November 29, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Whey Station” (ANALOG April 2015) Guy Stewart #27


In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

When ANALOG published my first “real” short story fifteen years ago (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2014/12/writing-advice-what-went-right-with-pig.html), then-editor, Stanley Schmidt commented that it had a “Clifford D. Simak feel” to it.

Really? Really?! He couldn’t have planned a more powerful compliment!

I’d read everything Simak wrote by the time I’d finally started submitting to ANALOG, eventually discovering that Mr. Simak lived only a few miles from me! Of course, being a little kid and all, it wasn’t like I could just drive over there and say, “Hey! I’m a big fan of yours!” I didn’t even know there WERE conventions until I was in my thirties. He appeared at the local Minicon in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1982 (I was 11, 12, 13, and 25 (but had no IDEA what “cons” were)) and passed away in 1988, so I missed my chance to meet him in real life.

But I loved his writing. I still re-read CEMETERY WORLD every few years as well as WAY STATION and THE VISITOR – and I now know that Simak’s style is pastoral. I like the style and I’m working at writing in that way as well – though I’m too much of a city boy to extoll the wonders of country life too much! On the other hand, with friends who run a certified organic dairy farm, we are aware of both the challenges and the joys of “country life” and having spent time with them, I can get my facts straight. That first ANALOG story took place on a farm we stayed at during the summer of 1993 and the “neighbors” in the story are all based on real people.

“Whey Station” popped into my head after re-reading WAY STATION a year or so ago, and I wrote it in an hour. It was an unabashed paean to the book and the only way you could understand it is if you knew the novel well. Trevor Quachri got it and noted that even though it was obscure, the people who knew and loved Simak’s style would get it.

Even so, I had several people actually track me down and ask what it meant, so I prepared this statement:

“"Whey Station" is a play on words. Clifford D. Simak (who is a fellow Minnesotan gone these last 27 years) was awarded 3 Hugos, a Nebula, and a SFWA Grandmaster as well as a Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.)

“I wondered what would have happened to such a farm if the caretaker died suddenly and his family quickly sold it -- without having any idea what it was? Ni and Rey bought this farm and in the process of renovating activate the TRANSFER POINT again.

I upgraded the ambient technology (chest freezers, flat screen displays, and plastic tables) and then had the screen activate with an incoming transfer.

“At the beginning of Chapter 5 of Simak's book, WAY STATION, you'll find the message:

"NO. 406301 TO STATION 18327. TRAVELER AT 16097.38. NATIVE THUBAN VI. NO BAGGAGE. NO. 3 LIQUID TANK. SOLUTION 27. DEPART FOR STATION 12892 AT 16439.16. CONFIRM"

“It's letting the caretaker of the station, Enoch Wallace, know exactly what to expect of the alien transferring through and what kind of preparations he should have.

“My message in “Whey Station” was: wstat120254 2 whey-stat 18328 NatOnyxyfmII. N2checkon. 2LIQ-Tank. SOLN 27. DEP4 wstat31591 @615.5.05.00084.0000141. Rog?

I wrote it so that it was an updated version of Simak’s older, non-computer-age message. Translation:

wstat120254 2 = the station Rey and Ni purchased (secondary to the one presumed to have been in Wisconsin)

whey-stat 18328 = the end station (note: one number different from Simak's destination station)

NatOnyxyfmII = Native of Onyxyfm II (an alien people from another story I wrote)

N2checkon = two pieces of check on luggage

2LIQ-Tank = second-type of liquid tank (liquid nitrogen, if you wanted to know) necessary for the traveler

SOLN 27 = lifted it from Simak

DEP4 wstat31591 = Departing for whey (way) station 31591

@615.5.05.00084.0000141 = a time expressed in some sort of universal, intergalactic time; I thought it should be more complex than Simak did...

Rog? = 21st century US is a bit less formal than 1960s US, so "roger" instead of CONFIRM...”

What did I learn from this exercise?

1) Imitation is the sincerest form of appreciation. I won’t ever go beyond this, though I sort of wonder what happened to Rey and Ni and if they took over the way station, but it’s Simak’s world and his masterpiece and he never saw any reason to go farther than that book – so who am I to do so?

2) Have fun when you write!

3) While it’s good to be mindful of what has come before, we can’t “go back”. Simak lived in the latter part of the 20th Century; I live in the early part of the 21st. They are not the same world. (Mindfulness of this is what’s driving me to write my YA novels in a Heinlein style with a 21st Century mindset…)

What do you think?

November 26, 2015

November 25, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 231


http://media.mnn.com/assets/images/2015/07/melanie%20racoon.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smart.jpgEach Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: Evil de-evolution
Current Event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devolution_(biology) (Fascinating article in which an evolutionists tap-dances around the idea that the dissemination of correct information is NOT the responsibility of scientists but of...um...Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, but ultimately Nobody and CERTAINLY not them…(http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/hlife.html))

Ugnė Mertens flipped her pigtail back again as she stared at the image on her laptop. Muttering, she stepped sideways to the microscope and moved the slide using the X-Y translational control knobs fine adjustment. The image of the chromosome she was studying moved fractionally.

Naranbaatar Todorov picked at his thin, first beard and said, “Staring at it isn’t going to make the genes magically appear, Ug.”

“That’s what you think,” she straightened up, she smiled and added, “Baaaaa,” drawing out the stereotypical sheep sound. “Watch.” She touched a pressure toggle on an odd, goose-necked device standing beside the microscope. The computer’s screen fuzzed suddenly, then the single chromosome lit up as if it was a candy cane.

Baa started, looked at the lamp and exclaimed, “What is that thing?”

“Something I invented and you didn’t,” Ug said, sitting on the lab stool, leaning forward.

Baa swallowed hard, pursed his lips then said, “Listen, I know you don’t much like me...”

Ug reached out and typed an entry into the text box then said, “If I had a choice between dissecting three-day-old roadkill and having lunch with you...” she paused, made a face, then said, “I’m not sure which one I’d pick.”

Baa glanced at the clock on the wall. He still had four hours left of his shift. He couldn’t skip it or Dr. Harber would find out and dock him points. But he wasn’t sure he could keep his feet still and not kick Ugnė in the butt. He took a deep breath and said, “Must be an infrared to ultraviolet, rotating frequency projector.”

She shot him a look then went back to making notes on her computer. Occasionally she tapped her smartphone as well, which lay next to the laptop. “Lucky guess.”

“So that means, ‘yes’. Then you must have bathed the chromosomes in a solution that would...” Naranbaatar hooked another stool with his foot to drag it closer. Shrieking as it vibrated along the floor tiles, he winced and said, “Sorry.”
Ugnė sniffed but didn’t reply. Finally she said, “I used a mix that the older the gene, the less fluorescing compound it would pick up.”

Baa frowned then asked, “What are the chromosomes from?”

"A narn.”

“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed. Reports had been circulating for years about animals whose genes had suddenly started evolving – a quantum evolution event – from static forms to much, much more intelligent forms.

“These are chromosomes from raccoons killed in southern Minnesota.”

“We have narns here?” Baa exclaimed, backing away from the microscope.

Ug turned to look at him. “The genes aren’t contagious, idiot! This isn’t a disease – it’s animal chromosomes. Dyed and fixed at that! What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing. Nothing!” He spun around and took long strides out of the lab. He didn’t care if he lost hours – all he could see in his mind’s eye was the raccoon he’d nearly run over when he was biking on rural trails near his family’s home in an outer ring suburb of what was slowly becoming the three, four-kilometer-tall towers of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Vertical Village.

He would never forget the look on its face as it held out a mangled aw to him and said, “Help...”

Names: Lithuanian, Belgian; Mongolian, Bulgarian


November 22, 2015

Slice of PIE: The Shape of Things We Want To Come


http://ak-hdl.buzzfed.com/static/2015-06/22/7/enhanced/webdr07/enhanced-28696-1434972035-15.jpgUsing the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2651 (page 60) . The link is provided below…

“The Future of Government: We like to think that US democracy is the ultimate and best form of government. But the world has seen many different forms of government over the centuries, and even today many different forms exist around the world. What will governments in the US and other countries be like in the next 10, 50, or 200 years? How will changing technologies and world conditions (e.g., climate change) affect those forms? Are there forms of government that have been proposed that have never existed in the real world, but might?”

Whew! Now THIS is an interesting subject! Contentious, emotional, mind-numbingly complex, and ultimately something the proletariat can natter on about, but can have absolutely no effect on whatsoever.

For example, Wikipedia lists twelve “sub-categories” of government followed by 151 pages of  “forms of government”. Some of which I am familiar with, like “dictatorship”; others I can only guess at, like “vetocracy”; and others I can’t even begin to parse, like “Aesymnetes”.

Another example of why this seems like an...exercise in futility...is that the panelists all come from countries that espouse some form of government that allows for the election of disparate individuals to public office. Karl Schroeder (m), Joe Haldeman, Bradford Lyau, Ada Palmer, Charles Stross were on the panel. Schroeder is a Canadian; Joe Haldeman, Bradford Lyau, and Ada Palmer are Americans; and Charles Stross is British. So we have two people from Constitutional Monarchies and three from a single Republic. In my opinion, this is hardly a group that might afford a broader view of systems of government.

Perhaps it was difficult to find people who have experienced different forms of government: “I hardly saw any non-whites in Spokane. According to the US Census Whites make up 92% of the population of Spokane Washington. Only 4.5% are foreign born. I am not saying this is good or bad, but it was a different world than what I experience in the DC area and my regular travels in CA.” (http://www.city-data.com/forum/spokane-area/364327-why-there-so-little-ethnic-diversity.html#ixzz3sE0zZAj5)

A quick internet search indicates that there are a number of refugee groups in Spokane, “Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Burundi, Cuba, Eritrea, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Liberia, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam” There are also Hmong, Cameroonian, and Haitian families and adopted children.


All but two of the countries whose residents now live in Spokane are listed as republics, of them, one is unlisted, then other is a constitutional monarchy. While I am sure all countries have the best interest of their countrymen and women at heart, I CAN say with absolute surety that at least two of the countries listed as “republics” are so only in name.


Having spent several months in Cameroon and Haiti, I would be so bold as to suggest that both are dictatorships – variously benign and not-so-benign – in fact. The Wikipedia article goes on to qualify the statements of “republic” by further breaking down the stated form of government int0 more “accurate” representations. For example again, Cameroon is a “Presidential system with a prime minister” but this doesn’t mention that the current president, Paul Biya has been in his office for 33 years. Clearly the Cameroonian parliament has never set term limits. Haiti, also a republic but is qualified as follows: “[a] semi-presidential system, there is usually both a president and a prime minister…the president has genuine executive authority, unlike in a parliamentary republic, but some of the role of a head of government is exercised by the prime minister.”

It seems to me that the Convention Committee might have made a bit of effort to add some commentary from individuals who have experienced other forms of government, before launching into what I am sure was a fascinating exploration of other, better ways of governing a population than a “republic” – from a point of view that has absolutely no experience with anything other than governments that offer representation of divergent opinions.

Why should other points of view be necessary, though? Why can’t we chat about other ways of doing things – why, it’s the American (or REPUBLIC) way! We are absolutely free to do whatever we wish (as long as it’s legal!) and no one who has opinions different will go unheard.

Unless, of course, those differing opinions weren’t invited...Oh, that’s right, politics is “c Contentious, emotional, mind-numbingly complex”. I wonder if there were any actual politicians at the conference? Surely there must have been a council member, mayor, or a senator or legislator or two about!

Then again, maybe not.

November 19, 2015

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 75: Stepan On The Rim


http://cache4.asset-cache.net/gc/dv1535067-rear-view-of-a-buddhist-monk-kneeling-on-the-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=eH0hXXJtSoPADooyLEMff8OVmXjNySNMiN4gIdwZA8M%3D On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters  and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (50,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Stepan Izmaylova sighed. It had been a long walk to the Rim neighborhood of Burroughs Dome and the Artificial Human teenager he called Quinn  “I seen people with rickets. Somebody told me it was like a cold, but that’s stupid. You get over a cold. Rickets is a curse from a Voodoo priest. But I also seen elders who’re losing their cog – both real Humans and aych.” Artificial Humans used the contraction “ay-aych” for themselves rather than the derogatory inti they used in the Home Owner’s District, “Plus kids who got bad asthma, and that blood sugar thing.”

“Diabetes,” Stepan said, staring down at Quinn. “You know about that?”

“Who don’t?” Looking up at Stepan he laughed and said, “I’m artificial, not STUPID!”

Stepan laughed as well, adding, “Well, we’ll grow mushrooms in the dark of the warehouse and raise chickens and grow vegetables on the roof. All of those are high in vitamin D…” he patted the antigrav plate his father had lent him. They walked with the crowd as men, women, children, and aychs peeled away. Soon they were at the edge of the warehouse district – the Rim, where the buildings merged with the massive concrete ring the dome rested on – and their rear walls let out onto the thin air of Mars.

They’d passed the first one when two blue men stepped out of the shadows, pulled out knives and said, “Give it.”

Beside him, Quinn stiffened, ready to fight. Stepan said, “It’s an anti-grav plate. An old one at that. It’s starter is keyed to my DNA because I got it from my dad.”

“So?” growled the older one. He looked old, withered. In an aych, that meant that he would by dying soon. His genes were programmed to senesce at an advanced rate once his usefulness was over. “We need the money.”

Stepan held out the disk. Quinn exclaimed, “Don’t give it to them!”

The younger one – there was no way to tell his real age because he looked to be in his late twenties – brandished the knife and snarled. Literally. Then he said, “Try anything little boy and I’ll cut you up so bad you’ll be dead before nightfall!” He reached to the disk.

The older one scowled and said, “Why you just giving it to us?”

“Because you asked for it.”

“I know. We’re robbing you. But you aren’t going to fight?”

Stepan shrugged. “I certainly don’t want you to kill Quinn, and I can get another disk from somewhere. We’re just going to start a rooftop garden and a mushroom farm in the darker interior of that warehouse over there.” He gestured. They’d nearly made it home.

“Why would you do that? You’re...” he used the extremely crude phrase that aychs used to refer to those who’d been born in the ancient Human manner. Stepan winced. Both of them laughed.

Stepan said, “I’m here to help...” The younger one used another crudity, though not so bad. Stepan continued, “That would probably be useful on my farm. But anyway, I am a Christian and I’m here to help.” He shrugged. “I used to be famous once and I have money and my beliefs compel me to do what I can to alleviate suffering.”

The younger used the crude word again, but asked, “All the Christians are dead.”

Stepan held out both arms, palms facing them, “Clearly we’re not. In fact, there are more Christians on Mars now than there were when the faiths were outlawed.”

The older aych pursed his lips and handed the anti-grav plate back. Stepan took it and tucked it under his arm. The younger man exclaimed, “What are you doing?”

The older man shrugged, “Maybe I think Mars needs more do-gooders. ‘sides, he’s right. It’s worthless if it’s DNA coded.”

“We can unprogram it!”

The older man lifted his chin, “Let ‘em go. Maybe they’ll do some good. Come on.” The older man started walking. With a dark look at Stepan and Quinn, the younger man followed.

Quinn’s eyes were wide when he looked up at Stepan and whispered, “How’d you do that?”

Stepan shrugged and said, “We have lots of work to do. Let’s go.” Together, they headed for the warehouse.

November 17, 2015

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 230

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Current Event: http://nypost.com/2013/10/15/brother-of-missing-autistic-teen-searches-on-his-own/

Yarelis Smits held up her tablet computer and shouted to the mass of people, “My foster brother has been missing since yesterday! He’s autistic and he can’t speak! A friend of his from school saw him in this neighborhood late yesterday,” she stopped shouting as the crowd had quieted. “Please remember that even though he can’t speak, Ray Cantú can hear us.”

A girl from school, a year older than Ray, who was in ninth grade, said, “This is a really bad neighborhood. What if we can’t find him?”

Yarelis’ heart felt as if it had stopped in her chest. She looked around the crowd, hoping to see Dorian. The high school police liaison officer had showed up after most of the volunteers had arrived, hanging back, supposedly separated from them all, but still part of them. No one else had noticed him yet.

She was also pretty sure no one had noticed that he was an android. The only reason Yarelis knew was because her Mom was a detective with the local peakers – peace keepers and Yarelis had stumbled across a stray text message that hinted at it. When she’d asked Mom, who never lied outside of work, she’d admitted it.

So to find her missing brother, she had a bunch of people she went to school with, and a robot cop. All she was really missing was her best friend, the mysterious, supposed reincarnation of the late Turkish singer, Selda Bağcan.

Warm breath brushed her ear as a voice mimicking a Turkish accent said, “What, you think I was going to leave you all alone with these insane muggles?"
Yarelis rolled her eyes, the whole HP phenom was so four decades ago. Jane Eyre – which was her real, actual name – was the only one Yarelis knew who still read the things. Except for her, but Yarelis only read them because Jane was her best friend. That’s what she told everyone, anyway.

 The girl shouted again, “Isn’t it dangerous here?”

“Dangerous for who?” called a low, bass voice. Yarelis didn’t recognize it and stood on her tiptoes, scanning the crowd. On the edge opposite Darius, there was movement as people who had actually heard the voice turned, then parted between the speaker and Yarelis.

“You’re not from school,” she said, scowling.

“No, I’m from the neighborhood.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You might call me a vigilante.”
“What? My brother’s harmless – he’s autistic, mute. He’d never say anything to anyone!”

The man, who wore a faded, black cowboy hat, pushed up the rim then looked at her intently from under it. He said, “They say it’s the silent one’s is the most dangerous.”

“He’d never hurt anyone!”

“Then how do you explain this?” the man said and pulled his hat off. The blood mixed with his gray hair had been concealed by the back rim of the hat. “I was on my way here and he attacked me with a broken board. He...”

“You must have done something to frighten him, then!” Yarelis cried.

“He ain’t the one scared here, missy. I am.”

Names: ♀Puerto Rican, Dutch, ; ♂ Mexican
Image: http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger/1369/212/1600/736674/zombieafter06.jpg

November 15, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: From Collision Avoidance to VIKI and BEYOND…


http://techzulu.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Screen-Shot-2014-09-19-at-1.08.49-PM.pngAsimov’s Three Laws of Robotics have so insinuated themselves into the technological culture of the 21st Century, that not only do they in their original, fiction form:

0) A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

They also appear in numerous other places (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Laws_of_Robotics_in_popular_culture for lists and links).

In the 2004 movie, “i, Robot” which takes place twenty years from now, the AI, VIKI uses the NS-5 robot upgrade to bring the city of Chicago under robotic governance because Humans can’t do anything right and are liable to kill themselves off. “She” is only following the Zeroth Law and is taking control for the sake of Humanity.

Let’s face it: there’s no way this is going to happen!

Look at the “far-seeing” writers of the BACK TO THE FUTURE movies. By this year, we were supposed to have not ONLY home fusion reactors, but they would be so cheap and common that they would be the equivalent of Mr. Coffee machines. Don’t even get me started about hoverboards as antigravity toys, and turning plain-old-ordinary-cars into flying cars by having a “hoverconversion done in the early 21st Century”!

Never happen!

Hold on a second...let’s back up to 2016. I was watching TV one night, when this commercial came on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltqt-c_mAac. Collision Avoidance Technology, which of course seems like a great idea, along with “self-driving cars” (check THIS out! http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/13/us/google-self-driving-car-pulled-over/) is here and now.

True artificial intelligence, alas (?) doesn’t seem to be keeping up with CAT, though the hype about the inevitability of intelligence beyond our own seems to drown out those who caution that aside from ethically, we just aren’t THERE yet. This article, from the oft-times hyper-strident Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jodie-tyley/artificial-intelligence_b_8279030.html, cautions that AI isn’t “just around the corner”. In fact, HAL9000 isn’t about to start ordering us around in the next five years, either. Cory Doctrow, hardly someone you’d call a “stick-in-the-mud” regarding the wonders of technology and the impending Singularity, cautions:  “It's not making software that can solve our problems: it's figuring out how to pose those problems so that the software doesn't bite us in the...” (http://boingboing.net/2015/08/18/the-real-hard-problem-of-ai.html)

The movie seems to me to be an entirely separate entity that shares only the title and the Three Laws. It’s a different story and a different future. In this one,  an artificial intelligence called VIKI, Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence, is a benevolent dictator, taking over to save Humanity from itself. While this makes for great story, it seems to me that the 2035 of this movie is probably more than two decades away.

I could be wrong. Collision avoidance MAY be just the beginning of long leap into the a technological singularity. But I’d be incredibly surprised if I got an NS-5 on my 70th birthday or if ABC Evening News announced, “Today, the Singularity arrived...” on my 80th birthday...

November 12, 2015

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #79: July 30, 1946


https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/d8/66/26/d86626ea7c710956ab269e9491cbbaeb.jpgThis series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill trudged in silence under the blazing summer sun until Tommy finally said, “The last week of school, I told Earl I had heat stroke to see if I could stay home sick.”

Freddie barked a laugh just as a cool breeze dribbled from the north, along the road and slid up their backs. Both boys sighed and trudged a few more feet until they stopped.

The breeze carried the deep-throated rumble of the diesel engine of a big rig.

Tommy said, “It can’t be the Socialists. They just passed us by.”

Freddie said, “Maybe they took a back road over and they’re checking the road again.” Tommy shot him a startled look, then frowned. Freddie shrugged and said, “They ain’t stupid.”

“I don’t think they want to look for us that bad if all they have to do…”

“Here it comes!” cried Freddie. Edging toward the ditch, he said, “Do we duck or stick out a thumb?”

Tommy held his breath, looked at the sun then said, “Stick out your thumb!” as he did exactly that.

Freddie did the same. At first the truck continued to barrel toward them. Then all of a sudden the gears ground and the squeal of the air brakes blanketed the countryside, probably scaring every wild animal into hiding for a twenty mile radius. When the truck finally came to a rest, a woman’s face poked through the window. “Well bust my britches, if it ain’t the hikin’ boys from Canada!”

Tommy and Freddie shouted in unison, “Ed!”

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) shouted, “Pile on in, boys! I’m headed for Minneapolis.”

They ran around the front of the semi. Ed yanked on the air horn, startling the boys into hysterical laughter that kept on as they climbed into the cab. Ed grinned, punched each boy in the shoulder and said, “So you finally decided to head on back home?” She busied herself with getting the logging truck back up to traveling speed.

Tommy and Freddie looked at each other, then Tommy turned to her and blurted, “The Socialists are on their way to kill my mom and steal a portrait!”

Ed didn’t react at all, upshifting once more and then goosing the engine until they were rumbling along fairly smoothly. She glanced at them then said, “Remember what I said when I dropped you off in Thunder Bay?” They looked at each other. Ed grunted, then said, “‘It’s been a fine trip and the two of you’se have made an otherwise boring drive one of uncommon adventure.’”

“I remember that,” said Tommy.

“Yeah, well, it seems that we’ve got a little more ‘uncommon adventure’ still ahead of us.”