Sunday, June 1, 2008


It's been a while since I signed on, and to the loyal few who read this, my apologies. But the absence was well worth it. Went to Florida for a few days to re-gather the few wits I have, then to a fiction writers' conference in Oxford, Ohio.

It's always good to meet other writers. Writing is a solitary, selfish occupation. Writers have a tendency to isolate, to create worlds and then retreat to them. We are egomaniac with self-esteem issue. Who else would have the gall to assume our output is worth the time a reader migh invest?

It is summer in Virginia and my flight home was delayed by tornadoes and hail storms. I still do not know the whereabouts of my luggage, which vanished somewhere between Kentucky and Ronald Reagan airport.

I am getting saner; the devils have left for the moment; the last exchange with SBC was unpleasant and mean, a cruel salvo of words meant to wound. She sent me the stuff I had at her house and I returned the favor. There was a necessary finality to all this and yes, I harbor resentments even as I still think of her daily. It will be a while before I return to Richmond.
And that's about all I am willing to say at this moment. I'm glad to be back.

Here is installment 23 of Wasted Miracles.

Now he and Marsha had three kids and he spent most of his time on the front porch of the rancher they’d bought and equipped with hand rails and ramps.
For all his accomplishments he was not a nice man. Colin found him loud, offensive, short-tempered and rude to waiters. At restaurants, Orin didn’t eat his food, he fought it. He was not above calling the shaky newcomers to AA assholes, had little tolerance for fools of any stripe or color. Political correctness did not exist Orin’s house.
The first thing he did after Colin got there was take the plastic bag of salami, open it and roll two slices into his mouth. Then he asked, “You still fucking that rich lady?”
Colin ignored him. This was how Orin generally started their conversations.
“Guess you are, uh?” Orin nodded, looked smug. “Well, none of my business, I guess, but when your dick falls off, don’t bother bringing it here.
“Course,” he thought it over, looked down at where his lap should have been, “considering my personal state of affairs, and the number of things that have dropped off me, I probably shouldn’t be the one to talk...”
Every time they met, Colin had quickly noticed, Orin G. brought it up, as if maybe Colin hadn’t noticed that Orin was legless.
Colin smiled. “You said it. I didn’t.”
“And you’d fuckin’ better not either,” Orin displayed a mean smile. “You haven’t earned the right.
“So,” his face changed, became more tolerant. “Joe the Cop still your pigeon?”
“Saw him a couple of days ago. Seems to be doing OK. Said I should paint my apartment. Then told me about his master plan again.”
Orin laughed, a dry brittle sound. “Joe’s OK. Got the right idea, for a cop that is. He’s been straight how long now?”
Colin thought for a moment, “Two years, a bit more.”
“You working on anything now?”
Colin looked up, nodded. “Research for a writer who’s doing a book on Washington in the ‘20s.”
“Pay well?”
“Standard. Thirty an hour.”
Orin made a sucking noise with his lips. “Not bad. Thirty an hour for hanging around the library. How did the last book you worked on do?”
“Pretty well. The writer called me and said they were going into a second printing, then paperback.”
Orin nodded again. “One of these days, I’ll have to read some of that stuff.” He’d been making that promise for years.
This was Colin’s work now, research. He was good at it, had learned his trade in the newsroom and writing The Book. It allowed him to do things at his own speed, by himself. He knew how to ferret out the snippets of information that changed a story from mundane to interesting. Ten steady writers swore they couldn’t work without him, and his expertise over the years had become far-ranging. Cocteau, Haile Selassie, St. Exupery. The mating rites of gorillas. Silk weaving in Karnataka, the uses of a cyclotron. Colin’s name was in the acknowledgment section of a dozen books. He was on a first-name basis with every librarian in a 20-square mile area, a frequent visitor to the Archives, privy to the secrets of the Library of Congress. He knew the National Zoo inside out, held a Smithsonian Associate card. On the whole, the work pleased him, paid adequately though sometimes it was feast or famine. He enjoyed the concept of being self-employed, had toyed with the idea of setting up a small firm, two or three similarly bent individuals, had quickly given up the notion when he realized somebody would have to manage the work flow, and that the somebody would probably be him.
“That married woman you’re seeing, she’s got a daughter in the program?”
Colin lowered himself onto the rocking chair Marsha usually occupied. “Yeah, she does. Never seen her though. That’s something Catherine and me agreed on. Her family doesn’t get involved with this.”
“And you’re happy with that set up?”
Colin shrugged. “It works.”

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