I have been an avid writer and reader since I was old enough to write and read. I grew up in a small midwest community. Now I am most at home in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Getting Home is my debut novel. Others will follow.
No matter how long you’ve lived, you’ve learned important life lessons. I’ve Learned is a collection of lesson learns by one writer. This post looks at why you should always be true to yourself.
Lesson 2:I’ve learned that no matter what I do, someone will find fault with it. Therefore, I need to always be true to myself and my beliefs.
Much of my adult life has been spent in the pursuit of gaining others approval. In fact, the reason I have waited until now to share my writing with the world is due to the foreknowledge that some will disapprove. This is a lesson I am perpetually working on.
Good Samaritan Law
To prove my point today, we will consider the Good Samaritan Law. That this law even exists is a testament to today’s society. If you are not familiar, in the United states all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of Good Samaritan law. This law was enacted to protect those responding to life-threatening situations from being held liable in the event of unintended harm caused by their assistance. In other words, they cannot be sued.
Let me illustrate. Imagine I am driving home from work and involved in major traffic accident. I am pinned in my vehicle and unable to extricate myself. Paramedics arrive and smell gas leaking from my car and fear the possibility of fire. To save my life, they yank me from the vehicle, cutting my leg and breaking my shoulder. Under the law, I should not be able to sue the paramedics.
This is an extreme example. If I found myself in this situation, it is unfathomable to me to imagine that I would then want to sue the paramedics. If they had not arrived and rescued me from my car, I would now be charcoal.
Unfortunately, many people have done exactly that. Some kind-hearted individual helped them in a time of extreme need, and they, in turn, filed suit against the person that provided said assistance. Does that make any sense to you? Me neither.
Even with this law on the books, thousands of lawsuits are filed every year against doctors, hospitals and first responders who are guilty only of trying to provide the appropriate care in a difficult situation.
My Grandmother Said
Meditating on this and the many other instances of acts of kindness being met with anger and hostility have reinforced this lesson.
My grandmother often said, “Some people would complain if they were hung with a new rope.”
“Yes, I would,” I used to tell her. “I would want an old, brittle one.”
Even as a child I could not keep my mouth shut, but that is not the point. Have you heard the expression, “No good deed goes unpunished”? The words are generally credited to Clare Boothe Luce. She understood that in every situation, someone would complain. Spend a few minutes on any social media site, and you will quickly see this to be true.
What course of action does this leave for us? Should you be true to yourself? Do we stop doing good deeds? Do we stop saying good things? No, we learn to accept that negativity permeates much of the world, and we stay true to ourselves and our beliefs. Ignore the naysayers and complainers. Do what you know is right. Make the world a better place. Hopefully, if enough of us make positive steps forward, we can produce real change on a global scale.
In closing, if I ever see you trapped in a car about to burst into flames, I promise I will pull you out, even if you do choose to sue me afterwards.
November 2017 will forever be a pivotal date in the story of my life. This month I decided to stop making excuses and a bucket list and start checking old items off said list. I have promised myself since I was a small boy that some day I would be a writer. In the second grade, writing with colored markers and crayons on three-lined paper, I began to tell my stories. That love of storytelling has since grown inside me, but this is the first time I have ventured out and decided to share my stories with the world.
This month I put my first novel out for self-publication. Getting Homeis the culmination of fifteen years of hard work. It was the way I worked through the loss of my best friend and then the death of my soulmate. It was the means I used to forgive myself for past mistakes. It provided me with validation that I was not the monster I was rumored to be. It was my way to heal and forgive. It was my voyage to peace, to catharsis.
It was a rainy August afternoon when pen first met paper. The words of the prologue came first. Writing a novel was my dream, but I did not have a story waiting to get out. I only knew that I wanted to write. I immersed myself in the moment I was experiencing: the rain outside, the sound of birds, the sound from the aquarium next to me. The prologue is almost entirely my experience on that August afternoon. From that simple opening poured the tale that I hope all of you will read. Tom Jacobs was born. He was as real as the pen in my hand. The sky was not fully dark that evening when I knew what path Tom Jacobs would take and how the journey would ultimately end.
With the flood of details that washed in upon me, it should have been a simple task to sit down and write every word. It would be an exceptional blog post if that were true, and many of you would be contacting me wanted to know the secret of writing a novel in one sitting. As I approached each part of Tom’s life, I was forced to look deep inside myself and discern what in me was the catalyst that spawned what we be Tom’s journey. That process and the subsequent chapters took years to complete.
Part of me feels like I cannot take credit for being the scribe of this narrative. Yes, I did put each word down on paper and those words seeped directly from my mind. I wrote the prologue and gave Tom his name, but from that moment on it was no longer my words. Tom became a real person relating his experiences and honoring me with the opportunity to put his journey in written form.
After fifteen years, Tom and all the other characters in Getting Homeare old friends and family. I know their pasts, their likes and dislikes, and for some, I know how their stories end. I am not sure if I will ever put more of their words on paper, but I am happy to have known them.
In today’s post I am going a bit darker. This is a short story I wrote few years ago when a number of troubling things were happening at the same time. The final catalyst was the sudden death of a beloved dog. Why that led to this story I cannot tell you. Who of us truly understands how the writer’s mind works? I certainly do not. In any case, from tragedy, Diego was born.
The movies romanticize death. They lead us to believe that death is this beautiful, if not magical, event. We want to believe that there is some sort of otherworldly transformation when one reaches the end of his life. We imagine that death is a sacred and ceremonial event. The truth is, death is nothing. In a second, life becomes death with no fan fair or revelations or transformations. I know this because I was there the day my best friend died.
It did not happen suddenly. I was in doubt at first as I sat with him, occasionally reaching out to stroke his hand. My mind told me for several minutes that his chest was still slowly moving up and down, even though it had long stopped. I could still see it. The fact was, he was gone. His lungs had stopped taking in air. His heart had stopped beating. Beside me on the sofa was the shell of the man who once meant everything to me.
In all honesty, it is ironic that I was there with him on that day. Diego and I had long since grown apart, and in the last few years I had seen him but rarely. Yet there I was, the only one in the damp cabin, watching as he finally ended his crazy journey.
Reaching out, I touched his hand one last time. His skin already felt different. The body before me was no longer the friend I craved to be in my life. Diego was really gone, and he was not coming back this time.
I am not sure where to start this story. There was no momentous beginning. There was no intense middle. The end was very quiet, me sitting alone beside him in his quiet cabin waiting silently until he was gone.
I met Diego at a party at a mutual friend’s house about twenty years earlier. It was an unremarkable event, but that meeting in time led to so much more. Walking over to grab another beer, we absently bumped into each other. Our host immediately saw to it that we were properly introduced. We tried to say polite hellos over the blaring music but quickly gave up on conversation and retreated our separate ways.
It was three months before I saw Diego again. Once more it was entirely by chance. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was exhausted and frustrated after another long week of butting heads with my cantankerous boss. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up toothpaste and toilet paper and something easy and fast to eat for dinner. I was walking out of the store when I ran into him.
“Ryan, right?” He extended a hand to me. Instantly I was drawn to his infectious smile, with his overly white teeth and well-pointed incisors. Both seemed slightly out of place and yet perfectly at home in his strong jawed, Latin face.
“Diego,” I shook his hand. “It’s nice to see you again.” I was intent to politely keep walking and get on with my evening of muttering and complaining.
“Hey,” he stopped me. “Um, I really hate to ask this, but my car won’t start. Would you mind giving me a ride?”
In retrospect, I wish I had run right then. That simple and relatively small request was to set the tone for our entire friendship. Diego was always going to need something. I was always going to be the one to see to his needs. Those details are a story best told at another time.
In recent months, I was determined to continue ghosting him and kept ignoring his numerous attempts to contact me. The tone in the pleading of his last voicemail struck a heart string, as he frequently did, and the following Saturday I found myself driving out to his cabin, cussing myself the entire way. During the drive I pondered on how and if I was ever going to be free of him.
He met me at the door and immediately went into a monologue about the latest adventure he had experienced. My mind stopped being engaged a few words in, but politely I smiled and nodded from time to time.
A wall in the center of the cabin was a floor to ceiling book case that went all the way up to the loft above the open lower level. It was mostly full of books, that he likely had never opened, and souvenirs from his many adventures.
“Anyway,” he was saying as he started scaling the book case, “while I was there I got to thinking about this trinket box that I’d picked up the last time I was in Italy. I could not remember if I’d ever let you see it.”
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be climbing the furniture?” I mostly mumbled, rolling my eyes toward the rolling ladder that was only a few feet away. He was nearing the top of the bookcase.
“Ah, life comes at you fast. You need to learn to take charge. Take that over there,” he went to gesture to a human skull on the mantle, a prized possession of his for reasons I never understood.
Everything changed in an instant. With his hand outstretched and his body twisted he missed his next step up his climb. His remaining hand lost its grip and he fell, spinning slightly, crashing into the glass end table nearby.
I was not unaccustomed to Diego falling, for despite his many charms and confidences, he was one of the clumsiest people of my acquaintance. Numerous things had been broken in my home over the years from his carelessness. So it was that I did not rush over to him but gave him a moment to regain his bearings and brush himself off and laugh or cuss and move on as he always did.
Several minutes passed, and it became clear that something was different this time. I walked over and touched him lightly with my foot, fully expecting him to be pranking me yet again. Diego never moved. I nudged him again and nothing. I squatted beside him and picked up his right hand, which was closest to me, and let it drop loudly to the floor. There was no change. Ever the prankster, Diego had never been able to keep from laughing for very long.
“Crap,” I muttered to myself, knowing that he had just become my responsibility to care for again. I rolled him slightly to his side to get my arms under him and picked him up and carried him to the nearby sofa. It took a moment before I realized that my right hand was warm and wet. As I eased him onto the sofa and pulled my hand away I nearly collapsed at the abundance of blood covering it.
“Diego!” I gasped. Without thinking, I shook him hard.
“Oh, God!” He gulped for air but seemed to find none. Examining his shirt, I saw at least two large holes. Pulling the fabric back, I saw a large glass shard sticking out from between two of his ribs and another protruding from his side. It appeared to be where most of the blood was coming from.
Diego opened his eyes and stared at me in complete terror.
“Oh my God,” I gasped to myself, the enormity of the situation starting to settle upon me. “Oh, God, Diego,” I grabbed his hand.
“Help me,” he pleaded.
“It’s going to be okay,” I promised him. With my other hand I reached into my pocket and grabbed my cell phone and started dialing 911. Diego clenched his eyes closed as subsequent waves of pain flushed through him.
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Something deep and dark and sinister, swept through me.
In that moment, something awful, something deep and dark and sinister, swept through me. Looking at Diego lying there, helpless and frightened and needing me to rescue him once again, I saw the pain in his face and the growing red stain on his shirt and sofa. An unexpected calm settled over me. I held the phone up to my ear, never having hit Send.
“Yes,” I spoke into my silent phone, “I need an ambulance. My friend has fallen and cut himself and is bleeding quite a bit.” Standing beside him, still holding his hand, I looked serenely down at Diego, reassuringly nodding my head when he was able to wrench his eyes open to look at me. I squeezed his hand a little tighter, comforting him, making him believe that, like every other time, I was there to save him.
“Yes, that’s the address,” I said to no one. “Please hurry.”
I turned my phone off and silently slipped it back into my pocket. Gently I laid his hand across his chest and reached over and pulled up an ottoman to sit upon.
“Diego,” I almost whispered. “Diego, I want you to listen.” My voice grew softer with each word.
“Diego, you need to try and relax. Everything is going to be okay.” Part of me wondered why I cared about reassuring him at all. He had never cared about comforting me. Another part of me began to revel in the hope that his long hold over me was finally going to be severed.
“Diego,” I started. There were no more words. There was nothing else I wanted to say to him. The realization that I would soon be free of him was intoxicating.
He looked at me again pleading, his face already becoming paler. “Bleeding,” was all he was able to get out.
“Yes,” I smiled at him. “You are bleeding. Quite a bit.”
Amidst all the panic and pain, something in my tone registered and a new fear worked its way across his face.
“Yes, Diego,” I told him. “It is time to say goodbye.”
He only tried to get up once, but by then he was already too weak to offer much resistance. Moments later he closed his eyes for the last time, and the pain that creased his face slowly subsided. A few jagged breaths later he was gone.
His blood on my hand was already drying. Any other time the sight of blood would have set me heaving. This time I just sat there quietly, fascinated by how quiet death is and how quickly blood dries.
I was finally free of Diego. Someone else’s laugh escaped from my throat, and for a second I flushed with embarrassment. Still, I was finally free. The relief that years of agony were now over made me feel weightless.
I sat with Diego a while longer, making sure there was no chance he could be saved. Later, I meandered out to the lake behind the cabin and washed my hands in the cold water. I lingered by the lake and watched the sun set.
Well after the sky was completely dark, I found my way back into the cabin. I looked at the body that once was the friend my heart ached for. A tear almost escaped from my eye, but there were no tears left for him. I pulled my phone back from my pocket and turned it back on, finally calling for help.
“Yes,” I started when a woman answered. “I just arrived at my friend’s cabin,” I lied to her. “I think he might be dead.”
Author’s Note: Thank you for stopping by. If you enjoyed this short story, please share it with others.
In my last post, Decisions, I completely missed one of my biggest passions. Number two only to writing is music. Music is so much a part of my daily life that it is as constant as oxygen in the air around me.
I love how music can be a motivator. Who doesn’t love getting the morning started with a good remix to get your blood pumping? Music can be a comfort, when you have had that terrible day and just need someone to commiserate with you. Think REM’s Everybody Hurts. Music can be your rage, when you are so angry you just can’t see straight. Linkin Park was once my rage go-to group. Music can be your bond. What long time couple does not have a song or songs that define their relationship. And to me, music is the great memory inducer. Some songs transport me instantly to a time and place that I may otherwise never think about.
In my youth, for one summer, I was in love with a girl when George Michael’s Faith album came out. Those of you 40 and up will remember how much controversy revolved around that album, and for young people, that only drew us to it even more. That album became the soundtrack to our relationship. Faith was the start of our relationship, all happy and upbeat. Hard Day and Monkey came later when two teenagers were having a hard time navigating the rough waters of a relationship. I Want Your Sex led briefly to Father Figure with a possible pregnancy scare. One More Try came in after one of us made a serious mistake in judgement, but we were not ready to just end things. Kissing a Fool became the epitaph on our relationship tombstone.
To this day, now 30 years later, I cannot not hear any of those songs without being back in that teenage world. I do not know what happened to my Faith girl, but as long as those songs are played she will always be with me.
One of my great passions is for poetry. Starting today I have added a page where I will be adding some of my favorites that I have written over the years. Today I am adding one called Whispered Silence. It was written during a time when I was first discovering that my best friend was really the love of my life. Let me know your thoughts.
I am feeling a little overwhelmed today. I thought finishing and formatting the book was going to be the hard part. Now trying to find my way into the digital social network world is forcing me to learn an abundance of new things. I am excited for the journey ahead and know that will skills will only improve. After all, I am starting from nothing so everything is improvement from here on.