Empty Sky Chapter 14 – Detective Colodnie Johnson

Questions Without Answers

Read Empty Sky Chapter 13 – John Nighthorse


Detective Colodnie Johnson huffed and puffed her way to the Lake Shore Limited‘s security station at the rear of the kitchen car. Despite the smoothness of the ride she waddled in the narrow train aisles and pulled herself along as if climbing uphill. She hadn’t eaten before leaving Chicago and didn’t want Games or McPherson to know she followed them onboard so she stayed in her berth all through supper chain smoking. Her stomach moaned in disbelief.

She sneered into one of the security cameras as she passed underneath and wondered what whoever was on the other end saw. A big, black woman? She wasn’t really all that black. She could have passed for a dark skinned Mediterranean, maybe a Sicilian or a Moroccan, her features were soft and her skin rarely ashed. There was an Italian girl in college with Colodnie, big like Colodnie. The BSU, the college’s Black Student Union, approached her to join but not Colodnie. She found out years later they were so embarrassed by their first mistake they didn’t dare make another so never invited her to join.

In the beginning she thought she wasn’t good enough, maybe not black enough or not militant enough or not cerebral enough. Maybe they found out about her Aunt Connie, who ironed her hair and passed for the thirty years she worked as a secretary downtown, and that’s why they never spoke to her or called her “sistah.”

Or maybe they were just fucking morons, such totally inept fools, clods, and idiots they didn’t deserve the likes of her.

She got her degree, enrolled in the Chicago Police Academy, and started eating two portions instead of one with every meal all in the same week. Smoking came much, much later.

She tapped on the patrol station door. It was ajar and no one answered. She withdrew her GP100 7 Shot .357 Magnum from its holster and slammed herself against the door, ramming whoever might be on the other side into the wall.

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Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Aug 2019’s Great Opening Lines)

A Pale View of Unbearable Lightness

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

“Niki, the name we finally gave my younger daughter, is not an abbreviation; it was a compromise I reached with her father.” – Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills
I’m amazed at how much is given the reader in that single sentence. I want to know that Ishiguro agonized over it, that it’d been through seventeen-hundred drafts, endless workshoppings, backs-and-forths with dozens of editors.

Either that or it’s one of those amazing flukes the author is unaware of until someone points it out to them.

We’re given the two focal point characters in that opening line; Niki and her mother. We learn that the mother is not happy with the name, but was willing to compromise on something that would be in her life forever – if that’s not character description nothing is.

We learn that “we” made the decision about “my” daughter. Possession but not ownership. Another character descriptive element.

We learn the mother prefers names that are not abbreviations. IE, names that have more meaning, more history. However, the fact that the mother thinks in terms of abbreviations lets us know that the mother sees things confined, constrained, walled-in.

In one sentence, we have the entirety of the book.

Note to readers: I explain in my Goodreads review that this book is a major fail. It’s got a killer opening line and the majority of the book is a worthy read. Ten pages from the end it died for me. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

“The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!” – Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I (incorrectly) reference this book’s opening line in my Writers’ Corner Interview. The opening line offers this philosophical tidbit, the next line, “What does this mad myth signify?” asks the question and the rest of the book explores so many implications it’s staggering. The book’s seven sections dissect the opening posit from many angles (more than seven) and the first line’s theme recursed on every page.

I also appreciate that an opening line inviting readers to think may be a major downer to some. Never-the-less, this opening line prepares you for the exploration that begins in the second paragraph and doesn’t end until the butterfly circles the room and the piano and violin are faintly heard in the last paragraph. Definitely a keeper book.

Do you have any great opening lines you’d like to share?
I’d love to know them. There’s a catch, though. You have to explain in context why a line is great. Saying a line is great because it comes from some great literature doesn’t cut it. Quoting from archaic and/or little known works doesn’t cut it.

Feel free to quote from archaic and/or little know works, just make sure you give reasons why something is great. I stated the Great Opening Lines criteria back in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 2 -What Makes a Great Opening Line?).

So by all means, make the claim. Just make sure you provide the proof according to the guidelines given. If not, your comment won’t get published.

Nothing Ever Dies of Old Age in The Wild

There is no pity in The Wild, only Balance

I’m sitting on my backporch working. When the warmer weather hits, this is where I spend most of my time. I can see the woods behind our house, feel the sun on my bones, watch the bluejays, robins, orioles, cardinals, hummingbirds, nuthatches, morning doves, pigeons, squirrels, chipmunks and other assorted backyard denizens at the birdbaths, feeders and water buckets we leave out for those I call The Old Ones.

I call animals The Old Ones because of my time studying anthropology. All the aboriginal peoples I’ve studied have views of wildlife that differ from those of most modern people and aboriginal views have rubbed off on me. Case in point, I’ve made friends with several generations of raccoons, turkeys, deer, skunks, opossum, woodchucks, beavers, fox and owl over the years. You can see many of them under WildLife.

Even with the animals I’m friendly with, I still know they are wild. Many take food from my hand but none of them are tame, none are domesticated. They are wild.

One of the rules of The Wild is that nothing dies of old age in The Wild. It just doesn’t happen. Animals grow old, grow tired, can’t move as quickly, can’t move as well, get injured, can’t get at whatever seed or bread or foodstuffs they can find and, in the end, even predators become prey.

Sam the Hawk

 
Even in my little backyard, backing up to many woodland acres, I’ve occasionally seen scatterings of feathers where Sam and Aris, our mated hawks, have caught something too slow at the feeders, and seen the remains of chipmunks, voles and mice in Bart the Owl’s pellets.

Bart the Owl

 
Because I work quietly and prefer to listen to the sounds of The Wild (and sometimes Bach) the animals tend to ignore me. Sometimes all those around the feeders and water buckets will jump and flee and I’ll catch site of Reynard’s (a male fox) bushy red tail as he hurries back into deeper cover. I know he and his mate have kits to feed and don’t begrudge him his time hunting in my yard.

But today I noticed a pigeon hopping among the flock that visits our feeders. Definitely hopping, not just oddly walking. I stared and noticed this pigeon had one leg, hence the hop. But there was something else odd.

There was something strange in its tail feathers. It could still fly. It was a little awkward getting airborne, true, but it could still take flight when the others scattered. It was one of the last to leave the ground, though.

I stared then picked up some binoculars I keep beside me on the table. The strange thing in its tail feathers was its other leg. Broken, twisted, how it got pegged in that position I don’t know.

I know animals can feel pain. I’ve read the studies. I know. I also noticed that the male pigeons, the ones perpetually strutting and harassing the females at their seeds, were leaving this one alone. If anything, they knocked it over in their quest to show their plumage to some other female.

This wounded pigeon would flap its wings and get back up. Sometimes that broken leg would get in the way of the wings and the pigeon would open its beak to make a sound I could not hear.

But my ears are not those of Reynard who has kits to feed.

And suddenly the other pigeons scattered, the chipmunks dashed into their holes, the squirrels scurried up their trees, the bluejays and robins and orioles and cardinals and others went to each and every compass point.

And Reynard stopped to look at me, the pigeon in his jaws, its one good leg still kicking, its head still bobbing, its beak still open making sounds I could not hear.

Reynard bowed his head, turned and trotted into the wood. I, transfixed, had stopped breathing but for how long I didn’t know. My chest was tight. I was sickened and relieved and had not moved.

A moment later and the wildlife returned. My breathe relaxed. I turned back to my computer and started to write.


This post originally appeared on the now defunct An Economy of Meaning blog and was reprinted on Discover The Practice.

Writers Corner Lived Me

and someday i’ll learn to read

A fun experience this week. Lots of laughs and good conversation.

Does it get better than that?

I wonder sometimes.

Bridgetti Lim Banda and Mary Elizabeth Jackson were amazing kind and gracious with me. We discussed my marketing philosophy (simple, really; put the reader first), how I got started writing (blame my sister, my favorite story (Dancers in the Eye of Chronos primarily because it’s Susan‘s favorite), music’s role in my life, the importance of fire alarms, Susan’s encouragement in my writing, how my writing has changed, my homage to AJ Budrys (mentioned in my own interview, my ability to mistitle books and authors whom I adore, all the good stuff.

Enjoy – Writers Corner Live show Episode 58 with author Joseph Carrabis!

Empty Sky Chapter 13 – John Nighthorse

Teach Your Children Well

Read Empty Sky Chapter 12 – Shem


John stood before Earl Pangiosi in the latter’s private car, the two men still on his shoulders and showing no sign of strain.

“Mr. Nighthorse.” Pangiosi sat at the far end of the table, his chair tilted against the wall on its rear legs and his hands behind his head. He stared at John, cocking his head first right, then left, evaluating. “That’s quite a story.”

“Yes, it is, sir.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re confident Mr. Steyle is the only one compromised?”

“As I said, Mr. Pangiosi, there were three suites I didn’t enter. Considering — ”

Pangiosi interrupted him. “Yes, yes. Well.” He rocked forward and got up. “Would you put what remains of Mr. Steyle on the floor, please.”

John knelt and lowered his comrade’s body without a word.

Pangiosi knelt beside the body. He arranged the shirt and sportcoat. He picked some lint from the lapel. He sighed.

The billy, still gripped in Steyle’s right hand, caught Pangiosi’s eye. He lifted it and the hand and arm came with it. Pangiosi tried to pry it free but Steyle claimed it even in death.

“Mr. Nighthorse, jacket that one in the next room, please, then bring me some sheets of plastic, a hammer or better, a mallet, and a knife, the sharpest you can find.”

“Yes sir.”

John gathered two plastic straws from the wetbar then lay Tom’s sleeping body on the bed in the next room. He pulled a straightjacket from the closet, gently maneuvered Tom into it and strapped it tight. He put the straws between Tom’s lips, took out a tube of SuperGlue out of his pocket and glued Tom’s mouth shut. Lastly he gently placed Tom on the floor and put a pillow under his head.

He returned with Pangiosi’s requested supplies.

“Thank you, Mr. Nighthorse. Spread out the plastic and center Mr. Steyle on it, would you?”

John did as instructed.

“Now stand back, please.”

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