Thursday, February 23, 2012

BLOODTRAIL IS HERE! A new look at old vampires.

Yes, Boys and Girls….the improbable has happened! After considerable agony, frustration, rending of flesh and gnashing of teeth, Ulva the Magnificent and David the Inept have finally succeeded in publishing an eBook. BLOODTRAIL is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords for a mere 99 cents. (cheap at twice the price) Should you choose to purchase this offering of deathless prose, go to either site and enter the title. On Smashwords, be sure to deal with their adult content filter.
In all seriousness, I had a wonderful time researching and writing this book, and I hope you enjoy it. The sequel, BLOODLINE, as well as other novels are on the way and will be available soon. Read on and have fun.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I remember my 10th birthday…and not only because birthdays that end in zero are milestones, but because it was one of the few times I actually went anywhere with my mother. On the evening before the auspicious day, she and her husband loaded me, Merv Fritz, and Wes Roy in their car and took us to a Dairy Queen in the city for banana splits. After the Dairy Queen, we went bowling. After bowling we went to Dog n’ Suds for goodness sake! A little perspective here. These were the “good old days”. Over fifty years ago…before fast food, in the time when families still ate together, at home, while sitting at a table. Then, after Dog n’ Suds, came the really big deal of the evening. We went roller skating! Such an event was huge! Wow! More perspective. Back when Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bee were living in Mayberry, how many times did Opie get to go to Mount Pilot for his birthday? Opie and I had a lot in common. We’d never heard of soccer mom’s, play dates, or that hideous term “Stranger Danger.” We spent summer evenings on the porch, or catchin’ lightnin’ bugs, or at the free movies in the park. We hung out with friends until after dark, and something like a cell phone could only have been used by Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, or Captain video and his Video Rangers.
In spite of all that, the three of us…Les, Merv, and me, in one evening, had been out to eat twice, had bowled for the first time in our lives, and actually hit a surface on roller skates that was something other than pockmarked and broken concrete. And we did that on skates that were shoes, not just clamped on shoes.
Those of you who remember those metal clamp-on skates will recall that you could turn that skate key until the leather soles of your shoes actually buckled under the pressure, and still be walking with one foot while skating with the other if you caught a curb wrong. Of course, if you were wearing your Keds, skating was totally out of the question.
Skating at the rink was amazing! We all knew we could ice skate, but roller skating had always been a haphazard ordeal, riddled with too many variables…but not at the rink. The wooden floor was smooth, ankles stayed straight all by themselves…what a rush! The only bad part of the evening was when the guy playing the music to skate by, called out my name, announced it was my birthday, and made me skate a hot lap all by myself while a couple of hundred onlookers who could not have cared less, cared less. All in all, though, it was a wonderful evening. We got to do neat stuff…eat out…stay up late…and it wasn’t really even my birthday yet. My real birthday wasn’t until tomorrow.
The following morning I got up early. My grandmother was already in the kitchen getting things ready. She had promised to help me with my first venture into the world of entrepreneurialism. I was going to have a lemonade stand. Lemonade card table, actually. I’d already talked it over with the guys at the gas station across the street. They agreed to let me set up by the road on the edge of their lot where the cars entered and left. In the world of traffic dependant business, location is everything. From about ten AM until suppertime, I sold lemonade for five cents per paper cup. After I found out that mentioning it was my birthday increased my purchase ratio, my sales soared dramatically. One guy even laid an entire dollar on me and would not accept any change! By the end of the day, less the cost of three nickel cokes plucked from the ice water of the gas station’s old chest cooler, I was ahead nearly six whole dollars! More money in just one day than Merv made in a whole week on his paper route!
A few years ago, I had occasion to drive through city suburbia and encountered a lemonade stand, complete with banners and flags. I stopped. A small paper cup of the noxious brew was priced at a buck…and was served to me by a young woman who appeared to be fourteen or fifteen years old, a bit aged for the lemonade business. She was wearing a t-shirt, cut-off jeans, a cell phone and an eyebrow ring. She confessed to me that it was not her stand. She was filling in for her little sister while the kid was taking a break. She was twelve. Way too old for something as juvenile as peddling lemonade. At that moment, walking down the driveway from the house, came a young girl. Pre-pubescent, blond, wearing a hot pink tube top, electric blue short-shorts, high heels, dangling earrings, and more make-up than Bozo the Clown…including false eyelashes.
I talked with her for just a moment. This pint-sized replica of a cast member from “Darlene Does Detroit” confessed to me that she was celebrating her tenth birthday. Opie had just met Jon-Benet Ramsey. Slightly frightened, I left. Driving home I realized that in another fifty years, these will be the good old days.

Now that is scary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


 Hoofbeats in the Fog 

            It was damp, it was foggy, it was chilly, it was perfect. My wife and I crunched our way across the parking lot of the Jock’s kitchen heading for the racetrack. It was barely dawn, and we’d just had breakfast with LaVette Drummond, a forty-year old Louisianan who looked sixty, and trained racehorses. We were at a track just outside St. Louis. Sitting in the dining area of the Jock’s kitchen was a trip back to the 1940’s. The room was festooned with chrome plated, steel topped tables, metal chairs with cracked plastic seats, linoleum peeling from the floor, a black cat clock rolling his eyes and swinging his tail by the second, and amazingly low prices for bacon and eggs swimming in grease.
            The area was peopled by trainers in snap-brimmed fedoras, yawning exercise kids in helmets, and jockeys in everything from riding clothes to fifteen hundred dollar suits. The tiny men collected their food from immense lumbering kitchen women more than twice their size, and bantered with one another ceaselessly, back and forth across the room.
            “Hey, Louie, I thought that four horse was gonna hitchhike when you went to the whip in seven yesterday!”
“What a dog. He started scotchin’ at the three-quarter stick. Did the thing in sixty-one and three pieces. On the way to the spit barn, he run off from the groom and tried to get on a bus!”
“That’s the bus you shoulda been on.”
            When we finished eating, Drummond shifted his plum-sized chaw of Red Man to his other cheek, and said he’d meet us by the rail in the forth turn.
            A racetrack early morning is the busiest time of the day. Horses are everywhere, and they have the right-of-way. Walking to the track, we dodged dozens, being led by grooms and hot walkers, clinking with tack, blowing and breathing, grunting and clomping, the air alive with their sound, the earth awash in their mass. On the track by the rail, casually holding the reins of a large bay gelding, stood Joe.
            Joe was an outrider, one of those people who lead the horses to the post, who assist the hands in placing the horses in the gate for the start of a race. More than just an outrider though, Joe was the head outrider, the one who leads the procession to the gate. The horses, once they were on the track, were his responsibility.
 Joe began his life among horses when just a kid, cleaning stalls, hot-walking, grooming. He graduated to exercise boy in his early teens, and when he kept his size and didn’t grow, eventually made it to jockey, twice riding the great Whirlaway, among others. Now, old and bent, he resembled a wizened, bowlegged Leprechaun, wearing jodhpurs and boots sized for a ten-year old.
            “Mornin’ folks,” he said, pointing to his horse. “This here’s Mitglick.” The bay towered above him, the stirrup about chest high. The horse stood, ears back, head down, barely awake, totally disinterested in everything, including his rider. “This ol’ man an’me been together for near fifteen year,” Joe went on, and Mitglick gave a deep sigh. “He doan git excited about much.”
            We talked for a while and the sun finished rising behind us, driving most of the fog from the track. Joe tossed the reins over his horse’s head across Mitglick’s withers, and the horse dropped his muzzle even farther, until his chin nearly touched the ground. The old man leaned over the extended neck, and Mitglick raised his head. Joe slid down the neck, tossing a leg over the withers, and settled back onto the thick sheepskin pad the covered his tiny English saddle. He slipped his feet into the irons and grinned.
            “Neither one of us likes to work too hard,” he said.
            He backed up a bit so we could see the track as the sound of a running horse reached our ears. The workouts had started, Joe and Mitglick, contrary to their appearance, were on duty.
            We watched as a gray horse appeared on the backstretch through the light fog, stretched out, running for all he was worth, as an exercise rider, hunched low over his neck and standing in the irons, brought him into the third turn. It’s a beautiful thing to see, a horse leaning into the push of centrifugal force, rounding a turn at speed. We watched silently and, as the animal was midway through the fourth turn, almost head-on to us, the rider came off. Loose horse! The potential for tragedy is immense. I turned to Joe, but he and Mitglick were gone.
            The loose horse, hard on the inside rail, trailing broken reins, passed our position with Joe in hot pursuit. From a standing start, sleepy and bored Mitglick caught the fleeing thoroughbred halfway down the stretch, and Joe, hanging impossibly off the saddle, grabbed the trailing reins in his left hand and had the runaway under control well short of the first turn. It was impossible for he and Mitglick to do what they had done, and they had done it anyway. A few moments later, Joe was back, perched like a wizened bird, one leg crossed over the withers atop the thick sheepskin pad, Mitglick standing rock-still, head down, ears back, eyes nearly closed beside the rail. Joe slipped off his helmet, and ran a hand through his thinning white hair.
            “Ol’ Mitglick ain’t as young as he usta be,” he said. “But he ain’t lost a step.”
            “You either,” I replied.
            “Well, I doan know,” Joe grinned. “Forty year ago, I wouldn’t a needed my horse.”