Month: March 2010

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”

~~Ernest Hemingway

“It is not in the nature of man—nor of any living entity—to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lose it. Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one’s mind; security, of abandoning one’s values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that the fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men
seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.”

~~Ayn Rand

My year-long deployment to Baghdad, Iraq has come to an end.  I’m on my way home.


A quick reminder: Don’t forget to sign up for the “Drunk At First Sight” Blogfest–a fun chance to write fiction for St. Paddy’s Day! Get all the details here.

Here’s part two of my scene entitled “Love Is Blind.”  You can find part one here.


Love Is Blind
(part two)
(c) 2010 Jon Paul

    Phillip came back with our drinks.
    “For you Madame, a Bartles and James,” Phillip said. “And for you, Eric, le Heineken.”
    I took the beer from him. “Thanks, man.”
    “Now Sloan,” he said, “Go easy on the guy. It’s his Birthday and all.”
    “I’m being good,” she said, laughing.
    “Alright. If you guys need anything, I’ll be on the patio. Give me a holler.”
    We thanked him and he left.

    I raised an eyebrow and gave her my best skeptical squint. “Bartles and James?”
    “Hey, leave me alone.”
    “It’s just that I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone drinking a Bartles and James since college.”
    “And your point is?”
    I thought about this for a moment. “Let’s see. All the really wild and crazy fraternity chicks drank Bartles and James. You’re drinking Bartles and James. Er go–”
    “I don’t like where this conversation is going, buster.”
    “I happen to like wine coolers. I know it’s weird, but there it is. Take it or leave it.”
    “Thanks for setting me straight.”
    “You’re welcome.”
    Despite my reservations, I really liked this girl. In my head, I counted the reasons why I didn’t need to be in a new relationship right now. It didn’t help that she seemed to be taking me seriously. It didn’t help that the flavor of her shampoo–vanilla with a sweet trace of jasmine–kept drifting over in my direction.
    She nudged me. “So how old are you anyway?”
    “Twelve. Obviously.”
    She laughed in a way that told me she liked that. “No really.”
    “I’m an old man.”
    “How old?”
    She sat up. “Wow! That is old!”
    “I told you.”
    “I don’t know if I should be seen hanging around with an old fogey like you.”
    “I heard old fogeys are cool. At least that’s what they tell me.”
    “Who’s they?”
    “You know. ‘They.’ You gotta believe them if it’s they.”
    She lolled her head back on the couch and leaned her body in to mine ever so slightly. I felt the skin of her shoulder against my upper arm. We sipped our drinks.  The rhythm of her breathing came to my ear in an even and uninterrupted ebb.  The noise in the rest of the room felt far away, washed out. In the stillness of our proximity, a subtle electric charge played between us like static.
She brushed her hand on my thigh. ” I have to tell you something.”
    “I have an uncle who’s blind.”
    “You do?”
    “He’s my favorite uncle, in fact. I used to go over to his house every day after school. You know, stay there until my folks got home from work.”
    “I used to play a game with him. I had this stuffed bear that he would ask me to hide anywhere in the house. I’d run off and find the hardest hiding spot I could think of, and put the bear there. Then when I came back, I would close my eyes and count to ten. He would smile real big and tell me exactly where I hid it. Every single time. It was pretty unbelievable.”
    “That sounds cool.”
    “But the thing that impressed me most was that he knew people really well. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t see them. He knew when they were lying, and knew when they were trying to hide something from him. He could always tell. It was like magic.  I wish I was more like that.”
    I listened, not sure what I should say. It wasn’t unusual for a blind person to have better hearing than a normal person. Her uncle could probably tell from the noise Sloan made where she was hiding the bear. As for knowing when people were lying, I didn’t have the first clue.
    She leaned into me. Her breathing had shallowed; she was thinking. “Do you think people are stupid?” she asked.
    The question was odd. “What do you mean?”
    “I mean, do you think people are generally stupid. You know. Most people. Do you think they do dumb things?”
    I could think of a few dumb things I’d done in the past. “Yeah, I guess so.”
    “I do too. That’s what everyone thinks. But you know what?”
    “Even though people think that other people are dumb, they always consider themselves to be smart. Have you ever noticed that?”
    I thought about it for second. She was right.
    She went on. “All my clients think that. We march into court and every one of them is somehow convinced that they’re bulletproof. They think the judge and the prosecutor and everyone else is dumb, but somehow they’re not. Somehow they’re smarter than everyone else.”
    “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
    “But I’m just going to admit it to myself.”
    “Admit what?”
    “We should all be allowed to do something crazy once in awhile. Right? Even if it’s dumb.”
    “Sure, I guess.”
    She put her hand on mine, and my heart rate ticked up a notch. Gently, she lifted my hand, guided it across the space between us until the tips of my fingers touched her face. I could feel the warmth of her cheek, her skin smooth, pleasing. She pressed my hand up in a slow arc, gently, taking her time, and I began to understand the shape of her face. She had high cheekbones, just as I’d imagined them; a small mouth; a pert nose; the delicate curve of her chin expressed a sleek grace, an innate determination. I could tell her beauty could be both hard and soft, depending on her mood.
    I wondered what color her hair was–my guess was brunette–and imagined blue eyes as cloudy and mysterious as river water. My fingers brushed the eyebrow at her right temple; I felt her breath on the inside of my wrist and the faraway rhythm of her pulse. She smiled beneath my fingers, guided my thumb along the supple fold of her upper lip, and I contemplated what it would be like to wrap one arm around her waist, tug her to her feet, slow dance to the rock ballad on the radio.
    She turned her head to the side, into my palm. The idea of kissing her fluttered through my thoughts, but I knew that wasn’t in the cards. For a second I thought I heard her humming, but then decided it was my imagination. A flurry of eyelashes brushed my fingers as she opened her eyes and looked at me.
    “I love your hands,” she said.
    I smiled. “Thanks. I work out.”
    She sighed, the subtle indication that she was enjoying this, but that we had had our fun, that the tour was over. She let my wrist go and my hand fell to my lap; I still felt the hot tingle of a buzz in the pit of my stomach.
    “I hate to run,” she said. I could tell from her voice that she was sort of putting the pieces together, that what had just happened had been as unexpected for her as it was for me. “I have an early deposition in the morning. All the way across town.”
    I was careful to keep any hint of disappointment out of my voice. “Sure. No problem.”
    “Thanks for letting me come to your party. It was really fun.”
    “Anytime. You know, strangely, this happens about once a year, so consider yourself invited next year too.”
    She paused, as if wondering what to say next. I made sure the smile on my face stayed plastered there, and didn’t falter.
    “I…I’m a little embarrassed. I’d like to give you my number. But…how do I do that?”
    “What? You don’t read Braille?”
    She laughed, relieved.
    I pulled out my cell-phone and handed it to her. “Just put your number in there.”
    She typed it in, and though there was a voice in my head still saying “Slow, slow”, I couldn’t help but notice the air of excitement coalescing in the back of my brain.
    “555-8743,” I said.
    She handed the phone back to me. “Wow. That’s impressive. You’ve got a good ear.”
    “I took a college class on it. ‘Fundamentals of Cell Phone Key Tone Scales 101’. I got an ‘A’.”
    “Figures.” She laughed, then leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “I gotta go. Call me.”
    Then she was gone. I must have been smiling like an idiot when Phillip came over, because he knew what happened even before I told him.
    “You dirty dog, you!” he said. “Got her number and everything. Man, that was like twenty-five minutes. You work fast.”
    “Well you know, all I gotta do is lay that Al Pacino ‘Scent of a Woman’ shtick on them and they become like putty in my hands.”
    “Right. So really. What’d you think of her?”
    “I…I think she’s….” And I didn’t want to say it, but it felt like the truth. “It’s far too early to make any firm conclusions, you understand…but I think she’s almost perfect.”
    “That’s what I knew you’d say.”
    “Knew I’d say? You were telling me she was too much for me–‘you’re getting slow in your old age’–etcetera, etcetera. Don’t go taking credit for it now.”
    He patted me on the knee. “Now Eric. Do you honestly believe, as stubborn and mule-headed as you are, that if I told you I had the absolute perfect girl for you to meet, you’d say yes?”
    I thought about this. “No. I guess not.”
    “Exactly. Case closed.”
    “You don’t have to gloat about it.”
    “Oh, and one more thing.”
    “Happy Birthday.”

If you got this far I thank you for reading.  I think by now you realize I hid a secret–Eric’s blindness–in plain sight (pun intended), and tried to craft the narrative in such a way as to not give it away until late in the story.  Did I succeed?

What secrets do you have in your WIP?  What have you done to make them both predictable and a surprise?

**[Author’s note: If you are reading this, I have left my post in Baghdad and am now wandering aimlessly about the Kuwaiti desert on my long circuitous route home. In other words, I am off the grid. As soon as I am able, I’ll make the full go ’round and respond to comments and check out any new followers. Thanks, and see you all in a few days.]**