Vote for My Short Story “Sushi to Go” on Reddit

Friends,

Please vote for my newly posted short story “Sushi to Go” on my newly created Reddit account. If you would like to give me the “I’m too lazy to read the FAQ” version of how to use Reddit, I’d sincerely appreciate it.

Pax Tibi, James

Sushi to Go,” by James H. Peterson III

For Aziraphale and Crowley

1.

It began, or part of it began, near a motel in Salt Lake City. Several people had a very bad day. It was the sort of bad day you often dream about after you have seen a vivid and violent movie coupled with Cajun food. This bad day differed for most of the participants because they never awoke from the dream. Sensational movies, serious documentaries, and both good and bad books were written about this bad day.

Two young men were arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit. One of the young men never said anything, not even to his lawyer. The other young man confessed to everything the police told him he did. The police had told him what he did so many times and showed him so many pictures that he had come to believe, convinced by his nightmares, that he had, in fact, done the crimes. He dreamt of the slaughtered cheerleaders, the blood stained money. He dreamt of the motel manager in his sloth and the crisp clean mini-market across the dusty street, and the once pretty, now dead cashier. Most of all, he dreamt of the little girl, that one that had come to the motel with her uncle. Once the dreams started to produce prolonged insomnia, the confessing young man went onto confess to every sin he could remember. That same young man’s lawyer later tried to use the fact that the confessing young man also confessed to being James Earl Files’ back-up shooter to make the point that this client was no longer dealing with reality in any coherent fashion. The judge disallowed this evidence, and the confessing young man and his friend, were subsequently given due process, and multiple life sentences. No one on the jury was bothered by the fact that none of the physical evidence placed the young man at any of the murder scenes. He had confessed, and that was the main fact presented at his trial. Later on, almost no one would remember that the young man’s lawyer had been out of law school for less than one year, and had never argued a capital case before.

Somewhere fifteen hundred miles east, Mary Smith put down the Courier-Journal newspaper in disgust. She and her husband John had become involved with The Innocence Project after John had picked up a copy of “The Innocent Man,” by John Grisham that one of John’ students had left in his classroom. Neither of them realized at first that the novel was a non-fiction account of Ron Williamson’s life. Williamson spent 11 years on death row, more than once coming close to the last terminal show, before being cleared by DNA evidence.

Mary had been motivated to enter law school and had finished with the distinctions that only come from ignoring everything else in your life save the winning of distinctions. John had remained a history professor and continued with surgical precision pointing out death tolls, casualty counts, the logic of blood debts, the cyclical nature of violence, and the long-term consequences of this or that war to whichever of his students managed to stagger into his seminars.

Mary stood, smoothed her red, orange, and yellow sundress before walking through their apartment to the bathroom. She inhaled the cold crisp winter morning air breezing through one open kitchen window of the fourth floor Cherokee Road apartment. She remembered how that same breeze would carry the smell of coffee and Indian food from the streets below. Stopping just before the open bathroom door, she cast a critical eye over her husband.

“We are going to be late,” she said.

John finished the stroke of his razor before turning to her. One-half of his face was covered in shaving cream.

“Right, let’s go,” he said.

Mary rolled her eyes.

“Just my luck,” John said turning back to the mirror and eyeing his work. “I find the one woman in the whole city that takes less time to get ready than me, and I have to go and marry her.”

Mary foldered her arms and continued looking at her husband.

“A sundress in winter?” John asked.

Mary smiled as she stepped backward and flashed him her woolen underware.

2.

It began, or part of it began, a little less than two miles west of Mary Smith in her sunset colored sundress. In a shotgun house on Samuel Street, Jobab Jabes Miller, loaded rounds into the magazine for his Tariq 7.65mm pistol. Jo did not think while he did this. Jo had not thought much since his family had gone away.

Read More of “Sushi to Go,” by James H. Peterson III

Insomnia, Dreams, and the One Good Night’s Sleep I Once Had

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I’ve never really understood why. At different times in my life, different answers have fit. But like jeans, they don’t always seem to fit for very long. At least, not comfortably.

Tonight, it was a dream that woke me. I’ve always had vivid dreams, for all that, I generally don’t remember them much. This one though has been recurrent for years. With slight variations. Someone is always hurting- loudly. And I have never yet woken up to find anyone doing so. In tonight’s dream, it was my youngest son. Whom, if his bébé monitor can be believed, is flat out spread eagle, and snoring, which is about as calm and quiet as he ever gets.

I’ve never been sure which is worse, the vivid dreaming that wakes me once or thrice or more a week, or not dreaming at all. Sometimes my dreams inspire stories, one went so far as to inspire a novel series, the first book of which is partially written. The idea is straightforward enough, the core of the planet Neptune is a giant space ship, built upon epic space opera dimensions. Sometimes it is simply a missing friend, like Ms. Seal. Those bug me, mostly because there is very little I can do about it, as they went missing years before, and don’t want to be found. But mostly, wakefulness just arrives as a sudden jarring car wreck. Those are the ones that I cannot stand. They are not productive, not even interesting. Just wakefulness.

When I was thirteen, I got really strung out on my sleep. It got so bad that I hardly knew what was going on, and my parents became frustrated with doctors, and a son that couldn’t tell them anything useful to help correct the situation. Finally, it was an Army Doctor, a Major I remember, although his name is long gone, that diagnosed me as sleep deprived. After listening for a while, a skill more doctors need to invest more time in developing, along with everyone else in our species, he dispensed his advice to me. “Try sleeping with ear plugs.” I thought that was stupid, and said so. I remember the man shrugging his broad shoulders and saying that which I’ve said a million times since. “I sleep with ear plugs. My wife objects to giving up breathing for several hours at a time. I can’t imagine why.”

It was about a week later that I finally gave earplugs a try. I used a pair of squishy yellow Army earplugs, made by E•A•R. This would have been sometime in 1987, and I was highly amused to find that the same company was providing the Army with earplugs in 1995, when I joined myself. Anyway, that first night, I slept like a dead man, and woke-up with cramps in my legs and back from not moving much for more then nine hours. Even now, a full eight hours at a time is like a vacation for most people. I’ve slept with earplugs most nights since then. When I was diagnosed with Central Auditory Hearing Dysfunction three years later, I was told that sleeping problems was a common symptom of CAPD. I’ll skip what I thought of their input at the time since it wasn’t their fault I took so long to find them.

As of now, I am going to go back to bed and think about Basil Berry’s drive through the countryside of the Infinity Plain, with the Box of Teeth, which contains one tooth from every human that ever lived- all 777 sextillion of them. Which incidentally, because the Creator loves a joke as much as the next person, also happens to be the numbers of stars in our universe.

See, the numerologists were right all along. Stars are souls.

I don’t remember where I heard it the first time, and I know it was thought a long time before I embraced it, but I have always thought that “in His own image” meant that we, people, were endowed with imagination. Imagination and the desire to create. Our creations do not have to be good- just look at the venom of the Blue Krait snake, or cancer. But we imagine, and we build, and we create, and we dream- even at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

Pax Tibi, James

“Strata,” by Terry Pratchett

Strata,” by Terry Pratchett

“Strata,” by Terry Pratchett: Text provided by Transworld Publishers, a division of the Random House Group Limited, and the audiobook version provided by ISIS Publishing Ltd., read by Stephen Briggs.

Reader’s Note: Just because the Review is a “no plot spoiler,” does not mean that all the links are of the same mind. Wikipedia links to the books themselves, or characters in the book, are notorious for being plot spoilers. Be warned!

Stephen Briggs and Terry Pratchett have been working very closely for several years, particularly since the onset of Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s disease. Stephen Briggs has helped in the physical production of the last few manuscripts produced by Pratchett, particularly in typing the manuscripts as Pratchett has continued to lose the effective use of his hands. Briggs has also produced on his own account The Streets of Ankh-Morpork in 1993, as well as The Discworld Mapp, A Tourist Guide to Lancre and Death’s Domain. Briggs has also written The Discworld Companion, published in 1995, and updated in 1998 and 2003.

Most particularly, Stephen Briggs has recorded, or rerecorded, virtually every published book that Terry Pratchett has published, starting with The Carpet People in 1971, and most recently at the time of this blogging Dodger in late 2012. This is mildly unfortunate as I find other readers to have a wider range of distinctive voices for character differentiation. But that is not to say, or even imply, the Stephen Briggs is a bad reader- far from it. For what Briggs may lack in variety, he more then makes up for with a complete understanding of the characters, and the world in which they operate. And Brigg’s voice is clear, relatively accent free, and one that will not bore the listener. Having listened to several volunteer recordings from sources such as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, LibriVox.org, and BooksShouldBeFree.com, I can assure you, that last point is more important than you might think. While I might prefer one reader to another, my view is that Stephen Briggs’ the rendering is good, solid, and well worth the investment. I doubt that most listeners will be disappointed.

Strata, by Terry Pratchett, published in 1981, is billed as a comedic science fiction novel, although I find it to be a hybrid of straight science fiction, and satire. While the novel pulls together major themes of science fiction dominating from the 1950s through the 1970s, Pratchett also weaves in elements of classical fiction such as One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة‎), Midlevel Christian history, Celtic and Arthurian Legend, and the meaning of the creation of man “…in His own image” (Genesis 1:27), without directly referencing any of the above in great detail. Those familiar with these subjects though will recognize them when they appear, and I doubt that a lack of familiarity with the same subjects will hinder the enjoyment. Pratchett writes to entertain first, with literary merit taking a distant back seat. So while Pratchett may be Guilty of Literature, he is certainly not above telling a fart joke, especially if it is also implicitly bawdy.

The novel opens with a very telling quote:

“I met a mine foreman who has a piece of coal with a 1909 gold sovereign embedded in it. I saw an ammonite, apparently squashed in the fossil footprint of a sandal.
There is a room in the basement of the Natural History Museum which they keep locked. Among other oddities in there are the tyrannosaurus with a wristwatch and the Neanderthal skull with gold fillings in three teeth.
What are you going to do about it?”
–Dr. Carl Untermond, “The Overcrowded Eden.”

If you stop to pounder this quote, which I must admit, I never did until I started to write this review, or more precisely, until a few seconds prior to composing this sentence, you will find a key to the entire mystery of this story. As Paul Griner once asked his creative writing students; “Did any of you bother to look at the quote? Whenever an author takes the time to quote another author, even a fictitious author, it’s important- even if it turns out later to be misdirection.” I would also mention that Terry Pratchett loves puns, and is extraordinarily good at constructing them.

Continue reading ““Strata,” by Terry Pratchett”