishes washed themselves? Or that prepared meals just emerged from the oven at your whim? You’re really dumb if you think all Mom did was sit idle all day.”

“Don’t you dare call me stupid, boy.”

“Oh, I dare.” Jason’s hands were in ever-tightening fists, and they were just starting to hurt, now. He didn’t care. His voice was a growl. “I dare because you could have paid for better care for her. You could have been here more for her. Hell, if I had then the cash I had now, I would have paid for her medical care, and I’d be taking us both away from you.”

“One more word outta you —”

“Go ahead, Dad. Can’t be worse than you killing her. You son of a bitch. Why didn’t you just shoot her, if you wanted her out of your hair so badly?”

Joseph raised his hand to slap his son. Jason’s arm flashed up, grabbing his father by the wrist, blocking the blow. Shocked, Joseph stared at the young man in front of him.

“You’re never hitting me again, old man.” Jason resisted the urge to twist the wrist in his hand, possibly breaking his father’s arm. There were lines, even now, he refused to cross.

He did tighten his grip, though. Joseph’s eyes began to water. “Let… let go of me.”

Jason did, and stepped back. Joseph kept staring, uncomprehending, gently holding his wrist in his other hand.

“Listen to me. And you listen well. This is the result of your actions. You voted for that blowhard, Zachary Hudson, to be the Federation President. You put up all of those signs, about people paying their own way, and how those who can’t work shouldn’t get ‘handouts’ from the government. You barely lifted a finger when Mom started getting sick. You stayed out on longer and longer runs, and when you came home, drunk and exhausted, you yelled at her to keep the house more tidy and to get a job. And when I started working on my own? You took as much of my profit as you could, putting it who knows where.”

He paused. He waited. Joseph was, in fact, listening. Another discordant note sounded in the young man, but he kept on his tirade.

“When Mom died, I set up a way to have credits automatically deposited in an account of my own before you saw my balance sheets. And I worked a lot. Check that tracking data of yours. I’ve been out as far as GD-219 and Macarthur Terminal. And I earned this.” He pointed at the Adder. “I earned my way out of here, and away from you.”

Joseph blinked away tears. “I loved your mother.” His voice was quieter, now, tired and worn out. “I didn’t want to watch her die.”

“But you could have helped. You could have let me help.” His father’s face took a little of the wind out of his sails. “She needed both of us. All she had was me. And I couldn’t do enough.”

Joseph shook his head. “She used to be so strong. She was making her own way, and she helped make our business become one of the best.”

“She loved you. She honored you. And… you let her down.”

“Okay. Okay. Just… let’s just go home, son. We can talk more when we’re at home. I’ll keep listening. I promise.”

Jason closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “No, Dad. I have to go.”

Joseph frowned again. “You can’t. Jason, you can’t. I’m getting more work requests every day. I can’t be in two places at once.”

Jason shrugged. “I guess that’s because I told everyone I was trading with to contact you. I figured the Frimantle name meant speed and quality of service, and now you’ve got customers far and wide. You’ll be making even more money!”

Joseph’s eyes narrowed. “Then… why are you leaving? You know I can’t do this alone.”

“You know why I’m leaving. And isn’t that your President’s whole thing? Independent businessmen doing business on their own, without handouts or help, ‘personal freedom at any cost’?” Jason spread his arms. “Well, here you go. Plenty of work, no family holding you back, just you and that rattling old rustbucket of a ship. That’s what you voted for, Dad. I’m just making it all happen for you.”

Righteous indignation crept back into the old man’s eyes. “I’ll have your license revoked.”

“By the time you get that paperwork squared away, I’ll be out of Federation jurisdiction. Which means it’ll be a huge waste of your time and money. Go back to your freighter, Dad. Go back to work.” He turned towards the Wayfarer.

“At least take off that jacket. It’s mine.”

Jason looked over his shoulder, one foot on the ramp into his ship. “No, Dad. He said I was a better pilot than you, and that only the best pilots wear jackets like this.” He paused. “Get clear. I don’t want you to get caught in the blast wash when I take off.”

Joseph glared, his hands balled into fists, and turned to leave the hangar. Jason walked into his ship, sealed the ramp, and got his pre-flight checklist completed as quickly as possible, without missing anything. With his flightsuit secured and all systems green, he requested liftoff clearance, and headed for the exit of Ackerman’s Market.

As he cleared the landing lights on the exterior of the station, his comm channel crackled to life.

“Jason! Stop!”

Turning his head, Jason checked his contacts. Sure enough, an old Type-7 freighter had emerged from the station.

“Don’t make me call the Federation Security pilots! I’ll tell them you bought that ship with stolen funds!”

“And when I keep flying away in spite of your cunning ploy?”

“Well then I’ll just shoot your engines out myself, smart-ass!”

“Oh? With what?”

“The guns I got installed by my friend over at Cleve Hub last week! Now turn that ship around!”

“I don’t think you have a single weapon installed on that crate, Dad.”

“You callin’ me a liar?”

Jason cocked his head to one side. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

They had cleared the no fire zone around the station. Jason knew that, given their position, Joseph would feel confident in bringing his weapons online. Jason immediately turned his ship, boosted himself back into range of Ackerman Market. The Type-7 began its slow turn, killing its throttle, and had never left the zone.

The ship automatically switched over to the traffic control channel when the Federation pinged him. “Zorgon Peterson Bravo Lima Uniform, please comply with all Federal regulations —”

“Mayday, mayday, calling Ackerman Control.” He kept his voice calm, but added a hint of urgency, as if he was truly terrified but trying to control it. “This is Zorgon Peterson Bravo Lima Uniform. I am being pursued by a hostile party, their weapons are hot. I am unarmed. Say again, this vessel is unarmed.”

This was true — other than a chaff launcher and point-defense turret, the Adder transport did not have any weapons. Jason had made sure to remove them after he’d bought the ship from Cornwall. They were weight he didn’t need on his trip; once he got where he was going, maybe he’d install something. But, for now, his Harmless status was in his favor.

Federation fighters zipped towards him. He keyed his comm back over to his father’s frequency.

“I think those officers want to have a word with you, Dad.”

“You!” The voice on the other end crackled through the speaker with impotent fury. “You tricked me! You —!”

“Bye, Dad.” Turning off his comm, Jason turned to his map of the galaxy. It was a long way to Lave, but it was out of Federation space, and the trade routes he’d heard of were lucrative, if a bit volatile or dangerous at times.

Nevertheless, he was going. He was putting this system, this station, this family behind him. And he wasn’t looking back.

Courtesy Frontier

Elite Dangerous is a registered trademark of Frontier Developments.

Mondays are for making art.

Tightening Focus

Courtesy cepolina.com - http://www.cepolina.com/camera-focus-spiral.html

Not all bipolar swings are inherently negative. A downward swing towards depression, if examined from an objective standpoint, can be a time for reflection and constructive introversion. Sometimes, one has to distance or disconnect oneself from the usual stimuli of the outside world to take stock, recover strength, and realign thoughts and goals. By the same coin, a upward swing — not necessarily into full hypomania — can be a boom time of great creativity, channeling energy into endeavors that suit one’s goals.

This takes time, practice, the help of a therapist and loved ones, and a good amount of hammering out new pathways in one’s thought processes and emotional self-examination. It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

It also eats up a bunch of spoons.

If you’re not familiar with the Spoon Theory, I expound upon it (and reference its source) here. Most spoonies deal with a purely physical ailment — fibromyalgia, endometriosis, auto-immune diseases, etc. Mental illness can qualify as well — bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, and so on. If you get a flashback, a sting of anxiety, or enter a mixed state, you have to spend time and energy dealing with that state of being before you can move on to something like sleeping, or eating. You spend spoons you’d otherwise spend elsewhere.

It can be easy to realize, in retrospect, that we haven’t taken steps towards reaching our long-term goals. We might even look around us and see all sorts of things that could be addressed, in terms of chores or self-care. I feel that it’s important to keep focus on the fact that our worth is not tied to our productivity, no matter what this modern capitalist dystopia in which we find ourselves might say. We can, and should, find self-worth in who we are and what we cultivate in ourselves and the world around us.

There are two factors that inform the ways in which we contribute to the world around us: willingness and ability. If we have the willingness to contribute, but not the ability — be it because of spoons, money, skills, or other resources — that has worth, in and of itself, and in my opinion, does not get recognized as much as it should. On the flip side, if one has the ability to contribute, but not the willingness… well, that’s a completely different kettle of fish.

In the aftermath of those moments of introspection and personal re-alignment, the next step is to examine what is worthy of focus, and what can be set aside, at least for now. For example: I haven’t spent as much time writing as I have in gaming. I even tried my hand at streaming Hearthstone again over a couple of weekends. The thing is, there are only so many hours in the day and I only have so many spoons. And, let’s be honest, I’m a better writer than I am a gamer. I may get myself to Legend rank in Hearthstone, but I doubt I have the time and bandwidth to both cultivate tournament-level skills in that game and finish the writing projects that may actually achieve my long-term goal of writing novels as my primary means of income.

So it’s time to focus on that, and get the words out, and get this shit done.

For whatever it’s worth, May is Mental Health Month, and as we go through it, I’m going to also take time to reflect on how I’ve been improving over the last few months, what I can bring up in therapy, and how I can continue carving new and healthier neural pathways. I hope these experiences, and my words, prove helpful to you. It can be difficult for me to remember that focusing on myself and the way forward is not selfish, in and of itself; rather, if I do not build myself up, and celebrate myself, the world will be all to happy to tear me down and strip-mine me for useful material the way they have our planet.

But that’s a post for a different day.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

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