Mercury Beach (Flash Fiction)

Mercury Beach (Flash Fiction)

This week, The Confabulator Cafe asked us to write a piece of flash fiction, a thousand words or less, involving dreams and cooking. See my latest piece of flash fiction, “Mercury Beach,” at

Thanks for reading.

Minor Moments

It is human fate to have our dreams and to chase them throughout our lives. But dreams are fleet-footed. They tease our hope then slip through our fingers time and again. But, in the end, the chase and those minor moments of success are what will matter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. A friend of mine, a professional wrestler, is retiring next month. I’m sure part of his dream was always to be famous, to make it to one of the major companies and tour the world. But, it didn’t happen.

However, looking at his career, you could never call it a failure. Michael Strider has wrestled all over the Midwest. Independent wrestling fans know him as a guy who always gives them a great match. He has been a champion many times over, and has wrestled on television, even minor appearances on national television as a sort of wrestling extra. He has been featured by local news outlets, including a feature I produced for Kansas Public Radio. Most of the wrestlers in this area have trained with him, or benefited in some way from his vast knowledge of how to make a crowd love or hate you. He has wrestled with stars and legends. His years of experience will leave him with scars, aches, pains, and more memories than he could probably count. Maybe that is enough. On June 2nd, in Kansas City, for Metro Pro Wrestling, he gets one last memory of his life in a wrestling ring.

We all have our dreams. We can all relate to my friend and the minor moments that he will forever remember. Whether you wanted to be a race car driver and find yourself racing Saturday nights on small dirt tracks or wanted to be a rock star, but find your only fame in local bars, you have seized some of those minor moments.

Writers are full of them. Writing as an art is mostly rejection and disappointment, especially starting out. Endless strings of submissions are neutralized by an endless string of rejections, mostly impersonal form letters. Still, you dream of the day your name is on that book, in the credits of that movie, or connected in some way to something someone liked enough to put out there.

But if you do it long enough, seriously enough, those minor moments start to come. You find various projects and outlets for writing. You write a blog that is well received, get involved in some sort of project, get accepted to a magazine or anthology, or experience some other small, welcome success. Those minor moments are the ones that keep you going, the ones that you will forever remember.

If you have ever golfed, you know those moments. You know that one drive, put, or chip that was perfect, that no one could have done better. That shot will keep you golfing till the next one, little minor moments that keep you hopeful, even as you fish your ball out of the rough.

Perhaps that is success in life, stringing together minor moments. You proudly wear them on your sleeve, remembering when you touched your dreams, however slightly. Here’s to all of our minor moments, and the dreams that we still chase.

All the POVs in the world and you had to walk in to mine.

All the POVs in the world and you had to walk in to mine.

Point of view is a major tool in any writer’s toolbox. The chosen point of view can drastically change the theme and tone of any given story. A lot of writers avoid second-person, the “You” viewpoint, like the plague. I’ve used it successfully a few times, and while it isn’t for every story, it can be effective.

The Confabulator Cafe asked us to write about points of view. See what I had to say about it at:

I am also happy to announce that I’ve signed a contract to appear in an upcoming flash fiction anthology. There will be more information as we get closer to the release date, so stay tuned.

Test-Takers Don’t Change the World

NOTE: I am not a resident of Florida. But while these results do not affect me, nor my child, personally, I believe they are symptomatic of  an issue that does.

Recently, the State of Florida noted a significant drop in student test results for their writing basic skills test. The drop was contributed to a communications failure with teachers, and the passing grade was subsequently lowered so that more children passed.

Apparently, the percentage of passers dropped from 81 percent to just 27 percent because teachers did not know how the test would be scored. Thus, becoming the basis for the rant you are about to read.

For years, teachers have been encouraged to teach to the test. Standardized testing has taken the power of teaching from the educator and put it in the hands of the test writers. Teachers have been told that if the students pass the test, they keep their jobs. If the students fail, they are fired.

As a result, we are a nation of test-takers. We learn what we need to know to pass the test, and then promptly forget it in favor of the next testing subject. Our government seems to believe that education is based on pieces of paper, not knowledge. Students are passed through school, some who don’t even know how to read, because it would stunt their social development to hold them back.

The diploma was never meant to be the goal. The test was never meant to be the objective. The diploma, the degree, and the certificate are not pieces of paid for paper, but a symbol of the knowledge you obtained over the course of your education. The test was supposed to symbolize the things you learned, it wasn’t supposed to be the only thing you learned.

Our education system in the United States is a mess, and it is only getting worse. The FCAT reflects the problem. The concern, it would appear, is less about the fact that their students can’t write, and is more about some failure on the part of the test designers because they didn’t tell teachers exactly what they would be grading. They blame the low scores on a new focus on grammar, punctuation, word choice, and relevance.

As a parent, I understand concern, but the concern shouldn’t be for the test your child is taking. Your concern should be that their schools are not teaching them to write. If a child knows how to formulate an argument and communicate it in the written word, it doesn’t matter if you know what they are looking for ahead of time. They will pass because they have the skill, not because they practiced to take the test.

Education is not a sport. There is no practice. The training is the objective, not the game at the end of the week. These children are being failed, not by tests, but by people who didn’t take the time to teach them to really learn. They are being failed by the people who decided tests were more important than the sort of academic skills that can last a lifetime.

You do not lower standards so that more students pass, you bring the students up to the standard. Teach children, not for the test, but for the education, and it won’t matter if they don’t know what is going to be on the test ahead of time.  Teach them to learn or condemn them to a life of ignorance.

Test-takers don’t change the world.

My Virtual Life

My Virtual Life

Writer’s love the internet and use it for a variety of purposes. It is a wealth of information for research, publication, networking, and entertainment. The Confabulator Cafe is putting together a list of resources and asked each of it’s contributors for their favorites. See mine at:

My Virtual Life



A Mother’s Magic

“The sweetest sounds to mortals given

Are heard in Mother, Home, and Heaven.”

–          William Goldsmith Brown

When you were a baby, resting snug inside your mother’s womb, you felt what she felt. She rubbed her stomach to show her love, and you felt it. You felt her excitement, her happiness, and sometimes her sadness.

Then, you were born and the tables turned. Since your birth, your mother has felt all of the things you have felt, not out of sense of duty, but out of love. When you fell, she fell. When you laughed, she laughed. When you were proud, you made her proud. Your successes in life have been felt by your mother, your failures, hers, as well.

That is the beautiful magic held in the relationship between mother and child. You come in to the world physically connected, but it is a connection that never truly disappears. With each other you are stronger, without each other, somewhat lost.

It is a relationship full of constant irony. Nine months of discomfort and worry, leading to a day of intense pain and gore, forever remembered as one of the best days of her life. Not for any of the experience of that day was, but for what it brought her.

A mother is many things. She is your comfort when you need comfort, your drive when you need driven. She simultaneously shows you how she will always be proud, but still you would give anything not to disappoint her.

A child comes in to the world and his word for love is mother. In many ways, that never changes. She is provider, caregiver, leader, and friend. The world would be darker without her.

If Jesus was born of God to die for sin, it was Mary who guided him as a child. The bible loses track of him between ages 12 and 30, but his mother was no doubt there, as she was at the beginning, as she was at the end

I give that example, not out of religious necessity, but out of its message about mothers. She was there when he had gifts lavished upon him at birth. She was still there when he was beaten and left to die. She was there not because he was the son of God, but because he was the son of Mary.

This Sunday, women all over America will have their day. They will be appreciated and honored. They are the silent heroes, who ask for so little, but give so much. For a lifetime of love and support, all they truly desire is your happiness.

That is a difficult thing to give sometimes. So much of life, especially these days, seems rushed and out of control. Remember, on Mother’s Day, to give her your smile and your thanks.

Thank you to all of the mothers I have known, especially my own. Enjoy your day as a reward for all the patience you have shown all of us during the other 364 days. Thank you for all you do, have done, and will do.

New Flash Fiction and the Latest from The Confabulator Cafe

“Collectors,” the flash fiction piece that appeared at The Confabulator Cafe last Monday, is now available here on This Average Life. Find it on the pages list to the right.

In my latest Confabulator Cafe blog, I write about what I consider to be my strengths as a writer, and what I enjoy about my writing. Check out “Artistic Endeavors in Granite and Clothespin.”

Thank you all for your continued support of my writing.

– Jack

Fifty Dollar Crossroads

“Destiny is no matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice…” William Jennings Bryan

The tree that is your life has many branches breaking off in various directions. Sometimes, it seems there is no reasoning behind which way the branches go, but on you climb, wondering what the view will be like from the next one.

Looking back on you life, you may see that many of the branches travelled were linked at one specific point in time where one choice, however minor, could have altered your present drastically. For me, that choice involved a fifty dollar orientation fee at Iowa State University.

In order to save money on college, the first two years of my post-secondary education came from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, IA, known as the perennial community college basketball national champions, and the alma mater of Tom Arnold. I’m not kidding on either of those tidbits. In fact, there is a copper bust of Tom in the Arnold Net Center, home to the Warriors volleyball squad.

Nearing graduation, and never having considered that one would actually leave the state to go to college, I looked at colleges in Iowa. I was interested in Art at the time. I hoped to be a motion picture animator. However, I had seen the writing on the wall when Toy Story was released. I had also recently taken a video production class and had written a scene of a screenplay.

Thinking a film career might be the way to go, I applied at Iowa State University and The University of Iowa. I was accepted to both. Being that you ar

e here and likely know that I am a writer, you might think I chose the University of Iowa. Nay, for I had been accepted to Iowa State University first, and had already sent I a fifty dollar orientation fee. I was not going to let that fifty dollars go to waste.

I entered in to Iowa State University as a Journalism major with a focus in Electronic Media Studies. To this day, I know that with my interests and talents, The University of Iowa may have been the better, definitely more logical choice, but fate does not deal in logic.

I could never question fate. If I had not been at Iowa State University, there are a few things that would have been different. Predominantly, I would not have met my ex-wife. If I had not met her, I would not have moved to Kansas to follow her, and I would not have my son, nor my day job, which has allowed me to provide for him.

Sometimes, I wonder where I would be right now. I would not trade my son, nor the friends I have made on this life limb, but it is interesting to think where I might have been.

Hollywood? I’m not suggesting that I would be a big star at this point, a gun for hire, crafting screenplays for the stars, but I would have likely taken a chance and moved at some point, probably working as a peon somewhere. I would just as likely be teaching English in some random United States high school. None of that sounds bad to me. They are perfectly acceptable alternate realities.

Ultimately, I like the place I am, and the journey it has taken me on. I would not be the writer I am today without it. I would be a writer, yes, but one with a different skill set, more importantly a different experience set.

It strikes me that perhaps the limb is not as important as the roots. It isn’t where I ended up, or the choices I made along the way that matter. It is the person I am beneath all of it, the man my parents raised.

If you were to cut in to my trunk, you would find many rings, more than I would like to think as the years continue to pass by without slowing in the slightest. You would see the years when things were dry and survival was all that could be mustered, and then the years that were rich in growth and development. You would see scars were I was damaged, but continued to grow anyway.

Most important, you would see that my roots are strong, strengthened by family and friends, a blue-collar upbringing, and faith that no matter the choices, I will always survive.

All the fifty dollar orientation fees in the world might be able to change my role in life, but they could never change the man playing that role. The roots were too strong.