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Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'll be Home for Christmas

Paul pulled the car over to the shoulder of the road and slowed to a stop. He turned off the ignition, leaned over the steering wheel, and let out a long, weary breath. Slowly, methodically, he opened the door, swung his legs out to the side, and then climbed out of the front seat. After twisting his back, grunting, and looking around, he slammed the door shut and walked around to the rear bumper. He'd noticed his boot lace had come untied, and after spending several moments considering the pros and cons of leaving it be, he decided that the consequences of tripping over the lace and twisting his ankle or breaking his hip were likely enough and ominous enough to warrant taking the trouble to lift his foot up onto the bumper and tie his laces up properly. After securing his boots, with a grunt he dropped his foot to the ground and turned to take in the sight which had made him stop the car in the first place.
A barn. A worn and weather-beaten red barn. There were more barns per square mile in his county than anywhere else in the state. If he stopped to look at every one he would never get home. But this wasn't just any barn. Considering how long it had been abandoned, it was in pretty good shape: the siding was faded and in need of a fresh coat of red paint; the hinges on the green shutters and the hinges of the large doors were rusted; here and there a piece of siding hung loose where it needed to be nailed up tight; and the ends of a few of the metal roof panels were curled up from the infamous storm of the summer of 2002; but all-in-all the old building was holding up reasonably well.
Every month, since that fateful Christmas of 2002, Paul passed by the barn on his way to the doctor for his monthly checkup. He often thought about stopping, but until that particular day, he didn't even slow down.
Paul walked around the barn several times before he stopped at the large door in front. He recalled Paul Jr., just five years old, trying to pull open the fifteen-foot-tall barn door by himself. Paul Sr. would grab the door to help him, but Paul Jr. would yell, “I can do it myself!' To which Paul Sr. would let go of the door and hold his hands up in the air. He'd stand back and wait for his son to tire out and give up. Then he'd grab hold of the door, never mocking his son, and pull it open. Paul Jr. would then, finding a second wind, run into the barn and chase the cats through the straw and up the wooden ladder.
Paul Jr. was fourteen years old the first time he got to drive the tractor by himself. He pulled the tractor out of the barn, tooled around the pasture, and backed it into the barn, all without incident - almost. The main six-by-six post in the center of the barn still bore the deep gash in its side from where Paul Jr. backed the tractor into it. Paul Sr. never did get the post or the back of the tractor fixed. He sold the tractor in the spring of 2003. When the buyer pulled out of the driveway, the last thing Paul Sr. saw was the six-year-old rusty dent in the rear of the tractor. He cried for two days.
The loft over the horse stalls, where hay was stored, was accessible only by a vertical ladder comprised of two-by-fours nailed to the side of two parallel studs which ran from the dirt floor of the barn to the rafters. As fresh in Paul Sr.’s mind as yesterday was the look on his son’s face when he caught Paul Jr. having a proverbial roll-in-the-hay with his high school sweetheart, Cindy. His mind chose to remember their faces only, blocking out the picture of their bodies, which were covered only by a few stray pieces of straw. After giving Cindy privacy to dress, and then seeing her off, Paul Sr. beat Paul Jr. on the rear with a hickory switch and sent him to his room, where he stayed for a month - minus meals, chores and bathroom visits.
The day he saw his son off for enlistment in the Army, Paul Sr. cried. He was proud of Paul Jr. Proud that he'd grown into a man. Proud of the kind of man he'd grown into. Proud that he had the courage to go off and stand on a wall so that others might live in peace and security. In the midst of all his fatherly pride, however, was a feeling he couldn't deny or ignore. He knew, the way a parent sometimes knows, that he was seeing his son for the last time. All parents share that fear when their child goes off to war, but for Paul Sr. it was more than a fear, it was a knowing. Paul Jr. knew it, too. He saw the pain in his dad's eyes, but rather than offer the standard platitude, “I'll see you again,” he stood silently staring into his father's eyes, his own eyes red and moist.

The day Paul Sr.’s life changed irrevocably was Christmas Day, 2002. It was late in the evening and Paul was lounging in his favorite chair, enjoying leftovers, watching an old movie when the doorbell rang. For a fleeting moment he fantasized that it was Paul Jr., in one of those corny moments they show in commercials, where the soldier surprises his wife, or kids, or parents, who were unaware that he was home on leave. Paul Sr. hadn't seen his son in six months, and hadn't heard from him in two weeks. When they last talked, Paul Jr. told his dad he wouldn't be able to come home for Christmas. Was he sandbagging, to secure the surprise? Was it Paul Jr. at the door?
Paul Sr. laid his plate on the side table and sprang to his feet. He quickly walked down the hall to the foyer. His eyes filled with tears as he imagined seeing his son in his uniform, hugging him and then sitting down to turkey and fixin's and a beer. Could there be a better way to celebrate Christmas?
Through the glass sidelights in the entry hall next to the door, he saw a man dressed in an Army uniform. Then he noticed a second figure, also dressed in military regalia. “Maybe Paul Jr. brought a friend home for a visit. Hey, the more the merrier,” he thought. But why were they in dress uniforms? Why not khakis, or fatigues? Perhaps they were required to dress up for travel?
It took a moment to register in Paul Sr.'s mind, but neither of the men standing outside his front door was his son. Not only were they strangers, in formal attire, but their faces bore serious, somber expressions. The sight brought Paul Sr. to his knees. He sobbed into his hands. As he lay in a heap on the floor, the doorbell rang a second time. If I don't answer the door, they'll go away. If I don't hear them say the words, then Paul Jr. is still alive, to me at least.
He mustered all of his strength and courage, and rose to his feet. When he opened the door the officers had already turned to leave and started down the steps, assuming no one was home. At the sound of the opening door they froze in their tracks and continued to look straight ahead for what seemed an eternity. Finally they turned and started back up the steps. Paul could see the pain in their postures at the realization that they would in fact have to deliver the most awful news a parent could ever hear.
Paul stood resolute and listened as the officers told him about the roadside bomb and the Humvee Paul Jr. was riding in and the fact that he died instantly, that he didn't suffer. They told him that his son's body would be delivered stateside soon and a liaison officer would be in touch with him about funeral arrangements. Paul hugged them both and thanked them for telling him in person. With a strength and sincerity belying his emotional state, he wished them a Merry Christmas. In a strange way, he was comforting the officers in their grief from the dreadful job they’d had to do.
He closed the door and returned to the living room, and as he sat down in his favorite chair, the credits of the old movie rolled and a classic Christmas song played over the names and job titles of those involved in the production of the movie.

♫ ...I'll be home for Christmas...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's been a while

I haven't posted a blog in quite a while. I have been spending most of my energy finishing up my latest book and preparing a query for agents. To read a little bit about my latest book go here:

The Megaphone Society

Oh yeah, I am the featured Author of the Month for June by The Megaphone Society. Yay me!
It seems like composing and editing a query to send to agents is as much work as writing the book itself. Like the book, you want the query to be perfect in every way, but the hard part of the query is that you have to boil down, to a matter of one or two pages, the essence of a novel that is (in this case) 77,000 words. What to put in, what to leave out? How to adequately describe a 300 page novel in a few paragraphs?
Time to get back to work. I hope to start sending out my query in a week or so. Wish me luck and success.
I'll leave you with a brief excerpt from the book:

Her lips quivered. “Randy took off. You'll stay home from school today. I'll tell them you have fever.”
Jamie looked into her eyes. She looked back. They wanted to talk about what happened, but they never did. It was too awful to verbalize. They wanted to talk about the possibility that maybe Randy wouldn't come back this time, but they didn't. They knew he would return – he always did. But there are some things a mother and son can communicate without speaking, and so they conversed wordlessly for a few moments.
She let him know how sorry she was for what happened. How she wanted to do something but she was afraid.
He let her know it was okay. It wasn't her fault.
She promised things would change. She'd get a job. They'd move. She'd find a nice man.
He indicated he believed her. Then he turned his head and hid from her eyes the fact that he knew those things would never happen. That things would never change. That Randy would come back and abuse him again.
Once he'd flushed the skepticism from his mind he turned back toward her and looked again into her eyes.
She let him know how much she loved him. He was the world to her. No matter how bad their lives got, they always had each other.
After she'd said all she could, Crystal looked away. She wanted to go to the police, but Randy had told her that if she ever did he would kill them both. She didn't know if he was bluffing, but the threat, always floating around in the back of her mind, popped up like a neon sign whenever she considered calling the authorities.

If you can't wait for my book to be picked up by a publisher and pushed out to bookstores across the country, you can find my other books here:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March is the Cruelest Month

As March comes to a close, and I look out the window
at the beautiful white snow flakes coming down for the
second consecutive day, I realize T.S. Eliot was wrong.
We are in the middle of the biggest snow we've
had in Spruce Pine since moving here over a year ago,
just nine days after we were teased with a sunny Sunday
afternoon where the mercury hit 70 degrees.

With apologies to Thomas Stearns (Eliot),
March (not April) is the cruelest month.

March is the cruelest month, smothering
Lilacs that tried to bud, mixing
Memory and desire, freezing
Dull roots with late snow.
Winter made us schizophrenic, teasing
Us with balmy weekends, feeding
our hopes of Spring with mirages.
Summer will you ever come, come over the
Blue Ridge?
With one last blast from old man winter, we played in the snow,
Then went on inside, into the Cottage,
And drank hot chocolate, and talked.

(the above is based on the following excerpt from
Wasteland by T.S. Eliot)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (the final two excerpts)

Part Four
There was a knock at the basement door. “Parker? Parker? It's Mom. Dinner's ready.” Mom sounded concerned. It wasn't like me to be late for dinner.
“Parker, I'm coming in,” she called out loudly. The knob turned and the door slowly swung open. From the strobing light of the TV which intermittently pierced the darkness Mom could see me lying in my recliner, with my back to her. After turning on the light switch she walked up to me and gently nudged my shoulder. “Wake up, honey. It's time to eat.”
I didn't budge. I lay motionless, not even snoring.
“Parker, wake up.” Her voice now had a tone of urgency and concern. When I didn't respond she placed her fingers on my neck and felt for a pulse. The cold touch of her fingers on my skin made me jump.
“What's going on?!” I shouted as I sat bolt upright.
Startled, Mom pulled back. From the look on her face you'd think she'd seen a ghost.
“Are you okay, Mom?”
“I will be,” she answered. She let out a laugh of relief. “When you didn't respond, I got scared; and when I touched your neck to make sure you had a pulse, you jumped.”
“Sorry about that. I had the strangest dream. It seemed so real. You were there. Dad was there....” I stopped myself as I was about to speak the words – 'Carmen was there.'
“You have a visitor,” she said, beaming from ear to ear. “A very pretty young woman. Her name is Janelle. She said you two dated a long time ago.”
“Did you say Janelle?” I said. Could it possibly be the girl I dated years ago? The one who broke my heart. The one I couldn't forget.
“Yes, dear. She's waiting upstairs.”
“Parker?” came a soft and sweet voice from the doorway. “I hope you don't mind that I came down here. I got tired of waiting upstairs.”
“Janelle, it is you.” I wondered if I was still dreaming. She looked just the same as she did eight years earlier. Her long blonde hair and tranquil blue eyes took me back. All of those old feelings welled up inside of me. My stomach churned. Surely I must still be dreaming, I thought. This is too good to be true.
“So you do remember me?” she said.
Remember you? There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about you.”
“I've missed you, too.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “You broke my heart when you left. You didn't even say good-bye.”
“But I left a note.”
“A short note after all we shared didn't quite cut it.”
“I'm so sorry. Maybe we can start over. Do you think you can find it in your heart to forgive me?”
My head was spinning. I didn't know what to think. “You're not going to believe this, but I just had the strangest dream, and you were in it,” I said.
“We traveled to Austria and the moon and a distant planet. You and I were married and we had a villa on a lake just outside Salzburg.”
Janelle smiled sweetly.
“And the weirdest part is – at the very end of the dream -”
“I died.”
“I thought that when you die in your dreams, you die in real life.”
“I used to think that too, but obviously it's just an old wives tale; cause here I am, alive and well.”
“Janelle, dear, can you stay for dinner?” Mom asked.
“I don't know,” Janelle replied nervously, looking to me for guidance.
“Please stay for dinner,” I said to her. I smiled and gave a gentle nod of my head.
Janelle turned to Mom. “Okay, I'll stay” she said.
“Wonderful!” Mom replied. “It will be ready in a few minutes.” She scurried up the stairs and out of sight.
“What was that about?” Janelle asked.
“Mom worries about me being lonely. She is excited to have a young lady in the house.”
“Well, that doesn't put too much pressure on me.”
“Don't worry about it; just be yourself. I think all the pressure is on me,” I replied. “This way,” I said, motioning with my hand up the stairs.
When we got to the kitchen at the top of the steps I was surprised to see only four place settings. Mom offered the chair, at the place she usually set for Carmen, to Janelle. We all sat down at the table and Janelle offered to say grace. Dad smiled at me with a look of profound relief.

Part Five
Upstairs Janelle nervously finished setting out dinner. She knew I was working hard on my book in our dungeon of a basement, but it was out of character for me to be late for our daily dinner appointment. I tended to get very testy when she interrupted my writing process, so she was reluctant to check on me. However, when five minutes late turned into thirty, she decided to chance it.
I always kept the door at the top of the stairs locked as a reminder to Janelle that I was not to be disturbed, but we kept a key above the door frame for emergencies.
The echo of Janelle's frantic knocks cascaded down the stairs and filled the bare, empty basement.
“Honey, I know you're working hard on your book, but it's time for dinner and you're late. And you're never late.”
Three more firm, rapid knocks followed. Still, there was no response from me.
“Parker. Honey? Are you down there? Please answer me. You're scaring me.”
Janelle felt above the door for the ghost key. After dropping the key on the floor several times, she unlocked the door and made her way slowly down the stairs, calling out my name over and over. The smell of burnt coffee wafted up from the utility shelves which sat right beside the rough-framed wooden stairs. “I'll have to buy you some more coffee,” she said nervously, noticing that my container was empty.
 When she reached the bottom of the stairs and turned toward the center of the room, she froze in her tracks. Unable to move or speak, her eyes grew wide with horror.
My cold, lifeless body lay on the floor underneath one of the low-hanging pipes, a large pool of blood spread out in all directions from under my head. She ran over and knelt down beside me, put her arms around my shoulders and cradled me to her. She tried her best to rouse me, but it was no use – I was gone. 

The End

Look for these fiction novels by Daniel:

“The Mystery of Lake Clandestine”

“Donovan's Island”

(Available on Amazon)

Look for these other titles, coming soon:


“Return to Donovan's Island: Cordero's Revenge”


“Randolph's Gold (sequel to Lake Clandestine)”



Daniel has also published a memoir of his personal battle with “terminal” cancer:

“God Said Not Yet:
One Man's Experience With Terminal Cancer”

-     A #1 seller in both Alternative Medicine and Healthy Living books for Kindle (with more than 15,000 copies in Kindle and print)

Monday, February 11, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpts 21 and 22)

(excerpts 21 and 22. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up. I decided to start posting more material per day. We're almost at the end.)

I was startled by the sound of the front door suddenly popping open.
“You three are back awfully early. I wasn't expecting you for several more hours,” I said to Mom, Dad, and Carmen.
“Parker, it's nearly eight pm. We've been gone all day,” Mom said.
I glanced at my watch, unable to comprehend the fact that so much time had gone by.
“Say, where's Janelle?” Dad asked.
My pulse quickened.
“You know, I'm not sure. I've been on the phone trying to reach an old friend. Jeeves!” I called loudly into the other room.
“Yes, sir,” he replied as he walked in from the kitchen.
“Have you seen Janelle?”
“She went out to sit in the sun several hours ago. I haven't seen her since.” My heart skipped a beat. I rushed to the back door and looked out. How could I have been so careless? Why did I let her out of my sight? My eyes grew wide with horror. I threw open the door and ran out to Janelle's lounge chair which always sat by the reflecting pool. I knew immediately what had happened.
The fedora on the chair was a dead giveaway.
“Chauncey!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. “You little yellow bastard! I knew I should have killed you, too.”
My mind was already spinning, planning out the rescue (and retribution) mission. “I'll speed in directly to the heart of the walled compound. They'll never expect such a bold move. I'll snatch Janelle and then as we're flying away I'll drop a nuclear bomb on the palace, annihilating Chauncey and his little minions once and for all.”
One last time, that sense that I was dreaming overwhelmed me. I knew this was all a dream, and yet my desire to save Janelle and exact revenge on Chauncey seemed very real and did not wane.
I recalled reading a book about lucid dreaming – the state where the dreamer becomes aware he is dreaming and is able to choreograph his own dreams. If that were in fact true I could do whatever I wanted.
I simply had the thought, and the Dormez-Vous was parked on the back lawn right next to me. Mom, Dad, and Carmen had come outside to see what was troubling me.
“Chauncey took her,” I informed them as I boarded the space ship.
“Who's Chauncey?” Mom asked.
“Bartholomew's right-hand man,” I answered. “I mistakenly assumed he wouldn't have the guts to retaliate for his boss' death.
“What are you going to do?” Mom asked.
“Don't worry about that,” I replied. “I'll be back with Janelle before you know it.”
“Be safe, dear,” she said.
“I always am,” I replied confidently.
“Good-bye, Parker,” Carmen said as she gave me a hug.
“See you in a little while, sis,” I replied and gave her a peck on the cheek.
I fired up the Dormez-Vous, lifted off the ground and kicked in the afterburners, leaving a patch of scorched earth behind me.
I set the autopilot for Kryllium and eased back to enjoy the ride. Stars whooshed by me like a ferocious meteor shower and then gradually turned into one big blur of white light.
I planned out exactly how the rescue would go. I was, after all, in total command of my dream. I would glide into the walled fortress, easily evading all anti-aircraft fire. I would set the ship down beside the cell where Janelle was being held. After kicking in the door, I would sweep my sweetheart up in my arms and carry her aboard the Dormez-Vous. I would then take off and drop a nuclear bomb on the walled compound as we flew over the exterior walls, ensuring an end of reprisals from any of Bartholomew's minions.
Everything went exactly as I planned. As we flew off into the green sky I sternly warned Janelle not to look back when the bomb when off because the flash would blind her. However, knowing I was in a dream and in control I did look back to observe the destruction. The flash was more brilliant and beautiful than anything I'd ever seen. The mushroom cloud rose magnificently into the sky just like in all the old films I'd seen of atomic bomb detonations. Although I knew the cataclysmic shock wave and heat wave would soon overtake us, I thought that would be a damper on the dream, so in my lucid state I edited the shock waves out of the scene.
I put my arm around my blonde goddess and held her tight as I piloted the Dormez-Vous toward Kryllium's moon where we would stop to refuel and check on Rick. The constellations were especially radiant, complimenting the high I was on from rescuing my love and finally eliminating all my enemies.
We landed on the moon and parked near one of the fuel pumps at Gasteroids. After filling the tanks I implored Janelle to follow me. “I never want to let you out of my sight again,” I said.

Excerpt 22

“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I want to check on Rick. I haven't been able to contact him since I called him from Austria before Chauncey abducted you.”
“Are you worried about him?”
“Well, he hasn't answered my calls for three days and that's very unusual for him.”
I knocked on the door three times and waited for Rick's two knocks in response. Nothing. I knocked again. Still no reply. After informing Janelle to stand aside, I kicked down the door. To my horror, I saw Rick lying motionless on the floor with a fedora on his chest.
My eyes turned red and moist as I flew to Rick's side and checked for a pulse. He was dead.
“Maybe if I'd come here first I could have saved him; but I couldn't take the chance that Chauncey would hurt you,” I said to Janelle.
“You can't save everyone, baby,” Janelle responded.
“But if I hadn't asked Rick to get involved he would still be alive. This is my fault.”
I was filled with rage and a desire for revenge – a bloodlust. But I knew that Chauncey was the one who killed my friend and Chauncey was now dead.
“Well old buddy,” I said in a squeaky voice. “I didn't get here in time to save you, but I did get revenge on that little yellow bastard. He's dead.”
“I would have to disagree with that assertion,” came a familiar voice from behind me.
I turned around to see Chauncey standing in the doorway, pointing his gun at me. His hair had fallen out and his skin was badly blistered and sloughing off in places, but his beady little eyes confirmed it was him.
“If you intend to kill someone, you should make sure you finish the job,” he said.
“Chauncey, you little yellow weasel. You just won't die, will you?”
“No, but you're about to.”
“I don't think so,” I said as I turned my back to Chauncey and asked Janelle if she was ready to leave.
“Awfully bold move, turning your back on a man who has a laser-guided blaster pointed at your head,” Chauncey said.
“First of all, you're not a man, and secondly, this is just a dream, one which I control,” I replied. “So I have no reason to fear you.”
“But don't you know, Parker, that when you die in your dreams, you die in real life?”
“That's just an old wives' tale.”
“Is it?” Chauncey replied.
A shot rang out. I wheeled around and all in one motion I pulled my gun out of its holster and shot Chauncey four times – twice in the head and twice in the middle of the chest. He fell lifeless to the floor. I walked over to him and emptied my magazine, twenty rounds, into him. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be seeing him again. I turned to Janelle to check on her.
“Are you okay, baby?” I asked.
“Oh Parker,” she cried as she ran to me and put her arms around me.
“It's okay. He's gone. The rest of his gang is gone. We're free of all of them for good.”
Janelle and I solemnly walked out to the Dormez-Vous and climbed aboard. After we lifted off the surface of Kryllium's moon I pointed the ship toward home and set the autopilot.
“Parker, come look out the side window,” Janelle said to me. “You need to see this.”
I walked over and sat down next to her and looked out. I saw nothing except a black darkness. There were no stars or lights or objects of any kind visible. The universe, or what I could see of it out the observation window, was cold and dark, like one boundless void. I felt empty and alone. I had rescued my sweetheart and killed the one person left who could disrupt our lives. I should have been happy but I was sad. I had just found Rick, my friend of thirty years, dead; that must be the source of my melancholy, I told myself. I put my arm around Janelle's waist and she put her arm on my shoulder.
“Oh no, Parker!” Janelle exclaimed as she pulled back her hand. It was covered in blood. I reached around and felt the back of my head. It was cold and wet and there was a hole as big around as my fist.
“I think I've been shot,” I said, smiling and wincing all at once.
Her eyes welled up with tears as she frantically searched for the first aid kit. Upon finding it she hurried back to my side. She bandaged my wound and removed my jacket and shirt which were soaked with blood. “Here, this blanket will keep you warm,” she said as she draped it over my shoulders.
“I think I'd like to lie down. Can you get me a pillow,” I asked weakly.
Janelle brought me a pillow and laid it under my head as I leaned back on the bench seat. She pulled the blanket up and wrapped it tightly around me.
“I've lost a lot of blood, baby,” I said. This time I was not smiling or wincing. As a matter of fact, I didn't feel a thing.
“Does it hurt?” Janelle asked tenderly.
“Actually, I don't feel a thing,” I replied.
Tears beaded up in the corners of her eyes. She looked into my eyes and held my hands in hers.
“Can you get me a blanket?” I said. “I'm very cold.”
“Don't talk,” she replied. “You need to save your strength.”
“I love you, Janelle. These last couple of weeks have been the best of my life.”
“Me too, baby. Try not to talk.”
“Promise me you'll take care of my parents.”
“Parker don't talk like that; you're going to be okay,” she said, though she knew it was not true.
“Promise me,” I insisted.
“I promise,” Janelle said to appease me. Tears were now streaming down her cheeks as the inevitability of the situation sank in. She leaned down to hold me. I put my arms around her and closed my eyes.
“Don't worry, my Muse. I'll see you in your dreams,” I said softly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 20)

(excerpt 20. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

* * *
“While your parents are in town I'm going to lie out by the lake and get some sun,” Janelle said.
“Okay, I'll be in the house.”
Despite the fact that I was convinced Chauncey would not seek revenge on me, I decided to put in a call to my friend Rick.
“Gasteroids, Rick speaking. Can I help you?”
“Rick, it's Parker.”
“Parker, you old dog. This place is buzzing. Bartholomew's dead. Were you behind it? Is that what you couldn't tell me?”
“Yeah, Rick. It was me.”
“Why'd you do it?”
“He was holding my parents prisoner and he put out a contract on my girl.”
“Well you've made a lot of people very happy.”
“Glad I could be of public service. Anyway, I called because I wanted to ask you to keep your eyes and ears open for me.”
“About what?”
“I've been seeing some strange things. I think Chauncey might come gunning for me.”
“That little weasel?”
“I know. I find it hard to fathom too. Just do me a favor; let me know if you hear anything about him making a trip to Earth.”
“You got it, man.”
“Thanks, Rick. Take care.”
“Talk to you later.”
When Janelle came in from sunning herself by the lake I was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee with one of my favorite personalities from history.
“Honey, say hello to George Washington,” I said.
“Hi, Mr. Washington,” she said blithely. She turned to me and said, “I just had a nice conversation with a man in a boat.”
“What man?” I asked. Couldn't be him, I thought to myself.
“He stopped at our dock and got out to welcome us to the lake. He said he lives in the red chalet across the way,” Janelle said.
“Well that was neighborly.” I continued to do my best to play it cool.
“He was an odd little man. He wore one of those hats like men used to wear in the old days.”
“You mean a fedora?” I asked. My heart beat rapidly and my muscles tensed up. “He didn't happen to mention his name, did he?”
“As a matter of fact he did. He said his name was Chauncey. Another unusual name. I don't seem to meet many people with plain names - except your friend George here. Parker, do you know this Chauncey fellow?”
“No. Never heard of him.”
I could no longer hide my anxiety. I excused myself and went into my study. I paced back and forth. When I killed Bartholomew I didn't consider the possibility that Chauncey might avenge his mentor's death. The Chauncey I knew was a timid little fellow with a yellow streak down his back. He would never go up against me. Or so I thought. Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe he was there to offer an olive branch. Perhaps he feared I would come after him next in an effort to tie up any loose ends.
I dialed Rick's direct line at Gasteroids. No Answer. “That's odd,” I thought. “Rick pretty much lives in his office. I wonder what he's up to?” The whole time the phone was ringing I had a gnawing feeling in my gut – the feeling that something was wrong. It was undeniable, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Unbeknownst to me, while I was attempting to reach Rick to see if he'd heard anything about Chauncey's whereabouts, Janelle went back outside to sit in the sun a while longer. She told Jeeves and no one else.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When you Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 19)

(excerpt 19. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

 “I'm ready to get to Austria,” Janelle said.
“If this really is a “magic” carpet, there's no reason it has to take any time to get there,” I replied. As soon as I spoke the words, we were hovering over Lake Wolfgang just outside Salzburg.
“Who's this?” Janelle asked, referring to the man who was now sitting next to us on our nappy ride.
“A real estate agent,” I replied. “He's going to show us some lakefront villas. Pick out one you like.”
We spent several hours touring homes from our flying rug. We checked out the view from the lake, flew over the grounds of each house that pleased our eyes from the water, and zipped through the insides of the homes we really liked. Janelle settled on a majestic stucco manor with a large pool and beautifully manicured gardens by the lake.
“We'll have to send for your parents. We have plenty of room for them,” Janelle offered.
I snapped my fingers and they were there with us on the back terrace. I shook Dad's hand and gave Mom a hug.
“What are we doing here?” Dad asked. “Why aren't you in Alaska?”
“This place is lovely. Does it belong to a friend of yours?” Mom asked.
“It's ours,” I replied as I put my arm around Janelle. “And you two are welcome to live here with us if you want.”
“I don't understand,” Mom said.
“I'll explain it to you later.”
“But what about Alaska?” Dad asked.
“I'll explain about that, too. Right now it's time for lunch. Would you like to eat inside or here on the patio?”
“Out here would be lovely,” Mom answered. “The weather's so nice. This statue is lovely. Who is she?”
“That's Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, desire, and beauty,” Janelle answered. She turned to me. “Parker, are you okay?”
She could tell by the look on my face that I was disoriented. As my cognizance left me once again, I struggled to remember where we were and how we got there.
Something out on the lake caught my eye. I ran to the edge of the water in a panic to get a closer look at him. When I got to the dock he was nowhere in sight. The surface of the water was smooth and tranquil, like a mirror in a dream. I walked back to the terrace, trying process what I'd seen.
“What's wrong?” Janelle asked.
“Nothing. I thought I saw something on the lake, but it was nothing.” I didn't want to tell her that I thought I saw a man wearing a fedora – Chauncey -- in a boat out on the lake. She'd been through enough; I didn't want to worry her. I'm just imagining things, I told myself. Chauncey wouldn't follow us here, and he would never go up against me.
“Let's eat,” I said.
“I've been reading through this brochure about guided trolley tours in Salzburg. I thought your father and I would take one after lunch,” Mom said.
“Sounds good. The Mozart festival is going on right now. I'll have Wolfgang bring a car to the front door.”
“Wolfgang?” Mom asked. “I thought he lived in the 1700s.”
“Wolfgang is the name of our chauffeur. He'll run you into Salzburg where you can catch the trolley.”
“Would you two like to join us?” Mom asked.
“No thanks. You and Dad have a good time together. We're going to stay here and relax.”
“I want to go,” Carmen insisted.
“That would be lovely, dear. I've really missed spending time with you the last few years,” Mom said.
Carmen smiled and hugged her.
“Hey, sis. It's been a long time,” I said as I gave her a hug. “Have fun.”
“Bye Parker.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 18)

(excerpt 18. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

“You don't have to live in fear anymore. Any of you,” I said.
“What did you do to him?” Theron asked.
I declined to respond. My silence told everyone the truth which I did not want to speak.
I turned to my golden-haired sweetheart and kissed her. Her lips were sweeter than any wine I'd ever tasted.
“Do you want me to take you back to New York now or in the morning?”
“I'm not going back to New York,” she replied.
“What are you talking about?”
“These last couple of days while I was waiting for you to return and wondering if I would ever see you again or if someone was going to come and kill me, I realized I just want to be with you all the time.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. New York is a cold and lonely place without you, Parker. With you, Alaska will be warm and friendly.”
“We don't have to go to Alaska, unless you want to.”
“But what about your job?”
“I won't be needing that job any longer. I took some plunder from Bartholomew's palace: a small payment for what he put us through. It's enough to live on for many years.”
“So, where do you want to go?” she asked me.
“I've always wanted to see Austria. We can get a villa on one of the lakes in Salzburg.”
“That sounds so romantic. We could have lots of kids and be just like that family in The Sound of Music. We could go to the Mozart festival and eat those tiny sausages.”
I again became sentient of my dream state. I was also aware that I was the only one in my dream who was aware it was in fact a dream.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked Janelle. She gave me a quizzical look. “To Salzburg,” I said.
“Yes, but how will we get there?”
I pointed down at the magic carpet I'd just conjured up. Being lucid, I could do whatever I wanted to do.
“How are we going to get to Austria on an area rug?”
“It's not an area rug, my dear; it's a magic carpet.”
“How charming,” she replied.
We sat down on the textile transport, which was thick and plush and soft. It was more than six feet wide and twelve feet long with multicolored tassels on each end. Stitched into the pattern of the rug was a picture of Andromeda, the princess of Greek mythology, and Perseus, her rescuer. Janelle leaned into my shoulder and I put my arm around her. I only had to think the thought and we took off into the air, flying high above the Earth. We whisked through the clear blue sky over soaring mountaintops.
When we reached the Atlantic Ocean the clouds were thick and heavy, so I thought us down to sea level. We sailed just over the whitecaps which were being whipped up by the wind. The salty mist coated our faces. The sea spray was cool but we were comfy and cozy in our protected bubble of warmth. Farther from the coast, halfway across the Big Pond, the weather turned clear and warm. A dolphin joined our journey, swimming next to us, occasionally leaping into the air and then splashing into the water in a playful fashion. I thought about how whimsical it would be if our aquatic friend could talk.
“Hello, Janelle. Are you enjoying your ride?” The dolphin said to my beautiful blonde.
She smiled and giggled, and then she looked at me. “Did you hear that?” she asked sheepishly, seemingly afraid I would think she was crazy.
“Yes,” I replied matter-of-factly. “Aren't you going to answer him?”
She turned back to our escort. “I certainly am. This is the ride of my life.”
“Bye now,” he said before disappearing into the depths.
Up ahead of us an ominous black cloud sprouted like a mushroom from the cloven mountain peak of a tropical island. Flaming red chunks shot from the hole like cannon balls, arcing high into the air before dropping into the ocean in steamy splashes. We slalomed effortlessly back and forth to avoid the volcanic volleys.
As we flew over the island we witnessed a river of mud and glowing lava thundering down the hillside, destroying everything in its path. People rode the magma flow in claw-footed, cast-iron bathtubs. They waved at us as we passed overhead.
Our magic carpet navigated around the toxic dust cloud and back out over the ocean. We continued eastward, passing over numerous small islands with idyllic harbors dotted with lavish sailboats and luxurious yachts. Tanned and happy people waved at us from pastoral seaside villages.
“Can we stop off on one of these islands; maybe rent a cottage on the beach?” Janelle asked me.
“No!” I replied tersely.
Janelle's lower lip quivered and she turned away from me.
“No,” I replied in a calm and loving tone as I put my arm around her.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Bad memories for me,” I replied, doing my best to hide my misty eyes.
Without a word she leaned her head into my side and held me tight. Her warm and tender embrace was more reassuring than a thousand words would have been. I knew I'd finally found the love of a lifetime.
We continued on our dreamy flight for a time that seemed to be without measure yet went by in a moment. Spectacular sunsets and sunrises alternately flashed by like the light from a flickering TV screen. Sandy beaches gleamed whiter than snow; green oceans shimmered like polished emeralds; blue skies shone so bright they hurt to look at; and houses and villagers and ripening fruit glowed with every pastel imaginable - from the warmest orange to the deepest purple. We were intoxicated by the sensory overload.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 17)

(excerpt 17. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

I found myself in a small boat - you might call it a dinghy - out in the middle of the ocean. Nothing but water as far as the eye could see in every direction. I wondered how I got there and what I was doing all alone miles from land. Wait a minute, I thought, this is a dream; I am in a dream. I can do whatever I want to do. I stepped out of the dinghy and onto the water. Is this how Peter felt when he walked on the water to Jesus? I wondered. I strutted across the waves, smiling and whistling as I went. A dolphin swam up to me, playfully cocked his head back and forth, and squeaked at me in dolphin-speak.
“Why are you squeaking?” I thought. “This is a dream that I am in control of.”
From that point on he spoke to me with the voice of Frank Sinatra. I'd always wanted to ride one of those marine mammals like they do in shows at aquatic theme parks, so I commanded him to be still while I climbed onto his back. I then proceeded, through telepathy, to instruct my watery friend to dive deep into the ocean. I saw giant octopuses and shipwrecks and Leviathan, that great monster of the deep. I saw nuclear submarines poised for battle. I saw sultry mermaids with golden hair that flowed in the underwater current, barely covering their ample bosoms. They flapped their tails at me as I rode past. I saw underwater cities – giant half-domes made of glass, glowing with golden light, populated by people of all ages and races. Their faces bore peaceful smiles and bright eyes.
I told my nautical friend to leap out of the water and high into the air. We soared hundreds of feet above the surface of the deep, slicing through the clouds. When I jumped off my steed and onto a particularly portentous cumulonimbus, my feet sank in the spongy white surface. A rainbow, anchored in a field of wheat, rose into the sky and disappeared into the puffy white mashed potato mountain I stood on. I dove onto the polychromatic slide and glided into the soft, flaxen bed below. I'd never felt anything so soft and luxurious and lovely. I wanted to stay forever in the warm bosom of my bride.
The blaring autopilot alarm startled me out of my sleep, alerting me to the fact that we were coming out of hyperspace as we neared Earth. I landed at a remote Kansas town familiar to outlaws and bid good-bye to my hired guns.
I set the autopilot for Home and kicked back to enjoy the scenery. Vast fields of wheat gave way to rolling green hills dotted with trees. Eventually, the rolling hills evolved into craggy mountains which were capped with vast snowfields. As the autopilot beeped to indicate I was on final approach to the hideout, the cruiser approached a rustic, dilapidated mining shack nestled deep in a hidden valley and set down in front of a pair of large, broken-down doors.
The building seemed to be abandoned and looked like it should have been condemned, but that was the point. Cobwebs and rusted, broken metal pipes hung down over the door opening. Once he was sure it was me, Theron walked out of the building with my parents and Janelle. They ducked under the pipes and brushed aside the cobwebs as they exited the dilapidated structure. Janelle ran up and threw her arms around me. She squeezed me so hard I thought I would break.

Monday, February 4, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 16)

(excerpt 16. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

* * *
A loud banging on the exterior metal door of the Dormez-Vous startled me. It was Rick. He had the men and weapons I'd asked for the night before.
“You never did tell me what you need all this for.”
“Nice try, Rick. I'm not telling you anything. It's for your own protection.”
“Okay. Okay. I won't pry. Be safe, man.”
“Do me a favor, tell the guys to be ready to go in twenty minutes. I'm going to take a quick shower.”
“You got it.”
I climbed into the shower, which looked more like a giant, transparent soda can. The cylinder shot straight up into the air, hundreds of feet above the ground. I found myself flying over a white sand beach lined with high-rise condos. The beaches teemed with frolicking children and tanned, lean, and beautiful young women. The waters glowed emerald green and just offshore dolphins followed alongside jetskiers, jumping out of the water and cutting back in with their bottle-shaped noses. I jetted around like Buck Rogers for a while, taking in the sights, and then I returned to the cruiser, landing gently on the cluster of bare pipes. I stepped out of the shower and grabbed my towel to dry off.
“Hi, baby. I've missed you.”
Janelle was standing in front of me, wearing nothing but a long and luxurious white towel.
“Janelle?” I said as I looked around. My heart raced. “Where? How?”
“Aren't you glad to see me?” Her voice was soft and sultry.
“Of course I'm glad to see you, but I left you back on --”
She grabbed the top of her towel where it was tucked back into itself and pulled, causing it to fall to the floor.
* * *
My reverie was once again interrupted by loud banging on the exterior door. The soldiers-of-fortune were eager to get going.
“I'll be right out,” I hollered.
I quickly toweled off and got dressed.
I went over the plan with my mercenaries one last time. They would distract the guards while I got Bartholomew alone. I figured the only way to ensure my parents' and Janelle's safety for good was to take out that man who had become the bane of my existence. Along with the men and ordinance, Rick had secured for me updated plans of the compound.
We snuck in through the sewage outlet pipe. I'd never smelled anything so nasty and offensive in all my life.
“Memo to self: next time you're going to break in through a sewage system secure a gas mask.”
My hired guns headed off to their appointed spot while I followed the drain to Bartholomew's private quarters.
Watching my chronometer meticulously, I waited for the explosion. Three, two, one. Boom! The explosion was thunderous! “Did I black out?” I wondered. “Am I dead? Why can't I hear? I can see, but I can't hear anything.” Even though it was hundreds of yards away the blast rendered me deaf for several minutes. I busted through the panel with my gun drawn. I felt like I was in a dream. The silence was eerie. I couldn't hear my own heartbeat or footsteps. Bartholomew stood right in front of me, holding his ears, obviously stunned as well. I wanted to say something profound, or at the very least witty and sarcastic, but I knew it would be wasted in our inauditory state, so I aimed the laser sight of my weapon at his chest and pulled the trigger. The energy charge burned a hole the size of a fist right through the middle of him, melting his heart and cauterizing the wound at the same time. All the color drained from his skin and his eyes rolled back in his head as he dropped to his knees. In the instant before his corpse toppled over I put one between his eyes for good measure. By that time my hearing was returning to me. “I guess you won't be bothering me or the people I care about any longer,” I said to his cold, still body. I took off through the sewer and rendezvoused with my soldiers-of-fortune at the exit point.
We all jumped in the Dormez-Vous and made our escape. As we lifted off the planet, billows of smoke obscured the green light of Kryllium's sun. I pointed the cruiser for Earth where we would part ways. Once everyone was strapped into their chair I set the autopilot and we drifted off to sleep for the long trip to that big blue marble I called home.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 15)

(excerpt 15. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

I stopped off on Kryllium's largest moon, a good place to purchase black market weapons and explosives. It was also a good place to find hired guns - what I had to do would be difficult to accomplish alone. I locked in on my favorite refueling spot, Gasteroids, and settled into an empty parking space. I shut down the cruiser and got out and stretched my legs. As usual the joint was jumping with travelers from all over the solar system. People-watching at those inter-stellar convenience marts was always very amusing.
A couple got out of the ship parked next to me. She wore a tight-fitting tube top and low-rise jeans, revealing a tattoo of Cassiopeia on her lower back. He chewed space tobacco and wore a baseball cap with the logo of the popular synthetic lubricant Celestoil used in modified space vehicles.
A young, progressive looking couple with piercings in every visible orifice got out of a small, light blue cruiser parked on the other side of me. There was a bumper sticker on the back of their vehicle that read, “Stop Celestial Warming - Fly a Hybrid.”
Strangers from faraway places brushed past me as I approached the entrance to the store. I grabbed a couple packages of beef jerky and proceeded back to the maintenance closet door. I knocked three times. Two knocks echoed in response from the other side.
“You're out of peach ice cream,” I said loudly.
The door swung open and Rick grabbed me by the hand. Smiling as he pulled me in the room, he gave me a big bear hug. “Parker, how the heck are you?”
“I'm good, Rick. It's been a long time.”
“Too long,” he answered. “What brings you out this way?”
“I can't give you any details. I need two good men and enough weaponry to storm a small city.”
Rick laughed. “Same old Parker. Never does anything half-hearted. I'll have everything ready for you tomorrow. Meet me back here in twelve hours.”
I laughed. “Same old Rick. Get you anything you need in under twenty four hours.”
We both laughed.
I decided to get some much needed rest while I waited for my mercenaries and ordinances. I returned to the Dormez-Vous, climbed on board, set the alarm and lay down on the bed. The constant chatter of people coming and going and vehicles firing up and flying away was like white noise: it lulled me right to sleep.
*                *           *
I stood next to her in front of the minister on the mountain top mesa. The plateau was so high that often times it was shrouded in storms. On this special occasion, however, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Doves flew overhead, butterflies fluttered about in the meadow and cotton-tailed bunnies wriggled their noses as they observed our ceremony. I wore a dapper black tuxedo. She wore a magnificent, flowing white gown with full-length lace sleeves and a veil fit for a queen.
“I Janelle, take you Parker to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have .........” The words she spoke faded out as I stared into her eyes. She was the most beautiful bride – the most beautiful woman - I'd ever seen. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she recited her vows to me. Mom and Dad sat in the front row, so proud and happy. Mom cried while Dad held her hand. Next to them sat my sister Carmen - so happy and full of life. It was good to see her again after all those years.
We'd reserved the Honeymoon Suite at the Inn on the Mesa. Perched on the edge of the cliffs, the resort sat majestically above the aqua-colored sea 40,000 feet below. The outer wall of our room was made of glass and artfully curved to provide a sweeping view of the spectacular sight. I carried my wife across the threshold and laid her on the bed. I poured two glasses of champagne and we toasted our new life together. After finishing the bubbly, I proceeded to remove my shoes and tie. I was intoxicated with the anticipation of making sweet love to my bride. Janelle undid the clasps on her dress.
“I love you, Parker.”
“I love you, Janelle.”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

When You Die in Your Dreams (excerpt 14)

(excerpt 14. If you missed the previous installment, scroll down the blog to catch up)

As I sped through space on the way to Kryllium I again entered that lucid state, where the dreamer becomes aware he is dreaming and is able to manipulate his own dream.
I stopped the cruiser, stepped out into space, and looked around. I felt warm and free as I floated effortlessly above the spacecraft. I spread out my arms and with a simple thought I flew from star to star, bounced off Alpha Centauri, and zipped through the Red Spider Nebula, brushing its clouds away like a bunch of cobwebs. Stardust coated my skin like glitter. “This is fun,” I thought, “but it would be a lot more fun with a friend.” Instantly Janelle appeared next to me. I held her hand and we soared through the universe, seeing celestial wonders which heretofore only God himself had ever seen.
The constellations took on the shapes of the characters we ascribe to them and became animated. Orion the Great Hunter jumped on Pegasus the Flying Horse, and along with Canis Major and Canis Minor, his hunting dogs, chased Taurus the Bull throughout the universe. Stars scattered like sparks beneath the hooves of the great beasts as they thundered through the heavens. Scorpio, the celestial venomous arachnid chased Orion from the night sky, signifying the return of summer.
Cygnus the Swan, a sparkling Northern Cross beaming in his form, paddled past us.
Hercules, kneeling in prayer to his father Zeus for help in battle against two giants, cast an imposing form across the universe.
Cassiopeia, primping and preening for the rest of the constellations, waited patiently, certain that Hercules would come to her after his battle was won. She was, after all, the most beautiful queen in the universe.
Andromeda the Princess, chained to a massive asteroid, was overwrought as she waited to be eaten by the monster Cetus. Perseus swooped in, slew the great beast, and saved the damsel in distress.
Sagittarius the Archer took aim at Leo the Lion and drew back his bow. He smiled at us, then relented and returned the arrow to his quiver.
Gemini the Twins, united in the heavens for eternity, placidly watched the scenes play out among the other constellations.
Libra the Goddess of justice stood silent and stoic, holding the scales of truth. On one side laid the head of the monster Cetus. On the other side laid the head of Perseus. Perseus had slain the monster Cetus to save Andromeda. In the end justice was required. The scales hung in favor of Perseus.
A bright light flashed throughout the heavens and then disappeared. I closed my eyes, rubbed them, and then opened them. Again the dreamy celestial drama was interrupted as the universe seemed to fracture, revealing another dimension behind the scenes. I saw brilliant white light everywhere. A magnificent being with long silvery hair, dressed in a flowing ivory robe, controlled the stars with strings; much like a marionette directs the puppets in his charge. I felt a sense of peace I'd never experienced. I didn't understand what I was seeing, but I knew that I wanted to be there. I could not escape the feeling that I would be there soon. The vast cosmos cracked and everything flashed again and suddenly the bright light disappeared and all that was visible was the dark, ethereal expanse of the galaxies.
I turned to Janelle and pulled her close to me. The strands of her hair glowed like the tails of a thousand comets. Our eyes locked into one another's like tractor beams. As I pressed my lips to hers I closed my eyes to enjoy the pleasure of her kiss.
I opened my eyes and found myself alone in the Dormez-Vous, speeding toward Kryllium, unaware I was in a dream, with no memory of my jaunt through the galaxy with my blonde goddess.