MY BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR YOU
The day this column appears, July 8, is my birthday. I am 63. I do not feel a day over 62.
And truly, I am upbeat about the whole aging thing. I mean, we have the optimistic words of Cicero, who sagely said:
As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.
Cheery guy, huh? You know … If life hands you a lemon, say, “What in the hell do I want with a goddamn lemon? And besides, I’m allergic.”
Not that I’m feeling old … But my thumbs hurt. I mean, arthritic thumbs: Where the hell’s the telethon for that? You contribute to the March of Thumbs lately? And you know, I’m a guitar player, and the thumb thing is not doing my Travis picking any good.
You see, the syncopated style of thumb and forefinger playing was pretty much developed by Merle Travis (who wrote “Sixteen Tons”)–and right up until the end of his life, he was known for the limberness of his thumbs. He died at age 66 … Goddamn.
Here’s another Power of Positive Thinking quote:
There was no respect for youth when I was young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for age–I missed it coming and going. –J.B. Priestly
You mean Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect” nailed it?
Anyway, as a writer at this stage of my life, I’ve started to clear away that which I no longer need and / or will never use. I got rid of the four Citizen ribbons for the dot matrix printer that spouted first noise, then smoke, then flame back in 1987. I donated to the library my issues of Writer’s Digest from 1973-1978, including that so helpful issue in which Richard Bach, author of Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah offered his “10 Point Checklist for Writing Popular Philosophy.” I pitched that letter from Vantrash Publishing that assured me they were indeed seeking new authors and that subsidy publishing had been the route that led to Edgar Alan Poe’s success and lifelong happiness.
But I came across a number of story openings from years gone by. Just openings. The stories didn’t get written. And I decided I was as likely to write the stories sometime soon as I am to take up ballet.
So, here is my … Happy Birthday Gift to you!
More than a few writers have declared launching the story is the most difficult task in the entire storymaking process, so …
Take any one of the story prompts below.
(I still like ‘em. Really.)
Write the story.
Keep it under 1,500 words.
Send it to me before August 8 (of 2009–this year in which I am 63 years old!) as an attachment to email@example.com. Slap Storytellers Prompt in the subject line.
The three I like the best will win … What else? I’ll send you a Mort Castle book of some sort, a rarity that will be signed to you (or to Ebay upon request).
Now howzat for a birthday gift …–from the birthday guy who, truly, is not feeling all that old, in part because of his good and artistic wife, his jolly friends and talented students who do not allow fossilizing, and those wonderful people who’ve gratified me by giving a chunk of their lives to reading what I’ve had to offer.
Cherish all your happy moments: they make a fine cushion for old age. –Booth Tarkington
I. It was Saturday night. Harlinville’s graveyard. The full moon was lovely, Lee Anna thought. It was silver and it was gold. The night was beautiful, warm but not muggy, with a breeze so gentle sometimes it surprised you, because, suddenly, when you weren’t noticing anything else, there, there it was.
Lee Anna Covington was 15. Her father was A) _______, B) _______, C)_________ or D) Who the hell knows or gives a double-dutch goddamn. Her mother was a drunk and a doper and a whore.
II. Last Saturday, I asked Phyllis why it is that no one warns you: Middle-age is hard. There are times it seems you are either coping with loss or preparing to cope with loss.
Phyllis said she could have told me that a while ago.
But I would not have been ready to listen.
III. “Nobody ever dies there,” he said.
“Fathers don’t go away there,” she said.
“No one goes away. They don’t go away and leave their little girls alone.”
“They don’t go away.”
“–don’t go away and leave you alone.”
“…alone you got no chance, no chance.”
She called herself Chance, EZ Chance and that’s the way it was for her. The aloneness.