Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Explained so Everyone can understand

Someone posted this on my fb page crediting “The Angel Clark Show”. I am a centrist, so I did not agree with everything on that page, but the message here is still thought provoking.


“Fiscal Cliff” put in a much better perspective.

Lesson #1

US Tax revenue $2,170,000,000,000
Fed Budget $3,820,000,000,000
New debt $1,650,000,000,000
Recent budget cuts $38,500,000,000

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget.

Annual family income $21,700
Money the family spent $38,200
New debt on the credit card $16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card $142,710
Total budget cuts so far $38.50

Got it? OK, now…

Lesson #2

Here’s another way to look at the Debt Ceiling

Let’s say you come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood, and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceiling. What do you think you should do?

Raise the ceiling or remove the shit?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Christmas Joke

The mall was packed as a couple went Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. As the wife walked through the mall she became concerned when she stopped long enough to realize her husband was nowhere around. She was quite upset. They had a lot to do.

Frustrated, she called him on the cell to ask him where he was. In a calm voice the husband said, "Honey, you remember the jewelry store we went into about 5 years ago? The one where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we couldn't afford then?"

The wife, choked up, started to cry. "Yes, I remember that jewelry store."

He said, "Well, I'm in the bar right next to it."

Thursday, November 15, 2012


This post is inspired by the "16 Ways I Blew My Marriage" blogpost by Dan Pearce, of Single Dad Laughing  (see his blog post here). He offers some fantastic advice on how to end up divorced. At the end of his posts (it's in two parts), he asked if the reader had any advice they'd like to share as to how to keep a marriage together. Here's my two cents worth.


Don’t go hide when she cries.

It’s tough to see a strong woman cry. It distorts the opinion that she is just as tough as you (have made her). Men cannot relate to many of the reasons that would make a woman cry. So, when the tears start, a man fumbles, stumbles, mumbles and leaves.

Do Over –

Don’t leave. Take it like a man. If you made her cry, suffer the tears in silence for a moment. Whether you did or not, reach out, gently touching her, letting her know you’re not running away. If she doesn’t slap your hand, work your way into an embrace. Let her cry on your shoulder. If she does slap your hand, go get a cool washcloth and a box of tissue. Wait a moment. When she’s ready, offer them to her.

Bonus –

Your courage to withstand the storm of tears will be remembered. You will have made the foundation of your relationship stronger.

Extra Bonus –

Your compassion may lead to make up sex.


Now, go check out Single Dad Laughing. It's worth the read.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Angst of a Voter

Democracy demands an educated and informed electorate.” Thomas Jefferson

            I am not the most intelligent person in the world. Just ask my family and friends, they’ll be happy to verify. But, when it comes to voting, I like to be prepared. I study the issues, draw my own conclusions, fill out my sample ballot (that the local government was kind enough to provide), and go to my precinct and cast my vote. Quickly, I might add, with the help of the handy-dandy sample ballot.
            Election day, 2012. I went to my polling place and stood in line with the rest of the patriotic souls who chose not to participate in the ‘Early Voting’ or the ‘Mail Ballot’. We vote the old-fashioned way. On Election Day. So, I can only blame myself for what I was forced to witness at the precinct.
            I stood in line for a short while outside, playing a game on my phone, appearing oblivious to those around me. One couple had a mildly heated exchange because the woman laughed at the man for cutting, rather than folding, his voter ID card in half, and leaving the wrong half at home.
            Most of the people in line chatted pleasantly with one another. Some in English, some in Spanish, but all seeming to enjoy the relative cool day and camaraderie of exercising the right to vote.
            Once inside, I took my ballot, went to the (quasi-) private booth, pulled out my cheat sheet (a/k/a sample ballot), and proceeded to fill in my choices. It was the woman in the next booth that gave me pause. She was speaking to one of the precinct volunteers.
            “What does this, Amendment One mean? I mean, who’s it gonna benefit?”
            I was under the impression it was a rhetorical question. The two had been standing there when I arrived, and the Amendment questions were at the end of the four-page ballot. I was mistaken. She truly expected an answer.
            “I’m sorry, ma’am,” replied the volunteer. “I can’t discuss that with you.”
            “So, you don’t know either?”
            “Ma’am, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss–”
            “Yeah, yeah, but how should I vote?”
            I shook my head, deciding the woman was messing with the poor volunteer.
            “I’m sorry, ma’am–”
            “Yeah, I heard that. OK, what about Amendment Four?”
            “Ma’am, if you don’t need any more help with the ballot–”
            “I do! But what good are you? You won’t tell me who you voted for, you can’t tell me what the Amendments mean, and you got no opinion on the Judge issue.”
            At this point, I leaned out of my booth just to get a look at the idiot speaking. There stood a short, round, angry woman, glaring up at the unfortunate volunteer whose smile seemed to have been chiseled into place. The volunteer glanced at me, still smiling that creepy smile, and walked away.
            At that moment I grew a deep respect for those ultra-patriotic souls who volunteer to man our precincts. Then I ducked my head back in my booth and prayed the woman didn’t notice me. I will confess to the temptation of handing her my cheat sheet before I left, and saying something along the lines of, “Here, copy this.”
            You know, I’m all for the right to vote. But, I’m leaning toward the camp proposing testing to earn the Voter ID card.
            God help the USA.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Free (Ford Fusion) Car

A true story as told to me by my son, Dan...

            A free 2013 Ford Fusion? Why, yes, I’d be interested in that, thank you.
            It all started with a YouTube video. A thumbnail of one of my favorite stars, Joel McHale, caught my eye, so I clicked it. A National Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by Ford, endorsed by Ryan Seacrest would be held for a total of 47 hours. Forty-seven black boxes were to be placed in forty-seven cities across the nation.
            One of the sites would be my hometown of Orlando, Florida. Two clues of its exact placement would be unlocked on the “Random Acts of Fusion” website at a pre-designated time. With those clues, a ‘word of the day’ posted onsite that must be said to the rep in order to win.
            The first clue: the latitude and longitude of the Ford representative with the box. The second clue being a picture taken from where he stood. Orlando’s clues would be unlocked on October 28, at 11:15am. The problem? Orlando covers a little more than one hundred square miles, and more than 250,000 people here. The chances were slim, but I decided to try.
            October 28. I had rehearsed with my smart phone how to jump back and forth from their website, to my GPS, back to the website. I parked in a location that offered quick access to four of the main thoroughfares branching out into the city. I was set.
            11:15am. The clues unlocked and I fed the coordinates into my map. My strategic placement was perfect. I jumped on I-4 and raced to the Princeton Drive exit. I recognized the somewhat blurred view from the photo. The rep stood on the grounds of the Mennello Museum. I arrived and threw my car in park, frantically trying to decide if view was from the far end behind the building or closer to main road along the river. The museum’s grounds covered a couple of acres. Another car came, a little too quickly, into the parking lot. A decision had to be made. Now.
            On the footbridge about 200 feet away stood two people. Deciding those were the reps, I covered the ground in record time. I glanced back to the other car, smiling inwardly. I had won! But when I reached the people on the bridge, I discovered they were not Ford reps. Arg!
            The occupants of the original car ran the other direction, behind the building. Another car came, and the driver jumped out and ran to follow the first pair. F*ck! I’d made the wrong decision. The rep must be behind the museum.
            Since there was only one winner per locale, I knew I’d lost. I glared down at the water, fifteen feet below, and felt like spitting. I leaned on the handrail and looked up at the Spanish moss hanging off the branches of a nearby oak tree. A breeze moved the moss, allowing a full view of the riverbank. A man stood alone under a pergola at the water’s edge, wearing a Ford t-shirt!
            I ran off the bridge and took the short cut down the side of the steep embankment, rather than the long way around. Flip-flops should not be the shoe of choice when trying to navigate a wet, grassy, steep decline. I lost my footing then slipped, slid and rolled down the entire fifteen feet. When my body came to a stop I jumped up and tried to run. Still making no traction, my feet slipped beneath me. I ran in place for another few seconds. I knew I looked a grass-stained, bloody fool. I didn’t care.
            When I reached the Ford rep, he was doing an admirable job suppressing laughter begging to burst from him. I didn’t care.
            “Damn it! I forgot to get the word of the day!” I blurted as I checked the website on my phone. The man did not utter a sound. I found the word after reaching the spot in front of the Ford rep.
            “Benevolent!” I shouted.
            “Congratulations,” said the grinning man. “You’ve just earned a one in forty-seven chance to win a 2013 Ford Fusion.”
            After filling out the required paperwork (which relinquished my firstborn if I should so much as post a reference to Ford on any social media site prior to the drawing on Tuesday), I received the coveted black box. It contained a water bottle, a travel mug, a tee shirt, a thumb drive and my number for the drawing.
            The coolest part was the number, printed on a holographic sticker inside a plastic display box upon which mounted a model of the 2013 Ford Fusion. Very cool.
            Alas, Tuesday’s drawing is done, and my number did not win. Meh. It was still a blast of fun trying.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Heart-Wrenching Joy

I knew that my son, Al, and his wife, Jen, were trying for their first child. That they lived on the other side of the planet only slightly diminished my joy. This would be my first grandchild.

One afternoon my phone rang. My heart leapt when the caller ID showed it was my son. My heart clenched when I heard his voice.

"Mom," he gasped. I knew he'd been crying.

"What is it, son?"

"Um..." His voice cracked.

My heart broke as I heard him trying to control his breathing. "Just blurt it out, Al. What is it?"

"Jen was pregnant."

Three words. The silence stretched as my head spun. Was. The word that stole his breath had now stolen mine. My poor baby. Oh! Poor Jen. I swallowed hard and whispered, "I'm so sorry."

Another moment of quiet passed. I heard traffic, and knew he was driving. "Is Jen with you now?"

"No, I was at work when she called. I'm driving to get her and take her to the hospital now."

"Son, I cannot think of a thing to say that won't sound like a platitude. But please, know that I will keep you in my prayers."

"Thank you, momma." I recognized his attempt to swallow his tears.

"You'll call me just as soon as you know Jen is OK?"

"Yes, ma'am."

For the next hour and a half I stressed over what might have happened. How Jen must be suffering. I'd never experienced a miscarriage, but I'd held the hand of women who have. Jen's pain could not be understated. My tears finally slowed. My breathing finally evened out. I couldn't wait any longer. I called him.

"Baby, how's Jen?"

"We're just leaving for the hospital. I'll call you when I know something."

That's what I get for being impatient. I took a deep breath, resumed pacing.

Another hour went by. Another hour of pacing, of tears from imagining what Al and Jen must be suffering.

Finally, the call came. My heart raced as I stared at the caller ID. After a deep breath, I answered in as a smooth a voice as I could. "Hi, baby. How's Jen?"

"They found a heartbeat." 

With those four words I almost dropped the phone. I couldn't speak. My heart raced as my head swam.

"Mom? Did you hear me?"

"Oh my God! Baby! Congratu-friggin-lations!" We shared a moment of joy-filled laughter. Then I asked, "So, Jen is OK?"

"Yeah, she's good. Listen, you can't tell anyone until we're sure the baby is fine."




"OK.  I've got other phone calls to make, but I'll call you later, OK?"

And that was the announcement of my first grandchild's arrival. I can only hope that this little devil doesn't make a habit through its lifetime of this kind of introduction.  It'll kill me! 

Florida Writer's Association

I love to write, but I did not know the first thing about being a writer. I joined an online  writers workshop, where I received an education on just how ignorant I truly am. The writers were supportive, insulting, derogatory and uplifting. What a wonderful experience this has been.

One of the writers who have taken me under his wing goes by the name of seabrass. He resides in Minnesota. I live in Florida. Isn't the internet great?

During one of our review/reply exchanges, he spoke of the FWA conference. I did not know what the FWA was. So this nice man from Minnesota explained the Florida Writer's Association. I became a member immediately. I signed up to join the conference right after that. 

The conference is finally here. I have met my mentor, whose pen name is Charles Brass. I have learned so very much. And the one thing I have grown a deeper understanding of...Just how ignorant I truly am.

I love being a writer!

Florida Writer Conference Poets Challenge

I'm at the FWA conference, and learning so much. The wonderful people who participate in teaching their fellow writers have been amazing! I have learned that I have so much to learn!

One of the workshops I planned to attend, "Let's Write Poetry!" sounded fun. If you know my writing, you know I dabble in poetry, but I do not claim to be a poet. The following exercises prove my point (I think)...

The prompt given was a list of "Thesaursus Sentences". More than one used the word 'golden'. That brought to mind the conversation my husband and I had when visiting California recently. They are expereincing a serious drought, and all of the golden waves were dead grass. Here's the result of my poetry through prompt.

California should have golden grains
Not so
California is drought stricken
The golden grass
is dead

Then another prompt was a list of the most bizarre words. We were supposed to come up with a poem using at least one of these words on every line. Here's my attempt.


I'm lost in labyrinth
Life shows no kindness
The day now ends
Frustration meets evening

Shadows grow
twilight beckons
indigo eyes
call me home

In the shelter of his arms
smoldering passions wake
our hearts merge
souls balance in joy

My life is fulfilled.


In my defense, it was held at 7am. I better get back to the conference. I've got a lot to learn!

Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Sin? (One Humble Christian's Definition)

 Original sin is a misnomer. A baby is no more steeped in sin at birth than a boulder is when it falls from the mountain, IMHO. What a ridiculous concept.

What is sin? Sin is a wrong I committed that separated me from God. When the Holy Spirit touches my heart about something I have done, I know it. The sin I committed must be atoned. I will not share the specific things I’ve been spiritually reprimanded for, but how about an example instead?

Let’s say I’ve cheated on my taxes. I took a deduction that I shouldn’t have. It’s a minor thing that everyone does, right? Well, for me, the pressure does not relent. It weighs me down. Not the concern for ‘getting caught’, but the knowledge that I was not honest. I am a born-again, saved Christian. I’ve been told to “go and sin no more” and the Good Lord knows I’m trying. Now this sin has me lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling. That is the result of my own sin.

I am willing to bet that you can relate, on some level, with something you have done that has kept you awake, staring at the ceiling.

And this is the point where people without faith; without the knowledge of the Holy Spirit working in their lives becomes virulent...There is Spiritual forgiveness. There is peace offered. The sin (whatever that sin was) separated you from the Perfect Being. Have your children ever disappointed you? Did you turn away from them (sent them to their room, whatever), even for a moment? So your sin disappointed God, and He has sent you to your room.

We are all His children of course, but He has a Perfect Son. I can turn to the Father, through His Son, and receive forgiveness. My separation, my sin, is taken from me when my heart is truly repentant. I acknowledge the sin, I ask forgiveness, and it is granted. I do not need a Pope, or Imam, or even a Preacher. All of the text in all of the books in all of the Bibles cannot explain this Spiritual reconnecting to those who cannot understand.

Of course, it won’t save me from the IRS, or any other of man’s retribution. That will be mine to suffer. But my heart will be made whole.

The cost of sin is Death. The cost of forgiveness was paid with His Perfect Life, sacrificed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Take it down a notch

Maybe it’s time for me to grow up and put away my childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). I’m almost fifty-two, for crying out loud!

Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas; all of these (and more) bring out the child in me. I even decorate my house for our sons birthday's, even though they're grown and gone. It’s a tradition that I get a kick out of.

As an adult, we are supposed to put aside our childish desire for dressing silly (Halloween), blowing out candles (Birthdays), eating (Thanksgiving), and opening presents (Christmas, of course). I haven’t. Maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough to be a grown up.

 I am a "little" high strung (Ha). It really comes out around the holidays. I've been told to "Take it down a notch" or "Simmer down, little teapot" or "Is it time to adjust your meds or mine?" Yeah, I get it. I do seem to be forcing it on others. If they don’t want to celebrate the day, I get bummed. Birthdays especially. I love birthdays, and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t. Really. What’s the alternative to having a birthday? Having a funeral! So, why not celebrate the fact you’ve made it another year? But, not everyone thinks or feels the same as I do.

Politics, religion, money, these are differences of opinions I understand, but a difference on opinion for celebrating?

I’m at a loss.

Maybe I should try growing up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sources of Evil

I've got this great idea for a story, but I need a little input. Tell me, outside of money and power, what would you consider a "source of evil"?

I'm posting this question on my fb page, and I'll publish the results here. If you have any input, feel free to comment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012



Note to reader...

A couple of months ago, I entered a writing contest called "Summer Shootout". I came in fourth!

The contest entailed receiving a 'prompt' on Saturday, and having until the following Saturday to submit a short story. There really were no other rules, other than the deadline.

Some people have asked to read the stories I submitted, so I'm posting them here.

This story is for the second prompt given. "An angry woman, a silver platter and a cannon."

I wrote a short story titled, "Scavenge", submitted here as "McShane". It's a detective, murder/mystery piece.

Thanks for reading.


by j l mo

            Sam fumbled for her ringing cell and cursed as it fell off of the nightstand. The ring tone belonged to her mom. She decided to leave the phone on the floor and let the call go to voice mail. Calling at nine o’clock in the morning on her day off deserved voice mail.
            The phone finally stopped ringing. She turned to her side and nuzzled down in the pillow as the cell announced with a beep a message had been left. The damn thing started ringing again. Mom was calling back. Then Sam remembered why Mom was calling so early. Her eyes popped open and she quickly sat up on the edge of the bed. She wanted Sam to go on a scavenger hunt with someone she’d just met yesterday. The whole thing sounded strange. She fumbled for the ringing phone on the floor.
            “Yes, Mom. I’m up.”
            “Samantha Angus McShane! You were supposed to be here already.”
            “C’mon, Mom, you said ten o’clock.”
            “I said we start at ten. You and I were going to have breakfast first.”
            Sam cursed again. She’d forgotten about that. “Sorry, Ma” Sam fell back on her bed. “I can still make ten. Tell me again why we’re doing this?”
            “I want you to meet Tom! Sam, he’s gorgeous and I know you two are meant for each other. I told him my single daughter is a detective, and then he told me about this scavenger hunt his church was holding. One team member has to find their two teammates through riddles. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Tom almost dropped out because his two friends couldn’t go, so I volunteered us!”
            Sam groaned. “Ma, how do you know he isn’t some scam artist?”
            “I just know. He says he goes to the First United Methodist Church and his Sunday school group is hosting this to raise money for the orphanage.”
            Sam smiled at her mother’s continued attempts to replace Amy. “Did you check out the guy like I suggested?”
            “Would you, for once, trust my judgment?” her mother said with a huff.
            “Ma, you know I hate riddles.” After a heavy sigh she dragged herself off of the bed and said, “I’m on my way to meet you.”
            “You don’t have to. Tom says we can start early and send you the first riddle by text. That way you don’t have to come all the way to his church to get it. The answer to the riddle will tell you where to go to get the second one. Don’t forget to take a picture to prove you found it. Since there are only four riddles total, we should be done in time to have lunch together. Okay?”
            “Yeah, Okay.”
            The first riddle came as a text message thirty minutes later. Sometimes Sam hated her own suspicious mind.

A park in town
turned upside down
take the shot
you’ll know the spot

            Sam hit the call back button to reach her mom. The call went to voice mail. Sam called her partner and asked him to run a background check on Tom Novak, her mom’s new friend.
            This first riddle was taking her to Soqquadro Park. Last year she cornered a scum named Aldo facing drug charges and a murder warrant in that very park. The barrel of his gun was pointed at Sam's head when she, her partner Charles, and half the police force took him out in a spray of bullets and blood. She lived, he died. Aldo’s partner River Nowak got away, but last known whereabouts put him somewhere in Southeast Asia.
            She found the second riddle before Charles called her back. Under the shrub where Aldo’s body had fallen she found a miniature set of stairs like one found on a large dollhouse. Each of the four wooden steps contained a carved sentence.

The bank got robbed
Women sobbed
your friend died there
on the stair

            Sam swallowed the lump forming in her throat. River Nowak was back, and he had her mom. Wasn’t killing Amy enough? She snapped the photo as her cell rang.
            Charles said, “Mr. Tom Novak is a white male of dubious descent, according to this photo, who flew into OIA last week. His current whereabouts are unknown. Sam, he came in from Bangkok.”
            Sam’s stomach clenched tighter. Straight from Southeast Asia. “Tell me true, Charles. Could the picture be River Nowak in disguise?”
            “Yeah, I’m afraid so.”
            “Shit! He’s got mom.” Sam started jogging toward her car.
            “I’ve got a couple of uniforms on their way to you.”
            She clenched her jaw, but tried not to let her frustration come through her voice. “You promised not to tell the Captain.”
            “Hold on now, I’ve kept my promise. I’ve spoken to Officer Smith and Officer Wesson. They volunteered to watch your back until more than just the two of them are needed.”
            “Alright, but tell them to keep their distance. We don’t know if Nowak’s got eyes on me or not.”
            “Done. What’s the next riddle?”
            “You’re not gonna believe this. River wants me to go to First National. I’m pretty sure the next clue will be on the staircase.”
            “What a sick son of a bitch. I’m calling the Chief as well as the Feds. Come on in, Sam. You’re too close to this. Let the FBI and the department handle matters from here.”
            “I will, but not now. The bastard’s drawing me in.” Charles was silent for a matter of moments. She added, “I’ll be careful.”
            “Fine, but I’m telling everyone to meet you at First National.”
            “Wouldn’t expect anything less, Charles.”
            “The bank’s been closed since the robbery. You want me to call the real estate company to go unlock a door?”
            Sam thought for a moment. “No,” she replied. “If River wants me inside, he’s left a way. Listen, I’ll check in, but definitely keep tabs on me, OK? It’s good to know Smith and Wesson have my back.”
            “I swear the Captain put them together just so we could say that.”
            “Bye, Charles.”
            The bank stood only a few blocks from the park. Aldo had stuck to his territory, and River was doing the same. First National occupied a corner of a two-story strip mall. She parked her car in front and removed her S&W J-Frame from the lockbox in the glove compartment.
            The front door was locked and the stairway couldn’t be seen though the windows from this angle. Sam watched a patrol car roll by in the reflection of the glass. She waited until they passed before she walked around to the back the building. The emergency exit door stood open.
            Careful not to touch the door or frame, she entered shouting, “This is the police! I am armed. Show yourself with your hands over your head!” Silence answered her. Keeping the weapon raised, she crept down the sunlit hallway and into the abandoned bank’s lobby. She glanced around the corner to the stairs on her left. On the third stair, right where Amy died sat a piece of paper on a small silver platter.
            The memory of that horrid day crashed on her. A lump in her throat threatened to burst as she blinked away the tears and swallowed hard. Memories of their life together painfully resurfaced. Amy had been buried for more than a year, along with Sam’s heart. Why would this sick son of a bitch do this? Amy was an innocent in the bank when Aldo and his buddies stormed in. Sam took several deep, cleansing breaths. Careful not disturb any evidence, she read the next clue.

the bar was filled
you were billed
the tab was paid
in the shade

            “Son of a bitch!” Sam shouted at no one. She snapped the picture and then called Charles. “The bastard wants me to go to the ruins of O’Malley’s.”
            “You got the riddle? Why did you go in? You should have waited. Now you’re gonna get your ass chewed. Stay there, the others should arrive any second. Don’t touch anything else!”
            “I haven’t touched a god damned thing, Charles. And I ain’t waiting. Do me a favor. Let them find this riddle on their own and figure out the meaning. Then they can chase me. Tell Smith and Wesson where I’m going, though. It was good to see them roll by.” Charles didn’t answer for a moment. Sam held her breath waiting for her partner’s decision to let her go on alone or not.
            Finally he said, “You cried in my arms for an hour on those stairs, Sam. I know how much you loved Amy. But your dying won’t bring her back, or bring your Mom home.”
            “I hear you. Will you keep them off my ass for another minute?”
            “Go. Please be careful.”
            “Thanks.” She didn’t bother to tell him she was already parking on a corner lot four blocks from the bank. This spot once held the most popular bar in town. The old oak tree here did not completely escape the massive flames that claimed so many lives. A portion of the trunk and branches still appeared singed. Somehow she, Amy, Charles, and his wife Isabella escaped the death trap that night. Sam was put through the ringer with Internal Affairs for the next six weeks.
            Under the tree sat another small silver platter holding the final riddle.

when you soared
the cannon roared
then came thunder
she’ll be under

            Sam read the paper twice. The patrol car driving by ever so slowly caught her attention. She realized she should be moving. Snapping the picture she got back in her car and drove away. The problem being, she had no idea where she was driving. The riddle made no sense. There was nothing her mind could recall tying Aldo, or River, to a cannon or soaring or thunder. After driving aimlessly for ten minutes, she called Charles.
            “What do you know about a cannon?”
            “There’s a cannon in Soqquadro Park.”
            “No there’s not.”
            “Yeah, they put a little one in about six months ago. A plaque says the thing was found on a sunken Spanish ship fairly close to shore.”
            “Shit!” Sam tried to find a place to turn her car around to go back to the park. “The bastard’s sent me on a wild goose chase and has probably been there the whole fucking time!”
            “I don’t want to interrupt an angry woman, but maybe you should come in and let the Feds handle this.”
            “Angry Woman?” Sam heard herself screech and didn’t care. “He’s got my fucking Mom, Charles! Angry fucking woman? Are you serious? I am going to get her back!”
            “You can’t get Amy back!” Charles’s screeching voice matched her own. The sound took her by surprise. She took several deep, very audible breaths. Charles sounded as if he were doing the same.
            “That was a low blow.”
            “I’m sorry.” Another moment he added, “Amy would demand you come back and you know it.”
            That much was true. Amy was as overprotective as her mom. “Okay. I’m calming down. Let’s think. Is the cannon in Soqquadro Park the only one in town?”
            “Wait. Read me the whole clue.”
            Sam didn’t have to read the clue. The words were carved into her memory. “When you soared, the cannon roared, then came thunder, she’ll be under”
            Silence stretched. Sam wanted to give Charles time to process it, but she began to think the call had dropped. “Are you there?”
            “Yeah. The clue is for me, Sam.”
            “Come again?”
            “I was flying back from Tallahassee. Isabella had taken the boys to the park. There was a break in at my house and someone blew up my Cannon gun safe. They stole my Bersa Thunder 380 and went on to kill four people. They found the damn thing in a dumpster.”
            “Oh my god! I remember! The dumpster at the fairgrounds! Have everyone meet me there!” She ended the call and took the next right turn. Her phone rang with ‘Unknown’ where the caller ID should be displayed.
            “Hello, Sam. Miss me?”
            “Who is this?”
            “I’m hurt. You don’t remember me?”
            “See, you do care.”
            “Where’s my mother?”
            “Well, she’s not with Amy. Yet.”
            “Where is my mother?” Sam screamed into the phone.
            “Tut-tut, such anger. No small talk? No ‘how ya been?’, ‘whatcha been up to?’ That kind of thing?”
            “You mother fucker!”
            “Oh, heavens no! Mother killer, sure. But fucker? Not my thing.”
            She was only another couple of miles from the fairgrounds. Taking a deep breath she asked again, “Where is my mother?”
            “Didn’t Charles give you the answer to my last riddle? I admit, I’m no poet, but I couldn’t have made it much clearer.”
            “What does Charles have to do with this?”
            “Now I’m really hurt. He didn’t tell you about us? Shame on Charles.”
            “What are you talking about?”
            “Charles and I were together for a while. He was everything to me. I would have given him the world. Then he turned straight for Isabella. Aldo was a dear, but I never got over losing Charles.”
            “See, now you’re getting the picture.”
            “No, I’m not.”
            “Charles broke my heart and made my life miserable. I, in turn, made life miserable for everyone he loved. Isabella was supposed to be home that day I got his Thunder, but I still had fun.”
            “You killed Amy to hurt Charles? You sick mother fucker!”
            “We’ve already gone over that part. Besides, Amy was just a happy coincidence.”
            The screech returned to Sam’s voice. “Where is my mother?”
            “Go to the fairgrounds. Mrs. McShane is on the southeast corner, tied to a chair. Behind her is the dumpster where I returned Charles’s Bersa Thunder to him. The one I gave him as a Christmas present all those years ago. Tell him to look under the dumpster for his next gift. She’s kind of messy. You might want to bring some extra cleaning supplies.” The phone went dead. Sam hit the call back and heard an automated voice tell her there is no such number. She called Charles.
            “Where’s Isabella?” Sam asked.
            “At work. Why?”
            “You should have told me about you and River.”
            “What? Wait. Why? No, there’s nothing to tell! Besides, it was ancient history! Why? Oh my god. What’s happened to Bella?”
            “Charles, this wasn’t about me or my mom. It’s been about you all along. Go get your kids. I think something’s happened to their mom.”


Note to my dear reader; I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I've had so much fun with Sam, I decided to make this a chapter in my next book.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Normal Parameters

A couple of months ago, I entered a writing contest called "Summer Shootout". It was the first time I'd ever tried such a thing. Of the 22 original contestants, I came in fourth! If you had asked me five years ago where I saw myself in that amount of time, the answer would not have been 'entering a writing contest'. But life does take odd turns, doesn't it?

A few of you have asked to read the stories I submitted, so I'm posting them here.

The contest entailed receiving a 'prompt' on Saturday, and having until the following Saturday to submit a short story. There really were no other rules, other than the deadline.

The first prompt given was "Instrument Failure"

I wrote a short story titled, "Normal Parameter" set in the not-too-distant future. Leave a comment or send me an email and let me know what you think.

Thanks, and enjoy.


Normal Parameters
Submitted July 20, 2012
By j l mo

            The vibration I feel through my shoes seems familiar. I step to the small patch of bare wall, one of the few areas not covered by instruments, pipes or wires, allowing a direct touch to the inner hull. Reaching up, I place my hand on the slight curve to try and identify the sensation. Bzzz. A count of ten and again, Bzzz. Rhythmic shivers gently pulse through her. Something tugged at the back of my mind as I try to reach a memory of a lesson, buried in layers of lessons from too many years gone.
I've been Captain of this antiquated three-level shuttle since my demotion five months ago. In all fairness, she was a beautiful spacebus in her day. The upper dome held the helm, mid-deck was for the passengers and the lower deck housed the engines and gravitational units. The thing is, her day is long past. I don't believe she should still be in service. However, all of her maintenance checks came back clean.
            “Ensign Tadford. Status update, please.”
         The young woman swiveled around on the squeaky, too small seat and declared, “All is working within normal parameters, sir.”
            “Are you sure? Oxygen, power, engines, all read normal?”
            “Aye, sir. Would you like a report sent to your intermail?”
            “No, that won't be necessary.”
            “Is there anything specific you might like investigated, sir?”
            I decline with a shake of my head. I'm not sure where to start with something so vague. The military, in their infinite wisdom, declared system engineers on board a shuttlecraft unnecessary. The manufacturer, AGN, claim there is no need for them. All monitoring and minor repairs could be performed by the crewmembers, if necessary. Except for odd things like this.
“Call Lieutenant Meyers to the bridge.”
            “Aye, sir.”
         The memory of a lesson from long ago danced just outside of total recall. What caused that damn vibration? I'd had so many professors at the academy I couldn't remember them all. Their individual lessons were even more distant. This was something I should know.
            This shuttle with its crew of three carrying a dozen passengers could fly fine without me. After my demotion, the route assignment turned out to be the worst of my punishment. I accepted losing rank from Major to Captain with grace. My true hell lay in the monotonous shuttling of passengers from Earth all the way to Moon, with five regular stops on each surface. The most uninteresting, mind numbing route to be had, and I am to fly this until retirement.
            “Excuse me, Captain Casey. Lieutenant Meyers, as ordered.”
        The formality on this shuttle still boggles my mind, but the others appreciate the military protocol. So, I deal with the uniforms, and the salutes and the posturing as if we were actually on a military mission. Well, I suppose we are, but it's an AGN Class B Shuttlecraft, for God’s sake! I return his salute, stifling my frustration.
            “At ease, Lieutenant. Have you noticed a pulse, an odd vibration, through the ship?”
            “A vibration, sir?”
            “Yes, Lieutenant. Here, put your hand right here.” Meyers places his palm where indicated on the ship’s inner hull.
            “No sir, I don't feel anything.”
            “It's faint. Wait a moment longer.”
            Dutifully, Meyers obeys. He lowers his head and closes his eyes, doing what he’s ordered to do with every ounce of concentration. After twenty seconds his head jerks up with his eyes wide. “Shit! I mean, Captain!” Meyers glances at the ensign who swung around quickly in her chair. “Ensign Tadford! Has a flux been recorded by the Bosonic Gravitron Meter?”
            My chest clenched as I heard her say, “No, sir. As I told the Captain, all is working within normal–”
            She didn’t finish the sentence. I pushed her out of the way to get to the instrument panel. The lesson dodging my memory came back to me like a lightning flash. The AGN Shuttles were one of the first passenger ships built with the HB Artificial Gravity Field. In the preceding seventy-five years of use, not one failure had occurred. This would be the first on record. If anyone survived.
         The instruments all gave normal readings. I scramble to the other consoles to check the back-up instruments. They all show the BGM working within parameters.
            I spin to face Meyers. He had helped Tadford to her feet. The Lieutenant’s face had lost all color, while the Ensign appeared too calm.
            “Is there a problem, Captain?” she asked, as her lips curled into a cruel curve. Tadford’s eyes locked mine as she reached into her pocket and proudly displayed a recognized, much-hated black calling card depicting a hologram of the red planet. I froze in shock. The card marked her a MarSaver. One of the terrorists responsible for thousands of deaths in their pursuit to ‘save Mars from man’ has sabotaged my ship.
            “What have you done?” My voice sounded much calmer than I felt.
            “What my people told me to do. Kill you.”
            “You would kill yourself and all these innocent people, possibly Earth itself, to get to me?”
            “Well worth the sacrifice!”
            My voice seemed hollow as I shouted, “I told the military of your people’s demands! They refused to negotiate! I lost my rank because I wouldn’t stop my crusade to save those people, and you blew up the Mars station anyway, killing hundreds of innocents! What more could I do?”
            “Captain!” Meyers voice broke the spell of incredulity this woman held me in. “We might still save the passengers on board!”
            “Yes! Bypass the instruments and sound the alarm!” The too-smooth, female automated voice started before Meyers reached the control panel.
            “The containment field is failing.”
            “Repeat - The containment field is failing.”
            “Repeat - The containment field is failing.”
            “I know, Agnes!” I growl under my breath.
            “Captain, the alarm began–”
            “Yes, Lieutenant! Tell me this piece of flying space junk carries the proper number of escape pods!”
            Tadford said, “It did until I had two removed for maintenance. The instrument failure was overridden. Captain Casey? Are you afraid to die?”
            “Captain!” Meyers shouted. “We have to move! The HB is pulsing harder!”
            I stopped engaging this lunatic and paid attention the vibrations. The pulse was so hard it had become audible. RUMBLE. A count of five and RUMBLE.
“Follow proper protocol to abandon ship. With two pods gone, one remains. All of the passengers will fit if they double up for the ride. Go!”
            Meyers scrambled off the bridge and down toward the passengers.
            “Repeat - The containment field is failing.”
            “Well, Captain,” the terrorist purred. “I would say it's been a pleasure serving under you, but, well, you know.” The shrug she gave and the sickening, cruel upturn of her lips pushed me too far. In two strides I reached her and she hit the floor hard. I'd never punched a woman before, but since I was gonna die anyway, I figured, what the hell. I may have broken her jaw.
            The panel still read everything working normally, even with Agnes blaring her warning. Think, man! Professor Watts taught you well, so pull the shit back into your mind! If the instrument says it's OK, then the instrument is wrong. So, what made it go wrong? The instrument failure is not the point! What will it take to make the HB Artificial Gravity Field not implode? No one’s ever done this! Think!
            “Repeat - The containment field is failing.”
            “Wait!” I shout. I turn to Tadford still on the floor holding her jaw. “The gravity field needs the Stress Energy Tensor! Is that what you did? You disabled the SET?”
            The only response I receive is her glare. At least she’s not smiling anymore.
            “I need to get to the engine room and put the two back together before this ship becomes a black hole!”
            From behind me Meyers says, “You’ll need help.”
            “Repeat - The containment field is failing.”
            “Secure Tadford to something. Let's make sure she can't cause any more trouble. Then, please, turn Agnes off.”
            All lights dimmed to lowest illumination level through the passageways, as per protocol. I could still see, but barely. The pulse now gave the impression of being inside a beating heart. A dying heart. “We'll try to save you, girl,” I whisper. “Just hang on for another minute.”
            POUND. A count of two and POUND. The gravity field is trying to pull the ship in on itself. The closer we get the more difficult it is to move, as if walking through molasses.
            We reach the engine room adjacent to the HB Gravity Field unit. Meyers crossed himself as we went in. Here was the source of the heartbeat. A monstrosity of machinery, as reliable as the sunrise in the east. That is, unless someone sabotaged her, which somebody did. The SET was destroyed. Tadford must have had help with this. There must be another MarSaver among the escaping passengers. Tadford somehow manipulated the instrument panel while her accomplice came down here and performed this catastrophe.
            “What'll we do, Cap?” asked a nervous-sounding Meyers.
            The too-smooth, female automated voice said, “Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”
            My stomach clenched as I gasped. Agnes was not programmed for speech recognition. She should not be able to respond, or to give instruction. Meyers’ face looked like he'd just seen a ghost. Mine probably looked the same. I asked, “Didn’t you shut Agnes off?”
            “Yes, Captain. I did.”
            POUND. A count of two and POUND.
            “Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”
            “Agnes?” I venture.
            “Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”
            I attempt to process what I'm hearing. “Agnes that will kill us all.”
            “Correction,” Agnes replied in the annoying, non-emotional voice, “That will kill the three humans on board, and terminate the shuttlecraft. The planet we serve will survive.”
             “Agnes?” I asked, voice shaky to my own ears. “How long have you been sentient?”            “Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field. It's been an honor to serve with you, Captain Casey. Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”