It’s a Dog’s Life

 It’s a Dog’s Life

One page short story

By: Leo N. Ardo

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“She’s kinda cute. I’ve made eye contact. Bonus, she smells like bacon. I am so excited. Maybe they will let me run around for a while before they put me back in this cage.”

Arff-Arff.

“Two people are pointing at me. Have I got something in my fur? Let me check. … I am so dizzy … Got to stop doing that.”

“They are going to take me out of this cage. I will get to run around for a while.”

Arff, arff, bark.

“I’ve seen this before. Where? He is giving my breeder something. This same thing happened to Whitey-with-the-brown-spot. He never returned.”

“I don’t want that thing on my chest. When I get big like you, I am going to make you wear one of these. Where are we going? Blacky-with-the–white-socks, help me. Good advice, I will drag my feet. I can’t wait to get big.”

Arff, arff, Arff, ARFF.

“Why are you taking me away from my brothers and sisters—never mind, I smell food. I better run ahead to point it out. You don’t seem to be too interested. Come on, there is food ahead. I am hungry. Lets put some hustle in your step.”

“Why does he keep saying, Sit? Maybe I am supposed to run to him. Now he is speaking really slow. Okay, here I come.”

“Arff, arff-arff.

“Talk to me. You are so quiet. You smell like food.  Stop! Don’t take him away. There’s no one else to bark to. Good, he is taking that thing off my back. I don’t want to go in there! GRRrrrr. When I get big like you, you won’t push me around so easily.

“Everything keeps moving. It’s better when I lay down. I think I am getting sick. Maybe a nap will help.”

“Finally everything has stopped moving. I can nap in peace. Here comes that thing on my back again. Okay, I’ll finish my nap later. New exciting stuff to check out.”

Arff-sniff-Arff, sniff, Sniff …

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ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                               Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of several short stories. A new book is in the works—and, rewriting The Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

By: Leo N. Ardo

Are you a detail outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

At a recent writer’s conference, this question was posed at a breakout session. The room was split, about 60:40 (outliner: seat of pants). What followed was more interesting.  As the writing progressed—the outliners drifted away for their meticulous outlines and were winging it. The seat of pants writers lost valuable time as they reviewed earlier text to find continuity details. Many wished they had outlined their story.

The early days of my writing career were influenced by a manufacturing environment typically driven by procedures, forms, and lists. I began looking for similar items in the writing “industry”. The search led to forms that were nothing more than a labeled sheet, to forms with so many small boxes that even coded notes would not fit.

Offered here is a middle of the road, flexible alternative.

Characters drive stories. Magazine articles, how-to books, and blogs recommend that writers have a solid understanding of the lead and secondary characters. Some authors spend weeks defining their story’s characters before they write the first word.

A Character Map (a spin-off of Mind Mapping) is a great way to define characters and their interactions. (See attachment).  It’s simple, does not stifle creativity, and can be fun to create. The two recommended office supplies are 11×17 paper, and colored pens. Draw a center circle and print the story title inside. Draw a line from the circle toward the paper’s edge. Near the circle label the new line with a character’s name. At will, begin writing character notes and connect them to the main “branch”. Sub-branches can be used for different scenes, or to provide more detail about a particular character feature. Feel free to doodle.

A Story Summary is recommended. Add as much detail as you wish that will fit on less than two pages. (See attached). Recommend wider margins for notes as you change the summary—lately, I have found three inches on the right side should be enough.

Before writing the first word of each chapter take time to joy down notes of what to include. This can be as detailed (or not) as you want. Include key information, actions, what character details will be revealed, etc. A blank tablet, pencil, and eraser (for me, this gets more use than the pencil) are the only supplies needed. (The attached is a typed version of my handwritten notes).

This system is not for everyone. But, it does provide:

–       Character details

–       A flexible summary that can act as a guide

–       Freedom to take story in any direction one chapter at a time

–       Reference material

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                         Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

What I Learned from Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Book Review by: Leo N. Ardo

 

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The stars have aligned, and you want to become a published fiction writer. Your dream is only 60,000 words away from an editor’s approval. Writing club members, family, and friends “really like your story,” so you dedicate extra time to writing. Your book is complete. Pride oozes from your soul as your manuscript is mailed to publishers. Then the rejection letters begin to appear in the mail. What do you do?

A suggestion is to read The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), by Jack M. Bickham (1930–1997), an accomplished author and journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Jack M. Bickham published seventy-five novels—some under the pseudonym John Miles, Jeff Collins, and Arthur Williams. Two of his books were turned into movies: Apple Dumpling Gang, and Baker’s Hawk. Bickham also wrote seven instructional books about fiction writing.

He was an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma beginning in 1969 and achieved full professor standing in 1979. The University of Oklahoma recognized him with their highest honor for teaching excellence: a David Ross Boyd Professor.

“In more than twenty years of teaching courses in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, I think I’ve encountered almost every difficulty an aspiring writer might face. … So, despite the fact that I’ve chosen to write this book from what seems a negative stance, telling you what you shouldn’t do, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking negatively, or backwards, about my writing. … But my message is positive—always.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

“Bickham chose the word ‘Forward’ to replace ‘Foreword’ to emphasize two vital points: All good fiction moves forward; all good writers look ahead.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

This well written, well organized, and to-the-point book is a great reference for any writer. A sampling of the thirty-eight writing topics includes:

            – Writing vivid compelling characters

            – Getting started

            – Writing to readers

            – Patience

            – Perseverance

            – Using “said”

            – Conflict

            – Avoiding coincidence

            – Clarity for readers

            – Point of view

The chapters cover everything from getting your project started to preparing a manuscript package for an editor, and finishes with encouragement to start writing and keep writing.

Several entertaining chapters deal with character development: “Don’t Use Real People in Your Story”, “Don’t Write About Wimps”, and “Don’t Duck Trouble.”

Bickham offers guidance on who to seek advice from:

“But to ask a club member, relative or friend for criticism is mostly a waste of time for at least two reasons: they won’t be honest; they usually don’t know what they are doing anyway.” (Chapter 30, pg 85).

“A good writing coach is not just a teacher; he is an advisor, handholder, slave driver, critic, friend, psychologist, editor, even inspirational guru.” (Chapter 31, pg 89).

The chapters are one to three pages in length, and concisely describe common writing mistakes, and correct methods. Bickham has filled the 112-pages with valuable information, exercises, and examples. The book is a great addition to any writer’s reference library.

“Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land minds—writing mistakes that can dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects.” (From Back Cover of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

I think “minds” is a typo, but it works well—much like the use of “Forward” for “Foreword.” “Minds” emphasizes that good fiction is born from the application of the writer’s craft, quality, knowledge, and understanding.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good fiction is in the skilled mind of the writer—and reader.

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 ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of: culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

 

 

Writing Contest Listing – June 18, 2013

Writing Contest Listing

Updated: June 18, 2013

Here is a list of lists for writing contests. It is not a complete listing, but more than 600 individual writing contests are contained in the nine sites.

There are contests for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, creative writing, short stories, and many genres.

Various browsers may require cutting and pasting the address. On a few sites, a “Contests” or “Competitions” button needs to be clicked. Some require signing-up for membership.

The last website has helpful articles for preparing, avoiding scams, and entering writing contests.

Feel free to copy this listing, add more contests, and share.

Writing Contests

http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions/writing-competitions

http://www.freelancewriting.com/writing-contests.php

http://www.fanstory.com/contests.jsp

http://writingcontests.wordpress.com

http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/Contests/contests.htm

http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/creative-writing-contests.html

http://christianwritingcontest.com/contest2013/

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/creative-writing-contests.html

http://con13.tennesseewilliams.net

The following site has articles on how to prepare for writing contests.

www.writing-world.com/contests/index.shtml

___________________________________________________________________________ 

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals.

I write for a couple purposes, 25% of all Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series profits go to Parkinson’s disease research and education, and writing is on the bucket list. Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth, and can tell a different story to each of us. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, and what to eliminate. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit the website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Dopamine

ImageDouglas Lindquist founded Lindquist Plastics & Design fifteen years ago. He and two employees operated those three machines twenty-four hours, six-days a week. Douglas was a hard working, sincere, and logical owner that loved his employees. Problems were handled in a calm practical manner and as an opportunity to provide employee training. His employees were his extended family.

In three years Lindquist Plastics quadrupled its sales and capacity. The demands of the business forced Douglas to spend more time as the company president, and he performed engineering duties on the side—opening positions for a salesman, Bill Lewis, and an accountant, Raymond Heuter.

Bill was a personable salesman that established customer relationships quickly and did a masterful job of communicating “his” customers’ needs to production.

Raymond was a quiet person, but when he talked everyone listened. His deep voice added credibility to his thoughtful contributions. Everyone noticed Douglas went to Raymond’s office to discuss business behind closed doors. Raymond’s office was open to anyone, and as the company grew, he became the company “shrink.” The employees admired his honest nature and calm disposition.

A few months after Lindquist Plastics & Design had celebrated its tenth anniversary, Douglas began making four or five trips per day to Raymond’s office. The employees gathered in huddles and speculated what the abnormal behavior meant. Their curiosity was satisfied three months later when American Molding Enterprises (AME) arrived at the facility to announce their intentions to purchase Lindquist Plastics.

Fear became part of the employees’ environment: “Will AME lay me off?”, “Are they going to reduce my pay?”, “What are they going to do with the benefits?”, and “Will they close us down and move the equipment to their plant in Indiana?”

It was during a consoling session with the risk-adverse buyer that Raymond first noticed the twitch in his right thumb. If he held his hand in certain positions, the thumb would vibrate slightly.  After the session, he placed his hand, palm down, on the desk. The thumb vibrated wildly.

The soonest he could see his doctor was next Tuesday. The time went by fast as Raymond, Douglas, and three AME directors poured through the Lindquist Plastics financial statements, production reports, and sales plans. They worked through the weekend at the office, and Raymond took work home each day to stay ahead of the three directors. On Saturday afternoon, he noticed his handwriting was curving up to the right and growing smaller with each letter. Sunday evening Raymond’s wife, Gwen, got mad, saying, “You are working too hard. Your voice is even tired.”

By Monday, the intense meetings were beginning to take their toll on everyone. Douglas suggested they quit early on Monday and arrive late tomorrow to “Make up for leaving early today!” They had a chuckle and agreed to start at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

After the AME team departed, Douglas went to Raymond’s office.

“So, will the 10 a.m. start give you enough time?” Douglas asked. “Because, I can drag it out if you need more time.”

“The doc has two hours. That should be enough time. Thanks for helping me out,” Raymond replied.

“No problem. Leave the work here tonight. If they have to spend an extra day, so be it.”

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Raymond did not sleep that night. All the stress, long hours, and concern about his vibrating thumb had him on the brink of exhaustion. After the nurse escorted him to the examining room, he fell asleep on the examining table. Startled when the doctor opened the door, he apologized for sleeping. The exam lasted ninety minutes. It was the craziest exam he had ever experienced: tapping his thumbs and first fingers, turning his hands about the wrist, stomping his feet on the floor, and flexing his fingers in and out.

“Raymond, I think you have Parkinson’s disease,” the doctor stated. “It explains the tremor on only your right thumb, the insomnia, lack of energy, and the stiffness in your right arm and leg. Has your writing changed lately? Do people ask you to repeat a lot?”

“Yes, and yes.”

“Let’s get you an appointment with a neurologist. I had the nurse call. If we do it, they might schedule you sooner.”

Parkinson’s disease. The last ounce of vitality left Raymond like a right jab from Mohammad Ali. With the little energy he had left he requested confirmation, “Doc, are you sure it’s Parkinson’s?”

“Pretty sure, but let’s wait until a specialist examines you. I could be mistaken. It might be familial tremors. But the movement of your right side seems to be impaired compared to your left side. Tremors typically show in both sides.”

“What do I need to do between now and the appointment?”

“Nothing. But, I recommend you start figuring out how to improve your sleep and reduce the stress in your life.” There was a knock on the door. “Come in.”

The nurse handed a small card to Raymond, indicating his appointment at the neurology clinic for 3:00 p.m. next Thursday.

Raymond drove back to work, his mind jumping randomly between Parkinson’s disease, AME directors, Parkinson’s disease, telling his wife, Parkinson’s disease, and telling Douglas. What does this mean to my wife, my family, my job . . . ?

He arrived at the office at 9:55—enough time to gather his reports, binder, and computer. Douglas could tell by Raymond’s posture and stone face that the doctor visit was not good.

The refreshed AME directors were in a good mood and kept the meetings moving along. There was even a joke now and then. Raymond was able to focus on the AME information needs and was surprised at 4:30 p.m. when the AME team said they had all they needed and could use a taxi. Douglas instructed Bill Lewis to drive them to the airport.

Douglas locked the conference room door before he asked, “What did the doctor say?”

“He think’s it might be Parkinson’s,” Raymond replied.

“When do the test results come back?”

Raymond chuckled briefly before he explained, “There is no diagnostic test. It’s all an educated judgment based on a bunch of hand movements, foot stomping, the doctor’s knowledge, and the doctor moving your limbs about. It’s kind of comical if you don’t think about it too much.”

“Raymond, we will work with you. Just let us know what to do.”

“Thanks, Douglas, I really appreciate your support.”

They had worked together for seven years. Douglas knew it was better to direct the conversation toward the AME purchase proposal. It was too early to have a productive conversation about Raymond’s potential diagnosis, and it was better, for now, to keep Raymond’s mind busy.

* * * * *

Thursday, 3:45 p.m. The nurse had drawn blood to eliminate other possible Parkinson’s-like conditions. The neurologist put Raymond through a battery of movement challenges.

“We have one more test we would like to do,” the neurologist requested. “We have some drug kits for you to take home and try for a couple weeks. If it’s Parkinson’s the kits will make you feel better. If it’s not, you will still notice the thumb tremor. Come back in ten days so we can discuss your reaction to the test kit.”

“What’s your thinking?” Raymond asked.

“I am 95% positive you have early onset Parkinson’s. You are young enough to slow the progression with medication, sleep, diet, and exercise.”

“How will this affect my life?”

“Uncertain. Everyone’s journey is different. One good thing is—if you want to classify it as good—early onset PD typically progresses slower than Parkinson’s developed later in life. You could have a reasonably normal life for fifteen to twenty years on medication.”

“Who should I tell?”

“That’s your call. Some people tell everyone, some people tell no one. Do what you think is best.” The doctor waited to see if Raymond had other questions. “Okay,

let me get you a test kit. The nurse will help you with the instructions in the box. See you in ten days. Have the nurse give you the contact card for new patients, in case there is an emergency.”

On the drive back home, Raymond stopped at the park near his home and walked for eighty minutes before it started to rain. That evening at dinner he told Gwen and their two sons. The conversation lasted more than two hours as they looked up information on the Internet together. Raymond wrote down all the unanswered questions for the neurologist. Raymond invited Gwen and the boys to his next appointment.

At nine o’clock the phone rang. It was Douglas. “Hello, Raymond. What did he doctor say?”

“It looks like early onset Parkinson’s disease. The doctor thinks I might have twenty good years with medication. I have a test kit to try for the next two weeks. The kit is the last piece of the puzzle for the doctor,” Raymond answered.

“Take tomorrow off. We can discuss what you want to do about work on Monday. Do you need anything? Can I help in anyway?”

“Everything is fine.” Raymond paused for a few seconds then added, “Douglas, I would like to keep this a private matter.”

“No problem. See you Monday.”

* * * * *

The business marriage between Lindquist Plastics and American Molding Enterprises was approaching its fifth anniversary. The two businesses had benefitted from their relationship in the early days, but as time passed, it was more difficult for both groups to find common ground.

AME was having similar problems with other companies they had purchased. The AME board decided to replace the president with Benjamin Patterson whose reputation was that of a blunt bulldog with a take-no-prisoners management style. For Benjamin, nothing was out of bounds, or spared his scrutiny. His previous employer was on the verge of extinction before they promoted Benjamin to president. In six months they were recording profits and had avoided bankruptcy.

Benjamin was making his first visit to Lindquist Plastics tomorrow.

Raymond knew he was making a mistake, but his addiction to make a good impression with the new boss impaired his judgment. The perfect storm was headed for Raymond. He’d only had a protein bar for dinner, it was 10:00 p.m. with a 45-minute drive to home, his stress level was increasing as the Benjamin Patterson meeting approached, and his medication “on” period was shortening. Then, there was the conversation with Douglas earlier today.

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“Benjamin is going to insist we furlough four to six staff members. I am not suggesting anything, but have you decided what your plans are for working, retirement, or consulting?”

“I would like to continue working as long as I can contribute. We need a little more money before I retire.” Raymond thought, then added, “Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Oh no. I want to have you here in some capacity. Just wanting to know how we should present staffing in the accounting department. Benjamin will go after your bigger salary and recommend we promote Sally to your job.”

He thought about the progression of the Parkinson’s disease taking control of his body like the compound interest calculations he performed each month. Every day, something makes it more difficult: more medication, more difficulty with fine motor skills, more insomnia, more symptoms in the mix . . . Lately there is the depression which I have not discussed with anyoneGwen doesnt even know. Is this fair to Gwen? Maybe I should consider part-time?

Wednesday, 4:06 a.m. Five hours to Benjamin. Raymond’s total sleep was about two and a half hours in several ten- or fifteen-minute naps. He was already exhausted.

4:57 a.m. Four hours to Benjamin. Raymond takes his medication. It’s the first of four doses.

5:27 a.m. Three and a half hours to Benjamin. The presentation slides look good. He made a couple corrections to the script. He decides to do some stretching to loosen up his stiff muscles.

6:10 a.m. Less than three hours to Benjamin. Breakfast was two eggs, one toast with jelly, and a banana. Gwen entered the kitchen and sighed when she saw the coffee pot was empty. Raymond apologized, “I am sorry. I forgot to make the coffee.” In his mind he asked the same questions: Is this really fair to Gwen? Maybe I should work part-time? I could help out around the house to make Gwen’s life easier. After the meetings with Benjamin I will have a better idea of what to do.

7:07 a.m. Two hours to Benjamin. Raymond cranked up the hot water in the shower to relax his aching, stiff muscles. He practiced his presentation while the heat from the water penetrated his body.

7:52 a.m. One hour to Benjamin. Raymond shivered in the car while he waited for the heat to replace the cold air. In two months he had developed an uncontrollable shaking when his body was cold. He decided he should not drive while his body wasn’t under his complete control.

8:40 a.m. Twenty minutes to go. There was a strange car in the visitor’s parking stall. He is already here!

8:44 a.m. Fifteen minutes to go. As Raymond entered his office, he saw Benjamin in Douglas’s office. Benjamin was pacing, and his gestures were exaggerated. Occasionally, Douglas would roll his eyes when Benjamin turned away. Raymond’s stress level increased as he thought, Benjamin must be off the mark if Douglas is rolling his eyes. Benjamin made eye contact with Raymond and checked his watch. A twinge of paranoia rippled through Raymond’s body.

8:54 a.m. Six minutes. Raymond thought, It will be ten minutes before everyone was seated. The room was silent except for Benjamin talking on his cell phone.

8:58 a.m. He forgot to take the Levadopa tablet. Raymond had planned to take his second dose before the meeting. It was earlier than his regular schedule, but he wanted to be at full capacity during his presentation. He was about to take a quick trip to his office when Benjamin ended the call.

“Gotta go, I’ll call you later when we have a plan.” He pressed the end button, set the phone on the table, and began, “Good morning. I would like to start with a little story about my grandpa. He was a dirt farmer in the Texas panhandle. Grew mostly wheat and cotton. When times were tough, he had to make hard decisions about how to manage their meager funds. When times were good, I knew, because he would give me seventy-five cents for a show and popcorn.” As the tardy team members entered during the introduction, Benjamin would point at an empty chair. He wanted everyone to know he was in control. “Well, times are tough, and we need to decide how to manage our meager funds. I am here today to work with you on reducing our overhead and staff so that money can be used in manufacturing. Raymond, you’re up.”

The presentation went well for about twenty minutes, then the medication’s effectiveness began to wane. Raymond’s body was battling the stress by consuming dopamine at a serous rate as it was converted to adrenaline. Douglas knew what was happening to Raymond and glanced over to see Benjamin lift the top page on the tablet, write something, then put the top page back. Aware of the early warning symptoms, Raymond pushed to finish the presentation.

Benjamin thanked Raymond without eye contact, picked up the agenda, and said to Bill Lewis, “Okay Bill, you’re up.”

Raymond left the conference room to take his medication.

Benjamin made another note on page two of his tablet.

The meeting continued into the lunch hour. When the group split up to eat, Benjamin and Douglas were alone in the conference room.

Benjamin asked, “Why do you need Raymond? He is doing a good job, but can’t we promote Sally the controller and get the job done for less? He has a sizeable salary. Did you hear the shaking in his voice this morning?” Bill Lewis entered the room. Benjamin said, “We can continue this later this afternoon.”

The afternoon meetings were conducted in smaller groups but were more intense. The mid-afternoon break was delayed to finish the draft of the new business plan. Raymond was an hour past due for medication. His hands were slow and shaking as he tried to keep up with the discussion. The mistakes were projected onto the screen from his laptop, and he was scolded each time Benjamin found a mistake—more stress, more adrenaline, and less dopamine. His symptoms were almost in full bloom, and he could feel the scrutiny targeted at him from Benjamin. He was finding it difficult to keep up with the multiple conversations, his focus was impaired, and his voice was nearly inaudible.

At the break, Benjamin waited a minute then wandered toward Raymond’s office. He was about to enter when he saw, through the gap between the window blinds and frame, the bottle of medication on Raymond’s desk. A bottle he knew all to well—Levadopa. Just like Angie, his wife. Raymond had Parkinson’s disease.

He stared a minute at the bottle, then began walking toward Douglas’s office. He thought about how his wife, with great desire and effort, worked to be normal, the tremendous effort she mustered each day to keep Parkinson’s under control, and the sacrifices she made to rest her body.

He entered Douglas’s office. Douglas asked, “Do you want to finish your discussion about Raymond?”

“No. Were you going to tell me about Raymond’s Parkinson’s?”

Douglas let the question float in the air for a few seconds. “Did he tell you?”

“No. I saw the medication on his desk. Same stuff my wife takes. I completely understand. He is functioning at the level that we need, but I am guessing he is working way too hard to keep up. He must be dead tired preparing for this meeting. What can we do that would benefit him and us?”

Douglas had an answer, but the surprise turnabout from Benjamin caught him off guard.

“Here is what I suggest . . .”

* * * * *

Benjamin was in the conference room preparing for his quarterly review at Lindquist Plastics. Sally, the new finance director was visibly frantic. She was about to make her second presentation to Benjamin, and the first one had not gone well.

“Sally, relax. You know this stuff. You are doing a great job. He will notice the difference,” Raymond said to calm her.

Benjamin walked into Sally’s office. “What he said. You know this stuff, and I am happy with the progress we are making. I’ll see you in the conference room.”

There was an awkward moment while Sally realized that that was her queue to leave.

“Yes, see you in the conference room,” she acknowledged.

She closed the door as she left.

“How are you doing?” Benjamin asked.

“Good. Started biking again. That really helps,” Raymond replied.

“It really helps Amy. I can tell the difference if she misses a day. She started kettle ball classes a few weeks ago. So . . . How long are you here today?”

“Until two o’clock.”

“Think you can make it until four or five? I would like your perspective. And you have a calming effect on Sally.”

“I’d be happy to. No problem!”

__________________________________________________________________________________

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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Rocky Rookie wRiter

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Launching was the right word—not: methodical, well planned, orderly, logical, or designed. Previously, the total summation of my writing was memos, business reports, and travel journals which contained observations of people, humorous encounters, and a little about the destination. Excerpt from Un-Launching a Writing Career.

The first year of my writing career started out as great fun. Later in the year, I began an unwelcome process of re-writing portions of books brought on by charging ahead of my skills.

ImageAmong friends in golf, a mulligan is typically an unscored extra drive because of a disappointing ball flight. The first ball has sliced, or hooked, so far out of bounds that it lands off the course, or maybe it dribbled across the ground and stopped twenty yards up the fairway.

At times, a writing mulligan would be nice. The following is my writing mulligan. If I began to write today or offered advice to a new writer, this would be my recommendation.

Read, read, read . . . Anything in a favorite genre, books by favorite authors, how-to books on writing craft, articles about successful authors, blogs on writing, genre e-zines, etc. And then, on that morning when the desire to write is driving the soul, it’s time to replace some of the reading with writing. Reading needs to be part of the routine, forever.

Practice, practice, practice . . . Write what’s on your mind—short stories, a journal, articles, paragraphs and single pages to file for later use, the church bulletin, fiction, non-fiction, etc. Have favorite writings critiqued by family, friends, an editor, college literature majors, or your high school English teacher. You might have to pay for some of the reviews. No word limit/target. When the quality of the work, and the feedback make you comfortable, it’s time for the next step. One caution: be sure to use family members and friends that will provide honest feedback. Okay, two cautions, you must be open minded about the feedback—the reader is always right!

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Take a writing class . . . Learn how to outline books, develop a writing style, keep a writing journal, improve your craft, develop characters, overcome writer’s block, improve readability, work with publishers, etc. Hopefully, critiquing will be part of the class or a separate class. If not, start a group that meets for coffee between classes.

Using your preferred process, outline the entire book and combine it with everything you have learned to write the best first chapter possible. Entertainment, craft, and quality are important! Take the time to do it right—if needed, twenty drafts are okay. When you are happy with the first chapter, place it in a drawer for a few weeks.

While the first chapter is curing, find the nit-pickiest reviewer(s) possible: someone that can evaluate your writing style, plot, grammar, content, sale-ability, etc. It’s possible the reviewer may want three chapters, and it may require a couple of people to provide a well-rounded evaluation. This process will probably require payment.

Blow the dust off, then proofread it until your inner voice says, “Give it to the reviewer already.”

While the chapter is being scrutinized, prepare for the evaluation. An editor told me that less than 3% of books initially pass editorial review. Read the evaluation without judgment. Put the evaluation and partial manuscript in a drawer for up to two weeks, and then with an open mind evaluate the evaluation.  Compare your writing to published authors. Determine if the comments are technical or entertainment related. The technical problems can be corrected by hiring an expert, attending night school, hiring a tutor, etc.

At this point, there is enough information, review, skill, and feedback to make an informed decision.

ImageRobert Frost wrote “The Road Not Taken.” Much like Frost’s decision, there is a moment of truth for writers. Is the feedback promising? Is the desire to write filling your soul? If you don’t care about the long days, lonely work, or the hours to be spent agonizing over three words, then you are a writer.

“The Road Not Taken,” by ROBERT FROST (click here)

Also check out Cristian Mihai blog post “Rules, Rules, Rules” at cm.net/2013/04/26/rules-rules-rules/

___________________________________________________________________________________

Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. Thank You!

Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation

Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation – Part 3 of 2

By: Leo N.Ardo

South of Lexington, Kentucky, one and a half hours to the destination, she is happy it’s not longer. The rain is making the driving difficult and dangerous. Only positive from the long drive is plenty of time to think about the confusing relationship dilemma. If I stay with . . .

Interrupting her thought is a single truck tire rolling at high speed through the median toward her. Reflex jerks the car to the right. The front tires have enough traction to act as anchors while the rear end slides equal with the front. The two side tires skid ten feet before the car begins to roll.

The first rotation breaks the driver’s window. She watches her wallet, snack cooler, and coffee cup pass by her face and settle on the ground. She can see them on the highway for a split second before they are struck by a yellow moving van. Reflex directs her arms overhead, which by now is actually under-head as the car is rolling on its top.

Another full roll, and the car lands on its wheels. She can feel the rain on her left arm. Someone is talking to me. A warm hand touches her arm. The last words she hears, “Are you okay?”

When the highway patrolman arrives, traffic is backed up for a mile, and the large raindrops are relentless as they pelt his rain slicker. The loose contents and chards of the windows are scattered along the highway. The smaller pieces are washed away with the rain. The coffee cup is flat, the cooler is in about 50 pieces ranging from a fully intact lid to pieces about the size of a quarter, and the wallet is wedged between the rear dual tires of the yellow moving van which is instructed to park up the road about 50 feet so traffic can move in the far left lane.

The ambulance arrives. The paramedics check the driver quickly for life, then broken bones. Carefully, they remove her from the car, strap her to the gurney, slide the gurney in the ambulance, connect the life saving solution bags, then race to the nearest emergency room. She is unconscious.

The patrolman records the license plate number QR8DRAT to later identify the driver. The wallet and registration form are not in the car. The car is winched onto the transport. Two miles from the transport service storage yard the license plate falls onto the transport track bed, vibrates to the back, and falls onto the road.

Ten days earlier . . . Beth removes her car from the Bowling Green Hospital Emergency Entrance into the adjacent parking lot. The 1972 Dodge Dart is in the same mint condition as the day her father gifted it four years ago. The chosen parking space is six stalls from the nearest vehicle at the end of the parking lot.

Three minutes with the rearview mirror to touch-up her make-up and hair before locking the car, and proceeding to the entrance. Walking out the ER door is Sidney Scott; former boyfriend, construction manager for a series of dams in Kenya, and the kernel of her thoughts many times the past two years. Beth could see he still maintained the build needed to keep his Bowling Green wrestling scholarship. Slumping shoulders and gazing at his feet reveals his concentration on troubling news.

“Sidney.” Beth startled him.

Sidney took a few seconds to collect his thoughts, “Beth, how nice to see you, I was about to call. My aunt Jessie is struggling with lung cancer. She wants me to call you. She said you were a good friend. I think she wanted us to see each other.” He added, “What are you doing here?”

“A work associate’s daughter came out of a coma and I brought him to the hospital.”

“The little girl in ICU is the talk of the hospital. Aunt Jessie is in room 223. Stop in if you have time.”

“How long have you been in town?” Inquiring for two reasons: one, for conversation, and two, to find out if she is still a priority.

“Two days ago, the day aunt Jessie was admitted.”

“I’ll drop by later this evening,” she says.

The emergency door opens automatically as Beth approaches. The elevator bank is fifty feet down the hallway. The up-button opens the elevator to her right. Inside, the button panel indicates ICU is on the third floor. On the second floor, two nurses enter talking about the recovery of a little girl from a coma.

At the third floor, Beth takes a few seconds to orient herself while the elevator door closes behind her. To the right is the information desk, and she is about to ask for the room number when Charlie walks out into the hallway. She waves her hand and calls to Charlie.

“Thank you for stopping. It was a brave act when you thought I was a ‘bank robber’,” Charlie continues. “The doctors are giving Erin a check-up. They want to hold her overnight for observation. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? The doc’s will be about half an hour, according to Erin’s ICU nurse.”

“That would be lovely,” Beth replied.

They return to the elevator, take it to the first floor, and walk to the cafeteria.

“We are going to miss you at dinner, and Melissa will miss those General Boelinger burgers on Friday’s,” a doctor says.

“Dinner?” Beth inquires.

“I eat dinner here every night—It’s close to Erin.” Charlie points to the coffee urn, “Coffee is over here.”

They select a table by the window, and like Beth’s Dart, they are five empty tables from the closest people.

“When we go back to Erin’s room I’ll introduce you two.”

“I would like that. What are your plans now that Erin is okay?”

“The doctor wants us to hang around Bowling Green for another day. I want to release Hannah’s ashes as soon as possible for Erin’s well being. They were very close. Erin has already started with her questions: Will mommy wake up too?, How long before mommy wakes up?, and Can we bring mommy here so they can wake her too?” Charlie pauses as he realizes the weight of those questions. He slowly continues, “I need to contact Pawpaw, Hannah’s father. He lives with us. He and Erin are as close as Hannah and Erin were. Pawpaw is a wonderful man. He raised Hannah on his own. He walks Erin to and from daycare, plays cards with her, and helps her with colors, alphabet, counting, etc.” Charlie pauses again, “Another reason to get Erin home quickly is so she can get into a routine with Pawpaw.”

They continue to talk for another twenty minutes.

The doctors, nurses, and two carts leave Erin’s room as Beth and Charlie arrive. Erin is sitting up right. A big smile greets Charlie along with two arms extended for a hug. A big hug, which Charlie needs more than Erin, takes a couple minutes.

Anticipating Erin’s barrage of questions he words Beth’s introduction carefully. “Erin this is Beth. She gave me a ride to the hospital today. I work with her.”

“Did you drive all the way from ‘Sythana’ just to give daddy a ride?” Erin asks.

Beth offers her hand to Erin. “Your dad did not tell you the whole story,” Beth explains as they shake hands

Erin replies, “He does that a lot lately. I am three and a half. I know when he is protectin’ me.”

Beth adds, “We girls know these things don’t we?”

Erin, looking at her dad with all the confidence she can muster, “Yes.”

Charlie wanting to talk to the doctors says, “I will leave you two girls to talk for a couple minutes.”

Erin waves to dad, and says to Beth, “He just wants to talk to the doctors. He’s a good dad. He cares for me.”

Beth begins to fix Erin’s hair and talk about the accident, Erin being “asleep” for four months, and Charlie working at the warehouse.

Charlie returns to the room as Beth says, “The pickup ran out of gas and I gave your dad a ride to the hospital.” Beth suggested to Charlie, “Why don’t I take you and a few gallons of gas back to your pickup.”

At the gas station, Charlie has to purchase a three-gallon red plastic container for gas at $12.00. The same can is $2.85 at the discount store. Beth took me to the hospital. Now she is helping me get gas. I can’t take advantage of her kindness. He reluctantly pays $12.00 for the container plus $13.75 for the gas.

Beth watches Charlie pour three gallons of gas into the classic pickup. Her thoughts are how fast and furious they met today: she knew Charlie – by name only – for four months, then a bank robber for two days, and today he introduces Erin. It might be a big intrusion to have dinner with them in Erin’s room. Beth says, “Charlie, I know . . .”

Charlie interrupted, “Beth, I can’t thank you enough for all your help today: driving me to the hospital, talking with Erin, and helping me find gas. Erin was struggling with Hannah’s death before the coma. I want to be alone with her so she can talk about Hannah.”

Her “intrusion” version did not bother her, but Charlie’s “so she can talk” explanation hurt. Erin and I became good friends almost instantly.

A couple accelerator pumps, three turns of the starter, and the engine comes to life. They exchange waves from inside their vehicles. Beth enters traffic first, turns right at the corner, and wipes a tear from her eye. Charlie enters traffic and returns to the hospital.

Charlie and Erin have dinner together for the first time in four months, in the hospital room. Charlie stays the night.

Erin is released the next morning—The perfect beginning to an enjoyable day touring Bowling Green. She calls Pawpaw and talks for twenty minutes. Charlie’s admiration grows as he imagines Pawpaw’s portion of the conversation.

Later in the week, Beth and Doris are having lunch together. Doris playing the role of an amateur psychologist—asking the probing questions while Beth analyzes the situation.

“How are you doing?” Doris asks.

“Okay, I guess.” Beth pauses for a few seconds then adds, “Sidney’s back in town. We have had a couple dates. It has been fun.”

“Like or love?” Doris asks as a good friend who is also curious about the answer.

“Unsure, leaning toward like,” Beth replies as she shrugs, then continues to answer the next question before Doris asks. “Charlie sent a letter before they left Taos. Describing the ceremony in Taos and that Erin has been quiet since releasing the ashes. He is planning a birthday party hoping to cheer her up. His focus is Erin’s depression. He thanked me again for taking him to the hospital. That’s about it.”

“Well, all the questions are to find out if you’re going to stick around. I want to offer you a promotion to Customer Service Supervisor,” Doris informs.

“Oh my, this is exciting! Tell me more,” Beth says oozing with joy.

Cynthiana, Kentucky. Two days later. Pawpaw asks Charlie, “She’s still not talking to you?”

“I am the bearer of bad news. My answers to the mommy questions do not satisfy her,” Charlie answered. “I think she understands Hannah is gone and can’t be put back in the urn, and blaming me for not trying to wake Hannah.”

“I imagine you answered several versions of that question.”

“Yes. Actually, she was good until Hannah’s ashes were gone. It was a difficult decision, but I hope it is better for Erin long-term. Oh, I forgot to mention, I received a call from day care about Erin’s melancholy behavior. The day care manager told me Erin stares out the window about half the day, and her drawings and doodles are the same theme—a dad plus mom plus child.”

“You did the right thing. It will be good for her to get closure. It’s tough on kids, but she will bounce back quickly,” Pawpaw adds.

“So… Erin’s birthday is next Saturday. What do I need to do?” Charlie inquires.

“Most of the planning is complete. The invitations have been mailed. You need to decide what entertainment you want.”

Saturday afternoon 1:30 p.m., Charlie is nervous. He is placing a lot of hope on this birthday party. And, in thirty minutes he will be responsible for fourteen kids for ninety minutes. He is trying not to think about it too much as he hangs the last “Happy Birthday Erin!” banner.

At 1:50 moms begin dropping off their children. At 1:55, Pawpaw and Erin return from their walk to the grocery store. Eight friends are kicking a balloon like a soccer ball, while the soccer ball sits under the banner.

As Erin approaches the house she looks to Pawpaw. He says, “It’s still early. Be patient. Be sure you thank your dad. And, be surprised.”

She runs to Charlie, who lifts her for a hug. “Thank you dad.” A minute later she is playing with her friends.

Mr. Science arrives at 2:30. His show is thirty minutes and ends with Erin assisting in making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Charlie is busy cleaning up, setting up, and watching Erin have fun. Occasionally, she watches the street. Charlie thought she must be watching for Hannah—the ultimate birthday gift.

At 4:30 they are still entertaining two kids. Their mom arrives at 4:40. Charlie and Pawpaw finish cleaning up at 5:30. Erin smiles as she naps on the sofa.

On Sunday mornings Pawpaw cooks breakfast. Charlie wanders into the kitchen, and pours a coffee. “I think the party was a big hit. I talked with Erin after the party and her mood was good.”

Pawpaw added, “I noticed a change walking back from the grocery store yesterday. The only thing that would have improved the party was the arrival of Beth.”

“Beth? Is that who Erin was watching for yesterday?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, I helped Erin write the card inviting her to the birthday party.” Pawpaw adds, “Erin heard us planning the party. I promised to keep her invitation a secret. She wanted to surprise you. I have talked a few times with Beth after she received the invitation—nice gal. I was expecting her. She said she would be here.”

Charlie is outside picking-up the Sunday newspaper as a Highway Patrol Car stops by the curb.

The patrolman opens the passenger’s window and says, “Are you Paul Potter?”

“Paul is my father-in-law,” Charlie replies.

“Then you would be Charlie?”

“Yes.”

“These birthday invitations were the only way we had of identifying this Beth. They were pinched between the visor and the roof. Sargent Foley misread the license plate, the registration wasn’t in the car, and there was no wallet. She is in a coma at Lexington’s Saint Benedict’s Hospital. Can you come and identify her?”

“Yes. We will be there in about two hours,” Charlie responded.

“See you there,” The officer handed an envelope to Charlie, and then drove off. The hand written birthday invitation from Erin is decorated with hand-drawn hearts, balloons, and flowers. It reads: Beth, I miss you. Daddy miss you. Can you come to my birthday party? Thank you, Erin.

With the invitation is a letter from Pawpaw to Beth:

Beth,

I am writing this letter to invite you to Erin’s birthday party next Saturday the 18th at 2:00 p.m. The invitation is Erin’s own handwriting. I helped a little, but she insisted on inviting you.

I am Hannah’s father living with Charlie and Erin. Both talk about you every day. I am an old man, but I can still read my son-in-law. He, and Erin, would enjoy your company at the party.

Sincerely:

Paul Potter

(584)-555-3967

Charlie wakes Erin and tells her about Beth’s accident and the visit from the patrolman. While explaining the situation to Pawpaw, Erin begins honking the pickup horn.

At the hospital, they are directed to room 232. Erin runs out of the elevator when it stops at the second floor. She peeks in every room until she finds Beth. Erin looks to the nurse who nods okay and gestures toward the room. Her small hand reaches between the bed’s safety rail and touches Beth’s arm. Charlie and Pawpaw enter the room as Erin says, “Beth, you are going to be okay. I know because I am.”

Charlie left the room to talk with the doctor and the patrolman. He had heard it all when Erin was in a coma: uncertain when she will wake-up, has been out since she hit her head, the longer she ‘sleeps’ decreases her odds of waking, and most people wake-up in less than five days.

Charlie signs some papers for the patrolman that identifies Jane Doe as Beth Wilton. About twenty minutes pass before he returns to the room. He hears their voices as he approaches Beth’s room. He smiles when he hears the third voice. As he enters the room, Beth looks up and says, “We have to stop meeting like this … ”

* * * * *

Note: It’s true; this is part 3 of 2. The original short story was written in two parts. Part three is the follow-up to the original requested by several readers.

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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Batteries

Batteries

By: Leo N. Ardo

It’s 5:00 a.m. on any morning, and Janice’s body is stiff and her mind is tired from a fitful night’s sleep. She has been lying in bed awake for about sixty-five minutes attempting to muster enough energy to leave the warm bed to take her four medications. Experience has taught her she has about fifteen more minutes or the whole day will be unpleasant.

A leg is poked out past the sheet. From the knee to the heel is placed alongside the mattress and used as a lever to pull the bottom half of her body to the side of the bed. A push with the right shoulder and arm brings her body upright, where she sits for a couple minutes to be sure her balance is steady.

Luckily the journey to the kitchen is uneventful. A couple balance checks, but she manages to avoid any falls. Several month’s ago she kept the medications by the bed, but there is a delay in their effectiveness–Especially, the first dosage. The temptation to return to bed waiting on the medications to ramp-up is too high for Janice. Her day is more productive if she struggles through the thirty-minute ramp-up period.

The two small pills are swallowed at the same time. Her throat muscles, affected by her condition easily push multiple small pills. The two larger pills are swallowed one at a time because occasionally one gets stuck in her throat. When this happens there is a mad dash to drink more water, tilt the head, and swallow hard hoping to dislodge the pill. It happens a hundred times a year, but her confidence is shaken by the degenerative nature of her disease. She can never count on predictable performance, and once went seven days without a stuck pill, but on the eighth day it blocks her airway and panic set in before the fourth heavy wash dislodges it.

To help her understand, Janice has created an image of batteries that fuel little pumps feeding lubricant to her muscles and joints, and electrifying fans blowing away the fog. Depending on the time since the last prescription, she has somewhere between three and a half to four and a half hours before the batteries must be recharged.

The clock has started on the short, useful life of the medication. Hunger pains and gurgling noises are presenting themselves, but one of the med’s requires a two hour protein-less period—An hour before and an hour after. Experimenting has validated she can have the non-protein portion of her breakfast now, and the protein in thirty minutes. She will read while the drugs pass to the small intestines where they are broken down into the chemicals that allow her to look normal, and suppress her symptoms. Later today she will have to deal with the side effects of the drugs. For now, she brews a cup of herbal tea.

The slow nature of her disease distorts her perception of normal being. Occasionally something reminds her that everyday her condition worsens. Today it is a shaking cup of tea. Four drops escape the cup and land on her pajama pants. Her left hand is required to steady the cup.

Twenty minutes pass, the drugs kick in: the mind fog is clearing, the muscle stiffness is subsiding, her focus is returning, and the shaking is disappearing. Today will be a good day.

A soothing hot shower signals the end of the day’s easy part.

The meds are arching through their life cycle. Today, a three-hour period of “normalcy” will take place four times. For Janice, it is three hours which she is physically, mentally, and emotionally at her best, if she is careful; and yet, she will experience the most misunderstanding of her condition by family, close friends, co-workers, and the general public.

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Stress is her enemy. Any physical, mental, or emotional stress produces the same effect of draining her batteries. The body’s defense for stress is adrenaline. Janice knows from her research that adrenaline is made from three amino acids plus dopamine, which makes up half the chemical cocktail.

When the batteries discharge early, the muscles stiffen and mental fog develops. She looks normal, but inside, her body and mind are battling against the lack of key chemicals. She sees herself as an expired carton of milk—Looks like all the others, but inside it is very different.

A feared side effect of taking too much medication requires her to stay on a strict medication schedule. From now until twenty minutes after the next dose, her desperate body is draining the batteries too fast as it consumes the temporary reserves of medication. She knows by the early warning signals of a soft voice and word search that she has about forty minutes of battery left.

She hates this part of any day. Everyone sees her as: normal, a knowledgeable resource for solving problems, someone with mental clarity, having endless capacity, and a multitasking octopod. They have come to rely on Janice’s experience, expertise, and skill. However, Janice is working harder each day to continually meet these expectations (an activity that creates stress, thus draining the batteries faster).

A number of symptoms begin to take-over as the batteries near exhaustion. The voice in her head continues at the same volume, but the spoken voice fades frustrating listeners to ask for repeats, which drains the batteries faster. The key words are clearly written on the inside of her forehead, but they will not leave their sanctuary. Words simply won’t surface creating a strange pause in her speech. Her handwriting becomes very tiny, but completely legible, with a magnifying glass. She has difficulty following, or participating in, multilayered discussions. Her ability to multitask is impaired. Short-term memory tasks are easily misplaced by another thought while in pursuit of the now lost original task.

Janice survives to the next prescription appointment. Twenty minutes later she is “normal” again.

On the way home, Janice almost rear-ends a small SUV with a dog in the back. Luckily, her reaction time was good enough to avoid the collision. But, now she needs to pull into a parking lot and wait through the ten-minute shake down that follows an adrenaline rush. It is the sudden consumption of dopamine that creates the shakes.

* * * * *

This short story is dedicated to a dear friend with Parkinson’s Disease, who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you for taking time to help us understand.

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Author Pix - Leo N Ardo - medium

Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay (Part 2 of 2)

A Comedy of Repairs The Wedding Essay   (Part 2 of 2)

By: Leo N. Ardo

“I’ll be right there. Have Max dress for chores. This is an opportunity to teach a good lesson,” Sawyer said, attempting to hide the frustration with his boy. Cora knew by Sawyer’s tenor that it was best to let him use this teaching moment. Besides, she had a bride to dress.

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On the drive home, Sawyer recalled the ring story. After the proposal, his father had made weekly payments for five months to purchase the ring through layaway. The county justice of the peace married them a week later. The ring never left her hand until Jill announced her engagement.

Max and Cora met Sawyer at the door. Cora provided the abridged version of the incident: Max was told to get the ring out of the cleaner and dry it off but, instead, put the wet ring on his thumb, and it slipped off into the heater vent. “Just take care of this. I have to fix Jill’s hair and make-up,” she lectured while walking away.

Sawyer and Max used a mirror and flashlight to look inside the heater tube. They did not find the ring. Jill shot Max a look of disgust as they went downstairs. Sawyer and Max searched the basement floor under the homemade vent reducer. Sawyer handled the flashlight while Max looked under the washer, dryer, hot water heater, and utility sink. No ring.

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Sawyer told Max they had to look farther into the vent tubing. Carefully, they would take the tube apart to keep the ring from falling into the furnace. Sawyer stood on the sewer pipe to inspect the vent tube before disassembly. He was about to step off the pipe when the top collapsed.

Max pinched his nose and said, “Ewww.” He was instructed to get a piece of cardboard and roll of duct tape from the garage.

Sawyer climbed the stairs and began telling the girls the bathroom was off limits the rest of today. His announcement was greeted by a few stares. Stares he knew were a substitute for a single word: “Men!”

He went to Ike and Silvia’s next door to ask if the girls could borrow their bathroom for an hour. Sawyer returned to inform the girls that Ike and Silvia made their bathroom available. Jill’s maid of honor and a bridesmaid headed for the door. For a few seconds, they imitated the Chip and Dale chipmunk cartoons with their “no, after you” routine. Cora and Sawyer exchanged smiles.

Max returned to the basement with the supplies. Sawyer shaped the cardboard over the hole in the pipe. He instructed Max to hold it in place while he secured it with duct tape. Sawyer pulled off a long strip of tape and wrapped it around the pipe and cardboard. He told Max, “Grandpa installed this sewer pipe before I married your mother in this house. It was a dirt basement back then. Grandma had insisted they have indoor plumbing because she was embarrassed to have our guests go to the outhouse.”

Max was struggling with the odor and asked, “Dad, can you tell me the sewer story later?”

Sawyer pulled another strip of tape and wrapped it around the pipe. While Max was still holding the cardboard, Sawyer talked to him about: being responsible, the right time to play, the right time to be dependable, consequences for letting people down, and he needed to start being aware of the differences.

“Daaad!”

Sawyer pulled several tape strips and secured the cardboard. When he was satisfied the wedding and reception was safe from any distasteful odor, a mini scaffold was constructed over the patch.

Max provided the tools as requested while Sawyer disassembled the vent tube. There it was, one foot past the homemade reducer. The dust that had collected while sliding down the vent was blown off, and the ring was handed to Max to wipe off with his shirt. Max slid the ring into his pants pocket. The vent was reassembled.

After Max dressed for his ring bearer responsibilities, Sawyer and Max went to Buffalo Hills. Before they went inside Sawyer asked, “Are you being responsible?” Max retrieved the ring from the inside jacket pocket and said, “I am keeping it close to my heart for luck.”

Sawyer offered Max a cup of coffee so he could be one of the guys. Bill brought over a half cup of coffee for Max. Max checked the surrounding cups and said, “I thought guys only drank black coffee.” Everyone laughed. Thomas asked Bill if he would bring another cup of black coffee to everyone. Thomas offered a toast, “To jitters.” “To jitters” was repeated as the new cups were raised in the air.

At 10:40 the guys returned to the house for the wedding. The minister arrived at 10:55. Cora and Sawyer wheeled Grandma Gina in her adjustable bed into the dining room turned wedding chapel. The family took their positions in the “chapel,” and Cora closed the new pocket doors. The loud click started the cassette tape of wedding music. The minister cleared his throat. As the pocket doors were opened they fell off the rail and were stuck. While Sawyer tried to repair the doors, the right door swung on the outside roller and the sharp corner cut through the re-routed electrical wire. The chandelier went dark.

Cora was holding back her tears. Sawyer heard the familiar sniffling. He was about to break out in laughter but decided it would increase the number of sniffling girls, one of which might be Jill. In his best I-am-in-charge voice he instructed the minister to begin. The minister started, “Let us pray.” Sawyer’s body jiggled as he attempted to control the giggling. Jill and Thomas were also trying to control their giggling.

Thomas placed Grandma’s ring on Jill’s finger as she said I do. Grandma Gina cried.

When the minster said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” the right pocket door fell off the rail. Several laughs could be heard in the “chapel.”

The afternoon was filled with food, conversation, gifts, invited guests coming and going, wishes, and dishes. Amy and Max washed and dried dishes until the dirty saucers and cups stopped coming.

Jill and Thomas left the reception about 4:00 p.m. to begin their life together.

Max asked if he could move into Jill’s room now. Sawyer told him he could move when Jill had removed her stuff.

At 9:00 Amy and Max were sound asleep on the sofa. Cora and Sawyer carried them to bed. Cora found a handwritten story titled “The Wedding Assay” on Amy’s desk and took it to read to Sawyer.

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My sister got marred today and it were a disaster. My bubdling brother dropped the wedding ring in the vent. My dad had to use the sewer pipe as a stool to reach the heater vent tube. It broke so we could not use the toilet. The new pocket door broke. When it broke it burned out the new dining room shandalear. My sister said “I Do” behind the broken door. My grandma broke her back and she cried when the preacher said I pronouns you man and wife. Mom cried. She does not like Tomass because he is not a doctor or a attormoney. We had lunch. I washed hundreds of plates. They ate cake. I washed hundreds of saucers. Jill and Tomass lived happliy ever after. I put lotion on my hands.

The end

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Part One: Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment

Part Two: Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay

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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!