Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Home -- A Fragment

     Just a short fragment that came out of a couple of mornings of scribbling a while back.  One of these eons I may actually find a place for it, as is or reworked, in a longer piece.  But I don't think it reads too badly on its own, so until I find that other place for it...


     You know how it is when you find some place that is so right for you that it whispers "Home," whispers it so deep inside that you feel it rather than hear it, and maybe the place doesn't say it to anyone else, just you.
     Maybe it whispers to you but not to your wife, and eventually she leaves, and maybe you go with her but maybe you don't because here in this place you're finally home, where you were always meant to be.  Or maybe you're twelve and it whispers to you but not to your parents and they move and of course you have to move with them and you never really forget that and even if you don't talk about it later it rubs at you for years.  But it isn't only places that whisper that way.  It isn't only place that is home.  Sometimes you meet someone or just see somebody for a moment in passing and inside you is that sudden voice saying, "Home."  Or you find the work you were meant to do, something that’s so right that you can’t imagine doing anything else, something that’s more to you than just a way to pay the bills.
     You see thousands of people going by in the street every day and maybe you wonder how many of them are just marking time, listening for that whisper, how many of them will die without ever hearing it and never thinking about what they might have missed, how many of them heard it once and missed their chance at it and dream of little else other than hearing it again.

     He was nineteen and it was a warm day in mid-June, cloudless and not too windy.  He got off the bus at the corner of Michigan and Chicago on his way to Stuart Brent's book store, and he saw her for a moment as she boarded that same bus.  Tall and slim and brunette, and her eyes met his, just for an instant, and deep inside him: "Home."  But he had stepped off the bus and the doors closed and the moment passed and the bus pulled away, and he knew that he could catch it again at the next stop if he ran because he could still run when he was nineteen, but the light changed in his moment of hesitation and before it changed back the bus was two blocks ahead of him and he'd never catch it now.
     For the next three weeks, he made it a point to be at that bus stop every morning around that time, but he did not see her again.
     That year at college, he met a lovely girl, also tall and slim and brunette, who reminded him a great deal of the girl he'd seen boarding the Michigan Avenue bus, and during that year he fell in love with her and she with him, and after graduation they married and had four children, and like any married couple they had their ups and downs but for the most part they lived happily ever after, and one reason they lived happily ever after was that they were smart enough to avoid dark places.
     So when she had the feeling that there was something in him that he kept locked securely away, she left it alone and did not press him to reveal anything he did not choose to reveal.  And when he allowed himself his two-in-the-morning reflections on the state of his life, and found himself thinking of a girl getting on the Michigan Avenue bus one June morning, and remembering that voice saying, "Home," a voice he had not heard again since that morning, he kept those reflections to himself.
     For her part, she had heard that voice several times, but never in connection with another person.  For her it had been associated with places.  The summer when she was fourteen, the family had taken her mother's dream vacation and spent a month visiting England and France, renting cars or taking the trains to get around, and renting cottages or staying at local bed-and-breakfasts rather than hotels.  In a few of the cottages, she'd heard that voice and she knew that one day she'd live in rooms like these.  After she married, she didn't live in an English cottage, but she did what she could to recreate some of the feel of one in the apartments and later the house they lived in.  Sometimes in her own two-in-the-morning reflections she thought about that fourteenth summer and wondered what life might have been like if she'd chosen a course that took her out of the midwest and back to Europe, back to England, and if she might have been able to find a place where that voice was always there for her, rather than hoping to hear it in the imitation she had made.
     And so their days passed, and their months, and their years, and they told themselves that they were happy with the way things had turned out, and if sometimes they felt that they had really been meant to be with someone else or in some other place, well, who didn't feel that way now and then?
     One evening he read a magazine article that discussed the ever-more-mobile population, all the people changing jobs, moving to other cities or other states or even other countries, and he wondered how many of them were really looking for a girl they'd seen getting on the Michigan Avenue bus or getting off the elevator or passing by a restaurant window.  He wondered how many of them were really straining to hear that voice.
     One afternoon as she pulled some weeds in a corner of her garden, she wondered if trying to achieve some semblance of those wonderful fourteenth-summer places was only inviting dissatisfaction with the place she had actually made for herself.  She had a pleasant house, a husband and children she loved, and while she'd had the occasional fleeting thought of walking away from all of it and getting on a plane and finding a place where that voice might whisper to her again, she did not give serious thought to leaving.  Perfection, after all, was unattainable.
     They both lived into their eighties and they died within six months of each other, with their children close by, and neither of them said a word to the other, ever, about the idea that they had been meant to be with different people in different places.  That was something they kept locked away, well out of sight, because having that out in the open could only bring trouble, and because perfection, after all, was unattainable.

     Anyway, that's how it was for them.  How it is for you, only you can say.  As for me -- well, I'm a stranger here myself.


copyright 2016 by Anthony J. Rabig

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Golden Age Memory from the Library Sale Tables

   It's been said that the golden age of science fiction is twelve.  The golden age of a lot of things is probably twelve, or maybe thirteen.  Which brings me to yesterday afternoon's visit to the local library's sale table.
   Back in the late Cretaceous when I was thirteen, when you still found paperbacks priced at 35 cents and I was starting to use the deposit money from empty Pepsi bottles to buy paperback books instead of comics, one of the goodies that turned up on the racks at the local pharmacy was a wonderfully demented humor title by Jack Douglas called My Brother Was an Only Child.  A slim volume of 47 chapters, most only a page or two in length, with titles like "The Boy Who Cried Dinosaur," "Six G-Strings in Search of an Old Violin Named Charlie (a Play by Tennessee Gleckle)," "The Year the Locusts Came," "How to Train an Aardvark," and "The Private Mitty of Walter Thurber."  I laughed my kazoosis off all the way through it.
   So what should turn up on the sale table yesterday afternoon?  For a quarter?  In hardcover with dust jacket?  In very good condition?  Yep -- a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child.  And right next to it, a copy of the next book by Douglas, Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver.  Need I say I grabbed 'em both?
   The last time Douglas was prominently in print, if memory serves, was in the late 70s and early 80s, when Pocket Books reissued most of his titles within the space of a year.  The two already mentioned along with Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes, The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Grave, and a few more.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Douglas died in 1989; he'd worked in radio and television, writing for Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Jack Paar, Woody Allen, Laugh-In and others, and he took an Emmy for comedy writing in 1954.  Not a bad list of credits at all.
   Is My Brother Was an Only Child still funny?  Yep; one Amazon reviewer noted that it's probably funnier if you're thirteen, and I think that's true, but as of yesterday, more than fifty years since I was that age, the book still does it for me.  Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver, not so much -- but My Brother Was an Only Child is still a delight.
   Naturally, I had baser motives than simple pleasure in buying those two volumes -- last time I ran across a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child (in much poorer condition than yesterday's catch), I bought it for half a buck and sold it on Amazon for $10.  What did I find when I checked current availability to see what kind of obscene profit I could make?  A publisher with the unlikely handle of Pickle Partners Publishing has brought out a Kindle edition of My Brother Was an Only Child and you can snag an ebook copy of your own for $5.  Recommended for all you thirteen year old boys out there who never quite grew up.

   And here's the link: My Brother Was an Only Child

   (Pickle Partners has a lot of listings in the Kindle store, most of them military history and personal narratives (among them Robert Leckie's A Helmet for My Pillow and Heinz Guderian's Panzer Leader); their non-military offerings include Helene Hanff's Underfoot in Show Business, Manly Wade Wellman's fantasy classic Who Fears the Devil?, and more.  Worth a look.)
   Now if only somebody would do an ebook of another warped delight from my golden age, Max Rezwin's The Best of Sick Jokes.  My copy's falling apart.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


That time travel novel I mentioned in my last post is available now for $2.99 in the Kindle store.  It's called Doorways.  Here are the links for the US and UK:
US Kindle store
UK Kindle store

And the description:

   "Time travel's possible, Dennis. I know, because I've done it from right here in this room."
   Dennis Marcher thought he was simply visiting college friends, seeing again the place he'd met the girl he married.
   What he found was a doorway into the past. A doorway that would let them revisit some of their happiest days. A doorway that could let them go back to stay. A doorway that might let them change their pasts for the better.
   Some doors shouldn't be opened.

Now, if you like your novels long, please note that this one's on the short side at 44,000 words.  (Minimum length for a novel in the Nebula award categories is 40,000 words, which if memory serves is about right for one side of the old Ace Double paperbacks.)  Check it out if you get a chance.

And if you don't get a chance, I hope it's because you're engrossed in other recently issued ebooks like these:
Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys
The Hyde Hotel, edited by James Everington & Dan Howarth
Got to Kill Them All & Other Stories, by Dennis Etchison
Can & Can'tankerous, by Harlan Ellison
All of them good reading & well worth a look.