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>My Friend Died…

June 16, 2011

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I cried writing this blog, how you can succeed, the most powerful sci-fi ever written, Special Education for Fatty, a Bones in the Tree sneak peek, MountainMama’s conspiracy review, and more…
A Dead Duck: Something just occurred to me this past week as I fed the dozen wild ducks currently visiting our pond and brook. Is it possible that I do it to relieve my guilt? Let me explain…         
Possibly because my mother didn’t want him to, my father gave me a baby duck for Easter when I was about six or seven years old. Since we lived in a Maine city, not a particularly suitable environment for ducks, my mother had probably been right. My parents did own their own home but our lot was small, probably less than a quarter acre, and it sat on the corner of two streets. Just one look at the fuzzy yellow bird, and I was instantly committed to making him safe and happy. That first day, my little duck followed me everywhere. If I went around the house, he waddled after me. If I went into the yard next door, my little duckling would race as fast he could to keep up. To say I was smitten would have been a gross understatement. Enchanted might have been a better word, and that enchantment grew stronger with each day.
For the next three weeks, if I was home, my little duck and I were together. Our house was only two blocks from the corner store and about the same distance from a nearby park, and my little duck happily followed me to either location or any other place I had a mind (and permission) to go. I can still remember his little quacking grumbles when I would go too fast and his happy squeaks when I would stop and pick him up.  
Three weeks to form a bond. Three weeks to learn about companionship, loyalty and unconditional love. And three weeks, to have it all shattered—ripped away along with a big chunk of my childhood innocence.
I, of course, was committed to keeping my little duck safe. I kept his nighttime box filled with lots of grass, some bugs to eat, a bowl of water, and I had placed that box on the floor right beside my bed. Nothing was going to happen to my little friend.
“Maybe I could sleep with him,” I told my mother on several occasions. “He might be cold all alone in his box.”
“No,” she told me. “He’s got warm feathers and will be fine right where he is.”
I wish I could tell you what I used to cover his box that fateful night, what I used to cover his box any night. More importantly, I wish I could go back in time and help that timid little boy to make a better decision, show him how to protect his tiny friend and himself, but instead all I can do is remember with deep sadness. Sometime during that night, my little duckling, who obviously missed his boy, found his way out of that box. And, once out, he managed to flap or crawl or hop up into my bed.
Looking back, I pray that little duck found some semblance of peace and comfort when he snuggled up to his little boy. What my mother probably realized, and what that boy and his duck were soon to learn, was that little ducks can’t survive the weight of a person rolling on top them, not even a little person like I was back then.
When woke early that morning, I panicked not finding my duckling in his box. The cover was off and he was gone. I searched under the bed, under the bureau, in the closet and out in my brothers’ and sisters’ rooms. But it wasn’t until I returned to my own room to start searching all over again that I realized a fuzzy little bird was snuggled dead against my pillow.
Every few days, I write about Fat Duck, Original Duck and sometimes about the Canadian mallard visitors that will visit us more and more frequently when cold weather sets in. I feed them, I talk about them and I enjoy them.
I think karma has likely forgiven me for my crime, but it never lets me forget. That’s probably why tears are streaming down my cheeks as I type this public goodbye to my little duckling friend. If only I had known more, if only I had paid more attention, if only…if only….
I wish that we had had more time, my little duckling and me. I wish that we could have been friends for a little longer. But, instead, it has to be enough that he’s still in my heart.
The Magic of Success: Success. It’s a neck of a term, but what does it mean? And why do some people appear to achieve it, while many others do not?
Some people might say that success is fortune. Others might say fame. And yet others would, no doubt, insist that wonderful relationships are what it’s all about. What do you think? All of the above, or none of the above? I suspect that I’m with you; I think that a fair share of all of the above is closest to true.
The next logical question would be: how do you know when you’re there? I think the answer lies not in an actual tally of net worth or total number of close friends. No I think it is more a matter of knowing oneself, knowing what you would need to feel fulfilled.
So how do you find out what you really need? Here’s a simple exercise that appears to work as well as any. Take out a pencil and several sheets of ruled paper. For the next fifteen minutes write everything you could possibly want, have wanted or might want in the future. Everything, no matter how crazy or off the wall.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Now go through that list and pick the five things that excite you the most. Don’t worry that you couldn’t possibly do that or worry that a particular goal would take too long to achieve; just pick the five things that excite you the most. Once you have those five things, pick the one goal that sends a chill down your spine, the one that even stands above the other four. Write it on an index card and put it in your pocket.
Now, you might wonder where the magic comes in. Here it is. Here’s the difference between those who gain great personal success and those who don’t…
Keep your card with you and read it every day until you really believe you can make that goal come true (and you can!) Then add one final simple ingredient—GO MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Welcome to the magic.
Fat Duck is SPECIAL: Okay, I think we can all agree that I’m a bit of a softy for animals in general and for Fat Duck, in particular. And the reason I think it’s important to state this from the outset is because I have to be honest here: Fat Duck has some issues. It’s true, they’re not his fault. And it’s also true that, issues aside, he does pretty well. But we just have to face a few undeniable facts. Case in point…
Fat Duck got confused not once, but twice, in the last few days. As near as I can tell, he forgot that his hay bale (hangout) is in the front yard. Here’s what happened: two mornings in a row, we have had between ten and a dozen wild ducks stopping in for breakfast. That means that when I let Fatty out of his pen on the porch and shoo him down onto the driveway to eat alongside Original Duck, there have been too many extra bills to feed, and Fat Duck is waaay to slow to get to the bread before his smaller, wilder competitors snatch it away. So, Fat Duck gives up and flies a few feet toward the barn rather than fight over breakfast. Unfortunately, once he flies in the wrong direction, he never seems to remember what the right direction is. I felt bad for him both mornings and herded him toward his hay bale until he remembered and hopped on. This morning, I got smart and fed him privately in his pen before letting him loose. Stomach full, mind clear, he flew straight and true toward the bale.
Yes, Fat Duck is special, but together we have apparently come up with a solution that keeps my hay and duck lawn ornament intact J.
My Review of Ender’s Game, an award winning novel by Orson Scott Card.
My rating ««««« (five out of five stars)
Possibly the most powerful science-fiction story ever written…, June 15, 2011
I first read this novel back in the mid- to late-80s, shortly after it first came out as a novel (it started as an award-winning novella in 1977). I was absolutely blown away. Maybe it happens when a person comes up through a traumatic childhood, as I did, but seeing a fictional child like Ender tested to such a horrifying degree, and seeing him endure and fight on no matter what the odds, was awe-inspiring.
And that’s just my review of Orson Scott Card’s protagonist. This novel is so much more than just Ender Wiggin. It’s a future world populated by believable people and believable events. It’s a ruthless world, much like our own, but it’s a world that presents hope, even if through a dystopian lens.
Ender Wiggin was specially bred into a family of three genius children. For personality reasons, he is the only one of the three that is chosen by the Defense Department to be trained as a soldier in the upcoming and inevitable war with the alien Bugger species. Through snippets of conversations outside of Ender’s experience we begin to understand that Ender may be the only human being on Earth that is qualified to save our planet. As the story unfolds, we also learn that for him to grow into his abilities in time, he must be pushed and prodded and, yes, even punished, whatever might be required to temper him into the human weapon that can defeat an interstellar army that outnumbers us ten if not hundreds to one.
The training that poor boy Ender endures makes today’s video games look like Pong. The action battle sequences are amazing and seem so real that I suspect a version of the author’s invented teaching methods are possibly in use at military academies today. I’ve read this book multiple times over the last twenty-five years, and I expect I’ll still be rediscovering its power in the next twenty-five.
Read this book, experience its emotional depth and power, and let a master storyteller blow you away with an ending that is without equal.
Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers, update: As you all know, I have completed my first of four review edits and am waiting for my next round. I’m told I’ll likely receive my first Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End edit to review on Monday, so this week I have been working on two stories and an article, which you’ll be seeing soon. Below is an excerpt from the first draft of the first storyJ.
Bones in the Tree, an excerpt (first draft, please forgive the many mistakesJ):
Tombstones in the backyard. Uck!
Trust me, I know how creepy that sounds, but it’s true. Somehow my father and mother got permits to have their own private cemetery fifty feet from their back deck. In Pasadena, California, something like this would have been unheard of, but apparently the State of Maine doesn’t do things quite the same way as the rest of the world. I guess when you live so far out in the woods, nobody really cares what you do.
It has been almost a year since my mother died of the same disease that took my father–lung cancer. It seemed almost amazing to me that neither Ray nor I had wound up with a similar problem, since we had grown up breathing my mother’s relentless secondhand smoke the same way my father had. When we were kids, she used to smoke four packs a day, which basically meant she had smoke coming out of her mouth from the time she got up in the morning until the time she went to bed at night. The shame is that my father had never smoked a cigarette in his life, at least not directly. Thanks to my mother, though, he inhaled hundreds of thousands of them over the forty-seven years they were married. Thinking about it made me wonder what would have happened if she had died first. Would he have craved the nicotine enough to get sick or maybe even start smoking himself? We would never know, because he found himself occupying space under the backyard tombstone five years earlier than she did.
I settled into one of the Adirondack Chairs my father had made before it became too hard for him to walk the fifty feet from the house to his workshop. For some reason, the chair seemed a lot more comfortable now than when I had sat in it during the one cookout I had actually shown up for since quitting community college a decade earlier. I could still envision my father wearing that silly John Deere chef’s hat as he expertly flipped burgers and hot dogs for my brother Ray and me. “Eat, eat,” he said to me several times that weekend. “It’ll put a little meat in those pecks.” I smiled. My dad knew I had always been insecure about my chest size, mostly because of the jerk I married who couldn’t keep his eyes off from anything larger than an A-cup. Little did my dad know that it wouldn’t be his burgers, but a surgeon named Andre, that would finally solve that problem for me. 
I chuckled at the irony and winced. I was still a little tender from having the damn implants removed almost 3 months to the day after Brian left me for one of his undergrad students, a girl with A-cups. I lifted my arm, stretched my left shoulder and gently massaged the scar under my chest. It was getting better, but I wouldn’t be playing volleyball anytime soon.
That earned another solitary chuckle.
Volleyball in Maine! That was about as likely as cell phone service north of the Auburn/Lewiston area, which is to say not likely at all. Horseshoes and square dancing was about as much physical activity as anyone typically got in Menyon Falls, and I wasn’t all that sure about the square dancing. From what I remembered of Maine, what little exercise most people got was from either making kids or chasing them. I had left too early to make any kids, even though the Robinson brothers and I had done our share of practicing.
Had anyone been in the backyard, I might have blushed.
An acorn struck the deck.
I kicked it off the deck that I had just swept that morning.
Just thinking about that twisted triangle of relationships made me feel like the biggest kind of tramp. Though I had never dated both brothers at the same time, I used to break up and swap one for the other on a regular basis. It made for some high drama in Menyon Falls; that much was sure. I could remember the brothers sending each other to the emergency room at least five times during my relationship juggling. When I finally moved away with my college writing professor, the brothers still hadn’t been talking. I probably should have felt guiltier, but the brothers, born almost nine months apart to the day, had been beating the tar out of each other as far back as first grade. And since I hadn’t dated either of them until we were in the fifth grade and hadn’t started swapping back and forth until seventh grade, I figured they were unlikely to have grown up as friends anyway.
What was I thinking? Ten years had passed. The brothers were probably both married and sharing family vacations by now. I was especially pleased that the thought didn’t cause me any jealous pangs. No, my romance with the Robinson brothers had ended when Peter came into my life.
Peter!
Just the thought of his name made me want to scream and throw something. Who did he think he was! He’d picked me up like some novelty at a Maine gift shop, and then discarded me much the same way.
Oooo!
Two more acorns fell beside me, and I kicked them like soccer balls with all my might. The effort sent pangs right through the center of my ribcage.  I massaged both scars this time and wondered what kind of a man would want me now, after I’d maimed myself for that womanizing bastard! I didn’t know, but at least back here in Maine, Peter wouldn’t have a front row view of my failure to replace him. I leaned back in the chair that suddenly didn’t feel nearly as comfortable.
Suddenly, something occurred to me. The oak tree was at least seventy feet from the deck. With little to no wind, how were acorns falling all the way over here?
I stared up into the old oak tree that shaded most of my parents—my—back lawn. Ray had deeded his half of the house over to me before the probate court had even finished processing my parents’ meager estate. It was great of Ray, especially given that he didn’t yet own a home of his own. But he’d been in medical school and was now working on his residency at Maine Medical Center, so I suspected he could have purchased a much nicer home anytime he chose. Though he never said as much, I got the impression his roommate—mate—George was the reason he had put off any major purchase for so long. If I had to guess, George was still playing the field and driving Ray nuts with jealously. When the two of them picked me up at the Portland Jetport, the tension hung in the air like swamp fog. That was the longest most silent drive I could ever remember. When, two hours later, we finally drove up the long gravel driveway to my parents’ house, I have never felt so relieved. Next time, Ray would either come alone, or I’d take one of those scary four-seat airplanes from Portland to the tiny Farmington airport. A plane crash would definitely have been easier to take than the wreckage that Ray and George’s relationship had become. 
I was still staring up into the oak tree when I heard a chittering sound and saw an acorn come sailing out at me. I ducked and heard it the little nut smack loudly into the back of my father’s Adirondack chair.
“Hey you!” I yelled, trying to peer up through the heavy foliage to see the guilty party.
I saw a few leaves move and heard a noise that sounded strangely like a tiny animal snickering. After a few more minutes of being laughed at, I stomped into the house. I wasn’t sure who I was angrier at, Peter for forcing me to move back to this ridiculous state, or the owner of the tiny gray arm that flung another acorn at me just before I slid the patio door shut.
Ping….
Thanks MountainMama for your amazing review of The Santa Shop (Kindle Edition)
Her review…
««««« (five out of five stars)
Poignant and uplifting, June 15, 2011
The Santa Shop by Tim Greaton is a poignant and uplifting story about one man’s journey from the depths of despair and despondency to the dawn of redemption and recovery. Skip Ralstat lost his family in a fire. He blames himself for not being there to save them, and his guilt leads him to plan his own suicide by jumping from a bridge called Christmas Leap. Along the way his plot gets hijacked by the “Santa Conspiracy”.
Well written and edited, Mr. Greaton has a wonderful talent for making his characters real, the dialog believable, and the locations familiar. You feel his pain and grief, you stand on the bridge with him, and you experience his awakening and hope. A beautiful story.

 

My Thanks: I once dreamt of writing for a living. Though a lot of my time is spent writing for nonprofit corporations and charities around the country, work that is incredibly fulfilling and that I will continue to do long after it is required on my end, each and every day more of my income comes directly from readers of my books. Please know that I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation.
THANK YOU ALL FOR GRANTING ME THIS LIFE, THE LIFE OF A WRITER!
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2 Comments
  1. >I think you were very lucky to have formed such a close bond with your childhood pet duck, and that in turn, the duck was blessed to have such a caring person to shower it with love, attention and devotion. Take heart knowing that such a tragedy involved no malice, and that the duckling had such a wonderful life. To die "in the arms" of your beloved would be the most peaceful and comforting way to leave this mortal coil.

  2. >Thanks for the note, David. It's funny how traveling down a remembrance can bring all the emotions right back.

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