The Nod (short story)

I was rummaging around in the My Documents folder for something, and I came across a short story that I wrote back in 2004, titled The Nod. I read it and took some comfort in the fact that, even now, my feelings haven’t changed. For your enjoyment and (constructive) criticism, here is:

The Nod

Yosemite National Park is my absolute favorite place to take a vacation. Everything is on a different scale while you are in the valley, surrounded by huge granite walls and towering trees. The distant sounds of waterfalls seem to make everyone, including children, cognizant that this is a spiritual place.

I was sitting on the Yosemite Valley Shuttle when we pulled up at the Happy Isles stop and he got on board. He was a young guy, maybe 21. He was unwashed, unshaven, and his hair was long and unkempt. The duct tape on the knees of his pants was evidence of his poverty. On his back was a gigantic, red backpack that looked like it weighed more than he did. The massive backpack swayed as he stepped to a spot on the bus and took a handrail. No way could he sit down without taking the pack off.

Clearly, this guy was hardcore. He was a mountain climber – the battered carabineers hanging on his pack were evidence of that. Not like the clowns that pay $40,000 to have someone hold their hand to the top of Everest. This guy was real. He was living it.

As the bus started up again, he noticed I was looking at him, and he quickly averted his gaze. I may have had a disapproving look on my face, but I don’t know why that mattered. Maybe he felt inferior. My corporate haircut, or maybe my clean Columbia shirt and new North Face hiking boots with nary a scuff on them betrayed me as a tourist of the highest magnitude. I was a poser. I tried to hide my digital camera. I felt inferior to him.

I work an entire year, sitting in a cubicle in front of computers, looking forward to spending five days in Yosemite. This kid saw this place and made it his home. Home is a broad term to use, as I doubt that he has any actual place he slept regularly. But The Yosemite Valley was his home. Probably everything he owned was in that pack.

When he looked up at me again, I nodded approvingly. It was a nod of recognition that he could do something I could never do. Were I his age and without my obligations, yes, I could have been a vagabond mountain climber, but that opportunity is long past me now. I never seized it when I could. But this kid did. It was a nod of admiration.

He didn’t look away, and he smiled a little. Not a smirk, not a grin. He didn’t say anything and neither did I, and he got off at the next stop.

I think he understood that I was trying to communicate that I respected his life choice – the sacrifices he has made to stay in such an incredible place and embrace it so fully. Either that or he thought I was offering him a blow job. In which case, he was sorely disappointed that I didn’t follow him off the bus. But I chose to think he understood what I meant.

(c) 2004, Mitch Lavender

Overcomplicated – Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

It’s interesting and frustrating how we overcomplicate things. We accept the reality of some things without question. Do you want to get wet? You’ll have to get in the water. If you want to get warm, stand near the fire. Are you hungry? Eat. Problem – solution. We accept these things, but when it comes to happiness, joy, or peace… oh, these things are so elusive. I’m not happy and don’t know how to fix it. I’m grieving, and it hurts so much, and I can’t make it stop!

Perhaps, this is never truer than with someone mourning the loss of a loved one. It was certainly true of me when my wife of 31 years died from cancer in March of 2020. I was inconsolable and in so much emotional pain that I could not see anything but that. My wife had been taken from me, and I would never see her again. It was so unfair, and I’m in pain and anger: repeat, ad nauseum.

Two months after Lynn died, I started seeing a grief therapist. The visits were virtual, once a week. As the time grew nearer, I dreaded it more and more and would have canceled every time were it not because I would still be charged for the visit.

My grief therapist was a young guy in his 30’s, very clean-cut. We’ll call him Good Guy. He lived in San Franciso, and I was pretty sure he was gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I thought that his and my life experiences had to be so different; I was a 56-year-old man grieving the loss of his wife. There was no way he would be able to empathize or understand what I was going through, but he did. He just let me talk and sluff off my emotional baggage, and yes, cry. Something about how he didn’t judge or rush to offer solutions brought me comfort. He just listened and acknowledged what I said. I liked him.

We continued the therapy visits. On the first visit, he asked me what my goal of doing therapy was.

“To get out of pain,” I said. “As soon as possible, because if I am still feeling this way two years from now, I’ll kill myself.” Honestly, I felt like I couldn’t last even one year, but I said two.

Now, there was a period of PTSD after Lynn died, where my life was centered around caring for her. Once she was gone, I was a moon with nothing to orbit. So going to bed without her there was too heartbreaking to attempt. Waking up and reaching over to touch her, and she wasn’t there, put me in tears and set the tone for my miserable day. It was over four months before I felt I had adapted to the New Normal, as they say, and I hated it, but therapy helped.

The weekly sessions continued, and I dreaded them, even though I felt better afterward. Sometimes it was just a little, and sometimes it was a lot. My first six or seven visits were me opening up and bleeding all over the place. Then an epiphany came. At least, it seemed like an epiphany to me at the time.

All the grief and pain – I was doing this to myself.

No one was causing me to feel this way. It was me and my unwillingness to accept my reality that was causing me so much turmoil and pain. Yes, it was unfair that my wife was only 58 years old and died, but that happened. I was so caught up in the loss I couldn’t see anything else, and until I found peace with accepting it, I never would. I was the only one who could fix it. That, however, was easier said than done. As G.I. Joe will tell you, knowing is half the battle. But only half.

Something I discovered about grief, which may only be true for me, is that it becomes familiar over a long enough time. Not comfortable, but like any chronic pain, you get used to it. I could see this becoming a habit, one that might go on for years unless I intervened. I had to stop it, but how?

Good Guy suggested that when I start to have a “grief attack,” I change my line of thought and try to think of something else; something happy. Don’t push away the sorrow or try to bury it, but think of something else. I didn’t think that would work, but I agreed to try. So when the next grief attack hit, and I was thinking about how much I miss my wife, I forced my mind to think about my two dogs playing together. This was much more difficult than I expected. I had been down this path of grief so many times; it was, as I feared, a habit. A habit I had to break.

It was consistently hard to force my mind to less distressing thoughts, but it made me feel better. I think the reason I felt better was that I was taking control. I wasn’t just letting this horrible thing happen to me, over and over. I was stopping it, and that felt good.

I also had to reconcile some things that weren’t clear in my head. I had to acknowledge that continuing to grieve neither benefited nor honored Lynn in any way whatsoever. It was okay to stop being destroyed by these feelings. I meditated on this many times over the next couple of months. And I continued to fight the grief attacks. Sometimes I couldn’t do it, but most times, I could change my thought process to something else.

Around the six-month mark, I was to the point that I no longer dreaded another day of living. I was doing some things that I would do before Lynn died. I was cooking again and not just heating things up in a microwave, cooking! I played board games again, too, though getting with friends was difficult due to the pandemic. These are things I enjoy and that I would do in The Before Time, yet I felt different. I was altered and changed and would be forever. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and it’s just growth.

Shortly after this, I started dating and eventually met Kathy, and we had so much in common. I fell madly in love with her, and in January of 2021, we married. I have promised myself that I will never let her feel taken for granted or unappreciated. I remind her frequently, “I see you.” It’s my way of saying I love her the way she is, and I do, and I’m happy.

Grief attacks occur once in a while but are much less frequent and not so severe. I will always love Lynn, but she is gone, and I’ve accepted that. I don’t resent it. I’m no longer angry about it. It just is the reality.

So, recapping my experiences here, what were the things that really helped me?

  • I got a grief counselor to talk about my feelings openly and without expectations. In retrospect, I think this probably saved a few relationships with my friends and family, to whom I would try to vent my grief and were simply not equipped to deal with it. That I found a compatible counselor on the first try was just dumb luck on my part.
  • I acknowledged and owned that I was the only one who could stop the overpowering waves of grief. If I wanted it to end, I had to end it, and I actively took steps to do that.
  • I reconciled that continuing to grieve for Lynn neither benefited her nor honored her, and it was okay for me to continue my life and feel happy about things. So I accept that she is gone and do not resent it, nor am I angry about it. It just is.

This is only what I did. Your path may be different. Your mileage may vary. I’m not a professional. But if any of this resonates with you or you found it helpful, I’d like to know.

Thanks for reading.

Kindness vs. 2020

Is there anyone who would disagree that 2020 has been one of the worst years of their life, if not the worst year? I don’t think so. Here’s the thing – while we’re all going through 2020 and the constant hell it pitches at us, it’s not the same for us all.

It’s like we’re all in the same storm, but some of us have yachts, some have canoes, and some are just trying to tread water. Yes, and you know which one you are. I certainly know which one I am, and I would have gone down if it was not for others’ love and kindness.

Sometimes, this empathy came from close friends and family. My sister-in-law and her family were fantastic support during Lynn’s illness and treatment. A friend threw me a line when I looked down a long dark tunnel that was my lonely future without Lynn, and I saw no light at the end, whatsoever. I’m so glad I have people like this in my life. But I was helped by other people. People that may not even know they helped me.

I have Facebook friends that continued to bolster me through bad days with a few words of encouragement. I belong to a closed Facebook group for those who have lost loved ones to cancer, and we help each other through the horrible days and nights as we transition into being widows and widowers, sharing experiences and sympathizing in ways no one else could.

I bet when these kind folks wrote the replies, they thought nothing of it, but it helped me. When you are drowning, you will grasp at anything that floats.

That’s what I want to emphasize here: In such shitty times, being kind where and when you can will make a difference in someone’s life. You may not know what or how much, but it helps. I know your life is probably no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise (a nod to Freddie), which makes your effort to be kind all the more thoughtful.

Even as I was barely keeping my head above water, I would see someone else floundering as I was, and I’d reach out to them, and somehow, we were able to help buoy each other, comfort each other, if for only a little bit.

Now, I have personally come through the worst 2020 could hurl at me, and I’m still standing, but that is thanks to others’ kindness and support. I couldn’t have done it alone. But this pandemic will extend into the next year until most of us get vaccinated. The political divisiveness and hatred that troubles America now will continue beyond the current administration, possibly for a long time. The unemployment and businesses that didn’t make it and will take a long time to recover. And people we love will continue to die. None of that stops because of the year incrementing. We must keep being kind to each other.

People, 2020 was no good for any of us. It was worse for some, and still much worse for others, and for that, I’m sorry. I know what it’s like to be entirely overwhelmed by daily responsibilities. I know what it’s like to wake up and not be able to think of a single reason to get out of bed. I know what it’s like to look into the future and see nothing but pain and loneliness. If this is you, I say this specifically for you:

Keep Fucking Going.

You won’t see why you should, and that’s okay. Just keep fucking going.

You won’t think it matters, and that’s okay. Just keep fucking going.

You might think the pain is too much or the love in the world is too little, and it’s not worth it, and that’s okay. Just keep fucking going.

Just keep fucking going, because one day, when it’s time, you’ll turn a corner, and you will see things differently. You don’t have to believe me; just keep fucking going. Just hang on. Please.

Keep fucking going, and be kind to yourself.

Thank You, Murphy

Murphy was a Rat Terrier we got as a puppy. He died in October of 2017 when he was 10 years old.

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Thank you, Murphy.  Thanks for protecting the backyard from squirrels, birds, and neighbors doing things on the other side of the fence.  You would bark and protect us all.  Never once did a squirrel, bird, neighbor or delivery person harm us.  Thank you.

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Changes

I wrote this in September of 2013 and I was 49 years old, leaving an 18-year career with Microsoft and preparing to start work as a manager at AT&T. It’s an indulgent and heavy-handed write but I’m sharing it here for those who might find themselves in a similar career change and need some reassurance and more to the point, might try to do it alone.


Changes
By Mitch Lavender

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I knew the way and the path was familiar even though this was a new pilgrimage.

Corporations are treacherous catacombs, filled with dead-ends and devastating fates for the unwary.  Eighteen years, I have navigated these passages but too late, I realized I took a wrong turn.  All around me, peers and superiors told me otherwise and that the path was true, but I knew otherwise.  I knew, but it was too late.

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Don’t Kill the Dog (for authors)

There are places that authors fear to tread and rightly so.  Some things are taboo and off limits, even in the fictionalized place where we create our stories and taking a certain plot twist can completely lose a reader or worse, make them angry.

I have a tendency to write dark fiction and that is thin ice to tread.  It’s not hard to make a wrong move.  It takes scruples and sense of self to avoid it because when weaving a story (i.e., pantsing), it has a life of its own; taking a direction that almost seems to be beyond the author’s control.  The story is completely in the author’s control of course, but it can sometimes feel like it has its own personae and is making choices for itself, such as having your antihero become a predator on the weak, vulnerable or trusting.  Who would like Batman if he was a rapist or child molester?   Rapists and Child molesters, that’s who, and no one else.

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Sushi Go! Card Game Review

The first time I looked at Sushi Go! on the shelf in a game store, seeing the small metal box with cartoons of sushi with eyes and grins – kind of cute and creepy all at the same time – I passed it up. This happened repeatedly until I saw a review that said Sushi Go! was like 7 Wonders without the boring parts and that it played in about 20 minutes. That is a pedigree, indeed. I bought the game.

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Sushi Go! is a quintessential filler-game designed by Phil Walker-Harding, sells for about $10, really does play 2-5 players in about 20 minutes and is damned fun, odd theme about raw fish notwithstanding.

A Sushi Go! round consists of three rounds of drafting cards of various raw fish for your consumption. The goal is to build up the most points by collecting sets of specific card types. Players can go for instant points or delayed gratification, betting it all that they can collect a big set to cash out at the end of the round, or not. It’s an easy game to pick up and quick to play, with clear scoring reminders on all the different types of cards you can draft.

Each player has a hand of cards and each turn, they select one card to play and all players reveal the cards at the same time. Those cards go into the player’s individual playing area, and then they rotationally pass the hands of cards to each other and do it again. The idea is to build up sets of specific types of cards for points and it’s a fascinating and simple mechanic.

Luck of the draw plays a factor, but the game rewards players with points for some smart planning and push-your-luck risk taking. It’s a solid little game, whether you’re focused on collecting a long term set for a major point payoff or going for some quick points to round off your plate. Strategically using the chopsticks to get an extra card out of the hand at the right time feels good.

As each round winds down and the cards in each hand are fewer and fewer, the game takes on the feeling of a game of hot potato, where no one wants to be stuck with chopsticks or remaining cards that will not add up to any points. No one wants to get chopsticked on the last card, which is useless in the final turn.

By the same token, it’s great to pull off a big Wasabi dip at the end of a round or edge out other players for the big Pudding point swing at the end of the game. The game has some very satisfying moments and despite the chance elements, the endgame scores seem reasonably reflective of the players’ performance in the game.

Sushi Go! is a fun, light filler game and it’s $10!  Open your mind to the strange sushi theme and art and you’re in for a tight little drafting game that will be a frequently played filler for years to come. Just don’t let them make a Sushi Go! Love Letter game. For the love of all, please, not that!

So You are Gay

This is not something I thought I would ever write about, but since it’s been challenged by a friend in another forum, here it is: I don’t care if you are gay.

When I say I don’t care – it means I am not opposing the rights of gay people and I’m not marching in the street to lobby for gay marriage, either. It also means that I will be your friend regardless of your sexual preference, and if I chose not to be your friend, you are probably just a douche. Gay absolutely, 100% does not matter to me. Why would it? I’ve been married to the same woman for 25 years, and I love her more now than the day I married her. I’m secure in my sexuality. You should be too. We all should be. Yay us.

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What I fail to understand (and do not want anyone to explain), is why some people chose to define themselves by their sexual preference – gay or not gay.

You have a rainbow sticker on your car bumper.  Wow, you are such an activist.

There are so many things about personality that define you in meaningful ways, why would the gender you have sex with rank anywhere close to Top 10? To put it bluntly – your sexual preference is as interesting as your choice of bread at the grocery store.

So look – if you are gay, there will always be people who oppose your rights and label you. I’m not one of them. But do not let GAY be the only banner you define yourself by. Be everything that is you and that you care for, and I sincerely hope that means you love and share a special bond with someone. My relationship with my wife is the greatest reward of my life. It is not perfect, but it has amounted to a life I am very grateful to be living.

Maybe one day – we won’t be gay or straight, republican or democrat, white or black, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist,  Hindu or Atheist. Maybe one day, we will all  see each other as people.

BANG! The Dice Game – Table Top Game Review

BANG! The Dice Game by dV Giochi takes the basic formula from BANG! The Card Game, and provides a simplified and faster play experience.  Personally, I never played the card game, but almost universally, players and game reviewers have said BANG! TDG is so much better, they won’t play the card game version again.

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To start the game, players will be dealt a card with a character and a role with different victory conditions. Outlaw kills the Sheriff, Sheriff kills the Outlaws and Renegade, Renegade to be the last man standing; and characters have different special abilities.  Except for the Sheriff, these identities are concealed from the other players.

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On each turn, you get five dice, and three rolls, Yahtzee-style.  After each role, you have the option to re-roll any of the dice except dynamite, but whatever you have rolled at the end of the third roll must be kept.  Players take turns rolling dice and shooting at each other until one of the victory conditions is achieved.

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The different faces on the dice are:

Gatling gun – puts one hit on all other players if you have rolled three of them, and you get rid of all your arrows.

One distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Two distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Beer – heals a player by one (yourself or another player of your choosing).

Dynamite – cannot be rerolled and if three are rolled in your turn, immediately end your turn, causing one point of damage to the rolling player.

Arrowsimmediately upon rolling an arrow, player must take an arrow from the middle (you take wounds equal to your number of arrow once the arrow pile is exhausted and the Indians attack). 

The game sets up and plays fast. Things are always happening and games rarely last 15 minutes, slightly longer for more players. Unlike so many other games that utilize the Yahtzee mechanic of roll three times, keep the result, BANG! TDG has player interaction.

 

Consider Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, Roll Through the Ages, Dungeon Roll or any number of other games with this mechanic. They are single player games that can be played with others, but you are essentially taking a turn, waiting while other players play, and take your turn again. You do not attack, defend or collaborate with other players. BANG! TDG allows for attacks on other players, arrows which must be resolved immediately when rolled and quite possibly the rolling player doing themselves in. This was a welcome change, and one of the things that set BANG! TDG apart and gave it a fresh feel.

The rules are simple and after one play-through that takes 15 minutes, players understand the dynamics and options.

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As for the game components, they are excellent. The dice are large and brightly colored, the cards have cool artwork, and the counters are thick die-cut. The cards, counters and box also have a semi-gloss, linen finish, and the box has a molded insert to hold the various components. Instructions are a single sheet, and that is all that is needed. And all of this for under $20.

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Gameplay is involving because of the secret identities of the players and the randomness of the dice rolls. Because you are forced to use the dice, you can sometimes get away with shooting the sheriff and calling it an accident.  Not knowing for sure what the goal of the other player really is keeps the game edgy and has a Werewolf-like feel to it.

I will say that the roll you get matters. The Outlaw has an easier goal than either the Sheriff or the Renegade – to eliminate the Sheriff. The Renegade role is difficult to play because the goal is to be the last man standing, and the Sheriff is stronger than the other players, but everyone knows who has the Sheriff and they are an easy mark. In games of 5-8 players, there are also deputies who are concealed (even from the Sheriff) but have the same goal as the Sheriff – eliminate the outlaws and renegades.

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The other variable is the randomly dealt character cards, some of which have very powerful abilities, such as being able to reroll dynamite or only take 1 point of damage from arrows, no matter how many they may be holding. Certain combinations of these cards can result in some very imbalanced games.

All said, the game is big fun. Sure, this is a game of chance with a little strategy and cunning in how you use your dice and interact with the other players. If you attack the Sheriff at every chance you get, it’s pretty obvious you are the Outlaw. Play it crafty and spread it around, and you might fly under the radar. The fast play and interaction keeps everyone involved.

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I rate BANG! The Dice Game (scale from 1-5)

Ingenuity – 4 The fresh twist on a common game mechanic works very well, making the game feel familiar and fresh at the same time.

Strategy – 3 There is a lot of luck involved in this game, but there are also choices to make, and that helps offset the chance a bit.

Social – 5 The interactivity of play keeps players engaged, with actions being made that affect other players, even when it is not their turn.

Theme – 5 The Old West shoot-out scenario is supported perfectly, here. A shootout is fast and furious, and that is the way the game plays.

Fun – 5 We love this game. It’s become a go-to game for us when longer games are not an option. It’s also a good gateway game to introduce players to the hobby.

Components – 5 Everything in the box was top-notch, including the box.

Overall – 4.5 We’ll be playing this one for a long time.

Kickstarter Games I’m Backing

I think Kickstarter is a great way for startups to build capital to develop their project. Essentially, the consumer pays up front for an item before it’s actually produced. It could be a movie, book, game, device, service, event – really, anything.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the infectious ambition of entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I pay more for a haircut than I have backing any one Kickstarter project, and that makes it fun for me without risk, but there are some Kickstarters where the initial investment is over $100, and I do not play at those tables. That’s just me, but I don’t.

I usually back tabletop games because I’m a gamer and there are some really interesting concepts that pop up on Kickstarter. Someone comes up with a game idea and needs the funds to make it a reality. I get a copy of the game in return for my early investment, before it ever hits retail and often, they include stretch goals – bonus components when the project exceeds its goal.

Here are the recent projects I have backed on Kickstarter. Each link has the Kickstarter details, videos, images, etc. In some cases, they are over, successful and are now available in retail. I include links to the ones I know about.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

A 4X/Euro MICROGAME for 2-4 players! Do you have what it takes to create the greatest pocket-sized Kingdom!? Tiny Epic Kingdoms has all the strategy of a traditional 4x game without the cost or the long playing time. Tiny Epic Kingdoms is only $16 and takes only 30-60 minutes to play.

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2-4 players run tiny kingdoms with big ambitions. You want to expand your population throughout the realms, learn powerful magic, build grand towers, and have your neighbors quiver in fear at the mention of your name. The conflict? All of the other kingdoms want the same thing and there’s not enough room for everyone to succeed.

This game had a goal of $15k and is currently over $170k in backer pledges. 6 days to go as of this writing.

The Dice Tower – 2014 (Season 10)

The Dice Tower is one of the best gaming podcasts available, reviewing and demoing table top games. They do this for free – everything is on Youtube. I really enjoy the reviews and the goofy antics, and it was a no-brainer to support them.

Dice Tower had a goal of $40k, and raised over $134k. Clearly, I am not the only one who appreciates what these guys do for the gaming community.

Dice Tower can be seen, here: Dice Tower

Double-Six Dice

Six-sided dice do not roll well – they are cubes. There are even books available that teach you how to manipulate the roll of such dice. Double-Six dice are 12-sided, numbered 1-6 twice. They roll more easily and are far more difficult to manipulate.

I don’t play with any gamers that are trying to manipulate the dice roll (except when trying to use The Force, which is completely legitimate), and I use a handcrafted dice tower for rolling, anyway. Still, I love this concept and the price was right to buy in.

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This Kickstarter had a goal of $3,246 and finished with over #133k in backer pledges. I’m looking forward to these, and I already am seeing other games popping up on Kickstarter, offering Double-Six dice as components.

Coin Age – A Pay-What-You-Want Area Control Micro-Game

In Coin Age (published by TMG), two players attempt to control the land of Agea using a single card map and a handful of pocket change. Players take turns placing their forces (coins) on the map to control spaces, outmaneuver their opponent, and score victory points.

This Kickstarter has ended, but with a goal of $5k, it achieved an amazing $65k+, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

They even have a “Print and Play” version of the game for free, HERE.

Burgoo – A-Pay-What-You-Want game of Community Stews

Burgoo is a game designed by Dan Manfredini (produced by TMG) for 2-5 aspiring stew chefs which takes 15-30 minutes depending on the number of players.

Each cook (player) starts the game with 12 stew ingredients randomly formed into a mixing line (2 sets of 6 ingredients).  And a hand of ingredients that allow them to manipulate their mixing line, or add ingredients to the stew from every mixing line.

On a cook’s turn they may sample the stew, taking one ingredient of their choice from the stew into their hand.  Or they may spend an ingredient from their hand to divide their cooking line, gaining access to more of their ingredients, or to add ingredients from their line into the stew, but be wise because if you add an ingredient that other cooks are ready to add, they too can add to the stew on your turn.

This Kickstarter has ended, but it more than quadrupled its goal of $5000, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

Where Art Thou, Romeo?

Where Art Thou Romeo? is a nano-game in which 3-5 players take turns taking on the role of Juliet, who is attempting to find Romeo amongst the others players. Each card, other than Juliet, has two different roles from which to choose. Players holding these cards choose one of the two roles, which will subsequently make them want to convince the Juliet player that they either are or are not Romeo or perhaps point out who they think Romeo might be.

The game lasts 3-5 rounds depending upon the number of players with each player taking on the role of Juliet once. The player with the most influence points at the end of the game wins.

This game had a backer goal of as little as $1 to get a copy of the game, mailed. With a modest goal of $250, it raised $5723. I’ve gotten my copy, and the cards looks great. I haven’t played it yet.

HOST: The New Card Game From BROKEN PRISM GAMES

In HOST, the world has reached the first great apocalypse, You are either a brain munching zombie, an interstellar alien, or one of the few keeping them at bay… for now. Collect and trade matching cards to complete your mission for either an alien invasion, wide spread infection, or be humanity’s last hope, and cure them all. But every card you draw has a negative and positive value. Will you inadvertently let the enemy win by passing the wrong card? Deception is just as important as luck.

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I’ve received my copy of the game and want to play it a few more times before I review it, but I like it. It had a goal of $2k and raised over $4k in backer pledges.

The deluxe version of game can be purchased here: TheGameCrafter

Marrying Mr. Darcy – The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a strategy card game where players are one of the female characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Players work to earn points and attract the attention of available suitors. Our heroines do this by attending events and improving their characters, but advantage can be gained by the use of cunning. All of their efforts are in hopes of marrying well and becoming the most satisfied character at the end of the game!

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I backed this one for my wife, who is a huge fan of Jane Austen. I love playing games with her, and she’s played Zombies!!! and Talisman with me, so I guess I can play this once in a while, too. Apparently, there are no shortage of Austen fans as the goal was set at $10k, and it achieved well over $57k.

The Game can also be bought here: Marrying Mr. Darcy

Bocce Dice

Though Bocce Dice only takes a minute or two to learn, you will find yourself honing your skills and coming up with new strategies every time you play. The combination of skill and chance mean that, with some luck, even a beginner can challenge a master. It’s simple and adaptable structure encourages you to customize the game with your own rules.

Straight up, I loved this game concept and was so happy with the components when the game arrived. It’s a regular in our family game rotation. I did a full review of it HERE.

The game can be purchased here: Bocce Dice Game

Novel Excerpt: Find My Baby (Meeting the Dewdey Doctors)

This is an excerpt from a novel I have been working on for some time, Find My Baby.  it is a story about Zachary and Lucy Foxborne, an American couple attempting to adopt a little boy in Ukraine, but being menaced by ingenious and cruel Russian hackers who want something from Zachary.

This scene is from Chapter 2, early in the first act, while the Zachary and Lucy are still attempting pregnancy.

If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Excerpt from Find My Baby
by Mitch Lavender

 

Dark Find my baby cover-4They enjoyed the first eight years of marriage and eventually both took different jobs, Zachary working for Sentia Solutions and Lucy working in the safety consulting field. They travelled and enjoyed being together.

Each time Lucy would start talking about having a baby, Zachary would come home with a new kitten or puppy. This seemed to sate her maternal instincts for a while. Now with four pets, getting another started to look a bit like a zoo. So, after five years of marriage, Zachary and Lucy were seriously discussing the prospect of bringing a child into the world. After all, the trying was fun! Lucy stopped taking the pill and they  bought pregnancy tests at the supermarket.

She did get pregnant, but they lost the baby in a miscarriage after five months. They were devastated, but through the loss, they grew even closer, soldered by their sorrow, and slowly they healed. It wasn’t until three years later that they started trying again.

The first two negative results were dismissed with a, ‘Back to the drawing board’ and a roll in bed. Then, Lucy started feeling like there was something wrong. After the sixth pale blue minus sign, Lucy decided they should have this checked out.

At first, Zachary thought he was going to get away without having to do this, but he was wrong.  A semen sample was needed, and Lucy wasn’t there to help collect it. Still, he managed, leaving the sealed cup with the receptionist and hurrying back out the door, face blushing.

Tests came back and his sperm count was fine. Nothing was wrong with Lucy either, but at thirty-five, she knew the sand in her biological hourglass was running out. This meant stepping up to the next level. Enter: Dr. Dewdy. Or to be accurate, the Dewdy Doctors, as they were a husband-wife team.

The Dewdy Doctors were well respected and ran a fertility clinic, advising would-be parents and assisting couples with pregnancies. Dr. Benjamin Dewdy was a peculiar looking man, like a shaved ferret that had too many facelifts. That’s what he reminded Zachary of – a perpetually surprised, shaved ferret.

Dr. Heloise Dewdy was a kind enough woman with an empathic but firm demeanor. Women just naturally warmed to her maternal aptitude and men found her interesting and charismatic. She was in her early forties and had an elegant, sensual air about her. Zachary thought she was alright for an older woman, but all the same, he kept thinking that she sleeps with the surprised, shaved ferret-man. Those sort of things perplexed Zachary. He would see a beautiful girl, model material, really – model material. She would be with some dirty, redneck biker that lives in a trailer and smacks her around when he gets drunk, which was often. How does that happen? How was it that a woman of Lucy’s beauty was with him?

The surprised, shaved ferret was a successful doctor and judging from the different Italian sports cars he drove, he had money as well. The Dewdy Clinic was a sprawling complex of building laid out on a beautiful landscape, located in Valley Ranch, an upscale part of a Dallas suburb, known because many of the Dallas Cowboys lived there. Heloise Dewdy was successful too, also being a Ph.D., so she wasn’t attracted to his success. And wow… she took his name: Mrs. Heloise (Surprised, Shaved Ferret) Dewdy.

Zachary and Lucy Foxborne’s first visit was a seminar, and Zachary and Lucy sat in a nice presentation room with about eight other couples. All the couples were in their late thirties, early forties, Zachary guessed.

A screen lowered and the Dewdys came out and introduced themselves. They took turns talking through a well-rehearsed, methodical speech that they have given many times before, no doubt. Dr. Heloise Dewdy began:

“Conceiving a baby seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world– but for many couples this is not the case. Having difficulty getting pregnant is more common than you might think, especially among women over the age of 35. We, at Dewdy Fertility Clinic, offer advanced fertility treatment that is one of the most affordable in the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan Area and can do so because of our outstanding pregnancy success rates.”

Dr. Surprised, Shaved Ferret took over. “Patients seek treatment at Dewdy Fertility because of our outstanding record of success and experience in treating some of the most resistant cases of infertility including those that have failed at other IVF centers. Our patients continue to be our best advertising as to our commitment to helping them achieve a pregnancy. This information we are about to present is designed to help those who are just beginning the process of starting a family or those who have discovered that having a second child does not come along as planned.”

With a professional smile, Dr. Heloise Dewdy added, “We’ve prepared a short video to familiarize you with the options that are available and how The Dewdy Fertility Clinic can help you fulfill your family needs.”

The room lights went down and a video started up on the projector. A pleasant picture of a lush meadow, mountains in the background. Words superimposed over this read, “Infertility. Why Me?”

“Oh brother,” Zachary sighed, but Lucy ignored him. She did say it would be a short video.

“At The Dewdy Fertility Clinic of Texas, Dr. Benjamin Dewdy, Dr. Heloise Dewdy and their staff feel privileged to help patients achieve their dreams.”

The presentation continued, a professional announcer’s voice read the PowerPoint slide. Pictures of a handsome couple, holding hands and looking pensively into each other’s eyes, obviously worried about the prospect of infertility.

“Often times you can have a complete fertility evaluation and all the test come back normal. This is very frustrating, but does not mean that there is not a problem. It simply means that at this time, medical means are not able to find a specific issue that is keeping you from getting pregnant. By increasing the number of eggs available at the time of ovulation, we are able to increase the success rate of pregnancy occurring.”

Zachary heard a woman’s voice from behind me whisper to her husband, “That’s just like us!”

“Today’s couples experiencing infertility should both be evaluated. We should not underestimate problems that can occur in the male. The initial test for a male is a semen analysis which is performed in our lab. A semen analysis allows determination of the volume as well as the number of sperm present, their ability to swim and morphology or shape of the sperm.”

Magnified pictures of squiggling sperm filled the screen.

“All of these factors are important in preventing a missed opportunity for a cause of infertility and will allow the couple to develop the most timely and cost efficient pathway to start or expand a family.”

The image shifted to an attractive woman’s face, worried and contemplative. Across her forehead appeared the words ‘Polycystic ovary syndrome’. The announcer continued, “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may well be the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. For some women, the disorder is easy to identify, with the classic signs of irregular menses, increased facial hair growth and infertility. For others, the signs are more subtle, making the diagnosis difficult.”

The words changed to ‘Blocked Tubes’ and the announcer continued, “Any patient, who has had a history of tubal disease, symptomatic or just on testing, should be sure that there are no residual blocked fallopian tubes that fill up with fluid and are called a hydrosalpinx. If a hydrosalpinx is present, your chances of success with IVF will be decreased by fifty percent. It is possible to clip or remove one or two hydrosalpinges thereby reversing this fifty percent decrease completely.”

Back to the image of the couple looking imploringly at the camera. “What treatments are available?”

Alright, maybe there will be a car chase, Zachary thought sarcastically.

“Clomid is an oral medication and is often used as the first line treatment for ovulatory disorders or unexplained infertility. Injectable gonadotropins therapy involves the use of medications that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple oocytes each month. Patients who do not respond to clomid often find greater success with gonadotropin therapy.”

Alright, so when we can’t explain why you aren’t getting pregnant, we give you a pill or a shot. Western medicine at its finest, Zachary thought.

“Intrauterine inseminations recommended for couples that have ovulation problems and are undergoing ovulation induction as well as having failed other treatments such as clomid.”

Bring out the turkey basters.

“In Vitro Fertilization involves stimulating the woman’s ovaries with fertility medications to produce many oocytes; or eggs, that mature and ripen, at which point they are retrieved while she is under anesthesia, and fertilized with her husband’s sperm in the laboratory. This creates embryos which are carefully monitored by an embryologist for three-five days, and then one or more are placed into her uterus with the hope that implantation will occur and establish a pregnancy.”

The announcer continued on, speaking in a helpful, hopeful tone:

“We at The Dewdy Fertility Center are proud of the pregnancy success we have achieved through our fertility treatments and want to share with you the wide range of state-of-the art techniques that have enabled so many patients to fulfill their dreams of having a baby.

When you are a patient at Dewdy Fertility Center, you can rest assured we will maximize your chances of pregnancy by providing fertility treatment under the safest and most professional conditions.”

The music swelled as the video ended and the room lights went up. Hazel the Surprised Shaved Ferret came back out and with his hands clasped in front of him, said, “We try to make your experience as easy and comfortable as possible. You can schedule a consultation with the receptionist on your way out. We completely understand that fertility care may involve weekend procedures or office visits. Therefore, we schedule care seven days a week and a physician can be reached twenty-four hours a day.”

Dr. Heloise Dewdy came out and took his hand. Turning to the audience of infertile potential paying patients, she said, “My husband and look forward to meeting with you and together, we will realize your dreams of adding to your family!”

And with that, they both departed the stage and exited through a door. If you want to talk to them, you really do have to schedule an appointment. Nice.

“Well, that’s that then,” Zachary said with a sigh. “Pretty sure we could have gotten this kind of info on PBS or something.” This earned Zachary a scathing look from Lucy.

“I like them.” And with that, she was up and getting in the line that quickly formed at the receptionist’s desk in the waiting room. It took a while to schedule the appointment and it was four weeks out, not at all what Lucy had hoped for.

The four weeks went fast for Zachary but  dragged by for Lucy. When the day finally came, she was beside herself. She expected more… much more… than what the first visit turned out to be. This was just a planning session, and she did get a prescription for Clomid.

The Clomid made her emotional and sensitive. The least little thing would set her off. There are the jokes about fighting over the cap on the toothpaste or the toilet seat left up. These became a reality around the house. Zachary wasn’t used to this. Lucy has always been very centered, very much in control and level-headed. It was the hormones talking, he knew, but it didn’t make it make sense.

Lucy also became much more regimented about sex. Not just when, but how. She wouldn’t be on top, which Zachary loved. She would only do missionary, and she would stick her legs up in the air afterwards to let gravity help things along. She started buying boxer shorts for Zachary because she heard it was good for increasing sperm count. She took various herbs and drank horrible smelling mixtures that were designed to increase fertility. A book was always on the nightstand, “Getting Knocked-Up!”

*****

This was not fun anymore. They attempted In Utero fertilization two times with the Dewdys. Both times, it was unsuccessful. At this point, they had depleted the $7000 covered by insurance and they had a decision to make. Do they continue throwing money into the wishing well, hoping for a pregnancy, or do they consider alternatives.

Zachary had brought up adoption one time earlier. It was after meeting the Dewdys and Lucy was on the Clomid. She was… emotional. Saying that, “maybe adoption was something they should consider” sounded to her like “YOU ARE BROKEN! YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF CONCIEVING A CHILD! IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” The suggestion escalated into a full-blown argument that somehow tied into Zachary not putting the garden hose away. He didn’t give the dogs fresh water. The trash in the kitchen was full. He left his dirty shirt on the floor.

The rule Zachary and Lucy lived by was ‘do not go to sleep angry with each other’, and both had a deep respect for this rule. On this night, it meant neither of them slept. They fought into the early morning. Each time it would start to wind down, one or the other would say something wrong or in the wrong way and the argument was started again.

Finally, Zachary agreed to never bring it up again. He apologized for implying she was not capable of child-bearing, even though that’s not what he meant at all. He took a big plate of “I am completely wrong” and ate it with gusto. Sometimes, this is the cost of harmony and he hated it, but he hated arguing with Lucy even more. He told himself that in the scheme of what is important, being right didn’t factor in this case. It wasn’t even about being right, it was about being understood. It was clear Lucy didn’t have an ear to hear it the way he meant it, and that was all there was to that. He reminded himself that Lucy has done the same thing for him on other occasions.

They made up and then made love, but it was disconnected; not the usual, gentle caressing. It was a good lay but when they were done, Zachary rolled over and went to sleep. They always cuddled afterwards, but not this time.

Lucy felt rejected. She felt inferior and insecure. She felt unworthy and broken. As Zachary began to snore, she cried.

 

© 2013, Mitch Lavender

Thanks

Folks,

I am taking a short break from Life64, work and writing to completely enjoy my family and all that I have.  I’ll be back into the grind soon enough – December 4, 2013.  I’ll post a piece that highlights Ernest Hemingway’s recorded voice.

Thanks to all of you who take the trouble to drop by from time to time and especially for those who follow the blog.  I am thankful for all of you.

Life64-thankyou

Short Story–Scorched Earth

This is an unpublished short story, written from the prompt, unwelcome guest. 

If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Scorched Earth (War of the Worlds)
by Mitch Lavender

 

When I was seventeen, my hand was nearly ripped off. As I write this, that now mostly-dead hand lies limply on the desk as I write with the other. It’s not a story I’ve told before, but I need to tell someone.

It was a cool night in April of 1981, and my parents were arguing about what to do with the vacation cabin outside of Glen Rose, ninety minutes’ drive from our home in Fort Worth. Dad wanted to sell it and reinvest in his dumpy bar, and Mom wanted to fix it up and rent it out.

“I can fix the cabin up,” I said. “I’ll be out of school in June and I’ll live out there while I’m working on it. I’ll get it in shape before Deer Season opens in August.” I was so excited at the prospect of getting away, even if it meant a lot of work.

My parents fought into the night, and the outcome was that I would fix it up and they would rent it or sell it if renting didn’t work out. I would be allowed to live at the cabin alone as long as I was working on it, and my older brother, Desmond would check up on me to insure I was getting things done.

Desmond was twenty-three and bagged groceries at the local Albertson’s. He paid $40 a month in room rent and the cash left over was spent on weed, girls and his Harley.

I did not look forward to him checking up on me at the cabin. Still, I wanted some privacy very badly. In English class, we learned how Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden in a cabin, furnished only with a bed, table, desk and three chairs. I imagined this was my opportunity to write my Walden and was enamored with the idea.

The first weekend in June, I packed up my ’73 Ford Maverick with my clothes thrown in the backseat, my pale blue Royal typewriter and a carton of paper. I drove away on a Saturday morning without a single family member wishing me goodbye.

The cabin was in catastrophic shape. The white paint was peeling on the outside, and inside, the bare plywood floors were littered with dead June bugs and cockroaches. The carpet was removed when the septic tank backed up and hadn’t been replaced.

The land though, was luxurious. The river was only forty yards from the house and rushing water was an ever present sound. The trees, some of them magnificent and towering, shaded the house in even the most brutal Texas summer. There were no other houses around for almost a mile. Private.

The first day consisted of sweeping out the cabin and washing all the bed clothes at the laundry mat in Glen Rose. I fixed tomato soup on the old stove and ate it straight from the sauce pan. I then put the old typewriter on the kitchen table and loaded a sheet a paper.

While I aspired to write my Walden, I lacked the confidence and aptitude. I listened to the 8-track tape of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of Worlds on my drive to the cabin, and had finished the novel by H.G. Wells only a week before.

In this, I had a great story and an interpretation of it as an example to follow. That is what I would do – I would write my version of War of Worlds.

jeffwayne-WotWMy version rarely strayed from the original text, but it was liberating and as I wrote, my story slowly gained resonance and a voice of its own, departing from the original story. The narrator, Michael (nameless in H.G. Wells’ original), was now fleeing across the country with his wife. The Martian Tripods drew blood through needles in the bottoms of their feet as they stomped humans. The Red Weed was no longer benign and had vampire-like tentacles that also tried to suck blood from anyone in reach.

I banged the pages out, blasphemously rewriting a science-fiction classic. During the day, I would dutifully work on the cabin – scraping paint, spraying toxic mold-killer or scrubbing some hopelessly filthy sink, tub or faucet. Each night, I wrote, sometimes by candlelight or oil lantern, since electricity was sketchy. Finally, I replaced the wiring to fix this. I put down new carpet. I reroofed the home and repainted the interior. I found time to walk in the woods during the less hot mornings, but still, I wrote each night.

Then Desmond showed up. I heard him coming for ten minutes before he arrived, sitting atop his Harley. He had two cars and a Winnebago following his lead. I was splattered with paint, having almost finished painting the outside of the cabin.

Desmond got off his motorcycle as his friends drove their vehicles behind him. Pulling off his helmet, he swaggered towards me – me, still holding a paint brush in one hand and a can of paint in the other.

“Hey, Brother. Nice work.” Desmond surveyed the outside of the cabin. I said nothing and he went inside. The interior was already painted. The new carpet was cheap but fresh and unstained. Coming out, he was grinning. “Damn. Aren’t you just the worker bee?”

“What’s up with them?” I nodded to the nine people that piled out of the cars and RV, watching from a distance. A dog was barking from inside the Winnebago. I had a bad feeling about all of it.

“We’re going to do a little camping here. Time for you to go back home.” Desmond was grinning, and I remembered my father using the term, “Shit-eatin’ grin.” I didn’t understand it when my father said it, but I understood it now.

“No. This is my cabin, not yours. You are not welcome.” I thought back to the War of the Worlds, and the Martians invading England. My protest was as ineffective as the humans, battling the technologically advanced Martians. I dropped the paint and brush and curled my hands into fists.

“It’s mine now, Little brother. I’m renting it,” Desmond said.

His friends – some girls, some guys – stood back, arms crossed or thumbs cocked in pockets, watching.

The door of the camper banged open, startling me. A huge, black Rottweiler emerged from the camper. This was the dog I heard barking earlier, and I only glimpsed it before Desmond swung his helmet around and hit me under my chin. I felt my feet leave the ground and imagined wings, gently unraveling, spreading, flapping and me, rising up and up and up. My body went limp, ready to rise up and up and up. Then the ground hit me hard.

Laying there, almost unconscious, the hell-dog clamped down on my hand and demons surrounded me, cheering in excitement or screaming in horror or perhaps, both. With each shake and tug on my hand, the world came back into focus a little more.

Finally, the dog was dragged away from me, but not before it gave one last jerk that pulled my hand free from my wrist, except for some veins and muscles. My hand dangled by shreds of flesh. The spray of blood was horribly beautiful to watch.

My brother’s friend drove me to the local hospital, which was ill-equipped to deal with an almost severed hand. They did the best they could. My hand was reattached to my wrist, and I was lucky the primary veins had not been severed, but the connecting nerves and muscles were hopelessly detached. It was the best they could do.

In my version of The War of the Worlds, the Martians didn’t succumb to disease and illness as they did in the original. They dominated the planet and the remnants of mankind lived underground, in the sewers. The Martians completely decimated the planet, ruining it completely, and with no more resources to plunder, they moved on, leaving scorched earth to the surviving humans. That’s how it ended.

Now, it’s 2013. Desmond is out on parole and needs a place to call home. I hold the keys to the cabin on the Paluxy River – the cabin my father left to Desmond in his will when he died in 2008, but Desmond could not claim it because he was in prison for second degree murder of his girlfriend.

I give Desmond the key with my dead, scarred hand. He looks at me, past me – vacant. Inside, I wanted him to act like a brother, even though we are both middle-aged men, now. I desperately want him to become Wally on Leave it to Beaver – Gee, Beav. Thanks for the key. I guess I was just being goofy, after all.

Desmond says nothing and takes the key to a door that has washed away in the rainy season of 2010, along with the cabin. Most of the property had eroded into the river, but there was still dry spot or two left.  Desmond walks away and doesn’t look back, and I let him.

© 2013 Mitch Lavender

 

~~~~~

For those interested, Jeff Wayne has produced another musical version of of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation. Details at www.thewaroftheworlds.comThere is a link to a music video of the song, Forever Autumn, (originally performed by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues), now performed by Gary Barlow.  The video features Liam Neeson and Anna-Marie Wayne.

 

War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells – Kindle Edition (free)

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (Recommended)

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation

 

Let’s Talk About Bullies

Recently, a twelve year-old girl in Florida jumped to her death. Shortly after this, two girls (ages 12 and 14) were charged with felony-stalking\cyber-stalking the suicide victim. It is still up to a court to decide how much the bullying contributed to the girl’s decision to take her own life, but two girls were arrested and the parents of the girls have been charged with failing to monitor the girl’s online activity.

The finger of blame is pointing all over the place and the truth is – we don’t have laws for this sort of thing. Not yet, but we should.

This takes me back to when I was a freshman in high school, 14-years old. I was awkward and weird. I was 6’, 3” and weighed 112 lbs. On top of that, I have big ears that stick out, like windsocks on the sides of my head. If I turned my head wrong in a stiff wind, it would bowl me over. In short – I had zero self-esteem and was a target for bullies.

bully-project_320My bully took the form of a freshman football player with the inexplicable name of “Buddy.” Buddy would call me “Gay-Boy” or “Monkey-Man,” it alternated as to what particular aspect of himself he was attempting to repress. He made me feel horrible, but I gave him that power.  He would hit me in the back of the head or take my books, pen or whatever.  He never physically hurt me, but he did make me dread every encounter I had daily in school.

When I was 23 years-old and high school was a distant memory, I was still struggling and lived in a crappy apartment complex on Brentwood Stair in Fort Worth, Texas, taking classes at a community college at night. One night, I went into the office to pay my rent which was late, and who was sitting there but Buddy. I don’t know if he was a contractor working on the apartments, or if he lived there. I noticed his dirty jeans and workman’s boots, so it could go either way.

Now, for any person who has been bullied, this is something they long for. I wanted to be more accomplished than I was at the time, but so be it – fate dealt this opportunity now and I seized it. I clearly remember making a judgment call and deciding enough time had passed.

“Hi Buddy. Do you live in these apartments, too?” I said, acknowledging him.

He looked at me, stared for a moment to let it sink in and snorted, turning away.

Really. Mid-twenties now, and still a twat. Still playing the bully game, albeit less obviously.

In that moment, I saw him for what he was – screwed-up in a different way than me but nothing better than me. Just another broken toy. So broken, he must put others down to feel elevated himself.

bully.This moment that so many bullied kids dream about – I had. Closure occurred, then and there. Buddy was just a dick. No longer a threat or a horror, though he had been for the years up to that point. He was just broken.

The remarkable thing is, I felt sorry for him. Something happened to Buddy that made him so damaged. I don’t know what it was, but as a writer, my imagination is virile and I have loads of ideas… ones I am exploring in my writes as Buddy faces the drunken uncle baby-sitter with the candy in his pockets, or the overbearing mother who makes him wear dresses at home or maybe just his broken home in general. Abusive father? Mother? Grandmother? Priest?

The directions are endless. What doesn’t kill you makes great fodder for your writing, and Buddy is evident in so many of the messed-up characters I leverage.

As for that 12 year-old girl who saw no other answer to a horrible situation except to leap to her death – someone is responsible. I don’t know if the means to prosecute exist or ever will – but parents MUST care more. Accountability has to be squarely placed and applied.

Look, young adults are troubled. The pressures and adversity they face is very real. As parents, we have to pull our heads up and see what is going on. We’ve got to help our children navigate these treacherous waters.

If we fail, more troubled kids will die needlessly.

It could be your kid. It really could.

I encourage parents to watch this movie with their kids – BULLY. It is on Netflix or can be rented. It will help remove the blinders so you can see what is occurring every day in schools across America. Ignorance to what our children are doing is not a disclaimer. As a parent – you can be called out and possibly convicted, so if you don’t do it to help the kids, at least do it to help cover your own sorry ass.

In this way, we all work together to fix a significant problem.