I’ve been writing short stories for over 40 years. But not for profit. None of the vignettes in this book have ever been submitted for paid publication. Two were the result of assignments in a college Creative Writing class. But the rest were written just for fun.
I composed these tales at odd times, over the course of my life, when inspiration struck and I felt motivated enough to record the afflatus within a structured plot.
Writing is never easy, even when one writes for fun. But it rewards impalpably, by providing authors with mental organization, emotional expression, and an ethereal sense that one is contributing to the continuing creation of the universe. That in fact, one has created life.
I want to share with you the fun I’ve had, penning these tales. And hopefully, on some level we will connect, and you will derive the same rewards from reading these stories as I’ve derived from writing them.
Excerpt, from Go West or Go Weird:
Philander Crook rode straight into a big white mess. On purpose. But only because the fear blowing and drifting in his heart was thicker than the blizzard blowing all around him.
It was really coming down in the Sierras. And he knew things would probably get worse. Winter storms in these mountains that killed the Donners don't just sprinkle a few inches of powder and mosey on out. No, they set up a work camp in the sky, then shovel down a few feet of the cursed crystals upon the minions hunkering down below. To add to the few dozen feet that might already be there.
Soon it could be nigh on impossible for the fearful Philander to make progress.
A tongue-lashing of wind whipped up the hair on the back of his head and made it levitate. The whistling ice put goose bumps on his raw neck. He shivered like a mine blast, and felt every bone rattle. He fumbled at his coat collar with numb fingertips and frozen-stiff knuckles. Try to get that up higher. Higher, and stop that wind. Stop that killing cold.
Philander glanced around back into the wind, toward the west. Should he rein the horse around and take his chances? Could the enemy shadowing his back be less deadly than the enemy burying his front?
No. They’d be expecting that. And they’d be waiting with loaded rifles. The men who worked for his father-in-law were well-paid, and well worth every ounce of the gold the patriarch had put into their pockets.
And there was not a poltroon amongst them. No they were loyal, professional and courageous killers. So there would be at least one waiting in Sacramento where he had left them. The rest would be on his trail.
But he hoped they had fallen for his ruse and headed down to Los Angeles. That's where he’d made it seem like he was headed.
A few miles south of Sacramento he’d turned off the trail on a rocky place, where his tracks wouldn't show up to give him away. Then he had headed straight into suicide. Straight for the Sierra Nevada mountains.
By the next morning he was in the foothills of the Sierras, aiming for Carson Pass. From there he planned to head north for Virginia City, then catch a stagecoach for Salt Lake City. His final destination would be Denver City.
He doubted the old man would send any men to Denver. So there he would be safe while things cooled off on the coast for a few years.
As his horse slogged through the snow past a half-dead, gnarled, twisted, parasite-infested oak tree, he was reminded of his wife. And he inwardly cringed at the mental image this festering tree conjured up. For Lucinda was just as ugly as any of its half-dead branches, peeling bark, or rotting roots.
Her hair was greasy black. Looked like an old saloon mop that someone had dipped in lard before mopping out a coal bin. Her nose was as protuberant as a palomino’s proboscis. Nostrils just as wide. Strands of black nosehair hung over her upper lip, half-covering her black, greasy mustache. Actually, her hair was brown—on the rare occasions she took to wash it.
She had a pimply chin, that was usually sopping wet with the oleaginous complexion of her skin. Two droplets of oil perennially dangled from the point of this volcanic mandibular apex, gradually collecting enough oozing grease to slowly dribble to the ground.
She might have made up for some for her natural ugliness through developing habits of hygiene. But Lucinda was a slob. Her only habit of hygiene was to clean herself up once a year for Fourth of July festivities. But then she’d declare her independence from bathwater for the twelve months that would ensue, and allow filth and grease to cake up on her skin and within all the little nooks and crannies of her body.
This made her the ugliest, amongst ugly women in Oregon. Or possibly anywhere.
No male, foolish or wise, would debate that. In fact if there was anything all men residing within the newly established state of Oregon could agree upon, it would be that Lucinda Bruckles had staked out a vast claim upon the word “ugly.” And she was its rightful owner.
But she wasn’t the only one in her family with a vast claim. Lucinda Bruckles was the daughter of Ardmoore Bruckles—who was one of the greatest lumber magnates in all the state. Ardmoore Bruckles was a rich man. And a powerful man. And a very feared man.
Ardmoore had taught all his habits of hygiene to his daughter. Which weren’t much, because he himself also maintained a mucky year-round filth, caked upon his own complexion.
And he was filthy in character also. In fact, the dirtiness of his body served as an asset to him. For it reflected his reputation of a mean, unscrupulous bully. Which is exactly how he wanted others to see him.
That's how he had come by his success in logging. He had terrorized and intimidated most of his competition right out of business. Ardmoore was deadly. He was a man most intelligent men were afraid of. And most stupid men too. He was egomaniacal, martinetish, and wielded authority like a grizzly bear wields a swat.
He squashed anyone who made him angry.
But then came Philander. Philander Crook was willing to chance that anger. He thought it might be worth it.