Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday Regards to a Butthead and Writer of Books

Butthead. Not such a nice word. Not the kind of thing you want to be called.

And yet I was called it, on my birthday when I was feeling kind of low, feeling old and worn out and used up. Feeling about as middle aged as a great hunking chunk of cheese that’s turned a bit moldy.

Yet when I saw the Facebook post, “Happy birthday, Butthead,” I smiled. Not only that, I giggled in a most juvenile way, causing my tense muscles and gritted teeth to relax for the first time in a very long while.

Being called “butthead” by a high school friend I haven’t seen in twenty years made me feel more myself than I’d felt in a long time. It reminded me of a time when I did not take things so seriously.

In my heyday I was known as a butthead, a goofball, a veritable pain in the “you know what”.

In truth, I was a lot of fun.

Twenty plus years later I’m a lot of things, but fun isn’t at the top of the list. Not like it once was. Not like I’d like it to be.

I miss laughing so hard my sides hurt. I miss the sheer luxury of being silly and confident and hopeful all at once. I miss not worrying about the future; where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing.

As a child I possessed an unshakable certitude that I would grow to be a writer of books. It was all I needed to know about the future. I’d write the best books ever written, be rich and famous, and a frequent guest on the David Letterman show.

This was my child’s idea of being a writer.

I’ve since learned what being a writer means: years spent crafting a vision only you know or see or believe in, years laboring unceremoniously under the blasphemous delusion that your story might actually be of value to the world.

Straining and striving and writing and rewriting only to rewrite some more. Pushing and pushing even when my confidence wanes, even when my efforts begin to seem foolhardy.

Coming up for air for brief periods to look around and wonder what being a writer has cost me as a wife, a mother, a friend? As a person?

Wondering if I am still myself.

Now, thanks to my friend’s birthday message, I can answer this question without any doubt. Even if I’m not as much fun as I used to be, I haven’t veered too far off course.

I am a butthead and a writer of books.

And all is well with the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Introducing the Duanes and The Dead Cow Winch

Excerpt from my book ROOTED:

Grover McQuiston stood on the front porch pleased with the clear sky and early morning sun. The day would be full of preparation and he expected the weather to do its part to assist.

Bug Patter was around back unloading the chairs for the viewing. The casket would be arriving shortly. The boy had done a decent job with Eleanor, proving all the more that he was Matthew’s son.

But he didn’t want to think about Matthew, or of Slade’s mother. The two were as dead and buried in his mind and heart as his wife soon would be.

Grover’s thoughts were interrupted by the familiar and unwelcome sound of a truck racing up the drive. The low grumble of dual exhausts and the unmistakably loud music of Bocephus invaded and conquered the morning silence. The black Ford was a beast with blackened windows, thirty three inch tires and four inch lift. The truck whipped into the yard and through the grass until Grover was certain it would climb right over Lucy. But the truck stopped short and the occupants emerged.

Grover said, “The Duanes,” then pressed his lips together tightly, his eyes narrowed.

Myrna’s husband, Duane, and son, Duane Jr., were unaware of their audience as they helped themselves to beer from the cooler in the back of the truck. Can in hand, they drank while Hank Jr.’s voice sang,

If I get stoned and sing all night long

It’s a family tradition…

The Duanes guzzled and then tossed the empty, crushed beer cans into the back of the truck. Additional beer was immediately retrieved from the cooler. The cans made an audible popping sound as the tabs were pulled.

Grover stepped to the railing and shouted, “Turn that music off!”

The Duanes had not been keeping an eye out for Grover, and were surprised to discover him on the porch. Fumbling, they quickly tossed their cans into the truck-bed.

“Junior, turn that music off!” The music stopped midway through Grover’s yelling, leaving Grover’s angry voice alone in the early morning.

Stepping off the porch, Grover marched over to Duane. “What do you think you’re doing showing up here making all that racket?” Duane and Junior lowered their heads as Grover continued. “In case you haven’t heard, Miss Eleanor has passed.”

Duane glanced up at Grover. “Oh no, Myrna told us about Miss Eleanor yesterday.”

“Of course she did, you idiot,” Grover exploded. “Eleanor was her mother.”

The Duanes mumbled, “Yes, sir.”

“Alright, then. I’ve got a job for you two. You bring those shovels like I said?”

Duane nodded proudly and pointed to the back of the truck. “Got two in the back.” Grover looked into the back of the truck and saw the shovels, and the crushed beers cans.

Leaning into Duane’s beefy face, Grover studied him through narrowed, suspicious eyes. “You been drinking?” Duane looked down at his shoes and shook his head emphatically. “No, sir.” Despite Duane’s denial, Grover continued to glare.

“You’re lying.”

Junior fidgeted uneasily as he waited for Grover to get to him, which he immediately did. “And you, you’re as drunk and as useless as your father.”

Junior nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, sir.”

Grover stepped back and looked around for a second. His hard eyes fell on Lucy. “You got a chain?”

Junior saw that Grover was looking at Lucy and he brightened up. “Got a chain, and this here winch.” He ran around to the front of the truck to show off his wench. “We gonna pull her? Huh?” Excitement filled his muscular body.

Grover studied Junior suspiciously and then grudgingly inspected the winch’s cable.

“It’s a nine thousand pounder,” Junior offered proudly. “Pull anything you got, including that dead cow.”

Grover glared at Junior. Duane hurried forward to run interference for his one and only son. “What you need us to do, Grover? We’re here to help.”

Grover looked down disapprovingly at Duane’s bloated beer belly. “Looks like you’ve already helped yourself to plenty.” Duane lowered his head in shame.

Grover placed his hands on his hips, looked from the truck to Lucy, and then back to the truck. The Duanes stood out of the way, eager for Grover to finish with them.

“You say this winch will pull her?”

Duane nodded as Junior said, “Yes sir.”

Grover thought for another second. “And it won’t hurt her?”

Duane and Junior shook their heads and said, “No, sir,” in unison.

Grover appeared to have a hard time accepting this as fact. He put his hand on the winch and tugged at the cable. Finally, he said, “All right. First off, I want you two to pull Miss Lucy back behind the barn. I was supposed to have a front-end loader out here the past two days, but it hasn’t come. You’ll bury her back there behind the barn.”

Junior’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “I been wantin’ to try that winch out!”

Grover’s stern look stripped all joy from Junior. “This is not fun and games, boy. Show some respect.” Junior lowered his head and apologized once again, but Grover could still sense his excitement. “And there better not be any mishaps. Do I make myself clear?” The Duanes nodded.

“When you finish,” Grover continued, “you two can start on Miss Eleanor’s grave.”

With that, the Duanes jaws dropped. Any excitement they may have felt quickly evaporated. They stole a glance at each other, each as horrified as the other.

Duane said, “I ain’t never dug no grave before.”

“Well, it’s not rocket science. You dig down six feet deep, and go maybe four or five feet wide. That’ll be plenty for the casket.”

“B…b…but…,” Duane stuttered nervously. He looked to Junior for some backup, but Junior had tangled enough with Grover for one day.

“B…b…but nothing,” Grover answered. “Let me know when you get Lucy buried around the barn. I’ll take you out to the family cemetery and show you where I want the grave. Now get going, we don’t have all day. There’s going to be a lot of people here this afternoon, and I don’t want Lucy lying in the yard.”

The Duanes said, “Yes sir.”

Click here to read more excerpts from Rooted