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Friday, December 6, 2013

The star

by Ramon Ballard

Jacob sat with his knees curled up to his chin and his back to a wall, excited by the throngs of visitors. His town had doubled and then doubled once again since the decree from Rome. His father was of the lineage of King David, so he and his family didn’t need to journey to pay their required taxes. He loved the constant flow of the crowds, unusual for this small town. He could sit and watch it all day long, if his father would let him.
      The sun was about to set and the shadows would soon become darkened streets, which meant he would soon be forced inside for the night. His attention was inexplicitly drawn to a man guiding a donkey through the crowd. The donkey brayed and hesitated before moving. A young girl, not much older than him sat on the animal. She was very much pregnant. Jacob quickly assumed that she was the obviously much older gentleman’s daughter.
      The man stopped before an Inn and not one of the better Inns mind you, only to be greeted with a shake of the owner’s head. One after another innkeeper’s heads gave the same reply. There was no room to be had.
      My father has a spare room he thought to himself. He rushed forward to tell the man and his daughter the good news, but found that Ezieliel, one of Bethlehem’s elderly blind men, had fallen amongst the crowd and was in danger of being crushed. He looked toward the couple to find they were talking to another keeper. He didn’t know what to do. If he left the old man in the streets, he would surely die but something drew him to the young girl. He took a few steps away from the fallen man, but returned and touched him on his shoulder.
     "Who is there?" the blind man asked.
     "It is Jacob, son of James."
     "I seem to have fallen and have no strength to get up."
     A quick look satisfied Jacob that he could help both Ezieliel and the young girl. With all his might he helped the man to his feet and then looked after the man and his daughter, and frowned when he realized they were no longer in sight. He lost them when he stopped to help the blind man. Without thinking he asked the blind man if he had a place to stay and food to eat.
     "I have none," the blind man confessed.
     "Tonight you will be the guest of my father. He is already sleeping after a long day’s work, but I’m sure he won’t mind," Jacob said, his heart inexplicably warming and a blanket of joy covering his soul.
      That night as he knelt to pray, the room brightened noticeably as a bright star shone brilliantly in the Northern skies. "I wonder how I have not seen that star before."


The following morning Jacob’s father ran to where he slept awaking him with a vigorous shake.
     "What is it father?" He knuckled sleep from his eyes and remembered the blind man he had given shelter to without permission. "Please forgive me, father, the old man had nowhere to go last night, and as you were already sleeping when I came home, well I could not ask you. I was sure you would not mind."
    James blinked and scratched his beard. "Old man? You mean Ezieliel? Son you have done the right by offering him shelter for the night." He rustled his son’s unruly hair. "We have more than we could possibly need."
     "Then what troubles you father?"
     "The shepherds are telling all that will listen that they were visited by angels last night," said James wringing his hands in excitement. "Get dressed son, we must be off to Jerusalem."
     Jacob stared at his father. "Jerusalem?"
     "The story the shepherds are telling is they were watching their flocks when they were visited by the angels." His father could not hide his excitement. "They were told that a child was born in a manger during the night. And he would be known as Christ the Lord."
     "Baby? Manger?" asked Jacob.
     "Yes, the shepherds left their flocks and visited the manger, to their amazement they found the child swabbed in swaddling clothes amongst the animals. Praise be to Jehovah."
     "We need to go to the manger at once father." Jacob hurried to dress.
     "I visited, the manger is empty. I can only assume they have gone to the Temple. According to our laws, the babe must be circumcised before eight days old."
     "Did the shepherds tell you about the parents?" Jacob’s mouth went dry.
    "They said nothing about the father, but said the mother was no more than a child herself. Why do you ask?"
    "I think I saw them last night. I wanted to offer them a room here father." He wiped a tear from his eyes. "I failed."
     "You did not fail my son, you helped one less fortunate. I can ask for no more from you." He hugged his son. "Get dressed, I must tell Simeon. He has been waiting so long for the Messiah. Our plight will soon be over."
     "Simeon? Is he the one that has been promised to live until he saw the Messiah?" Jacob said, tying the chord to his robes.

The father and son had travelled less than half way to Jerusalem before they spied a young boy sitting by the side of the road. He sat with his head cupped in his hands and crying uncontrollably
     "Father, we should see if we might be of assistance." Jacob said and he jumped off his mule before his father could stop him.
     "Why do you cry?" Jacob asked.
     The young boy looked up at Jacob, shielding his eyes from the sun. "Five of my flock has run off. I cannot leave the rest to locate them." He rubbed his nose before continuing. "My master will have my hide."
     Jacob sat next to the young boy and placed his arm around him. "Father, you go to Jerusalem by yourself, I will help my new friend locate his sheep, and then return home."
     "We shall find his sheep and return home together," said his father with a gentile smile. "I have a feeling the spirit will tell Simeon. We need to help your friend."


Jacob searched in every crowd. There were times he swore he saw them, alas it was always another baby and another mother.
     His father told him, "The baby and family had most likely returned to their homeland, as they were in Bethlehem just to pay taxes. And he should forget about them for the time being."
     Jacob refused to give up at first. But slowly his resolve weakened. A year passed, maybe two. Jacob lost all hope in finding the baby and his mother. Finally a rumor surfaced that three magi and their caravan had been seen in Jerusalem. He heard it on good authority that the wise men had talked to King Herod. It was also said that the Magi were coming to Bethlehem but he never saw them. King Herod’s soldiers thundered into the city instead of the Magi.
    Horror ensued. The soldiers were systematically going from house to house killing every male child. His sister and young nephew’s turn would be next.
     Soldiers trudged through the streets blood dripping from their swords. Cries of anguish and grief filled the air, mothers held the lifeless bodies of their slain children in their arms. Jacob, swept with panic, looked around his kitchen for anywhere he could hide his sister and child his eyes settled on the row of wine and spice barrels against the far wall. Searching frantically, he found an empty spice barrel.
     "Hide inside the barrel and try to keep little Jude still." He held back tears as he watched his sister grab the child and climb into the barrel, her dirty face streaked with tears. "All will be safe. The soldiers can do as they wish with me, but you will be safe. I promise. You must hurry." Despite the imminent danger, Jacob felt a warmness envelop his heart.
     A loud bang on the door startled Jacob as he placed another empty barrel on the one hiding his sister and nephew. The door flew open and three burly soldiers burst through.
      "Are there children in the house?" The largest soldier barked. The other two busied themselves turning over cushions, running swords through draperies. They concentrated on the young boy when nothing was found.
     "No it is just myself and my father, and he is away on business." Jacob felt his heart thumping in his chest, but used all his strength of character to keep his outwardly self-calm. Well, as calm as one could expect when surrounded by blood thirsty killers.
     The steely eyed soldier licked his lips, and without warning nicked Jacob on the cheek with his sword. "You know what happens to boys that lie to King Herod’s soldiers?"
     Jacob held his ground. He refused to rub the blood from his cheek. He smiled and said, "I am alone, my father is away on business. May I offer you and your companion’s refreshments?"
     The soldier snarled and barked orders to the others. "This is all the refreshment we require," he said as he raked his sword on Jacob’s leg. "Move out. There is nothing here."
     Jacob ignored his pain as he watched the soldiers ride out of town. He helped his older sister and nephew from the barrel, and comforted her.
     "Jacob, they cut your face. You did that for me?" She hugged him. "Come, we must dress the wound."
     "The wound can wait. I need to see if those I could not save could use comfort." He concealed the wound on his leg until it was almost too late. His cheek wound scarred over and remained with him as a sign of his good deed. His leg became badly damaged and he would walk with a profound limp after that time. It was a small price to pay for the safety of his loved ones.


Time piled day upon day and soon year upon year. Jacob’s search for his Messiah waned with the passing of each season. His generosity, kind heart, and care for the less fortunate grew as his hope failed. But in his heart, he believed himself a failure. The only thing he had asked of life was to meet the Messiah and he had failed miserably on several occasions. His lame leg prevented him from making a name for himself like his father. The scar on his face haunted him and was an obstacle in finding himself a wife, although the obstacle was more in his own mind than in the young ladies. Any hope of finding the Messiah faded completely when he and his father moved to Capernaum to get closer to his ailing grandmother. His search for the child ended nearly thirty years after it began.
     He was a failure, plain and simple.
     Finally one day he heard of a preacher from out of the wilderness spreading the word of baptism and love.
     "Jacob, I have witnessed the most wonderful event, please set yourself down and let me tell you."
     "Father, please sit and have your dinner first, you haven’t been eating properly lately. I’m worried about you."
     "But, Jacob."
     "Father, sit down. I have dinner right here. Sit down and eat. Then you can tell me of your exciting events of the day."
     Jacob’s father knelt for supper.
     "Father, have you heard about the Baptist?" Jacob asked.
     His father swabbed the last bit of broth from his plate with a chunk of bread. "Jacob, that’s just what I was trying to tell you. I saw him today by the stream. His message was so compelling that I could not deny the truth." His eyes sparkled as he told Jacob of his new conviction.
     "Is he the one we have searched for these many years?"
     "I thought he might be but his message was, he baptized by water but another would fill our soul with fire."
     Jacob shook his head. "What does that mean?"
     "I really did not know until soon after my conversion and baptism." A glow came to his eyes. "A man came forward, many in the crowd whispered that he was from Nazareth." He placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. "The Baptist told the man that he was unworthy to fasten the man’s sandals. I heard it myself. He also said that the Nazarene should baptize him."
     "The Nazarene could not possibly be the Messiah. The Messiah came from Bethlehem. We were there." 
     "I thought so too, but I am convinced the Nazarene is our Messiah."
     "Why so father?" Jacob dabbed a tear from his eye.
     "He told the Baptist that it was he who needed baptism, and asked the Baptist to baptize him. I will forever remember what happened after the baptism." He looked toward heaven with his hands outstretched in reverence. "Son, I testify to you that the skies opened and a dove descended and a voice exclaimed THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED."
     Jacob jumped up and rushed to the door. "I must find this man from Nazareth."
    "They may have both gone. You must hurry, Son."
     "I spent my day today with an old blind man, tending to his fever. But he passed despite my care. I wasted my day. I should have stayed with you today, Father," Jacob said as he grabbed his cloak from the peg.
     "You did your best. You were where you needed to be." His face contorted as he clutched his chest.
    Jacob rushed to his father as he slumped to the floor. "Father," he cried cradling him in his arms.
     His father looked up, pain etched on his face, spittle on the corner of his mouth. "Go Son, you can find your savior if you hurry."
    "My savior can wait until you recover Father. He can wait."


Jacob's father improved slightly over the next few weeks. Jacob spent all of his time either sleeping or caring for him. He sat by his father's side applying a wet cloth on his feverish forehead. When the condition worsened Jacob prayed and held his father's hand tight.
     "You have been a faithful son," he said, his breath shallow and labored. "Go, follow your heart. I will survive. I have burdened you for far too long." He closed his eyes and sighed as his grip loosened.
     Jacob did not have the time to answer his father.
      The door flew open without a knock and his neighbor rushed in. "You should have been there, Jacob."
     "Been where Isaac?" Jacob asked, taking his watchful eyes from his father briefly.
     "The hill outside of the city of course." Isaac could scarcely hold back his excitement. "How is your father?"
     "He is resting." Jacob glanced at his sleeping father for any signs of breathing. "What happened on the hills?" He asked in a hushed voice.
     "The new Rabbi, Jesus, taught us." Isaac looked to one side and then another. "He fed the multitude with a few fish and even less bread."
     "The Messiah is in town? He is here now?"
    "Some call him the Messiah, after today I too believe him to be the One prophesied about."
     "What did he teach?" Jacob questioned his friend. "Did he say what we are to do about the Romans?"
     "That is just it, he is preaching peace. He preached that the poor in spirit will be blessed."
    "What does that mean?" Jacob quizzed.
     "He said that the poor have a Kingdom in heaven and those that mourn will be comforted. The meek shall inherit the earth."
     "Why would the meek want the earth?" Jacob laughed. 
     "The Rabbi said more, but I cannot remember all. The pure of heart are blessed, the peacemakers, and the merciful also." Isaac caught his breath before continuing. "He taught us how to pray also."
     "I know how to pray. I have been praying for my father’s recovery."
     "Perhaps you are praying for the wrong thing, my dear friend."
     Jacob hung his head low. "What shall I pray for?"
     "Go ask the Rabbi, he has performed miracles. It is said he has healed the sick, and your father is sick, is he not?"
     "Yes. Did you hear that father? The Messiah is nearby, I have faith he can heal your ailment." Jacob rushed to his father side. "Does the Messiah raise from the dead?" A tear rushed down his cheek, a drop at first, followed by a raging river of tears.
     "Not that I know of, my dear friend, not that I know of."


Jacob was alone for the first time in his life. He searched for the new Messiah, but could never get close. His limp  become more pronounced and it became harder for him to get around. He returned to Bethlehem to the care of his nephew, rejected and a failure. His was over forty and had nothing to show for his life.
     "Uncle," his nephew said as he entered the doorway. "The Messiah is in Jerusalem for Passover."
    A spark of energy filled Jacob’s bosom. "I am unable to walk, it is too far."
     "I will carry you Uncle," his nephew insisted.
     "I am too ill, maybe in a few days." Jacob coughed into a rag, concealing the blood left behind.
     "I will seek him Uncle; I will bring him to you, if I can. It is said he has raised Lazarus from the dead. I am sure he can heal you."
     "Thank you, you have been kind to me, a lame useless man. I am grateful for your assistance."
     "The privilege has been all mine. Rest, I shall return."
     Jacob was unaware of how long he had waited. Darkness permeated the day.
     A bright light pierced the darkness, and Jacob held his hands to his eyes, shielding his sight.
     "Jacob, my wise and faithful servant, I am well pleased, you have served me well."
    "That is not so, my Lord. When have I had the pleasure of serving you? We have never met. I have always either been behind you or ahead of you." Jacob’s lips quivered. "My life has been a failure."
      "When I was tired, you gave me rest. When I was afraid, you gave me comfort. When I was lost, you found me. When I hungered, you fed me. When I was sick, you consoled me."
      "Nay, I have not done any of that for you my Lord. You have the wrong person."
      "Jacob, if you have done it unto the least of your brothers, you have done it unto me. Follow me now Jacob. You have earned your reward."
        Jacob’s nephew entered the house, his heart heavy and his eyes red from tears. He wished he had better news to tell his Uncle. The Messiah, the living son of God had been crucified during the night. How could he tell his Uncle, who had searched so diligently for his savior for so many years that he was dead?
       He found Jacob, lying in his bed with a look of total peace and contentment.
     Jacob had found his Messiah.


It's the season for remembrance of our Savior's birth, and his ultimate act of kindness. A random act of kindness costs very little and takes almost none of our time. We should all pay it forward from this day hence. Change your problems one smile at a time. Spread your sunshine to the less fortunate.

"You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world."


Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Seven down

Today is the anniversary of my writing career. August 29, 2007, I sat down at my computer and banged out "Mom I'm home," plus 109,000 other words for my very first MG novel. My first sentence is no longer in the often-revised novel. It took me 6 years to whittle 109,000 words to 52,000. The title has been changed from Tenebrae to Momnapped and many titles in-between. I finally settled on A Somewhat True Story of Sara Roberts. I've queried so many, some too early, some too late, burned bridges I can't cross again. Someone told me that my manuscript is ready to query again, although I am query-shy and have only queried one agent. (Afraid of that soon to come "not for me" reply)

Here I am seven years later, five books finished, still dreaming, still hoping, and still determined.

My epic "Mom I'm home" novel might be changed, but it's still standing. I too have changed, some changes for the good, some not so good, but I'm still standing.

Happy Anniversary Sara, Colin, Horace, Axual, you've made the last seven years an adventure, regardless if I'm the only one that knows you exist.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Life and times of an unpublished dreamer

I check my inbox a million times a day. The outcome is always the same; it’s always as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. My internet provider has changed its number to an unlisted number. I guess they got tired of me calling insisting something was amiss with my email account.

I know it’s now fashionable for an agent to only reply to queries they are willing to pursue, however I would feel so better knowing that I suck and not assuming that my manuscript is bad. A simple form rejection letter eases my wounded heart much more than a blanket agent ignore.

I get somewhat disheartened when I find out that my dream agent has responded to another query in mere nanoseconds, knowing the same agent has had your query since the dark ages.

I’ve forced myself to believe that any light at the end of a tunnel is a positive thing, even though I get ran-over by train after train after train.

I still search for that elusive rainbow, and I still get soaked to the bone by the torrential rains.

It’s getting harder but I also still wish upon the same star, and dreaming the same dream. The difference is I know now that millions of talented writers wish on that same star and dream the same dream. I’m very surprised that I have not given up.

The hardest part of the journey is depending on a stranger to believe in my dream as much as I believe in it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

I'm reposting a blog from last year. This one always gives me energy to keep writing and persevere to the end. I will admit at times I run on empty and wonder if I need my head examined.

I have always been a dreamer. I cannot remember a time when I was anything other than a dreamer. I see things as I wish them to be. Not always the way reality has presented them to me. I chase one rainbow after another. I have been known to challenge windmills to a fight to the death.

My wife, the pragmatist, tells me time after time, not all dreams come true. She reminds me that chasing rainbows will only get me wet. And picking fights with windmills should be left for the young, not the young at heart.

I keep dreaming my dreams, chasing rainbows, and righting all wrongs. All the while ending tattered and torn. I bump into walls, soaked to the bone. My wife is right, fighting windmills has only ever left me broken-hearted.

I dream because I know no other way. I chase rainbow because I want to see the bluebirds. I take on windmills because I need my head examined.

As I have always said, I grew up invisible. Dreaming is all I had.

My latest dream is to be a published writer. That should be an easy accomplishment, right? Being a dreamer I thought all that you would need is a great story. I have a great story.

Dreamers, like myself are so naive. I surmised I had a great story, ergo, publisher's, and
literary agent's would fight over me. I was going to be the next literary darling.

How wrong could one dreamer be? My wonderful story has had so many rewrites I can scarcely recognize it. However, it is still a great story. I have lost track of how many times my query letter has been altered. I have been told my current, last, second to last, middle query letter varied from great to perfect. I think my query letter is a good one.

The rejection letters trickle in bit by bit. The windmill wins with each new rejection. And I resolve to find the end of just one rainbow with each form letter.

Why don't I quit? I quit every day. There is not a day goes by where I don't throw it all away. I decide it isn't worth the pain. Quitting is the only sane option.

My wife the pragmatist tells me it's OK to dream, but not to expect too much from the dreams, because not all dreams come true. I'll admit there are times I tend to agree with her. A chain reaction of thoughts rumble through my mind. If dreams don't come true, then why do I waste my time dreaming. Lack of dreams mean I can quit wasting my time writing fantasies no one will read. Without dreams I can quit, no more writing, no more queries, no more rejections.

At night, when all is silent, and I am tucked safely in my bed, that's when they all come out to play. Sara, her mother and father. The evil toad, Appleton. The creamed corn farmer Jessup, and Clearance his pet/harvesting equipment. Janet and Maggie, the diabolical twin sisters. The fantasy realms I have created or have yet to create. Oh, and Horace Chance, my latest 115 year old character is there. Each and every one of them telling me quitting is not an option.

Sara, my protagonist, tells me daily that I have a God given gift, use it or lose it.

I have always been a dreamer. I know nothing else. I see things as I wish them to be, and not the way they really are. My latest dream is to be a published writer.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Chapter One

Informal Agreement




Mr. Scratch was late. Ramon hated waiting. Patience would never be listed as his strong point.
       The vicious bright sun beat down mercilessly on his burnt strawberry red, baldhead. Rivers of sweat rushed down his cheeks and back. His unprotected skin screamed in protest. His energy sucked up into the dry atmosphere.
       Checking his watch, once again, he bit his blistering lips. Ramon felt comforted in the feeling that no matter what happened in his life he could always look on his wrist and see the slow sweeping movement of time, steady and trustworthy.
        His ire quickened as he paced near the feverishly hot bench outside Terminal Six of the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. He stopped his aimless pacing and kicked at a lone lizard slithering on the dirt ground. His back started aching. His arthritic knee felt as if large nails were being driven deep into his flesh. His angry mood turned even bleaker.  He was too damned old to wait.
      He stared at the clear, hot desert sky, and horizon shimmering in the sunlight. The desolate location of Terminal Six annoyed him to no end. The small-dilapidated building behind him bothered Ramon even more No other terminals in sight angered him. Void of any other planes in sight angered the usually happy author. His blood increased to dangerous new heights with the fact that there weren’t any signs of other people in sight. The skeletal Sky Captain with the zombie eyes vanished soon after Ramon walked through the greasy glass doors, which were now locked up tight.  The metal, scorching bench sat in front of a pitiful dirt road winding lazily into the mid-day sun.
      Two thoughts dominated Ramon’s heat scrambled-brain. He wondered why the TSA person laughed when he mentioned Terminal Six. Mr. Scratch specifically stated Terminal Six. A flight attendant insisted that there were only four terminals at Sky Harbor Airport. The second question puzzling Ramon on this unseasonably broiling fall afternoon in Arizona was when did he become so stupid? He should be home with his family, not in Phoenix, waiting for a limo that was too late.
     Following eighteen months of unemployment, Ramon became desperate to replenish his bank account, preferably using his as of yet to be discovered talent as an author. True, some may not call it a talent. Some have used harsher terms. Literary agents refused to accept his flair for the written word and simply sent form letter rejections to his queries. Ramon hung onto the hope that his next work-in-progress would be the one to bring about his fame. His previous fantastic novels would be snatched up and become best-sellers changing his family’s fate forever.
       Once, Ramon daydreamed of cruising around the world, driving a new shiny Cadillac. However, he knew the cold hard facts of publishing, sometimes great stories cling helplessly to a piece of paper unseen by the public.
       Last week, after his wife, daughter, and dog retired, the house’s eerie silence flowed around him except for his wife’s blusterous snores. The wind howled against the windows and the gentle dripping of the toilet sang its incessant lullaby, Ramon threw himself a pity party. Talk about a hum-dinger of a bash that included a gallon size Pepsi Max and a large bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and boxes of tissue. The day began with yet another barrage of query rejections filling his email inbox. Dejected, he slumped in his easy chair and brooded. Buried in self-pity, he whispered under his breath, barely even a whisper, perhaps only mouthing, did sound really come out of his mouth? “I would sell my soul to the devil for a chance to be published.” Once said he looked around, surprised that he would dare utter such words after his strong religious Mormon upbringing. He waited but the world around him remained in tack. His utterance had not been overheard and he ate his last Peanut Butter Cup, gulped the last of the Pepsi, and wandered up to bed.
      The phone rang early the next morning. He reached over and picked up the cell phone, the screen flashed unknown number. “Another creditor,” he mumbled but answered the phone anyway, his eyes groggy, his dreams still clear in his mind.
       “My name is Mr. Scratch. My employer would like to hire you to write his biography. It must be very hush-hush. You may tell no one. My employer has endured quite a lot of bad press lately, and he desires an unknown author to write the truth. Are you interested?”
      Ramon dreamt, again of a publisher begging him to let them publish his books and he mumbled, “Sure, whatever.” Then he went back to sleep and dreamed of big cars, the New York Times Best Seller List, and even bigger paychecks. A smile pasted on his once innocent face.
      The next morning Ramon checked his bank account balance on-line to see if he had enough money to put gas in the car today or his wife would be driving to work on fumes. He looked, closed his eyes tightly, and looked again. A substantial deposit mysteriously turned up in his account. A quick call to the bank confirmed it. That’s when Ramon remembered his strange dream last night about writing a biography and the phone rang again, flashing an unknown caller warning.
       “Good morning to you, Ramon. We have already deposited your advance. Feel free to check this out for yourself.  I believe you should be able to fill the car up with gas, barely. The price of gas is so devilishly high these days.” Ramon pulled the phone from his ear as a hearty guffaw exploded from the speaker. “Now, let’s get down to business, Mr. Ballard. A helicopter will pick you up from the field behind your house in Springfield, Missouri in approximately 30 minutes. Pack nothing. The Devil takes care of his guest. It is of upmost importance that you not tell a soul,” another explosion of laughter followed, “Forgive my pun Mr. Ballard. You won’t even need your cell phone or your computer where you are going and the boss would be absolutely displeased if you were to bring them. We don’t want to displease HIM, now do we?”
     “Uh, No, Sir. I guess not Sir,” stuttered Ramon meekly, his hand began to shake uncontrollably.
     “Good. Good. Now, as I was saying, the helicopter will fly you to an unknown airport and board a private jet for your first destination, Phoenix. Upon arrival, proceed to Terminal Six of Sky Harbor Airport. The location is rather obscure. Keep walking East in the terminal and enter through the red door to Terminal Six. A limo will pick you up at noon and transport you to your final Hell. You may tell your wife and daughter only of a potential job offer, which will keep you away for perhaps several days. You can tell the whole story to the fluffy white puppy dog, she has no soul to steal anyway, and I promise she will keep your secret. Well, Mr. Ballard, are we clear?”
     Ramon could not utter a single word.
     Click, the phone went dead. The call ended. No discussion. No mention of a soul. No mention of fame. The phone began to smolder in his hands, before vanishing. “Great, I’m not sure if my cell phone provider replaces phones destroyed by the Devil,” he thought, rubbing his clammy hands on his chair.
     Ramon followed Mr. Scratches’ instructions to the tee.
     Noon had come and passed. The time neared One P.M. and still no Limo. Ramon felt the cooling relief of a gust of warm wind and he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face when a flurry of dust followed the squall. “Great! All I need now is a dust storm to brighten my day.”
     Ramon looked out at the horizon at another distant dust storm, headed his way. A whirl of dark dust spun up from the desert floor. Within the depths of the maelstrom, Ramon spied a crimson sphere glowing. He gulped, and his usually placid pacemaker springing to life, as he rushed to the glass doors behind him. Pounding with two fists, he screamed for help as the storm slithered closer. The doors remained tightly closed. He turned around to face his destiny like a man, trembling, curled up on the ground, and thinking of his wife, daughter, and the fluffy white dog.
      The whirlwind sped menacingly in his direction. As it neared, an eerie sound emanated from the storm, a chugging-coughing-rattling of a car choking and stuttering and in dire need of a tune-up. A lone headlight peered from within the dust. Ramon stood there, bewitched, unable to break away as a sleek, ebony limo erupted and the perilous gale dispersed. As the limo approached, Ramon observed the limo was not aging gracefully. The limo chugged weakly to the end of the pavement, hissed briefly and then died. A moment later, a black, ominous cloud burst forth above the limo, casting a gloomy shadow on the pavement. The door eased open. A white, boney hand grasped the window before the driver emerged wearing a blood-red uniform with black epaulets and a gold Devil Enterprises embossed on the sleeve. The uniform looked, obviously made for someone much smaller; it fit way too tight on this extremely tall, overly wide ghoul. He lifted his hand, pointing a skeletal finger at Ramon and motioned to the reluctant author as he opened the passenger door. Ramon waddled to the limo, avoiding looking at its frightening driver, and sat down on the tattered, dusty rear seat. There were no door handles on the inside and a thick, grimy window separated the rear seat from the front seat. The ghoul slammed the door and slunk into the driver’s seat, his head tilted to the right, his left cheek rubbing the roof of the car. Ramon became trapped, his nightmare only beginning. The terminal vaporized in front of his eyes. The ghost-like driver turned the key but nothing happened. He left the vehicle and looked under the hood, wiggled something, screamed something in an unfamiliar language and slammed the hood shut again. Ramon looked frantically for a way out of the vehicle until the ghoul sat down again and turned the key. The ghoul, turned his neck sideways, mumbled some strange syllables, and then shoved his fist several times in the roof of the car, causing a large dent, and then sat up straight in the car, his head fitting comfortably in the newly formed dents.
     He cursed one last time before he turned the ignition key, again. The limo jerked, spurted, coughed, and then chugged back to life. Long boney fingers moved the gearshift into gear and peered into the rear-view mirror again, the bone chilling red of his eyes searing Ramon’s heart and sending icy tendrils down his spine. The ghoul turned his head around, gave Ramon a devious grin, and gunned the engine, darting the car back and forth and throwing his passenger around while he frantically searched for the seat belts. There was none. Ramon remembered; his wife would disapprove.
     The tempest encircled the limo again and the driver turned the radio to an all opera all the time station that sounded mostly like ear grating static. Ramon glanced at his watch. It stopped at 1:11 PM, the exact moment the limo arrived. A horrified look enveloped his countenance for the last vestige of stability in his life had forsaken him.
      Listening to the opera/static, being tossed back and forth in the seat, and viewing the scenery through the dizzying storm, Ramon came to the conclusion: This ride, was slowly becoming the journey to hell.
     Through the twirling dust, Ramon observed a chain link fence looming ahead and approaching quickly. He squeezed his eyes shut, praying the driver would stop the limo in time, then cracked his right eye open a sliver as the driver plowed through the fence without even flinching. The driver pressed the gas pedal to the floor, crashed through the fence, jumped over a curb,  and entered the freeway, followed by squeaking brakes, frantic swerves and one fingered salutes from , all ignored by the ghost driver as he did a quick right turn on the Maricopa freeway. The dearly departed driver did not show any sign of fear, being already dead and all. Terror gripped Ramon’s soul.
      The reluctant passenger said his prayers and attempted to bury his head in the armrests for the rest of the trip, visualizing the headlines, ‘Unknown occupant found dead in a dilapidated limo, only the bones of the driver found.’ The limo merged onto highway 10, leaving a tangled wreck of cars behind and then flowed peacefully onto the US17.
     Aside from the gyrating earth enveloping the limo, the chaotic static and arias exuding from the dashboard, the sweltering heat, and the creepy driver, the rest of the drive went smoothly and Ramon, still frantically checking his watch out of a long established habit, finally drifted into a fretful sleep.
      A prophetic nightmare awoke the bald man and he gazed out the filthy windows of the limo, the mile markers whizzing past at an alarming speed. Snoring in the front seat left no doubt, the driver slept at the wheel. He pounded at the glass separating the driver from the passenger to no avail, peering through the windshield, freeway US17 ended dead ahead and the limo must turn left or right to merge unto US40. Assured of his impending doom, Ramon closed his eyes and formed his final thoughts of his wife, his daughter, and his fluffy white dog. A sharp turn to the right flung him to the other side of the limo, depositing his decrepit knees painfully against the door accompanied by the resounding salutations of honking horns. The limo continued east on US40 and took the highway 89 junction toward Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
     Ramon, now wide-awake, trembled as the limo veered off the highway onto a winding forest service road and picked up speed. Understand, it is one thing to pick up speed on a winding forest service road and quite another to pick up speed on a winding forest service road that ends with a cliff. Ramon faced the latter. The condemned author, destined to have his life flash before his eyes, worried whether his wife, daughter, and fluffy white dog had enough life insurance on him and wonder if they needed a body before they could collect. The already dead ghost driver revved the engine and pushed the gas pedal to the floor, and headed straight for the cliff.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I ask myself, am I the singer from American Idol that just can't sing? You know the ones, the ones that think they are sooooo good, but when they open their mouths crap comes out. They have no idea they can't sing. They are shocked when Randy tells them how pathetic they are. They actually thought they were the best singer in the world. Every viewer and the judges knew otherwise. Am I the terrible singer, and are the literary agents Randy?

Questions I asked of me when I first began my journey August 28, 2007
"Can I not write?"
"If you truly love what you do"
"Can you walk away?"
"I have to write."

My answers in 2007
"No, I don't need to write."
"Yes, I do love what I do"
"Yes I can walk away, in a heartbeat"
"I do not now, nor will I ever need to write"

Years of living in oblivion and invisibility has its advantages, it defined who and what I am.
I was not born to write. My childhood set me on the path to writing. My life led me down that path. I have not been able to leave that path, no matter how hard I have tried.

My journey down that path began August 28, 2007, when I faced the only outcome my childhood would allow. I sarted chasing new rainbows became a writer. Yes me, a writer, forged with years of failure, success, good times and bad.

I had no choice. I had to write. It is what my childhood chose for me.

Writing is not a job. It's not a hobby. It's a drive, a journey. It's something within us that needs to be released.
My answers now

I can't give up. I need to write, I love writing, and I can never walk away from writing.
I am not the person that can't sing on American Idol.