Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Opportunities


One never knows where the paths in life will take us. Sometimes a storm in life will open up opportunities that may never have been pursued otherwise.

Today I put in a lot of job applications. I work in the construction industry, but the slowdown has made it so that I can no longer support my family doing that kind of work. So, after eleven years doing the kind of work that Americans aren't supposed to be willing to do, I must move on.

One of the opportunities that has arisen is working for a newspaper.

Perhaps this slowdown is not so bad after all. As a writer, working for the paper would be just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Remembering Their Sacrifice

Saturday, September 15, 2007

La Jolla Writers Conference is coming up!

This Year's upcoming LA JOLLA WRITERS CONFERENCE is NOVEMBER 2-4, 2007, at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa. This intimate conference, set in San Diego, California, and overlooking the Pacific, has been named by Writer's Digest Ultimate Resource Guide as "One of the 84 conferences worth your money."
REGISTRATION IS LIMITED TO 200 PARTICIPANTS. Click HERE for information on how to reserve your spot at this year's upcoming La Jolla Writers Conference!

The La Jolla Writers Conference was founded to reflect the generosity of spirit and dedication to craft associated with successful writers; and to provide aspiring writers with a conference at which they are truly mentored.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Memory of those lost on 9/11




A Moment of Silence.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Way of Deception

Shortstories and poetry and novels, oh my.

okay, latest re-write of Chapter One!

Chapter 1

Jarrod's parents died before his feet hit the meadow.
The man holding the gun adjusted his black tie. The man who murdered Jarrod's parents in cold blood turned and caught Jarrod's eyes. He grinned. Large teeth inhabited that smile. Jarrod leaped over the railing of the deck and left the man with the horse-grin behind standing over his victims as the killer brought up his weapon and swung it to bead down on the fleeing man. Two gunshots echoed through the surrounding trees. A limb splintered and fell to the wild grass below as Jarrod rolled on the meadow and changed direction toward the tree line. Three other men in black suits leaped over the edge of the wooden deck behind Jarrod, guns drawn.
Jarrod staggered through the biting brush, forcing away slender green branches. Thorns embedded into his flesh, tearing away the outer layer of skin. He continued through the growth with his bloody fingers dripping along the way. In the distance water trickled along a stream in the early morning darkness. A mist from the creek rose to meet his face as he approached. The ground beneath his feet was moist, spongy.
The pain in his battered hands matched the agony in his head. Blood dotted his hairline. The imprint of a whipping branch reddened and began bleeding on his forehead. The salty red liquid dribbled into his eyes, blurring his vision. He rubbed his burning eyes with the back of his hands until his eyesight cleared. He staggered, falling against a tree trunk.
A stone dropped through his fingers, rolling along the bank and into the moving waters of the creek. He picked up the stone during his escape, wondering if it may assist him in the absence of a weapon.
He collected another handful of oval, smooth stones. As a child he collected similar stones. Skipping stones. Smooth, flat, and available in a variety of colors and sizes. His father once stood over him, so long ago, hands in his pockets, watching his son collect the rocks.
Now, the birthing rays of sunlight spilled color along the horizon. In the newborn light he studied the stones in his hands. Wet, dark, and smooth.
"He who is without sin, cast the first stone," his mother often joked whenever Jarrod and his father skipped stones on the lake.
He who is without sin, indeed.
Jarrod reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He slammed a stone into his cell phone, breaking it into pieces. He pulled out and snapped in half the memory card, tossing the two halves into the waters of the creek.
Now their ability to track him electronically was disabled.
Up the creek, maybe a stone's throw away, Jarrod's pursuers crossed the water. He heard them helping each other up the bank. Grunting, falling, shouting.
Jarrod grinned, crossing back to the other side of the water's edge.
He trudged along the shore of the creek. It was an exquisite morning on the Oregon Coast, save for the life and death struggle Jarrod sound himself unwittingly a part of. The wooded area he found himself in, with the thick canopy, reminded Jarrod of a jungle. He couldn't place if the jungle it reminded him of was in South America or southeast Asia, but the terrain definitely reminded him of a jungle.
Stepping out from under the shade of the canopy Jarrod inhaled crisp air under a blue sky. The new path ahead of him was mottled with moist evergreen needles and yellowing deciduous leaves. He stuffed the stones in his hand into his pocket.
Hopping over a steep, perpendicular ravine, Jarrod put more distance between him and his pursuers. Upon landing on the other side of the leap, the pocketful of stones bounced inside his pockets. He imagined them ripping holes in the underbelly of their prison, sliding down his pant's legs, and dropping into the water of the creek he left behind, gliding back and forth until finally settling on the sandy bed.
The path ended and he found himself pushing through heavy plant growth again. The creek doubled back and met Jarrod again. The flow of water was no more than a couple dozen inches deep, and four or five feet wide. The stream ran around another turn, raging like a miniature roaring rapids. White bubbles foamed around the sharp angles of the creek. Finger length fish swam along the current.
Jarrod dropped down into the water, scrambling up the opposing crumbling ridge away from the water, stepping into more thick undergrowth. Warmth boiled inside as his skin chilled in the darker shadows under the forest canopy. Droplets of perspiration fell from the tip of his nose. The salty liquid drenched his eyebrows, less red with blood than before. He unzipped his jacket and removed it from his body. A mild breeze brushed across his sweating torso and bleeding fingertips. His cotton shirt clung to his chest. Going back home was no longer a viable option. The cabin on the hill where his parents lay dead, by now, surely swarmed with more of those men in black suits.
A breeze rustled through the leaves of the myrtlewoods. Some of the trees stood larger than others, possibly beginning as seedlings even before the European discovery of the North American continent.
Alert wildlife behind the trees stared at him with shiny black eyes as he dropped the flimsy jacket to the ground. He did not rationalize in his exhaustion that the fallen clothing may serve as a marker for his pursuers. More evidence as to why he was no longer a United States Navy SEAL.
Deer and elk watched him as he moved along a bear trail, swishing their white-striped tails back and forth. The males lowered their racks of antlers while the females stomped around to warn their young ones to keep away from the dangerous human. Cougars in the distance sniffed the air, picking up the scent of blood betrayed by Jarrod's raw fingertips.
His training at the National Security Agency never prepared him for this. His experiences in the United States Special Forces prior to being hired on by the NSA did. On his new job he spent his time studying cryptologic history for any government agency that demanded his assistance. Shuffling through manuscripts, memoranda, studies, interviews, and any other material pertinent to the cryptologic history of the United States of America served simply as a side-step from reality. Nothing more than a distant dream. Life ends, and nothing he ever accomplished mattered. Like a lifeless automaton he performed his work by cell phone, fax, proxy, flipping through paper files and historical documents, and the occasional working vacation away from Fort Meade, Maryland. Only the true life experience of engaging an enemy and being pursued by said enemy teaches a person how to find the way out of a tangled forest like this one. Only the hardcore training Jarrod once endured enabled him to stay alive and escape from the clutches of the ruthless enemy now in search of him. In reality, nobody really cared if he stumbled and fell to his doom in this forest, just as long as they never heard his body striking the undergrowth.
A rough, overgrown trail led up a hill, climbing away from the creek toward a main road. Fifty yards up the trail the path widened, exposing two tire-worn trails with wild, wide bladed grass growing between the tracks. Amidst the myrtlewood trees the rising sun shortened the shadows.
At the top of the hill Jarrod reached the main road. Potholes littered the graveled thoroughfare. Wheel-marks lined worn paths through the chips of granite. Stones much smaller and more jagged than the ones lying dormant in the bottom of his pant's pocket lay along the way scattered as if shrapnel from an earlier explosion. Looking left Jarrod realized the road curved up another hill and then doglegged to the right. In the distance, beyond the sharp turn, Jarrod heard the whine of a lone vehicle approaching.
He catalogued in his mind the possible types of vehicles that may be steaming along around the corner. Considering his current dilemma Jarrod entertained the possibility of a military Jeep of some kind carrying camouflaged adorned troops hanging over the sides with rifles slung over their shoulders and live grenades in their hands rolling down the hill. He imagined it may even be a crazed group of Islamic terrorists with bloodshot, spiral eyes driving an armored tank down the winding, myrtlewood lined roadway toward him and his grass-ridden path. Dark, maniacal faces bent on death peered through a small, rectangular slit below the loaded turret mounted atop the dark instrument of destruction. Red and black flags with green stars and sickles waving madly behind the cannon. Inside the metal coffin the madmen keeping their hands on the triggers, ready to mow down the notorious failed Navy SEAL turned historian before he mounted a daring escape, shouting obscenities in their tongue-wagging language.
The scenarios he entertained in his mind proved much less strange than the budding truth. Reality was, this chase through the forest began in the early morning hours with the arrival of black suited members of the United States National Security. For reasons unknown they killed his parents, and chased Jarrod into the forest. Somehow, he now found himself smack-dab in the middle of some kind of huge conspiracy.
His familiarity of the local terrain, only because of spending a large part of his life in this part of the country before reaching adulthood and being transplanted to the east coast, allowed for the ease of his escape.
Jarrod slipped behind a small, flowering bush in hopes that the wild-eyed terror in the tank-like vehicle up the road cruised on by without even noticing his presence.
The vehicle came into view, clanging over the potholes. He waited until he saw their faces. Their darting eyes searched for movement in the brush. The passenger's hair was twisted wildly, all set in plastic, covered with pink curlers.
The enemy offering turned out not to be a green military Jeep, or the menacing tank Jarrod had subconsciously expected, nor a two-seater scout machine built to navigate such treacherous landscape. A bug-splattered metal grill frowned between two yellowing headlights. The faded yellow Chevy Nova with a cracked windshield assembled some time in the early nineteen-seventies bounced down the road violently. A visually sweet, diminutive, gray-haired lady, with her locks wrapped in plastic rollers, rolled down the passenger-side window and stuck her head through the dusty opening. She brought her eyes directly upon Jarrod.
He stopped breathing, reminding himself not to make the slightest movement.
She furrowed her brow.
Dust filled the cab of the old Nova and the old man began slinging profanity at her. The old woman rolled up her window, and the car continued down the gravel coated dirt path to another main road where it turned left and headed westbound toward the marina. Jarrod stepped out of the bush that had served as camouflage and hiked across the road into a new mesh of brush and trees.
Were they friend of foe? He didn't recognize the pair in the car as being residents of this neighborhood, if a clump of seven properties of at least forty acres each could be considered as such. He could not trust them. Right now, nobody could be trusted. Nobody accept the ol' cantankerous retired Mister Harburnocker.
Up on the hill ahead of him, dark and alone, stood Mister Harburnocker's house.
His pursuers had regrouped. The scattered sounds of the fragmented shuffles of their movements through the landscape informed Jarrod they were on his side of the creek. He needed to pick up the pace.
Jarrod crossed the main road and entered another area of thick growth. He emerged from the woods on a short road below Harburnocker's house. He kicked up rocks and dust as he feebly ran, tearing the fabric on the tips of this sneakers. The sound of the trickling creek became faint in the distance whence he came. Evergreen douglas fir trees, and deciduous alders, surrounded the small house on the hill. A river of fog flowed along the nearby alignment of hills.
He stepped up on a wooden deck along the house and relieved his bladder on a tree trunk at the far end of the deck. He admired the Stars and Stripes waving on a wooden pole at the corner of the terrace as carpenter ants zigzagged around his feet. A blue jay stood on the railing at the other end near a rotted, mosquito infested hot tub. Near the top of the homemade flagpole hovered a hummingbird. The bird levitated over the top of the pole with blurred wings and miniature legs. It had a pointed bill, and colorful plumage. The hum from the beating wings was vibrant. Marvelous. No longer interested with the flag pole, the bird zipped over to a feeder full of reddish sugar water hanging near one of the windows of the house.
At the foot of one of the piers supporting the elevated wooden deck slithered a fat and juicy banana slug.
Jarrod never noticed the slug below the deck. His priorities focused upon gaining Mister Harburnocker's assistance.
He knocked furiously on the door. No answer came. He tried forcing open the stubborn door. The door was locked.
Running around the house he peeked in each of the windows. A glance through the window of the garage revealed that Mister Harburnocker's car was gone. Nobody was home, the house was locked up, and inside lay the weapons and a telephone that Jarrod needed to defend himself and call for help.
The stones in his pocket gave him an idea.
He pulled out the first small stone, clutching it like a major league pitcher wrapping his fingers around a baseball. Jarrod feared that the sound of the shattering glass may alert his pursuers, but he needed to get inside the house and to the telephone as soon as possible.
Jarrod threw the first stone at one of the smaller panes of glass in the main door. The smooth rock bounced off the glass, landing harmlessly to the deck.
He threw another, and it bounced off the glass as well.
Jarrod pulled the outer screen off one of the living room windows, and commenced throwing the remaining two rocks at the window. As with the glass in the door, the stones bounced off, and fell innocently to the ground.
Shaking his head, Jarrod mumbled, "What did Mr. Harburnocker do? Fortify his house with bullet-proof glass?"
Such installments wouldn't have surprised anybody, considering the old man's distrust of everyone in existence.
Jarrod decided to take a run at the doorway and slam his body into it. He mustered as much speed and power as he could and ran full throttle at the entrance. The door reflected him as the glass did to the stones, bouncing him back to the deck.
Running to the rear of Mr. Harburnocker's house, Jarrod located a gasoline driven tractor not unlike the one his father owned.
Reaching down behind the differential, he pulled out a metal pin and kicked the sway-bar aside. After disconnecting the rear blade, Jarrod hot-wired the old tractor, maneuvered it around the house, pointed it at the doorway, threw the machine into high gear, and drove the tractor into the side of the house. The door crushed under the force of the tractor. The piece of farming equipment took a part of the wall out as well, drove across the living room, and slammed into the bar area separating the living room from the kitchen.
Jarrod pulled the kill switch, allowing the old grading tractor to sputter and die. He hopped off and began rifling through the debris of the collapsed bar area in search for the phone. He located the telephonic device broken up into pieces, shattered by the tractor's run-in with the tiled countertop.
Any phone would have worked, and he destroyed the only one available. Surely, the men pursuing him heard the tractor slam into the house and were on their way up the hill to investigate. And he had no phone to call the authorities so that they may stop the men in black suits from killing him.
Now Jarrod's last hope was to find a gun.
He knew from past discussions with Mister Harburnocker that the old man owned enough weapons to hold off a small army. It was just a matter of finding them.
Jarrod rifled through the bedroom, opening drawers, pulling clothes from shelves in the closet. No gun was located.
A distance ring sounded. A jarring tune dancing on a cell phone somewhere in the vicinity.
Glancing around the corner at the gaping hole where the tractor entered the house, Jarrod hoped the chiming phone did not reside deep inside the pocket of an approaching black suited rogue agent.
The song played from the opposite direction, somewhere in the master bedroom he was currently searching. Apparently, Mr. Harburnocker left behind his cellular phone, and now someone was calling it.
The device ceased its melody before Jarrod located it, but then the device began to vibrate. He followed the hum of the buzzing vibration, and pulled the phone from its hiding place under the mattress to see that a text message had been sent to it.
He brought up the text message on the screen of the phone, flashing a quick glance at the windows, hoping that his pursuers had not figured out his location. At the top, right corner of the center window he saw the hummingbird hovering around the feeder, dipping its funnel-like beak into the red sugar water.
Lucky bastard.
The bird had the perfect life. Look good, fly around, drink free sugar water, and mate with as many females as it could find. What a life.
The text message appeared on the screen. It read, "Jarrod, answer the next call."
A sickening feeling, not unlike the stomach flu, squeezed Jarrod's interior. Panic set in. The escape from his apparently well trained pursuers became secondary. The reality of what he found himself unwittingly a part of finally sank in.
How could anyone possibly know that he currently stood in Mister Harburnocker's house clutching the old man's cell phone in his hand?
What kind of conspiracy was unfolding around him?
He carried the phone into the living room, expecting it to begin playing its song, as it did earlier, at any moment.
The cell phone began to play its ring-tone.
His fists clenched, tightening with each ring.
"Everything is fine," he said to himself in a low voice. "You're on vacation. The men out there may simply be pursuing the wrong guy. You haven't done anything wrong. Well, not recently, anyway. Besides, how could anyone have predicted that you would be standing in Mister Harburnocker's house at this precise moment with his cell phone in your hand? It's mathematically impossible. Not even the offices of the President of the United States could have pinpointed your exact location at this very moment and known to call a cell phone other than yours. Especially as fast as this."
Besides, he considered, since when did anyone, let alone the Commander in Chief, give a rat's behind enough about some lowly NSA historian's assistant to an assistant of an assistant to do anything for him? Jarrod manned the bottom of the food chain as far as government work goes. He was the least of the White House's concern, much less anyone's in the intelligence community. The one time someone from high up even considered contacting him it was to ask him to fetch a fresh roll of toilet paper. And honestly, Jarrod was pleasantly surprised that they didn't expect him to transport the butt-paper discreetly through some proper, military channels. The only reasons that anyone even cared about Jarrod in the offices at Fort Meade was because whenever the staff found itself searching for a misplaced file that he may, or may not, have had his paws on during the period of the last year or so, more often than not he had the foggiest idea where in the damn office it may possibly be. Well, that, and the fact that he was a war hero.
Jarrod pushed the send button on the vibrating and singing device in his hand.
"Hello?"
The person on the other end of the line remained silent.
"Hello? Is anybody there?"
Nothing.
"This better be some kind of joke. My parent's cabin has been shot up, and they have been killed, by a bunch of mystery men running around in black suits. Now, those same frickin' men are crawling around looking for me in the forest! Whoever is on the other side of this line better have some answers for me!"
A female voice began speaking on the other end of the line. She said, "Please hold for the President of the United States."
Jarrod turned his head out of habit to make sure nobody without proper clearance was around to listen in on the upcoming, probably top secret, conversation. No one was around to listen. He stood alone in Mister Harburnocker's house with a cell phone that did not belong to him in his hand. Thundering reality shook a wave of unexpected anxiety through him.
He said the words slowly. Deliberately. "The Commander in Chief of the United States is contacting me while I stand here hiding from a butt-load of rogue agents on the Oregon Coast."
Pausing his conversation with himself, Jarrod took a quick peek out of one of the windows.
"Vacation is over," he mumbled.
Jarrod's muscles failed to relax as a slight grin spread across his face.