Fiction, football, hometown, life

New season, new story

Dead mule with legs in the air.
Southern fiction needs one of these!

Just in time for the season, my latest short story is a parable about football. “Bobby Dean Goes Viral” appears in the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, which published another piece of mine last year.

In the South, the game is inextricable from faith and life. Of course, there are fiercely devoted fans in other places too, including the Midwest, where I grew up and went to college. You have to be dedicated if not mildly insane to sit in the stands for three or four hours when the mercury plunges below freezing and snow is swirling in your face.

Even so, football here in Georgia, Alabama, and the surrounding states is often part of one’s self, one’s sense of home. That’s why people like Bobby Dean get carried away and…no spoilers! I hope you enjoy my story and wherever you are, have a safe season. PS: Go Blue.

Fiction, hometown, life, Writing

Another new short story!

Remember the band The Dead Milkmen? Even if you weren’t around in their heyday, you’ve probably heard the joke and urban legend that gave rise to the name. Only what if it wasn’t just a joke? Did your placid suburban neighborhood have a Lothario prowling the streets at dawn, delivering more than milk and cottage cheese to desperate housewives?

That’s more or less the subject of my latest short story, The Milk of Human Innocence, just launched to the world by the good people at Red Fez. It’s based in part on recollections of my hometown in Michigan and the times we lived in back when I was a tad, though none of the characters are drawn from real people. The events that drive the narrative didn’t actually happen either — as far as I know. This song has nothing to do with the story but I thought you might enjoy it too.

coronavirus, Covid 19 pandemic, hometown, life, nature, Pandemic diary

A pandemic diary: Change and perseverance

August 27, 2020

I was sitting in traffic the other day when a dragonfly dropped out of the sky right in front of the windshield. It hovered like a Blackhawk, wings beating impossibly fast, before zipping away out of sight; their average speed is about ten miles an hour but they can get up to 35.

Red dragonfly.
Photo by Pixabay on

For many people, the dragonfly symbolizes change and transformation, especially within the self. Red ones like the one shown here are sacred in some cultures. Whatever their color, the dragonflies in Atlanta are nowhere near as thick as they used to be at the beach. They’re still a welcome reminder that even as our days run together in a numbing morass, time and the world move on and so will we.

Of course, everyone expected to be closer to normalcy by now. The local art cinema where my wife and I have watched a lot of movies is reopening with plenty of precautions, but we’re not going back when Georgia has some of the worst case numbers in the country and our county has the highest in Georgia.

All we can do is what we can do. A year ago, we were about to hit the road for the Detroit Jazz Festival, four days of free music outdoors along the river, the big Great Lakes ore boats steaming by as the bands play. That’s not possible now, any more than a football game up the road in Ann Arbor. But the festival is going virtual, the music will be great, and we’ll be watching with some homemade barbecue and a little hometown beer.

I’m already looking forward to it as I sit on the porch, watching bluebirds and cardinals chase each other around the yard. I don’t see any dragonflies just now, but they’ll be back in better times. I hear there’s a sunset this evening too, and probably another one tomorrow. Take care and be safe.

Beach at sunset with canoe resting on sand.
gun violence, hometown, life

Our hometown

This time it’s personal.

The dateline isn’t San Bernardino, Colorado City, Charleston, Newtown, Roseburg, or any of the other well-known places where shots were fired and innocent people were slaughtered. I heard those stories, and too many others to mention, in sadness and anger but with no sense of connection. All of those events were remote, unknown.

But this time it’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, my hometown.

I read the details in shock on Sunday morning. I realized that I’ve driven on some of the streets where it happened, on the western and southern edges of the city. I felt heartsick but was still pretty sure I couldn’t have known any of the dead. After all, I left for college a long time ago, and haven’t been back home since my mother passed away in 2002. What were the odds?

Then the police released some of the names.

I stared at the screen. A name leaped out. A face flashed into my mind.

The age looked about right, but maybe, maybe somehow, it might be someone else with the same name. Then I saw the picture. It was her.

We knew each other briefly before I went off to school and we lost touch. I hadn’t seen her since at least 1973 or 1974. But I remember her smile, her laugh, and her sweet spirit. Looking at her Facebook page, not yet a memorial site, it looks as if she kept that spirit all her life. She also liked B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as I do. I wish I’d known all this before.

I don’t expect this incident or my few words to change anyone’s mind about guns. I hope with all my heart that we never have to see another story like the one I read today.

But remember this: Next time, the name on the list of victims could be someone you know.

It could even be your name.