Five Movies I’ve Watched in the Last Two Weeks

I decided to do this a little differently.  I’m going to state two reasons to see the movie and one reason that might persuade you otherwise but probably not.  Then, you can decide if you want to watch them if you haven’t already.  Here it goes.

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Into the Woods (2014) is a movie about a baker and his wife (played by James Corden and Emily Blunt) and their quest to have a child of their own.  They set off to find four items requested by the Witch (played by Meryl Streep).  Adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, this musical was written by James Lapine and directed by Rob Marshall.  The characters of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, and Rapunzel are integral parts of the story.  It also stars Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp.  It is rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.  This drama, comedy, adventure runs 2 hours and 5 minutes.

intothewoods

First reason to see it: the musical and singing performances

Second reason to see it: Johnny Depp as the Wolf

One reason maybe to not see it: the dimly lit scenes with the giant

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Last Vegas (2013) is a movie about four friends in ther twilight years and their vacation mishaps and realizations in Las Vegas.  Billy (played by Michael Douglas) invites his friends to join him for his bachelor party he’s hosting for himself.  It’s their last hurrah before they’re in wheelchairs.   It was written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Jon Turtletaub.    It also stars Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, and Michael Ealy.  It is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.  This comedy/drama runs 1 hour and 45 minutes.

lastvegas

First reason to see it: the Las Vegas Strip

Second reason to see it: the performance by Kevin Kline

One reason maybe not to see it: the scene with Redfoo

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Under the Skin (2013) is a movie about a woman searching for answers about who she is on the roads of Scotland.  The woman’s (played by Scarlett Johannson) attractiveness is all the men notice.  It was adapted from a novel by Michel Faber and written by Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer and directed by Jonathan Glazer.  It also stars Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Jeremy McWilliams, Joe Szula, Krystof Hádek, and Scott Dymond.  It is rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.  This drama, horror, and sci-fi runs 1 hour and 48 minutes.

undertheskin

First reason to see it: the ending

Second reason to see it: what happens after her dates get into the van

One reason maybe not to see it: the slow beginning

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Sherlock Gnomes (2018) is a movie about missing gnomes and the determination of Gnomeo and Juliet (voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) to find them with the help of Sherlock Gnomes (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Gnome Watson (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor)  It was written by Ben Zazove with story by Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, and Kathy Greenberg.  The characters were based from Rob Sprackling, Johnny Smith, Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Kelly Ashbury, and Steve Hamilton Shaw.  It was directed by John Stevenson.  It also stars Mary J. Blige, Jame Demetriou, and Kelly Asbury.  It is rated PG for some rude and suggestive humor.  This animation, adventure, and comedy runs 1 hour and 26 minutes.

sherlockgnomes

First reason to see it: the pure silliness of it

Second reason to see it: the character of Moriarty

One reason maybe not to see it: the gnome that doesn’t wear pants

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Alpha (2018) is a movie about a young man named Keda (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) getting separated from his father during the Ice Age on a hunting trip.   It’s about his journey to find his family again in the harsh weather.  It was written by Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt and story by Albert Hughes.  It was directed by Albert Hughes.  It also stars Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Natiassia Malthe, Leonor Varela, and narrated by Morgan Freeman.  It is rated PG-13 for some intense peril.  This adventure, drama, and family runs 1 hour and 36 minutes.

alpha

First reason to see it: the opening scene

Second reason to see it: the special effects during key scenes

One reason maybe not to see it: a part of the end scene

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Netflix Docu-Series Recommendation: Inside the Real Narcos (2018-)

insiderealnarcos

This docu-series doesn’t list the creator, director, or producer(s).  It doesn’t offer much description for what each episode involves except where the location of each.  The fact there aren’t many episodes is the only downfall of this series because I would love to see more.  The three episodes run around 45 minutes long and the main person narrating and speaking is Jason Fox, a former British Special Forces member.  He often refers to the men he meets as blokes and goes into areas with guides that few have gone before, which is deep into the various parts of cartel operations.  Whether he’s in Colombia, Peru, or Mexico, he asks important questions of its members and paints a grim picture for them.  It’s a reality many can’t entertain and yet you get a better understanding of their situations by viewing this.  If your government has abandoned you, then you go to the next best thing that will help.  It’s an eye opener about the barrios, poverty, and cartel violence in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico.

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I rate Inside the Real Narcos PERFECT with Four Fingers and One Thumb at 100%.

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2019

 

Last Day of September Quotes

miltonberle

georgecarlin

emophilips

elberthubbard

muhammadali

earlwilson

willrogers

andyborowitz

thomassewell

samuelgoldwyn

2019

Poem: Maybe, No, Yes

cardesign

Maybe,

the beauty of it is within,

the substance I’ve never seen before,

touched it, tasted it, or felt it brush

against me.

No,

it has not come to me,

the detachment,

a flower ripped

from its roots you can’t see

beneath the soil.

Yes,

the inner strength

deep within the twisting,

the force that plucked it

away from its sisters.

Yes,

the stunted growth,

life for a few days,

a few hours,

in the fresh, clear liquid that pours

freely.

No,

it can’t continue,

the dirty surface masquerading

as clean,

teasing and tearing at the opening,

a thick dotted line.

Maybe,

the charm was never there,

above the horizon I see,

far away,

never getting close enough,

no longer wishing to touch or taste it,

or feel it against my leg.

2019

21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors

I like when writers state the often harsh and brutal reality about writing.  It isn’t glamorous by any means, okay maybe some of it, but little.  It’s hard to contain the personality and emotions involved at times.  Writing is more than quotes and opinions about writing from writers but it sure is fun to read, knowing you’re not the only one who feels this way.  Here are some words about the reality of writing whether you view as wisdom, truth, or opinion put together by Cody Delistraty.  Links to his page and this article are below which showcases the format as intended.

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Even the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more. Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf upon submitting Lolita, which would later go on to sell fifty million copies. Sylvia Plath’s first rejection letter for The Bell Jar read, “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” Gertrude Stein received a cruel rejection letter that mocked her style. Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way earned him a sprawling rejection letter regarding the reasons he should simply give up writing all together. Tim Burton’s first illustrated book, The Giant Zlig, got the thumbs down from Walt Disney Productions, and even Jack Kerouac’s perennial On the Road received a particularly blunt rejection letter that simply read, “I don’t dig this one at all.” So even if you’re an utterly fantastic writer who will be remembered for decades forthcoming, you’ll still most likely receive a large dollop of criticism, rejection, and perhaps even mockery before you get there. Having been through it all these great writers offer some writing tips without pulling punches. After all, if a publishing house is going to tear into your manuscript you might as well be prepared.

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1. The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinallly, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy
3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux
5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee
6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell
8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright
12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser
13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut
14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway
15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk
17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain
18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman
19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde
20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury
21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

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8 Writing Tips from Authors Who Won the Nobel

These writing tips are from the website, http://www.nownovel.com. If you have time, there’s many links below you can click about writing.

Writing tips from authors who won the Nobel

Writing tips from authors who won the Nobel (such as Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) are often worth taking to heart. Read 8 of the best pieces of writing advice from acclaimed authors:

  1. Don’t use dead language

Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. In her Nobel lecture, Morrison contrasts ‘dead language’ that ‘thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential’ with language that is used with awareness and care. She classes sexist and racist language as the former, saying that they are ‘the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.’

Morrison’s words from later in her same speech give us guidance for how not to use dead language in our own writing:

‘Language can never live up to life once and for all. Nor should it. Language can never “pin down” slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.’

What Morrison suggests here is that it is best to approach grand subjects without trying to make the definitive statement, without trying to say ‘everything’. Tell the one true story that matters to you. A story that explores the themes and ideas that matter to you.

This leads to excellent writing advice from another Nobel-winning writer, this time the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska:

  1. Use concrete imagery when you write about large, abstract themes

The Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel for literature in 1996, ran a column giving advice to writers in the Polish newspaper Literary Life. In one great piece of writing advice, Szymborska told an aspiring poet the following (her advice applies to fiction authors too):

‘You’ve managed to squeeze more lofty words into three short poems than most poets manage in a lifetime: ‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’: such words don’t come cheap. Real blood flows in them, which can’t be counterfeited with ink.’

This ties into Morrison’s writing advice. When writing tips from authors who are widely respected overlap, it merits taking especial notice. Grand or historical themes are best conveyed and made into stories by using what is concrete and particular. Instead of describing a character who ‘loves freedom’, for example, describe a character’s actions and experiences that demonstrate this love of freedom. This gives readers a more visual and empathetic reading experience.

  1. Work stories out in your head when you can’t write

The Canadian author Alice Munro, who was given the Nobel for Literature in 2013, has dedicated her writing life almost exclusively to the short story. When asked whether she always plots a story first, Munro says:

‘Usually, I have a lot of acquaintance with the story before I start writing it. When I didn’t have regular time to give to writing, stories would just be working in my head for so long that when I started to write I was deep into them.’

To add to this, you could keep a voice recorder or use the voice note function on a smartphone to record ideas or sentences for your novel as they occur to you. This will help you keep creating even when you have fewer moments to sit down and write.

  1. Read and draw on wide influences but don’t cram your work with others’ ideas

The Nigerian playwright and poet Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel for Literature in 1986, describes his reading habits and how reading influenced his writing in an interview:

‘I’ve read widely in the world’s literature, European, Asiatic, American … In other words, I cannot cut off and will not attempt to cut off what is my experience and what is after all, the world’s experience. There is a great deal of intercommunication in the world. A lot of people tend to forget that. As long as I find the means of expression, a form of communication which does not alienate my immediate readership and I do not deliberately cram my work with foreign references to a point where the work is indigestible — these are faults which should never be permitted by any serious writer.’

It’s true that to write well you need to read widely. And reading diverse books will enrich your own writing. But be selective about what references you consciously include because your novel should ultimately be your own story rather than a patchwork of transparent influences.

  1. Make people believe in your story first and foremost

The Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. The celebrated author of novels such as Cien años de soledad (translated as A Hundred Years of Solitude) was also a journalist. When asked about the difference between journalism and writing fiction, Marquez answered thus:

‘In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.’

This last sentence is key: It doesn’t matter if you write realist fiction set in contemporary London or futuristic sci-fi set in a Mars colony. Create believable characters who have credible motivations and flaws, immersive settings and realistic tensions and conflicts and your fiction will feel believable.

  1. Don’t focus on the end goal excessively as you write

Of all the writing tips from authors, the advice John Steinbeck gave remains some of the best. In the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review (excerpted by The Atlantic here), Steinbeck writes:

‘Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.’

It’s easy to feel either impatient or overwhelmed if you focus only on when your novel will be finished. Focus on the task at hand instead. Write just one page today: it’s one more page than you had yesterday. Then write another page tomorrow (continue this approach and your daily page count will likely increase as you gain momentum).

  1. Make sure you write regularly and inspiration will come

The Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, who published over 30 novels, plays and essays, received the Nobel in 2010. In an interview with the Paris Review, Vargas gives advice on how to keep coming up with writing ideas:

‘If I started to wait for moments of inspiration, I would never finish a book. Inspiration for me comes from a regular effort.’

Keep a writing schedule and be as disciplined as you can about keeping your writing appointments with yourself. This will help ensure a steady stream of story ideas.

  1. Write to connect

The great Canadian-American author Saul Bellow, who published 14 novels and novellas and won the Nobel for writing in 1976, beautifully described the intimacy between the writer and the reader:

‘When you open a novel — and I mean of course the real thing — you enter into a state of intimacy with its writer. You hear a voice or, more significantly, an individual tone under the words … It is more musical than verbal, and it is the characteristic signature of a person, of a soul. Such a writer has power over distraction and fragmentation, and out of distressing unrest, even from the edge of chaos, he [or she] can bring unity and carry us into a state of intransitive attention. People hunger for this.’

Maria Popova of the excellent blog Brain Pickings describes why Bellows’ advice is relevant for today’s writer:

‘How poignant to consider Bellow’s remarks in our age where people seem to “hunger for” cat videos and where the writer’s voice is being increasingly muffled by the “content”-producer’s agenda — and yet, and yet, when we do encounter those ever-rarer “essences” today, those oases of absolute intimacy with another mind, how transcendent our “emotional completeness” then.’

As Bellows and Popova suggest, write to connect with readers. Show them what both you and your characters think and feel and experience. A blockbuster novel needs tension and suspense and the other ingredients of a good story. Yet when you connect with readers and pour your own unique perspective and temperament into your work, you can connect with readers even without an overwrought plot or the world’s greatest writing style.

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15 Grammar Goofs

I’m not one that too often posts other people’s posts directly from their blog or from the Internet, but I thought it why not on a Friday?  I sometimes find people who have never written any kind of story less qualified to tell you how you should write a book.  My inner thoughts, at times, is summed up to something of the following: thanks for all the regurgitation of information I’ve read before.  I’m a person who likes examples instead of telling writers simply “show don’t tell.”  You better include additional information to “your rules” because it won’t help the average writer improve.  This is the way I learn.  As I’ve read more books about writing, I’ve learned some of the authors clearly have not taken the time to write a book.  If they had, they would offer more than outlines.  Not that these aren’t helpful, but I’m in the phase of my writing despite me not publishing a book yet where I’m evolving, more mentally than anything else.  Did that make sense?  I hope so.  The bottom line is I will get there.  Dammit, I will get there.  I plan on devoting most of Saturday and Sunday to rewriting.  I have a feeling my second book idea will be written faster, rewritten faster, and published faster.  Once I get those two out of the way, I will go face first into the next book idea.  I realize this post is more regurgitation concerning my mental craziness so thank you for tolerating this fact.  I also thank the people who recently followed my blog.  I don’t post as often as I’d like so with this is mind, here is the post by Brian Clark.

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15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly [Infographic]

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

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TV Show Review: A.P. Bio (2018-)

Quote from A.P. Bio by Jack Griffin

“So I’m not gonna teach you anything in here, okay?  If you keep your mouth shut, you get an A.  If you say anything to anybody, you get an F.  Welcome to AP Bio.”

apbio

Creator: Michael Patrick O’Brien

Executive Producers: Glenn Howerton, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Michael Shoemaker, Donick Cary, Shelly Gossman, Andrew Singer, Barbara Stoll, Emily Cutler, Luvh Rakhe, and Franco Barrio

Directors: Osmany Rodriguez, Andrew DeYoung, Carrie Brownstein, Maggie Carey, Lynn Shelton, Trent O’Donnell, John Solomon, Payman Benz, Daniel Gray Longino, Julie Anne Robinson, Tristram Shapeero, Jennifer Arnold, Richie Keen, Blake McClure, and Michael Patrick O’Brien

Writers: Britt Matt, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Charlie McCrakin, Zeke Nicholson, Jeff Vanderkruik, Brendan Jennings, Nicole Sun, John Blickstead, Donick Cary, Shelly Gossman, Rob Klein, Trey Kollmer, Emily Cutler, Brian Ashburn, Aseem Batra, Luvh Rakhe, Amy Hubbs, Dan Klein, Paula Pell, and John Solomon

Major Cast: Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin, Nick Peine as Marcus Kasperak, Jacob Houston as Victor Kozlowski, Jean Villapique as Michelle Jones, Allisyn Ashley Arm as Heather, Eddie Leavy as Anthony Lewis, Aparna Brielle as Sarika Sarkar, Patton Oswalt as Ralph Durbin, Lyric Lewis as Stef Duncan, Sari Arambulo as Grace, Mary Sohn as Mary Wagner, Spence Moore II as Dan Decker, Marisa Baram as Marissa, Paula Pell as Helen Henry DeMarcus, Jacob McCarthy as Devin, Tucker Albrizzi as Colin McConnell, Miguel Chavez as Eduardo, and Jacob Timothy Manown as Caleg

TV Rating: TV-13

Running Time: 21 minutes per episode

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This show from what I hear is a watered down version of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  I wouldn’t rate this show one of the best I’ve seen, but it had enough plot and humor.  The plot of A.P. Bio on NBC is simple where Jack Griffin’s ultimate goal is to get out of Ohio.  His high level of narcissism and disinterest in teaching is obvious to the students, but despite his terrible dress, he does have a few redeeming qualities. Over the course of the semester or year as I’m not sure about the span of time, Jack forces his students to help him get revenge on the man who took his job and others who have wronged him in the past.  He teaches his students the harsh realities and hard knocks of life or so he justifies it this way.  The first season Jack is more disgruntled and set on revenge.  The second season he’s figuring out how to use this small Midwestern city for his benefit.  Trouble still follows him around the hallways and yet he sometimes gets to save the day.  My favorite episode so far is when the faculty and staff try to save their funding.  Let’s say this isn’t a show I’m dying to watch when the new season premieres, but I’ll likely watch the third season in 2020.

I rate A.P. Bio GOOD with Three Fingers at 80%.

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2019

 

Not Forgotten Postcards and Cards

I pulled out my stack of postcards and a few cards from way back when I was more interested in collecting them over the weekend.  I eventually will place some of them on some kind of flat surface and hang them on my bedroom wall.  Key word eventually.  I picked the ones that didn’t have blatant copyright signs on the front or back.  As you can see I’ve been interested in photographs, rabbits, quotes, books, movies, humor, art, and music for some time now. 

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Short Story: Ethan Stays

It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story. I’ve been mulling over a few ideas here and there. Starting and stopping a few times on this one and other ones half finished because I was half interested in them.  I finally sat down and just wrote, not putting too much pressure to figure out where it would go or how it would end.  It’s sort of my nod to cooler weather, ghosts, youth, old age, family, and life and death.

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potpourri.jpg

Ethan was seven years of age when he stayed with his grandma at her large house. It was on the last Friday of September when the leaves are well established yellows, oranges, and reds that he, for the first time would be away from him parents’ watchful eyes. He looked forward to being away from his older sister. The whole weekend Ellen wouldn’t pick on him for not understanding her over macaroni and cheese or whatever else she made from a box during her attempt at being a pseudo babysitter.

It was on that Friday his parents seemed a little too eager on the car ride.  His father had scrambled out of the driver’s seat, rushing to where he sat.  He needed no help getting out, but his father helped him anyway.  He practically pulled him from the car.  Ethan had turned back once, that brief moment to see his mom admiring her face in the mirror, as he walked alongside his dad. 

When she realized he was looking at her, she brought her hand up, moving it back and forth.  It looked like a broken mechanical doll repeating the same movement or a weathered looking scarecrow during a storm.

After his dad rang the doorbell, Ethan realized he had to go the bathroom.  They stood on the steps for several minutes until the door opened.His grandma, Dorothy, had recently been using a cane to get around.  Once he was alone with her, he intended to ask her about the origins of it.

“Well, what do we have here?  It’s the dashing duo.”  Ethan looked at his grandma’s red hair in curlers with a clear plastic bag covering them.

“Hi, mom.  Here to drop off Junior.”

“I thought you were coming at six.”

“It’s a quarter past.”

Dorothy looked at her fake gold watch.  “I guess it is.”

“Time stops for no one.”

“You sound like your father.”

“And, how is he?”

“The last time I brought him flowers, he seemed fine.”

By now Ethan was hopping from one foot to the other, which Dorothy noticed although his dad did not.  “You’ve been at my place enough to know where the bathroom is.”

Ethan dropped his bag and ran into the house.

“I’ll be back on Sunday to pick him up, around noon.”

“He might not want to leave.”

“Either way, I’ll be here.”

“Whatever, whenever.”

Ethan Sr. kissed his mom on the forehead and rushed back to his car. 

Ethan heard his parents’ car peel out of the driveway as he put the toilet seat down.  His grandma had one of those ugly covers for it.  This one reminded him of peas or cartoon vomit.  It was a sickly green color.  The rug was the same ugly color and as he washed his hands, he was glad his feet or shoes were not touching it.  His grandma had bought a stool so he could better reach the sink.  He learned to pump two squirts of soap onto his palm and rub his hands together, quite vigorously from her.  He was not sure what she meant by clean hands will help you get ahead in life.

She held her arms out, cane raised, and waited for his hug.  She had a way of smooshing his face against her thigh and no amount of fabric between their flesh stopped her heat from warming his cheeks especially when she patted him on the back.  Each time her palm touched his shirt, the more his cheek changed form.  “Now that you’re no longer dancing like a mad man, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“For starters, you can get your bag so you’re not wearing the same underwear for the duration of your stay.  Your dad put it by the door.”

“Can I sleep in the room he used to sleep in?” Ethan asked, darting off. 

“I thought you liked the room grandpa used to sleep in.” Dorothy said, turning in the direction he went. 

“Not anymore,” he shouted.

“Why not?” she shouted back.

He waited to respond until he returned.  “I don’t know,” he said, knowing well enough why he did not want to sleep there.  Ethan’s grandfather was shaped like a barrel by the time of his passing.  He had been physically fit in his youth and the majority of his adulthood, but he had contracted a debilitating disease that left him in a wheelchair for the last year of his life.  He had been told he did not have much time remaining and made the choice to live it to the fullest, which meant eating everything he had restricted up to that point.  He couldn’t get his fingers on donuts, cupcakes, pies, and cakes fast enough.  He became a sugar junkie as his grandma told him during the funeral.  It was open casket and the first time he had seen a dead body, let alone a fat dead body.

Dorothy looked at his eyebrows bunched up like caterpillars.

“Grandma, you aren’t going to die soon, are you?”

“No.”

“Because grandpa hasn’t been gone that long and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Just because I have a cane now doesn’t mean I’m going to keel over.  Besides, it’s not as if I plan on dying when you’re around.  I’ll make sure you’re nowhere near me when it happens and if you are, I’ll shove you out of the room.”

“This is why I don’t want to sleep in grandpa’s bed.”

“Because you’re afraid I’ll die?”

“I’m afraid I’ll die in there like he did.”

“That’s the best way to go, in your sleep, but you don’t have to worry about that for a very long time.”

“You know that for a fact.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Look in the mirror.”  Dorothy pointed to the mirror hanging on the wall.  “I’m sure we’ll see the same thing.”

Ethan walked to the mirror on the wall.  He studied his face.  There weren’t any wrinkles on it, unlike the ones etched into his grandpa’s living or dead face.  His skin was pale, eyes appeared almost gray, and his nose was slightly crooked from the time he had gotten into a fight with his sister.  She had knocked him down and before he could soften the fall, his face hit the pavement.  He found satisfaction in her punishment.  While she had to sit in her room without music, television, computer, and phone, he got to play video games when all his homework was finished.  Despite this acquired flaw, he looked like a normal child.

“Are you going to tell me what you see?”

“I see me.”

“Describe me.”

“Light brown hair.  It’s shorter now because I got it cut.”

“Tell your mother she can save money by giving you bowl cuts.”

“Stop it, grandma.”

“It’s true.”

“I’m getting better at throwing a football,” he said, putting his finger to his lips. “I’ve been told my feet are big for my age but Ellen told me that.  When I’m older, I’ll be average height.”

“What does everything you said have in common?”

“I don’t know.”

“Take one more look at yourself, from top to bottom.”

“I’m normal looking.”

“What else?

“I guess I’m not as old as you are.”

“Bingo.”

“That doesn’t mean I won’t die in grandpa’s bed.”

“The chances of you dying in his bed are so small it’s not worth thinking about.  I’m sure your mother told you worrying causes premature wrinkles.”

“No.”

“No one likes a worry wart, and you shouldn’t waste any more of your precious breath on this.  There’s nothing special about your grandpa’s bed.  It doesn’t have magical powers and neither does mine.  I’ve never known a bed to kill anyone.”

“Then why did Ellen tell me when October starts, spooky things happen to good people?”

“She’s rattling your chain.”

“I touched human eyeballs the last time we were alone.”

“If she actually did that, your parents would put her in the funny farm.  Stay here, I’ll be back shortly.” 

When she returned, she told him to close his eyes.  She spit into her hand and rolled two grapes around.

 “Okay, did they feel like this?”

“A little bit.”

“Slimy.”

“Yeah.  What are they?”

“Touch them again.’

He picked up a grape and held it in between his fingers. “I know what it is.” 

“Tell me.”

“A grape.”

“I taught your sister everything she knows.  Now take this other eyeball in my hand and throw them away. 

Ethan opened his eyes, grabbed the other grape, and ran off toward the kitchen. 

Dorothy shouted, “don’t forget to wash your hands.”

He came back with clean hands, grabbed his bag, and headed for the staircase with her following.  She waited at the bottom step as he climbed the wooden stairs, each time creaking under the weight of his body.

When he reached the last step, Ethan paused when he smelled a mixture of cinnamon and pumpkin potpourri.  From the potency of it, he knew it was in every room including the one he would be calling his own for a few days.  He smelled hints of outside air too, as he suspected every window was open in every room, another mixture but this time of growth and decay.

Inside his dad’s old room, he set his bag down and took in all the medals, ribbons, and awards his father had gotten throughout high school and college.  It was hard for him to believe he was once his age, but there was proof of it on the walls.  Photos of him with his own dad adorned a major portion of the wall above the bed.  His grandpa told Ethan he was going to grow up to be like him as they had similar personalities and he was the only one who enjoyed hearing his ghost stories in the last months of his life.

As he unzipped his bag to get his Gameboy, as he was excited to show his grandma how he had reached the next level in Super Mario Bros. since his last visit, he heard a noise coming from the closet.  The possibility of it being a ghost sent shivers up his spin and rested at the nape of his neck.  He dropped his Gameboy and cautiously walked to the closet, tiptoeing part of the way. 

The handle was chilly to the touch and after it had warmed, he opened the door.  He expected his grandpa to be on the other side, but no one was there.  He released the breath he was holding but let out a gasp when he heard a scratching from behind the wall.  Shoe boxes stacked on top of each other and old clothes on hangers blocked much of the back wall, but he knew that was where it originated.  He moved boxes and created an opening through the clothes.  The wall felt the same as any other in his grandma’s house.  He leaned forward, as far as he could without tipping over, and listened for any noise.   When he heard nothing, he watched for movement.  Nothing happened and was satisfied old houses were more prone to make weird noises.  He closed the door, half confident he was safe.

Dorothy had given up waiting for him and was in the kitchen sipping on apple cider with a cinnamon stick poking out of the cup when he entered.

“You want a cup of cider?

“Maybe later.  Can I have hot chocolate instead?”

“There’s packets in pantry, but I don’t have marshmallows.”

“That’s okay.”

“You need help pouring the water?”

“No.”

“The water should still be hot.”

“Okay.”

Ethan grabbed a cup from the rack on the counter and left enough space for the cocoa. The best part was mixing the powder into the water.  He liked to watch the spoon spin around in the cup every so often.  Maybe, he was more like his grandpa instead of his dad.  His dad hated hot cocoa.  “Where did you get that cane?”

“It should look familiar.”

“It looks like grandpa’s old cane.

“That’s because it is.”

“But dad bought you a flower cane.”

“I refuse to use that ugly thing and now that your grandpa’s gone it has some meaning.  Hard to believe I thought this was ugly too one time.”

“He liked eagles.”

She patted the top of the cane as if was a living eagle.  “He sure did.”

“Do you believe in ghosts like he did?”

“I prefer to focus on living.  Get your cocoa before your water gets cold.”

Ethan hurried to the pantry and brought back two packages.  He took turns pouring and stirring the powder until some of it separated and turned a different color.  He watched the spoon spin and spin around the sides of the cup. 

“Why don’t you believe in ghosts, grandma?”

“I believe in reincarnation.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s when someone takes another form after they die.”

“Like a chair.”

“In some religions but I choose to believe people come back as a different person.” “How would I know if I am?”

“You’d know things about the past that you couldn’t possibly know in this lifetime.  For example, if you fought in the Civil War, you’d have hunches about it.  If you died in battle, you’d have memories about it, often vivid ones.”

“I don’t remember anything like that.”

“Then, it’s safe to say, you didn’t fight in the Civil War.”

“Could I have been reincarnated from grandpa?”

“You were already living when he died so no.”

“But someone might be grandpa who hasn’t been born yet.”

“Maybe, a part of him.”

“I heard something from the closet in dad’s room.”

“Probably the spiders in the walls.”

“Ewww.”

“Better than mice.  You remember the mice from last year in the attic.”

“Yeah.”

“If you hear anymore noises, let me know.  I’ll have your dad come over and set more traps.  You know how much he loves to crawl around for me.”

Ethan smiled and took a large gulp of his hot cocoa.  As if reading his mind, Dorothy stood up and announced it was time to take out her curlers.  He was lucky she allowed him to touch her hair.  If it was his mom, she wouldn’t let him near her hair even if he begged. 

It took a while for her to reach the middle of the staircase, but when she did the air felt colder the second time.  He didn’t know if it was because the air had actually cooled outside or if he really feared the possibility of seeing his grandpa’s ghost in the closet.

“Will you save me if I’m being attacked at night?”

“I think it’s time to focus on something other than ghosts.”

“What if something attacks me that you can’t see?”

“You can’t expect me to protect you if I can’t see it.”

“But I’ll know where it is.”

“Then, we’ll fight against it together.”

“You promise we’ll be safe.”

“Nothing has happened to you so far.”

“No.”

“Your father made it out alive after living with me for eighteen years.”

“I know.”

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Okay.”

He wanted to believe his grandma, but he was certain he saw the faint outline of a hand and partial arm on her leg.  When her foot left the last step, they disappeared.  Maybe Ellen had gotten the month wrong, spooky things happened at the end of September instead of the beginning of October.  When Dorothy turned and smiled at him, it reminded him of what his dad said before leaving their house.  The words echoed within him, and he felt something he had never experienced before.

2019

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