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The Only One Screaming Is You

I think it’s pretty obvious to say that American society is at a breaking point. People will argue that, saying that it’s Fake News and that things are fine and all that but these are also many of the people who are tuning out things that upset them or disrupt their vision of how the world is. People tune out because of ‘too much politics’ and ‘too much social justice’ and any number of reasons, preferring the cat videos and baby pictures they hold in quiet disdain instead of the political and social stuff which tends to bring out the worst in people.

We deserve our personal safe places. Our safe havens.

Life is hard enough without feeling under constant barrage, whatever your opinion and feeling on things. We deserve it…within reason. The problem is that reason isn’t in use much these days. We are isolating ourselves, picking hills to die on, and by god, if you cross some line that you have, well, then you’re a terrible person and are blocked and deleted on social media and ignored in real life. There is nothing common about decency any longer and the notion of civil disagreements seems lost. And I am no different. We’re at a point where the divisions seem bigger, the stakes higher, and for me, it’s hard to want to listen to someone make excuses about a world I see gone off the rails.

And that is me, just me.

Everyone is different.

Everyone has their own views and ways that the world works for them.

And I know full well that my outrage weighs no more, and no less, than anyone else’s. We live in a world where outrage is the default, leading to the great Tune Out.

But the problem here is that, in tuning out the Other, we’re tuning out the whole, not just the part, but the whole. There is a narrative being written about this nation, this gneration, and this world, and it’s being written by a very few people to represent the many. That’s always been how politics works, that’s not new, but it’s also never been more contentious or dangerous. Even the Civil War’s main effect was on America, today our policies and decisions shape the world. We’re in an era where it is easier for people to believe in nothing, than it is to buy into anything. An era where people can adamantly believe that the world is flat, despte evidence of the ages. We live in an era where it is easier to believe that the whole of the government is part of a conspiracy to lie, to obfuscate, and to kill us. It seems laughable, heck, it is, that people’d rather believe not even the worst but the utter worst, but you an see why things got that way. You can see why people would take the lies that are told, that are bought and are sold, and we are living in a time now where the lies of the President seem acceptable to many, so long as he holds the Them at bay, whomever they are for someone.

Every day brings a new twist to a nation that once prided itself as the leaders of the world. We have turned against all of history and have decided to wrap ourselves in our national flag and want to close the borders and do for us, with us, by us. Unfortunately the genie is out of that bottle and we can’t go back. We are part of a global community, something we used to take pride in, and all isolation will do is keep our allies away. The thing is that the enemy is within. The disgruntled, the broken, the lost, the angry, and the militant. We have created our own monsters and that isn’t slowing down.

There comes a time where you have to open your eyes to the fire that’s around you. A time when you either accept that you are being willfully ignorant or you take in a situation for what it is.

While truth is a flexible, malleable thing, there are things we cannot deny and right now, this national house is on fire and many of us are choosing to stay in the house. Social rights, personal liberties, and climate devastation should not be topics we are willing to fight as they seem to be part of what oure nation is founded on, for the first two, and what may be our undoing, on the second part.

Climate science denial is the new flat earth buy in. People refusing everything that seems to say that we are adversely effecting the world. I always look at that idea in this way – sit in a car for a few hours with a smoker and the glass will fog and be covered in a yellow film. Now imagine that you were in there for not just a couple of hours but many hours, days, months, years, and you are starting to get a vague notion of how we are damaging the ozone and planet. To think that humans are not having an effect on the world is nuts. Pure and simple. But again, the hills we choose to die on.

In the end, our outrage is our own.

Our upset, our rage, our disdain.

We can join it to others and to causes but you need just read between the lines of society and what is happening to see where we are going, and it’s not a good place .

It’s not a happy future.

The house is burning around us, and unless we decide to wake the heck up and get out, we are just aren’t going to make it out alive.

…c…

The Line – a story

Creepy story about one-sided infatuation of the nastiest kind. Fair warning if that’s a trigger for you. 

 

The Line

 

It was her smile.

That was what first drew me to her.

That partial smile that seemed to say more than words could ever hope to.

It was a moment.

An instant.

It was enough.

Enough to carve itself into my heart.

And here we are.

Me standing on her doorstep, ready to make a fool of myself.

 

We met at the grocery store. I was there to pick up some dinner when she got in line behind me. I wasn’t in a hurry and stepped aside to let her go ahead of me. She had more items but for me, chivalry never died. She was short, blonde, I guess you’d say a little chubby, though I liked ladies with a little health on their bones, it makes them look like real women, ya know? She had tattoos down her arms and while I don’t really care for tattoos her smile won me over, starting in her brown eyes and pouring down over her face until it pooled at her lips. I smiled back and nodded and let the kid at the register ring her up. I resisted the urge to stare at the short skirt and what it barely hid and instead looked at the left bra strap that stuck out bright and red from her white tank top. I felt a smile form and it remained when I got up to the register jockey, who was also smiling. He nodded towards the young woman and smiled as he started nodding.

 

“Damn. Am I right?” His smile widened and as his grew, mine shrank. I put the microwave dinner down on the conveyor belt and looked around and, seeing no one, leaned towards the kid, who couldn’t have been eighteen.

I smiled.

I reached forward and grabbed the kid’s hand in my own and started squeezing, and squeezing, and squeezing and the harder I squeezed the wider my smile got until he cried out. Once he did that the girl that was supposed to be register jockeying at the next register over stopped doting on the asshole kid standing in line and rushed over and I quit the scene and beat it out of there, content that I had made my point.

Manners matter.

I didn’t go back into the grocery store.

I didn’t like their lax hiring practices and rudeness.

I started parking in their parking lot just the same though, taking my work breaks and lunches there and even my off hours and making a point to keep an eye on things just because.

I am a bachelor, my last, uh, relationship, having ended abruptly a few weeks earlier and I needed a hobby so the young lady became that hobby, I suppose. That smile, that smile she gave me meant something. I knew it did so I wanted to make sure that we met again. There was one night I decided to follow the register jockey home just to, you know, see that he got home safely. Wed had a conversation about manners.

I’ll leave it at that.

Then it was back to her.

The young lady had been on my mind since I saw her that first time. She was with me like an infection and no matter how hard I itched at it, closing my eyes at night and thinking of her, concentrating on her as if she were a piece of my furniture to be possessed, but it wasn’t the same.

Her.

I wanted her.

I saw her again three weeks after that first time. I was halfway through a beer, listening to talk radio and laughing to myself every time I saw that loud mouth kid hobble out for a smoke break in his leg cast. Accidents. Shame they happen so often.

Accidents.

She looked different this time, not done up, more like beat up. Scrubby. Wearing those goddamn yoga pants that too many women wear these days and a half shirt and covered in sweat. She had walked there and she was only in long enough to grab a water from what I could tell and then she was out again, earbuds in and walking off down the street.

My hands got itchy on seeing her.

My heart started to race.

I started my car and decided to follow her, to make sure she got home safely.

There’d been some nasty business a few weeks back with a girl, a teenager, just a few blocks from the girl’s home.

Nasty business.

I didn’t want to see the same happen to this one.

No.

Not this one.

The sun was setting and traffic was light so I slow-rolled it to keep up with her without her seeing. No reason to spook her. Besides, dad always told me that a good deed that hit the air carried the scent of an old turd. So low and slow, like good cooking, that was how I let this trail simmer.

When she went into a familiar apartment building I peeled off and headed for home. I had taken the last of my vacation keeping an eye on the store and needed the job so I went home and went right to bed. I thought of her as I started nodding off, the faint smile fading as I thought about how she had looked today.

It wasn’t going to cut it.

No.

I didn’t get a chance to see her for several days. Work was calling me early and keeping me late, though I did keep tabs on her. I worry, as I said, for a young woman such as her. Another local girl had been picked up, well, about eight months ago and had disappeared. Just gone. There was fear that she wasn’t the only one and that there was trafficking in the area. I wasn’t sure about all that, just that there were sharks out there and if a young woman didn’t have someone looking out for her that they might just disappear into the deep, deep waters of the night.

When I did get a chance to see her I saw her with someone, a man, older than her, and dressing to impress. Trying to hard if you asked me. I didn’t like the look of him so I followed them from her apartment to a bar, then a restaurant, then the movies. The bar was a dive. The restaurant was too expensive. The movie was stupid. I saw what he was doing and knew she was probably still buzzed. I saw how his hand moved from her shoulder, to her hip, then lower. Her laughter and smile had dried up by the time they returned to her apartment building and when he tried to make a move and she slapped him he grabbed her wrist for a moment, just a moment, but she raised her hand again and he let her go and she left in a hurry and went inside.

Good girl.

The man stayed in his car, parked at the curb for about twenty minutes after that before he finally put it into gear and started to drive away.

He didn’t live far.

Not far at all.

And he left his door unlocked when he got home.

He should be more careful.

There’re sharks out and he had swum out a little too deep.

 

The next day I called in sick and went by her apartment early and followed her to her job. An office job. Nothing special but work was work. Nobody knew that better than me. I stayed through to her lunch, which she took in her car, on her phone tap-tap-tapping away and not eating.
She should eat.

She could use some weight on her.

All that running she does has slimmed her up.

Her bones don’t look good on her.

When she went back in I left to run an errand and made sure I had dropped the flowers onto her doorstep before she would be home. I hid in the stairwell and watched as she got them, frowning, dropping them onto the hall floor before slamming her door.

I guess she didn’t like flowers much.

The infection that she was was starting to get out of control.

She was all I thought about.

I liked her all made up for work.

She was pretty.

Like I had seen her that first time.

When she was home, just home by herself, she was a slob.

I had seen her go out for snacks or take out and it disgusted me.

She could be so pretty if she’d try.

I would have to set her straight.

I looked at the calendar back at the house and circled a date.

That was the day I’d introduce myself.

That day.

I practiced what I’d say.

I picked out what I’d wear.

I got my supplies together into a plastic bag.

I even went to her apartment a few times to get over the nerves.

It was the night before I was going to go finally make her mine when something happened.

I was at the movies just wasting time, watching something to get my mind off of her and the counter girl was so nice, so sweet, and she looked so, I dunno how to say it, fresh, that it was as if I had never seen the other girl.

It was as if the infection was gone, the fever dream had cleared and I saw the other woman as the disgusting slob she was.

She was nothing like this girl.

This…Wendy.

No.

Wendy was different.

You could tell. She even gave me a large pop without charging, a wry wink shared between us when she did.

She was a little young, that’s what they’d say, but age means nothing to the heart.

I know that it may not work, that she may not feel the same but, that’s love.

It’s about making a fool of yourself.

It’s about deciding if you are ready to cross that line and when you do, knowing that whatever happens next is up to you.

Standing on someone’s doorstep, heart in hand, and making a fool of yourself.

After that…it’s up to fate.

I suppose I should break it to the other girl easy, let her know I have moved on.

Then, well then, I suppose I’d have to circle a date on the calendar and pick out what I was going to say to Miss Wendy.

Love.

It really does do the heart good, doesn’t it?

…c…

 

Dusting Things Off

As I have found myself with time on my hands of late I have decided it really is time to get back to The Damned Novel, which, I think I honestly call any of the books that I have put out that were novel length. This particular one has been a pain in my biscuits for a bit though, I have to admit. It began life as something I wrote as a teen, written in a spiral bound notebook as one whole story. In my mind it’s a novella but frankly it was probably more like a short story, maybe longish.

I have to revert back to remembering what it was because it’s gone.

Long, long gone.

You see, once upon a time I was carrying the notebook around and foolishly put it on top of my mom’s car – who knows why we do these things? – and then it was just…gone.

I was heartbroken.

I still sorta am.

I remember what it was, what it essentially was, and in there was a germ of something that has stuck with me. Many years ago I decided I wanted to ‘clear the decks’ as far as stories go. Just so any stories I had hanging in my mind I’d get into the world. This is really the last of those. It’s not a story that I felt needed to be told but one that’s been stuck in my craw. I started it, man, years ago, and keep putting off getting to it. It’s weird because there’s not a reason to keep me from it but I just keep putting it off.

Well, that time has passed.

It’s time to get to it.

And I am, finally.

I know how it ends, and have known it for a while.

What’s interesting is the story has changed not just since I wrote the first version, but it has changed and hopefully evolved since I first started re-working it. The mystery of writing is that between your mind and hands there is some weird creation process that takes these stories from one thing into another. To me, it’s what writers mean when they say a work writes itself. It obviously doesn’t but the process of creation happens so quickly that it feels and seems like a sort of lightning that you can only hope to catch on the page.

So the work has begun anew.
And it’s a lot of work.

The story is still surprising me but I know what I want it to be, I just have to see if that’s what the story wants to be.

Time will tell.

Let’s just hope I can keep myself on this thing so I can finally get it done.

…c…

Disposable

There’s something about American culture that has embraced the disposability of things to the detriment of the body as a whole. Which is to say that we have gotten so used to the notion of being able to use something and then throw it out that that we have started to treat our relationships that way.

There is a clear disconnect between how we want to be treated and how we treat one another. For me, I know that it’s hard to deal with someone when things get stressful and hard. I shut down. I tune out. It’s a safety mechanism and just one of the things I have to overcome. I can’t say it’s a wonder though when we have started treating the casusalness with which we end personal relationships the same way we treat the ending of professional relationships. Unless in the most dire and nasty of circumstances there has to be some manner of professionalism to these business relationships otherwise you start to build a working class that treats the work as casually as their own bosses treat the employees. It’s a simple equation – if you want loyalty then you have to be loyal and you have to respect people.

It’s strange though because so much of it all has been pushed into the realm of numbers, so that people are playing their own version of metrics with hiring and retaining people. The PERSON gets lost beneath the buzz words, the degrees, and the gloss. Someone who has the skills but not the polish gets looked over for someone who looks great but who may not be as good of a fit.

We have lost our connections to one another.

The humanity of work has become a game of pitting applicants against one another to see who will come out on top.

We are so much more than our resumes and our letters.

It’s funny because it’s so much like looking for a publisher, having to craft some magic spell to draw someone close enough to you to find your success.

People, real, live people, screw up, make mistakes, and need second chances. They need A first chance. It stinks to hire the wrong person but that’s the risk. You either believe in people, and you give them a chance, or you never advance your company. It’s the passion and drive of people that pushes things forward. It’s the dedication and belief that you are part of something and matter. Once you strip someone of their humanity though and make them a number, then you mind as well just hire a machine because that’s what you’ll get.

…c…

Halloween

Halloween has always been special to me.

A night of dreams and horror coming together in a twilight dance for both young and old alike. It’s a night where we honor our pagan traditions and celebrate how those have evolved with us. There is a beauty to parents joining their children out in the neighborhoods, among their neighbors, sharing words and candy, laugther and juvenile scares. We have many holidays throughout the calendar year but there is something about Halloween that it different, that it is about the young hearts that beat within us all and the young people of our communities. A time for kids to be kids, to spread their creative wings, and to take back the night from the terrors of adults.

The streets line with cherry eyes and the giggling howls of children. Somewhere in the darkness families are sharing their own traditions, pulling memories from the night like guts from a pumpkin. Terrors and monsters roam the shadows and stories of near-misses with the dead will be shared between school children on November first. They will be the ones that got away, though the ghosts and goblins will know their names and be waiting for them next year.

The corruption of the day comes from adults. Not the pranks and the meanness natural to the young as they find their voices, no, it is the adults that force themselves on the night. The adults that can’t let the night be what it is, a playful celebration of darkness. Adults that act dangerously, foolishly, hatefully, and become the real monsters roaming the gloom. The adults that pull at the night like it were made of taffy, trying to take it for themselves alone when it is a night for the young, and those young at heart. It’s the adults that add the rules, and that have not added to the night but have taken from it – creating side events, limiting where and how and when kids and go out, and refusing to give out candy at all. Adults not giving candy out at all is what aggravates me the most since most of us benefited from Halloween as kids but now turn our lights off to the kids of today. Yeah, there are a million reasons why that could be but there’s also the obvious – that adults are too caught up in themselves to take part, in kids or the community. It’s what the nation has become, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there are trunk or treat evens but those are meant as much to usurp the power of the night as much as they are to participate in it.

I have so many memories of Halloween, so much warmth associated with this night. This year though, this year I have chosen to sit it out. With everything going on this year it makes sense to let one pass by, something I haven’t really done in ages. It seems better to spend the evening in rumination and introspection rather than to force it.

I have had my dance in the graveyard of the jack-o-lanterns and for now, I am OK to sit this round out.

…c…

Flint Fright FilmFest 2018

When we started things in 2011 with a horror convention I don’t think any of us would have imagined where we’d be in 2018. Most groups that work on conventions either make it or don’t, and let’s be honest, most don’t make it. I don’t know if it’s strictly financial as much as it is about why they got into things. Which is not to say that there’s something blessed about being in it for the fun of it, for the fans, and not the money. There are plenty of shows that are about the money and which are successful, so it’s not just that. I think, for us, the passion to do the shows though has been what has gotten us through the hard times. It helped us see the road as it was and not as we wanted it to be. And it helped us to evolve what we did instead of just folding.

For us, we were hyper-aware of a need to face the reality of our situation. The thing for us was to do the events, to do low cost horror events for this area and when we simply ran out of money and resources to adequately do coventions in the way that made sense for us we looked within ourselves and why we were doing things and we pivoted. We wanted and still want to do conventions but we can’t, so if we can’t and still want to do these events what are we going to do?

We moved on.

We did our Monster Marketplace, a sort of mini-con and film festival and from there were switched over to a film festival. It was a natural fit for us. We had already been showing movies since our first convention and had already gotten movies from around the world in the past so we were pretty confident that we could do it again. We’d also put on the bigger shows so this would be manageable. Finally, with the help of the website Film Freeway that served as as way to promote the show and bring in the films. I tell you what, just like with self publishing, film festival work – on either side of the camera – has gotten worlds easier. When I was involved in a film festival in 2005 they used the site Without A Box, which was similar, but it was much more involved and not nearly as streamlined – the wonders of evolving technology, eh?

Last year we had to figure out how to get through nearly 1200 movie submissions, our notion of free submissions backfiring on us, but this year, with a two dollar fee to submit, the entries were just under 300 and much more manageable and honestly, just as good. We got some fantastic stuff submitted. Having made a couple shorts myself now and having submitted them to festivals, I know how rare it is to get your film accepted (none yet for me, alas) and how special that can be. Sure, there are films that get entered into tons of festivals but those are the outliers and not the norm. We know what we are, a small festival with awards and prize money that may not wow but we work to put on the best show we can and we choose the films that we think best represent what we want the show to be.

We reject a lot of films but never without understanding that we are rejecting something people worked very hard on and were passionate about. All we can do is to be true to what we’re trying to put together and hope for the best. This year we added a couple of twists to things, adding some filmmaker panels and vending to the show in the hopes that it might add something to the day. The panels and vending didn’t go over as well as we had hoped though that was due more to the attendance than anything else. That’s still the thing that confounds me. Flint is a city desperate for things to do and for events, especially that are low cost, but we are still not getting through to people.

So frustrating.

It was a good show though.

And heck, I sold a few things as well, so that’s always a bonus.

Our panels were fantastic. I love that we were able to give some people who have skill, talent, and stories to tell a chance to tell those stories. I love that we tried to bring vending in to give attendees more to do and people a chance to sell their wares and promote what they do.

I love that we got to highlight some local and regional films along with the worldwide ones.

I love the relationships and friendships that form at these shows.

We had a couple of issues, which are to be expected with any show, but we oevercame them and made as good a show as we could. More than anything I am happy that we were able to show nearly forty movies from around the world – and from our own area, so people could see what is out there. Short gain – it’s great to get a good scare and the more voices telling those stories the better. The long term gain – by listening to voices we don’t usually hear, even if they are ‘just’ telling horror stories, we start to learn to hear about the rest of the world. If we don’t hear one another, we’ll never learn that it’s only by all of us working together that the world gets better.

The hardest part of the day, for me, was the awards because the memorial awards are hard. They always will be for me. But they mean the most to me. I love all of the awards but those are personal and it’s great to be able to honor people we loved and able to reward movies that deserve recognition.

Ours is a small show, compared to so many out there, but it’s one built with passion and love and I hope that the folks that come out appreciate that and why we do what we do.

We never look past the event we’re working on so for now, the world is open. There’s an event on the calendar for April but truly, the world is open.

We’ll see what happens next.

Whatever it is.

…c…

The Difference A Week Makes

A week ago right now I was about to go to lunch at my job. I knew what was coming, that I was going to be fired, but I still had to go through the motions of the day.

So that meant lunch.

I had an inkling that I was going to be let go weeks before it happened.

The temperature of the water changed drastically at the place and so I started getting my stuff out of there and taking it home. It certainly made it easier to leave in the end. I can’t imagine having to box things up or watching as someone else did.

A week ago I came back from lunch and wait, wait, waited for the meeting that’d end my time there. It came fifteen minutes earlier than it was scheduled for but it came mostly as I guessed it would.

At that point the atmosphere was all ice and cold.

I was an ex-employee who just hadn’t gotten word yet.

There were so many things about it all that bother me but I think what bothers me most was that you can do two things when you have people working beneath you – you can be a boss or a leader.

You can tell people what to do or you can help make sure they are successful in doing it.

Businesses invest in you once they hire you, as you invest in them.
It’s a partnership that both sides benefit from and which both sides need. There is no point in hiring someone who you don’t believe in and no point in working someplace that you can’t believe in.

There’s a dehumanization that has happened in this country and the world, where people are numbers, are place holders. I get the notion of it, in that, if you take everything to heart you can’t survive in business but here’s the thing, it SHOULD hurt to fire someone. It SHOULD affect you. You are taking someone’s safety, livelihood, and pushing them out to sea without a preserver. Sometimes those people are just the wrong people for the job, or are intentionally doing things incorrectly, or maybe they just hit a rough patch and should be thrown a line.

We never know until we ask.

It’s been a long, weird week. I adapt well but this has still been hard. Suddenly so many people you used to see every day are gone from your life. So many connections you had are lost. Your routine is gone. Your future is changed. My days of retirement fantasies and all that are gone.

This is a hard reboot.

But life has them.

Bumps in the road and such.

But the road is still there.

I am still here.

It’s just been a heck of a week but after weeks of sleepless nights and high anxiety I am happier to be through the fire than still in it.

…c…