Sgt. Pepper and the old man’s dreams

Stephen closed his eyes and smiled as the music from the radio rose with a chaotic, atonal beauty, a mash of notes clashing, swirling strings dragging along the brash brass, the sound a whirlwind, an anxious tempest that ended in the majestic affirmative piano crash at the end of “Sgt. Pepper.”

“Wow,” he said softly, pleased. “That was something.”

As the DJ introduced the next song, Stephen heard the low moan coming from Mr. Walters.

“No, no, no, no,” the soft, growling voice said. “No, no, no.”

Stephen glanced up from the kitchen table where he sat with his head cradled by  folded arms and saw the old man’s face balled up like a fist, eyes tightly closed, brows drawn in terror, mouth sucked in and his hands covering his ears. He rocked forward and back, slowly at first, then quicker, “No. No, no.” Then he coiled into as much of a ball as his wheelchair allowed and moaned.

“Mr. Walters?” Stephen asked. “Are you okay?”

When the old man failed to respond, Stephen pushed back his chair and crossed to the wheelchair.  Stephen’s hands were shaking. Mrs. Walters would know what to do, he thought. She had told him sometimes her husband remembers things from his past.

The old man moaned again, as lonely a sound as Stephen had ever heard.

He knelt and touched the old man’s clenched hands.

“Mr. Walters. It’s okay. It’s Stephen.  Mrs. Walters will be home soon.” He patted the old man’s spotted hands; they were so white, the skin nearly translucent, the veins blue among the wrinkles. “Mr. Walters.”

Stephen dropped to his knees and with a tissue, wiped away the clear liquid dripping from the old man’s nose. He gently guided the old man to sit upright again.

Sitting up, his face relaxed and the old man opened his eyes, blinking hard, then staring, eyes hollow, unfocused, then worried.

“Manny,” he whispered. “Manny, you made it.”

“Mr. Walters?” Stephen asked, confused. “I’m Stephen.”

The old man touched Stephen’s shoulder.
“Did we get that 88?”

Then he wiped his face with his hand, and Stephen saw that he seemed to have regained the present.

“Who are you?”

Stephen stood up, “I’m Stephen. I rent… I rent a room upstairs.”

Mr. Walters stared suspiciously, then leaned back, accepting the information. “Yeah. Okay. Where’s my wife?”

“She’s shopping,” Stephen stammered. “Groceries.  She’s supposed to be back soon.”

A smiled crossed the old man’s face.

“Hope she brings back that good bread.” He licked his lips. “We had it in France. Hard crusted, slathered in butter. Given to us by the prettiest French girls.  They winked, kissed our cheeks and bent over to flash their beautiful French tits in our faces. No shame, Just beautiful girls and some of our guys in hay barns…”

The tale wandered off and Stephen smiled.  Mr. Walters had done this before. Started  talking about something, usually his bank and how he arranged loans for families, built subdivisions, and it was then that Stephen learned he had built the house his family had rented for a couple years out at the edge of Fulton on the Volney townline; behind the house were  grass covered piles of dirt and hidden cellar holes left when the construction had stopped for some reason.

“Them 88s.” the old man started up again. “The sound.  Screeeeee, then wham!” Then again. “Screee, screee, then wham. Then the tanks, that awful grinding, clanking metal sound as the ground shook, shooting through the hedgerows, smashing the undergrowth…”

Stephen watched as the old man’s face again coiled in fear and then in anger.

“Some of them girls didn’t make it. Gang raped and shot in the head. We found them outside their homes. We wanted to bury them but the Captain said, no. We’d be targets, and they were just collateral damage.”

He stopped, and seemed to sleep.

“You ever fight?” the old man asked, suspiciously. “Lotta guys didn’t make it. Left them there, took their dog tags. Like them French girls. Kids with dreams. I used to dream about her, this girl. Skinny, but beautiful. Soft mouth and hands. We’d neck in the woods by the swimming pond. I’d think about her when we were on that troop ship heading to England. I’d want her to be there so I could fold her into my slicker and feel her warm body and maybe slip my hand down her pants and she’d unzip me and jerk me off … but it was all a dream. Nothing ever happened between us and I shipped out and all I saw on that damn ship was the dark Atlantic, wondering where the Nazi subs were.”

Mr. Walters glanced up and his eyes sharpened.

“Don’t go to war, kid. Nothing changes and you come home with bad dreams that you’ll take to your grave.”

He leaned back, silent, but his face was contorted, and tears leaked from his eyes. He snored.

Stephen wondered when Mrs. Walters would be home.  This was part of his arrangement: He had to sit with Mr. Walters while she ran her errands. Usually the old man slept. He had just grown old, she said. So Stephen served him warm tea,  cleaned crumbs off his chin and, holding his nose, wiped the old man’s ass. Stephen was uncertain what would happen next. He had six months to go before he graduated from high school. His family was gone and he had stayed. When he thought about it, he was glad he had found this room and this old couple. It wasn’t home, but it was warm and Mrs. Walters never said a word when Stephen stole her fresh baked cookies.

Mr. Walters grumbled awake.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Stephen…Stephen. I rent…”

“Okay, right. Sam…”

“No, Stephen…”

“Where’s my wife?”

“Shopping.”

“I hope she remembers that bread…”

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‘A Game Called Dead’ cover a winner. Congratulations, Anita!

Just got word: The cover  for “A Game Called Dead,” the second Frank Nagler Mystery, created by Anita Dugan-Moore was presented a Bronze Medal in the 2018 Cover Contest  by http://www.authorsdb.com.

 This is the second award Anita has won in the contest. In 2017, she was awarded a Gold Medal for her cover of “The Weight of Living,” the third Frank Nagler Mystery.

See her work at http://www.cyber-bytz.com.

 

 

Coming soon, an anthology of the first three Frank Nagler books in hardcover, softcover and ebook formats.  More details as the publication date is set.

In other news, “The Weight of Loiving” was named a Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 NYC Big Book Awards:.

A note from the organizers of the New York City Big Book Awards:

“In 2018, we had true worldwide participation.  Book submissions were impressive this year as we collected from six continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America; cities such as Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Moscow, New York; and across the U.S.  We are so proud to announce the winners and favorites in our annual NEW YORK CITY BIG BOOK AWARD.  Great book content can be found anywhere on the globe, whether created from an individual author or a major publishing house or regardless what continent we find it.  We are happy to highlight these books and share their achievements,”  said awards sponsor Gabrielle Olczak.

For more information, please visit:  and to see the list of winners, visit the website https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018winners and the Distinguished Favorites listed here: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites.

I am a member of AuthorsBookings.com and listed in Contemporary Authors, a database of 112,000 artists and authors.

The Nagler Mysteries:

 

“The Swamps of Jersey,” 2014.

“A Game Called Dead,” 2016, was named a RUNNER-UP in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Indie Book Contest.

“The Weight of Living,” 2018, was awarded FIRST PLACE for Mysteries in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Contest; was named a NOTABLE 100 Book in the 2018 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest; was named a DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE in the 2018 Independent Press Awards; and a DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE in the 2018 NYC Big Book Awards.

Coming soon: “The Red Hand.”

The Nagler books are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Collateral damage

“Don’t go to war, kid. Nothing changes and you come home with bad dreams that you’ll take to your grave.”

 

Stephen closed his eyes and smiled as the music from the radio rose with a chaotic, atonal beauty, a mash of notes clashing, swirling strings dragging along the brash brass, the sound a whirlwind, an anxious tempest that ended in the majestic affirmative piano crash at the end of “Sgt. Pepper.”

“Wow,” he said softly, pleased. “That was something.”

As the DJ introduced the next song, Stephen heard the low moan coming from Mr. Walters.

“No, no, no, no,” the soft, growling voice said. “No, no, no.”

Stephen glanced up from the kitchen table where he sat with his head cradled by  folded arms and saw the old man’s face balled up like a fist, eyes tightly closed, brows drawn in terror, mouth sucked in and his hands covering his ears. He rocked forward and back, slowly at first, then quicker, “No. No, no.” Then he coiled into as much of a ball as his wheelchair allowed and moaned.

“Mr. Walters?” Stephen asked. “Are you okay?”

When the old man failed to respond, Stephen pushed back his chair and crossed to the wheelchair.  Stephen’s hands were shaking. Mrs. Walters would know what to do, he thought. She had told him sometimes her husband remembers things from his past.

The old man moaned again, as lonely a sound as Stephen had ever heard.

He knelt and touched the old man’s clenched hands.

“Mr. Walters. It’s okay. It’s Stephen.  Mrs. Walters will be home soon.” He patted the old man’s spotted hands; they were so white, the skin nearly translucent, the veins blue among the wrinkles. “Mr. Walters.”

Stephen dropped to his knees and with a tissue, wiped away the clear liquid dripping from the old man’s nose. He gently guided the old man to sit upright again.

Sitting up, his face relaxed and the old man opened his eyes, blinking hard, then staring, eyes hollow, unfocused, then worried.

“Manny,” he whispered. “Manny, you made it.”

“Mr. Walters?” Stephen asked, confused. “I’m Stephen.”

The old man touched Stephen’s shoulder.
“Did we get that 88?”

Then he wiped his face with his hand, and Stephen saw that he seemed to have regained the present.

“Who are you?”

Stephen stood up, “I’m Stephen. I rent… I rent a room upstairs.”

Mr. Walters stared suspiciously, then leaned back, accepting the information. “Yeah. Okay. Where’s my wife?”

“She’s shopping,” Stephen stammered. “Groceries.  She’s supposed to be back soon.”

A smiled crossed the old man’s face.

“Hope she brings back that good bread.” He licked his lips. “We had it in France. Hard crusted, slathered in butter. Given to us by the prettiest French girls.  They winked, kissed our cheeks and bent over to flash their beautiful French tits in our faces. No shame, Just beautiful girls and some of our guys in hay barns…”

The tale wandered off and Stephen smiled.  Mr. Walters had done this before. Started  talking about something, usually his bank and how he arranged loans for families, built subdivisions, and it was then that Stephen learned he had built the house his family had rented for a couple years out at the edge of Fulton on the Volney townline; behind the house were  grass covered piles of dirt and hidden cellar holes left when the construction had stopped for some reason.

“Them 88s.” the old man started up again. “The sound.  Screeeeee, then wham!” Then again. “Screee, screee, then wham. Then the tanks, that awful grinding, clanking metal sound as the ground shook, shooting through the hedgerows, smashing the undergrowth…”

Stephen watched as the old man’s face again coiled in fear and then in anger.

“Some of them girls didn’t make it. Gang raped and shot in the head. We found them outside their homes. We wanted to bury them but the Captain said, no. We’d be targets, and they were just collateral damage.”

He stopped, and seemed to sleep.

“You ever fight?” the old man asked, suspiciously. “Lotta guys didn’t make it. Left them there, took their dog tags. Like them French girls. Kids with dreams. I used to dream about her, this girl. Skinny, but beautiful. Soft mouth and hands. We’d neck in the woods by the swimming pond. I’d think about her when we were on that troop ship heading to England. I’d want her to be there so I could fold her into my slicker and feel her warm body and maybe slip my hand down her pants and she’d unzip me and jerk me off … but it was all a dream. Nothing ever happened between us and I shipped out and all I saw on that damn ship was the dark Atlantic, wondering where the Nazi subs were.”

Mr. Walters glanced up and his eyes sharpened.

“Don’t go to war, kid. Nothing changes and you come home with bad dreams that you’ll take to your grave.”

He leaned back, silent, but his face was contorted, and tears leaked from his eyes. He snored.

Stephen wondered when Mrs. Walters would be home.  This was part of his arrangement: He had to sit with Mr. Walters while she ran her errands. Usually the old man slept. He had just grown old, she said. So Stephen served him warm tea,  cleaned crumbs off his chin and, holding his nose, wiped the old man’s ass. Stephen was uncertain what would happen next. He had six months to go before he graduated from high school. His family was gone and he had stayed. When he thought about it, he was glad he had found this room and this old couple. It wasn’t home, but it was warm and Mrs. Walters never said a word when Stephen stole her fresh baked cookies.

Mr. Walters grumbled awake.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Stephen…Stephen. I rent…”

“Okay, right. Sam…”

“No, Stephen…”

“Where’s my wife?”

“Shopping.”

“I hope she remembers that bread…”

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Weight of Living” named Distinguished Favorite in NYC Big Book Award contest

“The Weight of Living,” the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery,  has been named a Distinguished Favorite in New York City Big Book Award contest.

Thank you the New York City Big Book Award judges.

This is the fourth award in 2017-18 for this book.

“The Weight of Living” (2017) is the third book in the series. It is complex, thrilling and moving.

The story: A young girl is found in a grocery store Dumpster on a cold March night wearing just shorts and a tank top. She does not speak to either Detective Frank Nagler, the social worker called to the scene, or later to a nun, who is an old friend of Nagler’s.

What appears to be a routine search for the girl’s family turns into a generational hell that drags Nagler into an examination of a decades old death of a another young girl, and the multi-state crime enterprise of the shadowy ringmaster.

The deeper Nagler looks, the more he and his companions are endangered, until the shocking climax that leaves Nagler questioning his actions to both solve the crimes and heal his damaged soul.

 

Of “Weight,” Kirkus Reviews said: “Daigle has done an admirable job portraying the evolutions of Frank and the city he loves and protects. Daigle’s narrative is well paced, allowing the reader to piece together the clues along with Frank., and it all leads to a melancholy, but satisfying conclusion. An involving thriller with a memorable protagonist.”

NOTE: Coming soon, an anthology of the first three Frank Nagler books in hardcover, softcover and ebook formats.  More details as the publication date is set.

A note from the organizers of the New York City Big Book Awards:

“In 2018, we had true worldwide participation.  Book submissions were impressive this year as we collected from six continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America; cities such as Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Moscow, New York; and across the U.S.  We are so proud to announce the winners and favorites in our annual NEW YORK CITY BIG BOOK AWARD.  Great book content can be found anywhere on the globe, whether created from an individual author or a major publishing house or regardless what continent we find it.  We are happy to highlight these books and share their achievements,”  said awards sponsor Gabrielle Olczak.

For more information, please visit:  and to see the list of winners, visit the website https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018winners and the Distinguished Favorites listed here: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites.

I am a member of AuthorsBookings.com and listed in Contemporary Authors, a database of 112,000 artists and authors.

The Nagler Mysteries:

 

“The Swamps of Jersey,” 2014.

“A Game Called Dead,” 2016, was named a RUNNER-UP in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Indie Book Contest.

“The Weight of Living,” 2018, was awarded FIRST PLACE for Mysteries in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Contest; was named a NOTABLE 100 Book in the 2018 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest; was named a DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE in the 2018 Independent Press Awards.

Coming soon: “The Red Hand.”

The Nagler books are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Vote because you have a brain

Vote because you have a brain.

Vote because that act is the one equal right we have.

Vote because people died to secure it.

Vote because you remember that it didn’t matter to you if your neighbor was gay.

Vote because you remember when we had a sense of humor.

Vote because your ancestors came here through the same inept, corrupt, illogical system and were hated for it.

Vote because we are better for their arrival and that the country did not fall into ruin because they came.

Vote because you remember when building schools and roads and bus routes and sewers and water systems was what we expected government to do.

Vote because your parents and grandparents believed in your future.

Vote because you believe in the future of you children.

Vote because you remember that the rich guys have all the money and they ain’t gonna voluntarily share it.

Vote because you remember when private debaucheries or hate were not crafted into public policy.

Vote because you remember when rivers ran green and red with pollution, and when you could not see New York City from New Jersey because of the smog.

Vote because you remember when acid rain killed thousands of lakes across the Northeast.

Vote because you remember how policies were crafted to change that.

Vote because innovation matters.

Vote because visitors go to Utah to gaze at majestic mountains, not oil rigs.

Vote so that the cold your child had two years ago, or the ankle you broke, does not mean you can’t get health care at a reasonable price, if it gets covered at all.

Vote so that if you have a car accident the emergency room can’t turn you away because you don’t have insurance.

Vote because your grandfather landed at Normandy to defeat the Nazis, not praise them.

Vote because your great-grandmother was beaten and went to jail so she could vote.

Vote because your father was sent with his National Guard unit to Mississippi so black citizens could safely vote.

Vote because Eisenhower sent the U.S. Army to Little Rock to open the schools to black kids.

Vote because all that once mattered to you.

Vote because everything we have can vanish in an instant.

Vote because it will happen to you, whether you believe it or not.

 

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Someone must rage

Put down that needle and thread.

You can not sew up the wound that your own bloody hands opened.

You cannot offer prayers of forgiveness with the rage of division in your voice.

Yet someone must rage; the victims are silent.

Tears become torrents, hands wrung red with anguish, beds are empty, children parentless; parents alone.

Someone must rage.

 

There is too much broken glass, too many church doors pock marked with fragments, to many seats at schools empty; too many black helmets, too many empty faces; a world sodden with sadness.

 

There are too many memorials dressed in bunches of plastic-wrapped flowers, too many days of remembrance; too many markers dedicated to the wars were are always fighting that become another roadside attraction served with fresh coffee and local pastry;

Too much glory praised for the wrong reasons.

Too much, too much. Our shoulders sag with weight.

 

And yet, numb you are in your own selfie haze;

Silent you are to the cries;

Drugged to the pain because it is not really yours though you acknowledge it with a sigh; behind virtual reality goggles you cannot smell the blood.

 

In a check list world one more prayer marked off will not stop the carnage.

In our world of one you cannot outrun the damage.

In our world of one, you cannot shake your sorrowful head enough times to root out the evil.

In our world of one, another sad face emoji will not stop your blame.

 

So, come, join.

Someone must rage.

Stand on a rooftop, stand on a street corner, stand on a hill top.

Gather. Ask why.

Leave behind your hateful leaders; for a moment disbelieve.

There is blame enough to share; none are innocent; silence and justification are complicit.

Too often each of us has said what I did you, you have done to me.

Strip away the self-righteousness.

Do not invent new pain; there is pain enough already.

 

Come stand in our shame, stand with bloody shoes.

Stand in the rain and call for all to be cleansed.

Stand and weep for the lost, wail for the forgiveness that will not come until

we acknowledge that we cannot sew up this wound until we drop the bloody knife that opened it.

Howl away the pain, scream in loneliness and despair, push and pull the anger until this incoherent sorrow becomes knowledge, till walls collapse and hearts are healed.

Rage till all that is wrong is vanquished, though the battle and its sorrow are immemorial.

 

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Nagler book four done: ‘The Red Hand’

It’s done. The fourth Frank Nagler Mystery, called “The Red Hand.”

It’s done as much as it can be before going through an editing process and revisions, and all the stuff that follows the suspected completion of a book.

Before I describe the book, I would like to note the real life loss of one of the popular settings in the stories, Barry’s, a restaurant in Dover, N.J.

The real Barry’s was one of numerous businesses destroyed in a terrible fire this week. The fire, apparently fueled  by natural gas, destroyed a block of businesses and apartments in Dover’s historic downtown.

It’s a terrible loss, homes, jobs and futures. Agencies are working hard to help those who suffered these losses.

Barry’s was the kind of place that every downtown needs, fast, loud, filled with stories. As a newspaper reporter working in Dover for eight years, it was a place for a quick lunch and gossip.

It was a perfect model for what the Nagler stories needed as a central meeting place for the main characters.

So, going forward, Barry’s will continue to live in Ironton, N.J., to honor its  legacy, coffee  and Cuban sandwich.

“The Red Hand” is a prequel to the three other Nagler mysteries.

Why write a prequel?

The challenge:

I had tried to write this story at least three times and it wandered into other places.

The first time I tried when I was 23 or so, I wrote a version of the story that was called “A Game Called Dead.”

It was story that introduced Detective Frank Nagler, reporter Jimmy Dawson, Nagler’s friend  Leonard, and killer Charlie Adams.

It was a story that needed work.

In an effort to rewrite it, the story changed and became the first actual book in the series, “The Swamps of Jersey.” That story is about politics, theft and murder and Charlie Adams is a reference point.

A second attempt to rewrite the story became the book published as “A Game Called Dead.”

At least I saved the title.

Again, Charlie Adams is a reference point, although he appears in one scene.

Neither of the rewrites told the full story of Adams killing spree that terrorizes Ironton, Nagler’s dogged police work to capture him, and the story of Martha, Nagler’s wife.

The reason it took so long to write “The Red Hand” — almost 18 months — is that the fates of some characters were known through the other stories, and it was a question of how to write a fresh story that did two key things: Answered questions posed in those other stories (and raised by readers), and filled in details of the overall Nagler story in a new way.

The other reason is structural.

The Nagler stories carry a certain mythology in style, tone and structure: A world soured by economic hardship, dirty politics and greed, and a damaged, heart-broken hero willing to take on those challenges.

“The Red Hand” tells of the beginning of that mythology.

I hope readers like it.

Thank you for reading the other books, because without your support, he would not exist.

Look for more details in the future.

 

The Nagler books, published by Imzadi Publishing.

“The Swamps of Jersey” (2014).

An audiobook version of “Swamps” is available at: https://www.audible.com/author/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/B00P5WBOQC

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC

 

 “A Game Called Dead” (2016)

A GAME CALLED DEAD was named a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest.

“The Weight of Living” (2017)

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING IS A MULTIPLE AWARD WINNER:

2017: First Place in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards

2018: Named a Notable 100 Book in the Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest

2018: Named a Distinguished Favorite in the Independent Press Awards contest.

 

Available at:

 

Paperback and ebook versions are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How do you slice a tomato with one hand?

How do you slice a tomato with one hand?

Or slice an onion, put on a shirt, take out the trash?

I’m about to find out.

I’m going to soon have surgery on my left shoulder that will result in having to keep it immobilized for multiple weeks. Sort of like being Velcroed to my side while it heals.

So, I’ve been thinking about how make adjustments in my patterns to accommodate for that eventuality. Because during some of the weeks of recovery I will be alone.

Part of the preparation is doing the outside getting-ready-for-winter things that homeowners do, and some of it is rethinking inside stuff.

Making lunch today  I came across and example: How do you open a can using an electric can opener with one hand?  

I’m right-handed, so it comes down to this question: How many times do I use my left hand, and for what?

Part of the answer is for uncountable, unconscious things. The second part is: I’m about to find out.

Some of this stuff is easy: I can  chop and store onions and peppers and other foods that can be temporarily frozen. I can scour the supermarket for canned items that also come in plastic bags that can be opened with a knife, if necessary.

I will be able to drive, once cleared, because my car, like most now days, has  an electronic transmission with an ersatz stick shift, but is basically an automatic.

Shirts will be interesting, and I think I need bigger ones that won’t require a lot of movement.

Belts will be a problem so for a while I’ll be in sweat pants (which I hate).

I know: In this world of modern conveniences, why worry about this stuff?
Because I don’t want to Uberize or GrubHub a temporary situation into an expensive and avoidable additional expense. I can make spaghetti sauce or soup for a couple of bucks and I see no reason to have it delivered for $12 a plate plus tip.

The reason all of this came to mind, beside the fact that the surgery is upcoming, is that I was watching an older man at the car dealer today. He was walking with a cane, and had a slow struggle with an outward-opening door.  About the time a couple  of people, including me, were about to open the door for him, he managed it.

So, while I’ll be inconvenienced by being one-armed for a while, what about those people, for whom a handicap or an infirmity is a permanent condition?

They make adjustments every day, and for most of us, those adjustments go unnoticed.

We think of them when we see a TV ad for wounded warriors or pass a handicapped-only parking space.

And yes, we live in a world of miracle prosthetics, but those are not available to all.

There are people who need real help, and too often we are stupidly cruel; we use an angry-faced emoji to show our displeasure when we see such acts on the Internet.

In a time when anger has become our national pastime, why don’t we think outside ourselves, feel beyond our own needs?

People hurt.

Sometimes it’s obvious.

But mostly it’s not.

Opening a door for an old man with a cane doesn’t cost anything.

 

 

Posted in Fiction | 4 Comments

From New Nagler: ‘Romeo’s a-travelling to Mantua. Fetch him.’

Some scenes are hard to write. This was one.

 

“He walked. Past the old mills, past the stoops, past the troubles that weren’t his own; out of the light of downtown into the darkness of the worker’s ghetto, along the paths he had played on, had run along trailing Del Williams, shouting. Across the dividing line from the ghetto to the newer, brighter, nicer neighborhoods, the divide between torn pants and broken shoes, leaking roofs and dirt lawns and pale blue seersucker Sunday suits, iced tea on the patio and  green trimmed lawns lined with perfect flowers; from childhood to manhood; across that divide that had defined his entire life,  each step shedding the Chris Foleys, Charlie Adams, Bill Wallinskis of the world, the present woes cast upon Ironton like a curse; losing  the heat, the noise until there was only his shuffling steps along the broken sidewalks; walking till there was only Martha; turning, blindly taking a block at a time, surprised to find himself at their old school, then turning again past the bus stop, each house a marker deeper into his past, deeper into the days when he and Martha walked hand-in-hand, she shouting out hellos to all, he stumbling in an amazed and embarrassed joy that she was with him; stopping at corners, smiling into his astonished face, he wordless in crazy happiness, thrilled  as she wrinkled her freckled nose and brushed that red, red hair from her face; stunned at the lightness he felt, a lightness that even the cold shadow of the ghetto could not dampen; walked along the familiar  route from the school to her house, which then seemed to shine, but now resting before its dark ridge behind, was dark and hollow, especially the shaded windows of the second floor where they lived; walked now out of the light into a shade, feet leaden, a sensation that confused him because he wanted to hurry, to run to her side, but instead walked as if  he was leaning into a head wind.

Finally home, the street silent and blinking with fractured light of a broken street lamp, the ancient, damaged shed and red hand mark flashing in and out of sight; even here the writhing troubles of Ironton seethed.

His damaged shoulder sagged as he leaned to open the  heat-swollen front door, snapping off a creak that pried open the silence of the hallway.

The last few days had been bad for Martha, pain rising then ebbing, the heat drawing life from her body leaving it in soaking sheets. 

Yet, she smiled. Each morning. Each afternoon when he came home. And at night when the  weight of him slipping  into the bed woke her briefly, her eyes unfocused, then closing in pain.

“How’s my girl?” he asked softly as he kissed her; he dried her face with the clean cloth nearby.

He didn’t expect an answer. Sometimes her sleep was so deep and her breathing so shallow he leaned back startled, and expecting the worst, checked her pulse, only to breathe again when he detected one.

Her eyes popped open, then the right one closed.

“Catch the bastard yet?” A dry creaky voice.

The question drew a laugh from him. He kissed her. “No. Not yet.” Tears formed at the corners of  his eyes. “We will.”

“Hurry up, damn it. I want to be around to read about it in the paper.”

“Oh, Martha…”

“Frank, I dreamed of you. Of you and me.  Us playing, teasing, standing naked in the dark, your shining skin against mine, the salt of your sweat on my tongue…” She stopped, motionless. “I loved your hands on me, fingers probing, you inside, me licking you, all those dirty little things the priests told us not to do, the things that would condemn our souls…” Three or four short, ragged breaths. “It’s a wide world, Frank. And I followed you…”

He pulled himself in, chest collapsing, shoulder sagging, voice a hollow breath. “No, sweetie, Martha. No. I’m here.”

“I saw you clapping the day I graduated. Standing alone for so long, clapping and cheering, I could feel you.” A pause, she brushed her fingers across her lips. “You took me to the park and sprinkled rose petals on my belly. And they stuck to everything…” A coughing laugh. “And when you were done my tits were so hard and I was so wet. No one can use that park anymore, Frank. No more. Never.”

“Hey…”

“You chased him away.  My dark companion. But he comes back and I have to push him off. You gave me that strength, to push him away.”

This time when she fell silent, her head rolled to one side and she seemed empty.

“Don’t go,” he wimpered, broken.

He wiped her face with the cloth again and she turned her head to him. “Don’t be scared. Look at me. Let me see your eyes. That’s my strength, Frank. Your eyes. Always.” Silence. Then a whisper. “Romeo’s a-travelling to Mantua. Fetch him.”

If you’d care to comment on  this sample, please drop  me a line at michaelstephendaigle@hotmail.com. I’d love to hear your comments.

You might also like to read the three Frank Nagler Mysteries.  

The  Frank Nagler Mysteries are:

 

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY (2014); A GAME CALLED DEAD (2016); and THE WEIGHT OF LIVING (2017)

 

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at:

https://www.audible.com/author/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/B00P5WBOQC

and itunes, and Amazon.

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Nagler: Where he comes from

It’s what you do in a poor town, he learned. Have hope; everything else is darkness.

 

The Baker Hills section of Ironton was developed by one of the city’s rich bankers more than a century ago as a swanky neighborhood for the business owners and top managers of the city’s iron industry. The soft, greenlined roads featured fancy homes with turrets and wrap-around porches, landscaped, fenced yards, some with small gazebos, and a few with wrought-iron gates across their stone driveways. The neighborhood was on the west side of the city, set on rising hills planted with fragrant flowering trees and an entangled wall of tall Norway maples that had grown to block the view across the river of the black, belching mills and the workers ghetto where soot rained down like Hell’s mist.

 Nagler as a kid had wondered as he delivered newspapers to the homes protected by those tall maples why the rich folks didn’t want to see how they made their money.

Nothing bad ever happened in the Baker Hills.

That’s what Nagler was led to believe. As proof, he had always looked at the names of the streets there: Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, the Ivy leagues, as if living on streets with such names raised the aspirations of their children.

In truth, he had grown up believing, rather, having to believe, that nothing bad ever happened in Ironton, his hometown, at least nothing that could not be overcome. It’s what you do in a poor town, he learned. Have hope; everything else is darkness. The floods, the factory closings, the homeless living under the bridge, the permanent bend of his father’s back after work, then the thousand-yard stare when the mills closed.

Somehow Ironton survived, got up from the knock-down and trudged on, the limp a little more pronounced, the tear stains a little deeper on the dirty faces of hungry kids. He grew up believing that things would always be better. Martha Shannon, his true love since the third grade, was proof enough of  that: She hadn’t lived in the workers’ ghetto; she had led him out of it.

He had grown up on Fourth Street, a block over from Third, and two blocks from Sixth. They weren’t street names, just lines on a map — Street One, Street Two, Street Three; nothing poetic or inspirational, mere designations created because some city engineer had needed a way to make sense of the tangled mass of winding alleys, trails, and odd-sized lots that covered the east side of Ironton’s hills; nothing more.

What lived beyond the engineer’s solution were the informal names of alleys that reflected the immigrants, the Germans, Italians, Irish, Poles —  the whatevers — who, despite hard lives, filled the tiny homes with generations, spilled over the hillsides brawling and battling with life, dancing, joyously laughing and singing, trying to stand, then to be knocked down again, wishing the rays of sunlight were not so gray, and that the air didn’t taste like ash.

Nagler slipped the Impala off the state highway into Baker Hills and left the bright clutter of commerce behind; like a gate, silence descended and deepened as he drove beneath the smothering tunnel of shaded streets where the morning sunlight had yet to fully penetrate; a sterile silence, sound absorbed by sentinel homes, by the dense leafy overhang, more a setting, a stage, than a place.

Nagler maneuvered the clanking car cautiously over the scattered speed humps, as if unneeded speed would disturb the unnerving peace.

There is quiet, he thought as he searched for the turn to West Harvard and the Feldman home. There is quiet with movement and light. Then there is too quiet; this.

 

 

The  Frank Nagler Mysteries are:

 

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY (2014); A GAME CALLED DEAD (2016); and THE WEIGHT OF LIVING (2017)

 

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at:

https://www.audible.com/author/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/B00P5WBOQC

and itunes, and Amazon.

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment