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.

“Collectors” Free Flash Fiction from The Confabulator Cafe

“Collectors” Free Flash Fiction from The Confabulator Cafe

The Confabulator Cafe asked its writers to come up with a flash fiction story. The catch was the first and last line were decided for us. The rest was up to our imaginations and a thousand words.

Alatir and Rakiel are low-level imps collecting souls for a trading card game that will decide the fate of the universe.

Go see what they are up to at http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2012/04/collectors-flash-fiction/

Decisively, A Writer

Decisively, A Writer

There are lots of things that get in the way of a writers pursuit of his art. The Confabulator Cafe has asked how I deal with those obstacles, both good and bad.  See my answer at www.confabulatorcafe.com.

 

The Exotic Mundane – The Confabulator Cafe

The Exotic Mundane – The Confabulator Cafe

This week, in my posting at The Confabulator Cafe, I discuss how real life no only creeps in to my writing, but that I encourage it to do so. See what I have to say at www.confabulatorcafe.com

 

Pressing the Reset Button

“If some people didn’t tell you, you’d never know they’d been away on a vacation.

– Kin Hubbar

Vacation is a time of peace and relaxation meant to give you a break from the day to day. So how is it Thursday already?

I have been off from my day job since last Friday, but all things considered, I have been busier than I am during a normal work day. One thing has lead to another which has lead to another which has lead me to the final two days of my vacation feeling short of sleep, and without having accomplished anything on the list of what I had planned to do.

Looking back on vacations throughout my life they seemed to be full of constant events. Rather than relaxation, they have been a constant stream of activities, odd or otherwise. Especially the family vacations when I was growing up.

There was the world’s deepest hand dug well in Greensburg, KS. We bought a penny for well over one cent after throwing our own penny down into the well.

There was Albert, the world’s largest bull in Audobon, IA. By world’s largest bull, I actually mean a concrete replica of a bull. The graffiti on his nuts was quite possibly the most entertaining part of this attraction.

That isn’t to say that all our journeys were so uneventful. There was the trip to New Mexico. I got into a fight with my sister, and as punishment, we both had to write essays about the trip. The true punishment was probably that we made the trip in a Chrysler Le Baron. Not exactly the roomiest of cross-country travel vehicles, but cars like that, with a trailer full of camping supplies took us anywhere within driving distance, including over mountains that made me worry we might not be able to cross.

My dad likes to stop at every attraction and historical marker a long the way. There are some duds, like the ones I already mentioned, but there were some pretty cool stops, as well. The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, IA was beautiful. The city of Santa Fe was full of things I had never seen before. Everything had a story behind it.

The trips were sometimes fun, sometimes boring, sometimes more stressful than daily life, but all in all, they were a big part of my life. Maybe vacation is less about relaxation and more about pressing reset, temporary suspension of the every day. I took the week, in part, to work on my screenplay for Script Frenzy. So far, in five days, I managed five pages.

Still, it has been a good week, one that was necessary in many ways. I’ll see how many pages I can crank out in the next few days, and then go back to the office on Monday. It will be good to get back, it will be sad to go back, but it will be temporarily new. Sometimes, that is all you can ask.

 

 

Raised by Giants

Raised by Giants

This week, over at The Confabulator Cafe, I write about how I use what I learn from other writers in my own work. Check out “Raised by Giants” at www.confabulatorcafe.com.

 

Teaching Turkeys to Fly and New Flash Fiction!

Teaching Turkeys to Fly

Editing is one of the most time-consuming aspects of a writing career. See what I have to say about how I re-write at The Confabulator Cafe.

I also have a new piece of free fiction available. Check out my pages links for “C Is for Cat.”

C Is for Cat

C Is for Cat

I have written a new original flash fiction piece for The Confabulator Cafe. The challenge was to write a piece of under 1000 words based on a picture I was assigned. The picture was selected from Flickr using my last name and my birth date.

Please read it at http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2012/03/c-is-for-cat-flash-fiction/ and thank you all for your support.

Confabulator Cafe

I am contributing to a writing blog with a group of writers.  I will be posting on various writing topics every Monday.  Be sure to stop by and check it out.  There will be new, original content every day from a variety of writers.

Check it out at http://www.confabulatorcafe.com  There is a lot of great stuff there.

A Fisher of Hearts

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19

My grandfather had died, quietly, in his sleep.  I sat in a wooden pew, awaiting the beginning of his funeral.  There was no organ, only the constant drone of the crowd.  My family had arrived early.  As I sat impatiently, my hands shaking with sadness, the crowd had filtered in behind me.

The constant drone of their speech rang in my ears as people shared their memories of my Grandpa Joe.  He had been many things to many people.  We all dealt with his death in our own way.  I was introspective, like the lake, my calm surface denied a world busting below with biological activity.

Memories swam through my head in a constant blur.  I would sometimes get a nibble, catching a memory for a moment before losing it again.  Sometimes, I would set the hook and reel it in, embracing it fully.

I could describe the memories, but they would be meaningless to you.  These were not world-shattering moments you brag about, but small memories of little things.  It was the little things that my Grandpa Joe had done so well, the little things that added up to the sum-total of a great life.

This was the real funeral.  Removed from the pageantry and procedure was the real coping mechanism, story and memory.  So much of small town life is defined by storytelling.  You can see it all around you, from gossip rising from a café table along with rich coffee steam, to two pick-up trucks parked side-by-side, shooting smiles, laughter and bullshit through rolled-down windows.

The funeral dirge of dialogue played on, lifting my grandfather’s soul to the afterlife, as his body lay in the casket before me.  His shape was barely recognizable, stripped of the soulful smile that brought hundreds to this small church in the middle of a town of less than a hundred.  They drove past the sign post designating Grandpa Joe’s station, a historic landmark of the people.

They arrived at the church, one of two he attended every Sunday, walking the half a block from one to the other for a second sermon.  They walked up the ramp feeling the weight of the living, the survivor’s guilt of the masses, mournful for the time they would have to spend without a constant fixture of their lives.

The church was standing room only, the church basement, which had 130 chairs for overflow, was filled.  People sat on the floor in between the rows.  The funeral procession for family and dear friends, was miles long, stretching in each direction as far as you could see.  Leading the procession was Grandpa Joe’s car, a beat-up white Dodge Shadow with a large fishing bobber mounted on the top, just as it had been for years.

He lay in the casket, wearing bib coveralls, a cross, pocket watch, and dreamcatcher lying on his chest, held to the coveralls by a gold chain.  Beside him lay an ancient Native American medicine bag, his good luck charm, worn leather fastened by a bone button.  The contents were in many ways a mystery.  I knew only second hand of a fishing bobber and Native American figure held within.  My guess is that they would be the simple items of a man who enjoyed the simplicities life offered.

We cried, oh how we cried, tears of shared sadness.  We shared sobs with people who we did not know, who we had never seen, but had somehow been touched by Grandpa Joe’s life.

Person after person at the funeral spoke about how they had gone to comfort him in hospice, only to receive comfort from him instead.  Now, we only had his memory to hold us the way his smile once had.

My tears were tears of missed opportunity.  For several years, I had planned on taking a couple of weeks to spend with Grandpa Joe, to go fishing and hear about his life.  I pictured it as the biography of the average man, and of what he can be capable of becoming.  Thousands have benefited from inspirational books about thousands of people.  Surely, they could learn something from the life of Joe Brammer.

Sadly, on Thanksgiving, I realized that opportunity had passed.  His voice was a weak whisper, and even our short conversation, seemed to exhaust him.  I feel ashamed I did not write that book, the book of a man who loved intensely, and died the same.  I hope that in some way, these two blogs will atone for my procrastination.

It is the day after the funeral.  I stand alone in my parent’s living room, looking out a large window.  The house is silent save for my thoughts.  The snow begins to fall, large angel feather flakes floating from heaven, the Iowa sky weeping gently

I hope wherever he is, there is still a calm lake, a line, and a bobber floating gently in the water.  Jesus always had a fondness for fishermen.  He took the best we had, but not before he captured us all with his heart.

Joe Creese Brammer – October 31st, 1925 to December 16th, 2011