The Businessman

The Businessman sat at the same restaurant every day during his lunch break. Every day was the same for The Businessman, and one of his few joys was ordering a different thing for lunch every day. He would take the specials each day, and if the specials contained something he absolutely hated or was allergic to, he would take one his favorite regular dishes. In this way, he managed to keep the favorites special, and he never got sick of them.

The Businessman had the same routine at the restaurant every day. First, he would find a table outside. Rain or shine, he had to sit outside. If there were no tables available, which happened sometimes during tourist season, he would wait. The waiters, the servers, even the manager knew him, and they always managed to find him a seat quickly. Once he found a suitable table, he would sit down and reach into his bag. He had a worn black leather briefcase, one that looked dignified but not stuffy and too new. He would take three things out of his bag at first.

The first was a bag of tobacco. The second was a box of rolling papers. The third was a lighter. Until the waiters came over – and indeed, the waiters knew not to come over until this ritual was over or they would need to deal with a very flustered man – he would meticulously roll himself three cigarettes. He would smoke one before the meal, the second after the meal, and the third after his post-meal coffee. He felt that rolling his own cigarettes was the one roguish behavior that he’d kept from his college days when he’d been wild and carefree.

The Businessman considered himself to be rather homely. He didn’t think he had particularly interesting features, and he knew that he blended in with the endless flow of suited men in their late forties. He didn’t realize that his eyes were a beautiful and rare light blue. He didn’t seem to notice the fact that he cut a fine figure. He wasn’t entirely aware of the fact that his face, lined as it was, was full of character and intelligence. He only saw himself as The Businessman, a man who knew and understood his trade but couldn’t explain what he did to others very well. Because of this, he was convinced that he was boring.

The Businessman ordered a different thing every day at the restaurant. He hoped that one day he would take a last meal there, shake the waiters’ and the servers’ and the manager’s hands goodbye, and turn his back. He hoped he would have the opportunity and the courage to go somewhere different one day and leave the business district forever. He hoped.

Guest Post: J.W. Nicklaus

When I first came to WordPress I did what I suspect most people do pre-blogging—I did some ‘reading around.’ If you’ve never ‘read around’ then you’re missing out; it’s much less complicated than other ‘around’ activities and the worst thing you can contract is a screaming case of lost time.

Anyhow, I came across a blog titled SlightlyIgnorant. The name alone was enough to intrigue me. I couldn’t tell you what the first post was that I read but to this day I frequent her blog, and I am genuinely thrilled to have been asked to guest-post here. Anyone who has read my comments to some of her posts knows of my appreciation for her talents—yes, I’m something of a fan :^)

This is the first of two guest posts I’ll be doing for Ms. Slightly. Beginning April 1st I’ll be doing a blog tour in support of my debut book The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. Appropriately she has asked me to relate how the book went from nebulous thoughts to bound printed word.

It was a stormy night, filled with the kind of thunder that makes the stars shake . . .

Okay, not really, but I’ve always wanted to lead off a story with something like that. Truth is I hadn’t the slightest inkling I’d ever attempt to have my stories published. Each time I’d write one I’d stow it away and re-visit it some time later, for revising or perhaps just out of simple nostalgia. What I discovered, though, was that when I shared this story or that, reader response wasn’t so much positive as it much as it was mostly emotion-based. This was a pleasant, if not unplanned, outcome; an ego-stroke, assuredly, but you didn’t need to spray me with India ink to make me realize the upside to such a gift. If I can make only one person smile, or another warm from the inside out, then how could I not want to repeat it?

I suppose the deeper question is Where does the inspiration come from? The easy answer would be “from experience.” The more esoteric answer, and more revealing, is that I draw from my personal well of hopeless romanticism. Where that comes from I can’t honestly pin down. Some stories are indeed based on actual experience: Blind and In the Name Of Love are two such examples. I could regale you with summaries of each one but then it wouldn’t be as fun to read them, would it! I will tell you that Blind stems from an incident that occurred one night as I left work. I happened upon a blind man who lived nearby but who wasn’t sure where his house was. Turned out we were standing right next to it. The oddness of the encounter prompted me to work it into a short story, mostly because I had the distinct impression I was meant to run into this gentleman.

Other stories, like Emissary and Winter Rose had their genesis in stories of utterly disparate narratives. I had entirely different ideas about each of them when I started writing each one,  and both evolved into something much more meaningful as I worked through them. Emissary, a story about a man who loses his beloved wife at sea, began as a story about a man who scales a suspension bridge at night only to sit atop one of the towers and question his life’s purpose—the original title was to be Bridge and Emissary. While I may return to the initial concept someday I am very pleased that Emissary is the first story in the book. Without a doubt it showcases my ‘voice’ and reveals a sliver of the romantic in me.

Winter Rose began as a tale about a man who’s capacity for hope had gone fallow, until he finds a solitary rose growing from under a blanket of snow. Suffice to say you’ll find no such imagery in the final story of the book, but I think the end result is far more emotionally gratifying.

Eventually I came to realize, after looking at a good number of short stories I’d written, that there existed a common thread of Hope that ran through most all of them. Some were just fun, some clearly uplifting, and a couple slightly darker. As the idea of querying possible publishers began to fester I lit upon the title and stuck doggedly to it: The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. It is nothing less than fitting. While the idea of putting my words out for all to see can indeed be frightening, I have come to the calm acceptance of two key facts:
(1) Not everyone will like my style, much less the stories themselves
(2) Conversely, there will be some who do . . .on both counts

I hope that many of you will tag along this month as I make my way through this virtual tour. I can’t possibly dream of having the kind of readership that Ms. Slightly, <a href=”>Joy Erikson</a> (you’ve <i><b>got</b></i> to see the one-way glass toilet!), <a href=””>The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly</a> (she’s <b>not</b> a morning person, but she’s got a wicked sense of humor),  or <a href=””>Ugly Ass Opinions</a> (a veritable Zion of Common Sense) have. But I hope, in my own way, to entertain those of you who choose to follow along or even read the book. I’ve vowed to be as punctual as possible about posting tour stops on <a href=””>my own blog</a>, so I certainly hope to see some of you along the way! :^)

My thanks again to Ms. Slightly for the opportunity to prattle on about my book.

Vampires and Werewolves

There is a fascination that people seem to have with creatures of the night. Look at the amount of novels, movies and TV shows dedicated to vampires and werewolves – the latest Twilight craze being only the most recent and romanticized version of these creatures.

I’ve never been one to really believe in things like this – monsters, ghosts, things that go bump in the night. I’d love it if they could be real, only because having creatures like that around seems to make life very much more interesting, but I’ve always been a “prove it” sort of person. Such is my attitude towards religion as well, but that’s for another post, sometime in the future when I have the nerves for it.

Back to the adoration, or at least fixation, that so many of us seem to have with vampires and werewolves – I wonder where it stems from? Yes, things of danger are always interesting, especially when you’re snug in your bed reading or in a padded chair at a movie theater. But then monsters and hags and ghouls should be dealt with just as often – and yet they’re not. We seem to love the idea of a tortured soul, someone who is human some of the time or still resembles a human in day to day life. Something about the moral questions that arise from a lifestyle that involved killing and maiming seems to be intriguing, something we’d like to delve into – as long as it’s not our own problems of course.

Ah, the musings that surface after watching “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” at midnight…