IPAL Membership

Come Into The Foreground (© F. P. Dorchak and Jan C. J. Jones, 2016)

Come Into The Foreground (© F. P. Dorchak and Jan C. J. Jones, 2016)

As of last night, I achieved membership in the Independent Published Authors Liaison (IPAL), which is part of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) writers group I’ve belonged to for nigh 30 years. IPAL “…exists for the purpose of providing networking and promotional opportunities for independently published authors in RMFW and for promoting RMFW.

I’m not normally a “joiner,” but I love these people! They’re fun, outgoing, and enjoy each other’s writerly company, and they truly care about helping all writers out, and I sorely need that—help!

Cause, you see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about me, it’s that I suck at selling stuff.

I mean, sure, I can hand sell, one-on-one, if I have the right audience. The most books I’ve ever hand sold was 12, at The Bookman, in Colorado Springs, last year. For me that’s phenomenal. But, I mean selling stuff when I’m not around. On Amazon. Nook. Smashwords. Generating the reach and interest for those who don’t know me to want to look into what I have to say. So, I like that I’ve become part of a group that has some extremely successful folk doing just that. And this year has been the year I’ve put out the most. I did four writer events (Colorado Springs and Longmont libraries, Denver Comic Con, and RMFW Colorado Gold), and I hope to do MileHiCon48 next month. I’m getting my website looked at for a redesign. I did a photo shoot to get some new images of my fach that sorely needed updating. So, I’m putting myself out there. And with the folks at IPAL, I hope to learn and get better at this selling-my-stuff business. I need to learn how to better bring my work into the foreground with all these other successful people.

But that’s not all.

It’s not just about me. I do want to also help my fellow writers. Help them streamline their own efforts into this crazy business, but I also realize that since I have near-zero name recognition, no apparent track record to lean on, it’s hard to get into positions where I can help in any way I can help. Show what I’ve learned. I’m far from an expert in marketing and promotion, still have a day job (which makes my time harder to split to create workshops and such—but again, I’m not a “Famous Guy” selling oodles of books…), but am willing to lose some sleep over this and do some “forced reps,” as we say in the exercise world…with the right team and the right support.

So, I’m quite happy to now be included with these terrific people and their cause! Thanks to Karen Albright Lin for getting me to re-examine my position with regard to IPAL, and thanks to Lisa Manifold and IPAL…for bringing me into the fold!

Seeing Things

I do like to make things subtle, if at all possible. Today’s story might be a little too subtle? I don’t know…you’ll be the judge, as is usually the case with this kind of thing.

I vaguely remember writing this back in ’91. Changed a few things in it…added the very last line. I love leaving things to the imagination. Sometimes it’s far creepier that way. I love this line that I added in my rework:

Sometimes they looked like people.

Isn’t that just creepy?

This story also reminds me of Ray Bradbury Theater…and hold on—no, I’m not comparing myself to Mr. Bradbury in the way you’re thinking! I found that, at least in the TV series, some of his stories were so “thinly written,” I’ll call them that they left a lot to the imagination. And I kinda liked that. That he’d given just “enough information” to get you to thinking…then he’d leave you high-and-dry to work out the depth of the story on your own. Almost like vignettes…short story vignettes, if that makes any kind of sense: like he’d written a short story, then cut out the real beginning and ending and just presented a portion in the middle of the story.

Anyway, here is subtle creepy story for you to also read just before going to bed. Gah! Maybe it’ll also give you the “chicken skin” I’m feeling crawling all over me now as I write this….

This story has never been published.

 

Seeing Things

© F. P. Dorchak, 1991

 

Clarence McPeak had visions.

Not the kind of visions that foretold the future or anything, but the kind that occurred out the corner of his eyes. The kind that gradually caused one to backtrack and see if what one saw was indeed true. Indistinct, weird images…sometimes amorphous…sometimes they looked like people.

That last one was important.

 

Clarence had just locked his condo door and was on his way to his three-year-old Corvette coupe. He tossed his briefcase into the back, and jumped in. The throaty roar of the engine as he started the machine (it was far more than just “a car”) made him feel good…he loved the feeling of power. Maybe that was why he loved selling burial plots to people. There was such a feeling of power as he talked to families and couples into buying his plots. He was good, the best in the region, and he controlled his clients like mice in a maze. No one was allowed to deviate from the path Clarence McPeak blazed. He didn’t care if you needed the plot or not. If you came to him…you bought one. It was that simple. He was very tactful, if not forceful on that point. And if someone tried to deviate…well, they simply weren’t interested in what this Very Important Person had to say and he would spend no further time with them—thank you, good-bye.

As Clarence pulled the ‘vette out into the road and past his condo building, he glanced up to the door. As he turned away, a chill ran down his spine.

A smiling a man standing at his door.

And it was a smile that seemed too big for his face.

His entire body went “chicken skin,” and he slammed hard on the ABS, bringing his red beast to a halt. He shifted into reverse and brought his condo back into view.

No one. He saw no one—smiling or unsmiling—standing before his condo.

Clarence shivered and made an unintelligible sound.

“Goddamned it, not enough coffee in the veins….”

As he put it back into gear (in which he could easily hit fifty, he chuckled) and lurched forward, he thought it was probably just his neighbor.

But she was female.

 

Clarence opened his briefcase on the nearly unstable card table. This morning would be off to a slow, if somewhat boring start with a meeting from their regional head. Yeah, he was a “head,” alright…a pecker head (okay, he really wasn’t, but he just liked to think this when he thought of the term “head”)…he knew of no one who actually enjoyed these meetings, including those who gave them…but some things you just gotta do.

Leaving his card table niche, Clarence headed off for the bathroom and, later, coffee. Yeah, he needed more caffeine. Who didn’t?

People were starting to transition in for the honcho meeting (and, curiously, he did see more of his “shadow people” out of the corners of his eyes…but when he’d look back…they’d be gone…or a real person would be standing there, instead), so he was decidedly glad he got a relatively good seat before the best-seat rush.

“Clarence—how ya’ doin’, old buddy?”

It was Neil Furst. Gold chains, watch, and all. There was even something shiny in his teeth.

“How ya’ doin’, Neil,” Clarence said, dryly.

“Hey—why didn’t you wave to me the other day?”

Great, now he wanted conversation.

“Wave to you when?”

“Thursday. Up at Chapel Hills, around four-four-fifteen.”

Clarence stopped to think. He was surprised at himself that he was actually pausing to give Neil the time of day. Neil knew why people didn’t wave to him, knew damned well. They chose ignore him. It was always one’s best option. If you gave him the time of day…you couldn’t get rid of the man. Neil stopped and badgered people because nobody else would talk to him if he didn’t.

“Neil, sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about—I wasn’t anywhere near Chapel Hills Thursday. I was out of town. Utah, actually.”

Clarence wasn’t lying this time.

“Huh—no way, dude—”

“Dude” and gold chains. Bad combo.

“Look, Neil, baby, I gotta bad case of a loose lizard and I’m not about to argue with you, but I wasn’t in town this past Thursday. Really.”

“Huh. Well, okay. But someone was wearing your power suit and talking to that blonde. And what a looker you had there—”

“—it wasn’t me—”

“Yeah, but you woulda’ wished it was!”

Fuck you.

Had he said that out loud?

No. Good. For now. Don’t push it “buddy”….

“Well, thanks for your vote of confidence. Gotta go meet some porcelain. See you.”

My suit? Blonde? Guess I ought to have been there, damn it….

The meeting went off without a hitch and Clarence was out on the streets within an hour and a half, selling plots to people who both did and didn’t need them. The rest of the day was rather slow and uneventful, but no one deviated from the Clarence McPeak Path of Fame and Power….

 

Clarence approached his condo door, and for the first time that entire day thought about what he thought he’d seen that morning. Grunting, he turned the key and entered. Nothing was out of place, and all the lights were off—

Except one. Putting his keys away he entered his apartment and closed the door. It was the bathroom light. Slowly walking to the doorway, he peaked around the corner.

Empty.

What had he expected?

Clarence looked at his own reflection. Smiled.

Such a handsome devil.

“Well, what the hell. Left the damned light on again.” Turning it off, he returned to the living-room and removed his coat.

Clarence dreamed about the blonde he was supposed to have met. Dreamed about confronting the smiling man at his condo door. Clarence dreamed about himself doing things that he normally didn’t do…dreamed he was Clarence-but-not-Clarence…then dreamed about an accident in some other time that involved him. There were knives and monsters. Maybe a toy clown or two. Smiling.

He awoke.

The room was dark and there was a little moonlight poking through his mini-blinds. His mouth felt like he had sucked on bark all night, and he reached over to the nightstand for the red plastic cup he kept there, room temperature water waiting for him. He took one sip, then gripped the bed in terror.

Something moved in the hallway.

The cup spilled from his hands and onto the rug.

There it was again—a shadow!

Clarence bolt upright.

What should he do?

He wasn’t a Navy SEAL, like every hero in today’s world seems to be or have been…but he worked out and was in his early thirties.

What if it was nothing more than tree branches passing between the window and the moon?

He grabbed his Beretta from his nightstand and leapt out of bed. Grabbed his flashlight. Held it like they always did in the movies. Those Navy SEAL movies.

Yeah, that’s it, just a branch by the window. Sure, nothing else. This is silly. It’s only a branch.

But just in case, he undid the safety.

Only branches.

In the moonlight.

He had about ten feet before he even got near to a light switch. A lot could happen in ten feet if

branches

someone was really out there. Clarence stopped and peered into the dark depths of his condo. There was no movement. Flipping on the flashlight, he ventured forward. Still no movement. Not a sound.

His feet hit something.

Directing the light down to his feet, he saw nothing, then swishing it back and forth found the small plastic cup his toes had hit.

Clarence got to the wall switch and flipped it on.

Light.

“Well what the hell’s going on with me? Nightmares?”

Switching off the flashlight, he picked up the cup and placed it on the sink. He walked through the rest of his place and found nothing. He was just about to hit the switch and return to bed, when he suddenly stared at the blue plastic cup that sat on the edge of the sink, where he’d just put it two minutes ago.

How did that get on the floor?

Clarence never made it back to bed.

 

Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

Kirschner Cover Art: A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves

A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves © 2016 (reissue).

A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves © 2016 (reissue).

Lon contacted me about a guy named Sam Reaves. From his website, Sam was raised in small Midwestern towns but has lived in or around Chicago for most of his life. He’s also lived or made extended journeys in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East…and fluently speaks five languages. This is something I wished I could do (I barely remember my French and German!). He’s worked as a translator and a teacher, been president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and has published ten novels, seven as Sam Reaves and three as Dominic Martell. He currently resides in Evanston, Illinois. His work has been traditionally published, but he’s re-releasing some of it through Amazon.

Lon sent me some cover art he did for Sam, and one of them really grabbed me: A Long Cold Fall. I love “dark” and “weird” and I love that body position of the girl! And to be placed in that particular position…well, something isn’t right. In fact…something is far from right…there is weirdness afoot…and I am a fan of  weirdness! And it’s placed high into the air. Add to that the title. The word “fall” is in there, and while the body is falling…its position is so…peculiar…so high above the ground. Is she falling? Is she suspended?

I contacted Lon about this cover, and this is what he had to say:

“Sam was referred to me through the mystery writer Chris Knopf. We decided to do one book first to see how it goes. He was taking an older print series and translating them to e-books. A Long Cold Fall was the first. The title is a play on a suicide and the time of season the action happens. After we completed it, he decided he wanted to release all the books in the series at the same time.

“A Long Cold Fall is the most ethereal cover. The book opens with a suicide jump. I did several versions and Sam liked the version we now have.

“There were some comments from friends about the body position, so we went back and forth with the angle. I tilted it back slightly, it gave it an odd feeling of falling but also floating, which upped the creep factor. Using the Chicago skyline in the background but not really indicating a place from where the fall begins creates visual confusion. Is she falling or flying? I always thought about it as the classic line ‘I saw my whole life flash in front of me.’ It is a sense of stop action, the moment in the descent when everything slows down right before the final crash. There is a certain beauty in that moment. We know what will happen, but everything seems so calm.

“It is interesting to note that since all of these books (four total) focus around the same character who, while not a professional detective, always seems to find himself in the middle of these mysteries, made me feel I needed to create some type of identifier that ties them together as a series. I developed a circular monogram that is in the same position on each book and picks up the color theme of the cover. A simple device that instantly lets a potential reader know that this is a Cooper MacLeish Thriller.

“Sam was great to work with. He had definite ideas, but basically let me go my own way.

“I think on all levels, the results were very positive. Another positive was I read all the books and enjoyed every one which made my job that much easier.”

Thanks, Lon, for your insight!

Well, then Lon put me in contact with Sam, so I asked him some questions, and here is what Sam had to say:

Sam…your thoughts on cover art?

“Get a professional. That’s what everyone told me. Don’t try and do it yourself. You need a good professionally done cover to sell an e-book.

“I had actually done it myself (with some help from my graphically gifted wife) for a previous novel I’d published through Smashwords, and I thought it hadn’t come out too badly. But by the time I had gotten back the rights to my first four novels, a series originally published by Putnam in the early nineties, and was ready to put them up as e-books, I had decided that professional covers were probably a pretty good investment. You gotta spend money to make money, they say. So I went looking for covers I liked.”

And?

“I looked at a lot of covers. Some were brilliant and attention-grabbing; some were hideous. And yeah, the amateur ones didn’t make me want to click on Buy. The majority were just, well, ordinary. I wanted something that held my eye for more than a second or two.

“And here they were: a series of covers done for my friend Chris Knopf the crime writer. Slick, original images, colorful and dramatic. I e-mailed Chris: Who does your covers? Chris got back to me right away with Lon Kirschner’s name, adding that Lon was terrific to work with; he would actually read the books and custom-tailor an approach. It sounded like I couldn’t do any better than that.”

Have you ever worked with a cover artist before?

“I had never worked with an artist before; in my experience publishers just sent the author a proof as a fait accompli. I never felt I had enough clout to question it. I contacted Lon and sent him the first book in the series, my debut novel from 1991, A Long Cold Fall. The title is a pun on the season of the year and the method chosen in the apparent suicide of a woman who opens the book.”

Had you any specifics you did or didn’t want to see in your cover?

“The only definite idea I remember expressing to Lon was that I didn’t want a cover with another generic shot of the Chicago skyline. The first image he sent back was striking, the body of a woman in midair, silhouetted against a twilit sky. I loved it; my only reservation was that as depicted, more or less upright with arms spread, she looked more as if she were being borne up to heaven than as if she were falling. I asked Lon if he could make it unmistakable that she was falling. He said sure.

“The result was the dramatic image that now grabs prospective readers of A Long Cold Fall. I think it’s a great cover that captures the key image of the book.”

What did you like the most in working with Lon on this—or any other cover?

“Working with a professional who clearly took an interest in the book and made a real effort to come up with an image that fit the story made the experience a pleasure. Lon has now done covers for all four of my Cooper MacLeish novels, and they will be out there grabbing readers, I hope, for years to come.”

Thank you both for your time and effort, Lon and Sam! It’s been a pleasure!

 

*******************************************

Sam Reeves

Website: http://www.samreaves.com/

Contact Sam

Lon Kirschner may be contacted at:

Phone: 518/392-3823

E-mail: info@kirschnercaroff.com

Book Cover Site: http://www.lonkirschner.com/

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Werewolf

The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, © 1976 (My book photo, © Sept 15, 2016)

The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, © 1976 (My book photo, © Sept 15, 2016)

When I found this story—which I don’t even remember writing!—there was no copyright date on it, but it must be in the 1987 or 1988 timeframe; had basic writing errors in it, and the “look” of all my other works from that time period. It was one of the five files I have in which there were no dates in any of the file’s metadata.

Werewolves—the traditional kind, not today’s pretty, glittery kind—are, along with mummies,  my favorite monsters. As a kid, The Werewolf of Ponkert was one of my favorite novels. Here’s a little more information on that novel.

I’d written about mummies and vampyres, so here’s one of two werewolf tales I’ve found I’d written.

This story has never been published.

 

Werewolf

©F. P. Dorchak, 1988

 

I just kept running.

I didn’t know if I could ever get away from what I’d seen. I knew that physically I could probably—eventually—get away, but the horror I’d witnessed would remain with me forever….

It all started innocently enough. I was walking home late one moonlit night after a movie, taking the proverbial short-cut. I was thinking about how great my life had been going…of my new girlfriend, Shelly, especially. We’d met about a month ago, and it had been love at first sight for the both of us.

I was thinking about her hair…of how it shined in the light—any light. Of her soft beautiful features…the way she walked….the way we held each other. It was a feeling I wished on everybody! Everybody should have a mate, someone to hold and love. I was walking on air! It seemed as if nothing could bother me—nothing!

Well, it was then that I heard a commotion up ahead of me.

My head was still muddled with sweet thoughts of Shelly, but not enough to cloud my mind. I knew what the sounds of a fight sounded like. There was a scuffle going on up ahead, and though I hadn’t been in a fight since grade school, I still somehow wasn’t all that comforted by my physical size and capabilities.

As I got closer, I was able to distinguish the sounds better. I heard a high-pitched screaming which no doubt came from a woman…and some deeper grunts that sounded like a man exerting himself. But I also heard something else…sounds much deeper than the rest of what I heard, sounds that sounded like…an animal.

An angry, ravenous animal.

Instinctively, I reached for my side, my hand coming to rest on my encased buck knife. Still there, at least I wouldn’t be totally unaided if necessity reared its ugly head….

The female voice raised in pitch, crying out for help from anybody…but nobody seemed to answer her call. The male voice was wavering. I stopped in my tracks. There was no mistaking it now, people were fighting for their lives. I felt something twist in my stomach, sweat seep out of my pores.

I withdrew my blade, extending its four-inch, shiny blade. On the blade itself was an engraving commemorating the men of the sea. The engraving had been done over in pure silver; the knife was never intended for use, but for display only. I got it from an old buddy who sails, and liked it so much I came to carrying it around.

I approached the fray, blade glistening in the moonlight. The woman saw me and stepped back to allow my entrance, pleading for help. I’m not sure what she was wearing, but her attire was in tatters and she was bleeding. She held a broken tree branch. I approached hesitantly, steel pointed forward, and looked at the scene. Two figures struggling, one appreciably larger than the other—and naked. And there was a growling coming from the naked, larger one that stung my soul; it was that animal sound I’d heard.

I got closer, unsure of what to do, though at the same time knowing perfectly well what needed to be done. The man was being ripped to pieces by his naked attacker. I thought back to Shelly—what if this same thing happened to her? The woman continued to plead for my assistance, calling to any others who might be listening. She again approached the thing atop her man and pounded mightily with the branch that had finally shattered apart in her hands on a back-that-wasn’t-a-normal back…a back that was…changing….

I was frozen!

I watched helplessly as the boyfriend was mutilated.

How could I just stand there and watch?

I grew angry with myself!

This man was already beyond any help that might arrive…his woman not much better—but I couldn’t let what was happening to this man happen to the woman…I had to try something!

I grasped my knife tighter, allowing my anger to fill me…it was the only way I could get myself to leap forward…which I did.

My steel buried itself into the thing’s side.

I felt my whole body trembling as the act was completed.

I had done it!

The beast uttered a pained howl, throwing the now dead body of the man away—then turned on me. It didn’t have to hit me to physically knock me over, just seeing it’s face was enough.

The face I looked at was not like my own, or any other man’s.

And it was still transforming.

A transformation between a man and—and a monster.

The face contorted with thick animal hair and leathery skin sprouting all over it…long, razor-sharp teeth completing extension from within an angry lupine maw. A far-too muscular and brutish lithe form taking hold over the soft, sallow flesh of a man.

I was knocked to the ground as the beast ran past, clutching it’s side. As it got past me it stood for but a moment in the pale moonlight and shook its hairy, narrow, and wholly wolf head back and forth as the contortions continued to torture it. His hands—which were now actually claws—went up to his “face.”

The whole of this thing’s body was ripping itself to pieces!

As it fell to all fours, rippling muscles and fur now covered it. This was clearly no longer any kind of a human being I’d ever before known.

The woman stared, unseeing, at the wolf—the werewolf. She’d stopped screaming a long time ago.

The wolf licked its teeth. Looked back to me.

I saw some stickiness along its side—the side I had knifed. The blade still gleamed in my hand, some of the beast’s blood on my hand. The wolf looked toward the girl. Before I could react let alone think, the beast had leapt towards her and knocked her over—intentionally avoiding my blade.

The silver. The silver in the engraving, that’s what kept it from me.

The wolf gave one well-placed bite on the woman before continuing onward into the cover of night.

Her throat was gone.

As was the wolf.

I stood there…I stood with my bloodied and gleaming knife still outstretched, my senses traumatized. I couldn’t do anything for her boyfriend…and now I’d been similarly cheated out of her life, too! I didn’t know what to do.

 

So I ran!

At first I ran after it, but then thought what would I do when I caught up with it? What would it do to me? Surely it wouldn’t stay afraid of me and my puny weapon for long. It was larger than me…quicker than me. Far more lethal.

So I hid.

But I can’t stay here forever…alone and terrified. It’ll find me. The wolf has my scent.

It’s only a matter of time.

Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

 

The “You Belong” Anthology 2016

You Belong 2016 Anthology, Edited by Steve Kenworthy, ©2016 (ISBN 978-0-692-77438-0) Used with permission of Steve Kenworthy.

You Belong 2016 Anthology, Edited by Steve Kenworthy, ©2016 (ISBN 978-0-692-77438-0) Used with permission of Steve Kenworthy.

I was first included in the Longmont Public Library’s first anthology back in 2012. It was an honor to have been selected by an organization I’d never before heard of, especially since I don’t live by them! I’ve forgotten just how they found me, but they did, and it was an honor to have my short story, “Tail Gunner,” included in their collection.

This year, I was again included in their fifth anthology, You Belong 2016, Words and Images from Longmont Area Residents!

As Steve Kenworthy, anthology editor, explained to me they had gone more “in-house” with their last four anthologies, and rightly so. They wanted to keep it more local. But with the fifth collection, they decided to again extend their reach outward to those who had been in the first one. The release of the fifth anthology was in conjunction with their library festival, and a handful of us read from sections of our stories on September 8th. All proceeds from the book go to supporting the Longmont Public Library, and I am proud to have helped them and even bought 15 of their books. I gave out a bunch of them at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference that following weekend.

My entry into this year’s anthology is my story, “Broken Windows.” It’s an emotional and tragic tale of a woman’s reconciliation with her dead father. Of course, since I wrote it, it’s paranormal. I don’t write “normal.” After the reading, as I was on my way out to make the hour-and-a-half return trip home, a lady came up to me and complimented me on being brave enough to face my emotions like that. I thanked her…but carefully told her this story was not about my family. Eeeee…I always hate to point out when someone has made an error when I’m being complimented, but it goes to show you how powerfully I’d done my job in writing that story. Wow. I’m so glad it hit at least one reader like I’d wanted it to! Sure, I used elements from other people’s lives, but it’s a story. I did, however, tell the lady that up until the present (I started this story—the first four pages—in 1997, but finished it a few months back), every time I finished reading the story, I cried.

Cried?

Yes.

Outwardly. And not on the inside, like I joked about at the closing keynote at the RMFW conference! Actual tears.

See, ladies, I really can weep….

This story is that emotional for me. So, thank you, ma’am, for your compliment.

Of note, my story, set in Kansas, fits in beautifully with the cover image! How serendipitous!

I love the Longmont area and its library, have now been there twice. Terrific people! And the stories that I’d heard at the reading were wonderful and heartfelt. It was fun! It also hit me as I sat there that except for Steve Kenworthy I didn’t know another soul in that room! That just hit me kinda funny.

So…thank you…Steve and the staff at the Longmont Public Library…for inviting me to your 2016 anthology and including some of my work! It is an honor to have been thought of and included! I truly feel that I belong!

To get a copy of this or the other anthologies, contact:

Steve Kenworthy
Head of Technical Services/Systems Administrator
Longmont Public Library
409 4th Street
Longmont, CO 80501
303-651-8614
steve.kenworthy@longmontcolorado.gov

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RMFW Colorado Gold Writers Conference

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Wall "Light Display" (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 10, 2016)

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Wall “Light Display” (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 10, 2016)

The very first writers conference I ever attended was somewhere around 1987 or so. I no longer remember. But what I do remember is the people and the energy of that weekend! About being a young dude of 26 or so, officially declaring myself as “a writer,” and putting myself out there. I had just moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1985 and had been bouncing around between critique groups. Through various referrals, I’d found out about this group of writers out of Denver, so I checked them out and ended up staying with them for a few years! “The Capitol Hill Group,” was my new critique group and I commuted every week to them. And they mentioned this animal called “a writers conference.”

So I went.

It was an entire world of writing! I was hooked!

But life got in the way, and, well, I ended the commute when I got married and with busy work schedules, et cetera—but I stayed in the writer’s group. Some time later their name changed to their present set of words (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers), and I’ve always remained with them. But…I also found a local writer’s group that also formed their own conference and had gone to that one for some 20 years, volunteering, et cetera.

But one always remembers their first love with great and misty-eyed fondness!

I’d always wanted to attend another RMFW conference, but it was hard to afford paying for two conferences a year, or I’d be away on vacation or a business trip, or some other event was interfering with my plans to attend the RMFW Gold. But in rolls 2016…and I found I’d had an open calendar!

So…some 30 years later…I’d finally made my way to the RMFW writers conference!

It was…epic.

Not only were the sessions incredible and informative, but the people…oh, yes, it’s the people who make anything good or bad or indifferent, and these people were beautiful.

Yes, “beautiful”!

It was well-organized and oiled!

And I’d met new writers I hope to be able to now call new friends, and met some old friends from my Capitol Hill Critique group days! One in particular (Christine Jorgensen!) I hadn’t seen her in some 30 years!

There is so much to relate from this conference, but it would be a much looonger post, and I’m trying to be better about that, so I’m only going to relate a couple of “situations” that really stood out:

  • Being recognized “in the wild”
  • Relating “weird tales” that really happened
  • Reading porno

Being Recognized

As I checked in to the conference and stated my name…the next thing I knew, this woman was leaning across the table, pointing at me, saying: “I know you: All writing helps all writing!

Oh, my God—my first stalker.

Clearing my throat and backing away from the table juuust a touch, I squeaked, “Excuse me?

“You’re the one who posts on the loop with the signature tag ‘All writing helps all writing!'” this rather energetic and enthusiastic woman said, still reaching across the table with her pointy finger.

I was, um, well, kinda speechless.

Scared.

Yes, I do have that as my tag line, and yes, I do post on the RMFW loop. She was right. Her pointy finger was also still right in my face (okay, I exaggerate).

She was all smiles as she introduced herself to me as Sheri Duff (no relation to Sue Duff—they call themselves “Sisters by different mothers. And fathers.”).

So…while still keeping the table between her and me, we discoursed and I discovered that she was keenly aware of my e-mail signature block.

Wow.

To say I was stunned puts it mildly. I was also..humbled.

Here was someone “out in the wild” who had recognized not only my name…but part of my brand. Little old me. My branding had actually worked!

Turns out, Sheri and I kept running into (?!) each other throughout the conference, and she is actually a very sweet person.

But, I’m still dumbfounded, humbled, shaking my head…and checking over my shoulder….

Weird Tales

All I can say about this section, is that I am finding—without a doubt—that many people experience aspects of the supernatural than is currently realized. They just don’t talk about it much or openly.

I am not going to get into what others told me—that is not my place—but, man, it raised the Chicken Skin! It’s easy to hear this stuff around noise, commotion, and friends…and quite another to remember those conversations when you return alone to your dark room at night.

But.

I have to say, I did spook one of my friends, Susie Lindau, who write a great series of blogs! I told her about many of my “weird things that happen to me,” and then told her about the “Silver Man” who had visited me as a kid. In this relation, there’s a part where my brother, Greg, told about how the Silver Man, who had been looking at me, turned to look briefly at him—then away. I demonstrated that to Susie, and she cringed and contorted and weird mewling noises emerged from her. I don’t even know if there are vowels in the English language to convey those, um, “intonations.”

Reading Porno

Okay. Porno.

I released my fifth novel, Voice, last year (2105) about a guy’s disintegrating familial and romantic relationships. It has emotional content. It has supernatural content.

It also has erotic content.

Some might call it “pornographic,” but they would be wrong. Porno is written to excite and titillate. I did not write it to that end. It was written as part of the story of this character’s issues, within the confines of working in the fashion and modeling industry and in his dealing with a voice in his head. Yeah.

Next: back in the late 80s, when I was with The Capitol Hill critique group, one of my critique group, Kay Bergstrom, aka Cassie Miles, had signed one of her Harlequin Temptation novels, It’s Only Natural, to me. In it, she signed it as—well, read it for yourself:

Cassie Miles aka Kay Bergstrom Autograph of It's Only Natural, ©1986 (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 12, 2016)

Cassie Miles aka Kay Bergstrom Autograph of It’s Only Natural, ©1986 (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 12, 2016)

NOTE ADDED LATER: In all fairness to Kay, as I thought about this, I remembered that I’d told her to make the autographing as raunchy as she could!

Well, that has been a long running joke between Kay and me. And I’d found at this conference she and Linda Joffe Hull were presenting a session about “Writing Sex: The Ins and Outs.” Since I had written some pretty steamy sex scenes in Voice, I wanted to see if there was something I could learn from Kay and Linda…see if I’d done something wrong (turns out better writers [Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen] than me wrote far worse scenes that I remember writing…)…better learn for any future sex scenes I might write (Voice is my last and only book of “this nature”; you’ll see what I mean if you read it: be warned, it ain’t for the easily offended—or my family).

And during this session Linda and Kay made it known that they wanted someone from the audience to read a passage from this porno novel that Kay had contributed to.

Say what?

Though I sat at the very front table, I felt the awkwardness of those behind me. I doubt any eye contact was made with Kay or Linda then.

So I shot my hand into the air.

What in hell was I doing?

I don’t know. Didn’t care. Linda and Kay were unabashed, joyful, good-natured, and easygoing about the topic, and I was at the conference to have fun. Even at my own expense. Embarrassment.

I was taking a chance…putting myself out there…and trying to grow as a writer.

That‘s what-in-hell-I-was-doing.

So I found a steamy passage and told the room that I may get red-faced while reading this…but we were gonna work through it!

So…I read.

And I liked it!

I mean, well, yeah, it was fun!

That was the first time I’d done anything like that…in public.

We were all writers trying to learn about how to write legitimate sex scenes in our work. Our work is about people…and one of the things people do…is have sex…and it’s up to us to portray that in as real a fashion as possible, per the genre within which we all write. There are definite dos-and-don’ts.

Put yourselves out there.

In Summation

There is so much more to say about this past weekend, but it’s all writerly-geekness. But I’ve come away with a [re]new[ed] appreciation for newsletters (I’m going to try to restart my previously feeble efforts), “event table psychology,” writing (blogging!) legalities, and new methods of promotion. Found a new and legit need for a smartphone.

I got to meet new people (finally—faces to names!) and renewed current friendships (Karen, Aaron, Bonnie, Janet, Laura, Angie, Warren, Nathan, and so many more)! Cried on the inside at Ann Hood’s Sunday luncheon speech.

And I gained a stalker.

Nice.

What more could an up-an-coming writer ask for?

Write on.

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Attention Span

I got the idea for this story while attending a multi-level marketing seminar some twenty-five, thirty years ago. I still remember as I sat in the audience (on folding chairs) and looked around, everyone (except me) was focused in what seemed to me enraptured attention at the speaker. The speaker bored me. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I’d had this same feeling when I’d later attended an AMWAY seminar at the urging of a friend. That was the weirdest multi-level marketing program I’d ever attended—and my last, and where I may have actually birthed this story. I’d learned my lesson. At that AMWAY seminar it literally felt like a cult (sorry those of you who participate in AMWAY; you may not feel this way, the culture may have since changed, but that is how I felt all those years ago). All the women had been in conservative “church-goin'” dresses, all the men in dark, conservative suits with power (red) ties. And the smiles—

Oh, God, the sickening, saccharin smiles….

Unnerving posters were up around the auditorium with “positive statements” and other things I no longer remember…except that it was all decidedly creepy.

Disturbing.

The way everyone talked…what they talked about and how they presented themselves…the speakers, the layout. The attire. How they all seemed to have the same “certain point of view” on life, religion, world view. Then there was this line in my story that I remember so well: “Shaking his hand was like holding a sea cucumber.” Yes, the guy described in this story…his handshake…it was real, and that was exactly what I remembered thinking while shaking his sweaty, clammy hand.

And had there really been a gong onstage?!

Anyway, I’d attended these seminars because I was still in the Air Force and had been looking for a way out…something to get into that could support my exit from the military. As I sat there and observed everyone, I thought…what ifwhat if….

This story originally appeared in Tyro, issue #26,on June 1990.

 

Attention Span

© F. P. Dorchak, 1990

 

Hi, I’m Alex. What I’m about to tell you, you will not believe. Why should you? Nobody else did. I can scarcely begin to believe it myself, even though I’m sporting all the proof I’ll ever need.

It all started, innocently enough, with one of those “Hey Come see Us, We’re Great” cards I got in the mail one rainy afternoon. It came sandwiched between the usual bills for the Visa, furniture and utilities (why do they all come at once?), waiting patiently for my retrieval from the tiny silver box apartment complexes use. That day I remember in particular because I had gone to interview for a certain very desirable management position at McGraw-Hill Books. It was a position, I regret to inform you, that did not come my way. Somebody better than I had secured the reigns. As usual, I would remain in the background.

Had my brush with that form of mail-advertising ended there, there would be nothing to tell and I’d be able to walk out of this room on my own. But it didn’t happen that way. Later that night I also received, free of charge, the complimentary phone call. It, too, was extending the same invitation that the piece of paper had already screamed at me.

I remember I regarded that call—true to form—with much suspicion. I’ve always prided myself on my cynicism: it’s the one thing I can always count on without letting it go to my head! Anyway, as I lay on the floor, as I usually do when I’m on the phone for any length of time, I began listening to the voice on the other end. Not to what was being said, mind you, but how it was being said. There was something in this guy’s voice that bothered me. He sounded slimy.

Maybe out of pure curiosity, maybe out of sales pressure, I decided to show up at the designated place, at the designated time. When he started saying stuff like: “All your co-workers are coming, why not you?”, I felt like a worm. You know how it goes, can’t show your face at work the next day because everyone at work is walking around with shit-eating grins on their faces ’cause they’re privy to the Greatest Deal On Earth and you’re not.

That card has since disappeared. I never was able to relocate it. Presumably it was lost in the myriad piles of paperwork littered about my apartment table. I never did clean it up. And so it goes.

So there I sat, considerably more casual then the other bodies around me and finding the atmosphere of the auditorium rather oppressive. Somewhere I heard the sound of an air-conditioner, but it surely wasn’t in this room. It wasn’t so much that it was hot (though we could’ve done with a few degrees less), as it was stuffy. It reminded me of how dank cellars can smell on a good day. It was indeed an odor that was very much out of place, and why no one else was unnerved by this was, at the moment, beyond me. But that wasn’t the only thing out of place here. I was out of place. This looked more like a business convention what with all the formal evening wear galore and I wasn’t even wearing a jacket.

Up on the front stage, aside from the screen and podium, stood a small brass gong complete with hammer. How cute, I thought. The velvety backdrop was swaying to some movement from behind it, and I noted how there were two guards to either side of the gong. They were smartly dressed in the official uniforms of a bodyguard, their hands folded to front. Watching them for a few minutes, I noticed how they didn’t seem to be looking at any one thing in particular, just staring straight ahead, unblinking. I thought I had seen something peek through the bottom of the curtain, but couldn’t identify what it was.

The speaker, who was to shortly take the stage, was mingling with the crowd and shaking hands, trying to get elected into whatever office he thought he was running for. It was only an investment seminar.

His person bothered me.

Appearing dumpy and pliable, somewhat like the Pillsbury Doughboy, there was something about him that seemed as stolid as granite. Like ones and zeros in a computer, when he was on, he was congenial…and when he was off, he was cold, almost lifeless. He was a contradiction in terms, two people occupying the same space; impossible yet irrefutable.

It didn’t take too long before he made his way to me. I shuddered at the thought of having to meet him, for it meant that now he could associate a name to a face. My name, my face. I wished to remain as anonymous as possible in this crowd. The only fame I had ever collected came from the local gym where I found (much to my surprise) that I could move mass quantities of weight all by myself. My strength quite belied my size, at five foot eleven, a hundred and sixty pounds. Nothing much a girl would look at.

Shaking his hand was like holding a sea cucumber—have you ever held a handful of snot? There was no substance to his sweaty grip, or to his personality for that matter, and I quickly wiped my hand on the seat of my pants. Why were people so taken in by this guy? Conservatively clad in some nondescript men’s wear, there wasn’t a speck of dandruff on his lapels as he emitted an odor of impeccability.

His face was clean-shaven to the point of boredom. He had a nose that was small and unassuming, looking more like an afterthought than an intention—and his lips! His lips were puffy looking—like someone had spent the better part of an afternoon beating on them with a rubber hose! Topping his head, his graying hair was slicked back with some form of hair crème. But his eyes were the screwiest part of him, resembling dark pieces of coal stuck into a pale, chubby face. There was no two ways about it, this man just plain looked weird.

The congregation assembled and niceties completed, the gong was rung. We were ready to begin.

 

“…and so, friends,” ejaculated the speaker, “I believe I can convince each and every one of you to invest in our program. How you ask? Well, allow me just a moment of your time…”

Yes, it was indeed getting very boring. I kept waiting for his tongue to get tangled up in his lips. We’d only been there some, oh—let me see, fifteen minutes? Fifteen minutes, and my butt was already feeling that wet, prickly sensation. There he stood before us, gesticulating with the authoritative air of a southern Baptist evangelist when I finally noticed something, even sitting all the way to the rear where I was. His eyes had taken on a strange, new quality.

By virtue of his taking position at the podium, his eyes transformed from the lifeless pieces of dark coal they had been earlier…to that of a strangely disquieting quality that seemed almost as if they belonged to somebody else. Or that perhaps someone else was looking through them at us. There was a fever being injected into those orbs, an infusion of near-righteous frenzy that seemed to increase with every sentence…forcing you to desire nothing else but the depths of his gaze. It was as though everyone in the room was being converted.

Everyone that is, but me.

So, unaffected and quite bored I decided to take advantage of this time by attempting total character assassination of our speaker. He did seem quite different now, more like another person had suddenly taken over. He still looked the worm, mind you, but I tried to find a description that would now describe the new him. The only thing I could come up with was roadkill.

Aside from his new steely gaze, he was still disgusting to look at. Everyone in the room was absolutely riveted to his gaze, his word, his every movement. The only way I could try to explain this was to look at it from the point of view of roadkill.

Dead animal meat alongside a highway is a disgusting thing to look at, but everybody does it. There are just some things in this world that defy explanation, and craning your neck about a bug-stained windshield to steal a peak at some roadway slaughter was one of them. What is it that attracts those passing stares from motorists? Fascination? Fear? Was that the secret to this whole audience fixation thing? Was it a fear of looking away—a fear of death?—the curiosity of trying to feel what it must be like to die, either among friends or alone on some deserted byway, hot screaming metal suddenly splattering through your brains and sending their remains all over the pavement? Feeling your last breath slowly ebbing away, your lifeblood warming cold, uncaring asphalt and your last view of the world some topsy-turvy angle of dirt, an unknown but active ant scurrying past your clouding vision and knowing—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that you are indeed dying, your life ended. You try to figure out what must’ve gone on within that animal’s mind during its last few moments, vainly attempting self-conciliation in a fleeting nanosecond to console yourself and your frail mortality…that swatting a roadside mammal is no different than swatting a household fly.

Who knows. All I knew was that he reminded me of roadkill, causing me to look out of curiosity, and all philosophy aside, I was dying here! This “free” dinner had better be worth it…

“…yes, our property is like no other! In the heart of the Heartland! Ripe for both the daring and the conservative at heart! All we ask is…ah—but just a minute. I’m not going to tell you that just yet! If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be here. In fact, I’d be out of a job (roar of devised laughter)! Now take a look at these figures for a moment…”

No, nothing’s worth this! How in the hell did I ever let myself get suckered? I guess I had nothing better to do on a Saturday night. But as I sat there in the very last row, watching all those Good Little Citizens hypnotized by this joker at the podium, I knew that I could be doing something better—like beating off in the john with Miss August. What tits.

But hey, no. I’m here. Listening to Mr. Charm and Charisma Himself, Joe Fishlips, or whatever he claimed his name to be (you never quite get their names, you know, and when you do, it seems to keep changing…).

“…now if you’d just be kind enough to bear with me…”

Oh yeah, right, like let’s play to the dain bramaged audience as if there were a choice! Fellow acceptance to a yuppie is everything! Besides, he got his laughter, and now he’s just one o’ the gang: “Hey, how ’bout that ‘ole Fishlips…”

“…you’ll see we offer something that absolutely no one else in the industry can offer…”

Yeah, public dumps offer something no one else can offer.

It was getting pretty deep, so I just tuned out ‘ol Joe and started eyeing the crowd, to see how many of them were actually that brainless as to be totally duped by this patronizing orifice. Scanning, I lost all respect for the Human Race. Was I the only one? It was indeed a dark day for Humanity, let me tell you!

But that wasn’t all. There was something…something else. I didn’t know exactly what it was at the time, but there seemed to be an uneasiness rippling through the crowd—an undercurrent of something indescribable, and though it bothered me greatly, it didn’t seem to bother the lot of them. There seemed to be a sudden abundance of casual shifting among the audience as they sat there in their rickety chairs, cigarette smoke weaving dreamy patterns in our oppressive enclosure. I hate cigarette smoke.

All of them had that same sick grin of blissful ignorance on their faces, that way people get when they think they’ve found the Answer to Everything. Had I been listening to my intuition, I would’ve—should’ve—gotten out of there, then and there. But like the yuppie I so detest, I stayed, picking at the stiff hairs along my arms. Forget the dinner, Arby’s would’ve been a lifesaver!

No, something sinister was underway and I was too entwined in my own cynicism to take heed. For one thing, can you imagine being seen as the only one getting up and leaving from an assemblage like this one? I’d have no one to talk to at work—not that that in itself especially bothered me, but I did have to deal with these people sooner or later.

So I stayed.

Yeah, I sat and I observed—not Motormouth the Charismatic, but the audience and the “bouncers.” They seemed to be eyeing the audience too, and apparently hadn’t yet noticed me noticing them. There was something definitely not right here, a dream-like quality to the whole affair. There were several times in which I had to actually concentrate on what I was doing. All the smoke, the incessant droning of our speaker and the stuffiness tried vainly to win my attention, but I wouldn’t concede.

Then something unfair happened, something so cunning and devious that it capped my stay for sure. Dinner was announced. It totally threw my whole evening.

So we were all herded out, instructed to follow those stupid little cards marking the way to the dining hall, even though everybody already knew how to get there (the paranoia of those guys at losing even one individual!). There seemed to be much conversation going on along the way to the dining hall, but each time I tried to focus in on any one of them, I couldn’t make anything out. It was as though it was all gibberish, meaningless dribble devised to give the impression of conversation. I was beginning to feel very much alone.

The meal wasn’t all that great—pseudo-adult portions of some bastardized version of a Swanson TV dinner. You had a choice, (and what a grand selection it was too!) either the chicken cordon bleu, or Spam.

Scattered randomly throughout the dining room, a few of us relaxed after our allotted 45 minutes of entrée. Just then the bouncers came back to see that there were no stragglers. Shit, after a muddy parfait one hardly had time to enjoy Dom Perignon-Ripple, served chilled. Oh well, the show must go on.

Marching some 20 paces to the rear and right of us, the Guard herded its quarry back into the corral. We “be-sat” ourselves in the Great Chamber. Isn’t it amazing how everyone gets the same chair they had previously?

No sooner had I “be-sat” myself, when that same feeling of uneasiness once more returned. The other, intoxicating quality, however, had not yet overtaken me. I attributed this to being able to leave the microcosm, reorienting my psyche back to its rightful compass setting. I know not why the others were not similarly affected, maybe I have some gene they don’t have. Whatever the case, by this time I was marked—the door-thugs had spotted me. Great, now there was absolutely no chance of sneaking out.

The room seemed darker, the rickety folding chair I sat in, squeakier. Everyone was so hypnotized by our narcissistic speaker except for me, and that, my dear friends, bothered the hell out of me.

Why was it that I, out of all these other people, was immune? Were there that many fools on this planet?

There it was again, that same rippling movement throughout the crowd. That same squirming.

Except for me.

Someone brushed at one of my legs. I shifted my foot.

I looked back at the thugs, who, unfortunately, were still there. Damn it all, if it didn’t seem like the room was getting darker! Was it just me, or were the lights actually growing more dim?

Think I’d get the hint? Hell, no!

I had lost all interest whatsoever in our arrogant speaker a long time ago and just had to find out what it was that was going on here. It wasn’t until some five minutes later that I didn’t give a damn and just wanted to get out as fast as I could—to erase that whole night from both my mind and the consciousness of the Human Race.

Once more I felt my leg brushed, but this time noted that the people around me hadn’t moved, or even affected their heartfelt apologies for breaking the Unwritten Law of—oh, heaven forbid!—touching another body! I looked down at my feet and lost all interest in Miss August.

Entwined around the lower structure of the puke-brown folding chairs were—and I kid you not—tentacles! Sickly-green and vomit-yellow! I looked up and down the rows around me, my mouth agape.

They were everywhere!

But more than that, they were attached to everybody’s legs. Everyone’s

but mine.

Ho-ly fuck.

What in hell was I supposed to do now? Ee-yuck, it still sickens me! No one even knew what was going on. The tentacles sucked and sucked, their huge trunks swelling with bodily fluids, looking like snakes apregnant with swallowing prey. There was a sick, puss-like film over each extremity, but there was not a one on Yours Truly. Some people had several on them, blood oozing from the inflicted wounds. Listening closely, I could hear the sucking sounds beneath the drone from the front. Gag. It made me wanna chunk right there!

Yet I was amazed at how calm and collected I remained. I guess that came from reading Stephen King. All I knew was that I had to get out of there, and now—not in three seconds, but yesterday! I looked back over at the bouncers, still there of course. It was just about then when one of ’em looked over at me again. I was nailed, no two ways about it. The guy stared right into me, he knew I wasn’t in the least bit mesmerized. Terrific. I had to do something. Be calm.

That’s when it all dawned on me why we were here. We were offerings to this—whatever it was—demon-god. Somehow we were all to be hypnotized, then fed upon. But something had gone wrong with me. Too tough for ‘ole Fishlips, I guess. Well let’s see how tough I am against a squid!

I started to get up, metal chair squealing at the release of my weight, tattle-telling to my naughtiness. That was when I felt tentacles sliming after my gams. Fawwwk, it was disgusting! Sliming after my legs—me!

No one in the audience moved. Fishlips stopped momentarily to take note of my singular movement, but masterfully continued, motioning for the Guard to deal with me. No fuckin’ way Hoser, I was roiled. Adrenalin pounding, I grabbing my chair from the clutches of a slime-hand and smashed it into the side of an approaching bouncer’s head, who went crumbling into a heap on the floor, but three others were soon joining in, not to mention those suckers. The audience continued focusing in on Joe’s chanting, several people silently collapsing either to the floor or onto the shoulders of those adjacent to them. The demon was feeding, and feeding well.

I just managed to sidestep a tentacle when one of the guards got up behind me, attempting restraint. Lifting weights gave me an edge the dude didn’t expect, considering my size, or lack of it. As strong as these thugs were—and they were strong—I managed to wiggle free enough to butt my head up into the guy’s jaw. I heard a crunching sound as he reeled back, his grip released, but a tentacle snagged me. Terrific.

It pulled me in. It was pretty tough, and I thought of all those other tentacles already out there and of the hellish damage they could—and were—doing. Quickly I grabbed my bent chair and started wailing away on the slime-fiend. It didn’t have too strong a grip on me yet and I managed to pull free, but I still had two bouncers to contend with, plus the bludgeons they were pulling out. I really didn’t need this.

I worked my way into a corner, preparing for the worst. There was no way this creature was getting me: I’d die first. I’d really rather die first….

The first thug lunged. I side stepped him easily, smashing the other across the face, blinding him and causing him to stumble right into the network of hungry suckers. Before it had even registered on my mind what had happened, the tentacles had whipped themselves around the figure and pulled him to the ground with such violent force that his body ruptured in several places. For the first time, I really looked at the bouncers. They seemed slightly sluggish, as if they too, like pal Fishlips, were not all there.

The other turned around, handling his weapon with both hands, eyes boring in on me. We paced around each other, my clothing ripped in several places, scrapes and cuts beginning to sting. Fishlips started to look real worried. Unfortunately for me, I maneuvered right into the zombie’s trap, two tentacles again grabbing me, but with firmer grips, pulling me to the ground. No way, I kept telling myself, no way! I wasn’t going to give this creature—or Fishlips—any satisfaction! I was going to make it out! Frantically I kicked and fought like a drowning man attempting to keep his head above water, tentacle vomit covering me.

The thug stood over me staring—no expression on its pale face (which I now noticed, was indeed pale). With both hands, it raised the club over its head. The tentacles that had latched onto me bit deep into my flesh, causing me to wince, but I had other things on my mind just then. The mindless guard swung at my head. Twisting, I managed to evade him at the last moment, sending a crack through the weapon as it bounced off the hardwood floor. The suckers weren’t making my life any more pleasant, either, but I got free of most of them.

Chair still in hand, I swept it across the floor and swept the guard off his feet, landing him (it?) on his back with a muffled thud. In a comical kind of way I noticed how his neatly combed hair flew up from his head as he fell, coming to rest about his forehead in a less-than-neat manner as he landed. A tentacle lashed out at one of the guard’s flailing arms, loosening it from its socket. As situation would have it, the bat rolled over to me and I grabbed it. The guard was simultaneously trying to get at me and undo the tentacle that was on him, drawing blood. I swung at him but missed. He got closer and I swung again, missing. Shit, fine time for the getaway car to stall, I thought. The zombie tried to right itself, but fell back down to the floor towards me, its useless arm banging helplessly at its side. I took advantage of this and swung the club with all my might, splattering the guards brains all over myself and the floor, not to mention splintering the bat, which now resembled more of a short spear.

Immediately I started hacking away at the tentacles on my legs. It was tough going, especially since others were still rooting for my corpuscles, but the sentinel’s remains next to me managed to divert the demon’s attention for the moment, and I wasn’t sure how long that moment would last. I lost all feeling in my right leg, my other one fast losing all sensation.

I managed to cut free, crawling as fast as my elbows would carry me. Fishlips was definitely worried now. His sales pitch, if indeed he was pitching anything, was much more hurried and higher in tone. The Watchmen up front with him made a gesture towards me, but he halted them.

He had let me go.

 

Well, to make my long story short, I managed to crawl out (and curiously enough, didn’t see a soul—or shin—the whole time exiting). But by then, I had lost all feeling in both legs, and they were actively bleeding out open gouges. I lost consciousness somewhere near Cascade boulevard….

 

So here I lay now, in a hospital bed, one leg gone, half of the other still in my possession.

No remorse you say?

I once remember reading a story asking the question of how much pain can a person endure? The answer was how much did that person want to live? Well, I want to live. Yeah, it’s my own fault. I guess I deserved what I got for being shallow and spineless—but what a price to pay for so trivial a problem! Of course no one believes me. I tried to tell them, and anyone else who would listen, but they all thought—think—that my story was brought about by my condition.

Fuckin’ A right of course it was, I yelled!

No dice. Of course, when they did check out the hotel, all there was was an empty convention hall reeking of smoke and B.P.O.E. stickers. Terrific.

All I can say is that no way am I ever dealing with an another telemarketing scam again, or “free” seminars. Ever. And I am going to find that Son-of-a-Bitch Fishlips if that’s the last thing I ever do….

Fucker.

 

Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

 

The Lifter

I’ve been working out ever since I’d been about 14 years of age, when my dad bought a free weight set. I love lifting weight. Strength. Bodybuilding. Powerlifting. The look, feel , and smell of chalk, iron, and the intensity of serious lifters grunting and straining. Always have. I’ve seen some amazing feats of strength in my time…two in particular stand out.

While in college, I’d entered my one and only powerlifting competition (I came in third of out of 3 or 4…and the tallying was messed up so I got the 3rd Place medal off-stage and afterwards when the error was found). I’d been working out at Mt. Olympus gym (long out of business), in Flagstaff, Arizona. There was this skinny-as-shit (probably weighed all of 140 lbs) lifter I saw dead-lifting  405 lbs (it’s also what I deadlifted at some 175-180 lbs at the time). 405 pounds is a lot for someone of his size. I also saw him squat 300 – 400 pounds, can’t remember what he’d done there, but the deadlift stuck in my mind because it was exactly the same as I lifted.

The other instance was with a guy who’d gone on to become Georgia Tech’s (GT’s) Director of Player Development, back in the 80s: Dave Pasanella. All 275 pounds of him. Between 1979 and 1983, while I went to NAU, I worked out at Mt. Olympus Gym. To this day, I rank it as the best the gym I’ve ever worked out at—maybe because it was my first away from home?—but I loved working out there. Like the video shows, we’d all get around someone who was going for a max lift (or I’d gather them for my heavier lifts), or just wanted some “moral support,” and yell at him/her. It was a thing. It was great. Anyway, Mt. Olympus was small, all free-weights, and we all had a great time there. Anyway, that’s where I “met” Dave Pasanella, in his early-to-mids 20s. I’ve never really shook hands with him as I recall, but was lifting plenty of times when he was lifting. He would warm up with 405 pounds on the bench press, just to give you and idea of the man’s incredible strength. That’s a 45-pound bar with four 45-pound plates on each side.  He ripped off the reps like it was nothing-but-bar.

But the really cool feat of strength I’d seen was him lifting one end of the owner’s VW bug (“Jake” I think was his first name; I’ve long forgotten his last name, but if I’m not mistaken, Jake is in the background wearing the “Pro Workout” Reebok T-shirt in this image; I know Jake used to follow him around his meets, and he’d been studying biofeedback and lifting while also studying at NAU). The VW was parked out front of the gym’s plate-glass window. I think it (the VW) was yellow? Dave and Jake had been talking, when Dave went outside, squatted down, grabbed the VW’s bumper…and freaking lifted it to a full standing position! Just like that. The VW wiggled a bit as it was set back down. Geesh. I ran into Dave a lot at Mt. Olympus, but we never really met or became friendly. He didn’t seem all that nice of a guy then…I won’t go into specifics…but even he later talked about his early behavior, once he’d become a Born Again Christian, about how he felt bad about his younger-self’s behavior. Nice to know he finally turned into a good person before he left this Earth.

Dave also had a weightlifting bar developed and named for him, called the Pasanella Bar, which had been approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for the 242-pound, 275-pound, 305-pound, and unlimited classes.

But, Dave Pasanella’s life came to an abrupt end…he was killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver on June 12, 1995, just off GT’s campus in Atlanta. I’d heard of it years later.

I’d always wanted to write a “weird tale” related to gyms and weightlifting, so back in 1990 I wrote this one. It was based on a Gold’s or World Gym I’d worked out in, in Colorado Springs, CO.

This story has never been “spotted”…I mean published.

 

The Lifter

© F. P. Dorchak, 1990

“Move it, man! Push it! Don’t fuckin’ stop now, you pussy—push it out!

Groaning under the stress of 540 pounds of black iron on his shoulders, Donny forced himself back up into a standing position, keeping his knees at a slight bend. This was Donny’s fourth set, working towards his third rep. Veins popped out from the sides of his twenty-one inch neck like snakes on a tree. The weight clattered hollowly on the bar’s ends. The lifter hesitated momentarily, trying to regain his needed concentration. Three spotters—one behind and one to each side—prepared for Donny to off-load the bar back unto the rack.

Donny, however, had other plans.

Emitting a loud growl and hitching up his powerful frame, Donny proceeded back down into the squatting position, sweat streaking the sides of his face. Forcing his head back (hair sweaty and tangled) to keep his balance, Donny emitted the growl of an animal and his spotters squatted all the way down with him.

Hitting bottom, Donny’s behemoth frame bounced, creating upward momentum…but halfway to the top he slowed to near a stop, actually beginning to reverse his direction.

“Fuckin’ push it up, Donny! You can do it, man! Get it up! Force it out!”

The spotter yelling behind him was “Jimbo,” his face as red and knotted as Donny’s. Jimbo’d be damned if he was going to help him—this was Donny’s weight, Donny’s movement, and, as far as Jimbo was concerned, spotters were only there for moral support.

Quickly regrouping, Donny emitted a new growl and explosively pistoned upward.

A glut of air was expelled as the movement was completed. Standing defiantly, Donny allowed the bouncing movement of the weight on the bar on his shoulders to add additional “psyche” to his powerful display of strength. He was a hunter shouldering his kill. Hobbling forward toward the rack, Donny gruffly racked the weight off his shoulders, then stepped back exhilarated.

Immediately the spotters congratulated him, slapping him on the back and smacking his shoulders with muscled fists. Throwing his own fists high, Donny whooped out another growl, but this time of triumph. Lifting chalk from his hands powdered the air in the wake of his thrown fists.

He had finally broken his sticking point…a sticking point where for weeks he couldn’t get past the weight or the reps…but now he’d done both, and the whole world could take a flying leap.

While all the excitement had been going on, nobody thought to watch the entrance desk. Donny, who owned the gym, had let the others who had been working the desk leave early because it was nearly closing time, and he could handle whatever came up. Only sparsely populated at this hour, the gym contained a mere six or seven people still battling with their workouts.

The plate-glass windows facing the parking lot were completely fogged, the darkness weaving a complex coziness to the gym’s interior. Inside, fluorescent lights illuminated tons of plates and other equipment…a layer of calcium carbonate chalk covering everything. A rock station wailed “Welcome to the Jungle,” by Guns N’ Roses, over the sound system, while the ghostly presences of the day’s previous lifters echoed throughout the mirrored walls.

Everyone was winding down, except for the blond individual currently striding in through the glass doors. Walking in, he signed the register at the front desk, under “Guest,” and went straight to the rear of the gym. An acute odor followed him, causing those he passed to wrinkle their noses.

Still excited over Donny’s achievement, others were collecting around the power rack. The gathering was about halfway into the gym’s interior—which basically consisted of one large room, mirrors facing both the north and south walls. The remainder of the gym’s inhabitants, who had momentarily stopped their workouts to watch Donny and give their moral support, resumed their own lifting. Donny meanwhile, had sat down to undo his knee wraps, chalk flecking off his muscled and calloused hands.

Out of everybody’s way the blond lifter began setting up equipment. He wore a tattered and sweat-stained shroud-of-a-tank-top that hung about his body like a cat clawing for holds. His four-inch wide lifting belt was aged and stained; his shorts a vestige of better workouts. The socks clinging about his ankles were unevenly folded down around themselves and stained, and his sneakers were more reminiscent of sandals than shoes. Not nearly as hulking as Donny, the stranger was tanned and muscular. His body “ripped.”

But the most striking thing about the stranger was none of these things. The most striking quality about him was his face.

It belched forth a face that was hard to take without wincing. Blazing blue and frighteningly wide, his eyes screamed witness to a disturbing past. There was a strung-out look about him…hair long and twisted…speared out in all directions, flowing easily over muscled shoulders and back. His movement was quick and jerky, giving the appearance of epileptic fits.

And he smelled.

Bad.

Without the slightest warmup, the stranger threw on six 45-pound plates to the bar, totaling 315 pounds. Getting beneath it, he ripped off a quick eight reps of the same exercise Donny had just completed.

Watching nearby, a weekend warrior was doing seated calves and nearly swallowed his tongue.

The blond threw on a few more plates, totaling nearly 500 pounds. Again immediately positioning himself under the bar, he unracked and repeated the same feat. Even for a guy the stranger’s size, this was a weight to be reckoned with. Staring, the weekender stopped what he was doing, motioning to a buddy.

Looking around for something bigger, the lifter saw 100-pounders, and grabbed two. By now Donny’s spotters were getting interested. Donny was still cleaning up his area from plates and personal equipment. It was about time to close up shop.

“Hey, Donny, catch this,” Jimbo said, pointing to the rear of the gym. “Who is that guy?”

Donny stopped, casting an at first indifferent glance. “Dunno—” Then he saw the weight on the bar and became immediately interested.

“Holy shit. Let’s take a look,” he said, slapping Jimbo with the back of his hand and strutting to the rear, entourage in tow.

The blond lifter stepped back from the rack, the ends of the bar bouncing and rattling on his shoulders. In one smooth movement he squatted down, then, without so much as a bounce, glided back up.

Rack.

Astonished, Donny looked back at his groupies. The blond turned around, hitting everybody with the eyes of a Lon Chaney creation. Donny flinched. Not only was he not ready for the face, he was not ready for the odor of dead fish. Donny felt the smell go beyond his nostrils, clawing down his throat and into his stomach. Could a smell hurt?

Looking at Donny for an indifferent second, the tanned beach bum continued about his search for more weight. Donny turned to Jimbo.

“What the fuck’s his trip?” he asked, gagging. Jimbo shrugged, holding back his own dry heaves.

“Weirdo,” Donny said, and approached the stranger.

“Hey, man, what’s your name?”

Replacing the 45-pound plates for hundred-pounders and adding to it, the stranger turned. He gave the same wild-eyed look, not saying anything for the first few seconds. Donny felt like an icicle had just been rammed up his ass.

“Name’s Wave Doggy, man,” the blonde lifter said, continuing to the rack. Donny hacked again, this guy’s smell was just too much.

You ever take a bath?,” Donny said, gagging, “You smell like dead fish.” Donny did not want to open his mouth again. Opening it around this guy meant that smell would enter his mouth.

The stranger looked back after rearranging the weight on the bar.

“Bath?” he asked, as if missing a punch-line. “Yeah, guess so. Give me a spot, dude?” Donny looked at the gathering behind him, some of which were snickering.

“You—a spot? You don’t look like you need me—or anyone else.”

Positioning himself under the bar, the blond lifter didn’t move until Donny came up behind. God, the smell! It was eating away at the back of his throat….

“Go for it, dude,” Donny said. Some in the crowd were leery that Donny could spot all that weight by himself, but let Donny alone. A couple big guys silently went to either side of the bar just in case.

Wave Doggy squatted down—not once, but four times—and each squat went as easy as the first, as easy as if it were only the bar. Wave Doggy racked, getting out from under the bar and turned around. He looked like some crazed David Lee Roth. As if hit by a wall of stench—multiplied by the force of Wave Doggy’s turn—Donny stumbled backward, tripping over tangling feet. Wave Doggy shot out a hand and grabbed him, jerking Donny back up—into the air—then landing him on his feet. Blondy quickly returned to the bar, cleaning it off.

Nearly burned by the slimy coldness of the stranger’s touch, Donny wiped off his hand on his shorts, slowly backing away.

“You haven’t been in here before, have you,” Donny asked, looking for any reason to kick the dude out.

“Nope,” Wave Doggy said.

“Then you didn’t pay to get in.”

“It’s up at the desk, man,” he said, twitching in his nervous fashion as he turned to look at Donny. He immediately began setting up another bar, on the floor. Deadlifts. Donny motioned for Jimbo to go up front and check it out.

“Where you from?”

“SoCal.”

“No shit,” Donny muttered, where else would he be from?

Jimbo found the money, counting it out.

“Whatcha’ doin’ here?”

“Liftin’.”

Again, no shit, this guy was a genius. Jimbo returned, Wave Doggy’s money in hand.

“Hey, he left ten bucks at the desk—he even signed in.”

Ten bucks. It cost only five to workout one day.

“You left five bucks more than necessary, pal.”

“That’s what I always leave,” he said, squatting down before the bar. Wave Doggy grasped it using no wrist straps, in a reverse grip…one hand under, other hand over grip. Straightening his back and looking up, Wave Doggy hefted the weight off the floor. Eight times.

405 pounds. No problem.

Donny had enough of this. Taking Jimbo and the two other spotters with him, he left the crowd. It felt great getting away from that fishy odor and wild eyes.

“I’m calling the cops to check this guy out. Keep an eye on him.”

Jimbo, Bill, and Charlie nodded, spreading their lats like dangerous gym-rat peacocks, and made their way back. Donny, money in hand, made the call. Even the guy’s bills were slimy.

By now everybody had stopped lifting to watch Wave Doggy and his Amazing Feats.

Besides his odor, there was a definite fascination about the guy that fill the air. A magic. Everybody but Donny was visibly impressed. Donny didn’t take lightly to being upstaged, not to mention that he just plain didn’t like what was going on here.

Wave Doggy?

What kind of a name was that?

Donny locked the front doors. The gym should have been closed fifteen minutes ago. Waiting for the police to arrive, Donny began clearing out the remaining customers. Wave Doggy, after deadlifting as much weight as the bar could handle, then proceeded on to other exercises. There seemed no stopping him.

The cops arrived, two of them, looking quite official in midnight-blue jackets and black nightsticks. Donny let them in.

“Hi. I’m Donny Frayze,” he said, shaking hands, emphasizing the first syllable for the men, “I own the place.” Pointing to the rear, he continued. “And that’s him.” Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” screamed over the speakers. The officers accompanied Donny back to the rear.

“Well, he doesn’t look familiar, Mr. Frayze,” said one of the officers.

Wave Doggy was now benching repetitions with better than 600 pounds. Nobody his size does that. Donny could tell the cops weren’t too pleased with the prospect of arresting the guy. A few of the overhead lights around Wave Doggy began flickering off and on. Donny went over and asked the remaining lifters to split. After some silent protest, they began packing up.

Racking the weight, Wave Doggy jerked himself upright, immediately turning to the cops. He regarded them uninterestingly, then went back to packing on more weight. One of the cops turned to Donny.

“He fuckin’ stinks.”

“Excuse me, sir, we’d like a word with you if you don’t mind,” interjected the other officer, a man named Tony Valletti.

Wave Doggy finished adding his new weight to the bar, then casually approached the officers. The officers placed their hands on their weapons and positioned for action. Wild-eyed and mechanical, Wave Doggy sauntered up to them.

“Where you from mister,” Valletti asked.

“Cali.”

“California?”

“Yeah.”

“What part.”

“SoCal.” The surfer dude’s head continued to jerk chaotically.

“This guy’s definitely on something, Peterson,” Valletti said to his partner. Carefully reaching for handcuffs, Valletti and Peterson rushed him. Wave just stood there, naively offering no resistance.

“You’re under arrest for suspicion of substance abuse. You have the right to remain silent.”

After cuffing him and turning to head back to the cruiser, the policemen were gracefully eluded as Wave Doggy pirouetted out of their control and headed back to his bench instead.

It was as if he’d never been wearing cuffs at all.

He’d simply separated his hands like the silent half to a clap…and pieces of chain fell from his wrists. Cuff-metal still encircled his wrists as Wave Doggy grabbed more weight and placed the plates on the sleeves of the already weighted bar.

Stunned, the cops spun around, unholstering weapons. They leveled them at Wave Doggy, who had simply gone on to continue with his workout.

“Mr. Wave Doggy—you are under arrest! Any additional attempts at resisti—”

But Wave Doggy had no intention of being arrested.

After his set, he popped back up and continued to pile more weight onto the bar.

Valletti went around behind the lifter, while Peterson nervously remained where he was. More lights flickered off, Donny looked around nervously.

Valletti replaced his revolver, withdrawing his nightstick, instead. As soon as Wave Doggy sat himself back down on the bench, the officer reached over the bar, nightstick grasped by both ends, and caught a Wave. Nightstick around and against Wave Doggy’s throat, he brought him back against the racked bar, hard.

With sickening speed, the officer was flipped over both the bar and Wave Doggy—landing with a crash in front of the bench. A stand containing chalk was spilled over, a funnel of white fanning out on the floor’s thin carpet. The second officer yelled “Freeze!” but Wave Doggy merely stood up as though he was off to the water fountain. And went for the remaining officer.

Peterson fired.

Wave Doggy took the slug in his chest…then grabbed the gun and threw it into a mirror. With his other hand, he placed it square on the officer’s chest and casually pushed him away, Peterson flying feet-over-head as he flew backward.

Acting as if all were nothing more than a minor inconvenience, Wave Doggy sat back down on the bench and unracked the rattling bar.

Donny made his move.

Coming from behind the bench, Donny pressed his 240 pounds down on the bar, forcing it into Wave Doggy’s chest. Wave Doggy did two reps with Donny pressing down on him before exploding—both the bar and Donny—up and into the ceiling. Ceiling tiles fell around the floor as the weight came crashing back down…Donny entangled with it. After bouncing, the bar came to rest on one of Donny’s legs, an exquisite splitting sound finishing out the movement.

Walking out into the center of the room, Wave Doggy stopped.

A green glow emanated from him.

A brighter, more intense glow took up residence in his eyes. Welts and sores began bursting all over his body…and the officious odor grew even worse, if that was possible. Doggy’s body took on a bloated appearance…the appearance of someone who’s body had been in water the other side of far too long. Lights crackled and sizzled, electricity sparking everywhere, and Wave Doggy became violently spasmodic. Out of his throat came a gurgling sound, his lungs filling with water.

All I wanted too doooo wasss lllifftt.

Wave Doggy’s face cracked open in places, mottled flesh and gangrenous cankers saying “hello!” to the crowd. The welts that had formed on his body broke open.

The two cops stood up, collecting themselves. Donny quickly forgot about his own pain as he observed the gruesome metamorphosis.

Wwwhyyy cccouldn’t yyyoouuu jussst lettt meee lllifttt? III wwwasn’ttt hhhurrrting anyonnnne?

Water and bits of lung and other “material” issued from Wave Doggie’s mouth as he spoke. The cops, Donny, and those who remained in spite of Donny’s warning, all backed up. Wave Doggy coughed up more water and viscera. He looked pathetic…alone…and Donny found himself feeling sorry for the guy. After all, he thought, he really hadn’t hurt or bothered anyone—and he had paid an extra five bucks over-and-above the amount for a day’s lifting.

Hell, he’d even signed in. How many regulars did that?

The creature now before them raised his hands into the sparking electricity above him. Tears were mixed with the sea water and decay.

Wait!

It was Donny, blood covering his legs—one broken—as he struggled to get up. Pain

(no pain no gain…)

knifed at him as he motioned for the cops to back off. They did. No argument.

Everyone looked to everyone else.

“I’m sorry,” Donny said, holding a hand up and gritting against the pain.

Wave Doggy stopped…looking over to Donny, who was crouching and unable to stand.

Lowering a mottled hand, the blonde beach bum came over to Donny and pulled him to his feet. Grabbing hold of the bench, Donny supported himself. The creature looked at him through puffed eyes and a face swollen nearly beyond recognition.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I-I’m sorry about all this,” Donny said, wincing. Donny’s Reeboks were soaked red. “Really.” Donny looked to Wave Doggy…there was (as hard as it was to believe this…) a look of understanding that came over the creature’s face…something that had been, up to this point, non-existent in him (it?). There was no longer that wild, strung-out David Lee Roth look…now only the look of a cornered, injured animal.

Donny owned a dog. One that had been injured and had looked up to him in just this way.

I ooonllly waanttt tooo wwworrrk ooouttt.”

More matter washed out with his speech.

III’ll llloock uuupppp when I’mmm donnne.”

There was a touch of childlike innocence to his shuddering movements that stabbed Donny right in the heart…yes, he had one beneath all the testosterone and muscle.

Donny slowly nodded his head in agreement and looked to the two officers, who could do nothing more than return the same look. Donny motioned them away.

Slowly, the swelling began dissipating from Wave Doggy…then he reached down to Donny’s splintered leg. Feeling around in the fracture (and at great pain to Donny), he put pieces of Donny’s bone back into place—setting it.

Donny looked up to Wave Doggy in disbelief.

Wave Doggy regarded Donny.

The two cops and Donny sat out in the cruiser, patiently watching through the fogged windows of the gym. The remaining lifters were all standing outside in the dark, also watching. The interior gym lights were going out on their own as the creature came out the front doors. Wave Doggy had returned to his earlier, tanned-and-surfer state. He locked the doors behind him, setting the keys down in plain view on the edge of the concrete. Donny felt his leg. There was still some pain…but nothing broken.

The cops and Donny watched as Wave Doggy faced them, still twitching in his tattered and sweat-stained gear and
weight belt still around his waist. They regarded each other for along moment. Though it was dark and Donny couldn’t make out features, he could still—mentally—clearly see Wave Doggy’s wild eyes and speared hair.

Forced reps, maaan, forced reps, Donny thought.

Donny wished him the best of luck with his continued training…and Wave Doggy nodded, turned…and walked away into the darkness.

 

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All Around The Fire Pit

Dad's Fire Pit. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 13, 2016)

Dad’s Fire Pit. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 13, 2016)

What is it about fire that we so love?

I don’t mean all those massively destructive ones that ruin lives, but the far smaller, controllable ones that we love to sit or stand around and stare into.

The ones that seem to enrich our lives.

The ones around which we talk and weave stories and take in the crackling wood, dancing flames, and shooting sparks that fly off into the night?

I’ve read that fires bestow healing qualities to those who stare into them, and I do believe that must be the case. Maybe not so much a physically healing quality—but maybe so, who knows?—but certainly emotional and psychic healing. I love to hang around those kinds of fires. The fire pits…the camp fires. And my dad having one of these (I have to get one!) was really neat.

As the lot of us converged at my dad and stepmom’s place for our summer vacation and my dad’s 80th birthday, we hung out at the fire pit. Standing…sitting…trading stories. Conversation. Enjoying the night and the company (and Alek, Greg’s son, did a fine job of getting it started and keep it running—thanks, Alek!). On one of those nights, I stood and conversed with a friend of my dad’s who’s had a fair amount of paranormal experiences that he’d been wanting to talk about with me for some time. Every time we’d met, over the past few years, he’d bring up some really weird stuff…about how doors open or close without people doing it…or hearing footsteps in hallways while no one was there. That kind of thing. But he’s always been on his way, or we’ve been on ours. We’d always begin talking about the experiences, then would never really complete those conversations and I always got the feeling there was so much more he’d wanted to talk about. Anyway, it was fun finally getting to swap those stories in a continuous, uninterrupted conversation with him about both of our experiences!

But, it was also neat being in the “atmosphere” of the fire pit, where my other family members were also talking and laughing among themselves! While I was in conversation with my dad’s friend, I was also pleasantly conscious of the other conversations and laughing going on with the others, and it warmed my heart. Family members with whom I don’t get to see nor be physically around with much anymore, though we do communicate with in all the usual, technological ways of today. We were all standing and sitting in the backyard…in the night…around a warmly burning fire….

I felt the love…I felt the emotional and psychic “healing.”

What is it about being around fire pits?

I’m not sure…but I love it.

Related Posts

 

The Lake Titus Camp, Summer 2016

The Lake Titus, New York Camp. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 14, 2016)

The Lake Titus, New York Camp. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 14, 2016)

The Lake Titus Camp we stayed at is a few miles outside of Malone, New York, just toward and also outside of the Adirondack Park. There are many camps out on the lake, and we’ve seen them all from the lake (we had a tour of the lake and the camps several years back, when we stayed at another camp owned by the Carkeys, farther down the lake; a friend of my dad and stepmom gave us a boat ride guided tour). In fact, while staying at the Carkeys old camp, it was only accessible by boat—there was no road into it. So my wife and I took this little boat with an outboard on it and had to use it to get there every night—in the dark. It was so cool. And on the 4th of July during that trip the neatest experience happened: as we were boating out to the camp in total darkness (we had no light, but you could actually make your way in the darkness), we came upon all these people just sitting out in the water in their boats!

You read that right.

Welcome To Lake Titus! (© Photo F. P. Dorchak, August 15, 2016)

Welcome To Lake Titus! (© Photo F. P. Dorchak, August 15, 2016)

There were all these people just sitting out in the dark on the lake. We asked what was going on and were told that they were waiting for fireworks! Ha! How cool, we thought, so we stopped and hung out with everyone, also quietly chatting in the dark with these unknown faces all in a happy, joyful mood. It was the coolest thing! And when the fireworks went off, that was incredible…watching them from the lake! This will always remain as one of the neatest experiences of my life….

My Favorite Birds-On-A-Plate (© Photo F. P. Dorchak, August 14, 2016)

My Favorite Birds-On-A-Plate (© Photo F. P. Dorchak, August 14, 2016)

The camp we stayed at this time around is run by the Harwoods, and it was quite comfortable for the four of us. It has a living room, full kitchen and dining area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom with a shower in it. The living room has a pull-out sleeper couch. The view out the living-room’s windows is great! They also have a small grill out on the porch, and a fire pit in front, but we needed use of neither, since we were at my folks’ place. The camp is nestled on a steep slope of Lake Titus and has a small dock that holds a paddle boat and kayak. There is no “beach,” per se, but the water is shallow enough to get into by stepping on submerged rocks (be careful!), with a sandy bottom. The grade toward deeper water drops off quickly once you get out in. And there are fish! I don’t know what kind, but I saw all manner of them, from some three inches to what looked like (water refraction, you know) maybe six or so inches.

This trip to upstate New York was for my dad’s 80th birthday, and there wasn’t enough room for us all at my dad and stepmom’s place, so the camp was rented. My brother, Greg, his son, Alek, and my wife and I stayed here. Greg and Alek didn’t stay as long, left mid-week, but my wife and I stayed through to the next weekend. We went to my folk’s place and drove around during the day, but at night stayed here. After Greg and Alek left, in the early morning, while my wife still slept, I went down and hung out on the steps leading down to the dock and just…stared…out over the water…let my mind run wild…watched and listened to the two loons that were out there…drifting with the current and bobbing and swimming under the water to pop up somewhere else. Listened to their haunting wails, yodels, and tremolos….

Early Morning Sun. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 20, 2016)

Early Morning Sun. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 20, 2016)

Watched the rising sun sparkle off the still waters…

Looked out over the unknown dark depths and mountains for story inspiration…

This is the part of the country I remain heavily and spiritually tied to. Where I get recharged. I love upstate New York, the Adirondacks. Its mountains and waters and trees. I love the spirit of the land. Had I not gone the route I went in my career, I most certainly would have followed my dad’s path as a Forest Ranger. As a kid I was always in the 40 acres of woods up back behind our Lake Clear home roaming the land, climbing the trees. I loved it there.

Sigh.

Early Morning Kayak. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 19, 2016)

Early Morning Kayak. (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, August 19, 2016)

Anyway…after Laura would awaken, she’d go swimming (she’s such a fish!) and I’d take out the kayak. It’s a little different than canoeing, but I love it! One day, there was a lot of mist out on the lake (it wasn’t the case every morning), and as I sat there mesmerized by it…I did watch it for a bit…it dawned on me: I have a kayak! I then made it my business to get out in that thing and cross the lake to meet up with the remaining mists before it all evaporated!

I became this Olympic kayaker, powering across Lake Titus….

And I caught up with it!

The mists danced and swirled off the waters, like wraiths evading the sun. There was this seagull on a rock as I came over…then it flew off the rock, low and across the water…it was so cool….

As I floated in among the mists I felt transported into a different world…one of eerie magical enchantment! It was stunningly beautiful and mystical! Absolutely haunting!

On my last kayak, I went down to the far end of the lake to check out the Carkey Camp. I also just wanted to head down that way because I like to go to out-of-the-way corners where not many tread, and on the way back I came across a loon! Knowing how feisty they can be, I kept my distance—maybe about 30 or so feet?—and slowly paddled past it. I was close enough to see its beady little red eyes. Sorry, no pictures, I didn’t bring the camera this time, just wanting to be in the moment without any technology. But, it was so cool!

154_9685On all my kayaks, I would go out into the middle of the lake and just…sit. Float with the current…both hands dunked into the cold, dark water, and think: It just doesn’t get any better than this!

When I was done kayaking, we’d switch and Laura would kayak and I would “mess around” in the water—I wouldn’t call what I did in the water “swimming,” per se, but I just love being in (or around) lake water. Upstate New York water. So, I’d swim out a little and back, dive under for a few strokes, and otherwise, well, just stand neck-deep in the stuff feeling all-kinds-of contented…again just staring out across the lake from a pond skater’s point of view…with a silly, complacent smile on that face of mine. Enjoying where I was…being totally in the moment. Toes squishing around in the dark lake muck below me…all kinds of fishies playing around at my feet. I’m not familiar enough with what’s in Titus, but here’s a site I found afterward.

Then, one particularly perfect morning as the sun was rising, as I looked down into the water just off the dock, I was utterly captivated by what I saw—hypnotic sun sparkles dancing off the water! They were so happy and joyful in their existence and they called out to me! These sparkles seemed to have a life of their own! This is one of my favorite videos I’ve ever taken, and yes, story idea already percolating! I simply stood there and stared into them…for I don’t know how long! Utterly mesmerized!

But…all things must come to an end…

On our last night there, Friday, the 19th, I tried taking some night shots, the moon so full and bright! No special camera, just using a couple little old, nonsmartphone cameras on various settings. I also tried to capture some of the fireworks going off across the lake, but wasn’t successful there. But…a couple of the night shots did work, you know, for being an nonprofessional. It was an incredible night!

We had an incredible stay…got to play in and on the water…had no real commitments…and just…relaxed. It was…incredible. My friend, Jan C. J. Jones, polished up one of my larger videos I’d taken (at my request) while “chasing the mists,” and turned it into a YouTube video, also adding some really cool music to cover up the scratchiness of whatever was going on when I took this video. Thanks, Jan! It turned out this was the last day I saw mists on the lake….

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