The Cat’s in the Cradle

Cat's in the Cradle
Cat’s in the Cradle

On Tuesday, when I got home from the Day Job, my son approached me within seconds of my backpack hitting the floor.

He asked, “Daddy? Can we play football?”

I told him that I wanted a few minutes to veg out and just chill before doing anything. I’m often tired from the long day at work and the almost hour commute to get home from work.

He understood that I was tired, and wandered off to play with some toys.

By the time I had changed clothes, sufficiently relaxed, ate some dinner, and just puttered around the house, it was dark outside. Too late to play football.

I apologized to my son for missing out on the football. He understood.

What I didn’t understand is that he wanted to spend some quality time with me. It wasn’t about the playing. It wasn’t about the football. It was about me. He wanted time with me.

I didn’t get it.

Then I saw this comic on Real Life this morning, and I got it.

Damn. I screwed up.

The cat’s in the cradle. It won’t stay there for long.

If I want my son to grow up to be a good man, I have to show him how to do it. I can’t just instruct or tell or educate. There has to be a demonstration of a quality life with the loved ones around you.

I have no plans for tonight after work, so I’m going to spend some quality time with my son tonight. It’s not about the playing. It’s not about the football. It’s about my son. It’s about the man he’ll grow up to be someday. Someday soon. These years with him are flying by. I’ve got to learn to treasure them more.

Carnival of the Damned is Released

Carnival of the Damned
Carnival of the Damned

I can feel the utter fright creeping into your veins as I type this. An anthology full of creepy clowns, strange carnivals, dark circuses, and sideshow freaks has hit the virtual shelves of Amazon.

That’s right, folks. Carnival of the Damned is out! I have a brief description of the my story on my short stories page.

I’d love to chat more about how great this book is, but I can’t just yet. I’ve only seen my story. I can tell you that I’m itching with anticipation to get my hands on the book. I share a table of contents with some great names, and I know I’ll be blown away by their horrific imaginings.

Resolution Update

If you remember way back in January, I posted that I wanted to get twelve short stories written this year. I also wanted to submit each of them to three different markets each.

Well… I’m a little behind as you can see on the sidebar.

At this point, I should be halfway through story number eight. Instead, I’m about halfway through story number seven. That puts me a full month behind in where I wanted to be. However, this is not an insurmountable problem. I just need to buckle down and work on the words.

As far as the submissions go, I should be somewhere in the area of twenty-two submissions out the door. I’m at seven. This puts me at a third of where I should be. Again, it’s not insurmountable. I have the markets I want to submit to. I just need to get on the ball and throw the stories out the door. Of the six stories I’ve finished, I’m going to say that four (maybe five) are ready to be sent out.

I guess I need to put those five dollars per month that I’m giving to Duotrope to use. I haven’t used that site in months, but they still get their drop of blood from my wallet. Time to change that.

I guess it’s time for me to get back to the writing and submitting.

Wish me luck!

Robin Williams… And More

I’m not sure what to say here that’s coherent or will make sense, but I gotta get this out of me.

Robin Williams passed away today of an apparent suicide.

I’ve lost more than my fair share of close friends to suicide. It’s one of the most painful ways to lose someone you love. Probably the most painful. I hate the word. I hate the act. I hate what it does to friends and families. I…

Let me rewind a bit before I get carried away on that train of thought.

I’m 13 years old and living with my grandparents full time. My grandmother is in the hospital with her second heart attack, and I’m horribly frightened to my very core that I’m going to lose the woman that’s taken me into her home without hesitation or question. I’m scared like I’m 3, not 13, that she’s going to leave me behind. I’m old enough to know that everyone dies. I’m young enough to think that I have forever with those around me. These two conflicting thoughts rage in my mind, and I’m not sure what to do with myself.

My step mom is staying with me in the house while my grandfather cares for my ailing grandmother. We’re flipping channels, and get to HBO (I think it was HBO) that’s showing the intro for Robin Williams’s An Evening at the Met performance. Despite the adult material and cussing in the show, my step mom lets me watch the whole thing. We laughed together until we cried. For those scant few hours, my tears were of joy, my shaking was from guffaws, and my soul was soothed from the worries about my grandmother.

That’s the night I fell in love with Robin Williams. I looked up to him like that crazy uncle that everyone loves and he loves everyone back with such ferocious passion that no matter what he does, you support him in everything.

When Robin went to repeated rehab trips, I prayed for him. I truly wanted him to get better. I wanted him to overcome the demons that drove him to drug and alcohol abuse in a healthy manner. I suppose it was a selfish desire because I wanted more of him in my life. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every movie he’s been in. I’ve seen most of his stand-up comedy. I loved it when Whoopie and Billy and Robin would riff and act-up between sets on all eight Comic Relief shows.

When I fought my own, personal darkness in my early 20s, I remember heading to a Hastings to find something to rent to watch. I didn’t know what I wanted. I meandered through the aisles of tapes looking for something to rent. Something caught my eye, and I pulled it out. It was a Robin Williams act I’d seen before. Then I realized they had a full section of Robin’s stand up.

I rented every tape that afternoon. The cute girl behind the counter looked at me weird, but I didn’t care. I was going to have some “me time” with Robin.

I got home, and binge watched every minute of it. I think I finally came up for air two days later. During that time, I cried more. You see, some of these were from later in his career when he didn’t have to fling endless jokes. He could put his own humorous spin on the tragedies of life. He delved into some deep, hidden areas of his psyche that many people didn’t know where there. His vulnerability and honesty and comedy about it all made me cry tears of sympathy, tears of joy, and just tears for no damn good reason.

From that darkness in his life came laughter. It was hard to see the pitch black because of the bright lights Robin put on everything. Maybe if we’d looked a little closer, we could have seen what was coming. Maybe not.

My favorite show on TV last season was The Crazy Ones because of the pain-inducing laughter that I suffered through while I had an inflamed intercostal nerve. It drove lightning-like pain through my torso to breathe deeply, move quickly, or shake my body. The Crazy Ones led to all of the above, and I didn’t care about the agony because I was laughing along with one of my favorite people in the world.

Now he’s gone. I never had aspirations of meeting Robin or becoming a friend of his or anything like that. It was just nice to know that it could happen. Now it can’t. Ever.

Even the most brilliant comedians or the most upbeat people or the happiest souls in the world have pain and sadness and internal agony and demons plaguing them.

I know. I’ve been there. I still go there (unwillingly) from time-to-time.

It’s a hard thing to do, but if you think you’re in (or heading for) one of those times of life when even the brightest light can’t shine, reach out for help. It doesn’t have to be professional help (though I advocate that as well). For starters, it can be a friend, sibling, parent, grandparent, cousin, or anyone close in your life. If you’re a person of faith, find a counselor that shares a similar faith and talk to them. Talk to someone. Talk to many someones. Check in with psychiatrist or psychologist and see if they think you need professional counseling or medication to help with a chemical imbalance.

Having a medical condition that affects that way your brain works is not shameful. Would you be ashamed of having a ruptured appendix or a gallbladder full of stones? No. I don’t think so. Those are serious medical conditions that you don’t ask for or bring upon yourself. The same thing goes for clinical depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and a host of other mental illnesses.

They are medical conditions, just like that popped appendix.

They can be treated, just like that inflamed gallbladder.

They happen to the best of people. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you less of a person. Having the strength to find help, accepting it, and putting that assistance to good use makes you a better person.

Please don’t suffer in silence or alone.

How am I to know all of this about mental illness? I don’t claim professional training. I don’t have any specialized knowledge or skills in this area.

These are all things I’ve learned by living it. There’s something most of you don’t know about me: I’m bipolar. I go through bouts of severe depression followed quickly by sessions of increased anger and inability to sleep or think straight.

It took me until almost two weeks of no sleep drove me to the doctor. I sat in his office shaking from fear. If I’d had a cold: antibiotics. I knew something was wrong with my brain chemistry, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know if there was a “magic pill” that would make me better. I didn’t know if I’d end up in a padded room. I didn’t know if the doctor would just shrug and tell me to drink some warm milk before bed time.

I didn’t know. That scared me more than anything.

He talked with me at great length and ran me through some self-assessments. After spending almost two hours with him, he declared me bipolar.

I cried. Not out of fear or anger or frustration. I cried because someone finally had figured out what was wrong with me all those years ago. I started seeing a psychiatrist for the chemical imbalances in my brain. After trying one medicine, I asked for something different because of some side effects that were messing with my life. We swapped to another medication, and it’s been a miracle drug for me. I’m not going to give the name here because I don’t want to endorse my miracle drug. You see. It’s worked wonders for me but your mileage may vary.

I want you, if you need to, find a mental health professional and seek their guidance, not mine. Well, I guess I’m guiding you, but I’m pointing you to someone that can help you more than I can. Assume I’m a sign post that’s pointing the way out of the forest of scary thoughts.

This post has gone on long enough and I’m emotionally exhausted from the news about Robin Williams. I’ll wrap things up here.

I just want you to know that you’re not alone and there are always positive options out there. Please think about that.

Good night, and rest in peace, Mr. Williams. You’ll be missed.

PS: I still have An Evening at the Met on VHS. It’s late now, and I need to get to bed. I think I’ll watch the tape tomorrow night and remember the good times with Robin.

Coming Soon: Carnival of the Damned

Carnival of the Damned
Carnival of the Damned

My story called “Children of the Carnival” is due to come out soon in the Carnival of the Damned anthology from Evil Jester Press edited by Henry Snider. I don’t have the full table of contents handy, but I do know that I’ll be sharing it with two great friends: R. Michael Burns and Amity Green.

The general theme of the anthology is that of horrific things happening at carnivals, circuses, boardwalks, sideshows, and similar locales. If you’re creeped out by clowns, you’ll enjoy this anthology! If you’re downright horrified by those pasty-faced bastards, I suggest buying the book anyway as a flavor of aversion therapy.

My story is about a team of Hunters making their way through an abandoned traveling circus in an effort to save a little girl from the C.L.O.W.N.S.. The C.L.O.W.N.S. are people suffering from Cognitive Loss from Overnight Withering of Neurological Synapses, which is transmitted by cheap-ass makeup made in China. You’ll just have to read the story to find out how bestial humans can get when their higher thought processes are stripped away. It’s more than you think. Trust me.

When the book hits the shelves (virtual or otherwise), I’ll update you here and add it to my Short Story Publications page.