Francois is now an orphan. He was in the car with his mother and father and twin sister when it went over the edge of the cliff, but somehow he survived. The only survivor. And even worse news, his only living relatives able to take him in live in Iowa in the United States, not in France, the only home he has ever known. So, what can a boy do about such a tragic situation? Well, Francois puts clown paint on his face and starts to sing. He can sing only sad songs. His heart is broken. But people hear his beautiful voice and begin falling in love with him. Soon the only one who does not love Francois is a secret serial killer who stalks young boys, leaving their poisoned bodies with a teddy bear for comfort in their coming life as a ghost. It is safe to say this is not exactly a happy comedy. But can despair be overcome by sheer beauty?
There is a certain amount of satisfaction in this publication effort. When I retired as a school teacher, I promised myself I would at least get to the publication of this book before I left this Earth and became a ghost writer… literally. So, now, if I can publish the next novel, Fools and Their Toys, it will be a step beyond my original goal. My legacy for my family will never be a monetary one, but at least I have this to leave behind.
Yesterday I temporarily solved my computer problem with the Russian hacker with the help of the technical support people of McAfee Anti-Virus software. My computer works again. But I have had loss of personal data, and I am not yet sure that they didn’t take control of my Google account. It seems like I can change my password safely, but having been broken into, I have to wonder if the Russians are able to read this as I type it. I know I sound like a crazy, paranoid old man. The technician thinks so too. But it is harder than ever to have faith in a system when so many bad actors seem to have more control over things than I do. I am the novelist. I should be able to control the plot and the dialogue and the happy endings in my own story. But I can type on my computer again and my machine is cured of the Russian computer flu.
The point I wanted to make today, now that I have my word-mulching machine back to word-mulching form, is that I have always been a solver of problems, both simple and complex. It goes with being a teacher hand in hand because being a school-type teacher-man means solving problems for the little people and teaching them to be problem solvers too.
The big problem with problem-solving, however, is that there is always one more problem to be solved… unless there are ten more. Life is a matter of problem-solving, and you cannot be happy until you learn both to solve problems, even hard ones, and be reconciled to the fact that there will always be problems you have to live with and cannot solve.
Among the ten more problems I am now faced with is the problem of not having enough money to cover all the bills as I and my children continue to do things that cost money, like getting sick, eating, living in Texas, wearing clothes, wearing extra cold-weather clothes, and getting hacked by Russians. I want desperately to get a part-time job I can do. I am thoroughly qualified to be a substitute teacher. But I can’t do that job because I am in poor health. One more bout of the flu picked up in the germ farms that are Texas public schools will end me. Besides, if my health were sound enough for the classroom, I would still be teaching. It was a job God made me for, and I love teaching.
I was earning extra money the hard way through driving for Uber, daily risking an onslaught of shady clients, thoroughly unpleasant back-seat drivers, and Texas killer grandmas driving Lincoln Town Cars through stop signs at every other corner. And then I got hit in the driver’s side door by a goof who was talking to his passenger instead of looking as he turned across traffic. He didn’t see me until he clobbered me with his car. There was no way at all I could have avoided that collision. It cost me money for a deductible even though he was totally at fault. It cost me six months of driving time. I have been able to drive for other purposes, but I have not been able to drive for Uber since the accident. My driving-for-money confidence is missing. I have looked for it everywhere. It isn’t in any of the closets in the house. I guess I will simply have to make some more and get out and drive again.
So, living a problem-solving life ain’t easy, but it is necessary. It will get figured out, through persistence if nothing else. Because we all have to. And I can already see ten more problems headed towards me down the thorny garden path that is my life.
This old word-wizard is having a spot of trouble with his magical tools. More than just the usual cussing at crazy computer antics too.
I like to move the cursor as I write with the mouse pad on the keyboard, rather than the actual mouse. And this preference often leads to unintended zooms and shrinks when my thumbs stray too close to the hyper-sensitive zoom spots on the edges of the pad.
My alternative theory is that the laptop became both sentient and crazy because I dropped it on its micro-chipped little head one two many times. It now likes to mess with me constantly because the tiny computer fairies that move its thoughts around inside its dented brain are vindictive and vengeful.
So, yesterday it got way worse. Some Russian hacker sent me a link in the messages section of Twitter. I clearly saw that supposed YouTube video link was fake with the word “account” embedded in it. But the fairies took over the mouse pad and clicked on the evil little bugger without me even touching it again.
To make a long story short, so to speak, my computer is now sick with Russian computer flu again, and my anti-virus program is locked in the 26th hour of a life-or-death struggle.
I swear, of course, that this is all true just as I said it. And hopefully I come through it with all my passwords still secret. I am too old to be doing wizard war via computer. It makes me long for the old days of wands and potions. I had to write this post on my phone today.
Canto Five – Everyone
is Naked Under Their Clothes
The night was typical.
Six nasty old hens pecked Valerie’s hands as she searched under them for
eggs. The last one of those took a
girl-fist to the side of the head. That,
of course, didn’t faze the stupid hen.
Chickens apparently have their brains hidden safely in their butts. But chores always came to an end. Mom was always sympathetic about
chicken-stupidity-caused peck marks, and rubbed salve on them, visible wound or
not. Then it was time to finish any
homework needed, and up to bed. And Val
always slept naked under the quilts and comforters. She slept well because… well, because naked
was good when you were asleep.
Morning came, as mornings do, with a stupid rooster crowing
the sun up. Of course, if hens are
stupid, roosters, having the additional mental handicap of being male, were
stupid times ten. No, stupid times
twenty. Beau the rooster always got it
wrong. The sun was never actually up
until at least a half hour after the stupid rooster claimed it was up. Chicken pot pie. As Valerie pried her eyes open, she imagined
chicken pot pie cooking on Mom’s stove.
Beau-flavored chicken pot pie.
When she got to the bathroom, Daddy Kyle was already in
there shaving. No problem. Once again Valerie marched in naked as the
day she was born, though with considerably more hair on her head. She went straight to the shower, grabbed the
shampoo off the shelf, and twisted the water on to just the right level of warm
she always used. Warm, soapy water all
over your body… piles of foamy shampoo in your longish hair… it was a little
like Eden must have felt to Eve. And Eve
liked being naked too… at least, until the mistake with the snake. Of course, Eden had to end when the water
began to grow cold. Even in the
summertime the well could put out near freezing levels of cold once the water
heater was drained.
Kyle looked at her when she stepped out and grabbed a towel.
“No hot water left for me again, huh, Princess?”
“Sorry, Daddy. I need
a good hot shower in the mornings.”
“Shouldn’t you put on a robe or something, dearest? You come in here every morning completely
naked. You are getting too old for
“Old? Too old for what?”
“When a girl reaches a certain age, she starts to
change. When that happens, well…”
“But, Daddy, you are used to seeing me naked. You changed my diapers while Mommy and I were
still in the hospital after I was born.”
“I know… I know… And
it isn’t that there is anything wrong happening. It’s just…”
“You can’t be getting shy.
I’ve seen you naked too… a lot.”
Kyle’s face reddened.
He was apparently trying hard to stutter on.
“When a girl reaches a certain age… well, she…”
“Yeah, she changes. I
know Dad. Mom told me what to
expect. But honestly, I don’t even
really have boob bumps yet. I look like
a little boy when I’m naked… except I don’t have one of those water hoses to
She was standing with the towel in her hand, looking at him
while she was completely bare and being mildly amused by his extreme
discomfort. He finally sat down on the
closed cover of the commode, completely defeated. She decided to push things a little. She dropped the towel and went to sit on his
knee even though she was a little damp around the edges and quite sincerely
“I love you too, Daddy.”
“No… I mean, yes, I love you… but this is not a good thing
for a big girl to be doing. I worry you
are getting so used to being naked around a man like me… even though I’m your
Daddy… and one day… when boys, um… get curious… the way boys are… and, well…”
“If that’s what worries you, Daddy, no boy besides you has
ever seen me naked. And I won’t let a
yucky thing like that happen… until the time is right.”
“Okay, but promise me the time is not right until you are
“Daaaad! You know
everyone is actually naked under their clothes.
Everyone has a body… so no one should be ashamed of it.” Surely he recognized that bit of wisdom. After all, it is what he’d said to her on the
subject more than once.
“Okay. I trust you
and believe in you. But develop a little
modesty maybe? Put on a robe when you come in here. Or wait till I’m done.”
“Don’t you like me like this?”
“I love you. But you
are getting to an age where you being naked like this around me… well… begins
to get… um, uncomfortable. And your
little wet behind is making my pants wet.
I have work to do today, and now my pants have a wet spot shaped like
“Oh, Daddy!” She
leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.
He put an arm around her shoulders and gave a squeeze.
“I hope we can start getting some better habits going,
Princess. We don’t want to get your mom
mad or anything.”
hopped off his damp lap and padded over to retrieve the towel. She wrapped it around herself and then gave
him one more grin before she barefooted it out of the bathroom and toward her
waiting school clothes. You never knew
anything for certain. Maybe one day she
would just have to go to school naked… to show Daddy that… well, okay… maybe
not to school.
Nothing ever goes all well, or, even, all badly. Life is a roller coaster. Terrifying drops are followed by uplifting swoops. Good news about getting half of my deductible back from my auto insurance was quickly followed by a rise in my insurance payments that takes away more in the long run than I got back. Of course, that’s why banks and insurance companies are all part of the pirate class. They are going to take away more than they ever give as you sail the next wave or two.
My octogenarian parents survived the big chill from the polar vortex last week, only have to have to pay for a hospital bed for Dad for two extra days because the storm prevented him from going home.
Brekka didn’t get eaten by the man-eating plant because she wasn’t a human and so, didn’t taste good. He-she-or-it tried to eat her and had to spit her out again.
My stats on this website are like that too. One week there are a hundred views per day, the next week back to forty again.
But some things are constant. I am still writing every day. The stories keep coming, and when I go back and reread them, I find far fewer wincible warts and blunders than I ever used too. And they are mostly of the easily-fixed variety.