Sunday, August 30, 2009


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(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This short story is in response to
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How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
records, impulsive, really cool, bread crumbs, angels, Sponge Bob, magical moment, back and forth, suffering, good fences make good neighbors, side effects are generally mild, clingy, rooster, samples, curiosity
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

“Hey, can you hand me a sponge, Bob?” Nell asked as her husband entered the back door. She was on the floor in front of the kitchen cabinets, soaking up milk with paper towels.
“I thought they said side effects are generally mild,” Bob snapped as he handed her a damp sponge from the sink. “You’ve been dropping things for three days. First it was the container of bread crumbs, then a mug of tea, silverware, a plate, and now this.” He kicked the empty milk carton out of the way.
“Dr. Jamison said that I’d stop suffering these episodes after I get used to the new medication.”
“Well, for heavens sake, Nell, don’t try to hold anything that can spill or break or make a mess.”
“What should I do when you’re not here? Stop eating?”
“That wouldn’t be a bad idea. You could stand to lose a ton.”
Nell knew she had gained about ten pounds over the last months due to lack of exercise. She gritted her teeth, deciding not to let him goad her.
Nell changed the subject. “Your sister called. She has business in the city and wants to stay with us for a week or so. Should I tell her it’s okay?”
“Oh, yeah, that will make for some magical moments, the two of us going back and forth, arguing about everything that ever happened since we were toddlers.”
“What do you have against your sister? I think she’s really cool.”
“You know we’ve never gotten along. She’s clingy and impulsive. And she’s up with the roosters and will wake us at four in the morning. And when I’m at work, I know her curiosity will have her going through the business records in my office upstairs.”
Bob paced in front of his wife. “You know how they say good fences make good neighbors? Well long distance makes good relatives.”
“You’re going to have to call her to tell her she can’t come. I won’t do it for you,” Nell said.
Bob snapped, “Are you going to sit on the floor the rest of the day?”
“Can you please help me up?”
Bob placed his arms under Nell’s arm pits to pull her from the floor and back into her wheel chair. “I wish you wouldn’t slide out of your chair to clean up your messes. You just do it to make me feel guilty.”
Nell grimaced. “Who's going to help me. Are some angels going to show up to wipe the floor? Besides, I knew you’d be home for lunch soon so I thought I'd start cleaning it up so you wouldn't have to.”
Bob set his jaw and shook his head.
Nell wheeled herself from the kitchen, tired of Bob’s impatience ever since the accident.
Bob stewed in the kitchen. Nell was more of a pain-in-the-ass to him now than before the accident. He not only had to put up with a woman he didn’t love, but he had to do everything for her and the housework, too. His girlfriend was getting impatient.
Now he was forced to play the loving husband role, at least around others, so no one would be suspicious. The brake failure was supposed to kill his wife and now he was strapped with a paraplegic. He had rejected poison because he knew the coroner would have taken blood and urine samples and might have suspected foul play.
If he divorced her, he wouldn’t get the pending fortune Nell’s father had left her. Divorcing a cripple would ruin his business. His associates and clients would think he was a cad. What a mess she had made for him.
In the living room, Nell turned on the stereo. She was angry, but she had a plan. Bob would be in Chicago on business the entire upcoming week. She had already told him she would have a friend in to check on her. The reality was that five friends were going to show up to pack her belongings. Since the accident, she hadn’t been able to go upstairs. They would go through Bob’s office to search for evidence of his affair. Her friend Britt, who always suspected the accident wasn’t really an accident, would make a copy of Bob's hard drive.
Nell had already had her lawyer start the divorce process. He assured Nell if they could find evidence of Bob’s rigging her “accident” he wouldn’t get any of her father’s money.
There was an opening at an assisted living facility where Nell could stay and receive physical therapy until the condo she had purchased was retrofitted to accommodate her special needs. Her father's bank was more than willing to approve a loan until her father's vast estate was settled.
Wouldn’t Bob be surprised the day the divorce papers were Fed Exed to his Chicago hotel? He would try to call her but there would be no answer. And then he’d be rid of her ---albeit not exactly as he wanted.
Maybe Nell couldn’t walk, but she certainly wasn’t helpless.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Friday, August 28, 2009

PEPPERED - Friday Flash 55

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The idea is to write a story in exactly 55 words.
Click on the yellow link above to join the fun or read others’ stories.

Emily’s lunch had been stolen from the refrigerator three days in a row.
Late Friday morning, gagging, with a red face, the boss tore from his office and raced toward the water cooler.
A tablespoon of cayenne folded discretely between the ham and cheese on her sandwich had flushed out the thieving culprit rather nicely.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Sunday, August 23, 2009


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At a conference a few weeks ago at Elmira College in NY, I snapped lots of photographs. One afternoon, I was walking from the parking lot, along a walkway beside the college library, when I saw these great shadows. The Elmira campus is lovely and the weather was beautiful, so I saw lots of shadows and will be posting more shadow shots from Elmira in the future.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, August 22, 2009


This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
blind panic, apartment, fleas, soap operas, cajun cooking, free and easy, legal, sangria, public school, new, class, calendar, keeping secrets, boring, fashion
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

Matty ran into her apartment and slammed the door. Fumbling with five locks, she tried to quell her blind panic for she was sure that someone had followed her because she was keeping secrets.
Her walls and windows were covered with aluminum foil to keep the legal system from listening to her thoughts when she was at home, but every time she left the apartment, she knew they were tapping into her brain.
She threw the cat food she had purchased on the dinette table. Quickly, Matty ran to her calendar. She saw that the moon was in its first quarter. She would have to keep up her guard until Septemeber 4th. From the moon's first quarter until it was full, scientists bounced microwaves off the lunar surface and then she was at her most vulnerable. That was when they made her do things she didn’t want to do.
The previous year, they disordered her brain to make her write Rush Limbaugh’s name on her presidential ballot. She had wanted to write in Sylvia Browne for president. The election was held the day before the first quarter moon at a time when she was helpless against their brainwashing. Although the news media didn't report it, she was sure Sylvia had lost the election to Obama by only one vote ---hers.
After September 4th, she could play it free and easy for twelve days before she would be vulnerable again.
It had started in public school. Her classmates read her thoughts. They claimed they didn’t, but she knew better. By her senior year, none of the other students even talked to her. At first Matty’s mother told her it was because the snobs in her class disliked her for not wearing the latest fashions. Matty wore white all the time to reflect radio waves. Matty knew that wasn’t the reason they didn’t talk to her. They read her thoughts and knew she hated them for it.
Several years later, her mother tried to have Matty committed, but as an adult, Matty couldn’t be detained against her will for more than three days unless she was dangerous to herself or others. But when they had to release her, government agents had stepped up their surveillance. She knew when they were reading her thoughts because her left ear itched as if fleas were in it. Anytime someone on TV used a cell phone, she knew they were trying to communicate with her brain. All those people on the streets pretending to use cell phones were doing the same.
Even her cat had been reading her mind until she made little aluminum hats for him, with slits for his ears and elastic straps for under his chin. She made several for him every day, because he always clawed them off his head. But she knew as long as he didn’t leave her apartment, he couldn’t tell the agents what she was thinking.
Except for her trips outside for essentials, Matty stayed home and watched old movies, soap operas, and talk shows. Sometimes they were boring, but they usually kept her mind off what the government was doing with her thoughts. She was lonely, but no one understood what she was going through. She knew there were others persecuted as she was, but until she found them, it was better to be alone.
Fifteen minutes after she had locked her apartment door, she heard a knock. She was sure they had come for her. Matty collected welfare, which meant they knew where she lived.
When she looked through the peep hole in the door, a scruffy-looking man stood there looking left and right as if expecting someone to creep up on him. He wore a construction helmet and a silver shirt. She knew it wasn’t an FBI agent. On TV, they were clean-shaven and wore trench coats.
“Who is it? What do you want?” Matty asked.
“I’m Clem, your new neighbor across the hall. I just did some Cajun cooking and made a pitcher of sangria. Do you want to join me?”
Matty unlocked her door and opened it. She intended to thank the man but refuse his invitation. He looked a bit puzzled when he saw her cat with his silver cap rubbing Matty's leg. Then he stood perfectly still staring past Matty at her aluminum-covered walls.
Matty thought she had made a mistake. The man was probably an undercover agent. Her palms began to sweat.
Clem smiled and said, “Hey, cool. I haven’t finished putting up my foil yet. I moved here from uptown because they found out where I lived and were scrambling my brain waves. I might have to wait until I get my next paycheck to buy enough to cover everything. Meanwhile, I hope my helmet holds them off. I lined the inside with foil.”
With a sigh of relief, Matty said, “I have a dozen rolls of foil ---the extra-wide kind ---and some duct tape. I can help you.”
“Gee, thanks. That would be great. Hey, I have another helmet if you want it,” Clem said.
She smiled and said, “I’d like that.”
At last, thought Matty, she had found her soul mate.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Friday, August 21, 2009

THE ROAD TO HEAVEN - mini non-fiction

This post is in response to
The idea is to write a story in exactly 55 words.
Click on the yellow link above to join the fun or read others’ stories.

The Road to Heaven

The dusty road meandered through small towns. Tiled roofs made each village appear red from a distance. The road wound between fields of corn and feijão, the black beans Brazilians ate daily.

We stopped the jeep when my Peace Corps site came into view. It didn’t look much like Heaven, but that was its name.

I served as a PC Volunteer in Brazil from 1967 to 1969. You can read about my experiences on my other blog: A Little “Peace” of Brazil.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Monday, August 17, 2009


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The back of our house faces the back of a grocery store. Fifty years ago, it might have been considered a supermarket, but by today's standards there is nothing "super" about it. I call it the "unsupermarket." It is a nice store with friendly people. It is certainly convenient because I can be there and back in five minutes if I need something quickly.

When I noticed this large stack of palettes on the store's loading dock, I snapped a few photos of them especially for Blue Monday.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Lino Tagliapietro

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Last week, after attending a Mark Twain conference in Elmira, NY, I stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass on my way home. The museum houses a vast collection of historical glass which I have seen many times, but I especially like the ever-changing exhibits of contemporary works by glass artists from around the world. You will probably be seeing many of the works from the museum over the next few months because glass casts such unique and beautiful shadows.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WITHOUT A SOLE - short fiction

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This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
superlative, flea market, falling leaves, disinformation, who was that masked man?, keeping kids out of trouble, I'm a believer, bonnet in the attic, staff, generation, deep in the forest, government, charming, heirlooms, flabbergasted

(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

Sarah stood by the shoe display counting the cash in her purse, hoping she would have enough to buy shoes for her daughter. Jenny’s sneakers had fallen apart. Sarah couldn’t send her to school in flip-flops. Well, Jenny could get away with wearing them for a few weeks, but as soon as the weather turned, she’d need decent shoes. Just thinking of falling leaves made Sarah anxious. How would she pay the heating bills that winter?
Sarah had lost her job, along with her health coverage, two months after her husband disappeared. She suspected he had run off with a woman he had met in rehab. Now, Sarah’s only income was an unemployment check. She wanted to sell the house, but without Ralph’s signature, she couldn’t. Without enough to pay the mortgage, heating bills might be the least of her problems. She suspected she and Jenny might soon be living in her ten-year-old car, unless she could find a boarder to share her home.
At the flea market, she had passed tables covered with heirlooms, the sellers trying to make a few dollars, flabbergasted at how little everyone was willing to pay for their family antiques, sometimes their only reminders of generations past. Sarah wondered what she might possibly sell on eBay. But then, all she could think of was her great-grandmother’s worthless dresses and dusty bonnet in the attic. And, besides, she had shut off her internet connection to save money.
In the past, Jenny could buy herself CDs and video games with her baby-sitting money, but now her earnings went toward household expenses. Well, thought Sarah, I’m a believer that work is good for keeping kids out of trouble, not that Jenny was likely to get into any.
The flea market attracted an array of strange characters. One was dressed like a clown. A very tall man, dressed like the Lone Ranger ---mask and all ---wandered up and down the aisles, carrying a saddle bag over his soldier. Occasionally he reached inside to pull out an envelope to hand to someone in the crowd, advertisements Sarah assumed.
Sarah was on the brink of despair. She never imagined her formerly-charming husband would become an alcoholic or that he would leave her. She thought her low-level government job on the custodial staff in the state office building had been secure. If it weren’t for Jenny, she might crawl deep in the forest and curl up and die there. At least her decomposing body would do some good for the plant life.
A friend had told her a man at the flea market was selling name-brand knockoffs for five dollars a pair. But that was a sorry piece of disinformation. Shoes large enough to fit anyone but a toddler cost twelve. Sarah had just under eleven dollars. She asked the man if he would take eight, leaving her enough for milk and eggs. He refused. He even refused all she had. Sarah felt as if he had punched her. Tears welled in her eyes. She slapped them away with the palm of her hand before they could run down her cheeks. She turned away from the shoe booth, bumping into the Lone Ranger.
“What’s the matter, little woman?” he asked with a Texas twang.
Sarah ignored him and hurried toward her car. He grabbed her arm. “Whoa,” he said. “I can help you.”
“No one can help me,” Sarah answered. “I’m at the lowest, sorriest, most miserable point of my life. I can’t even buy cheap shoes for my daughter for school.”
“Well, that sure is a lot of superlatives you’re using there,” the man said. “Maybe this will help,” he added, handing her an envelop from his saddle bag.
He shoved it into Sarah’s palm, but made her promise not to open it until she got home. Sarah nodded in agreement, continued to her car, and cried the whole way home. She threw the envelop on a pile of junk mail on the kitchen table.

The next day, after another unsuccessful attempt to find work, Sarah sat exhausted in front of the TV. The news announcer wrapped up the broadcast with her usual human-interest story.
“A lot of local people are asking the question, ‘Who was that masked man?’ Yesterday, at a local flea market, a man dressed as the Lone Ranger handed envelopes to total strangers. Each contained cash in amounts ranging from one to ten thousand dollars for the lucky recipients.”
Sarah jumped from her chair, ran to the kitchen and clawed at her envelope. It not only had enough money to buy Jenny new shoes, but enough to pay the mortgage, utilities, and buy groceries for three months.
When Jenny arrived home from her baby-sitting job, Sarah hugged her daughter. She flashed the biggest smile she had been able to muster in months. “We’re going to make a bank deposit at the ATM and then we’re going shopping for the coolest sneakers we can find.”

See the shoes pictured above and 80 other pair of unique shoes designed by CJ by clicking HERE.

I skipped Wordzzle last week while I attended a fantastic Mark Twain conference that included appearances by author Russell Banks and actor Hal Holbrook. Read all about it HERE.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Friday, August 14, 2009

CHARMED - Friday Flash 55

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This post is in response to
The idea is to write a story in exactly 55 words.
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a silver chain,
charms added to evoke
cherished memories.

A sax for my first love.
Diploma for graduation.
Palette for my chosen field.
Airplane for my first flight.
Shoe for the large-footed
admirer who swept me off my feet.

The significance of some
have been forgotten.

My misplaced youth,
gathering dust in a drawer.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ORANGE GLOW - Sky Watch Friday

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When I saw this image in the west, I had to pull off the road to snap some photos before the sun dropped below the horizon. In the photo, the sunset almost looks like a fire is burning at the base of the trees.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)


In my post MEETING MARK TWAIN about the 2009 Elmira Mark Twain Conference, I included a link to a video made by John Bird, a conference participant. Bird asked fellow Twain scholars, "Why do you work on Mark Twain?" or "Why do you study Mark Twain?"
The answers were varied. Bird could not possibly ask every participant because the video would have been hours long. I'm not sure what I would have said on the spur of the moment, but this is how I would answer after having time to think about the question:

I read several of Twain's novels in my teens, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, the Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee. I enjoyed the novels, but I wasn't yet a Twain enthusiast.
In college, I read some of Twain's social commentary, and that is when I fell in love with Mark Twain. I also read some of his writings that he directed not be published until 100 years after his death. He said that only dead men can tell the truth. Clara, the only daughter who survived him, decided to publish Letters from the Earth and other controversial writings in 1960, fifty years after her father's death.
Fellow Twain aficionado Richard Talbot put into words my exact sentiments: Twain "was singing a song that was already in my heart... I just wanted to hum along."
Twain once said, "Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever." He was able to cut through the rhetoric to tell the truth about war, race, imperialism, religion, government, and many other subjects. His thoughts have such a universal quality that they are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them.
Years ago, when I first read Twain's social commentaries, I was amazed that someone who died in 1910 could express exactly what was in my heart so eloquently and with such good humor.
His humor is what makes Twain so very enjoyable. In Following the Equator, he said, “Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” In The Mysterious Stranger, he wrote: “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

* * * * *

What makes Twain so fascinating is that a multitude of Twain's private papers, notebooks, writings, photographs, business documents, and letters had not been published until the later part of the 20th century. Most papers were donated by his daughter to the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, which now houses the Mark Twain Papers and Project which publishes the papers (many online) and encourages Twain research. Previously-unknown letters and other writing surface occasionally. Thus, we are still learning from this complex man who was dead serious and hilariously funny, whose life was filled with both sorrow and joy, who came from the humblest of beginnings, became wealthy, went broke, ended up a wealthy man again, and became a world-renowned super star.
Twain could have been talking about himself when he said, "There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy."
(except for Twain & Talbot quotes, ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The International Conference on Mark Twain Studies happens every four years at Elmira College. Hands down, the Elmira conferences have been the best-run conferences I've ever attended, all four times I've participated, beginning in 1997.
The sessions begin and end on time. The food is of gourmet quality served with wines from the nearby Finger Lakes region. The attendees are interesting, knowledgeable, fun-loving people with a common interest in Mark Twain.
During the 2009 conference, papers were presented by individuals from universities across the nation and as far away as Australia, including Canada, France, Japan, Germany, UK, Portugal, India, Fiji, and Israel. Several papers were presented by independent scholars, who have no university affiliation, just an abiding interest in all things Twain. Many attendees have written some of my favorite books about Sam Clemens / Mark Twain.

The first evening, we were treated to a wine-tasting and the viewing of an exhibit of Classics Illustrated (comic books) featuring Twain's works, followed by a champagne dinner and a performance of music popular in Twain's day.

On the second evening, the keynote speaker for the event was Russell Banks who spoke about his six degrees of separation from Mark Twain. Banks' wife, poet Chase Twichell, is a decendent of Mark Twain's friend, the Reverend Joe Twichell, who presided at Twain's wedding and funeral. Banks signed books afterward under a tent at the champagne reception where we were also served wonderful bite-sized desserts, from chocolate cheescake to fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate or white chocolate.

One of the highlights of the event was the appearance of Hal Holbrook who has played Mark Twain longer than Samuel Clemens played Mark Twain. Holbrook performed his Mark Twain act for the first time in 1947. In March 1967, CBS broadcast his "Mark Twain Tonight" program. Many Twain scholars trace their interest in Twain to viewing that performance.

Richard Talbot said, "I walked up to Hal Holbrook and stuck out my hand. He took it in his and didn't let go. He said, 'What brings you here?'
"I said, 'When I was seventeen I saw you on TV, and I thought then that Mark Twain was a pretty funny fellow. After I'd grown I read him and found that he was singing a song that was already in my heart. From that day to this I've just wanted to hum along. And you sir, you were the first link in a very long I thank you.'
"He loosened his grip but only slightly. He had heard what I said. He didn't say a word. He just stared at me with those pale blue eyes. They suddenly grew red and tears formed on the rims. He placed his other hand across my forearm, swallowed hard and gave me a nod." (Richard Talbot sent this in an email message to members of the Mark Twain Forum after the conference.)

At age 84, Holbrook still travels to perform "Mark Twain Tonight" throughout the country. I caught his performances in Pittsburgh in the 1970's and again in May of 2007.
Holbrook said, "I think I would end up in a mental institution if I couldn't do this Mark Twain show. I get so angry about what's going on in the world, I can barely contain myself. And this show gives you the freedom to go out on stage and say exactly what you're feeling ---exactly what needs to be said [in Mark Twain's words.] It's tremendously cathartic." (from the abstract of Mark Dawidziak's presentation, "Mark Twain Tonight!, Today and Tomorrow: The Impact and Importance of Hal Holbrook's One-Man Show.")
After Dawidziak's presentation, Holbrook added, "We all know one thing. We need somebody to tell us the truth. Not twist it. Not make it their own territory. But to tell us the truth." (Thanks to K. Patrick Ober who transcribed this from the recording he made of Holbrook's remarks on his iPhone.)

The final night of the conference, we enjoyed a picnic at Quarry Farm, Twain's sister-in-law's home, where she built an octagonal study for Twain on a knoll above the farm house. (The study now rests on the Elmira campus.) Twain penned many of his greatest writings there while his family spent summers on the farm which rests high on a hill overlooking Elmira.
The picnic consisted of barbecued shrimp, chicken, and ribs, Portuguese rolls, various salads, baked beans, gingerbread, ice cream, wine, beer, or soft drinks, consumed under large tents behind the house. An Elmira student entertained us with piano jazz. On the front porch, various participants played guitar, banjo, violin and recorder for a sing-along. Before we returned to the Elmira campus, conference participants held their traditional ceremonial cigar smoke on the spot where Twain's study once stood. (See below for a link to comments made by Hal Holbrook.)

Each night, before retiring, participants held lively conversations at the Corn Pone Pub with a sing-along on the adjoining portico.

Although the conference was wonderful, I do have several complaints. There was too much food and it was way too delicious. My waistline is complaining about that. And now that the conference is over, I must wait four long years to attend the next one. Otherwise, the conference was sheer perfection.

* * * * *
John Bird walked up to many conference participants and asked the question, "Why do you work on Mark Twain?" The resulting video can be seen HERE. Read my own answer to this question HERE.

At the study sight where conference participants had their traditional cigar smoke, Hal Holbrook made impromptu comments about meeting Clara Clemens (Twain's daughter) and Isabel Lyon (his secretary) when Clara was elderly and in poor health. Find a fascinating audio recording of his comments HERE.
More impromtu remarks by Holbrook after a conference presentation can be found HERE along with some photos. 

I was thrilled to have both Hal Holbrook and Russell Banks sign my conference program.

(Except for excerpts from others which are noted in the text, ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I will leaving this morning to attend a Mark Twain conference and make a few stops on the way home. I will have "guest" internet access at Elmira College, but I'll be so busy, I probably will not have time to check my blog or respond to comments or comment on posts for about a week.
If I have time, I might write about the Twain conference. If not, I will do so upon my return.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

BULLHEADED - Short Fiction

This short story is in response to
Click on the yellow link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega Challenge: fair warning, hormones, journalism, philanthropist, burgeoning, running the bulls, saturation, tossed in the towel, whine, indelicate details, hard labor, lurid, quick fix, sizable contributions, trumpet
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

Art Rivers, one of the world’s great philanthropists, had made sizable contributions to the Running the Bulls Amputees (RBA) a group that provided prothetic limbs to those who had lost arms or legs in the idiotic attempt to outrun a herd of bulls through the streets of Pamplona, Spain.
When a reporter asked why he would support boneheads who had put themselves in danger by ignoring fair warnings that injury was not only possible but probable, Mr. Rivers told of the time he had planned to run with the bulls himself. Early that morning, after he tripped over an area rug in his relatively-safe hotel room, he lost his balance and rammed his groin into the corner of a dresser which resulted in.... well, Rivers decided not to go into the indelicate details of his injury. However, he related some of his life’s story.
When Rivers was a young man getting his feet wet in journalism, he was expected to cover the bull run with a first-hand account. After being injured, he tossed in the towel. Without a story, he was fired.
Art didn’t whine about his injury. He sued. After years of scraping by as a freelance writer while the court case dragged on, he used his settlement from the international hotel chain to start his own weekly, specializing in true crime.
He loved running his own company but Rivers sometimes felt like he had been sentenced to years of hard labor. With only a few employees, he worked eighteen hour days, seven days a week. Soon, his burgeoning business was earning money. Before long, he was a wealthy man.
After ten years of long days and little sleep, his wife Julie pleaded with him to take time off from work. She said he was like a crazed bull dog. When he got his teeth in something, he wouldn’t let go, even if it was to his own detriment. When he continued working long hours, she left him.
Six months later, depressed, lonely, overworked, and drinking too much, Art had reached his own saturation point. His doctor prescribed less work. The quick fix was to turn over the running of his business to his assistant. After ten months of sobriety and a lonely-but-enlightening round-the-world cruise, Rivers was ready for his next move.
He had spent years writing and editing articles about true crime. On his cruise, Art turned to writing lurid crime fiction. On the ship, he worked only six hours each day, five days a week, to complete his first novel “Sexual Relations.” The plot revolved around a hormone-crazed teen who sexually assaulted and murdered his aunt. Art had taken the details of a half dozen true crime stories and woven them together into a page turner that reached number three on the best seller list. Rivers was trumpeted as the next Raymond Chandler.
By the time agreements were signed for foreign distribution, paper back editions, and film rights, his second novel, “Gun Shy,” was in its final stages. He was already a millionaire from his publishing company. Now he had earned millions more from his first novel and had won an Edgar Award for his work. But he was a lonely man.
Art called Julie. He offered to hire her to administrate his philanthropic projects, something he knew she would find rewarding. To his relief, she accepted.
The following summer, Rivers invited Julie to join him for a cruise to Spain. This time he had no intention of running with the bulls. He wanted to soak up the atmosphere for his third novel, “A Line of Bull,” about a private detective who had lost a leg during the bull run.
Aboard ship, Art planned to ask Julie to marry him again.

I will be at the Twain conference next weekend, so I will be skipping Wordzzle on August 8th. I'll be back in two weeks.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)