The Interplay Between Goals and Motivations

We all have goals. They are as diverse as we humans are: that’s a good thing. Our goals may be to graduate from university, get a job, move to a new city or any other desire. And similarly, our motivations for achieving our goals are just as diverse. Comparing and contrasting the goal with the motivation will lead to some incredible personal insights into one’s desires and expectations.

Sometimes goals and motivations can be the exact same thing. The more basic the motivation the more likely the goal will match. Take hunger for an example. The goal and the motivation align perfectly. The goal is to eat and the motivation is to fill your empty stomach. When goals and motivations match one can then focus on the means, or solution, to achieve the goal. Though knowing what the solution is just the first step. One has to put forth effort on the solution. For me, knowing that the solution for the long grass in my lawn is to mow it, doesn’t take the place of actually mowing it. (Note: I hate yardwork).

Sometimes goals and motivations differ in slight ways. They still align, but are not perfect matches. These are harder to understand and harder to solve. An example could be the goal of a clean house. Yet, the underlying motivation is to have a tidy home free of clutter and disorganization. Just cleaning the house will not achieve tidiness. Recognizing that fact requires more thought and care toward the solution.

Sometimes goals and motivations don’t align well at all. These situations represent the most complex of problems for they require considerable abstract thinking and painstaking thought to solve. Sometimes we don’t understand the interplay between what we do and why we do it. It requires introspection.

To further complicate things sometimes there are surface motivations and then there are deeper, underlying, motivations. Deciphering these different layers of our desires takes effort. Effort we avoid because we’re tired or sad or feeling stress or have to household chores. In the modern world, at least for most of the time pre-COVID19, we didn’t have time to reflect on ourselves. With many nations having lock-down directives perhaps now is a perfect time to contemplate on what you want and, more importantly, on why you want it.

My goal is to be a published author, to earn an income from my writing. It’s as good a goal as any. My underlying motivation for writing is something I realized only recently. It’s not to be famous. Not to be rich beyond imagination. Not to be respected. Though I do want these things to varying degree. My ultimate motivation is to leave behind something tangible for my children. Something, that long after I’m gone, they can look at and nod, “My father wrote this.” Not just look at it, but like it. Perhaps, even cherish it. Though that is for them to ultimately decide.

It’s hard to quantify this deeper motivation. It’s love. It’s hope. It’s legacy. It’s a want to be remembered. It’s a need. It’s me.
It’s want any parent would want, I think: to be cherished and remembered by his/her children with love. I want to achieve that, in part, with the words I leave behind.

Goals are the what. Motivation is the why. Effort is the how. Knowing what each variable is, is important. I’ve come up with an equation that sums up my thoughts: (Goal + Motivation) x Effort = Success. Now what this equation shows, at least to me, is that when the goal and motivation are joined together it’s easier to apply effort to them equally to achieve your success, whatever you’ve defined success to be.

Writing that equation is easy. Thinking about each step, forging a path from left to right, understanding each stop along the way, is hard. I think it’s worth exploring. For me, even if I don’t become famous, don’t become a respected author among the masses, don’t become rich, at least I’ll have my writings for my children to read. In the end, that reward is priceless.

Photo by Mischa van Lieshout from FreeImages

An Ever Expanding Self

Writing is such a powerful thing, for many different reasons. It’s cathartic, helping a person deal with stressful situations. It’s a journal, documenting what’s happening in a person’s life. It’s fun and allows a person to explore stories and different perspectives. It’s communication to reach out to others. Every discipline in the world relies on writing.

Writing has allowed rich and diverse histories to flourish so that we can learn. I hope it continues to become more diverse, weaving more perspectives of those marginalized and ignored into a greater tapestry of thought and experience. This way future generations will have a more complete view of the complexities of human history.

The Slowly Advancing Novels

As for my novel writing I have continued to work on my Science Fiction novel “Lustre.” I’m currently working on the 6th draft. A few beta readers have given me feedback of tremendous value. I am so glad for it. Their feedback has allowed me to get a better understanding of how readers view characters. I can make changes so the characters are more rich in history and complexity. I’ve drawn out some issues to further align with and against the book’s theme. Lastly I’m still clearing up some logical inconsistencies. The curse of a pantser. I hope to have the 6th draft completed in a month or so.

I also have started other science fiction novels. Two books in one, where both happen simultaneously. Each book is a perspective of a different group of characters. I have about 10,000 words done on it so far.

Writer’s Block

Sometimes I do experience writer’s block. When that happens on a certain project my answer is to start working on, or switch to, a different project. One which hasn’t stalled. It seems to help me to keep writing and continue to be productive in some fashion. The time away brings a different perspective to the roadblock. I can take them on and get back to the original focus. Does anyone else do this trick?

Twitter Bird Tweeting

I have been writing a lot on twitter lately, short poems and very short stories. I’ll share some here in an anthology or twitter omnibus of sorts so that it is easier to read, without having to scroll through non-story like tweets.

Photography Abounds

There is a huge amount of photography talent displayed here on WordPress. It’s inspired me. I do have a DSLR that’s been sitting in the closet for some time. I’m getting the urge to take some walks and shoot some pictures. Perhaps I’ll post some here, maybe with a short story to go along with them.

I Have Grown into the Unknown

Finally, I have been stepping out of my comfort zone to write poetry. If the universe can expand why can’t I expand my writing experience? Once I’m comfortable with the final products I’ll share here.

How are you stepping out of your comfort zone? What are you doing to expand yourself?

As always thanks for reading.

Photo by David Cowan from FreeImages

Short Story: The Last Sunday Drive

The stretch of road is not long by any stretch of the imagination. It runs through mostly flat farmlands. Off in the distance minor hills look as if they go on forever. The drive is, at first notice, rather boring. On either side of the road farms and cattle pass by; oblivious to the constant traffic. On the road wild animals pass away by way of tires and fenders and bumpers. Roadkill, of varying age, litters the road almost every inch of the way. Dark blotches, with minor patches of fur, indicate an old kill. What died? At what time was it hit? How long ago? How long until its remains remain no more?

The stretch of highway is quite deadly. The drive then becomes, if not interesting, then at the least not boring. Death, if one has an eye for it, and the heart, draws us toward it, calling and willing us to see it. On the soft shoulder lay freshly killed raccoons. Their black masks turned red. Their paws crushed. They will not become blotches. Tire treads will tread on them no longer. No longer will their remains be pounded into the asphalt and be so preserved. Another dark blotch blurs by and disappears far behind. A ground hog? A dog?

A squishy smack pounds on the windshield sounding another death. This time a locust has met a grizzly end. A splash of bug wash removes all trace. As soon as that’s done three more smacks pepper the windshield; futile to clean again. It’s a losing battle, though a musical one. The light splish of a smaller bug joins the deep splash of a bumblebee. Driving becomes conducting. Slowing the speed changes the pitch and closer to the shoulder increases the intensity.

On the right within a hundred yards of the road a colt lies still on a slight slope. Is it dead? Is it ill or just hot? A bird darts in front of the car and narrowly misses adding bass to the ever-present symphony. In its beak is a worm. Maybe a bug. It’s hard to tell in a fleeting glance what’s end is near.

I see death everywhere.

Splayed guts and intestines gleam bright red in the bright sun. The road glistens. I can almost hear the blood drying, baking on the asphalt. A fox has perished in a gory explosion of flesh. I saw it. The car ahead caused it, ignores it and continues to drive away. I close my eyes and see it still.

A mini van, decorated with insect slime, passes by at a dangerous speed. The potential for an accident greater as it barrels past. I hear their radio. I see their windows are rolled up and judge that their air conditioning is on full blast. A mobile quarantine as those within are inoculated against the death without. They miss the sound of insects and the gore of the open road. Their gaze falls onto the distance, the future, of where they will be rather than the now, of where they are. A human made cocoon. They protect themselves from having to actually see the death around them. Had they looked at me they would have seen it.

I am death. I am its cocoon, for it’s inside me. The cancer tells me so over and over. Yet I am life. The cancer tells me so over and over. Pain is an antagonizing reminder that I am not yet dead. It intensifies with time and tells me that I will not be alive much longer. The mutant genes inside double and redouble their efforts to grow and break free from their prison. Me.

I see signs of death everywhere. I feel the grim reaper as it lurks close, as it hovers and subtly makes me aware of its presence. In my grandmother’s case it was a thinning of the body, loss of hair, weakness of voice, increase of pain. In that order. For me, it may well be different. For me cancer has become The Cancer and through it the spectre of death grows bold in the shadows of my drawn cheeks, in my sunken eyes, and in the crevice of my collapsed nostrils.

The growth; an explosion of life that means death.

As I sit in the car, sweat trickles from my armpits down my sides. My shirt becomes a second skin, one that can be peeled off like a terrible sunburn. The heat is stifling. I need to slow down and rest. Driving taxes me more and more. I pull onto the shoulder and stop the car. The motion of decaying speed sets my head spinning. After a moment I step onto the shoulder. The air is wet, the earth dry. A humid breeze swirls the dust I kick up. The wet air teases the earth by pretending to show a rain that never comes. The cure for the drought so close, but remains unrealized. The grass in the ditch is brown and crispy under foot. Farmers’ corn wilts and in the wind rustles, sounding like paper ripping. Crop failure is imminent. Death of livelihoods is the prognosis.

I think of the air-conditioned passengers in the mini-van sitting untouched by the day’s heat. I find myself hoping they run out of gas or their radiator breaks, forcing them to experience the heat, experience their surroundings. Force them to experience this moment in their lives and understand that once it passes it is gone, dead forever. I know that dream is futile. Much like conquering my cancer.

I walk down the highway. The gravel on the shoulder crunches and shifts under my half weight. A year ago I would have tramped along, sending stones scurrying into the ditch. A year ago, I would have driven with my air conditioning. Those days are dead to me and fading quickly. I stop walking, suddenly out of breath. A few steps become so tiring. When did that happen? I cannot recall. In my desire for air I gasp and heave weakly. My heart races and my mind whirls. A moment, a very long moment, and my body begins to recover, though my mind does not. It races with thoughts of my impending future. I cannot escape it; I am too far-gone to be able to deceive myself anymore. Those days have ceased.

I spot a bundle of white far ahead. My troubles momentarily placed aside, though not forgotten, I shuffle slowly over to white object. A young white cat lies on the gravel. It appears comfortable as if stretched out on a carpet. I nudge it with my boot to make sure it’s dead. Nothing.

I never understood how a corpse could look peaceful, until now. The cat died in the prime of its life. It will never know debilitating pain or wasting away. At any moment I expect it to perk up, tilt its slender head to gaze up at me. It does not move. So recent was its death that no fly marks the white fur. The wind gently tugs at the whiskers and soft underbelly fur. It looks so disgustingly pure. In a rage I kick the cat. It’s body sails limply through the air and lands in the ditch. A small cloud of dust billows out from underneath the dead cat. I watch as the wind whisks the dust away like the fading memory of the event itself.

The pain in my abdomen intensifies and I double over to keep from screaming out. I regret kicking the cat instantly, though not for its sake. After a moment the pain dulls to a major throb. It has gotten worse in the last few weeks. It will continue to get worse. I do not recall how long I stood, hunched over and in pain. I imagine not long, but like when you’re having fun, time flies when all you concentrate on is pain.

An unaccompanied hearse drives by, startling me from my pain induced haze. Its slow speed and drawn curtains give evidence of a coffin on board. I laugh hysterically as I think of a yellow car sign with one of those suction cups to secure it to the window and it reads, ‘Body on Board.’ Certainly, it’d be a hit with the with the mortician crowd. And paramedics. And coroners. And pathologists. And teenagers who think their parents are boring.

Perhaps for them ‘Stiff on Board’ would be better. Referring to parents’ tendency to be rigid. Or as a sexual reference. Or as a double meaning for those morticians who dabble in necrophilia. I look at the hearse. Has anything been done to that body? Will anything be done to mine when the time comes?

As the hearse dwindles in the distance I wonder who it carries. He or she? How old? How did they die? A collage of death ensues in my mind, featuring many of the horrid ways in which a person might expire. Suffocation. Heart attack. Poisoning. Shot. Stabbed. Decapitation. Evisceration. Cancer.

Cancer; the word starts hard and ends softly. How contrary to reality. It starts softly, then turns bitterly hard.

What a business is cancer. Big business for the companies who ‘fight it.’ Tiring. I sniff the air. I cough. Everything I took for granted has been taken away; like the simple act of easy breathing. I suck in the humid air. The sky taunts the ground by offering only a hint of rain. Pharmaceutical companies treat us cancer victims by offering only a hint of a cure. We are nothing more than wilting corn. A pale, dried up version of our former selves.

I always wondered what I would say to a dying man. Now I am dying. I wonder what I should say to myself. What to say? That’s the ugly question that I now realize plays on everyone’s synapses. I warm up to people and chat about nothing, giving them a false sense of light hearted talk. Then the bombardier of my mind cries ‘Drop it.’ And I do. ‘I’m dying.’

My companion’s facial features turn blank a moment as if they can’t believe what just happened. It destroys the tracks upon which their train of thought had been chugging merrily along. From shock come amazing responses. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Pardon?’ ‘We’re all dying.’ Some people get mad. ‘Why did you tell me that? We were having a perfectly good talk.’ My response is always, ‘Before I killed it?’ Most offer the, now meaningless, condolences and then drift away. Physically and emotionally they distance themselves from me.

It begins with their eyes, which quickly avert away from my face. Then their heads turn followed shortly after by their hips. Off they go, walking away. Another destroyed conversation. My precious time is wasted on them. As the end of my life draws close I no longer play that game. I drop the bomb the instant trivial conversation pops up. Chit-chat is like a weed and I the gardener, for I can’t stand to waste my time. Every conversation is now a weed. Nothing has meaning for me anymore. My cancer killed meaning.

I look around the fields and the skies. My eyes searching for an answer to a question I’ve not allowed myself to ask. My mind has tried, but I shift my attention elsewhere, anywhere. ‘What happens when…?’

There it is, the question that has been dying to be asked. Now suddenly I am afraid. My eyes well up and the fear turns quickly to anger. Now crying. Now yelling. I cough. The cancer politely tells me how far I can let my hysteria go. These increasingly frequent bouts of severe emotion leave me breathless. I hate them; so little time to waste on crying. So little God damn time. I can feel my slack facial skin tighten around my chin as I scowl.

Time. How infinite we believe our time to be. Our days are filled with activity. What we don’t get done today can always be completed tomorrow. In our hearts we are all procrastinators. There’ll always be tomorrow. How minute our time actually is when our end is near. We delude ourselves by thinking that time is money and in the end pay for it. Time is life. I almost agree with the ancient Greeks and their three fates. Nothing can change your time. When it’s up it’s up. The only answer to the fates is to live while you can. Something I discovered too late.

Photo by Jonathan Chasteen from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 2: To City Hall and Beyond

Wallis Moore enjoyed the finer things in life and, more importantly, associating with others who enjoyed the finer things in life. Their enjoyment rubbed off on his enjoyment and together he and they rubbed each other’s enjoyment to create a heightened enjoyment feed back loop. Being rich meant you got to hang out with other rich people. Which, according to Wallis, was where a person wanted to be. He sat on a veal leather chair in his office, which was behind a ludicrously large glass desk. His office overlooked his sprawling crematorium grounds from the road to the back 100 acres, and had a window directed toward his brother’s piss-poor excuse for a business.

On the wall hung a large plan for his fire powered empire. He stood up and adjusted the frame of the plan so minutely as to be meaningless. And then, promptly adjusted it minutely back to its original position. On the plan he had an Urn field, already being filled with the ashes of the deceased. Unlike his dim witted brother he could pack two or three burials with urns in the same space one casket was buried.

His gaze fell to his pride and joy; the Organic Orchard. Here people could be buried all natural and a tree would be planted on top of them. They could choose from all manner of trees; apple, pear, plum, and peach. When those trees were mature the fruit would be made into jams and preserves. Wallis laughed. “Unpreserved people making preserved jam.” He would make the dead work for him.

His cell phone rang, it was the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. “Hello,” Wallis said.

“Hello,” a female voice greeted him.

“Can I help you?” Wallis asked.

“I’m Jasmine Garcia, a reporter with the Parford Press,” Garcia said.

“Oh yes, our illustrious town weekly,” Wallis said with a smile. “You wrote that expose on Marvin’s Diner and Spa last month. Is he still mixing expired tomato paste with sugar and calling it gourmet ketchup?”

“Of course,” Garcia said. “But, that’s not why I called today.”

“Oh?” Wallis said with a greater smile. He knew why she called.

“Your Caring Country Crematorium is making a name for itself in the city,” Garcia said. “Some in the town are concerned with this new cemetery tourism.”

“How so?”

“Some fear it’s creating a bad name for Parford. One person said it was like we’re the region’s graveyard, filled with roaming goth dead-wannabe cultists.”

“Who said that?”

“They didn’t want to be quoted.”

“Sounds like my brother,” Wallis said with a chuckle.

“Others said that Parford is turning into the world’s graveyard voyeurism capital.”

“Who said that?”

“They didn’t want to be quoted.” Regret sounded clear in Garcia’s voice.

“Certainly wasn’t my brother, he doesn’t know what capital means.” Wallis laughed at his own joke. “Listen, more people visiting our town means more people spending money at Gary’s Gas and Garage, Harriet’s Hotel and Taxidermy, Lydia’s Lice Removal and Lamination. Heck even Abigail’s Alibi Service & Accounting has gotten a boost in revenue.” Wallis strode over to the rear facing window. “What I do is good for everyone. Including you, Ms. Garcia. More people means more readers, means more ad revenue for the weekly. I really should be mayor.”

“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked.

“No. Certainly not. I don’t want to be mayor,” Wallis retorted.

“Anything else?”

“Just a comment, on the record, regarding your brother’s new special deal he’s advertising in the Press,” Garcia asked.

“Sure. I always like to go on the record,” Wallis said. “What’s the new deal?”

“Marriage Eternity,” Garcia read from the ad. “Two cemetery plots for the price of 1 and four-fifths. A plot for you and your significant other. Gays welcome. And if you divorce before death, then your plots can be divorced too. Pristine Paradise Cemetery. Gay Friendly Cemetery.”

“That’s the stupidest thing he’s done this week,” Wallis said with a laugh.

“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked excitedly. She always wanted to be able to quote people.

“No. Certainly not,” Wallis replied, tersely. “Is that everything?

“Yes,” Garcia said with some dejection. “Thank you Mr. Moore.”

Wallis hung up the phone then walked over to the front of the building and looked out across the road to his brother’s cemetery. He could see Willard in his rocking chair on the veranda of their parent’s old home. Willard’s hand was up and his middle finger extended. Wallis laughed with the full throated gusto of genuine mirth. He loved this town. Loved the countryside. Loved his new business. But, most of all, Wallis loved screwing over his younger brother. “What are you planning, brother dearest?” At that moment a knock sounded at his office door. “Enter.”

“Mr. Moore,” his assistant said. “I’ve got four new plots sold and need you to review and sign off.

“Ah, thank you Ms. Piatowski,” Wallis said as he sat down behind his desk. “You’ll get a nice commission cheque for these.”

“Thank you.” Phoebe Piatowski walked across the room with heightened hip movement, accentuated by her high heeled shoes. She glanced at Wallis’ face to see if he noticed, but he only stared at the manila folders in her hands. She placed them on the desk, leaning forward to open them, thus exposing her bra under her white blouse.

“I think you’ve popped a button. Better get that fixed. Winter is coming and I can’t afford to have you sick.” Wallis said while gleefully signing each of the four sales. “Is that all?” Wallis asked, closing the folders.

“One more thing,” Phoebe said as she stood up and buttoned the top button of her blouse. “Your zoning permits have been approved. You just need to go to city hall and pick them up in person.”

“Excellent work Ms. Piatowski. Excellent work, indeed,” Wallis said with a smile. “That will be all for the day, you may leave early.”

“Thank you Mr. Moore,” Phoebe said. She turned and sauntered out, swaying her hips in as seductively a fashion as possible.

“Did you hurt yourself?” Wallis asked.

“What?” Phoebe said, turning to face her boss and pulling her glasses down to look over the rim with an alluring pose.

“You’re walking with a limp.”

“No,” Phoebe said and a sigh. “Good night, sir.”

Wallis himself left the office early. As boss it was his prerogative. Besides he needed to get to town hall before it promptly closed at 5pm. He got into his bright green electric Prius. Each door had a his Triple C logo, Caring County Crematorium. Everywhere he drove he advertised his business. He parked on the street and entered city hall. A grand marble staircase led him to the second level, where the Mayor’s office was located. He approached the mayor’s door, adjusted his sport jacket, the one with 100% hemp elbow patches he bought in the city, and knocked on the door.

“Come on in Wallis I know it’s you,” the Mayor said.

“Madam Mayor,” Wallis said as he entered.

“Wallis, you castoff from jackoff, you know to address me as Ms. Mayor,” Mayor Christine Lemieux said with anger.

“My mistake,” Wallis said, inwardly humoured at her response. “I take it your sensitivity classes are working?” He sat down in front of her desk.

“You can eat shit, Wallis,” Lemieux said.

“…And die?”

“No, you can eat shit and live, knowing you’ve eaten shit.” She shook her head and pursed her lips. “Why might you be here, I wonder? Is it because of zoning permits?” Lemieux asked, getting to the point. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms.

“I just want to thank you for the zoning permits,” Wallis said.

“Don’t thank me,” Lemieux said. “The two other councillors in your fucking pocket voted for you.”

“Now, now Ms. Mayor…”

“Don’t now, now me. I know that in your irrational desire to destroy your brother you’ll do just about anything,” Lemieux said. “Or anyone. Here, take your permits and get the hell outta my office.” She watched him take the permits and regarded his effeminate hands. They looked weak and brittle, prone to easy bruising much like their owner.

“Well, thank you all the same,” Wallis said. He stood up and took the permits. He reached the door when Lemieux called out to him. “Yes?” He asked.

“You’ll never be mayor while I draw breath into these pink American lungs,” Lemieux said.

“I don’t want to be mayor.”

“Fuck off.” That was her favoured way of dismissing people from her office, regardless of who it was. She told the governor to fuck off when he delivered a cheque to help with infrastructure. Once the cheque was in her hands she felt no further need to have him in her presence. Kicked him and the press out of her office. The notoriety got her re-elected several times. Her election slogan; “I’ll tell off anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

Of course those signs were vandalized, changed to “I’ll suck off anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Mayor Lemieux’s response was equally candid and direct. “Seems my signs got some attention,” she said, standing beside a defaced sign in front of the local media. “Who ever did this can come on down here and I’ll suck em off. I’ll be here for four hours.” When no one came, figuratively speaking, she declared herself the winner of the Sign Showdown. “The smaller the… ‘Ego.’ The larger the cowardice.” She got re-elected.

Wallis liked her attitude, hated her though. She never voted for what he felt was important. “As mayor I’d change things,” Wallis said as he pounded his right fist into the palm of his left hand. He quickly added in a loud voice, “But I don’t want to be Mayor.” Sudden panic set in and, with a frantic spasm of energy, he looked all around to ensure no one heard his first remark.

“You havin’ a stroke, mister?” A kid asked.

“No,” Wallis said and shook his head.

“Just seems you bent your neck around like an elephant trunk. You mighta done damage to your neck.” the kid said.

“No.”

“Did you have an accident in your pants?”

“NO!” Wallis yelled.

“When I pooped my pants I looked around like you did, makin’ sure no one can smell it. You look guilty,” the kid continued, standing on the sidewalk with a finger knuckle deep up his nose.

“I am not guilty,” Wallis said, wondering why he was arguing with the town idiot’s only offspring. He regarded the boy, whose vigorous nose picking, bulging his nostril outwards, reminded Wallis of an alien about ready to burst forth from someone’s stomach.

“Whatever millennial,” the kid said and walked away.

Wallis clenched his jaw, looked around again, and drove off. He took a longer route home, back to the crematorium. Deep breathing helped calm his nerves. He had read somewhere that the navy seals practiced calming breathing. “I am the navy seal of funeral directors.” He felt calm already. Wallis wanted to savour his next move in the never ending war he was waging against his brother. Wallis laughed. “He’s using checkers pieces in a chess game.”

“I don’t fucking play either,” Willard said, when Wallis repeated the chess/checkers analogy. “You can shove all the pieces up your ass for all I care. Now get off my property,” Willard said from the veranda.

“Oh, dear Willard, I’m not on your property,” Wallis said as he stood on the road. “But this,” he waved a piece of paper in the air. “This is a piece of my victory in our time.” Wallis waved the paper, triumphantly, like the Neville Chamberlain of cemetery owners.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Willard asked.

“I got the permit for pet burials and cremation. They will not be giving you one. City Hall is on my side, dear Willard. I’ll be blooming Dog Roses from rover’s remains and selling the flowers for plenty of profit,” Wallis said, laughing the whole time he spoke.

“You speak like an exploding septic tank, bubbling and squirting nothing but shit,” Willard yelled, his face reddening.

“Even more business for me.” Wallis turned and got in his car. He knew Willard was giving him the middle finger. He looked in the rear view mirror as he drove to his crematorium. Sure enough Willard stood, rigid, with his finger extended. It was a good day.

The Next Chapter of Wallis and Willard

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard

Photo by Łukasz Ślązak from FreeImages

Piecing Words Together

What drives you to write? What makes you wish to take pen to paper or finger to keyboard?

For me it’s the allure of creating something that didn’t exist before. Some people liken it to having a god complex, especially if you’re writing a genre where you create the entire world or, in some cases, the entire universe. Creating a world with characters and situations that lead to fantastical adventure is thrilling.

An interesting quirk I’ve discovered after writing over 560,000 words in my novels is that sometimes something will hit the page, out of the blue, and I will have no idea where the idea came from. It’s as if the universe granted me some bit of privileged information, a eureka moment, and I just happened to be writing at the time.

Writing a story is like a putting together a giant puzzle. One that only the author can put together. The dynamic part is I don’t know how many pieces there are and I don’t know what the full picture looks like when I start. And when these eureka moments happen I’m presented with an extra piece of the puzzle I didn’t know existed.

Characters Can Exert Their Will

I enjoy writing characters with hidden desires, grand goals, troubling flaws and dismal failures. In the writing process I’ve found, likely because I’m more of a pantser, a character comes along who is hard to understand. You’ve met people like this in real life where you can’t relate to them in any way. I remember training an individual and trying to find out something about him, anything, so as to be able to make meagre conversation. I utterly failed to connect in any meaningful way. Characters can be like this. They can be hard to understand. They take time to unravel.

And then there are characters where you seem to instinctively ‘know’ them; what they want, what propels them forward, what their biggest challenges will be. These are all clear to you. Most likely these are your main characters; the ones you’ve fashioned your story around. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some people in real life where I just knew them at first sight. I could be myself right away. I’m not talking about outgoing people who can approach anyone, but people with whom you can make an almost instantaneous, personal connection.

So, what happens when I find one of my characters is difficult to understand?

I keep writing. That’s easier said than written, but eventually, something happens. That character makes him or herself known to me through the writing. It is an exciting time. I usually have to pause and really think of the implications of what that character just revealed. In one case a simple touch unlocked a hidden connection between two characters that changed the way I viewed how they developed previously. In another instance I had to rewrite a character’s earlier scenes to make them fit with a new feature of their life that I couldn’t pass up.

In either case it is fun to discover what your characters are, especially when they jump out at you unexpectedly, when they push you to write something you hadn’t intended in the first place. You could look at it as a frustration of your overall story. Or you can say this is part of the writing journey. You’re along for the journey, too.

Again, my motto, No Vested Interest in Drafts. If something comes along and makes my story better, stronger, more powerful, then I say explore it. Because, as writers, we are explorers. We are venturing forth into another world, regardless of the genre of story. Go with it. It’s a great ride.

How do you deal with difficult characters in your writing? What tips could you share that would help others?

As always, thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments.

Photo by Pawe³ Windys from FreeImages

Short Story: A Spitting Image

Greg wondered how his mother always knew exactly what he liked. Every single time. She knew without asking if he’d like a certain food or not, like a book or not, like a toy or not. He imagined she was linked to his brain in some way. He figured it was just a natural maternal thing, something mothers instinctively had with their children. Sometimes it was too much for him, especially when she knew he was upset about something and all he wanted to do was hide. She would never let him. More often than not the results of her superpower, as he took to calling it,  came out in his favour.

“I got this comic book for you,” his mother said one morning before school. “I think you’ll like it.”

“Of course I’ll like it,” he said. “You got it for me.” He took the offered comic and looked at the cover. It was an X-Men story and they were battling one of their greatest foes, Magneto. He looked at the year and frowned. “Did you get this at an antique shop?”

“Why?” His mother asked as she finished packing his lunch.

“It was printed two years before I was born,” he said, flipping the comic to show her the cover. He pointed at the year. “See.”

“I just saw it somewhere and picked it up,” his mother said, absently. She didn’t look at him as she scurried around the kitchen, cleaning up the counters. She kept the kitchen immaculate.

“But mom,” he said. “It wasn’t just $3. It was probably $50 because it’s so old. You don’t have to spend that much on me.”

“Greg, my boy, I didn’t spend $50,” his mother said with a sardonic smile. She pulled her jet black hair into a tight pony tail and turned to look at him. She pursed her lips and shook her head. “You should know me better than that.”

“Ok,” Greg said. “What I do know is things are tight. You work so hard for us already.” He felt guilty about getting something when he knew she wouldn’t spend anything on herself. She was always working and they never went anywhere, always staying at home.

“What makes you think things are tight?” His mother asked. She stopped and put her hands on her hips. “You’re sweet, but you know what I always say.”

“I worry about the grades and you worry about the money,” Greg said with a groan. He flipped through the pages as he finished his breakfast. It was a good issue. He liked witty banter between the heroes and the villains and the writer of this particular comic seemed quite inspired. The artwork was good as well, no messed up poses. He flipped page after page, mesmerized by the story before him.

“Greg,” his mother yelled.

“What?” he asked, startled out of his reading.

“I said three times to finish up. You’ll be late for school,” his mother scolded. He quickly picked up his dishes and looked at the clock. Where had the time gone, he wondered. He grabbed his lunch, packed his backpack and gave his mother a quick hug. No kiss because that was for babies.

He kept thinking about the comic book and his mother’s unerring ability to pick great ones to give him. In every class the teacher would ask him where he was for his mind was clearly elsewhere. He’d just shrug.

“What’s with you today?” his friend Davis asked after the science teacher scolded Greg for not paying attention.

“I’m thinking about my mom,” Greg replied.

“Such a mommy’s boy,” Davis joked, looking at Greg under a bushy blond mop of hair. Davis reached out and playfully ruffled Greg’s light brown hair.

“Very funny,” Greg said with a mocking smile. “I can’t remember a time when my mother got me something I hated.”

“You’re lucky. I wanted a poster of a star destroyer. You know the ones with the  cross section, showing everything inside the ship. Anything Star Wars really. You know what my dear mother got me?” Davis asked. Greg shrugged. “A poster of Star Trek. Not the new Star Trek either, but the ancient one from 100 years ago.”

“That sucks,” Greg admitted.

“Yeah, and that’s considered a success story for her,” Davis said. He shook his head in consternation.

“My mom told me she ordered a lego set for me online,” another boy said. A look of disappointment spread across his face. “When it got delivered I opened the package, so excited, and it was just one huge piece of lego made out of black liquorice. Dad said Mom has to get approval from at least one other family member before she does any more online purchases.”

“Expectations dashed to a single piece,’ Davis joked.

“I hate liquorice,” the boy muttered.

A quick survey of his other friends revealed that mothers rarely knew what 14 year boys were into. His mother was different and that piqued his interest into finding out why.

He raced home knowing his mother was going to be working late. His first thought was to look in her closet. He rifled through boxes and bins and found nothing but clothes, shoes, and a large supply of black hair dye. He stepped down into the basement of their townhouse apartment and searched through areas that his mother used for storage. Nothing but more clothes and text books from some university out east. He flipped through the biology books and found nothing of interest.

Dejected, he trudged upstairs and went to his own room on the second floor of the townhouse. He looked out his bedroom window and peered down at the neatly kept backyard filled with old yard furniture. Greg sat on his bed and stared at the ceiling, thinking about his mother. She had no family. She didn’t speak of his father. She was smart. Certainly smarter than required for a waitress job. She was a mystery.

Greg turned on his side to look at the superhero posters on his wall. As he turned, his gaze passed by the attic door in the ceiling of his open closet. Greg frowned and stepped over to it. A large cedar blanket trunk was directly underneath the trapdoor. On a whim he stepped on the trunk and pushed open the door. A musty smell came down into his room and he dared poke his head into the darkness above. It was mostly dark, save for a small window at the end of the attic. He scampered down and retrieved his flashlight. This time the light revealed boxes. The boxes rested on particle board planks, which created a makeshift floor. He couldn’t recall when he saw his mother access the attic. How did the boxes get there? A treasure of some sort?

He took a deep breath and pulled himself up. He approached the first box; his heart pounded. He opened the box lid. Inside he saw medical reports for a boy named Jason McKinney. The boy had died 16 years ago. Something about a car accident.

“Why is this here?” He wondered. He flipped through more medical files and found that the boy had broken a leg in a skiing accident when he was 7 years old. The hair on Greg’s neck stood up. He gulped and put the file back in the box. Suddenly, he didn’t want to be in that hot attic, breathing the dust and rifling through someone else’s business. But he couldn’t resist either. He felt a connection to Jason. He moved on to the next box. It was filled with comic books; hundreds of them. It was the mother-lode untold in his lifetime; X-Men, Spider-Man, even Conan. He moved to the next box. What delights would he find?

He opened the box lid and shined the flashlight inside. His mouth dropped open. A picture of a boy was at the very top of a pile of photographs. At first Greg thought it was himself, but it was not. He rifled through the box and found another picture of the same boy, but this time there was a name Jason McKinney. Greg’s head spun and he felt nauseous. He sat on the plank of particle board. He ran his hand along the wood, hoping reality would somehow be set back to right. Greg was unsure of what to do next. Now he had to find out more. It was no longer a game to him.

He sat up there, in the heat and dust, looking at pictures and report cards and pieces of a life lived and died before he himself was born. Just like Greg, Jason played soccer and basketball. “What is this?” Greg asked himself. His mind felt dislodged from his head. He couldn’t think straight. He felt dizzy.

“Greg?!”

He snapped to reality and stuck his head down the attic trap door. “I’m just in my room. I’ll be right down!”

Greg scrambled down and once safely on the second floor and took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. Everything felt foreign to him. The pictures of he and his mother on the wall made him wonder if it was really him and not Jason. He could hear her in the kitchen and his heart pounded all the more fiercely. Clutched in his hand was the picture of Jason McKinney. He stepped onto the main floor and regarded his mother. She pulled food from the fridge and moved to the stove unaware of the intense speculation whirling in Greg’s mind. He paused, unsure of what to do. His anxiousness welled up inside and he blurted out the question most on his mind. “Who is Jason McKinney?” he asked. His mother froze, then slowly turned to look at him. Greg raised the picture and showed it to his mother. “Who is this?”

“Listen baby,” his mother started. She wiped her hands on her apron and brought them together as if to start praying. “Please… I can explain.” Her lips quivered.

“What am I?” Greg asked. Tears spilled down his cheeks.

“You are my son. My flesh and blood,” his mother said and she approached as if to hug him, hands outstretched. Greg pushed her back, retreating up a couple of stairs.

“What am I?” He yelled. His face turned red from anger.

“You are my son,” his mother said. “Jason was also my son.” She knelt down and looked up at Greg as the sobs shook her body. “He died, but he was beautiful. You are beautiful. I…” She took deep breaths, as if trying to calm herself. Her eyes wide open gave her a wild look.

“What am I?” Greg’s voice now a whisper. He sat on the stairs above her and looked down on her as she wiped tears from her face.

After a few minutes his mother started. “Jason was my first son. He was in a coma for months because of a car accident.” She smiled, but it was one of pain. “I…” She bit her lip and closed her eyes as if summoning strength. “I took samples of his DNA.”

“What did you do with them?” Greg asked.

“I was a researcher into bio-genetics. Cutting edge stuff with stem cells and,” She paused, looking into Greg’s eyes. “Cloning.”

“I’m a copy of Jason,” Greg said. A sneer crossed his youthful face.

“No. You are Greg. Your experiences. Your friends. Your life is yours. You have the exact same DNA as Jason, but you are Greg,” his mother said. She reached up and touched his knee. “Your intellect was too good to be wasted because of a drunk driver.”

“Who is my father?”

“Jonathan McKinney. A professor of biology in Boston.”

“Does he know I exist?” Greg asked. His mother shook her head. “What you did was illegal,” Greg said as he sat down on the stairs.

“Yes.” His mother seemed to crumple onto the floor all her strength left her. “I did it for you.” She sobbed.

“I’m an abomination,” Greg said and folded his arms. “A freak of this universe.”

“No! You are special.”

Greg’s eyes suddenly widened and he stood up. “That time when I was 7. When you accidentally ran over me,” Greg started.

“No no no. Please…” His mother began rocking as she sat on the floor. Her face twisted in agony.

“I broke my leg,” he said.

“Please,” his mother reached for him.

Greg stepped back. “That wasn’t an accident. Was it? You wanted to be sure I experienced as much of Jason’s life as possible to ensure I developed the same way.”

“Please. You must understand the pain I had when I lost you,” his mother said.

“You mean Jason. I’m Greg, remember? My own person with my own experiences,” Greg said, his expression turned cold.

“You are alive because I wanted you to be. You will be great one day. I just know it,” his mother said.

“Is that why you’ve kept us hidden, so I can be great. I don’t even know your real name,” Greg said.

“Elizabeth McKinney.”

“Nice to meet you,” Greg said, half joking.

She looked up at him, her eyes full of tears, and asked, “What do we do?”

He regarded his mother for a moment; this stalwart, disciplined woman who was ever organized and who had everything planned out months in advance. Now, she was a shaking mess of uncertainty and fear. She was this new person before him with a life hidden in secrecy. His shoulders slumped. He felt sorry for her. Greg realized that he too was now different. His whole world had collapsed because he was nosy. He felt so very lost.

All he could think of to answer was, “I don’t know.”

Photo by Marijn van Braak from FreeImages