Author: markwaters01

Port Summerville- The Fishing Charter

This is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Port Summerville. The main character is telling the story of this lost and frustrated man, Dave. Dave has had a difficult life and a job he hates, his only thirst to live was the annual family vacation to Port Summerville.

Port Summerville- The Fishing Charter

Dave fell into one of the biggest tourist traps on the coast — a deep sea fishing charter. A charter wasn’t part of the budget, but being the adventurer he was, or thought he was, spent another two-hundred bucks on a journey no one wanted to do in the first place.

“Come on kids, this will be great! You too, honey.”

Dave and his family, along with sixty others, ventured out toward the deep. The boat was a sixty-foot tourist fishing boat, and the itinerary included a forty-mile trip into the Gulf of Mexico. The fresh air and tranquil waters on the open sea began to restore his soul, but soon discovered that he, the family, and all the passengers left their “sea legs” at the dock. The trick to avoid seasickness was to stay fixed on the horizon, but when the boat is going up and down and swaying side to side, the horizon gets lost. An hour into the cruise, the once subtle splashes of seawater and a soft breeze, turned into tidal waves and wind gusts reaching fifty knots, then came the mayday calls through the ship’s radio from other distressed boats nearby.

Everyone got seasick. At first, just a bit queasy, but afterward, Dave and a few of the others began to throw up. They tried to be as discrete as they could, with an occasional “please excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” then moments later, the rest joined in, and barfed all over the place. All shyness and discretion had been set aside. After about thirty minutes of this continuous torture, there was a brief pause, and most of the puking ended. Huffing and puffing, someone asked, “Is this over with?” The short answer —  no, then it started all over again. God only knows what, but now Dave noticed stuff unidentifiable coming out of every orifice of his body; his pores even oozed something foul.

Dave lost control of most of his bodily functions and panicked, but the worst was still ahead. He hurried as quickly as possible to get to the restroom, but when he got there, it was locked. Horror replaced panic, then banged on the locked door with clenched fists, begging someone to let him in. With his head against the door, and with the speed of a rapid-fire machine gun, the banging continued. The pounding ended long enough to scream at the top of his lungs, “For the love of all that is good, let me in!” With no time to spare, the door opened, and he ran to the only toilet available. His pants were halfway down when he reached his destination, sat on the stool and let out a loud, “Oh my God!” Then came the explosion. The smell was nauseating, and the noise deafening. Dave was the sickest he’d been his whole entire life, and when he returned to the deck, pleaded with the captain to take him back. His body shook, and sweat covered him from head to toe, at least he hoped it was just sweat.

He found a clean, wet cloth, wiped his face and covered his head with it, then offered deals with the angel of death to come down and free him. He gathered all the strength he could muster and yelled at the crew. “If you don’t turn this boat around, I’ll jump ship and swim home! I swear to God I will!” Forget about the family — it was every man for himself. Dave thought about wielding a knife in a crazed fit to show his seriousness, but instead, pleaded with God to end this damnation — out loud. He took a moment, dropped to his knees and clasped his hands in prayer. “Dearest God on the highest, I swear on my life, and the life of my children, I promise to be good and not cash in little Joey’s college fund. Please help me, sweet Lord!” Another dry heave, then, “Amen.”

The ship’s crew laughed at this carnage, but not for long. Men cried, and mothers held on to their children. A handful of the others had either collapsed or fainted. Both restrooms on board backed up and overfilled from so much use, then in a thunderous roar, it sprayed their vile contents onto the deck like an oil gusher, mixing with the spew and whatever else that leaked or oozed out of their bodies. To the crew, it had been all laughs, but with the added ingredient, they got sick too. When everyone thought it couldn’t get any worse, an announcement came over the ship’s loudspeaker. “Does anyone on board know how to drive a boat?”

Poor Dave had thrown up everything he possibly could, and swore he saw chunks of human tissue in his puke. The whole scene was a total catastrophe. Vomit was everywhere, and the deck had gotten slicker than axel grease. Those that could stand or walk, slipped and fell on the deck with loud thuds. The crew couldn’t keep enough water hoses going to clean up the mess. Fellow travelers hung their heads off the side of the boat moaning and groaning. They held fast to the rails and whatever strength they had, chanted similar prayers as Dave’s, then one of the fathers offered to sacrifice his first-born son to end this horror at sea. Dave was sitting down and covered his head with his hands. He was sick, disgusted, embarrassed and broke, then said to himself, “So, this is how my pathetic life ends.”

The crew set up a makeshift chapel inside the cabin, but the preacher that volunteered to lead the service jumped ship. An atheist suddenly turned traveling evangelist, got motivated to convert only seconds earlier, and stepped in as his replacement to become our spiritual leader. With outstretched arms, reached toward the heavens, he prayed, “Sweet Jesus, save us from this wrath of Satan! Amen and Amen.” After he finished, there was a loud clap of thunder, then looked toward the sky. “Wow, this really works.” We were out in the middle of nowhere with nothing left to throw up or crap out, and the only thing Dave had was his pride, and when he thought the worst was over, his eyes started to bleed.

The wind died down, and the sea calmed, then people began to regain consciousness. As they prepared for the ride back to port, Dave seriously contemplated the need for a blood transfusion. After eight hours of this madness, they returned to the ship’s dock, and Dave was the first one off the boat. When he got to shore, fell on his knees, kissed the ground, and thanked God he still had part of a lung.

 

The Parade

Port Summerville was as white as rice; meaning, hardly any folks of color lived there. Sure, we had our fair number of Mexicans and Vietnamese, but if you were a colored fellow in town, it was assumed you must of either been lost or passing through.

It was a strange year. Disco was coming alive, Nixon ended the Vietnam war, then we ended him. Blazing Saddles was a box office hit, and our youngest son was born. It was also the year that my dearest friend graduated. Jody was a few years younger than me, and was like a little brother. We met when Darlene and I played bridge with his parents. We caught up with him a few years later, and reminisced about his high school days. We attended his graduation, and after he received his diploma, told me that high school was the best six years of his life. Currently, he is serving his fifth term as a U.S. Senator.

I’m wasn’t particularly proud of this, but we had a local KKK chapter — sort of. It began when the founding club members, all of them friends or acquaintances, decided they wanted to start a club, which was more of an excuse to drink than socialize. Leslie was the first to bring up the KKK because he had a great-uncle who used to be a member.

As a kid, Leslie filtered out what he wanted to, and kept the memories of what he remembered was the fun stuff. I don’t think any of the organizers really understood who or what the KKK was or what they represented. What the group did know —  they didn’t want to be Rotarians, and the Masons didn’t allow blacks or Jews. He said when he was about eight- years-old, his uncle Chuck told the youngins’ stories about his club. Leslie told the other founders what he recalled. The other members surrounded him like kids at a campfire. With clear and focused eyes fixed on Leslie, he told them of his memories. Those fellows weren’t Rhodes Scholars, but a far cry from being complete fools, but on the other hand…

Leslie paced around with his arms wrapped around his chest, then he stopped and said, “I’ve been thinking and studying on this for a while. We need a club instead of hanging around every Friday night, not to mention the women folk are fed up too. We need a cause, and I think this is the one.” As eager as beavers, everyone sat on metal folding chairs in a semi-circle, and zeroed in on every word Leslie spoke.

Hector, a Mexican national, stood up, and in his broken English, he asked Leslie, “What gives?”

Leslie continued to pace around, then stopped in place. “Well, boys, its’ called the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK for short, and call themselves a fraternal order, sounds sort of like a college deal, and we’d be like frat brothers.” Someone asked what a frat brother was. Leslie narrowly edged out the others as far as intelligence went; he made it to the tenth grade. So, with his over achievement, he used it to his advantage and improvised. “Those college boys use a lot of foreign words, I think frat is Latin for ‘frattis,’ meaning to drink and enjoy.” Most of these guys where shrimpers and deck hands on oyster boats, and I none of them had ever been to college, I doubted any of them could spell KKK, but that didn’t keep them from continuing the conversation.

Travis jumped out of his seat and said, “I like the sound of that!”

Hector said, “But don’t those frat boys grow up to be assholes? Tyler Smithfield went to college, and he was in a frat club, it was something like, I Felta Delta. A few of us know him, and he sure turned out to be an asshole.”

“I think Tyler went to one of those snooty colleges,” —  then Leslie tried his best Bostonian accent — “up in Baaston. We’ll worry about that later; I don’t think any of us can afford to be a snob.” Everyone laughed out loud, then Leslie told them how he thought the club worked and what they did. “These fellows get together all the time and hold meetings and such. My uncle invited my brothers and me to one of their family events. They share picnics with their families, march in parades, and you ready for this, Travis?”

Travis, the only black member about fell out of his chair, and asked “What is it, Leslie?”

Leslie threw both arms in the air with excitement. “They make home visits to black folks!”

“So, Leslie, what you’re telling us, if you can’t come to the meeting, they’ll take the meeting to you?”

“Travis, it’s a whole lot bigger than that. I think more like a community outreach program. Guess what else? They call themselves ‘knights’”

Travis lowered and shook his head, almost in tears. “Just knights? More like knights in shining armor.”

Tuye, a Vietnamese refugee added, “What a bunch of neat guys, pardon me, Leslie, — I mean gentlemen.”

Adolf, the only Jew, said, “More like men among men. These are my kind of guys.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, then Tuye told Leslie he was worried they weren’t good enough. He told them they’ll just need to wait and see, then assured the others they’d be fair, because that’s just the way they are. Leslie continued in a concerned tone. “And guys, we need to watch our language, they’re pretty religious and big into crosses.”

Travis commented, “They’re not only knights but saints too? This is too good to be true!”

Hector said, “Man-oh-man, Leslie. Travis is right. They sound like a bunch of nice fellows. I’m in.”

Tuye said he read somewhere they started a lot of their meetings with a bonfire. “Probably like a campfire to roast marshmallows and weenies for the kids.”

Leslie told them they also had a mascot. Not a lion or a bear either, but a dragon and not just any old dragon, — it was a grand dragon.

As giddy as school girls on prom night, they talked and giggled among themselves, then discussed the plans if they joined. Those fellows had no clue what they were getting mixed up with. Travis departed from the others and wandered to the other side of the room. After a few minutes of solitude, he returned and had a confession. He was worried about something, and the others asked him what the problem was. Travis clutched his hands together, and beads of sweat poured from his darkened brow. “I’ll just announce it to the world and be done with it. I don’t think the KKK will let me in.”

Hector asked Travis why? “I dropped out of high school. There, I said it.”

Leslie assured him they wouldn’t single him out because of that, because the KKK was bigger than that. With continued assurance from Leslie, he added, “I doubt any of this motley crew graduated Summa Cumma Lumma.” Again, everyone got a big laugh, and whatever concerns Travis had, were soon forgotten.

“If they let us join, we should invite them to Port Summerville. I’ll get Pearl to whip up a delicious meal.” Travis paused for a moment — “God I hope they let us in.” Leslie told the group more and more stories of his youth and all he could remember his uncle had told them. He recalled one evening his uncle had to leave and go to a blanket party.

Stanley, the only gay member, said, “Like a slumber party?”

“Not really, Stanley —  more of a get together for other members who are having problems.”

Leslie said he heard it too. I’ve met most of these fellows, but they didn’t have the brains God gave a gnat. A blanket party is a form of corporal punishment usually used in the military on other members for misdeeds or rule violations; the KKK used it too.

“But boys, this is the best part, you guys ready?”

Tuye said, “Come on Leslie. What is it? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

Leslie continued to taunt them, then asked again, “You really ready?”

“Yes, Leslie, tell us!” Leslie stood up, paused for a moment, threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “They have costume parties all the time! Now Fellows, this is the one downside. They’re not creative as far as their attire goes. They always wear the same getup. It’s like a ghost outfit with a cone-looking hat. But who cares? They dress up for Halloween all year long.”

“I’ve heard enough! Let’s contact the national organization to see if they’ll approve us.”

“Good idea, Hector. I’ll get Wilma to write a letter right away. Boys, we’re on our way to getting some respect in this town.” Wilma, Leslie’s wife, filled out the paperwork, including a handwritten letter and provided the list of founding members as required. About a month later, the three got together to open a letter from national. The group met at Travis’s house and took a seat at his kitchen table.

“Well, fellows, this is it.” Leslie opened the letter. It was written on formal letterhead. The letter was from the Imperial Klan’s of America. Their exuberance was deafened as Leslie read out loud.

Dear Sirs;

We regret to inform you that your membership has been denied. The founding organizers of your proposed chapter appear to be of questionable national origin. Because of our decision, you must discontinue using the initials KKK, its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.

Yours truly,

Gordon Smith, attorney-at-law

All in attendance sat in shock, and not a word was spoken; Travis was spotted shedding a tear. The others shook their heads in disbelief. Hector was the first to break the silence. “Well guys, that’s that.”

“What a bunch of snobs.” Adolf said as he banged his head on the table.

Hector added, “We don’t need them anyway. We’ll continue on like we never heard of the stupid KKK.”

The sadness was so overwhelming, and Travis left the room telling the others he needed to be by himself, Adolf tagged along. Travis told Adolf, that Leslie was probably to blame for the denial because he had a girl name. Adolf knew how upset Travis was, put his arm around him and promised him they will build an even bigger and better club. “We need to get back to the others. Stanley has been bawling for over an hour. I think the others are about to lynch him.” Adolf agreed, then the two went back to be with the others and worked on plan B.

Suicide by Death

Suicide by Death by Mark Anthony Waters

“I suppose you heard about Troy.”

The conversation went silent for a moment.

“Yes, I did. Why didn’t you go to the funeral?”

“Just couldn’t. It was me who found the body.”

Clair said nothing and stayed with him. She could hear in his voice he was getting a little shaky.

“I went to his house to pick him up as usual. He was going to get his ninety-day chip for staying clean. Clair, it was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. When I saw him, I couldn’t breathe. He didn’t fool around either. I don’t know what kind of bullet he used, but it blew half of his head off! It took two days to clean up his bedroom. The coroner said he’d been dead somewhere between twenty-four and thirty-six hours.”

With the phone in one hand, he rested his cheek on the other and sobbed. “I still can’t get the smell out of my mind.”

“That’s terrible, Hunter. I never knew it was you who found him.”

Clair heard the rustling of tissue paper and his sniffles. “The family wanted me to help with the arrangements and the funeral director suggested a closed casket service was in order because there was too much damage to make Troy presentable.”

Clair could hear in Hunter’s voice the pain and sorrow he was experiencing. “He was one of my best friends.”

His sobbing continued. “I wish he would have said something. I could have helped him.”

“Hunter, sweetie, there was nothing you could do.”

“You’re right.”

His sadness turned to a hint of anger. “But don’t they realize what they do to us?”

Clair replied, “It’s more complicated than that.”

He talked for several more minutes, and she continued to listen. For once in her lifetime, got a firsthand account of the aftermath that goes along with a suicide the victim will never see or hear.

Hunter was gasping for words. “I liked him a lot.”

“Me too. You okay?”

Still sniffling, but more calm, replied, “No, I’m not.”

“Time will heal.”

“Does it?”

Clair stayed on the phone with Hunter, giving him much needed comfort. He regained control of himself long enough to finish their talk.

Road and Bridge Tax

The United States had just celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of our nations birth. Port Summerville had a big firework show, boat parade and barbecue. It was getting toward the end of the festivities and ran into the county clerk; Miss Odem as I was about to leave.

“John, I haven’t seen you in a while. Have you paid your road and bridge taxes this year?”

One of my biggest government pet peeves was the annual ritual of renewing and registration of automobile license tags. I went through the same routine every year, and gave my speech to the newest girl working there. The others stepped aside because they’d been through this before, —a rite of passage for the new girl. Every year, and without exception, it went like this.

“Hello, Sir, how may I help you?”

“I’m here to pay my road and bridge tax.”

The others that knew me started to snicker; they’d been through this before. They just stood and watched.

“I don’t understand, I’ve never heard of a road and bridge tax.”

I was about to get on a roll, and this poor young girl was the next victim.

“Let me ask you a question, —” as I glanced at her name tag, — “Rita, do you have a birth certificate?”

“Yes, I do.”

“OK, having established that, does the state know when I buy a vehicle?”

“Yes, they do, the vehicle is registered at the time of purchase, then titled.”

“Exactly, so conversely does the state have evidence when I sell a vehicle?”

“Yes, it is a transfer of title. I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”

“St. John, John, it’s right here—,” then showed her, — “on this registration form. Now Rita, you said you had a birth certificate, and when you die, you get, —not you per se, —but someone gets a death certificate. Correct?”

“Yes, that is right.”

“You see Rita, while you are alive, from birth until death, the state issues two pieces of paper to prove you exist, or in the case of death, used to exist, and that’s that. Born, you get a piece of paper, and when you die… another piece of paper. What you do in the middle I suppose is your business.”

“Mr. St. John, there are others in line, can we please move along?”

“Rita, they can wait a couple of minutes. This valuable information might help you in your new career.”

About half of the people in line were friends, and a couple of them witnessed this annual rant and waited patiently, then I continued the education of Rita.

“Where were we?”

Irritated, she said, “You’re born then you’re dead.”

“Oh yeah, now let me continue to explain. Your birth certificate is like a new vehicle registration, and the death certificate, well, more like a vehicle transfer in a weird sort of way, and yes, another fee to the state. The death certificate, or in this case, the vehicle transfer analogy, should help explain my rationale.”

At this point, Miss Odem and the rest of the staff were about to pass out as I continued.

“You see Rita, the state issues all kinds of pieces of paper while you are alive, like a driver’s license, marriage certificate, and if that doesn’t work out… divorce papers. But like I said, only two pieces of paper have a shared commonality. One says ‘welcome’ and the other says ‘goodbye.’”

“Yes, Mr. St. John, but what does all this have to do with your vehicle registration?”

“My point exactly. Do you need to remind and pay a fee to the state every year, proof you exist by registering for a new birth certificate? Or for that matter, does someone that survives you, not necessarily you, but someone else after their demise need to pay another reminder fee that they are, well you know, —passed on?”

“No, I don’t think they do.”

“Then why should I re-register a vehicle year after year for an automobile the state knows full well I already own? They should call it like it is, a road and bridge tax.”

“I see your point. Would you like a receipt for your road and bridge tax?”

“No thank you, Rita, a receipt is a complete waste of paper and taxpayer money.”

“Is our business finished?”

“I believe it is. Thank you, Rita. See you next year.”

“I’ll be counting the days. Goodbye, Mr. St. John.”

The others almost fell to the floor laughing. I always felt a little bad when I put someone through this, but this message needed to be passed along to others. Can’t wait until next year.

 

 

 

The Parade

Chapter 17: The Parade and the KKK (Circa 1972)

Port Summerville is as white as rice; meaning, hardly any folks of color live here. Sure, we have a fair number of Mexicans and Vietnamese, but if you are a colored fellow in town, as a rule, you’re either lost or only passing through.

I’m not particularly proud of this, but we’ve got a local KKK chapter…. sort of. All of this began when the founding club members, who were all friends or acquaintances, decided they wanted to start a club, which was more of an excuse to drink. Leslie was the first to bring up the KKK because he had a great-uncle who used to be a member.

As a kid, Leslie filtered out what he wanted to, and kept the memories of what he remembered was the fun stuff. I don’t think any of the organizers were clear about who or what the KKK was or what they represented. What the group did know, they didn’t want to be Rotarian’s, and the Masons didn’t allow blacks or Jews. He said when he was about eight- years-old, his uncle Chuck told the youngins’ stories about his club. Leslie began to tell the other founders what he remembered. The other members surrounded him like kids at a campfire. They were focused, and every eye was fixed on Leslie as he began his recollections. These fellows are not complete fools, but they’re not Rhodes Scholars either!

“I’ve been thinking and studying on this for a while. We need a club instead of hanging around every Friday night, not to mention the women folk are fed up, too. We need a cause, and I think this is the one.”

The others zeroed in on every word Leslie spoke.

In his broken English, Hector asked Leslie, “What gives?”

Leslie told them that they call themselves a fraternal order, sort of a college deal, and they’d be like frat brothers.

Someone said, “I like the sound of that!”

None of these fools had ever been to college, but I doubt any of them can spell college or for that matter, spell KKK! But that didn’t keep them from continuing the conversation, and Leslie told the others how he thought the club worked and what they did.

“These fellows get together all the time and hold meetings and such. My uncle invited my brothers and me to one of their family events. They share picnics with their families, march in parades, and you ready for this, Travis?”

“What is it, Leslie?”

“They make home visits to black folks!”

Travis, (who happens to be black), says, “So what you’re saying, if you can’t make the meeting, they’ll take the meeting to you!”

Leslie adds, “Travis, it’s a whole lot bigger than that. I think more like a community outreach program. Guess what else? They call themselves ‘knights’!”

“Just knights? More like knights in shining armor?”

Travis lowers and shakes his head, almost in tears.

“What a bunch of neat guys! Pardon me, Leslie… I mean gentlemen.”

Adolf, the only Jew, says, “More like men among men! These are my kind of guys!”

Tuye, a Vietnamese, tells Leslie he’s worried they’re not good enough. Leslie tells them they’ll have to wait and see. He assures them that they would be fair because that’s just the way they are.

Leslie continues in a sort of concerned tone, “And guys, we need to watch our language, they’re pretty religious and big into crosses.”

Travis commented, “They’re not only knights but saints too!”

Hector, a Mexican national, says, “man-oh-man, Leslie. Travis is right! They sound like a bunch of nice fellows! I’m in!”

Tuye said he read somewhere they start a lot of their meetings with a bonfire! Probably like a campfire to roast marshmallows and weenies for the kids! Leslie tells them they also have a mascot. Not a lion or a bear either, but a dragon and not just any old dragon—it’s a grand dragon!

Talking among themselves, they were as giddy as school girls on prom night. They discussed the plans they would do if they could join. These fellows had no clue what they were getting themselves mixed up with. Travis departs from the others and wanders across the room. After a few minutes of solitude, he returns and has an admission. He was a little worried about something, and the others asked him what the problem was.

“I’ll just say it and be done with it. I don’t think the KKK will let me in.”

Hector asks Travis why?

“I dropped out of high school. There, I said it.”

Leslie tells him they weren’t going to single him out because he didn’t finish school because they’re bigger than that.

“I doubt any of this motley crew graduated Summa Cumma Lumma!”

Everyone got a big laugh. Whatever concerns Travis admitted to, were soon forgotten.

“If they let us join, we should invite them to Port Summerville! I’ll get Pearl to whip up a delicious meal!”

He pauses for a moment— “God I hope they let us in!”

Leslie tells the group more and more stories of his youth and all he could remember his uncle had said. He recalled one evening his uncle had to leave and go to a blanket party.

Stanley, the only gay member, says, “Like a slumber party?”

“Not really, Stanley— more of a get together for other members who are having problems.”

Leslie said that he heard it too. I’m sorry to say, and I’ve met most of these fellows, but they don’t have the brains God gave a gnat! A blanket party is a form of corporal punishment usually used in the military on other members for misdeeds or rule violations.

Then Leslie says, “But boys, this is the best part…. you guys ready?”

Tuye says, “Come on Leslie! What is it? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

“You really ready?”

“Yes, Leslie, tell us!”

Leslie stands up, pauses for a moment, throws his hands up in the air and exclaims, “They have costume parties all the time! Now Fellows, this is the one downside. They’re not creative as far as their attire goes. They always wear the same getup. It’s like a ghost outfit with a cone-looking hat. But who cares? They dress up for Halloween all year long!”

“I’ve heard enough! Let’s contact the national organization to see if they’ll approve us!”

“Good idea, Hector. I’ll get Wilma to write a letter right away! Boys—we’re on our way to getting some respect in this town!”

Wilma, Leslie’s wife, filled out the paperwork, including a handwritten letter and provided the list of founding members as required.

About a month later, the three got together to open a letter from national. The group met at Travis’s house and took a seat at his kitchen table.

“Well, fellows, this is it.”

Leslie opens the letter. It was written on formal letterhead. The letter was from the Imperial Klan’s of America. Their exuberance was deafened as Leslie began to read out loud.

Dear Sirs;

We regret to inform you that your membership has been denied. The founding organizers of your proposed chapter appear to be of questionable national origin. Because of our decision, you must discontinue using the initials KKK, its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.

Yours truly,

Jordon Smith, attorney-at-law

All in attendance were in shock. Not a word was spoken, I think Travis was spotted shedding a tear. The others shook their heads in disbelief. Hector was the first to break the silence.

“Well guys, that’s that.”

Then Adolf says, “What a bunch of snobs!”

Hector adds, “We don’t need them anyway. We’ll continue on like we never heard of the stupid KKK!”

Travis left the room telling the others he needed to be by himself, Adolf tagged along. Travis was overheard saying to Adolf, that Leslie was probably to blame for the denial because he had a girl name. Adolf, knowing how upset Travis is, puts his arm around him and assures him they will build an even bigger and better club.

Travis says to Adolf, “We need to get back to the others. Stanley has been bawling for over an hour. I think the others are about to lynch him!”

The two went back to be with the others and began to work on plan B.

Chapter 18:

Despite their rejection, the club roster began to grow, and membership began to expand. The club included four more white guys, one more Mexican, and another Vietnamese refugee. Buster, a friend of Stanley’s, and who happens to be Canadian, wanted to be a member too. Leslie informed him that foreigners were not allowed. Tuye, the Vietnamese, took exception.

“Leslie, where in the hell do you think Hector and me are from—Maine?”

A little embarrassed, Leslie says, “Oh yeah,” and agrees with the consensus of the other members.

Buster’s membership is voted on and approved. Leslie performs a brief swearing-in ceremony. Buster is assigned to the finance committee. He has the duty of overseeing fifteen dollars and twenty-seven cents in the treasury, secured in the club safe, which is a coffee can. Stanley, a known fruit, congratulates Buster and gives him a hug and a kiss.

Adolf was overheard saying to Leslie, “That’s all we need, a Canadian fruit!”

And last, but not least, to round off the club roster, is old man Steinberg’s oldest son, Adolf already mentioned. I asked Mr. Steinberg one time why he named his son after such a madman?

“John, you ever read about Charles Manson?”

“Why, yes Ben, I have. Wasn’t he the one who had all those people hacked up including a lady movie star?”

He replies, slightly irritated, “Yes John, that one. Now should everyone who named his kid Charles take it back because someone with the same name happens to be a crazed psychopath?”

“I guess not, Ben.”

“Besides, John, I named him after Adolf Hurwitz, the famous Jewish mathematician not that lunatic Hitler!”

“Sorry Ben, I didn’t mean to offend.”

“None taken, John. Would you care for a bagel with schmear?”

“No thanks, Ben, I just ate, thank you, though.”

I didn’t have a clue what a schmear was, and I wasn’t going to take any chances either. You can’t trust a man who won’t eat bacon.

Back to the club. The first order of business was that the club needed to figure out a new club name. Several suggestions were discussed, but none appealed to them. I’m confident they will come up with a suitable name sooner or later. But they’ve got a new motto, if you can afford beer, you can join, and they’re serious.

I don’t think anyone in town takes them in earnest. They’re harmless, for the most part, and the meeting is a gathering every Friday night down at the Vietnamese church. They always start the meeting with a prayer and a shot of whiskey.

After the prayer, usually led by Leslie, the clubs self-proclaimed leader always ends the prayer, “We ask all of this in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Adolf being the only Jewish member of the club always loudly objects to the Jesus Christ part. Leslie loosely apologizes and includes a hint of sarcasm along with a touch of reverence.

“Sorry Adolf, I keep forgetting you Jews are still waiting around for your Jesus.”

“Our Messiah, Leslie. The Messiah.”

Leslie rolls his eyes. Messiah, my ass, he thinks to himself.

Then he says to Adolf, “You need to face the facts, Adolf and get down on your hands and knees and accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior!”

After the prayer and debate, they begin the ritualistic drinking and playing, and I use the term loosely…music—all night long! When I say all night long, I mean all night long!

The band knows two songs, and the more they drink, the drunker they get, and the more intoxicated they get, the music becomes deafening! Adolf plays lead tambourine and the bongos, Stanley plays the piccolo. No one thought a piccolo would work, but to keep him happy, they let him join in. Everyone else plays guitar.

While the others are passed out, and when you think the music is over, whoever oversees the bass guitar decides to perform a solo that usually lasts about an hour! After the others regain consciousness, they start the whole thing again—from the top. Now that’s entertainment!

The town leaders are quite proud of the minority statistics. As a matter of fact, even fewer Jews live in Port Summerville than any other group. They keep to themselves and stay out of sight…by choice.

The tourist bureau considers them a novelty, and in their words, “an important contribution to the tourism industry in Port Summerville.” They’re more like a circus sideshow. They own a few of the gift shops, and one has the only jewelry store.

The closest thing to a synagogue in Port Summerville is Ben Steinberg’s back porch. Every week on the Sabbath, a few of the town Jew’s gather, tell stories and pray. They eat a kosher barbecue dinner, get smashed, shout out a couple of Shaloms’, and that’s the worship scene of our Jew community.

I’m proud to be part Jew, not much, but enough to get my feathers ruffled when I’m told a Jew jokes. On the other side, not enough to go to Ben’s synagogue. Besides, I’m a Presbyterian, I think.

To keep up with the times and be more progressive, Port Summerville extended the hand of friendship to both the gay and black communities. For whatever reason that no one can explain, not even the Chamber of Commerce, but Port Summerville is a “fruit basket magnet,” and they usually show up in pairs.

The black population, though quite small, continues to expand in numbers. They come here to find work at the shipyard or laborers in the surrounding cities and suburbs, or as I mentioned they were either lost or just passing through.

Darlene serves on the parade organizing committee. They’re not an official city government committee, just a group of busybodies that have nothing better to do. Their tasks are limited to the organizing of the seasonal parades every year, such as the Christmas parade, the Shrimp Festival parade, and a handful of others.

The parade organizing committee meet once a quarter by the same crowd of attendees and the same agenda. Every year the organizers get their parades rubber-stamped by the committee, afterward passed on for final approval from the permits department at City Hall.

Blacks were organizing events all over the country, mostly Juneteenth celebrations and equal rights marches. So, a few self-appointed black leaders thought Port Summerville needed a parade, too.

The gay community got wind of this and wanted a parade as well. I had my version of what a gay parade might look like, but taking Darlene’s advice, kept my mouth shut.

Perhaps a coincidence, but when the committee got together for their quarterly meeting, the other two groups showed up at the same time with their appointed representatives; Travis and Stanley.

Now things start to get complicated. Travis, who happens to be a black guy and a founding member of the club, had his loyalties challenged by other black leaders. Stanley, who is also a founding member, but in spite of his club affiliation with Travis, felt he needed to represent the gay community.

Though still club brothers, both decided to realign their loyalties temporarily for the sake of their respective constituency.

The two leaders made their pitch to the committee and were aware of the limited resources Port Summerville had for parades. Since the two were virtual outcasts, they decided to come together and share their limited funds for a parade, but they still needed approval from the committee.

Both groups had done their research and came prepared to make their case. They needed enough money for a permit and a banner, then volunteers would do the rest. Since both groups shared similar images in their logo, the design for a banner was a no-brainer! All they needed was a parade name. I told you it was complicated, but now things have gotten ridiculous.

Adolf Steinberg bursts into the meeting and says his group, the club, wanted a parade too! The problem was, his group had no money, except whatever was in the safe. He insisted meeting the other two and see if they could work together making this the country’s first—a pseudo-KKK group—blacks and gays coming together for a single parade event. Darlene, who is chairman of the committee, throws her hands up in the air. She asked Adolf if he was aware what the KKK was and what it stood for.

“Leslie’s uncle said they were a fraternal order. We figured it was sort of a college deal— like a fraternity.”

Darlene adds, “Have you boys been living under a rock all your life?”

Innocently Travis, defending Adolf says, “What gives, Darlene? What are you trying to say?”

“Travis, you of all people should know.”

“Know what, Darlene?”

Travis begins to get his feathers ruffled and as he puts it, about to go all Negro on Darlene.

“You must think I’m just some dumb ole’ colored boy, don’t you Miss Darlene?”

Not amused, she says, “Travis, how long have we been friends?”

Travis, slightly taken aback says, “A few years, I suppose.”

In a scolding tone, she says, “Travis, I want you to take this in the spirit in which it is intended… shut up!”

“Yes ma’am, I mean Darlene.”

Darlene continues, “All I was trying to say is that the KKK and all that it represents.”

She pauses for a moment, then concedes.

“Never mind Travis. I must be thinking of something else.”

Travis explains to the committee they had been denied membership but decided they would continue to follow, and I quote: “The KKK’s guiding principles.”

Darlene whispers to another committee member.

“How can a group of adult men be so naïve?”

The other member whispers, “Or stupid! I don’t think this bunch is aware we’ve been to the moon!”

Then she exclaims silently, “Hell, Adolf thinks it’s a planet!”

Darlene quietly responds, “Or that a microwave isn’t just a coffee warmer!”

The other replies, “Or what one is!”

Both snicker.

Darlene calls for a recess so the committee members can meet for a brief conference about the matter. Adolf, Stanley, and Travis head out to the hall and sit on a nearby bench. Travis starts the conversation.

“Stanley, I’ve been doing some checking. I didn’t want to say anything in the meeting, but I think Darlene may be on to something about the KKK.”

“What’s wrong Travis?”

In a serious tone, Travis says, “I think maybe it’s because of you that we were denied membership in the KKK.”

A bit irritated, Stanley counters.

“Is it because I’m white?”

Adolf and Travis look at each other in amazement.

“No, Stanley, not because you are white.”

Now concerned, Stanley says, “Oh my God—it’s because I’m a Unitarian! They’re afraid that my religious beliefs will influence them!”

“No Stanley, that isn’t it.”

With a pause, Stanley says, “Then, what is it, sweetie?”

Travis doesn’t want to tell him the real reason. To end the conversation and not hurt Stanley’s feelings, he says, “You need to be at least twenty-four to join. You’re too young.”

That was satisfactory enough for Stanley. The meeting got back under way, and the three were invited back inside. Darlene tells them if they can work out the details, she and the committee would send the paperwork along for approval. Travis lets Darlene know that he and the others won’t let them down.

Darlene’s final comment was, “I don’t know how you could. Good luck.”

I told you Port Summerville was weird.

As they say, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” Necessity indeed applied here.

The committee had other business to attend to and asked Travis, Stanley, and Adolf to discuss their plans for the parade in a room across the hall. During the meeting, Travis, the representative for the black delegation, tells Adolf they’ve got a lot to cover. Although Travis was still loyal to the club, he knew they needed to tone down anything that looked or smelled like the KKK.

Then, Travis says, “I’m not sure why, but the committee apparently has a problem with it, so try to come up with something else.”

Adolf replies, “We’ll think of something Travis, you have my word.”

Adolf is still reeling because of the denial from national and says condescendingly, “We can’t use those letters anyways. Ya’ll remember?”

Then doing air-quotes, he says, “And its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.”

It is much too early in their meeting for emotions to flare, but they do. Stanley, who represents the gay community, is almost in tears and silently yelling, says, “And for God’s sake, no hoods or those pajama things either! Their outfits are tacky!”

Adolf, a little put off says, “Their outfits? What happened to ‘our’ outfits, Stanley? And when did you get so hoity-toity? Besides, they’re costumes, and you know it! What gives Stanley, you’re a member too!”

“Not anymore, Travis says I’m too young. Besides, my new friends need help with the parade… so there!”

Travis tries to get them both on track with, “Adolf, are we clear about the getup?”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson.”

“Shut up, Adolf! Let’s all try to get along.”

In a pout, Stanley says, “If they don’t figure something out, they’ll ruin the parade for everyone!”

In a hushed voice, Adolf says, pointing to the committee members, “And they’d never forgive us!”

Now fully weeping, Stanley says he was upset and needed a hug. Adolf pats him on the back.

“There, there.”

Adolf continues to do his best to comfort Stanley. He tells him they will figure something out, and assured the two, no hoods either. It didn’t matter— they couldn’t afford them.

They decided to wear blue jeans and a nice shirt.

Stanley adds, “With a scarf?”

Adolf turns to Travis, and silently tells him he thought the scarf should be reserved for his bunch. Keep in mind, the committee members are about twenty feet away and witnessed most of the conversation—in astonishment I might add.

The committee members adjourned and left the room, except our three organizers. Towards the end of their meeting, they discussed the menu for the picnic.

Travis, the black’s representative, says, “My group will bring the fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Stanley, the gay rep says, “Isn’t that a bit stereotypical, Travis?”

“What do you mean, Stanley?”

Stanley leans in toward Travis, and in a whisper, says, “You know….”

“Know what?” Travis exclaims.

Stanley responds, “Fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Insulted, Travis asked, “Don’t you like fried chicken, Stanley?”

And in a huff, Stanley says, “Well yes, I do, but I prefer mine baked with sautéed mushrooms in a cream sherry sauce.”

Travis ignores him and asks Adolf, the representative for the club, “What will you and your bunch be bringing to the picnic?”

“We’ll get our old ladies to whip up some hot dogs and Collard greens.”

Stanley, practically yelling, says, “Travis did you hear him! He said collard greens!”

“Stanley, what’s your beef? My people don’t control all the food groups!”

“Travis, those idiots don’t eat Collard greens! He’s making fun of you!”

Travis condescendingly says, “Stanley, don’t go getting yourself all in an uproar! Honkies like Collard greens too! I don’t, and Wilma says they stink up the house.”

About then, Adolf jumps out of his chair and heads over towards Travis. Tension filled the air as these two exchanged insults.

“Honkies? Since when did you go all black on us?” Adolf exclaimed.

“Gee whiz, Adolf, I don’t know, maybe because I’m black!”

“Sorry Travis, I forgot.” Back to the fight. The two were eyeball-to-eyeball, and both sets of fists were raised ready to brawl. Stanley jumps in between the two and pushes them apart.

Stanley says to Travis, “Now Travis, you go and apologize to Adolf for calling him that name.”

Travis gives a reluctant apology.

Adolf not too accepting of the apology, only says, “No prob, cuz.”

That was the best Travis could muster for an apology. Sure is a lot of apologizing going on during the meeting as expected. The two returned to their respective corners, as it were.

Stanley whispers to Travis, “He is such a male.”

Adolf overhearing his comment says, “OK, fruit pants, what will you girls be bringing?”

Stanley responds to his insult.

“Adolf, I’ll sashay me and my fruit pants over there and slap the shit out of you!”

Now Travis intervenes between these two.

“It’s time for you boys to settle down. This bickering will get us nowhere. Adolf, apologize to Stanley.”

Now Stanley has worked his way into a full-blown tizzy!

“I won’t accept an apology from that baboon!”

Turning his back away, says, “Travis you tell him, I’m not speaking to that cretin.”

Stanley crosses his arms in protest followed by more pouting.

In an attempt at an apology, Adolf says, “Come on Stanley, I was kidding around. I’m soooo sorry. Let’s start over. Now, what will you and your friends be bringing to the picnic?”

Stanley rebounds from his fit, and giddily says, “Thank you, Adolf. Well, my friends and I will be serving delicious, individual quiche tarts with a fresh rose petal salad.”

Adolf and Travis look at each other curiously.

Then Travis asks, “Stanley—I’m dying to know, what beverages you will be bringing?”

Proudly, Stanley replies, “Pink Ladies and Daiquiris of course, you silly!”

Again, Adolf and Travis look at each other, but this time instead of amazement, it was more like shock! They were speechless.

Adolf aware of his sensitive nature, gently asks, “Stanley, now what exactly is a Pink Lady? I know what a Daiquiri is, I’m just not too familiar with the other one.”

Stanley gets all excited and gives the ingredients for a Pink Lady.

“It has a little of this, and a little of that, with an egg white all shaken up, all topped with a sweet red cherry! Yummy!”

Adolf turns to Travis and whispers, “Sounds more like fruit punch to me.”

Warning Adolf in a low tone, Travis says, “I’d be careful if I were you. That ‘slap-the-shit-out-of- you’ that he threatened was only a starter; he’s a black belt in karate.”

Overhearing a bit of their conversation, Stanley again says in a huff, “We don’t have to be such barbarians! Someone must add some civility to this event. You two are such simpletons!”

Travis turns to Adolf, and in an uppity tone says, “Why, my dear Adolf, I do believe we’ve been insulted!”

Similarly, Adolf says, “I concur, Travis, there does appear to be a bit of an attitude.”

The three had been making efforts to be as quiet as they could in their little meeting room, and after that exchange, they were overheard laughing by the others in the main conference room. Everything was peaceful once again.

After about an hour-long meeting, the three emerged and cheerfully announced they had an idea to incorporate the three groups and align their collaborative efforts.

No one thought it could ever happen, but Adolf and his group, standing side-by-side in complete solidarity with the black and the gay community, came together to create Port Summerville’s first annual Triple K-Blayday Parade. Triple K for obvious reasons, then black and gay shortened to form the word, Blay.

Darlene was overheard saying, “This ought to be interesting.”

Another benefit of the meeting, Adolf, and his organization finally came up with a name and were proud to introduce the newest club in Port Summerville; The TripleK Klub. Club was spelled using a K instead of a C because Stanley said switching them would be cute.

The one detail to work out was incorporating the three groups’ logos onto the same banner.

Travis says to the committee, “We’re way ahead of you.”

The three sketched out a design they all could agree on and decided the banner would include a rainbow design on the left, another one on the right, and a Confederate flag in the middle. Stanley and his new friend, Buster, the gay Canadian, volunteered to embroider a flower and peace symbol in the center of the Confederate flag.

They flipped a coin to see who would carry the banner, and who would lead the parade.

A few days later, they were issued a permit, and the parade date was set!

The invitations were sent out to the parade participants. The two holdouts were the mayor and the sheriff, at least for the time being.

Chapter 19:

The mayor and the sheriff had a private meeting to discuss the matter. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall!

After a brief conversation on other city matters and idle chit-chat, the mayor says, “Sheriff, I’ve got a real problem with this parade thing.”

Miles, the Sheriff, says, “I know what you mean. You’re in quite a pickle. If you don’t go, the blacks will think you’re a bigot.”

The concerned mayor says, “I know what you mean, Miles. But if I go, the anti-gay bunch will crawl up my ass.”

The sheriff, a bit shocked, looks at him and says, “They’ll do what?”

“You know what I mean. What in the hell goes on in that head of yours?”

“Sorry, your Excellency.”

Not amused, the mayor continues.

“My sister should have cut your balls off years ago! Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Another group to worry about if I don’t go. Are those knuckleheads? They’ll think I’m anti-white!”

“But you are white!”

“I know that, dumb-ass!”

The mayor begins to fidget in his chair and taps his pencil on the table.

He lights up a Camel, then continues. “I’m in one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenarios.”

The mayor gets up from his chair and starts pacing around, taking several back-to-back puffs of his cigarette.

He turns and says to the sheriff, “You don’t have to go. You can use that, I’m too busy upholding the law bullshit!”

He paused again, then said in a panic, “I’ve got nothing!”

“Don’t worry Mayor, we’ll think of something.”

Then the sheriff throws both arms in the air and says, “I’ve got it! (You’d thought he’d just discovered the cure for cancer!) Send a representative from your office!”

“What are you talking about? There isn’t anyone! This is the kind of shit I’m supposed to do!”

The mayor sits back down and takes a few more drags from his cigarette.

He begins to tap his pen on his desk then says, “Maybe if I sit on the float with the queen!” The sheriff quickly interrupts.

He exclaims, “Are you crazy? They’ll think you’re a queer!”

“Not their queen, dumb shit! The black queen! They elected their own queen for the parade, you moron!”

He gets up from his chair and continues to pace again.

The mayor stops his pacing and decidedly says, “That’s it! I’ll sit on the float with her. That’s my best bet and will neutralize my position and show the community how open-minded I am. It will also distance me from the you-know-who’s without seeming too obvious. That should soften the blow.”

The sheriff takes a step back and stares at him. The mayor sees the stupid look on the sheriff’s face after the “soften the blow” comment.

“Miles, get your head out of the gutter!”

“You’re the one talking dirty!”

They both laughed, even though the mayor is feeling a bit pressured.

“Mayor, I think you’ve got a handle on the situation. This will demonstrate real political strength. You’re a real problem solver, Harry! I guess that’s why they elected you mayor!”

“Damn straight! Call me ‘Mayor Fix It’; ‘The problemater’! Miles, go tell Bertha to make an announcement to the press!”

Miles leaves the room, and the mayor sits back down in his chair, then kicks his feet up on his desk. Feeling slightly relieved at his decision, he takes a final couple of drags off his cigarette, then stomps the remaining butt out on the floor. All in a day’s work were his final thoughts. He left the building and got a massage.

The invitations soon went out, and the Shriner’s headed the list. Shriner’s only need to hear the word parade, and they’ll gladly accept the offer to participate. They could care-a-less about the theme. The only criteria were to make sure they had plenty of beer for them and gasoline for their mini-bikes.

Seizing the opportunity for votes, every politician in Port Summerville and the surrounding county participated as well.

Not wanting to be left out of this historic event, Miss Shrimp showed up too, along with her entourage of ladies-in-waiting. You’d think Miss Shrimp would be a knockout—not in this case. You get the title of Miss Shrimp by winning the shrimp eating contest. She’s fat and obnoxious, and chain smokes. The ladies-in-waiting are all well-known town sluts.

The mayor, satisfied with his tactical decision, did indeed attend the parade. In a last-minute mix-up, he rode in the I’m Queer, and I’m Here float and sat by their queen. She was a six foot, four-inch transvestite named Kelsey. The two have been secretly dating ever since the parade.

Chapter 20:

One Port Summerville cop, (I won’t mention any names, but his initials are Officer Dorf, begged the parade committee to let him oversee crowd control and security. There is a widespread rumor that Officer Dorf is a fruit, and everything points in that direction. I think he wanted to be a parade participant but didn’t mean to get found out—in other words, he wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Coming out of the closet is a new term cupcakes use when they want to tell the world of their fruitiness. I’m still bugged that all the special groups are hijacking words and phrases, like coming out of the closet, it doesn’t do anything but complicate my life! Because Darlene is way ahead of her time knew what the expression meant and selfishly kept it to herself, reserving that knowledge to screw with me. One day I was getting a pair of jeans out of the closet. She knew damn well where I was, but chooses instead to taunt me.

Seizing the opportunity, she’d ask where I was, and I yelled, “I’m in the closet!”

She would immediately start to laugh.

I’d holler back, “What’s so funny? I’m just in the closet!”

Still laughing, “When will you be coming out of the closet?”

Now, she’s being perverted.

“I’ll be out of the closet in a minute!”

Now she’s rolling on the carpet. I’ll never go in or come out of the closet again as long as I live! She’s such a jerk!

After the news of the parade had hit the papers, the story spread like wildfire and went nationwide. On day of the event, everyone was excited. The parade route began to fill, mostly spectators and curiosity seekers. Then the media started showing up. All the major news organizations were there: ABC, NBC, and CBS, plus a few newspaper reporters and magazine writers. Life Magazine’s photographer was going through rolls of film as fast as he could reload his camera!

Before the parade, we had opening speeches by the mayor, a couple of city councilmen, and a statement by Miss Shrimp welcoming everyone. Sadly, Miss Shrimp will be surrendering her crown in a few weeks, but already has a new one by winning the belching contest at the VFW. We wish her well in her continued conquest for excellence.

The fairgrounds were buzzing with everyone involved and were making final preparations for the picnic, and that is when the trouble began to brew. The parade received national media attention. Others noticed as well, including The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and another uninvited guest was this new group of nuts; The National Alliance. They got word the Klan wasn’t going to attend, and because they were a new organization, thought this would be an opportunity to get in front of the camera.

The KKK didn’t show up for reasons still unknown.

The scuttlebutt was that they thought the climate was too hot, and I quote, “The town itself smelled of fish.”

To be honest, the first two organizations, as a rule, are peaceful and promote their respective causes. This new bunch of idiots only hates. They make the KKK look like a church choir!

None of the planners or participants knew why the parade got the attention of the outsiders. But threw it all, Travis… a black guy, Stanley… a gay guy and Adolf… a Jew, all with the combined IQ of a brick, pulled it off. They had the tenacity to make a function like the Triple K-BlayDay parade work despite their perceived differences. And because of this, those outsiders had to come just to stir things up.

The parade completed its route and finally reached the fairgrounds. The kids were playing on the beach and their parents along with other adults socialized and mingled. Color and stereotypes were out the window, and everyone was having fun until a bullhorn blasted out loudly by the leader of the National Alliance.

“White Power! We’re white, and we’re right!”

It isn’t their usual style of doing things, but in need to respond, the NAACP representative took the bullhorn away from him and yelled, “Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!”

Not wanting to be left out, the ADL spokesman grabbed the bullhorn and yelled out an enthusiastic, “Go Jews!”

He only said it once. No one had ever heard that chant before. He got caught up in the moment, and wanted to come up with something clever, but couldn’t think of a word that rhymed with Jew.

Our three heroes had heard enough. The first was Travis, and he invited everyone to sing, “We Shall Overcome.”

The crowd enthusiastically sang along.

Then it was Adolf’s turn to sing his selection; “Die Fahne Hoch,” meaning “The Flag on High.”

He invited everyone to sing along, but no one knew the words and wound up doing a solo. Travis gave Adolf a high-five for his performance.

Stanley and his troupe ran on the platform and busted out a rendition of West Side Story’s, “I feel Pretty.”

After these performances, and in a show of solidarity between the three, all in attendance held hands and sang God Bless America. It was a picture-perfect moment.

During the hand holding part, instead of the usual boy/girl, girl/boy set up, it was more like black guy/white girl, gay guy/ black girl, white guy/gay guy. You get my drift. An occasional Mexican and a few Vietnamese were used to fill in the gaps.

When the hand holding was finally complete, they made a full human circle around the entire fairgrounds.

In disgust, the three groups of intruders got back on their buses and left as well as some of the media. The Life Magazine photographer passed out. In a statement from the magazine, they claimed the photographer was overcome with heat exhaustion. The truth is he had one too many Pink Ladies.

After all the festivities were over, Travis, Adolf, and Stanley had a few moments alone and congratulated each other for a job well done.

Adolf says to the other two, “We still on for Friday night down at the church?”

Travis replies, “Damn straight! We’re still brothers in the Triple K Klub.”

Stanley steps in, “Goodie! This is my week to bring snacks! It’ll be a surprise! Can I come, Adolf?”

“Stanley, you’re a brother and always will be. Of course, you can come, we’ll give you an age waiver to stay a member.”

“Yippee!” Then he kissed Adolf right on the mouth!

After Adolf got over the shock, he and Travis were overheard saying, “Can’t wait for the surprise. Probably more Quiche!”

Travis crossed his arms and grinned and asked Adolf if Stanley was a good kisser?

In a disgusted response, he said, “Shut up, Travis, and don’t tell the other guys!”

“I won’t, I promise.”

The two parted ways to mingle with the crowd.

As Travis was walking along, Adolf overhears him.

“Stanley and Adolf sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes…,”

Adolf yells, “Cut it out Travis! I’ll get you!”

As it turns out, the TripleK-BlayDay parade was the most celebrated parade Port Summerville had ever hosted. Though a success, sadly it was the first and last TripleK-BlayDay parade.

I can’t get enough of this.

 

Best Review Ever!

“Mark Waters did it again… authored another great read that I could not put down. “Suicide By Death” lends a much needed message to anyone who has ever faced any adversity or misfortune. The poignant characters demonstrate that we all have our demons and fears which become obstacles that determine the path(s) we choose, but which path we choose is up to us. In so choosing, do not allow others’ weaknesses to control you, but rather make you stronger because you are NOT UNDESERVING OF LOVE AND HAPPINESS. “Suicide By Death” will positively affect how you view yourself, the road you are on, restore faith in yourself and restore hope, if necessary! To paraphrase what Claire said: Do not make the light at the end of the tunnel a train – it is up to you!”

Kelli Knupp

One of Clair’s many suicide attempts

Chapter V

A year later, Clair slowed down on the pills and booze, but never to a full halt.

Her reasoning was unclear for the sudden shift, but thought, “Nothing else is working. What could it hurt?”

A friend introduced her to AA and took her to some meetings. To her, it was the dumbest thing in the world, but went along just to shut up her friend.

The few meetings Clair attended, she fidgeted in the chair, played with her hair and mocked its members in her mind.

“Hi, my name is so and so, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Then the typical response.

“Hi, so and so! Glad you’re here!”

Her thoughts continued as she played along, only this time, stood up and told them aloud.

“Hi, my name is Clair, and you people are a bunch of idiots!”

There were no chants of, “Hi, Clair”, only silence from a beleaguered crowd and many stares.

“Big deal. I’m out of here.”

And she did. Clair got to her feet and left.

She never attended another meeting and had proven to herself she could go at it alone.

Clair was cautioned that quitting on her own was not a good idea. Her friend insisted she needed support from other members of the group.

“Hey, I’ve already slowed down on everything, and I did it all by myself.”

Then her friend asked, “But have you stopped?”

“I’m getting there.”

About a week later, she took inventory of the pills and booze and noticed a difference.

“This is great!”

There was more of each than expected.

“This is really working. I’m saving a bundle!”

Though she continued down the same road as before, but reasoned she could handle it this time.

“I will not be a slave to either of you again,” then made herself a drink.

She was proud she rarely got drunk anymore, at least not stumbling drunk. Clair explained it away in her own words, that “she only caught a buzz,” but those buzzes were an everyday thing.

Clair didn’t live far from the bar and walked both ways. After finishing the evening and during her stroll back to her apartment, she would stop and gaze at the billboards along the way to see if any of them had changed. This fixation went on for months.

One evening, perhaps for the hundredth time, stared up at one of them, but this time, threw her hands in the air and said aloud, “What the hell am I going to do with my life?”

Then, like a crazy lady, screamed at the top of her lungs, “When are you going to change the fucking sign?”

Clair made it home, got to the door, pulled out her keys and let herself in. She flipped on the entryway light, then heard a loud pop and a simultaneous flash, like an old Kodak camera.

“Dammit to hell! Why now?”

She tossed a leftover bag of fries on the floor and felt her way down the small enclosed hallway that led to the bedroom. Both arms were outstretched and flailed them around in the darkness like a blind person. She got to her room and sat on the edge of the bed, then reached over to turn on the lamp. It had three brightness settings: high, medium, or low — and chose the latter. With a few turns of the button and two clicks later… wha-la! Though the light was on low, it was enough to illuminate pill bottles, an empty fifth of whiskey, and one unopened bottle of Vodka, all of which occupied the nightstand.

Things in Clair’s mind continued to haunt her… like wanting to die. After years of demons chasing around in her head, including the recent breakup with Hunter… again, were enough of an excuse to take matters on her own. That day was her twenty-second birthday, but on this occasion, it wasn’t months ago… it was today.

Clair sat there for over an hour, and contemplated her life, questioning what it all meant and concluded at that moment — “Not much.”

She got to her feet with determined resolve and announced to herself, “I didn’t have a say-so about coming into the world, but by God, I can decide how I go out.”

Clair took a deep breath and decided tonight was the night. With just enough light, she tip-toed toward the kitchen, and not sure why the need to tip-toe; she was alone. Perhaps it was just an old habit.

She turned on the light above the sink and opened a drawer.

“Oops! Wrong one.”

It was the infamous junk drawer and slid open the next one. It squeaked and rattled all the way out, then rummaged through it and selected a knife.

Clair examined it.

“Damn, I cut up a chicken with this the other day. What would the chicken think?”

She giggled at her own silly joke, then wept.

It was a broad-bladed butcher knife that had a polished, mirror-like finish. Clair held the knife at eye level. With a stoic and curious expression on her face, flipped it up and down with little movement, as if focusing it. She stood there in silence and stared at the distorted, reflected image of herself.

Clair had made several attempts in the past to kill herself, but this time had a look of determination and an uneasy feeling this might be the end. She went back to the bedroom and turned the lamp up a notch for better lighting. While she was at it, went through her pre-printed to do list, with a check box beside each task and went down the list line-by-line.

“Pay bills…,” and marked it.

“I don’t want bad credit. Hairdresser… check. I have to look nice.”

The next one always tickled her.

“Gas?”

She always read it as a question and commented out loud, “Nope, feeling pretty good.”

Last on the list —the grocery store.

Clair studied it for a moment, and instead of a check mark, she crossed it off.

“I won’t be needing any.”

She glanced over the list one more time, tore off the page and threw it in the trash.

“I’m sick and tired of being pushed around and told what to do, especially by a piece of paper. Tonight, it will be a to-did list.”

She tossed the rest of the unused pad with the other piece of paper.

Clair researched the usual ways of killing yourself.

“Pills? Too Marilyn Monroe-ish. Besides, they are to be used with whiskey to relax. On the other hand, they were good enough for her, so they should be good enough for me. But with my luck, I’d get sick and puke them out. What a waste.”

She was obsessed with the pills, read the warning label and took inventory.

“And what if I succeed?”

The thought of being hauled out naked on a stretcher was too humiliating and mumbled, “I just couldn’t live with myself.”

Then asked herself out loud in a higher octave, “I just couldn’t live with myself?”

She shook her head and said, “What an idiot.”

Clair rattled the pill bottle once more and tossed it on the bed concluding that pills were too chancy and wasn’t risking it. More ideas came to her, then snapped her fingers.

“I’ve got it! Jump from a building?”

Then paused, “No, too dramatic, besides, I’m afraid of heights. Pistol? Gross!”

She worried she’d wound herself enough to put her in a permanent coma.

“Now that’s really depressing,” then said aloud, “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone, sort of defeats the purpose.”

Clair continued the conversation with herself.

“Hanging? Hmmm, now there’s an option. But knowing some of my idiot friends like I do, I’m sure one of them would say something stupid at the funeral like, That Clair, what a swinger. So hanging’s out.”

Clair came across a book about four years earlier about how to kill yourself. At the time of the purchase, she was certain it didn’t get on a bestseller list.

Her next thought was, “What kind of sicko would write such a thing?”

She picked it up at a local used bookstore and wondered if the previous owner used its advice. And for a second, it creeped her out.

She’d never read it that hard before, but tonight felt the need to study it and pay attention to details. After a few minutes, and several scanned pages later, concluded that one of the best ways to off yourself was by slashing the wrists. According to the book, with the success of a lethal cut, it was relatively painless… “like dying in slow motion.”

“I guess I’m on to something,” then picked up the blade and mimicked a line in a marriage ceremony.

“With this knife, I do thee die.”

Taking a deep breath, lowered the blade and did a small cut to her arm, but decided it wasn’t sharp enough. She relaxed for a moment to re-group and contemplated her next move. Clair did not want to become a victim of hesitation wounds. Hesitation wounds are what they imply; for people too chicken to follow through with a lethal cut, just a bunch of little ones. They might get lucky and cut through a decent bleeder, but it takes a while. Oh sure, they’ll carry out the mission sooner or later, but it’s a lot of wasted time, energy, and unnecessary pain to get the desired result. She popped another pill and took a shot of whiskey.

“If I’m going to do this, let’s get it right.”

Clair tossed the knife on the floor, went to the art studio attached to her apartment, and found an X-acto blade.

“This should do the trick.”

She ran back to her room and picked up the handbook to revisit some of its pages, flipping to the part that tells how to cut yourself.

Clair glanced at its illustrations and directions then said aloud, “Oh my God! I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time.”

Now she knew the Hollywood style of slitting your wrist wasn’t enough, referring to those little slices across the wrist. It also recommended doing it in a bathtub; it’s easier for others to clean up the mess. Clair had little concern about tidiness, so the bedroom would be just fine.

To do it right, you take the tip of the razor on your forearm, somewhere between the wrist and your elbow. With the blade facing your palm, slice down along the vein towards the wrist.

“Now, I need the guts to do it. Maybe I should use a magic marker and plot the course to be on the safe side. Surgeons do it, so why shouldn’t I?”

She jumped up again, ran back to the studio, opened two or three drawers and found a black, fine-tipped marker. Clair slammed the drawer and hurried back to her bedroom and made several more trips; wrong size blade or not the right marker. Her breathing got heavier and heavier after all the running back and forth, then collapsed in her chair.

“The hell with killing myself; I’m going to die from exhaustion!”

She relaxed for a few more minutes, popped one more pill and took another swig.

“Oh shit! I forgot to leave the notes!”

Clair ran back to the kitchen, reached into the junk drawer and pulled out a yellow sticky pad.

“Oh, great, more pads.”

She removed three and wrote the words. The first was to her mother.

“Have a nice day,” then the next one, “Dear Hunter, I hope you have a good life.”

And finally, “My dearest Charlie, I’m sorry I had to do this. Your friend, Clair.”

After they were written, she stuck them to the wall.

Clair got back to the task at hand, settled in, took the marker and charted its path down her arm as instructed. Disappointed with the markings, she ran to the bathroom and scrubbed her arms clean.

“And I call myself an artist.”

Clair dried her arm, went to her room again, sat down, and repeated the same procedure as before, this time with more attention to detail.

When finished with the marker, she tossed it aside. “Much better. Cleaner lines.”

Afterward, she picked up the blade and turned it toward her skin.

“Here we go.”

She chose a starting point, pressed the blade against her skin and moved it slowly down her forearm. Clair was nervous, but more unsteady, and skipped parts of her arm as it traveled a few centimeters that only resulted with a few slight cuts.

“Not enough blood.”

She wasn’t fully committed to the task at hand and had only grazed herself.

“Dammit, I get more blood when I shave my fucking legs!”

She sat the knife on the edge of the nightstand and knocked over the open bottle of pills.

“My damn luck,” then knelt on the floor, swept the pills into her hand like a dustpan, and placed them back in the bottle.

“What is it going to take to finish the job? More pills? More whiskey? Bigger, sharper knife? God only knows. This suffering will end by my hand —tonight.”

The biggest concern Clair had with killing herself, was most think if you are an artist like her, that’s the way they do it.

“It would be a lot easier if a dump truck would come along and squash me!”

She continued with her delusional imagery.

“I can see it now; the church is melancholy. Soft organ music is echoing in the background playing ‘Amazing Grace’ and a flower-covered casket lies in state, front and center, and a crowd of twenty on the back two rows.”

She paused for a moment and imagined overhearing a conversation between two old church ladies at the funeral.

“She was so young. Why did she do it?”

The other whispered, “Because she was an artist.”

More of her thoughts continued.

“See what I mean? The usual bunch are shedding a few tears and still asking why? Because the old lady is right! I’m a fucking artist, that’s why! Moron.”

With yet another failed attempt to end her life, said again to herself, “This will have to wait until another time. I’m too tired.”

All that was left to do for the evening was to remove the notes from the wall and set them aside.

Clair reached for the blade one last time, turned it side-to-side, and tried to catch another image of herself on the tiny blade. All it had were smears of blood. She wiped it clean with her shirt and laid it on the nightstand, then crawled into bed, turned off the light and covered herself with a quilt her grandmother made when she was a baby. Clair bunched up a small corner of the quilt, held it to her face, and gave it a whiff.

Drunk and high from the pills, plus a little pain from the cuts, she said “I miss you, Granna,” then cried herself to sleep.

***

Clair cursed each new day, but on this one, it was worse. She crawled out of bed, put on her slippers and stepped on a few capsules and pills strewn on the floor from the night before. The hardened, jellied ones beneath her feet crunched like a cockroach that just met its fate. She gathered the powdered remains of the pills and broken capsules, then placed them in a cup.

“I’ll save this for a late-night cocktail. Waste not, want not.”

Besides destroying some of her pharmaceuticals and nursing a hangover, her day started with the same monotony as everyone else, except Clair’s; hers included a shower to clean her blood-encrusted arms. She stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, held up her arms and rotated them back and forth to get a clear view of the damage.

“I can’t be seen like this. No need scaring the neighbors.”

She lowered them and turned toward the shower a few steps away and said to herself, “Who’d want to live next to a suicidal maniac like me?”

Then she stared back at the mirror.

“Suicide?”

Although she has tried many times before, Clair had never said that word, at least not to refer to her own efforts at suicide, instead, she’d use encrypted language like, “I want to end it all,” or, “I don’t want to go on anymore,” and others. Putting a label on it gave her a moment of pause, but little concern, however, it was still a revelation of sorts.

“I’m glad I got that out of the way. I’m not in denial anymore. And yes I know… it isn’t a river in Egypt. Those AA bastards would be proud.”

Clair stumbled her way to the shower and rinsed her wounds. She watched the river of fresh blood combined with the remains of reconstituted scabs flow down the drain. With the shower complete, she dried off, then saw traces of blood stains and splatters all over the towel in blotches.

“Damn! I need to buy red ones from now on.”

She tossed it in the corner with the others, threw on a robe and went toward the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee.

“Thank God I wasn’t too drunk to set the timer.”

Clair staggered back to her bedroom, plopped down on the chair, stirred in six cubes of sugar and tried to sober up. Pills were still scattered all over the place, and the full, unopened bottle of vodka the day before was half-empty.

 

 

 

Clair meets her demon

Glenn gazed around at the others, then looked at Clair.

“I want to ask you a question.”

Sill slumped in her chair, said, “Shoot.”

Larry jumped out of his chair and exclaimed, “Shoot who?”

Mike, another one of the group members said, “It’s an expression. It means I’m giving you permission to proceed. So sit your fat ass down and shut up!”

Larry complied, but also made that gesture with his pointer and middle finger, aimed at his eyes, and motioned in return with the implication, “I’m watching you.”

Mike looked at him and shook his head.

“Larry, go to hell.”

“Okay, fellows, let’s keep the testosterone to a manageable level. Let’s get started again, and can we try it with no more interruptions? Clair?”

She stood up at attention and saluted.

“Yes, Comrade Counselor?”

The room erupted with slight laughter.

“Please sit down.”

“Ya Vol, Mein Fuhrer!”

Obeying his command, she sat down and again slumped in her chair, but now both feet were kicked straight out, rigid and crossed.

Glenn wasted no time, remained poised, and got straight to it.

“So Clair, who are your demons?”

Pondering the question, she replied, “I don’t know, maybe the boogeyman.”

More chuckles from the participants, but it gave her a moment of pause, remembering back when Edward said it to her.

He repeated the question, implying he would not settle for another smart-ass answer.

“Clair, who are your demons?”

The room was hushed, and every eye was on her. She acted as though she didn’t hear the question this time. To add to her posture, her arms were tightly crossed over her chest.

Calmly and without changes in his tone, Glenn asked again, “Who are your demons?”

She remained in her defensive stance —but now her arms grew tighter over her chest, legs remained outstretched also crossed and added a hint of nervous foot twitching.

“Clair, I asked you a question.”

She swelled up inside and was about to burst wide open, but managed a calm, chilled retort.

“Back off, Glenn.”

“Who are your demons?” he asked again.

Now less calm, she said, “I swear to God, you are starting to irritate me.”

“Clair, I can’t make you feel anything. That belongs to you.”

“You’re right, you can’t. But, you can stick that shit up your ass, because right now, you’re pissing me off!”

Glenn remained poised.

“Clair, please stay focused and answer the question.”

She sat up and uncrossed her feet and planted them on the floor. And with outstretched arms, she flung them with each word.

“What, Glenn? What do you want me to say?”

Clair is running out of room to hide and is feeling attacked. He knows it and perseveres.

“I don’t want you to say something; I want you to tell me and the others. I’ll ask it one more time. Clair, who are your dem…”

Before he could finish the question, she jumped up from her chair and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Everyone! Everyone is a fucking demon! Are you happy now?”

Angry and frustrated, she dropped onto the chair with so much force it hit the wall with a loud bang. The room went silent.

“I can see you’re upset.”

She lowered her head and quietly said, “No shit.”

“But who are you the angriest with? Surely not all of us —” and in a rare stab at a little humor, he finished with — “except maybe me.” That brought a brief smile on her face.

She got back to her relaxed posture.

“I guess I’m the angriest at Hunter.”

“Isn’t that a little too easy? You really think Hunter is one of your demons.”

“He’s damn sure no saint.”

“When you guys are together and getting along, aren’t you happy?”

“I guess.”

“Let’s rule him out. What about your father?”

“You mean the sperm donor? He’s dead.”

“Yes, I know. Before that. Is he one of your demons?”

“Not really, I just hate him.”

“And your mother?”

“No, I only despise her.”

“What about Edward, your brother?”

Clair paused for a moment, sat up, then looked Glenn straight in the eyes, and in a voice of calm, said, “I would like to see him tortured to death and cut into little pieces.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.”

Larry jumped up and raised his hand.

“Can I help?”

Glenn told him she’d call if any assistance were needed.

“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Clair. Edward is not one of your demons either.”

“Then, who is? You seem to know everything else. Who are my demons?”

“All of those that you mentioned are distractions and not letting you see who they really are.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll show you.”

Glenn reached under his chair and slid an object on the floor toward Clair. It got to its mark, and she picked it up.

“I’ve had a lot of practice.” Referring to her and Charlies’ shuffleboard routine with the drinks.

“OK, now what?”

“Hold it up.”

She held the object at eye level with her arms slightly bent to get a good view.

“Now, turn it around.”

As she did, her reflection appeared and peeked for a moment then sat it on her lap.

“Clair, pick it up. Look at it again and listen to me.”

She picked it up and held it as before. “What do you see?”

“Me.”

“Yes, that is you. Now tell us what you see. Describe it to us.”

“I can’t.”

She slammed the mirror back on her lap again.

“Why are you such a jerk?”

“I’m paid to be your therapist, not your friend. I have to practice the jerk part.”

“You’re doing a good job.”

He ignored the jab and told her to pick up the mirror again and look at it.

As she did, he asked the others, “Now group, let’s help her out. Lisa, what do you see?”

“She’s pretty.”

“Mark?”

“She’s smart.”

“Suerenia?”

“She’s always been a kind friend.”

Clair lowered the mirror and Glenn said, “Keep looking.”

She raised the mirror back in position and listened to other group members. A slight sniffle was heard, followed by a small trail of goo that came from her nose and quickly wiped it clean.

Glenn asked, “Do you need a tissue?”

“No thanks. My sleeve will do.”

“Okey-dokey, let’s get back to it. Blake, what do you think?”

“Her eyes are gorgeous.”

Now a tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another. Clair was unable or unwilling to see what they saw, but tried to absorb each word they said. Saying something good about what was in the mirror was contrary to what she believed.

“And you two? What do you boys think?”

Ryan and Jason said together as if they rehearsed it, “She’s hot!”

That made her chuckle in between sniffles.

“Lauren, your thoughts?”

“I would kill for that hair!”

Larry again jumped to his feet again, “Right on, sister!”

“Sit down Larry and relax.”

Glenn didn’t want to leave him out of the exercise, but with reluctance asked him the same question. He seemed put off and not very enthusiastic.

He yawned and said, “OK, Larry, tell us something about Clair.”

Not in his usual, obnoxious behavior, he shyly said with great sincerity, “I wish Clair was my girl.”

It’s hard to explain, but Larry’s answer got her tears to flow.

Clair got up from the chair, went over to Larry, put her arms around him, and gave a big hug, then whispered, “Thank you, Larry,” then kissed him on the cheek and returned to her seat.

She settled in, only this time, and on her own, got the mirror back in position.

“Clair, I’ll ask you one last time, who are your demons? Take your time.”

The group waited as she gazed into the mirror. She stared for a few more moments and let out a sigh. The others sat in deafening silence waiting for her answer.

Glenn already knew, but instead said, “Clair, please, tell the group who they are,” and said to himself, “Come on Clair, you can do it.”

The wheels started to turn, and the power that the demons had on her were becoming weaker. Clair stared at the reflection, and as she did, millions of images raced through her mind like a high-speed movie projector. All the way from childhood until now seemed to pass right in front of her mind’s eye within those few moments.

“Clair?”

All the while, she hadn’t moved and continued to stare, then quietly announced, “I know who the demon is. There is only one.”

Glenn leaned forward.

“And who might that be?”

Everyone had remained quiet this whole time, then Suerenia said very softly, “Clair, tell him.”

Clair took a quick glance at Suerenia, paused, then lowered the mirror and placed it on her lap.

She let out another deep sigh then uttered, “Me, I’m my own demon.”

The room again went silent except for a collective exhale. You could hear a pin drop because the group knew this was a crossroad for Clair. She finally met her demon face to face and prepared to challenge it.

“Clair, what you see in the mirror is the face of torment. You are not the demon. The past that haunts you is, and I want you to know the difference. What you saw was an image of its representative, and that’s all. It’s not real —only a reflection. But when you put into your head harmful thinking, you give it a reason to live. Your actions, like trying to kill yourself, are nourishment for the demon, and you have to starve it. Now, you call the shots —” then Glenn emphasized — “because you are now in control, not an image in a mirror. Pick it up again.”

Clair raised the mirror, looked into it, but this time with a hint of a smile.

“What do you see.”

“I see hope.”

“Me too. Good work. I’m very proud of you.”

Her response was short and somber.

“Thank you, Glenn,” and she meant it.

 

Article for Kirkus Reviews

When I first heard of Kirkus, I went straight into research mode to check them out. Nothing during it caused me to believe that using them would be a poor decision. I even looked up the negative stuff, and mostly, came up short.

After I purchased my review, the criticisms for “paying” for a review poured in on social media. I’m a realist and know to get a free review from a credible source could take a long time… if ever. I was also clear that just because I paid for a review was not a guarantee it would be a good one, but I had enough faith in my work, and that was the final decision to submit it to you.

Yes, the process is agonizing, but wait, what about all that faith in your work crap? Who doesn’t have faith in their work? But in my heart, I knew that mine had a chance to stand out. There are millions of novels out there, and if the 80/20 rule is valid, then 80% of anything out there is garbage I have to compete with.

I’d always considered myself a skilled marketer, but this business is tough. Writing is easy for me and coming up with a good story line just takes a lot of history, but marketing the work is murder! One thing I am certain and that is a good Kirkus review will be added to my marketing strategy. I also understand that a positive review doesn’t mean instant success, but it’s a lot better than a bad one.

Unlike the “good ole’ days”, today anyone with an idea and a few bucks can get published. I am a relatively late bloomer as a writer. I wrote and finished my first novel at 50, second at 58, and now at the ripe old age of 60, about to release my third, which is the one you reviewed. The point is, I don’t have the same luxury of time as my younger counterparts, so I have to take every opportunity to make my mark in this business and benefit from any tool that might give me a slight edge, and I believe Kirkus Reviews is part of that edge… if it was a good review.

I felt like a kid again and excited for Santa to arrive, but with my review, it was more like waiting to get my execution date! When I checked my email inbox and saw the message line; (Kirkus Indie) Your review is ready to download, I froze. I couldn’t open it, I just stared at the message line. I called my wife into my office, she sat on my lap, I opened it, and she read it aloud.

As she continued to read, I could tell she was getting a bit choked up with pride. Me on the other hand… shock, but felt a tear rolling down my face. Then she asked, “Well, what do you think?” My answer was short. “I’m not sure, but I know one thing… they use big words!” We both got a chuckle, she left, and I studied it some more. It sounded good, but I wasn’t certain. Are they using some sort of reviewer coded language? Are they saying that this is the worst thing they ever reviewed, and that it hurt their eyes just reading it?

A few days later I reread it, and one statement stood out and was highlighted in my mind; “… unavoidably inspiring.” Those two words made every cent I spent on the review worth it, and I am using it as a cover quote.

I have referred Kirkus to many of my colleagues, and I’m sure several of them will contact you. I hope they purchase your review service if for no other reason so I can sit back, watch and enjoy them squirm about the same torment I endured waiting for the outcome.

I will definitely use Kirkus Reviews in the future, hopefully the next one with less anxiety.

Mark Anthony Waters

Author— “Suicide by Death.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue- Suicide by Death

Childhood is supposed to be carefree, innocent and more importantly, filled with an abundance of love. Nothing is free, but in the long-run, being a kid is supposed to be made that way…if you’re one of the fortunate ones.

There are many of us out there who can concur that their life started out much like Clair’s—chaotic, frightening and immersed in utter pandemonium. What a great way to start life…I don’t think so. It dictates the path we choose in our existence—how we feel and treat ourselves and others.

While editing Suicide By Death, I grew increasingly tied to the main character, Clair. I know editors are not supposed to get personally involved with the ‘players’, but I did. It turns out Clair, and I have a lot in common—and I became her emotional advocate—her doppelganger so to speak. There were times I wanted to literally step inside Clair’s world and protect her, do a little physical damage to those who caused her so much pain and angst. It tore open my own personal wounds, which I thought I had dealt with long ago. I realize now that there are scars that can still bleed, sometimes profusely at times. You can attain all the counseling you want, but they’re still there corked down so deeply that when they surface, you want to scream or do something irrational just to quell the anger and bitterness which has built up within ourselves over time.

The first example in our lives is our family. If you can’t trust them to love and support you, then who can you trust? We inevitably end up attracting or being attracted to the same toxicity throughout the rest of our lives. We learned it all when our early years were full of emotional insanity – we think we’re moving forward, all the while we’re just going through the motions and trying to discover what love really is. We know how to spell it, but what is it in the true sense of the word? If we don’t have positive examples of a truly functional start in life, then it’s hit and miss – and usually a miss for most.

When innocence is stolen from us so early in life, it then becomes an awkward jigsaw puzzle of choices, like pulling a rabbit out of an arena full of hats. Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes not, and it’s usually the ‘not’ that is the winner in the quest for happiness and self-awareness. One can simply move on and catch whatever prism as it shines its light on you. Nevertheless, the damage is there and there to stay. It’s what we do with it that counts.

People like Clair would look at a relationship and ask, “If he likes me, there must be something wrong with him.” I call it “The “Damaged Goods Syndrome.” We feel we are undeserving of love or happiness. It was beaten into us subtly so early on. Too many times it’s unsalvageable. It’s that hamster wheel that keeps on spinning. The lucky ones survive and live relatively content lives in the end. Sure, we can just continue wandering aimlessly down that path of self-destruction and self-loathing and hope for the best, or just let nature take its course and take what you get. Sometimes you win – sometimes you don’t.

As I read through the book, I found myself continuously re-gluing myself emotionally back together in small ways, but they all added up. “If Clair can do it, so can I.” I can honestly say that after closing the book, I felt different somehow. I began to see my own demons in a different light, just as Clair did. Things didn’t seem so hopeless any longer, and I’ve been looking for that my entire life. Sometimes it just takes that one person to point the way, and in creating the characters in Suicide by Death, I want to personally thank Mark Anthony Waters for brilliantly assembling some sort of sanity out of the emotional rubble for me.

I’ll miss Clair, quite honestly. I wish her the best.

 

Carla Michale Clark