Guest post @ A St. Louis Technology Blog

I attended a Social Media Club St. Louis Happy Hour and Blogger Panel on Monday night and was asked to write a guest post about the event by Greg Bussmann (@gbussmann) for his blog, A St. Louis Technology Blog.

Go read it and enjoy Greg’s blog while you’re there!

 

#SMCSTL @ Milagro Modern Mexican in Webster Groves, MO

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What’s that sound?

This post is in response to a Weekly Writing Prompt at Studio30+, where you should be reading awesome writers every day. What are you waiting for?

 

 

 

Laughter can be the magical, musical sounds your kids make while playing at the park, carried by the breeze to your ears, confirming that everyone is having a good time, safe and happy.

Laughter can also be the sound of enjoyment as someone is reading, chuckling to themselves over a funny passage, or even the loud guffaws you might hear in a crowded theater while watching the latest comedy.

Laughter can also be muffled, derisive sounds from the group of cool kids when the nerd trips and falls, spilling a backpack full of books, or dropping a tray of food in the lunchroom.

Laughter could even be maniacal, creepy, aggressive, bursts of crazy coming from the madman or serial killer in the late night horror show on TV.

I’m intrigued by laughter in this regard, in the way a thing can take so many different shapes, have such vastly different meanings, and yet still be that thing. From one of the most beautiful sounds, genuine and heartfelt from a loved one, to one that strikes fear and uncertainty when delivered by an adversary or antagonist, it’s all still laughter.

I feel like I’m laughing a lot more these days, and it’s not necessarily because sometimes I feel like my job is driving me insane. I’m happier now than I’ve been in a really long time and I believe that’s a feeling here to stay. My daughter and I laughed together this morning at the coffee shop and it reminded me of this week’s prompt, and what a truly an uplifting feeling happiness is.

Are you listening for the laughter in your life? It’s there if you are willing to hear it.

Everybody Knows – 100 Word Song

This post is a response to the 100 Word Song Challenge at  My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog.  This week’s song is “Everybody Knows” by John Legend. It comes in an emotionally charged week and this it what I felt reading about the thoughts behind the choosing of this song and while listening to it.

 

 

 

 

 

The teenager standing alone at the bus stop, unkempt clothes, hair disheveled, wringing her hands with a pained look on her face.

The elderly couple sitting in the waiting room, arms around each other, tears on their faces, whispering in prayer.

The man in the checkout line ahead of you, distractedly buying frozen dinners and a bottle of cheap gin.

The young man and woman sitting at a nearby table, picking at their food and staring into their plates.

The people standing in the rain, gathered around the grave site, black umbrellas in hands.

“Everybody knows, but nobody really knows.”

That is really annoying

How many of us can explain everything? I’m pretty smart, don’t mistake me, but sometimes even am stumped. Also, I’m not usually one to complain about things for the sake of complaining, but there are times when there just isn’t any other recourse. Some things simply do not make sense to me and I struggle to understand why they are on this Earth. I’m not talking about big, terrible, horrible things that kill people and make the world grieve. No, I’m talking about those little annoyances, the ones we all face from time to time, but maybe don’t even realize they’re there. Wake up, people!!! What, you think you have real problems to worry about? Let me remind you about:

 

Acne. Specifically, adult acne. I’m sure one of you smart-asses will jump all over this list with your vast medical knowledge and experience, but that’s great! If I understood them, would they really be so annoying?? Anyway, why do I, at nearly 40, need to get a fucking pimple on my nose, or my chin, or my hip, or my back, etc. etc. ad infinitum? I don’t have Prom pics to pose for, or a guest appearance on The Bachelorette to get ready for. Why are you trying to ruin my face, zit??

 

 

Blisters. Don’t be disgusting, I’m talking about the kind on your foot from ill-fitting shoes, or on your hands cause you forgot to put on gloves before taking the yard, though I suppose the kind you’re thinking of would fall into this category too. Is there a reason to have them other than to just piss me off, make me really uncomfortable, or just and mock me for not heeding everyone’s advice???

 

 

 

 

Mosquitos. No, seriously, WTF are those little blood suckers good for?? I don’t even have anything else to say about mosquitoes. I think their worthlessness is pretty obvious. If you try to tell me they’re useful in spreading certain diseases, I might hope that you get bitten by one carrying a virus. Don’t make be that guy.

 

 

While I’m certain there are other pointless, inexplicable things in the world (like THIS video, perhaps) I’m too irritated right now to think of them. Let’s just leave well enough alone and if you’d like to remind me of the other things please feel free to do so in the comments below.

After the Fire

A person can only take so much emotional trauma before his foundation begins to crumble, deep inside…

After the incident with the fire the very sight of an open flame would set Kurt off on a raging tirade. “I’m not crazy!” he would scream in their faces. “You’re all going to burn! Don’t leave me alone in here!”

His rantings were often long and violent and as a result he became a regular visitor to the round, rubber room. Solitary confinement. The orderlies seemed to take pleasure in putting him in a straight-jacket and leaving him to bounce around, probably scattering whatever brain cells he had left.

On day three of his most recent stint,  Kurt had a visitor. He’d been sleeping when suddenly his cot began to shake and rise off the floor. Panicking, trying not to fall off the side, Kurt found himself six feet in the air, closer to the the high ceiling than to the floor of the room. His breath coming in short, shallow gasps, he blinked slowly as time seemed to slow down, opening  his eyes to see the most hideous figure of a man he’d ever had the misfortune to look upon standing inside the locked room. Kurt began screaming and thrashing about. His throat tightened up and he started hyperventilating.

“Stop your foolishness,” the figure rasped at Kurt in a voice like gravel in a coffee grinder. “You know why I’m here. It is time for you to go!” Spittle formed on the drawn back lips of the figure, its head barely more than a skull with dried bits of flesh stuck to it in places. Kurt had only been lucky last week, his rescue simply delaying the inevitable. He’d never have imagined dying this way.

As if reading this thoughts, the figure bellowed into Kurt’s face, “You’ll not be dead, oh no. Your agony will last an eternity!” The figure grinned and laughed, a horrid, retching noise, its face, if that’s what it could be called, contorted and livid. Kurt realized he was now standing inches in front of the monster and had to swallow hard against the vomit rising in his throat as he watched two small horns force their way through the matted hair atop the figure’s head. He tried to turn his face away. “Look at me!” the figure snarled.

As Kurt locked eyes with his tormentor his body convulsed in shock and pain. A burning he’d never felt before ripped through his chest and he nearly lost consciousness. His body flew backward across the room and slammed jarringly into the wall, jolting him back to his senses. The padding offered nothing to absorb the supernatural force of the blow. Crumpling to the floor, he felt as if every bone in his body had been broken.

“Just kill me,” Kurt choked out, tears flooding his eyes, the bitter, coppery taste of blood in his mouth. “End this, please.” The horned figure laughed again, a sick, oily sound. Kurt felt as if nails were being driven into his ears and drifted out of awareness once more.

When the orderlies woke him for the evening meal, Kurt could still feel the burns and cuts though his body showed no signs of distress. It pained him to breathe. That had been no dream.

Remembering

Like many today, I am remembering exactly where I was when I first learned of the horror taking place in NYC and then Our Nation’s Capitol. I am thinking, of course, about the families and loved ones of all those lost, and of those who died in the catastrophe.

I recall being told to go home, that the company I worked for back then was closing for the day. The powers that were had decided it was a time we should all be home with our families rather than in the office trying to sell technology certification training. There may have been co-workers there directly effected by the traumatic events, I don’t remember all the details.

I do remember driving home that morning, a morning very much like the one today. It was a Tuesday and the weather here in Missouri was beautiful, nearly perfect for September. High, cloudless, crystal blue sky, bright sunshine, the kind of light that makes everything you see sharper, more vivid.

I was driving my old Jeep Wrangler and the top was down. There was still a lot of green on the trees and it was as if I could see every leaf, clear as if they were in front of my face instead of whizzing by at forty miles per hour. There wasn’t much traffic that morning. Everyone was either still at work and school or still at home, or already home. It was very quiet and still, and I remember it as just very surreal as I drove, alone, toward my home.

I recall thinking in those moments about what a miracle Life is. The physiological reality of Life, our bodies, how we work, and even, though I am much stronger in my Faith today than I was then, how God had a hand in everything and everyone. I don’t exaggerate when I say I truly felt the enormity of the universe in my head as I made my way south down Lindbergh Boulevard that morning.

I know I’ll never forget the images from that day’s news, nor will I forget the staggering statistics and reports of the thousands who died that day, but I think it’s very important that I, that we all, also remember the strength and bravery of those who gave their lives to possibly save others AND that we think about those same qualities in those who live on, in all of us who have dealt with difficulty and loss.

Careful what you wish for, Doctor.

He had to run if he wanted to make the 2 o’clock train. A torrential rain had turned the sidewalk into a treacherous obstacle course and his Italian leather loafers were drenched, soaked through to his socks. Risking a fall,  he leaped up the stairs two at a time and into the station. The Bulova on his wrist read 1:59. A horn blasted through the vaulted ceilings and his train began to pull away.

As he burst into the station and sprinted toward the platform his legs were suddenly taken out from under him. Falling as if in slow motion, he caught a glimpse of his assistant’s balding head. The image was short-lived however, as his head slammed into the concrete floor and his consciousness went out like a light flipped off.

Waking proved to be less than pleasurable, not only due to the throbbing in his head but because he couldn’t feel his arms and legs. He couldn’t move. Regret for not leaving last night tried to infiltrate his cloudy mind, like gas seeping into the room? What’s that hissing sou…

When he woke again, his thoughts were a bit clearer, unfortunately the scene was no less horrifying. As he strained to raise his head enough to view his surroundings, he realized why he’d not been able to feel his arms and legs. The were gone! He was a torso with a head, connected by wires and cables to a variety of buzzing, clicking, and wheezing machines with blinking lights in horizontal rows. He’d never dreamed the Burrell family could be so ruthless. He remembered his wife and child, waiting for him in Sao Paolo. Were they still safe? Did they even know what had befallen him? Would they ever know? He was sure he would never see them again.

He didn’t have to wait long to discover his fate. Dr. Burrell entered just then wearing a silver, hooded, hazmat suit. As the Doctor approached the table he was releasing a greenish mist into the air around him from a hand-held spray bottle.

“I’m glad you could finally join us, Stephen,” Doctor Burrell said, his face a leering grin inside the suit. “We do hope you’re quite comfortable, though it wont matter much longer. You’ll be dead within the hour.” Dr. Burrell laughed maniacally and began adjusting dials on a nearby machine.

Stephen felt like his head was sinking into the table underneath him as the gas saturated his brain cells. His eyes suddenly watered and his focus wavered. Within a few more seconds he was blind! His last thought before he died was, strangely enough, not of his wife and child waiting for him in South America, but about the C4 explosives packed in the dental bridge in his lower left jaw, set to detonate once his brain waves ceased firing:

They’ll get a real bang out of th…


Jumpstarting the Electric Chair

This is an excerpt from a story I wrote back in college- an idea I had for a novel that has yet to pan out. I chose the name JumpStart, primarily as a way to play on the title, long before I was aware of an actual company by that name. Obviously I’d have to make changes if I were to pursue this idea further. I was amused when I found this and wanted to share it.

Dropping the bag into the water, Roland thought the ordeal was finally over. His plans to dispose of the troublesome Carter Van Dellingham had gone off without a hitch. No one had seen Roland lurking in the dark thicket of Douglas firs behind Carter’s ranch house. He’d crept silently into the house through the sliding door of the screened-in porch. Carter had been alone on the leather sofa, watching the Eleven O’clock News, just as Roland had planned, and so no one had heard Carter’s gurgling screams as his throat was slit from ear to ear. Everything had worked out perfectly, or so Roland thought. As the black, zippered bag containing Carter’s corpse quietly slipped into the Willamette River, Roland was unaware of the rifle sight focused on his left temple…

Roland Tomlinson had been trying for months to get his business off the ground in Portland. His Software company, JumpStart, was a big success up Highway 5 in little Olympia, and he’d thought for sure it would be a hit in Oregon. Portland would be just the beginning. In just two months on the Exchange, JumpStart had tripled in value. People were anxious to try a network server that could not only run real time video and audio, for the most efficient, cross-country board meetings available, but could also run an entire manufacturing assembly line with just the push of a button. JumpStart provided World Wide Web access with a built-in email server, in addition to the manufacturing capabilities. No longer would you need to pay outrageous fees to access the Internet or send messages to your employees and customers. It could all be provided in one convenient package for a one time purchase price. Roland was revolutionizing business.

After JumpStart’s record breaking debut Roland’s chief network developer had taken a leave of absence to negotiate his late father’s estate. It turned out the developer’s late father was a very rich man with his estate valued at over $200 million. The developer was the sole heir. The developer’s name was Carter Van Dellingham and with his newly acquired inheritance, he’d returned to Olympia to inform Roland of plans to start his own software company using the same foundation as the JumpStart system. After all, Carter had been a co-designer of the project, the ideas were as much his as they were Roland’s, but he’d not been in a position to contribute substantially to the company’s initial capital investment. Now of course, Carter had plenty of financial power and intended to take his knowledge of the product in a different, solo, direction.

Roland Tomlinson looked younger than his forty-two years. His wavy brown hair was trimmed short and neat, with no visible graying, and his wire rimmed glasses gave him a classy, albeit dated appearance. He was a shrewd businessman, one who would sell his own house and live on the street if it mean black numbers in the profit column. Roland was motivated by money and little else. He loved the cool crispness of hundred dollar bills against his face and would stop at nothing to make more of them. After graduating with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, Roland had moved to California and completed his MBA at Stanford University. When he first came up with the idea behind JumpStart he did not know it would become the phenomenon it was today, but now that it had blossomed he was possessed by the goal of dominating cyberspace. With Van Dellingham’s aid he’d begun providing local business with the service in exchange for free advertising on those companies’ websites. Roland grew quickly into a superstar in the field of business networking.

Carter van Dellingham was the only person standing in Roland’s path to ultimately monopolizing the computer networks, or so Roland believed. Carter had chosen Portland as his headquarters only a week before Roland moved into the area and the competition was more than Roland could stand. Both men stood to make boatloads of money from their new network software, but Roland was a greedy man with unforged steel for a heart and he wanted the market share all to himself.Roland would be the biggest thing to hit the computing world since a certain fruitful company sold it’s first circuit board. Van Dellingham had threatened to take Roland’s gem of an idea and copy it, stealing away the profits Roland so deserved. Carter’s treachery would promote an onslaught of clones and mimics, flooding the market, making JumpStart just another product on the shelves. Roland would not let that happen.

Hiring a third party to eliminate Van Dellingham would be too risky. There would be too many trails pointing back to Roland. What if the hit-man couldn’t be trusted with the secret? What if they went to the authorities with Roland’s plan? It’s not like professional assassins were exactly upright citizens in the first place. No, he would have to do it himself, and it would have to be soon, before Carter took his version of the software public. This kind of “wet work,” as Roland had heard it called in the movies, was not beneath him. Had he not intentionally run down Sharon Carusoe’s Doberman with his Bentley when he discovered the animal soiling his lawn in the middle of the night?

Black.

The gloomy, gray day hung over him like his personal rain cloud. Big, black crows cawed at him from the tops of telephone poles as if he were carrion left for them to feed upon. It wouldn’t have surprised him to see vultures circling above. “I can’t wait to get out of this place,” he thought to himself as he trudged through the dirty puddles along the sidewalk. Across the narrow street a youngish couple began screaming at each other, hurling insults as if they were stones. He flinched and ducked into an alley to escape verbal daggers lest he be struck and driven further into despair.

A swarm of rats erupted as if from a rotting volcano from the trash bags behind a dumpster, squealing and chasing him into the closest building. Immediately, the cavernous stairwell posed a great threat. There were too many hiding places in there. Around a blind corner. Behind a pillar. Under the stairs. His mind began spinning and he felt faint. He began hyperventilating. He needed some water to splash on his face before he fell down. A men’s room sign caught his eye and he stumbled forward but just then a piercing shriek filled his ears and drove him to his knees uttering a painful cry. With his hands over his ears and his eyes squeezed shut he prostrated himself on the cold concrete floor, unable to think, paralyzed by fear.

“What the fuck is happening!” he shouted, his thin reedy voice seemingly swallowed by the shadows he felt creeping in around him.

He couldn’t see the rushing tide of legs and feet filing past him. He couldn’t hear the shouts and sirens. Suddenly he was hoisted up by strong hands placed under his arms and carried outside through the fire door. He thought, “So this is what Hell feels like. They’ve found me and I’ve died and they’ve taken me back to Hell.”

The fire was subdued quickly with very little damage done to the building. Sitting across the street on a curb, it finally dawned on Kurt that the shrieking had been alarms and fire trucks. He felt a bit sheepish for having freaked out.

Meanwhile, at Ralphie’s…

Ralphie had known better than to rely on Max showing up on time, that just didn’t happen. Ever. It was about 10 minutes to kickoff and the gang was milling about in the living room, mostly, chatting, drinking, some standing, some sitting. Mumford & Son’s played quietly in the background from the stereo in the corner. Increasingly, folks were drifting towards the kitchen. The bar splitting the two spaces was covered with chips and dips, and those awesomely soft pretzels from the hawker down on the corner. There was food to eat, but he had promised the crowd Lucky’s amazing sandwiches, and while nobody was grumbling too loudly, yet, he knew it was only a matter of time. And time was running out.

“I’ve got to come up with something to stall them,” Ralphie said to himself, almost out loud.

“Everyone, hey, listen up!” Ralphie stood up on a chair, his hands up in the air. “I forgot to bust out the scoring bracket! A dollar a square, who’s in? Somebody come over here and help me with this whiteboard.’

As two of the fellas moved to help, there was a smattering of mutters from the living room.

“Hey man, Ralphie, you said there’d be Lucky’s man, I didn’t eat before I came over ’cause of that, what’s the deal?

“Where the Hell is Max? I thought you said he was right down the street?”

“When’s he gettin’ here with Lucky’s? Hope that chump didn’t stop to eat ’em on the way!”

Their friends laughed, if a bit uncomfortably. This was a big deal with this crew, and the idea of there being no sandwiches was not a pleasant thought.

“Uh, yeah, he said he was… I mean, I’m sure he’s right around… Max is totally almost here, I just got a text from him, yeah. He said, “b rt thr, half blk.”

With the white board set up and a trio of his pals busying themselves drawing up the grid for the scoring bracket, Ralphie went over and pulled the blinds aside from the huge window in the dining room. Had the sky been so grey and threatening earlier? A sudden, fixture rattling, rumble of thunder growled, seemingly from the very foundations of the building. Ralphie groaned, “Oh no…”

In a short, quick motion Ralphie yanked the shade up, revealing the entire floor to ceiling window.

The whole party had stopped in the tracks and turned as one to look out.

The sky erupted in a downpour.

 

This was written in response to the Weekly Writing Prompt over at Studio30+