Ok…so this is one that I came up with myself…It’s an oldie but a goodie, so forgive me if you’ve already seen it.
“Spend less time reading about what others have done and spend more time creating the things that others will read about.”
Ok…so this is one that I came up with myself…It’s an oldie but a goodie, so forgive me if you’ve already seen it.
“Spend less time reading about what others have done and spend more time creating the things that others will read about.”
So, one of the biggest writing hangups that I have is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Now, I’m not talking about typos, as evidence to the contrary is front and center in any of my writing, but rather in HOW I say what I want to say. I struggle mightily on the best way to verbally paint a scene. In fact, I would say that I agonize (enjoyably so) over it. Case in point. It LITERALLY took me about 7 hours to get this one sentence the way that I wanted it.
“Across the hours joining night to day, the snow’s slow, purposeful ballet down to the city streets had been replaced with a violent frenzy, driven by the brutish cadence of the Detroit wind as it bowed to greet the morning sun.”
All that to say that the snow got heavier in the morning and that it was windy.
I LOVE writing.
Here’s a nugget that I took from my mother a LONG time ago. (I have to paraphrase it, ’cause…well..my memory is bad.):
“You can learn from anybody…even a fool…You just have to know how to seperate the wisdom from the foolishness.”
Okay, so the award for the world’s most infrequent, erratic, and unreliable writer goes to……………….Ty McDuffie.
Over the last several months, I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, e-mails, tweets, etc. about where have I been, what have I been working on, wasting my gift etc….and after many sessions of banging my head against the wall, I had to come to grips with this one simple fact: If I don’t start taking my gift of writing seriously, and working at it…….I’m going to lose it.
Also, I learned that it’s okay NOT to be modest all the time. I think I’m pretty good at this writing thing. (The PROOFREADING thing…not so much.) It’s OK to think and say so. I’m sure that Michael Jordan never said, “I think that I’m kind of okay at this basketball thing.” I shouldn’t either. However, I think, that was always just an easy escape hatch for me. In the words of the wise man Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, “It’s easy to meet people’s expectations of you if you keep them low.” If I keep expectations low, I never have to do the work to get better, because whatever I produce is always good enough. Plus, I’ll never have to worry about getting my feelings hurt if someone doesn’t like it, because after all, I didn’t put any real effort into it anyway. But, if I don’t set expectations high, even in my own mind, then what do I have to aspire to? How can I possibly get better?
Now, what I ain’t gon’ do is promise that i won’t still be infrequent, erratic, and unreliable, but I WILL promise that i won’t be as bad as I have been.
Anyway, enjoy the sidebar below, and please let me know what you think. It’s an intro to Marcus, another character from a book that I’m working on. It’s kind of dark, but hey, the Muse wants what the Muse wants, right?
Rock Hill, S.C.…
The aching joints attaching the flashing red neon arrow to its perch above the doorway of the nightclub squeak and whistle their disagreement as the arrow swings slowly back and forth in the cold, rainy night’s air; their charge boldly pointing to its target like some kind of modern day “X” on a newfangled treasure map. Across the street, in one of the rooms of the abandoned hotel, “drapes” made of discarded plastic shower curtains are drawn back; push pins holding them in place; allowing the red pulsing light of the sign to meander in and out at will.
Sometimes, the cold air bullies it’s way through the gaps around the edges of the window, giving birth to cold, little urine scented dust tornadoes that skitter off into the corners of the mostly empty room, carrying little scraps of paper and dust with them. The sound of the rain pelting the window echoes through the space like a million miniature drums signalling the march of some far away conquering army.
The marriage of the smells of rotting pizza and chicken, stale beer, cigar smoke, old sweat and even older urine hang thick in the air… heavy… moist…cold. There is a mattress in the middle of the floor. It’s covered by makeshift blankets that were cobbled together from pieces of plastic and newspapers and held together with pieces of electrical tape.
An old, gray haired man in a blood stained tee shirt and blue jeans sits in a straight backed wooden chair in one corner of the room; just outside of the red light’s path. The handle of a knife hangs loosely from a gaping hole in his chest. His head droops and his mouth hangs open; allowing a warm, thick string of drool to snake its way over his lips and make its way to his lap; to mix with the slowly growing puddle of cooling blood that has oozes from around the knife’s blade. His chest heaves and releases roughly from the effort of breathing and he makes a deep sucking, gurgling sound with each breath. His feet have begun to turn a rotting shade of purple as tightly tied straps of old, faded denim bind him to tightly the chair, cutting off the circulation; allowing no new blood to visit, and no old blood to leave.
A man’s voice creeps through the air from one of the dark corners of the room that the red neon light never reaches:
“Hey, man……you believe in monsters?” it asks. “Hey…do ya?”
The voice pauses for a few moments, as if waiting for the answer that it knew would never come, then continues it’s dialog/monolog/rhetorical questions from inside the shadows.
“Man…I don’t mean like no swamp thing, Freddy Kruger, some man runnin’ ‘round in no hockey mask type of monster, neither. So don’ go getting things all twisted…Them fellas was all fake.” the voice said. “Naw…I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout them summa bitches.”
“I mean, hell, my daddy used to watch th’ ole school monster stuff on the t.v. all th’ time. Yep, th’ old man loved that stuff. Wolfman, creature from th’ lagoon, Dracula…Hell, he loved all of dem ole black n white movies.. But the wolfman…Nah THAT was his boy, ya hear me? He had a thing fo’ that one.”
“You could pretty near guarantee that whenever any monster movies came on on Creature Feature Sundays, we was gonna be watching it. Yep, he’d plop me right down in front of th’ t.v. and there we’d set. I’m talking hours, man. He used ta make me watch it with him on the all th’ time. YEah, I ‘member Creature Feature Sundays. You ever watch that stuff, man?”.
There was another pause, longer and deeper this time. Accented with a fresh puff of smoke.
He continued. “Hell, you know what?” he said. “ I never much thought much about this but,….while I was just talkin’ to you ‘bout it….it just popped in my head….was all the famous wolfmen named Michael?.” He scratched at his head at the thought.
He continued to talk. “ I can’t ‘member no famous wolfmen named James, or David or nothin’. You had Michael Landon…” he counted on his fingers for emphasis, “ …Then you had Michael Fox….Well…I guess that don’ really matter no way ‘cause like I said, I ain’t talkin’ bout them Hollywood monsters. I mean th’ REAL ones. You believe in ‘em?”
After a few more moments of silence, a sigh escapes from the darkened corner of a room, chased shortly thereafter by its owner; a short, bloated, Black man in a dirty pair of blue mechanic’s overalls and a tee shirt. The top half of his overalls were undone and its arms had been tied in a knot in front of his waist. Across the chest of the shirt is a picture of three cds followed by a plus sign and two peanuts with the caption “CDs NUTS!” written underneath it.
He stops just inches from his captive and bends down to him; their noses almost touching; his hot, moist breath seeping down onto the man’s face.
“I guess you don’t feel much like talkin’ bout it right now, huh? I ‘spose not, not with that big ole hole in your chest.” He tapped the wooden handle of the knife. “ Hell, I wouldn’t want to talk movies neither, I s’pose. So, I’mma just give you th’ answer, ‘kay man? He moves to his mouth close to the man’s ear and whispers, “They’re real man…I seen one. Yessirrr, I seen it all up close and personal like. I’ll tell ya what’s the truth… they ain’t no fun, neither….” He lifts up his tee shirt to show several small circular burn marks randomly dotting his chest and flashes a near toothless grin at the man in the chair. “Naw man, they ain’t no fun at all. By all that God loves, they ain’t.”
He stands up straight, dragging one of his fingers through the string of drool coming from the man’s mouth and plays with it between two fingers, like a mechanic looking at a finger full of used oil for metal shavings before drawing a small bloody cross on the man’s forehead. He pulls a silver flask out of his pocket, unscrews the cap, and takes a quick swig. He screws the cap back on and flips the flask over his shoulder with a thud.
“Yep. You know…” he says, “that’s why….I ‘spose I have to kill you, Daddy.” and draws a small bloody cross on the man’s forehead.
My eyes hurt.
I simply cannot stop crying today.
So there will be no eloquence in this post…forgive me.
I’m at my desk at work, trying to hide my face every time someone walks by so that they don’t see me crying. But no matter how hard I try, I constantly feel the tears burning; burrowing their way out until they eventually make their way to the surface, and slide down my face. As the only Black person in this office, I’m sure that my coworkers won’t (can’t?) truly feel (understand) my pain…So I REFUSE to share my tears with them.
I’m sick of feeling like I’m “selling out” because I don’t take a stronger stance whenever the inevitable questions of how I feel about “so and so” get directed towards me by someone that simply can’t (won’t?) relate to what I’m feeling. I want to scream at them, “Those MF’ing bastards are pieces of dog SH*T for killing that man.” In my MIND I go all Samuel Jackson in “A Time to Kill” on them., but the words that often escape my lips are tamed…instantly self edited and watered down to be made more palatable.
So my righteous anger ain’t sated…just self abated and I hate myself for it.
I want so badly to explain that even IF Trayvon actually DID attack Zimmerman, that he only did it because he felt threatened and NONE OF IT would have happened if some strange man hadn’t been STALKING him in the rain. I want to explain to them how I, Mr. Rational, Mr. Always Smiling would’ve done the EXACT SAME THING in that situation.
I want to tell them about my utter DISGUST that Zimmerman can actually make money off the sale of the murder weapon…but Alton Sterling ultimately loses his life for selling bootleg CDs and DVDs to help support his family.
I want to question their logic when they say that if Eric Garner simply would not have have resisted arrest for selling single cigarettes, he’d be alive today, when just YESTERDAY a White man in Raleigh was simply TAKEN INTO CUSTODY after pointing a loaded shotgun at drivers and THEN taking a shot at a deputy. (http://www.wral.com/man-charged-with-shooting-at-wake-deputy/15832777/) I guess smoking DOES kill, huh?
I’m sick of trying to walk the line as to not coming across as “Angry Black man”…playing the corporate game with a modern day shuck and jive routine to mask how I really feel because I know that they can’t ( won’t?) feel me. Ya feel me?
I’m tired from another morning with another video of yet ANOTHER person that looks like me slaughtered in streets or jail cell at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect…and these are just the ones with VIDEO. Who knows how many go unseen? I’m tired as hell of it.
I’m 45 years old. I’ve spent my whole life being rational. I’ve spent my years trying to see the best in everybody, trying to do the right things, trying to understand everyone’s reasons for what they do; their unique points of view.
I’ve been pushed to not think that way anymore.
My tears are blurring that vision today. But even I can still see that this shit ain’t right.
I don’t care what anyone thinks/feels now. And I’m ready to stand up and demand that which we shouldn’t have to…
.…and BTW…I’m done crying.
When the date started getting close, I decided that I wasn’t going to post anything about it…I swear I wasn’t. However, the closer it got, the more my resolve waned. Thus….I’m writing this.
I submit to you all, members of the jury, that we’ve been lied to…
I submit that Time does NOT, in fact, heal all wounds. It just makes the scab tougher.
I present article number one into evidence. It was a year ago on the 24th of March that my brother died. And I swear that things haven’t gotten much easier. I mean, a few weeks ago, I found myself searching thru my old cell phone voice mails PRAYING that I could find some from him…just to hear his voice one more time. I found a few. Now the question in my mind is: “Am I supposed to delete them?”.
Don’t get me wrong. Me and Sid weren’t the CLOSEST of brothers, and he, like all of us, had his faults. We had our differences (Boy oh boy DID we EVER have our differences), but at the end of the day, that dude was my BROTHER…and the end all be all of it is that I can NEVER question his love for me as such. I remember how just a few months before he died, my car was being worked on by a family friend. It had been sitting in their yard for MONTHS with no progress, and it was putting me in a bind. My brother called me and was like “Man…I can’t let him do that to my little brother. I’m gonna take me a hit of my inhaler, get on my scooter and go tell him that he better fix my brother’s car right now!” and that’s exactly what he did. The mechanic used to tell me how my brother (and his oxygen tank) would come down there almost EVERY day til I got my car back. LOL
So in thinking about all of that, it occurred to me, a lot of times, there are little stories like that that really give people a good insight into the quality of a person’s soul. If you allow me just a moment to wave my nerd card, I think the Bard said it best when he said, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” (HA…You didnt know that I could come off the cuff quoting Shakespeare, huh? BAM!) Anyway, my goal is that I let people know of the good that my brother did….and that he was appreciated, so consider this post my selfish attempt at just that.
So often, we measure a person’s value in material stuff; cars, homes, income, etc. When in reality, that stuff is meaningless. My brother left this plane of existence without much STUFF to his name, but that didn’t mean that his moment in time with us was a waste. It just means that if we were investing in the company that is the memory of Sidney Sutton, we’d need to base our valuation on things other than assets gained…..maybe we’d need to look at some intangibles; souls touched, moments shared, and lives affected.
ANYWAY……..(wiping away tears again….dang…)
I decided to repost something that I wrote earlier. When I first did it, one of my other siblings read it, printed it out and gave it to my mother. I think that she still carries it with her to this day. She shared it with some of the people at her church that were going through similar situations…and they even asked for copies. I’m saying this not to brag…(I’ve never been the braggadocios type) but to share…If you feel like my story below can help you or ANYBODY going through something like that…feel free to print it off. I really dont mind. So, below is one of my posts regarding my brother’s death and how it hit us…….
Sometimes, the Words Ring Hollow (For My Brother)
(This post is therapy for me)
Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.
“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain. Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.
Deacon Harris’ words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove. You could feel the pain that mated with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony” of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player. The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.
His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my denial. He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.
“Ty, did you hear me? I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”
I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him. I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me. I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing. Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death. No HEALING.
“Good.” he said. “That’s important.”
So, with that, we plodded on. I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo. Sade continued to be our riding partner.
Across the years since, I would often wonder why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride. Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place. Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.
Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.
My cell phone rings. I answer. The voice was Dale’s.
Within it, I felt something that I had never felt in that voice before. There was a seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.
“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared voice said.
“Nothing much, man. Just watching some t.v. Everything cool?” I knew things weren’t. It was too early for things to be “cool”
“Mama just called me.” He said. “She said that Foot is might not make it.”
There was that shaking coming across the lines again.
Foot is my brother. Well, his name is actually Sidney, but for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough, so it stuck. Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years. Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live. On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though. Between then and now, there had been many ambulance pickups, e.r. visits, long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town. Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up. I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room. He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says, ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here??? Is something’ happenin’ that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!” He went home a few days later; Foot, the bad penny.
The voice on the other end continued to talk. “I’m on my way down there now. The rescue squad people are there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”
(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)
“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up. If you have to call, call Bobby. He’s over there.” he said. Daphne is Foot’s daughter.
“Ok, Dale. I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down. Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool. I’m on my way in a few minutes.”
I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call. She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time. I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road. So, I went upstairs to get ready.
I called Bobby. He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did. Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t. Things were not good.
He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes. Nothing was working. They had tried everything and they continued to try. Then he said something that really brought things home to me.
“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”
Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time. It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.
(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way. The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.
Bobby calls again.. “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”
It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body, squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they burned in my eyes. I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.
I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked. Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand. We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.
It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down. I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me. Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too. I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.
The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and with their tears watering their shirts. Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while. Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work. I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.
“Girls…..you know, God heals people in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them away from the pain. Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .
I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago! God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death. Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.
I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with. Heads would nod in approval. Eyes would be wiped with understanding. Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case. Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer. I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.
Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis Sutton. I miss you, Big brother.
Okay, so I’m going to make just one more introduction to a character from the book that I’m working on. Like I’ve warned before, THIS particular book is a LOT darker than what I usually write, but I’m finding it kind of fun to weave this lil ole fantasy world, so I’m just letting the chips fall where they may and letting the characters tell me their own stories however they want. Anyway, give it a read, and as always, feel free to ask me any questions you wish, and let me know your thoughts. So, that said, allow me just a few a few moments of your time to introduce……
The voice from the man behind the desk wafted like a wisp of smoke through the darkness of the room, “…and in the end…there’s just you and the world that you make.” it said.
The man finished mouthing the last few words of his speech, leaned back in his chair, and enjoyed the last reverberations of his voice bouncing off the walls before it faded into nothingness.
He looked down at the cell phone resting on his desk. “Ten minutes, thirty- nine seconds. Now that’s pert-near perfect.” he said as he lifted it from in his hand. With his free hand, he pecked at the phone’s screen; resetting the timer to match this newly established record and then placed it back on the desk; leaving the timer’s “start” button winking its bright, sickly, green eyed welcome.
As he sat, a voice from the other side of the door lurched it’s way through the newborn silence of the room. “Sir…It’s almost time.” it said.
The voice stabbed painfully at the brain of the man behind the desk like a barrage of gas soaked, flaming toothpicks, forcing his usually carefully controlled face to allow a grimace to claw its way to the surface. He glared thru the darkness of the office towards the door and swallowed hard against the bitterness creeping up his throat. When he finally spoke, his response unwillingly rode his slow, southern drawl across his teeth and tumbled into the empty space of his office with the stubbornness of a child’s tantrum.
“…I’ll… be…out.” he said.
He splayed his hands on his desk, pushed his chair back, and stood up mechanically; his long, spindly frame unfolding slowly like some man sized spider coming out of its hole. A shock of familiar pain worked its way through him as he bent his body upright. The pain had been pretty much a constant over the years, and so it had earned its place as his own personal demon; a demon that needed to be exorcised daily with large amounts of Jack and Coke. On exceptionally bad days though, the demon resisted a little more than normal and would require a sacrifice with a bit more….”kick” to quiet it down. Fortunately, today wasn’t one of those days.
He reached down and opened one of the drawers of the desk to reveal a pile of disheveled papers. He shuffled the pile around and pulled a small, silver flask of his special “holy water” from underneath, and drank until the demon was sated or at least placated for the time being. He stood up straight, grabbed the book from the cluttered desktop, placed it under his arm, and made his way to the door. On his way, he stopped briefly to glance at his reflection in the mirror; pausing long enough to zip up the long black robe that draped off his shoulders until its collar was tight around his neck. He ran his hands down along his sides, making sure to smooth out any eye drawing bulges protruding from underneath it. As he looked, the man in the mirror smirked back at him. The man outside the mirror stepped away, grabbed his cell phone from the desk, then pulled at the doorknob. He stepped out of the darkened office, and into brightness of the long connecting hallway.
That same voice again…. “ ‘S’cuse me…s’cuse me…..Pastor Sam?…” , it squeaked.
He had been called many things over the years; zealot, healer, snake oil salesman, prophet, man of God, predator, leader, and hypocrite, but for some reason, that name, that…. “Pastor Sam”, was like fingernails on his mental chalkboard. Just hearing it filled him with a seething, roiling disgust for these people…these…disgusting throngs of “latcher ons” waiting for him to deliver some shards of wisdom, some magical recipe from “ The Book”; waiting for him to attach some sort of meaning to their meaningless existence. “Leeches…’dem bastard ass freakin’leeches.”, he thought.
He kept walking…ignoring the voices that seemed to constantly tug at him from the edges of the hallway, all the while trying to squash the sudden urge to turn around and “lay hands” on the neck of every piss ant calling his name.
He smiled. “Piss ants…..Now, that’s funny…” he thought and the smile coming a bit easier to his face. He kept repeating it to himself, “Piss…ants! Piss…ants!…Piss… ants!” as he walked, timing it perfectly with every step like some herky jerky internal metronome.
He let his long spidery legs eat away ravenously at the hallway’s red carpeted distance; allowing himself to reach the door at the end of the hall quickly. He stopped for a moment, making one last adjustment to the bulges jutting out from underneath his robe. Satisfied that everything was in order, he reached for the door, and turned the knob.
He glanced down at his waist one more time. “Bulky ass bomb.”, he thought as he pressed the glowing start button on his cell phone timer and stepped onto the pulpit.