Empty Spaces Part 3

Once again, I find myself leaving behind the empty spaces. Each time I’ve done this in the past, he has felt like closing a chapter on my life. This time, however, instead of being forced to change paths by circumstance and misfortune, I am beginning the next chapter on my own terms.

For the last two years, I have been clawing my way back to respectability from the depths of desperation. Now, I am finally in a place where I once again feel that I can stand on my own 2 feet. It’s an amazing feeling to know you can support yourself. It took me longer than I thought it would to get back to this point, but I’m thankful for the support I’ve had to reach it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long ways to go before I consider myself successful, but I feel like at this point I’m an adult again.

I signed a lease this week. If you are not familiar with the other two empty spaces, blog posts, basically what I lost my home. I wrote a blog post it when I moved to Montana to find work, I wrote a blog post.

This is the third time I’ve moved since starting the blog and the first time I’ve moved into a brighter future. Don’t get me wrong, I was never destitute, but only because of the amazing people in my life. There have definitely been times in which I could have easily ended up dead in the gutter. But, I’ve always had wonderful friends and family to support me.

I’m hoping that by taking this next step in maturing, I can prove their faith in me worthwhile.

I also feel like moving in my own space is a new chapter for me as a writer. For the first time ever I will have my own writing office. Separate entirely from where I sleep and play video games. It will eventually be sounded treated so I can record podcasts or dictation without worry about bothering someone else if it’s late at night or having someone else pop in and need to be edited out.

In general, I’m actually very excited about this move. It has been a very long time since I had a place that I considered my own and a much longer time. Still, since I lived alone. I’m a little bit of a hermit by nature, and there is a danger of me becoming a recluse wearing tissue paper sandals and never truly my toenails. But I like to think I’ve grown as a person in the last few years and I’m less inclined to hide from the world just to hide.

There are certain steps that I am taking in how I intend to interact with the world that I think will help decrease that natural tendency to disappear into myself. I have some plans that I’m not necessarily ready to give out to the world, but I think I will be able to combine my love of creating with a more social aspect.

That’s the plan, anyway.

All of that is still up in the air. Right now I have to finish packing, and moving across town. Then, of course, I have to unpack and sit around all day waiting for the cable guy to show up and turn on my Internet. The joys of being a property renter.

Oh, and as a giant step up from my last place, my new place has both a stove and a kitchen sink. Crown my head and called me the Emperor of Alpha Centauri.

Anyway, I better get back to work. These matchbox cars and bobble head dolls aren’t going to sort and pack themselves.


The Price of Fish

The sun dropped below the horizon, leaving an empty orange glow behind the trees on the ridge above him. Terry huddled beneath the purloined tarp and flicked at the pile of sticks and branches with his lighter. The damp wood refused to ignite, mocking him as the chilly wind swept up from the lake.

Terry threw his lighter to the ground and slumped back beneath the tarp in disgust. It didn’t matter. He didn’t have anything to cook anyway. His fishing rod leaned against a tree a few feet away, mocking him with its bare hook. As if sensing his agitation, his stomach growled again. If he couldn’t find food soon, he would have to admit defeat and go crawling back with his tail between his legs. He wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t do that.  He was right, damn it.

Clenching his teeth, he leaned toward the bundle of kindling and held out his palm. He let a single guttural word slide past his lips, just enough to cause the wood to smoke and spark. The tiny flicker of power was enough to send his world spinning and his stomach roaring again, but the flames caught and he allowed himself to lean back into the makeshift tent. The warmth was a pleasant change from the cold damp of the last few days. Of course, it would only last until the park ranger showed up and made him put it out, but until then, he’d be warm.

“Y’ain’t very good at this, are ya?”

Terry looked up to see a pair of enormous black eyes flickering red and orange in the light of his fire. The glossy black orbs were set in a wide, flat face framed by thick waves of brown hair hanging down in strands like weeds.

As he stared, the fish creature came a little closer, letting the light slide over silvery scales. The body was mostly human, but the shapes were wrong. It was sagging skin and folded flaps of flesh. Terry knew what it was, but couldn’t bring himself to mouthed the words.

“Y’all can say it, I’m a river hag.” As Terry watched, the hag came fully into the firelight. She — and it was definitely a she in all of its nudity — stopped and put webbed, clawed hands on her hips. “Y’all act like y’aint never seen a woman before.”

Terry scrambled backward into his tarp, entangling himself fully before he even had a chance to get away. As he struggled with the tarp, the hag began to howl with the glee.

“Now that ain’t no way to greet a lady,” she said. “‘Specially one that came to bring you dinner.”

Terry managed to pull himself free of the tarp but was still having a hard time finding his voice. Spirits powerful enough to manifest in the world were always dangerous and he barely had enough strength left in him to light a fire. The fear gnawing at his mind took control of his tongue and he said the only thing he could think of.

“Are you going to eat me?”

The hag laughed again. The force of her guffaw sent rippling waves across the lake and a brilliant light shown in the corners of her eyes. “Eat you? Lord have mercy. Aren’t you just precious. I ain’t gonna eat you. If I was gonna eat ya, you’d done be ate.”

“So, what are you going to do with me?” Terry asked. Somehow, he managed to find his feet, but in his hunger and exhaustion, he was more wobbly than threatening.

“Feed ya. Boy, I been watching you for three days. You is the worst fisherman I ever saw. But Old Saddy, she gonna take pity on you.” The hag reached behind her back and pulled free a pair of large catfish. As soon as he saw them, Terry could see the resemblance.

He wanted to accept. He needed to accept. It was clear he was never going to catch a fish on his own.

“What’s it going to cost me?” Terry asked. He knew enough about spirits to know there was always a price.

“Shoot, you are brighter than you seem. Maybe they’s right about you.” The hag tossed the fish down on the ground next to his fire where they flopped and wriggled and gasped for breath. “I’ve seen some things. Can feel it in the water. Change is comin’ and Old Saddy plans on being ready. So tell me, mage boy, what you doing out here all alone?”

“None of your business,” Terry said. His eyes stayed with the fish, wondering what the best way to cook them would be.

“Maybe y’all consider that my price,” the hag said. “Y’all tell me what you doing, and y’all can have the fish.”

“There’s only one of me,” Terry said. “You said so yourself. I’m alone.”

“Boy, I been ‘round as long as water flowed in the Mississippi. I know you ain’t never alone. Not in the way you think you is.” The hag took a step back and sat down on the far side of the fire. Even sitting, her eyes met Terry’s. “Now, cook your fish and tell me what’s troubling you.”

Terry weighed his options. He could starve to death, admit defeat, or put an ounce of trust in a spirit he didn’t know. He decided to go with the least painful option.

“All right. I can’t go home. If I do, they’ll know what I’ve done. My grandfather will be pissed. There are a lot of rules, but I managed to break all of them.” Terry gestured down at the fish. “Is that a good enough answer?”

“I dunno, does it feel like a good enough answer?”

Terry sighed. “No, I guess it doesn’t.” Still, he squatted down beside the fire, pulled out his pocketknife, and began to clean the fish. “He didn’t want me to go to the Academy. He knew what they were planning. But I went. I became their weapon. He taught me how to fight, but he also taught me when the fight. I didn’t listen to his lessons. I listened to the Order. How can I go home? How can I face him with him knowing what I’ve done?”

The river hag made a clicking noise in her throat and shook her head. “Way I reckon it, a grandpappy loves his grandson. A good grandpappy will love his grandson no matter what the fool boy did. But, what do I know? I don’t have any sons or grandsons. Daughters all the way down.”

Terry shook his head, not sure how to answer. He stayed silent while he finished cleaning the fish and laying them across the fire. Once they were sizzling and popping and the smell was growing pleasant, he leaned back on his heels and looked up at the river hag again.

“What did you mean about change?”

She made the clicking noise again. “You don’t see it. Do you? Balances are shifting. Tides getting broken. You can feel it in the water. But you don’t much care for water do you?” She leaned back on her long flabby arms, webbed feet toward the fire. “I sold you two fish in exchange for your answer. What are you going to pay me for mine?”

Terry pulled the fish free from the fire. He tore off flaky pieces and shoving them in his mouth. The taste was amazing and his stomach gurgled in satisfaction as he ate. He didn’t have anything. The only meal he’d had for days, she’d provided. He wouldn’t even know what to offer a river hag.

“I’ve got nothing you need.”

“Oh, but maybe you got something I want. Tell me, mageling, are you familiar with Altoids?”

“You mean the mints?” Terry asked. Was she being serious? He couldn’t tell.

“I do. Spearmint. Can’t get enough of them, can’t go into town to buy myself. Let’s make a deal. I will answer any question you ask in exchange for a full tin of spearmint Altoids.”

“That’s only an awfully good deal,” Terry said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any Altoids right now.”

“Well, maybe there is something else,” the hag said. She leaned forward, eyes sparkling red and orange from the firelight. Her face and narrowed and hardened. “The time will come when I’m going to need a way out of this lake. You promise right now to carry me out when I say it’s time, and I’ll let the spearmint slide, just this once.”

“What’s that mean? Carry you out?” Terry asked.

“It means this old spirit gonna piggyback on your soul. I don’t think you’ll mind. I won’t be the first, will I?”

“No. No, you won’t.” Terry took another bite of the fish giving himself a chance to think it over. She couldn’t force him, even if he made the deal. He had to accept the spirit in. There was absolutely no danger in making the promise. “Okay, it’s a deal. When the time comes, and not tonight, I will carry you from the lake to the destination of your choice.”

Saddy nodded. “Yes, yes you will. So you want to know what change is comin’.” She leaned farther forward, letting the light cast strange shadows across her scales. “I’ll tell you. The time has come. The seventh has been born. And me and you, boy, we got roles to play.”

Musical Nostalgia

Music is a big part of my life. It’s a definitely a huge part of my creative process. I have to admit that I’m actually easily duped into experiencing emotions I was experiencing by well-made music. It’s just infectious. They get under my skin and down deep into my soul. That is, of course, when I can stand listening to it.

As much is music actually affects me, my mood affects what I’m capable of withstanding without screaming bloodied murder. For example, if I’m in a decent mood, upbeat, hyper, happy, fun times will make me hyper and happy. But, if I’m in a soul and had dark mood, it will make me scream bloodied murder and hate the world even more.

Conversely, depressing music can pull me deeper into an emo spiral, or make me rant about how boring and sad it is.

I suppose what I’m saying is that music and move me a couple of notches on the spectrum, but not fix me where I’m broken.

There is something to be said about the music that I grew up listening to and its effects on me over the long haul of my life. I was adolescent in the mid-90s between the fall of grunge in the rise of nu metal. It was a good time for music. But it was also a depressing time for music.

It was the air of some of the greatest pop musicians of all time. Destiny’s Child, TLC, and yes, even Britney Spears. But, it was the alternative rock that really got me going. The Verve, Cranberries, Wallflowers, and Oasis were just a few of the angry, bitter songsters floating on my periphery.

Can one song ever so perfectly summarize an entire generation than Bittersweet Symphony? The Freshman? Zero?

I swear, if it wasn’t for Dave Grohl, my entire generation would never have survived high school.

I guess he threw a Monkey Wrench into our depressing self-indulgence.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of upbeat happy music, too. I mean, for every Brick we had a Banditos. There’s a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul for every song Radiohead ever put out there.

Of course, I was the time when all of us run Prozac and having a bad day get you diagnosed as bipolar disorder, so what do they expect for music?

Maybe I’m being too hard on the 90s. Sure, there was some darkness proving, we also had boy bands.

You know what? I just remembered Fred Durst. Please forget everything I said. No one should remember the music of the 90s. Goddamn Limp Bizkit.

Cold, Rainy, Chili…

Man, am I tired. It has been a long, long day.

Well, maybe it’s not that long of a day. In the grand scheme of things. Today hasn’t been any longer than any other day. Time just doesn’t work that way. But, it has been cold and rainy. Today was the kind of day built for laying on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. The kind of day where the only thing that matters is watching as much Netflix as possible and eating your body weight in chili.

Well, the chilies on the stove and I could lay down if  wanted to, but there are still too many things to do. For example, I need to write this blog post.

Even if I don’t want to. I made a promise. So, despite the perfectly chilly weather calling to me with its siren song of long naps and wasted days, I’m here doing what I promised.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love autumn. The only problem is Montana doesn’t have enough autumn today will probably be it — tomorrow if I’m lucky. Then it will be winter already. The leaves will never turn orange. You will be doing long nights around a campfire as a chill sets in. There’ll be a few days of rain and then the temperature will drop below human safe levels and I’ll shrink away for another eight months.

Clears the subarctic freeze that is winter in Montana gets a bad rap. What Montanans think of as snow is actually something akin to Styrofoam pellets, and even when it’s 35 below, it feels more comfortable than Missouri’s 16° with a wind chill of -185,000.

The lake is also beautiful when covered in ice. The state smells cleaner. The smoke thins out enough you can see across the street.

No, I don’t hate Montana winter.

I just miss Missouri fall.

I miss the change from summer to winter taking longer than a couple of hours. I miss the trees and all the color. There are more than just green and brown. Did you know trees can be flaming orange, brick red, and dark purple all at the same time? If you’re from Missouri, you do. If you’re from Montana, you probably don’t know what leaves are.

For some, fall means things like pumpkins and candy.

I love Halloween. It’s probably my favorite holiday, but I also enjoy the time leading up to it. Oh, and I absolutely hate pumpkin spice anything and believe Starbucks is a portal to hell entirely based on the fact that they made it popular.

Seriously, pumpkin is almost as bad as coconut. And, we all know coconut is actually a lie perpetrated by the agricultural industry to convince people it’s okay to eat toenail clippings.

Now that I’ve officially offended two-thirds of humanity with my hatred of both pumpkin spice (that doesn’t actually taste anything like pumpkin you sick freaks!) and coconut (the cruelest joke ever played) it might be time for me to eat my body weight in chili, curl up on the couch with a blanket, and lose myself in Netflix.

The Seductive Power of Knowledge

Ah, knowledge. Is there a sweeter drug? I mean, besides pizza rolls and bath salts.

No. There is not. Such is the heady power of knowing, the addictive nature of learning.

I’m not perfect. And despite my reputation, I am not always right. There are times when I am actually wrong. I am perfectly willing to admit when I’m wrong. I don’t like it, but it has been known to happen on occasion.

Some of my closest friends and family might tell you the opposite. They may believe I am unwilling to accept my wrongness because I am pretty particular about what sources of information I see as “true.”

See, I’m not willing to accept anecdotal information. I’m generally not willing to accept Wikipedia entries, either. I like to have information from multiple, verifiable sources. I like data. I like hardline numbers. I like peer-review facts and I respect expert authorities.

Gut feelings and hearsay, not so much.

See, I really like to learn. I do truly love being right, and the only way to be right most of the time is to have knowledge. You get knowledge by learning. Used responsibly, the internet is an endless resource pool for learning. You can learn anything. You can gain skills and insights. It is a wonderful world of data.

I love being right, so I make sure I generally am.

It seems contrary to what might be said about me, but I don’t actually like to argue unless:

A) Everyone involved understand the argument exists purely for the entertainment value of those involved in the argument. I call this the “Troll vs. Troll” argument. There are no rules. Only pure rhetorical joy.


B) The topic at hand is factually accurate.

In neither of these situations is the winner the person with the loudest voice or more viscous emotional attacks. Now, in scenario A, we might get pretty loud and nasty, but we’re also friends with a mutual understanding of what we’re doing. In scenario B, the loud, angry person is usually the loser.

Look, I’m good at being loud. In a “who can be the loudest” contest, you’d do well to put your money on me. Being loud isn’t the same as being right.

I like to be loud. I love to be right.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to understand the difference between loud and right. My natural instinct is to be the loudest and even today I find myself needing to fight away that urge in order to be right.

Generally, the times when I’m at my most argumentatively dangerous is when I’m quiet.

If I get quiet and go away for awhile during an argument, you should be afraid–especially if you’re trying to win by being loud.

Because I’m using my superpower. I’m learning.

Thanks to the power of cyberspace, I can learn extremely quickly. I have mad Google Fu. I’m good at figuring out what I need to learn. The real power of knowledge comes from knowing what you need to know, and I’ve honed that skill that a fly fisher hones the perfect cast.

I challenge everyone to go forward and learn. Any time you see an argument arise, take 10 minutes and dive into the Internet’s hollow bastions. Find multiple sources of information from various backgrounds and viewpoints. Assimilate that information into a wall of powerful rightness and then sharpen your knowledge into a sword.

Use it to lay waste to the world of ignorance!



I might have gotten a little carried away there.

I know it isn’t easy. Trust me, I know. I have had a hard time letting go of my own opinions, beliefs, and anger. Sometimes, I spend too much time trying to find facts to support my preconceived notions instead of letting my opinions be composed by facts.

But, I keep trying to be better. I keep learning.

I hope you will, too.