Monday, July 25, 2022

Razor Sharp? No, Sharper

When my dad was preparing to leave for Vietnam, he invited me to watch him pack his suitcase. Even though I was only about eight, I remember watching and making note of one particular item that went into his bag — a brand-new six-inch Buck hunting knife in a matte black leather sheath. When he came back, a year later, I watched him remove that knife from his bag and lay it on the bed as he unpacked. Without asking, I picked it up and examined it. 

The sheath was now worn but still smooth but shiny from wear, and the handle of the knife had several deep scratches that marred what used to be a smooth surface. He took it out of my hand and set it on his dresser without a word. I never asked my dad if he used the knife in combat. Given my age, it was something I never really thought about. 

A few years later, on Christmas, he gave me a brand-new Buck knife of my own to use when camping with the Boy Scouts. The knife was the perfect tool; it was extremely sharp, and just the right size for every purpose I used it for. Unfortunately, it was stolen. I never replaced it, as I was aging out of Boy Scouts, anyway.

Years later, my dad began telling me about his experiences in Vietnam. I never asked about his knife. I was old enough to realize it was better to let him tell the tale than for me to pry it from him. All I knew was that the knife remained special to him for the balance of his life.

It was the memory of that knife, the lead me to place one in the hands of Evan Davis in Three Paperclips & a Grey Scarf. It also appears in each of the other books of the Evan Davis tales series. 

As I was in Kuwait when I started writing that story, I had very few options for obtaining a Buck knife to use as a prop while writing. Most of the knives for sale at the Base Exchange were folding style and none of them were made by Buck. The knife became one of the first items I ever bought from Amazon. However, the knife I ordered was not the same as the one my father carried. Mine was a 75th Anniversary version of the blade. 

The Buck knife lay next to my keyboard, as I sat alone at night writing the story of Evan and the troops he was embedded with in Afghanistan. Whenever I was stuck or thinking out the next part of the story, I would take the knife from the sheath and fidget with it. Since it had never been used will a piece of wood, field strip prey, or even cut through a length of parachute cord, it was every bit as sharp as the day Buck created it. This resulted in me finishing the book of several fresh cuts on my fingers and hands from my fidgeting. Hazards of being a novelist, I guess. 

Through the next two books, the knife has appeared and is used in different ways. The knife also served as an exemplar for the cover of Blood Upon the Sands. As I plan out the last two books in the series, I have a sub story about the knife’s origin that will appear in one of them. It explains how Evan got the knife originally, and the meaning he attached to it over the years.

For now, it lives on a display shelf with my other props.

370, 551

Monday, July 18, 2022

One That Is Heartbreaking

Dogs give you thousands of really great days and then one that is heartbreaking.

17 Dec 2008-18 July 2022


Monday, July 11, 2022

Remembering Red Dawn on a Red Planet


Recently a lightbulb burned out in the kitchen. It was one of those ceiling spotlights I’d already upgraded to an LED bulb. This meant I couldn’t one of the incandescent or CFLs that I had laying around-- I was going to need an LED light bulb with matching temperature and wattage. Supply chains are still playing havoc with local hardware stores, so none of them had one in stock and I ended up ordering one online.

While I was browsing the hundreds of LED light bulb choices, I came across a bulb I hadn't seen in a long time. (Stay with me a moment, I promise this entry is not really about light bulbs.) These look like regular spotlight bulbs, but they are red in color and meant to produce heat. Of course, incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat on their own but these were meant to be used in bathrooms and such As I stared at the bulb, I was taken back to a time when I was in ninth grade and our home's main bathroom was just off the kitchen. It had three of these bulbs mounted in the ceiling.

When I was in ninth grade, just like everybody else, I was going through a lot of changes not only physically but mentally as well as I started to Band, I was attracted to her.  She had an unforgettable smile accented by long dark hair and beautiful eyes. But rather than the romantic twist, I first hoped for, somewhere in the middle we spent so much time together we became friends and found ourselves talking about a lot of things. It was great to have a female sounding board during that confusing stretch of life, as it gave me a viewpoint that a lot of guys never get.

Every afternoon, I would come in from school, spend an obligatory ten minutes doing my homework, and then I’d grab the phone out of the kitchen (which had an extremely long cord), and drag it around the corner into the bathroom.  Once inside, I would shut the door and lay on the cool tile after turning on the red heat lamps in the room. I wasn't really cold, per se, I just thought the red glow that they gave the room was kind of cool.

For the next hour or so, Rosetta and I would talk. Sometimes about stupid things classmates said at school, other times talking about what was on TV or how we were feeling about stuff going on in our families. By the end, usually forced by her parents or mine, we were both drained of whatever tension-filled us and a little more firm in the things we were thinking.

I didn't realize how much I appreciated having her as a friend until I moved away that year before summer vacation. Our conversations had dwindled by then-- I’d made the mistake of introducing her to a friend of mine, and they had a rather nasty breakup. She’d advised me to go out with a girl who ended up being my first psycho ex-girlfriend. Hard feelings both ways, I guess. In the end, maybe we should’ve been going out with each other.

I lost all contact with her when we moved to our next base. Once I arrived there, I spent the standard few weeks not knowing anyone at the new location, but I was able to treasure the memory of the conversations Rosetta and I shared. The private thoughts and musings of two adolescents trying to figure out life and how to be cool at a time when nobody is -- an experience I enjoyed while lying under the red glow of heat lamps.