After a few rainy days in a row, the clouds finally let up and the sun came out yesterday, so my wife and I bundled up the two little ones while our oldest was in school, and we went mulberry picking. We picked twelve and a half pounds, so we have them fresh and sugared and gave some away and pureed a big batch to freeze — they keep very well that way and we’ll be having mulberry treats well into winter. Especially since there are plenty of picking days ahead.
When we made it to the last tree on our berry picking hit list, a grand old giant perched on a hill, there was a magnificent puddle at the top. So while my wife and I picked the last couple pounds of berries, the little ones had a great time splashing and throwing mud and digging in it with sticks and splashing some more.
In order to get them home without soaking their car seats too badly, we stripped them to their underwear and carried the sodden clothes and shoes home in a plastic bag.
As he was stripping down, the older of the two said, “I’m so wet I have to be in my underwear!” (He has a talent for stating the obvious, but I kind of expect that from a guy who just turned five) I answered, “if you’re driving home in your underwear you probably had a good time.”
Young or old, I bet a few of you out there can agree with that.
Available on Smashwords — FREE! No sign-in needed, you can even select “online reader” under “Download:” and read it as a webpage — just as you’re reading this page, with nothing to actually download!
This is a short tale of weirdness after a storm — I’ll let the opening paragraphs speak for themselves:
Eventually, the walls-strumming throb of the tornado passed and the family emerged from their storm nest in the hallway. They had ridden through the storm—the hail and rain hammering on the walls, the gusts rocking the trailer home side to side on its blocks, the thunder shaking the roof, and finally the open-throated steam engine chug of the funnel cloud itself—encapsulated in the mattresses rushed from their beds and stood up against the hallway walls to cushion them in case the trailer rolled over. But it hadn’t.
The storm had been black, choking off the little bit of light that illuminated the hall from the living room on a sunny day. After the hail the electric lights had failed. The lights were still out, but now a weak sun filtered in again, gray.
Paul rushed ahead of his parents and little brother on the energy of thirteen, threw open the door and the screen, and burst out onto the open porch. Twigs, leaves, and small branches torn out of the big maple between them and the next trailer thirty feet over crunched under his sneakers. From the maple, from the woods engulfing their end of the trailer park, branches and leaves covered the grass and the gravel road, a green and brown carpet with only a few worn patches showing what lay underneath. Paul looked up. The clouds trailing the storm were high and thin, ragged, sending down random momentary sprinkles. The air was fresh, washed, green with the sap of bruised leaves and broken trees. Paul sucked in a deep breath, alive in the wake of the storm’s fear.
“We made it!” he shouted as his family crowded onto the porch. He ran down the steps into the yard, and from there he saw it between the back of the trailer and the woods. A refrigerator, tall and white but not square like all the ones he’d seen before. This one was rounded and smooth like an enormous bar of soap. The handle on the front was short, chrome worn dull on one end and attached to the fridge only on the other. The fat and round black power cord disappeared into the undergrowth of the woods’ edge as if it were plugged into the ferns and sticky sundews that grew there…
But everyone can see the cover, at least!
This story is Patreon-exclusive for 90 days as thanks for helping me reach my $60/month funding milestone!
As I wrote for the folks on Patreon: This is one of my less common pieces — mainstream fiction (magical realism at most) rather than science fiction or fantasy. I wrote this one shortly after the passing of an elder friend of the family. It’s not his story or mine, but it carries truth regardless.
It’s the story of an old man, a young one, and a lot of memories.
A Pledge of one measley dollar grants access to read this while it’s still exclusive to Patreon, rather than 90 days later. I also post a piece of microfiction (or longer, if I feel like it and/or am inspired) before the end of each month as a thankyou for contributing to keeping the S.A. Barton household running, so I can continue to prise precious writing time from the joyously greedy fingers of my 2 year old, 4 year old, 17 year old, wife, and (less joyously) my own worries.
Those of you who read what I write here at Seriously Eclectic — especially those of you who take a moment to comment or hit ‘like’ or say hello on Twitter or elsewhere:
You help, too. Don’t think you don’t. Yes, this particular story is for the Patreon crowd for now — but don’t I give you plenty to read here, too? And pretty cover art to look at? Sure I do.
Looking forward to hearing from you all.
Could the future be so cruel?
I love food, and it shows in my fiction. There aren’t many stories I write that go by without the characters having a meal. I’m working on a story now, and my characters just finished a Kazakh-inspired meal of mutton and rice with dried fruit and garlic. In Kitty Itty And The Seawall Broke, mother and son enjoy a lunch of bread with ham-seasoned foraged beans on a North Carolina coast impovershed by the effects of sea level rise. Sudden homelessness does not deter the hero of Isolation from munching down on some hot crispy cuy in an underground kitchen. Even in super-short Labor Of Love, the alcohol-addicted protagonist takes time out from his quest for drink to scarf down a couple of “Kraut and Cheezies” from a fast-food joint.
It’s not that I always write when I’m hungry — though I can just about always find room for a snack. It’s that food is often forgotten in fiction. Food, after all, is not the main part of the story. It’s not the point. It shouldn’t be center stage, except in the rarest of circumstances, as in Pig where the central situation is that the main character’s food begins talking to her, begging her piteously not to consume it — much to her dismay.
But most of the time, the food is an aside, and it’s a challenge to integrate it into a story and not have it stick out like it doesn’t belong. But, for me, writing is about life, just as eating is about life. In the real world, people socialize around food. They think about food. They worry about whether they have enough money to buy groceries that will last until next paycheck, they worry if the meat department will have the right sized rib roast for Easter dinner, they’re afraid they’ve burnt the toast, they invite colleagues to talk business over tapas, they stop for food on the way to the hospital to visit a sick relative, they ask the kids how the school week went over Saturday morning eggs and bacon.
They’ll do all of these things in the future, too. Oh, some details may change. Maybe the kids will go to school via internet instead of taking the bus. Maybe the meat will be grown in a nutrient solution rather than on the hoof. Maybe the pasta will be made in a printer instead of rolled out in a factory. Interstellar colonists may eat alien fruit, or aliens might come to nosh on us, as so many stories have suggested.
But unless something very radical indeed happens, like the whole world up and loading itself into a virtual reality, we’ll always have the social nexus and sensory joy of eating food. And maybe, if we’re all virtual beings, we’ll still choose to do it anyway, even if it’s unnecessary.
Because food is comforting. Eating is primal and elemental to us. Mealtimes, for time immemorial, have cemented families and friendships. So given how vital it has been and is to human society, I like to carry that vitality into the future as I imagine it.
I WILL EAT YOU. YOU ARE A DELICIOUS TRADITION.
The title pretty much says it all: I take the word “Thanksgiving” at face value, and I give thanks. Some folks might — and do — question how an atheistic sort like myself can give thanks without giving thanks TO something, by which they mean to a deity. Well, I answer, it is entirely possible to feel thankful for something without there being an object to hang the thanks on. I’m thankful for my wife. I’m thankful to have three awesome kids. I’m thankful for what my parents did to help me grow and I’m thankful that when they made mistakes, they were mindful and thoughtful enough to own those mistakes and say ‘whooops’ in a good and productive way. I’m thankful that when I make a parenting mistake, my kids are good enough to listen to my saying ‘whoops’ in what I hope is a good and productive way. And I’m thankful for delicious food, and a warm home, and…and…and…
…you don’t want to listen to all this. It’s a big laundry list, and you have your own laundry list of thankfulness to tend to. Suffice it to say, there is much in my life that is good and positive.
It means something, for me to have this day to focus on thankfulness. Its existence helps me remember to work it into the other 364 days of the year (your mileage may vary on leap years), and many of those days it is not easy to remember. Because I can be pretty darn pessimistic sometimes. Just as there is always something to be thankful for, there is always the potential for something to go wrong, or at least not right. And those things loom large in my vision. It has been like that for as long as I can remember. When I sell a few books, my mind wants to focus on how many more I had hoped to sell, not on being happy that the ones who bought them, bought them. When one of my blog posts gets five likes, my first thought is a grumble that it’s not fifty, rather than being thankful for the five who were good enough to pull the trigger on the positive reinforcement button. When the car is running well, I worry that it could break down tomorrow. When the bills are paid, I worry about next month.
As my maternal grandmother put it once, “we are worry warts.” To one degree or other, worry runs in the family. And yet, it’s not entirely a family thing. I read news and tweet on Twitter and look at what people post in various online forums and I see worry warts all over. Maybe it’s a human thing. Well, I’m all too human, and it often makes me grumpy. It’s important for we grumpy worry warts to take some time to focus on what there is to be thankful for.
And as for the portion of the title pertaining to “weird national fables”: what? They’re weird. They were built in a time when our nation was trying to pretend that genocide of First Nations people wasn’t part of this nation’s history (not that plenty of people — too many — aren’t trying to pretend so even today). Giving thanks is good, a ‘first Thanksgiving’ fable that glosses over the wrongs in our history isn’t so great, to say the least. So, I’m glad to cut those fables loose from my household. On other days, I tell my kids about history, and I tell my kids that people or nations that do not acknowledge their past wrongs are hurting themselves and inviting more wrongs. Honesty with self, human or nation, is vital to doing right today and in the future. Period.
But we don’t talk about that much on Thanksgiving. We’re too busy being thankful for each other.
A short story, about 5000 words.
Young Jacinta Jaara likes to sit by the old landfill mine and listen to the music ancient Neyerneyemeet plays. The music speaks of her of the old days, when the people of Australia were divided, before the war that changed everything. Soon, Jacinta’s curiosity will lead her to an even more profound change, a change of growth, learning, and understanding.
And there’s the blurb. You can preview the first thirty percent and decide if you’d like to shell out a paltry 99 cents for the whole thing on Smashwords — and I hope you’ll look. If you don’t look, how can I persuade you that you want to see the rest of the story? 🙂
A short story, about 3200 words.
Young Becky shares a home with a preoccupied father, a mentally ill mother, and an awful secret… something… that speaks to her from under the basement stairs. To reveal that secret and put it to rest will demand confrontation, and a wisdom that neglected Becky will have to find, somehow, within herself.
Here’s my newest ebook, available at Smashwords in pretty much any format you could want. You can even click “read as HTML” and view it as you would any webpage, the same way you’re viewing this right now.
You can also read a 30% sample and see the first thousand words for free, and figure out if you’re willing to fork over a paltry 99 cents to see how it ends. As I’ll see nearly 60 cents of that (CHA-CHING! No more starving artist if that happens a few hundred thousand times!), I obviously must recommend that you do.
But seriously, I think you’ll like it. Of course, as the guy who writes all these stories, I ALWAYS think you’ll like it.
Check out the preview and decide for yourself. And thanks for reading this, at the very least!
A little earlier, I wrote about pessimism in science fiction. Seemed like a nice idea to follow that up with an optimistic little story doodle.
(Untitled 100 word short-short)
The children gasp happily at the view as the shuttle door opens. They set up the picnic on matted needles under a gnarled pine by the beach. I snap pictures of the shoreline and rocks, hoping to compare them to the old paper snapshots my great-great-great grandfather took nearby.
In his snaps, there is a city here, half drowned in a rising sea. Today the sea has retreated again, and the cities are inland, underground; forest and grass and wild animals reclaim a world made mostly of natural beauty.
The dirty work is all in space; Earth is beautiful again.
Let me take a moment to tell you what this innocent-looking little child just did.
To set the stage: we’ve got 3 kids, my wife and I. A teen, an infant, and the 2-year-and-2-month-old pictured above, Victor. My wife is a big believer in the power of breastfeeding (I’m a fan as well). The infant, as infants do, breastfeeds pretty darn often. Mr. 2yr+2mo eats plenty of food, but generally gets in on the breastfeeding after we wake up, midday, and when we go to bed. Kind of a bedtime snack. Sometimes he watches his baby brother nursing and wants to get in on the fun, but to make sure he doesn’t ruin his appetite for solid food, he has his schedule. 3 times daily max, though if he wants less, that’s fine… have to make sure he’s got the opportunity to self-wean when he’s ready.
Tonight, his little brother was nursing. Victor decided to test the waters and see if mom would let him get his bedtime milk early.
“Mom mom mom mom,” he chattered, as he climbed up to horn in on little brother’s milktime.
“Not until we go night-night,” mom said.
“It’s night! It’s night!” Victor replied.
2 years old and he’s trying to cut his teeth on logical arguments.
Ohboy. The next couple of decades are going to be VERY interesting.
- Breastfeeding Beyond a Year, Two in fact! (lifeloveandlivingwithboys.wordpress.com)
- Breastfeeding A Toddler Made Me Proud (thegoodmotherproject.com)
- Common Breastfeeding Misconceptions – and Why They’re Wrong! (mamaearthy.wordpress.com)
Here’s my little blogging delay, 9 lbs and 1 oz of brand new baby boy named Cuinn. He was born late on the night of the 17th and we’ve been busy ever since adjusting to his new presence. We’re not the only ones adjusting. His two big brothers, 15 and 2, are adjusting as well.
On the writing front, I’ve managed a few hundred words on a promising little short story about aliens, death, love, duty, and flowers—working title, “The Flowers of Dawn”. I know that’s a sadistically tiny teaser for anything, but I’m not sure where it’s going yet and most of my attention is on, you know, domestic stuff. I’m also not saying more about that story because as those of you who write probably know, sometimes a promising story stalls and goes into the trunk or gets cannibalized into other stories, taken apart into ideas and recycled.
But that’s enough about writing. I just wanted to do the thing all the cool new parents are doing and tell you how awesome I think our new baby is.
He’s awesome. And he still has that new baby smell.
Aren’t you jealous?