Lifetime supply of books?

Books have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  They have inspired, entertained and taught me many things about the world and myself.  In my youth, books competed with movies and the very limited television as entertainment; but had no equal when it came to education and self-fulfillment.  Today is an entirely different world.

Yesterday my internet was out for hours, some kind of Comcast problem that was eventually, mysteriously resolved.  That disruption created a sense of being disconnected from the mother ship.  How do we access the thousands of movies and TV shows streaming away as we sit idle?  There are literally more entertainment and educational options available than anyone could possibly watch.  If that is the case, will there be a point in the future when there is no need for anything new.  Of course new will always be alluring, but the reality is, without additional time, the need for new might just go away.

So we have a lifetime supply of books, movies, and TV shows to keep us entertained; why try the new author who may or may not be entertaining, or educational, or even good.  Why risk that time on something that is not known?  I don’t know the answer to that question.

Even now it is hard to break through the clutter.  I read there are something like 2,000 to 4,000 new books published on Amazon every day.  Many of those books are indie books that sell very few copies.  Currently there are almost 50 million books on amazon available for purchase and the number is growing.  Only a very small percentage of these books sell 500 copies.  But that glut of books creates a maze of confusion that complicates the ability to reach readers—so many books so little time.

Due to this problem the free book marketing web sites came into existence.  Bookbub, Freebooksy, Fussy Librarian and many, many more.  These sites advertise to their members/followers for a fee from the authors the availability of free books or heavily discounted books.   They exist because of the thousands and thousands of independent authors who are the majority of their customers who are looking for new readers.  I use these sites to give away free e-books because it works, sort of.  A newly released book gets a lot of attention and will result in follow up sales of the free book and other books by the author—but it is short lived.  So you spend money to advertise your book to an audience that mostly wants free books in hope of what exactly?  That you give away tons of books?  That those free book seekers will actually spend real money and buy your other books?  Yeah, I’m not sure of the reasoning either; but I do it.

Should a reader not accept free books because that does not provide support to the author?  Of course not.  If the author is stupid enough (or wise enough?) to offer free books, the reader should lap them up.  But what is the commitment to a free book?  Nothing?  If you read the first ten pages of the free book and it doesn’t hit you right, would you continue or just move on to the next free book on your device?  If you had paid $25 for a hardback book, you’re going to give that book every chance, not just a glance.

What this comes down to, is I have no idea how to reach readers who might enjoy my books; other than free books or very expensive Amazon advertising.  But even that approach has limited success in the overcrowded book aisle at Amazon. 

Another approach that works great, but I have no control over, is reader recommendation.  This can be on-line reviews or word-of-mouth.  Readers trust other readers not to steer them wrong, and that boosts sales.  But that is about the first reader liking the book; and that hinges on writing.

Okay, everyone knows this; the best way to have success writing books is to write good books.  Amazing revelation! 

I recently revised the Muckraker books; Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final.  Why?  To make them better and to make them more readable.  This can be a painful process for a writer to be critical of one of your masterpieces.  My co-author, Stanley Nelson, was helpful in that regard, occasionally a little too helpful.  We did accomplish our goal—I think the books are better and, hopefully, the reader will agree. 

The promotion for the re-introduction of these books will include, of course, free book days on Amazon.  The Murder So Wrong e-book will be free for download on December 10th, 17th, 21st and January 24th.  If you haven’t read these books give them a try—after all the first one is free.

Thanks for being a reader!

Is there objective truth?

“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.”

We seem to be living in a time when truth itself is subject to interpretation.  My truth is truer than yours.  Just the idea of that deserves a Wow! 

“The idea that all truth is subjective, that there is no objective truth, is a myth. Everything either has an absolute truth value (even if we can’t know it) or is an opinion or belief.”

“This doesn’t mean we can know every truth, this doesn’t mean that what is true for the observer isn’t unique to the observer. It just means that ultimately, underling that, “that which is the case, is the case, independent of our ability to confirm it” and “statements phrased correctly have an absolute truth value.”  From an article by Thomas DeMichele.

My older brother had an outsized influence on my early years.  One day we were discussing something and he asked me if I had empirical evidence for my statement.  Of course as an ignorant kid I had no idea what empirical meant.  This is pre-Google, so I found a dictionary and looked it up.

“based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.”

That made sense to me, the truth is something that you can demonstrate as true because you have verified or observed the evidence of its truth.  “I saw it with my own eyes!”

Fast forward to today and our almost unlimited sources of “information,” “facts,” “eye witness accounts;” and we find ourselves in a world where truth itself is subject to interpretation.  Even though I believe I can see with my own eyes (under the right circumstances) that the world is curved; someone else observes the same thing and says its flat.  We both believe we have observable facts (empirical evidence) of the opposite conclusions. 

Everyone has bias.  Old verses young is a bias.  White people view the world differently than black people.  Republicans live in a different environment than Democrats.  Rich have no idea how the real world looks to the poor.  Religious people see one thing, secularist another.  Everyone has a bias.  Can any of us view empirical evidence without our bias determining the “truth.”  Probably not.

Through much of our history we have relied upon other people to guide us toward the truth; to help us overcome our natural bias.  Priests and preachers have often been our truth tellers; even when we knew much of their truth was not true.  Politicians, leaders have on occasion provided a guide towards the right answer, not so much today.  Scientists have always guided us towards their truth; but today we are suspicious about science because much of it contradicts things we want to believe.  Judges once held a lofty position in our society, but they too are under a dark cloud.  Where do we go to find “real” truth?

Your answer to that question will be based on your bias.  That is a problem.  How do we reach a consensus to what is true if there is not an authority that can establish truth from myth or propaganda?

That search can lead to trusting charlatans because they are very good at scamming people.  Honest people often say they don’t know; the con-man always knows.  The people with absolute assurance that they have the answers are almost always wrong.  So here we are needing a truth teller who is willing to admit that they don’t know the truth all of the time; sounds like a hard sell.

There have been times in my lifetime when we trusted journalist to tell us the truth.  In many ways, that is still the answer.  Our founding fathers thought so and built it into the constitution; with the protected rights of a free press.  But technology and the vastness of communication has worked to create confusion on how the free press does its job; and has gotten entertainment all mixed up with actual fact finding.  Now our bias dictates what press is correct and what is incorrect.  No objective truth, just choices.

I have a real bias toward books as a source of truth; but of course I write fiction (nice word for lies).  But there are authors who have been able to convey truth while telling a story.  Maybe we should read some of those wise men again. 

Technology may be the ultimate solution.  Our national truth computer one day may be able to take all of the facts and sort through the noise and spit out the truth.  Of course many people will not believe the machine, which obviously was built and programed by people with bias.  Even with a truth machine, it will be easier just to live in our own bubble and believe what we want to believe; after all, I am right.

Long live the King!

This is a special Thanksgiving week post replacing the usual weekend timing.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Thanks for being a reader!

Bless the Editors!

Writing is mostly a private activity—it’s definitely not a team sport.  My best writing takes me to the world of the characters and becomes immersive.  When that is working, I write at a rapid pace and the results are good.  When I’m distracted or the real world is demanding my attention for one thing or another, it is difficult to write; and if I do write, it’s usually not good.  So left alone, undisturbed by the outside world; I’m an okay author.  If the other stuff is interfering, I’m not an okay author.  I’m mostly a grump.

I emphasize this to make a point, writing is not only a private activity it is also very selfish.  My guess would be that some of the best authors were some of the worst people—they cared about themselves and their books; not much else.  Ernest Hemingway had a reputation for drinking, direct prose, many wives, and a foul mouth—he was quoted on more than one occasion stating he was a man’s man; and he lived his life to please himself.  As a person he was considered cold, aloof, but he also had great friends; which seems like an odd contradiction.

From a Philip Young article, “Hemingway’s prose style was probably the most widely imitated of any in the 20th century. He wished to strip his own use of language of inessentials, ridding it of all traces of verbosity, embellishment, and sentimentality. In striving to be as objective and honest as possible, Hemingway hit upon the device of describing a series of actions by using short, simple sentences from which all comment or emotional rhetoric has been eliminated.”

Someone once said I wrote like Hemingway; I took it as a compliment, until he explained further that I wrote simple sentences.  Still not sure if he was trying to insult me or if it was praise.  I decided it didn’t matter.  The famous intellectual Popeye said it best “I Yam What I Yam.”

As I have written more books, the total is ten or about 700,000 words; I realize that you cannot write any differently than the way you write.  All of those words have to be mine.  I cannot write a Hemingway novel any more than I can write a Tolstoy or Christi novel.  For good or bad, it is mine. 

You may be wondering “how about those editors, don’t they change your words?”; yep, they do.  So I lied, the books are not just my words they are the words of several people who help me—and I don’t like it.  Left to my own devices I wouldn’t have an editor.  Stupid, but that is what I would do. 

Would my books be better without an editor?  Absolutely not.  The only reason I would forgo editing is my selfishness.  But even one of the most selfish great writers, Hemingway, had an editor.  Supposedly it was the same person for many years and Hemingway was very dependent on his work.  Hemingway might have been selfish, but he was not stupid.  Now the greatest novelist of all time, Leo Tolstoy, probably didn’t have an editor.  If he had that thousand-page War and Peace would have been whittled down to about four-hundred pages at most.  It would have been just War.

I have just gone through the process of making changes to the Muckraker Trilogy.  This involved new covers along with some re-writing and new editing.  I would much prefer producing new manuscripts without any old baggage to tidy up; but the process of review has improved these three novels.  These books written with Stanley Nelson as a co-author have not had the success of my other books.  Could be the story, location, time or characters don’t fit well with my other series; but this is a very good story.  I know that’s not exactly an unbiased opinion.  You should try at least one.  You will discover Tommy Jacks and a wonderful odd-ball group of support characters.  It’s a murder mystery but much more.

My best-selling book, all-time, is Dog Gone Lies.  It’s the first Pacheco & Chino novel and the second book I wrote.  It has consistently been the best-selling book—even last month it was the number 1 seller.  I have a sneaky suspicion that is due to the word Dog being in the title.  People love dogs and that title alone may be the reason it’s the top seller.  With this insider knowledge it was tempting to rename the Muckraker books to something that would spark sells.  Some ideas included; The Dog Murders, Dog Days Mystery, Dog and Cat Murders, Puppy Crimes, and my favorite, Dog Gone Good Murder Story. 

It was after that private brainstorming session on new titles that I realized I had been spending way too much time alone.  Of course my trusty editors would have never let me rename the book; Dog Gone Good Murder Story, even if it would have been a best-seller.  Bless those editors.

Thanks for being a reader!

Cynics and Idealists

Most of my books feature main characters who are flawed and cynical.  That cynicism comes from a life time of experience that demonstrates it’s a cynical world.  There are exceptions.  Tommy Jacks in the Muckraker series, is an exception; he is an idealist.  But he is young and has yet to experience the harsh reality of life over an extended time.  Although he has plenty thrown at him in those books, at the end he is still more positive than negative about his fellow human beings.  Tommy is the exception, someone who might be idealistic their entire life.

Vincent Malone and Ray Pacheco have both sought to find a new place to hide from the cynical world and they both discover new reasons to be optimistic.  These were jaded, hard-edged people who mostly had a sneering approach to their challenging existence.  Now in their “golden years,” they have discovered fulfillment and meaning when they were least expecting it. Both had lived a large portion of their life as non-trusting tough guys, but now they are positive, even unsuspicious and almost romantic.  Contrasting traits tend to make great characters.

I have gone through long periods of my life where I was a cynic.  My defense for this curmudgeon attitude was based on experience.  With the exception of a couple of decades, most of my life I have been self-employed.  This involved numerous business activities; ice-cream store, popcorn concession-stand, shoe stores, accounting, printing, real estate development, business broker, consultant, financial adviser and a few I’m sure I have forgotten.  One of my first business ventures in my early twenties might have led to some of my cynicism.  It was a popcorn concession-stand.

Lots of circumstances played a part in how this happened, including the involvement of my father, but suffice it to say we ended up with a lease in the lobby of a new concept discount store.   This is the late 60’s and Walmart had not happened, yet.  This was a huge store and something new.  It was a big success with massive crowds waiting almost every day to get inside.  The stand was right in the middle of that huge lobby.

We sold peanuts, popcorn and drinks.  You would think you might make a little money peddling such low dollar items; but this was a monstrous winner.  The first year was an amazing success.  Have trouble remembering all of the numbers, but I think the profit for the first year was close to $30,000.  May not sound like much but that was 1969.  In today’s dollars that’s $205,000—selling popcorn! 

The lease required us to pay a percentage of revenue to the discount store.  I reported my sales to them every month and gave them their slice.  They couldn’t believe it.  One of the managers said they had no idea you could make that much money just selling popcorn. 

We had a five-year lease and of course realized with these numbers they would either demand a much higher percentage or they would not renew.  But I couldn’t blame them—it was just a hell of lot more profitable than anyone thought when we started.  But we were going to enjoy the five-year run.

Right after the first year we received a letter saying they were terminating the lease.  They indicated in their letter that they were exercising the option as spelled out on page 14, paragraph H4. Rights of Landlord.  To cut to the chase the landlord had the right to cancel the lease for almost any or no reason at all (should have hired a lawyer before signing that lease).

Here I was barely in my twenties, married, two kids and a group of big businessmen in suits decided my little popcorn business looked too good not to steal (legally, as it turned out).  That would make almost anyone a cynic.

Now to be fair, over the years I have met many business people who were as ethical and honest as anyone I have ever known.  Also many of my less than successful adventures into business deals were aided by people who invested or encouraged me to try whatever my latest scheme was.  Almost always trying to help without any reward for them.  The opposite of the discount store suits.  But it’s funny how you tend to remember the scoundrels who populate our lives while overlooking the good people.

Maybe that is why my books are chocked full of these types of characters.  A flawed person tends to be a more interesting person.  Plus, they are so much easier to write about.  As an author I would think a book about only nice people would be very difficult to write; and maybe even difficult to read.

The latest book I’m writing, Durango Two Step, has a long list of bad guys in only the first few chapters making it great fun to write.  Many of these bad guys will not survive; but our heroes, Vincent Malone and George Younger, will be fine.  It’s great to be an author and create your own world.

Thanks for being a reader!

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

If you have ever tried writing a book or maybe a long letter, or even a multi-page report; anything that takes many sessions, then you will understand when I say “I’m back!”  I go through these spells where I just can’t write.  I would like to, but it just isn’t happening.  The pattern is identifiable to me now.  It starts with anger.  This can be almost anything.  As little as my favorite team losing (which most of my favorite teams do a lot), or politics, or wet heavy snow that has to be shoveled—you can see the trend; it is life.

Something will get me out of my writing rhythm, and I can’t get back.  I try.  It’s not fun to be a writer and not be able to write.  What follows is a period of time where all ideas on the next chapter are absolutely stupid.  The effort becomes a farce.  Sentences are impossible.  A single word is like pulling teeth.

I have just lived through one of those spells.  It has been months since I have written anything on my book projects.  My latest book, Durango Two Step, is the fourth book in the Vincent Malone series.  I started that book during a high energy period and had the first few chapters in a very short amount of time.  I had also done an extensive outline and had the overall plot.  But then life struck.  Don’t remember the exact cause, but no doubt something silly.  No writing for months. 

Just as the blackout came on unexpectedly, so did the light.  I’m writing again.  Yippee!


Durango Two Step takes place in Durango (duh!) which is located in southwest Colorado.  It’s a touristy place with a narrow gauge railroad that travels from Durango through the mountains to Silverton.  The scenery is magnificent.  The train ride is okay, but still it is a ride on an old train.  The fascination is, of course, that it is an old train and with only a little imagination you could find yourself thinking about the same trip in the 1870s.  But comfort is not necessarily a main feature of the adventure.  If you are ever in that part of the world I would highly recommend a visit to Durango; a very interesting place with lots of great restaurants.


Also I have been spending time working with a designer to re-do the book covers for The Muckraker Series.  The first book Murder So Wrong originally had a red cover with a capitol building.  After the book was released I decided I didn’t like that cover and a new one was designed.  Both old covers are below and the new (improved?) cover the last one.

This discussion is not to try and get you to buy these books—you should wait until the new re-edited editions with the new covers come out—probably in a few weeks.  This is about the process of picking book covers.  Most indie authors sell their books on-line (Amazon, B-N, Kobo, Apple and others), so book covers are small images that potential buyers will only glance at, but the cover is a very important piece of the marketing puzzle.  Will a book sell better with a great cover—obviously the answer to that question is: Yes!  Do we know what makes a great cover—NO. 

Sure there are people who claim to have this knowledge about what is good and bad about these little images.  But I doubt you could prove one theory over another.  There are many elements that drive sales of on-line books; descriptions, reviews, advertising/marketing, price, author’s ranking and many more.  To isolate just the cover would be difficult.  Even with that said the cover obviously does have some impact; maybe a lot. 

There is a whole industry marketing services to indie authors.  One of those services is cover designs.  I have seen prices from $100 (the example of the covers on this web site showed some great looking covers for only $100? —looked too good to be true) to high-end services for thousands.  Typical prices are $350 to $650 for both an e-book and paperback cover.  I would not argue with the value of the “typical” prices, but trying to select the right designer is mostly guess work.  Because the covers are so small on-line, usually bold titles and limited detail is necessary.  But what’s a good, bad or great cover is just one person’s opinion.  The ultimate judge would be if you could isolate book sales based on the cover, but you can’t; so it just speculation.

I have redesigned the book covers (and re-edited the books) to improve the books generally, but to more importantly improve sales.  That would be the ultimate test did the new covers increase sales.  I will be testing that over the next few months as these new covers are released and promoted.  After a few months I will report back the results and maybe then determine if there was an impact or if it was just shuffling of the deck chairs.


Blog direction.  Since its inception this blog has been about writing, indie books and the process of producing/marketing those books—it will continue to be.  However, a new direction will focus on the locations of those stories.  My books take place in the southwest United States and the general region.  This includes New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma. 

The Bootlegger’s Legacy takes place in Oklahoma, El Paso, Texas, New Mexico and Juarez, Mexico.

Pacheco & Chino Series takes place in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

Muckraker Series takes place in Oklahoma.

Vincent Malone Series takes place in New Mexico and Colorado.

I will feature in future blogs specific places in these areas with special attention to food including favorites restaurants and places to stay if visiting.  Hope you occasionally enjoy reading about these places and their attractions.  (And, yes this may just be a way for me to deduct travel expenses as business costs but don’t tell anyone.)

Thanks for being a reader!

Fictional Books and Real Life

Despite being fictional, literary characters are near and dear to our hearts. But sometimes, those fictional characters turn out to not be so fictional after all.

SHERLOCK HOLMES in The Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
INSPIRED BY: Dr. Jo
seph Bell

Arthur Conan Doyle met surgeon Dr. Joseph Bell in 1877, when he served as his clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. After writing several popular stories about consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (who really needs no introduction), Doyle admitted that the man was at least partially inspired by Bell’s super observant ways and his ability to make large assumptions with little evidence. Apparently, Bell was quite proud of the connection and even went on to help with police investigations in Scotland alongside Sir Henry Littlejohn, whom Doyle also cited as an influence. In a letter to the author, Bell even joked, “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”

Ten Fictional Characters Inspired by Real People


Have spent the last several months re-editing the Muckraker books.  That would be Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final.  This was my first time to return to a book and look at the results with a critical eye.  While there were changes made, the most obvious will be new covers, overall I really (still) liked the story.  I think this round of tweaks does improve the reader experience and hopefully will increase the popularity of this series.  The new look is not available yet but will be shortly.

These books were written with a co-author; Stanly Nelson.  We share backgrounds, both being from Oklahoma, and also a love of newspapers.  Me as a reader and Stan as an editor-writer on several papers.  The books are about a time in Oklahoma City when two major newspapers battled for the market with very distinct and opposite perspectives.  We both lived during those times and enjoyed the competitive energy that was created by the warring groups.

Many of my books are based on actual events that I experienced or people I have known.  The main character in the Muckraker books is Tommy Jacks, a recent journalism grad who is having his first encounter in the real (and very dangerous) world of cut-throat reporting.  His mentor in the story is Taylor Albright, a fish-out-of-water New Yorker trapped in the totally different world of middle America.  Taylor is cynical and totally without fear.  Tommy both admires Albright and hates him.  It is a relationship with many facets. 

The Albright character was based on someone I knew at the time.  He was an abrasive, smart, and fearless columnist for the new paper trying to carve out a market against an old established publishing empire.  The real Albright pushed the boundaries of acceptable journalism until he was fired.  Anyone who read his columns knew he would soon be gone.  He offended everyone.  One week he would be cheered by one side as he attacked the other side and the next week it would be the opposite.  He seemed to have a desire to have people hate him.  I liked him.  Of course he never wrote about me in his columns.

After he was fired, I helped him put out his own very small circulation tabloid—I owned a printing company at the time.  Eventually he alienated all of my employees and we parted, although we were still friends.  Never heard from him again. 

I’ve mentioned before how important it is to me to have an element in my books that comes from my own experiences.  Obviously (or maybe not?), I have not experienced the murders and general mayhem I write about; but the places and the people are familiar to me.  In the Vincent Malone books I use Santa Fe almost like a character—something familiar and comfortable.  Having often been in Santa Fe and experienced its unique, quirky qualities, helps me make them real to the reader.  I know the atmosphere and it helps me feel comfortable with the characters by placing them in those surroundings.

The Muckraker books take place in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  I grew up in Oklahoma City and definitely knew every part of that town.  Way into my twenties it felt like home.  Then something happened, no doubt, something to me.  It started to feel different, less comfortable.  I felt like I didn’t belong there.  Wasn’t sure where I did belong but definitely not there.  Why would that happen?  Cities change, but that’s not the most likely reason.  It’s people.  I changed and Oklahoma City stayed the same.  Eventually we moved to New Mexico and it felt comfortable.  I was a stranger, but felt at home.

Places have an energy to them that either fits a person or doesn’t.  Not sure what it is but I know when someplace is good for me almost immediately and when it isn’t.  Houston and LA were good for me; New Orleans and Dallas were not.  The good place list includes my current home Denver; but it has been amazingly cold recently so San Diego is sounding very nice.

The Muckraker books brought back a lot of memories.  Triples was a real place, so was the Denny’s on Classen Boulevard Albright frequented.  That was where I met the real Albright by accident.  Deep Deuce in The Bootlegger’s Legacy was an area I knew.  I was known to visit a few of the bars that hung on past their prime in that part of town.  All familiar memories with history—even some bad history.

So I write about things known to me as I tell stories that are total fiction.  The real gets mixed in and creates a sense of knowing even though much of the story is only imagination.  My books are about characters.  We can all relate to them as they try to solve a mystery or untangle a past action; make-believe based on real people.  They are flawed, but I hope they are people you can care about.  The locations add texture to the story, but it could occur most anywhere—as long as the writer can capture the real feeling of the place and can help the reader feel that uniqueness. 

Below is a sneak peek (don’t tell anyone) of a couple of the new covers coming for the Muckraker books. I’ll let you know when the updated books are available.

Thanks for being a reader!

My dread of Halloween

I write mystery books.  Also on occasion I write short-stories.  For no particular reason these often are about my childhood in Oklahoma in the 1950s.  You probably grew up in a different time and place, but I hope you find these little odes to the past interesting, or funny, or maybe even a little sad.

This is a true short, short story about Halloween.

In small town America in the 1950s Halloween night found every kid within miles walking in the neighborhood seeking those wonderful treats.  There were no trailing parents or watchful cars standing by to rescue little Johnny, because no one perceived a need for such caution.  It was a time when people had a sense of belonging that created a, no doubt, false sense of security.

On one memorable Halloween I had spent hours out with my group of buddies canvasing our immediate neighborhood and several blocks over in both directions.  At many of the houses the adults knew some of us and greeted us warmly.  There were kids everywhere going door to door.  Now, to be fair, there were a couple of houses we stayed away from.  One was occupied by an incredibly old man who glared at kids if they got close to his domain.  The kid rumor was that he was an escaped convict hiding in our neighborhood.  The legend was that he had been convicted of murdering his own children.  The chance of that tale being true was exactly zero; but every kid knew to stay clear of his un-kept house.

On this one night I had stayed out longer than usual, because I was also collecting Halloween goodies for my friend Bill who was sick.  He begged me to take his bag and get double treats—it was a pitiful scene with this huge kid begging me to get him candy while he coughed all over me; condemning me to catching some dreaded disease. 

My last lap was one street over from mine.  It was the rich people’s street in the neighborhood.  I had waited until the final push of the night to make the biggest haul.  Some of the houses had turned out their lights, but most had not.  There was an occasional grumble about me collecting two bags but most were still pleasant and generous with the goodies.

At the end of the rich people’s block I was loaded down.  It was about the maximum I could carry and I felt both joy and a self-important sense of accomplishment.  I couldn’t wait to get to Bill’s house and give him his bulging bag.  Bill was in kid’s terms, the fat kid.  He ate everything and in huge quantities.  He was going to be delirious.

It was late, even for Halloween, and I was now alone on my last leg.  First stop would be Bill’s and then finally home where I could explore my huge bag of sugary joy.

I heard the car before I saw it.  It had stopped hard just behind me.  When I turned I saw a car full of teenagers.  Now if you’re a pre-teen kid in safe, small town America there was one great fear in your world.  Teenage boys.  Often you knew them; maybe even friends of your older brother.  But you had seen their group behavior before.  Bullying, head rubbing, taunting; they were the most feared menace in your protected world.

It was the apocalypse; four teenagers on Halloween night charging a ten-year-old kid with two huge bags of candy.  In a flash I was on the ground with pain in my hand and elbow without any candy.  The old Ford hauled ass down the street.  I thought I could hear them laughing.

I stayed still for a while.  Then without warning I started to cry.  Curled up in a ball on a very dark Halloween night in the middle of a stranger’s yard, all alone, I bawled.  Just like a baby.  All of that work, hours and hours of trick or treating; gone in a matter of seconds.  Soon I stopped crying and almost immediately became angry.  More angry than I ever remember being before.  I stood in the middle of the night and shouted “Shit,” as loud as my little body could muster.  I knew that was wrong, but I had had it with being bullied and stomped on by those stupid teenage hoodlums.

I made it to Bill’s and gave him the bad news.  He was obviously very sad.  He suggested I still had time to go back and get some goodies.  I just looked at him like his head had exploded.  I said good-night and went home.

Once home I told my parents the story.  My dad was furious.  He debated about calling the cops or getting in his old car and finding the creeps.  My mother soothed him and told him it was bad but it would be best just to forget it.  He mumbled something and went outside to smoke his foul smelling cigar.

My mother consoled me, telling me those boys did not mean to hurt me, they were just being teenage boys.  That seemed like a lame excuse to me.  She hugged me and I cried again.  She tucked me in and read one of my favorite books.  I dreamed of the day when I would be a teenage boy and how I would treat everyone so nice and wouldn’t tease or torment little ten-year old kids.

From that time on I dreaded Halloween.  When I became a teenager, I definitely had my typical teenage boy moments, but I never tormented little kids and usually stayed home on Halloween.


Another holiday short story.

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