Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Long week but some work done. This is Brendan's arrest in 1981, in Derry, that takes him to Castlereagh to be interrogated. He knows it's going to happen soon because he was almost lifted the evening before but managed to talk his way out of it. It's the middle of the hunger strikes, with two men having starved themselves to death in political protest, and he's staying in the home of neighbors of his mother, watching their children, after sending word to his old mate, Colm, for help.


Early the morning of the next day, I was in the kitchen sharing a pot of tea with Daria, and she was handling it in a very proper manner, too. Across from us sat their toddler, Sean, fascinated with us to the point of total silence, as was the feral cat sitting at the back door waiting for his morning milk. Why Caera gave it to him was beyond me; he was hardly a beauty nor had he a genial temperament, but it was money out of her pocket, not mine.

“White or dark?” Daira asked with deep seriousness. She was exceedingly pleased I’d stopped pacing to join her.

“White, please.”

“Milk first or after?”

“After,” I replied.

“Sweet?” she continued in the same manner as she poured.

“Lightly so,” I smiled.

She put in half a teaspoon. Less than I was used to, but I was finally so enjoying the innocence of the moment, I didn’t care. I’d begun to feel confident because it was long past 4 am, when the Paras or RUC would come busting in to arrest you, if they were interested. They liked to cause as much disruption as possible. Now it was just becoming light out and I was still here, wearing naught but my sturdiest jeans and a flannel shirt, socks on but no shoes, yet, and playing homemaker with a girl who so reminded me of Mairead, you’d have thought we’d gone back in time.

Christ, the times I’d quietly let Mairead feed me tea made from bags well-used, already, and bits of toasted bread to act as biscuits, even after Ma had done with dinner and we’d, yet again, had not quite enough to fill us. How old would I have been? Three? Four? And already just as aware as Sean of the limitations of the adults in the world.

I think then’s when I got to where I preferred my tea light and on the weak side. Aunt Mari’d told me when she finally got some down me, not long after I’d come over, it’d been strong enough to set off a bout of diarrhea in me. She’d made it weak from that point on, and I’d absently sip it, myself, holding it like it was gold. I remember none of it, but it sounded true.

Daria offered me neatly-toasted bread with butter and jam off a chipped plate -- my, but weren’t we doing better, now? -- and I took half a piece so she and Sean could enjoy the three left. Then I sipped, and the tea was strong enough to pull out your teeth if it so chose, but a taste of the jam settled it on my tongue. It was just us there; Jimmy was off to his job and Caera had run down two doors to fetch an egg for breakfast. Marc and Lorinda, her youngest, were still a-bed and I thought it well they be let sleep. As for me, I was just hoping I could be fed before Colm arrived.

I’d no idea what would happen with me after this point, but then I’d never had much of a plan for my life. Just work and marry and grow some wains of my own and treat them better than Da and Ma had treated theirs. True, it wasn’t a very ambitious goal for myself, but it had pleased me to aim for it. To just accept that I was never the type who’d cure cancer or write great books or even stand for office. When Father Jack and I had been talking, he’d said more than once I was not living up to my potential, as though it were my duty to become better than I wanted to be. Such ideas made little sense to me and seemed at odds with the notion of self-determination we all supposedly have. Apparently that was only if you did what those who considered themselves your betters felt you should do. And so my focus on my own path, with disregard for the opinions of people like Father Jack, had set me into the little box of weakling and coward. And I hadn’t cared, for if things had not gone so horribly wrong with Joanna, one day I’d have asked her to marry me...and live with me in a whole new world away from these biting, clawing, vicious animals who claimed to be men. And I saw nothing wrong with that being all there was to me.

I absently touched the tattoo of her name. I’d done nothing like it for Vangie, for fear that would jinx us. And look at what good that did.

I sighed, finally accepting the reality that there is no corner of the world safe from the howling mad dogs of self-righteousness. And people with dreams like mine were little more than meat for them to gnaw upon and feed to the just-as-vicious young they were breeding and --

Pounding on the door jolted me. Sean jumped, terrified, but Daria instantly turned to him and said, “Now Sean, don’t be such a baby. It’s just the Paras come looking and they’ll be gone again, shortly.”

Sean huffed and looked at me with accusation, and it cut into me. A child of seven comforting a child of three, and both knowing what a knock at the door meant. That was not right. That was perfect evil. And all because of me. So I smiled at them, in comfort, and quickly rose.

“It’s all right,” I said, grinning to hide the sinking of my heart. “I’ll answer it.”

As I strode down the hall to the door, another pounding began so I called, “Hold on, hold on,” in my best twang. That voice would give the Haggertys at least a little cover against knowing who I truly was.

I opened the door just as a stocky Para was about to use his rifle butt, and I slipped into to Todd’s attitude and snapped, “What the hell’s wrong with you? I said I’s comin’!”

I thought for a second he was going to shift the butt to my head, but another man stepped forward, one I’d not seen before.

“Are you Jeremy Landau?” he said, another true Brit.

“That’s me.”

“Let me see your passport.”

Already a crowd was growing and this was giving off the feel of ugliness, with the hate in their eyes, so I handed it over without hesitation, knowing that’s the last time I’d have my hands on it. I knew Jeremy was no fool; the second he was called he’d know something had happened and would step back long enough to find out what was going on. As for Aunt Mari and Uncle Sean, I hoped they could stick to the story they’d put in place for if ever the day came that I was found out. So right now my one concern was for minimizing the Haggertys’ troubles.

“I’d invite you in,” I said, keeping the twang, “but this ain’t my place so -- ”

“No need. You’ll come with us.”

“Wait, Mrs. Haggerty’s not home, so I gotta wait till she gets back and -- ”

“What’s this?” It was herself bolting from the house two doors down, a cloth holding eggs in one hand, another woman right behind her and just as angry. “Mr. Landau, what’s this?”

“It’s nothin’, Mizz Haggerty,” I said. “These gentlemen just want me to go clear somethin’ up -- ”

“You bloody Brit bastards,” she snarled, “he’s an American. Just because you think you can treat us like this doesn’t mean you can the whole world!”

“By the saints,” someone added, “he’s American?!”

“The fuckin’ English!”

More women and children were coming out, and I began to wonder if this was another method of pushing back against the Paras -- surround them with loud angry females to confuse the issue and dare them to raise their weapons. But this time even a quick look at their weapons showed me we’d not have a repeat of the night at Ma’s, for the riots of the last two weeks had put them too much on edge to be willing to back down peacefully.

So I turned to Mrs. Haggerty and her mates and said, “Ladies, it’s all right. Thanks. I don’t mind goin’ with ‘em. I’ll just call the ‘Merican consulate from their office and get everything straightened out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. It’ll be fine.” I turned back to the man in charge with a smile and added, “It’s just a little misunderstandin’, right? Don’t want no trouble here.”

I honestly couldn’t tell if he was a commander or captain or just a top sergeant -- but at least he was smart enough to look around at the noisy seething crowd, hold his tongue and nod. He pointed to the closest of two Saracens and said, “In here,” then begrudgingly added, “Please.”

I was about to ask if I could get my boots but the look in his eyes warned me not to do a damned thing more but what he’d asked, so I let two of them lead me around to the back of the first beast, in tandem, and the first one opened the rear door as three others kept close watch on me and the rest made for the second Saracen, the women still calling all of God’s curses down on them. But as I was about to get in I noticed movement from above, like an arm waving from behind a chimney, and looked up to see a single, dark, perfectly-shaped brick softly hurtle over the roof top to slowly, slowly curl downward, downward, downward, spinning like it weighed nothing as it whispered closer and closer and I gasped and turned away from it because I thought it might hit me but instead saw it slam onto the bonnet of the Saracen behind me and ricochet into the chest of a Para that was keeping watch on me. He cried out and collapsed and his mates swung into full battle mode and the once-growing crowd of women burst apart like petals falling off an open rose and scrambled back to their homes, dragging their children behind them as more stones came pelting down on the Brits.

And on me.

I was clipped in the back and hit full on my left hand as I scurried away from the Saracens to find a place of safety and saw the Paras taking cover behind the vehicles and a corner house, rifles prepped ready to fire, and I cried out, “They got real bullets!” with no hint of Texas in my voice then. That’s when the Brit commander grabbed me and slammed me into a doorway, snarling, “Right, you’re from bloody America.”

I couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the comical anger in his face. He punched me with his pistol, cutting open my left eye, yet still I laughed. It was insane -- the chaos a few rocks can bring and the stupidity of the anger these bastards dared show against those they occupied and futility of it all in the face of the world’s disinterest and the fact that Ma was dead and would never get to see any of this finally crush the spirit of those who lived here and no one would learn the lessons of the place because we were now a template on how to fight back against the oppressor and none of them could see it, and this stupid bastard thought he could beat me into ending my laughter when it was beyond my control, all of it, all of it.

I heard gunfire from the Paras’ rifles and laughed even harder as I choked out, “Ya stupid bloody bastards, you’re shootin' at ghosts!”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Shots of London but none of Reading...

I had neither the time nor interest in looking around Reading, even though we'd pass Reading Gaol en route from the hotel to the house where we were packing. I was beat by the end of the day and had no way to get around except by bus, touristy stuff done...

I did take these photos during my ramble through London last Saturday. I was in short-sleeves and going no place in particular...just the general direction of the Thames.
First pass was The British Library, right by St. Pancras. I once hand-carried an original manuscript of music by Hayden to them from New York, one meant to be played for George III. I got to go into the bowels of the building and see how many people they had doing cataloguing and cleaning and helping prepare for events to show off the manuscripts.
Then I passed Holborn Underground station, which figures in Underground Guy. It's where Liam Hanlon is kidnapped to be murdered, and when Devlin sees him on video just prior to it all, knowing what's about to happen to the man, it causes him to collapse into a form of hysteria that becomes an epiphany...
Then I took the underground to St. Paul's, which closed to visitors 5 minutes before I got there. It's a majestic building but what was really great about it was this...
...Harry Potter fans doing a light reenactment by the main doors.
I then got thoroughly lost and wound up having to grab a cab so I could find my way to The Shard. I planned to go to the observation deck to look around, but the line was so long and slow I knew I wouldn't be up there till after sunset so just walked away to connect with the Thames and stroll down to Tower Bridge, cross it...and just sit and think.
This guy, however, wound up catching my eye and I spent more time watching him and listening to his Italian than contemplating my own place in life. I believe that's now referred to as a SQUIRREL moment for a dog...

And I'm the ultimate dumb mutt when it comes to cute guys...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Back from the dead...

I was in England for a week so my head was nowhere near being able to think about posting. I figured I'd do it once I returned and was watching the Oscars...but the wind and ice storm had damaged the power in my building so I had no cable, no internet, a barely functioning stove, and the elevators didn't work. I had lights in my place but not in the hall, and had to lug my suitcase and backpack up three flights of stairs.

I almost stayed overnight in Toronto because it was so windy and there are three tall bridges I have to cross to get back to the US. But it was also possible Monday would be worse due to ice, since it was going to be well below freezing, and they needed me at the office to help with the onslaught of paperwork for the NY Book Fair.

So I came...and missed seeing the Oscars and had to eat out. Everything's up and running, again, meaning I'm somewhat back to normal, but it's taking me a bit of time to readjust and rest up from this job. It was brutally tiring.

In four days an associate and I packed 7000 +/- books about humor that had been donated to a university. Half were downstairs in a narrow British semi-detached home's sitting room; half were upstairs in a bedroom the size of my bathroom. There were dozens of plastic bins lying around the house, so my helper used them to ferry the books to me and I wrapped and packed, nonstop.

My work space was a small shed behind the house that had once been filled with junk but was cleaned out, just not cleaned up. The place was about 12x6 feet, cold and damp, but dry enough considering it rained the first day. The walls were the British form of sheetrock and the floor wooden slats. Its one window was covered in dust and mold and had a desk set up under it to work on. Of course, my nose went nuts. I had to pop double-doses of Claritin to get by...and I'm still coming down off it.

Most of the books were just so-so paperbacks and ragged hardcovers dealing with humor in mainly European and American countries in various languages, all laden with years worth of dust and neglect. But mixed in were were some amazingly nice ones dealing with Jerry Lewis, Mr. Bean, Monty Python, Asterix and Obelix, Aristophanes, dozens of British comedians I'd sort-of heard of, a full range of Punch story books and a number of books by Stephen Frey and Hugh Laurie. Damn they looked young, once.

What's odd is, the woman who was getting rid of the books reminded me of Stephen Frye. Very nice and dotty in that British way, a former prosecutor who now advocated on behalf of people who'd been arrested for various petty offenses. She's pro-Brexit so we didn't discuss that. Fortunately, my helper was anti- so we agreed to just sigh and wonder at the stupidity of people cutting off their noses to spite their faces. But she did make a good cup of tea.
I worked in the warehouse, on Friday, getting the boxes ready to ship, then spent Saturday wandering around London and finally sitting on the Thames at dusk just to think.

I love London. After LA, it's the one place where I'd want to live, again. It's changing, massively, but some areas are still the same and the city's depth of history would ensure it never grew boring. But it's becoming a rich man's town, like New York, San Francisco and LA are becoming. Prices shooting skyward for rents and transportation and simple food.

I read a couple of books on the flights -- John Grisham's Camino Beach, which was surprisingly bland and insipid, and Gerard Bannon's Undercover, which was well-written and fast-paced if a little over the top at times. But his made the return trip go fast.

I'm still catching up with myself and my apartment and the crap I brought back. I used the excuse of no elevator to put off laundry and cleaning; ain't got that excuse anymore. I guess I'll get back to APoS this weekend.

My head's still feeling just a bit too squirrelly to focus on it, now.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A bit more of Brendan till I return...

The slaps had kept me from getting a good breath in, so I quickly choked on the water. I fought to move my head -- to shake off the cloth -- but his mates kept me immobile and all I could do was swallow more and more of it and let it fill my lungs and my head felt ready to explode from the terror and my heart pounded like I was going mad and I tried to kick but couldn’t and my hands wouldn’t fucking move to let me push back up from under this hell and it kept on and on and on and on and I was sure I was dying and -- 

The cloth was whipped away, again. Terrence took me by the hair, again, and this time yanked me half off the table to face the floor and I vomited water into that other empty pail. It spewed from my nose as well as my mouth and I’d even swear came out my ears, there was so much of it. Then he shoved me back onto the table, even as I kept heaving and choking, and asked me questions that made no sense -- like he was speaking another language and I fought to get away from him but he kept yammering at me and asking me things and all I could do was shake my head until suddenly, suddenly I heard him saying, oh so gently, “I have to wonder, Brendan, are you really that fuckin’ stupid a bugger? We can end this, right now. All in exchange for one word, just one -- the name of one man who’s responsible for God knows how many deaths. You’d be doing mankind a favor by ending his reign of terror, Brendan. You’re a good lad. You want to go to your mum’s wake. And her funeral. You want all this terror to end. Help me end it, Brendan. Be the good lad I know you are.”

To be honest, I couldn’t have spoken then if I’d wanted to. That I was able to even understand him was a minor miracle to me. I was still retching from the water sloshing about in my lungs. I was coughing from my throat being so raw. I was freezing from the cold air blasting in. My nose was screaming from the sudden influx of foreign liquids -- not just water but acid from my stomach and God knows what else from within me. I was half afraid I was about to lose control of my bowels and I was shaking from the effort to just keep from screaming in fear.

“What’s your answer, Brendan?” The question was so tender, I almost wept. Jesus Christ, but this man was truly a devil.

I looked away from him. My head was snapped back into position and the cloth laid over and I began to scream and scream and from someplace distant I heard laughter as the water began pouring and smothered me and filled me and I kicked and fought and choked and swallowed more and more and my heart shrieked in anger and terror and my legs flailed --

And then everything stopped. And I felt myself drifting away from it all. Peaceful and sad. And I knew I was dying. I’d got my wish. I was dying and it wasn’t so horrible, drowning like this, no, not horrible at all as darkness whispered up and gently enveloped me in her beauty and grace and --

Shattering noise woke me. Like a car wreck or something, shredding metal and screeching to a halt against some banister. I had no idea where I was. Could I be at home on the floor behind the couch? I’d wondered if I could hide there, at times. Had I drifted to sleep and been dreaming it all? But I was on the sponge rubber mattress. And my clothes still wet, cold air blasting in, my hands and feet freezing. My heart still pounded. A dull throb in my head made it difficult to think. My lungs ached horribly. Sharp pains exploded from my wrists and ankles if I tried to move. I looked at them. The shackles were gone but my skin was rubbed raw from me fighting against them. And then I understood -- it was no dream, and I wasn’t dead.

I felt nothing about it. Not one emotion even approached my heart. It was just, “I’m still here.”

I lay flat on my back and slowly me mind rejoined me life. The light still burned in the ceiling, like an unforgiving sun, blistering through me eyes even when me lids was shut. Between the blades in me back was a sharp throb whispering over me spine. My thoughts -- what thoughts I had -- none seemed to be mine. Me voice seemed to be another’s. Had I begun to talk? Was I speaking even now? I had no idea. I still could not make sense of where or how or even who I was at the moment. The four walls around me looked not at all familiar. The cold wet foam under me behaved like a carpet hovering above the world.

I felt like it took hours for me to regain actual consciousness. True awareness. The throbbing in my head never ceased during this time, but did slowly become less demanding. I never stopped shivering, but it seemed to be more from the cold than anything more. Three more times the screeching crashing noise went past me door -- past my door. The one way out. The one way to look for anyone to come who did not come because no one knew where I was, of that I was sure. Even I was not sure of where I was -- except I was. I was. I knew. I knew.

A slat in the door snapped open and an eye bulged in to look about the room -- then it pulled back and happily cried, “He’s back!”

I assumed he meant me. Had I been somewhere and was not remembering? That would not be polite, not if I’d been with company. It’s poor manners not to recall going places with people you know...or even those you don’t.

The door opened and a man entered, followed by two more just like him. Triplets. I smiled and think I laughed. I might not have. I don’t recall.

The first triplet nodded, smiling. “That’s good,” he said. “You’re proud of yourself.”

Then he kicked me. The brisk sharpness of it jolted me and everything crashed back into my mind. Castlereagh. The Saracen. Tailored. Terrence. The water. The neverending fucking water.

It was Terrence who kicked me. He leaned in and snarled, “Think about everything we did, today, Brendan, and how we’ll begin it all again, tomorrow. You’ll speak to me. You’ll talk to me. I swear by God before the day is through, you’ll think me your bloody father confessor, you fuckin’ will.”

Then he rose and gave me another kick in the back before he and his twins left.

More of this tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And I felt nothing. It was like I was saying to myself, “I think I’ll have the chicken fried steak every day this week and the next.” It meant absolutely nothing.


My stomach boiled. And my cough returned. And I felt tears sting my eyes. I rolled over and my face pressed into the rough sponge, and I noticed my tears disappearing into it -- and suddenly I knew -- I wouldn’t have to keep going. I knew how to end it, now. I knew what to do.

I made myself reach under the block of sponge and pull off a good chunk of it. My whole body ached from the exertion, but crushing it into my hand made me feel powerful, once more. Put me back in control of my destiny.

The next time they came, I’d have that sponge in my mouth. And I’d wait till they poured the water over me, again, and I’d swallow it and it would soak in the water and expand and choke me and I’d be dead before they figured out how to keep me alive. They’d get nothing from me, not even enjoyment -- they’d get nothing except my death. The bastards’d get only my death.


This is the last bit from the two previous days. It's taken a lot out of me...and I won't have much time to write while in Reading, so...later.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Continuing from yesterday's post...

“Sorry to hear about your mother, Brendan,” said Terrance. “Looks like our information was a bit behind the curve. But then there’s that American phrase, Shit happens, even to us, sometimes. So -- the wake’s about to get started. And the funeral’s set for day after tomorrow. I know you’re a good boy, Brendan, and you won’t want to miss any of that, so why not just answer a few questions and let us send you on your way? Right?”

I just cast a glance at the cameras in the upper corners. They hadn’t moved. He noticed.

“Don’t rely on them for anything. They’re ours -- but you’re a smart lad, ain’t you? You already know that. Funny -- but it’s the smart ones who crack the easiest. They think because they’re smart, they can outfox us. But they can’t.” Christ, did they all use the same playbook for their interrogations? “We can keep at this for as long as we want. So show me you really are smart, Brendan. Answer one question. Who was the other lad at that bombing with you and your brother?”

Colm, sprang to mind but I didn’t say it. So they really did want that one bit of information. Even after eight years. Why? Why did it still matter? Of course, I had no answer, so I just sighed and looked at the floor. The clean linoleum looked even cleaner than before, which for some reason unsettled me. Then Terrence took my chin and forced me to look at him.

“Didn’t you hear me? Who was the other man with you and your friend? Who was it set the bomb that blew up your girl friend? We know he didn’t act on his own; he hadn’t the nerve for it. Another man was seen with you both. Who was he? First name’s all we want. We can take it from there.” He waited then added, “Was it Barry Quinn?”

I’d no idea who that was, and I think it showed in my face. He nodded.

“Eugene Heaney?”

Danny’s uncle? That man was no more capable of murder than Daria. Christ, I’d though HE was aimed for the priesthood, with his ways. What the devil did they think they were saying? Just nonsense to confuse me? Not even Paidrig would have responded to something so obvious.

Terrence kept up with more names, not one of which made any sense in regards to what he was asking, each time gripping my chin a bit harder till finally his nails were digging into my skin -- and he shoved me back hard enough to make the chair tip and let me fall to the floor. I landed hard on my side, jamming my shoulder and wrist against the belt and crying out, despite myself. His mates picked me up and set me back in the chair, without a thought.

That bastard cough came back and I felt my stomach quiver, but I did not look back at Terrence as he bent over to face me.

“Brendan, this is stupid. All we need is one name. One name and you can walk out of here. Go to your mother’s wake. And her funeral. You’re a good boy, Brendan; you’d want to do that. All good boys want to do that.” I still would not look at him. “Are you afraid PIRA or INLA will find out you talked to us? Is that why you’re so quiet?”

Truth is, I hadn’t thought about that as a complication. But I had heard that they would make people even suspected of informing disappear, and no one thought for a second they’d just been banished from Ireland. So were there any indication I’d become a grass for the Brits, I’d probably follow suit -- straight into a grave. Meaning whether I spoke or didn’t, the ending would be the same.

“We can protect you, you know,” Terrence kept on with. “We can fix it so they don’t know you spoke to us. Or we can blame another person. We got more than enough informants in the six counties. Blaming one of them’d be no trouble. ‘Fact, it’d be worth it to get the bastard who helped you murder five people.”

Five people? I thought four had been killed at Joanna’s father’s place. No -- wait -- he’s spouting wrong information to get you to talk. He’s all but saying, Correct me; show me you’re smarter than me; talk. This was stupid. He and Tailored had already used this trick on me, so why be so obvious in using it, again? I just sighed and closed my eyes and --

SMACK! He slapped me off the chair! I landed on my stomach and grunted in pain. I gasped in air and my gut heaved from the sudden crush against the floor. His mates just grabbed me under my shoulders and sat me back in place.

“You’re going to talk to me, Brendan,” Terrence snarled, his voice deep and angry.

I felt blood trail from my nose, and had the sense he’d reopened the cut on my face from the commander’s pistol. I coughed, but this time from the pain in my gut and not from fear. I was too filled with adrenalin to now be afraid of him. Now I was ready to fight for my survival...or even for my death.

I think Terrence sensed this change in me. He stepped back and nodded, then he said in a voice that was too, too calm, “That was a stupid bloody thing for me to do, wasn’t it? You Irish knock each other around all the time, so you probably like that sort of thing. Well, your mates with the RUC already tried this and got bollocks, so I’m not wasting my time with it.”

He nodded to his mates and they yanked me up to lay me atop the table as he stepped out of the room. My head hung over one end, and my calves hung over the other. My ankle shackles were attached to the table in some way, so I had little range in which to move my legs.

Terrence came back in, a moment later, followed by the guards carrying two empty tubs and some pails of water. One tub was set on the floor, under my head, and the pails lined against the nearest wall. Then the guards left. I’d no idea what this devil was planning, but I knew it wouldn’t be good, not from the evil kindliness in his eyes.

“All right, Brendan,” he said in a voice as gentle and soothing as the devil’s, “I’ll give you one more chance. Who was the man with you and your mate? The man who helped you set the bomb that killed so many people? What was his name? All I need is his Christian name. I can find out everything else I want from that. So just tell me -- what’s his first name?”

I looked at the ceiling, beginning to shake, again. And I coughed. He nodded.

“Well,” he sighed, “we’ve had a lot of success in loosening tongues with this method, and no fucking poofter from the Red Cross need even know.”

He lay a thick cloth over my face so I couldn’t see. I heard a pail being lifted and felt his mates hold me down by my shoulders, each one also pressing against the side of my head to keep me from moving. Then water began spilling into the cloth.

I had no idea what the fuck they were doing. The water choked me and I swallowed some -- and in truth it felt good on my throat -- but it kept coming and coming and coming and I couldn’t gulp it down and it went up my nose and into my lungs and I began to cough and fought to breathe and panic seized my heart as the water overwhelmed me like I was sinking under it and I roared and began to fight like a madman -- and then the cloth was gone and I was choking and coughing and gasping in air and my head was fit to burst from the sudden piercing pain in it and Terrence grabbed me by the hair and slapped me two, three, four times to force me to focus on him and I could barely understand him as he snarled, “That was just a taste of it, Brendan. I can do this for hours and days. So give me his name.”

I gulped in more air, deep and fast -- and I spit at him. I fuckin’ spit at him. I don’t know which of us was more surprised at me doing it, but he roared and slapped me another four or five times then jammed my head back and fitted the cloth over my face and began pouring the water onto it, again.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Been lost...

I want nothing to do with the world, right now, beyond what is necessary...because this is all allowed to consume me...Part 3 of A Place of Safety...where Brendan's returned home on the sly but been found out...perhaps betrayed...and has been handed over to the British to be interrogated at Castlereagh Interrogation Centre. They want information about the bombing that sent him into a psychotic break and forced PIRA to sneak him out of the country...


I lay on the mattress, wondering what next was in store. My stomach protested. My head screamed at me. I felt nauseous. And don’t think I hadn’t noticed there’d been no official intake. Meaning there was no record I’d been brought here. I could lay on this bloody bit of sponge for the rest of my life and no one would ever know. Fear almost choked the breath from me, because I knew this had been much too easy a meeting with them. Something worse was sure to follow, but what it was -- I had no idea.

For hours nothing happened except the light kept burning and burning and all sounds remained absent. I found myself humming melodies from that old Johnstons album just to fill the void and smiling at the thoughts I’d had that night -- Christ, was it only twelve years ago, last January? Holding a child’s vision of what his life could be. Dreaming a child’s dream that a girl I hadn’t even met yet might become his partner in life. Hoping I could be the one who showed Eamonn and the rest of the PD how to avoid the trouble I’d seen coming. All had proven to be impossible, and that I’d come close to achieving them meant nothing; once again, the world had seen to it that only hatred was allowed to flourish. Understanding and love meant nothing, and my sad attempts at both had done little but lead me straight to this very cell, for I seemed not to learn from my disasters. I might have detoured here and grown a bit more aware there, but it’s the end result that matters, isn’t it?

And what was my end result? My love for two different girls had brought catastrophe to them both. My aunt now had questions about her love for her husband. I’d helped put my brother in jail. And I’d cursed my mother as she lay dying. That last was a sin -- but was it venal or mortal? I couldn’t recall, it’d been so long since my catechism. Since I’d all but rejected the church.

It was here for the first time that I wondered -- seriously wondered -- if I had the nerve to just end it. I believed that might be the only way I could fully protect my family and mates, and it’s not like my passing would cause even a ripple in the meaning of time. Joanna was still dead to me. Vangie was pursuing another life in another part of the world, where I was not welcome. I’d achieved nothing on this earth but pain and heartbreak and would leave even less behind. And it would cause embarrassment to the Brits to no end; Maeve and Aunt Mari would see to that...and maybe even Joanna. Maybe.

The idea began to take on solid appeal. So how to do it? I’d come with neither belt nor shoes, but I could use my shirt as a noose. Do it quietly so they’d have no reason to come in till I was long dead. I looked about the room but could see nothing from which to hang myself but the fixture holding the light bulb, and it was well out of reach. Same for the vent. Then I thought, I could just tie a sleeve tight around my throat and put a knot in it so I couldn’t undo it before passing out...but I had no idea if that would work. Doesn’t there need to be a lot of pressure on the throat to cut off the full flow of oxygen to your heart and lungs, and blood to your brain? Could doing it wrong merely leave me a mental defective?

Christ, wouldn’t that be perfect? Wind up simple, like Ma'd always thought.

On top of it, there was nothing sharp anywhere in the room upon which I could slice open my arms or throat...unless I was able to tear apart the chamber pot, but it was so solid, unless I had some tool nothing was going to happen there, either.

All right then -- what if I rammed my shirt down my throat to choke the life from me? Or swallowed bits of that sponge? It could become lodged in my esophagus and I could choke to death, that way. Even if I tried to vomit it out, it would only soak everything up and become more firmly in place. But how long would that take and would it cause much pain or me to -- ?

The door whispered open and four guards came in.

“Up,” said the first one.

I ignored him, so they grabbed me, one at each limb. I tried to kick them away, but they were more used to this than I was and held me down tightly enough to manacle my feet together, then they slapped a belt around my waist and shackled my hands to it, and me struggling wildly against them did nothing to stop them -- hell, to even slow them down. What was odd was, I said nothing through it all. Not one word against them or their mothers or their parentage or anything. All that escaped me were little grunts and gasps of pain as they held me in place and took complete control of me.

“Quiet one, in’nt he?”

“Fookin’ Taig dunno how to speak.”

“He’s scared ya’ll find out he loves your touch.”

“Aye, that, look-it his arse move.”

“Give it up, ye fookin’ bastard!”

“Where ya think ya’ll go if we don’t get this on ya?”

“He knows what’s comin’.”

“Some playtime, eh? Ya’ll like that, ya will.”

“Wait’ll ye see who’s come to arsk ye questions, ye fook.”

“I got me seat reserved to watch.”

“I got the ale.”

“We’ll see how long ya hold ya tongue.”

“Fookin’ Taig.”

“Papist bastard.”

They kept it up even as they dragged me back to that same interrogation room and slammed me into that same chair. But this time, the other two chairs were off in separate corners and the table was in the center of the room. And Terrence already stood beside it, no longer dressed in his ill-fitting suit but now in camouflage trousers and t-shirt to match. With him were two others dressed the same way, all of them fit and powerful, all of them with their eyes on me.

The guards left, probably to join their fellows in the room behind the mirror and drink beer and have a good craic about the stupid fucking Catholic bumbler about to be destroyed by those strong superior Brits. It’d be fun all the way around.

At that particular moment, I wished I’d eaten that fucking sponge.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I want a head transplant...

I've spent the last few days fighting a headache that's not quite there but almost and it's irritating. Initially, I though it was my glasses causing it because it starts in the back of my left shoulder and trapezius and my left eye aches. But today as I was pulling my laundry from the dryer I held my head back a bit too much and got overcome a dull throbbing. Like I pinched a nerve but not quite enough to really hurt me.

It slowly went away, but I'm now too damned aware that my body is wearing out. One of the joys of age. So I'd better get my ass in gear and dig into APoS and get it done before I'm recalled to the factory for an overhaul for faulty everything. I guess Advil is now my vitamin of choice.

I was reading Clive Barker's Damnation Game...and reading...and reading...and reading...and finally gave up on it about halfway through. I sort of liked Marty, who was almost the lead character (for some reason I was picturing a young Guy Ritchie as him), but I didn't believe a word of what I was reading. It was like...I dunno...obnoxiously nasty for nastinesses sake. Like Steven King started to write in the 80s. I stopped reading him after Firestarter, but I was getting weary of his rub-your-face-in-it characters as early as The Stand.

One reason I couldn't get into Barker's book was, I didn't believe a word of it; it was so divorced from simple day-to-day reality. A woman gets skinned alive without screaming loud enough to wake a man asleep in the upstairs bedroom? Dogs protecting a house go into a frenzy of barking and howling as they're being slaughtered but no one in the house notices? C'mon...

I feel the same way when I see movies ignore reality in order to keep the plot going. My favorite example of this is A History of Violence. There's a long, loud shootout in a mansion in a wealthy area of Pittsburgh and no cops come. Why? The hero needs to be able to get away. It's lazy, to me. Unimaginative. Takes me out of the story.

The positive thing about this is it reminds me not to get carried away with my normal tendency to meander. I like letting characters talk and explore each other for a while, but it can get boring is not important and well-done...both aspects I still need work on.

Maybe I'll try some Grisham, next...

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Weird day so watched a movie

I stayed up way too late, last night, working on something so had a niggling headache all day and just piddled around till I finally just gave in and watched All About Eve. Still a hint of the headache, but the movie made me happy. It is one of the most literate scripts ever...and couldn't be made, today.
TOQATM's take on it is fun.

Friday, February 8, 2019


When I worked at Book Soup, I was usually the 4-midnight shift. Sometimes I'd walk to work instead of drive, which entailed heading up San Vicente to La Cienega then up to Sunset, meaning the reverse heading back. But en route home about half the time I'd stop at the Norm's on La C and have an early morning breakfast -- eggs over easy, hash browns, bacon, hot tea, sometimes a short stack. It was the best.

I worked really late, today, so thought I'd try that out, again. There's a 24 hour diner not all that far from me so I bopped in...and ordered as close as I could to what I used to...but they don't do hash browns. What kind of diner don't do hash browns? And everything was served warm, not hot. Even the tea was just warm.'s true what they say -- you can't revisit your memories in reality.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

/Some more of APoS...

I'm jumping around but still filling in the bits. This is about 1976/77 in Houston, not sure which, yet. Evangelyn is the daughter of a Cajun man Brendan works with...


I led Evangelyn into the pool house and the first words from her were, “Man, you were sure of yourself.”

“What d’you mean?” I asked her.

“Look at this joint, all clean and cool. Like you’re expectin’ company.”

I looked around and honestly had no idea what she meant. My room was tidy, yes, but hardly what I’d call clean. All I could respond was, “Dunno why you said that. Tomorrow’s my cleaning day.”

“Your cleanin' day?”

“Yeah. I clean every Sunday.” I stopped short of telling her I’d been this way first seeing Joanna. Even while living in what I now saw as filth, I’d kept my part of it as neat as I could. It wasn’t even a thought for me. That Evangelyn should make such an issue of it surprised me and gave me my first idea as to why Paidrig had asked me if I was right in the head. Perhaps being so focused on clean wasn’t what people normally are like -- like Scott bringing home months worth of laundry and his room being in a state, or Uncle Sean and his car, enough said about that.

But then Aunt Mari was neat about her home, and all by herself; no maid or housekeeper to help her. And the girls were the same. And thinking of it, Mairead had done her best to keep the hovel we’d lived in from being too far gone, and with the new spot had focused double hard, even while working her job and pregnant, to keep it from slipping into the same state as before, while Ma had fussed she, herself, had kept things clean enough.

So I just added a shrug and said, “I can’t live in filth.”

She looked at me as if seeing me for the first time. “So you’re a Felix.”

It took me a moment to understand she was referring to a character on a TV show -- what was it called? The Weird Couple? I’d only seen an episode or two and it hadn’t been on for a couple years. American humor really did nothing for me, mainly because I didn’t understand half the jokes.

“Is that a problem, then?” I asked as I motioned for her to take a seat. I said it only for fun. Her dark eyes gave no hint of disparagement or distance, but instead were sharp on me in a way I found made my heart’s rhythm increase.

She floated down to the side chair and dropped her purse next to it. He skirt whispered around her legs as if trying to find just the right position to take in order for her to look her best. As if she could ever look anything less. Nails as red as her lips. Her hair gliding about her face, framing it in ways that only added to her loveliness. I froze at the sight of her, lost in just appreciating the picture she made...until she leaned forward and asked, “Brendan, are you gay?” And her voice was so sure the answer was, Yes, I actually wondered if I was.

I sat against a stool by the counter, almost laughing. “So being clean makes me a poofter, is that it?”


“Man who likes men. Like Jeremy.”

She shrugged and continued on with, “I don’t care one way or the other. I got friends who are and they’re great, but if the only reason you’re seein' me is to lay a fake trail -- ”

I laughed. “What the devil is it with you Americans? I’m neat, I don’t run about cussing up women and yakking about your football, and I like a woman who isn’t white, and that makes me queer?”

“I’ve never seen you with any other girls, and Jeremy’s definitely after you -- ”

I put up my hand to stop her. “Jeremy is a friend, and a good one. But he’s nothing to me, that way. As for girls, I’ve been here four years and you’ve known me for but one of them. Rest assured, I’ve been with others.” I wondered if I should tell her of Rainie...or even of Carla’s actions. I decided it’s best not to. Don’t want to be seen as a chatty lad when it came to the birds.

“How many? Girls. How many?”

Nosy little thing, wasn’t she? But in response, I held up two fingers and whispered, “That’s all you’ll get from me.”

“C’mon, Brendan, you can trust me. Haven’t you taken even one walk on the wild side?”

“What makes you think I would?”

“The way you look at Jeremy, sometimes. Like he could be more than just buddy.”

I shot back with, “Have you taken that walk? Like with a girl?” Her response was to merely offer up that cryptic smile, which I took to mean Yes, of course. “Oh! Well -- there’s an image’ll stay in my mind for a while. Now, I’ve got some wine and beer. Would you care for one or the other?”

She shrugged. “Wine’s good.”

I hopped up to hit the kitchen and pointed to my stereo. “If you want to put on some music...”

She rose and went to the stereo. “Nice set-up.”

“My one extravagance.” Which I’d found in a pile of trash behind a house and rewired, at a cost of maybe four dollars, total -- but no need to sound too much the penny-pincher. Though I was curious, “Why the interest in me and Jeremy?”

“Just curious.”

My arse. I half think she was testing me for some reason or other, and I’d no idea if I passed. She looked through my LPs and noticed I have a number of cassettes and reels of tape. “No eight-tracks?”

I dug into the fridge and pulled out the three open bottles with their corks stuck in -- a Chardonnay, a Rose and something I couldn’t even pronounce let alone spell. “Reel-to-reel stuff has some I transferred, but I borrowed the cassettes.” It looked as if none of the bottles had been gone into since I moved into the place. The Chardonnay was the only one with enough in it and it still smelled good, so I dug for two glasses. “There’s a player under the table that I connect, once in a while, but for the most part, the cassettes are easier to work with.”

“You got some old stuff here. No ABBA. No disco at all.”

“Fun to dance to, boring to listen to,” I said as I poured the wine.

“Not even any Marvin Gaye?” Then she found my collection of The Eagles and pulled out an LP. “Can’t say I’m surprised.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Nothing.” She put the LP on the turntable and set it to going.

I heard the first chords of Hotel California as I brought her the wine. “You like The Eagles?”

“I like The Grateful Dead more. Don’t tell my momma.” And she settled into the couch, this time, sideways with a leg tucked under her. She sipped the wine, nodded and set it on the floor then pulled her bag up and dug into it.

I sat next to her, saying, “I never spill secrets.”

“I know.” And she brought out a little glass pipe with a tiny bowl.

“You’re a bold one, carrying that around and this being Texas.”

“And me bein' black?” I shrugged...then nodded. I was beginning to see how vicious people were in his country about race. “Helps to have a brother who’s a cop.”

She poured a bit of wine into the pipe’s bowl then packed it with some pot. I lit ciggies for the both of us and set hers on an ashtray then handed her my lighter. She fired up the pot and inhaled it through the wine with a tiny gurgling sound.

“Vangie,” I asked, daring to use a name I’d heard her referred to by a friend, “is it that harsh, being black in America?” Then I took a turn at the pipe.

She leaned back, her dark curls shading down to her bare shoulders, her skin soft and unblemished, her eyes caught in a thousand yard stare. She finally exhaled and added a sigh to it. Without looking at me, she said, “Did you know that in Louisiana, if you have even a drop of negro blood in you, you’re classified by the state as black? A man could be as white as you and it wouldn’t matter. You should hear what people say when they find out. It’s like they’ve been insulted.” She looked at me. “Do you even have black people in Ireland?”

I exhaled and croaked, “Northern Ireland, and many of the British soldiers are black. And they’re as big of arseholes as the white ones.”

Monday, February 4, 2019

I remember why I don't drink much...

I got done with the Miami Map Fair and went to a restaurant called Rosie's in Wilton Gardens, the Montrose and West Hollywood area of Fort Lauderdale. It's sort of like Hamburger Mary's but not as much fun. I had a burger, salad and potato salad (not), and had a super sangria drink of red wine, fruit juices and rum with a Maraschino Cherry. Not enough to make me drunk; just enough to make me relaxed.

Four hours later I was so depressed I could barely move. I was in the airport, already, since I wasn't checking a bag (my flight's not till just after 9) and I had my laptop open to catch up on emails. And I couldn't handle it. I'd zone and think of the fuck ups I made and get worse and worse.

I finally forced myself to get up, put my laptop away and go to the bathroom...then I wandered from Terminal B to Terminal A to see if they had a juice bar or someplace I could get a smoothie. I was sort of hungry but not enough for a real meal. No such luck. Plenty of Starbucks; no Jamba Juice or even an Orange Julius.

BUT...I found a fruit and cheese meal and some tropical fruit juice and had that with some water and feel a lot better. I also found Terminal A has an area of tables and counters to sit in instead of just chairs, like in Terminal B. That made me even happier.

Now I'm remembering how I felt when I used to drink serious liquor -- I would always get depressed. Not suicidal, just a good serious does of "So fucking what?" and "What an idiot you've been." That kind of shit. I do not like that feeling, so I guess I'll never be a drunk. Dammit.

I don't get this way from drinking beer. I mean, if I have 2-3 I sort of begin to, so I guess it's the percentage of the alcohol in the drink. Besides, beer's almost like food. But even so, I don't drink a lot of it, and then only with a meal. I think the last time I drank a beer by itself was when I went to the Guinness brewery three years ago.

Anyway, now I'm back on track and digging into APoS. Once again, I'm reminding myself that the first thing I need to get down in this story is a rough first draft. Once I have that I can start bringing in the details required and change those that are wrong or not sharp enough. As I'm already doing with Brendan's and Joanna's encounter at the Celebration Fleadh.

Aw, man...I'd feel even better without the jazzy Musak and flight announcements every three minutes.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Clive Barker's a good writer...

I'm partway into Damnation Game and I like Barker's elegant style...and how he takes his time to do the setup. It's a big book -- more than 400 pages in a mass-market paperback -- and I've only hit page 100, but I'm engrossed enough to keep reading.

The Miami Map Fair is done. Prepping for the move-out got finished nice and quick. Tomorrow is the collection and then building for shipping. Then it's home.

I don't really like Miami. For all the skyscrapers and attitude, it's just another resort town. The only difference between it and Honolulu is mountains and Hawaii being an island instead of a peninsula. One fun aspect is how many people speak Cuban Spanish instead of English, and how so much of downtown Miami is just like Havana. Funny how the GOP isn't trying to deport that ethnic group.

I did a first pass on Brendan and Joanna meeting at the Celebration Fleadh. It happens after the Battle of Bogside, when she and a couple of friends sneak in to have fun. They connect with Brendan and are almost caught out by a group of guys who've taken over policing the area. Brendan protects her with a few quick lies then escorts them home, feeling very manly.

Joanna's mother invites him in for tea, thinking him a Protestant, but her brother works it out and he and some friends chase Brendan down after he leaves, planning to beat him up. He gets away but now knows he's marked if he tries to see her, again.

Naturally, he does.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Miami Map Fair, again....

I'm up early, tomorrow, to catch a flight down to Miami and move out the map fair. Only reading done, today. It's not as cold as it has been but I felt no need to leave the apartment.

I contacted the Novel Writing Festival and let them know I'm open to having a reading done of the first 2000 words of A65's first chapter. I want to see how it turns out.

I watched a couple they did and their videos are a series of images to reflect the book while someone reads it in an audio book style. If they'll let me, I'll post it on YouTube and use it for a sales tool. If not...I may make my own, but with sketches instead of generic photos.

I did a bit of other promotion for my books, as well, on a couple of FaceBook groups I joined. And I posted a section of Bobby Carapisi on my adult site. That blog is turning into something very dark, so I have it posted as being for over 18 only. I don't want just anyone able to access it, even by accident.

My plan is to use it to blow off steam on aspects of my life I don't want to really share on this blog. I have secrets...many secrets...and choose to keep them separate from my public face. There are things about me not even members of my family know...and I plan to keep it that way. But they can't stay bottled up inside. I used my Tumblr blog for that, but I've deleted it so need a new outlet. It's not free like Tumblr was, but I think it's worth my investment.

I'm taking a copy of Clive Barker's Damnation Game on the plane with me. I'm thinking more and more about reworking Darian's Point and Return to Darian's Point into a book with the opening explaining what really happened to get the O'Brien family's curse started, 3000 years earlier. Time to get back to reading what the horror masters are doing, including Steven King. I'm also thinking of making Blood Angel, my vampire script, into a horror novel...but that's still on the back burner.

Right now, it's finish at least a first draft of APoS...and that's slowly coming together...

Friday, February 1, 2019

Roaring back...

It took me about 24 hours to get over my shock and hurt at the criticisms leveled at The Alice '65 to reread the comments and realize whoever did the feedback did not read the book. They skimmed it. When you do that, you don't catch a lot of things the writer was aiming for. Things that are there.

Sure, there were the stupid little things they said about the title and whining about the book being dialogue heavy, and that helped me step back and understand one of the issues. This book may be in third person, but it's totally Adam's viewpoint. It's not omniscient; it's one person's POV.

There is nothing in the book that happens that doesn't directly involve Adam in some way. The only way he knows what's going on with Casey and Lando and others is through dialogue and observation. We only have his memories and past experiences, only delve into his mind. To shift into Casey's mind and memories, or Lando's or anyone else's would have broken that focus and made it a totally different book.

So the complaint that I don't explore the other characters is made by ignoring what I'm actually doing -- telling one person's story, not several. If that reader couldn't get into the book and give me feedback based on the book's reality, then they weren't doing their job; they were telling me how they would have written the story...and that's not what this was supposed to be about.

I've had that happen with screenplays. I used to post scripts on Triggerstreet to test them and get feedback, and I found there were occasions someone would come along and tear a script apart because it wasn't written in the way they think it ought to be written...meaning like they would have written it. I ran into that when I uploaded Find Ray T.

I got good response to it. Became one of the Top 5 scripts in ranking. Then a guy did feedback that totally tore the script apart, line by line. I checked out other scripts he'd given feedback on and he'd done the same thing to them...every one. And did he have a script available to read to see why he thought his way was so perfect? No.

I have to be reminded, now and then, that people have different tastes. And while there are people out there who just like to trash other people's work, no matter how good it is, it's also possible the reader had bad enchiladas for lunch or had a fight with their significant other and just wasn't happy about anything. And sometimes the reader just isn't ready in their life to read your work so should hand it off to someone else.

Hell, I didn't like War & Peace the first time I tried to read it, but 10 years later read it and it's one of my favorite books. So I should put a sign over my writing table, reading, So what if they don't like it? What matters is, do you?

And with A65, I do.