Schrodinger’s Gat — book review

Imagine a quantum physics textbook with a plot-line woven through it. Or a mystery novel with highlights from a quantum physics textbook thrown in. Either way, the resulting book could be Robert Kroese’s novel, Schrödinger’s Gat.


The main character of the novel, Paul Bayes, is the narrator. But he’s also “writing” the book, telling his story to the reader. Schrödinger’s Gat begins with Bayes telling about his suicide attempt, which is foiled by a young woman he’s never seen, calling out to him right before he kills himself. Then the girl runs away and by the third page of the book, we have a chase scene!

When this girl, whom Bayes befriends, later disappears, the mystery begins. However, this isn’t your average Whodunnit mystery novel. As I mentioned, there’s also a quantum physics primer woven through the story (the tagline of Schrödinger’s Gat is “A Quantum Physics Noir Thriller”). The girl, Tali, has the ability to predict tragedies and prevent them from happening. I won’t go into how, exactly, (because that’s what a large portion of the book deals with), but it is all based on Science! Crazy, crazy Science. To help the reader, Bayes quotes from a (I assume) fictitious book titled “Fate and Consciousness.” There are a number of other books and “online articles” quoted as well, having to do with fate, light waves vs. particles, deism, quantum mechanics, and, of course, Schrödinger’s alive/dead furry friend.

Having never taken quantum mechanics in college, Schrödinger’s Gat was mind-blowing. I had heard the premise of Schrödinger’s cat before, but not until this book did I actually know what it was all about. (And if you aren’t 100% sure, either, this book is for you.) Kroese has taken an extremely complex subject and put it in small, digestible portions, clearly explaining some of the basic ideas of quantum mechanics. Not only did I find the novel entertaining with a fresh idea, but I came away from it actually feeling as though I’d learned a lot. It’s a rare novel that can offer that.

The premise of the narrator “writing” the book was one of my biggest complaints. Kroese chose to have Bayes “write” the book in present tense, as if Bayes was talking through it as he goes. For example: “So I go after her. Partly I’m mad and partly I’m curious.” “So I’m chasing her down the steps[.]” “I’m faster, and I get [to the cab] just as she’s closing the door. I hold the door open and slide in. . . .” “I’m about to say something, but I hold off. . . .” I understand in a chase scene, that quick, in-the-moment style works. But when we’re reading about Bayes reading Wikipedia or conversing with his mother on the phone, it gets a bit tedious. I always find first-person, present tense tedious. Maybe it’s just me.

The other problem with Bayes as the “author” of book, is that when he wants to do an information dump, quoting large portions from other sources, he (Bayes) brackets them with things like “It’s not vital that you understand this stuff–SKIP THIS PART” and “OK, START READING HERE AGAIN.” Once there’s even “You can probably skip this excerpt if abstract philosophical discussions bore you” (pg. 42).

I’ll start by saying I get it, I do. Kroese wants to make Bayes sound like he’s just coming across this information for the first time, but realizes not everyone who reads “his” book will care about some of the stuff he’s trying to wrap his head around. As a reader of Kroese’s book, however, I didn’t skip a single thing, and I found it a bit annoying that Bayes kept telling me to.

My biggest complaint about the book, though, was something I never thought I’d find myself dealing with: I hated the font.

No, seriously, the width of the letters was too thin. Weird, I know, but I kept feeling like I had to squint to read it, and then it still didn’t come into focus. However, when chunks of text were quoted, that font was a normal one and easily read. When it comes to recommending the book (and I do), I’d say get the digital version instead of the paperback. I have both versions, and the digital fonts aren’t plagued by skinny letters.

Neither of those complaints would keep me from recommending this book, however (though I would pick the Kindle version over the print because of the font). The device that Kroese has created to move the story along, while at the same time explaining the basic principles of such a confusing topic as quantum physics, is original and fun. And as Bayes tries to understand this field of science, he frequently voiced the “Huh? . . . Oh!” that I was feeling. It was great to have a partner in learning. Having said that, this isn’t a blanket recommendation for everyone. If you are the type of person who WOULD find abstract philosophical discussions a bore, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. Or, at least, thanks to Bayes, you know which sections to skip.


Full disclosure: you will find my name in the Acknowledgments section of Schrödinger’s Gat. I have been an avid reader of Kroese’s for a few years, and when he used a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of this book, I happily laid down my money.

This review originally appeared on East of Readen, in more or less the same form.
Schrodinger’s Gat on Amazon.



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The Doctor’s Visit

This may be my first attempt at writing what could be called fan-fiction. I doubt I’ll do more (it’s just not my thing), but here ya go:


The Doctor’s Visit

         I was standing in my backyard when the sound came. I dropped my empty coffee mug at the eerie VWOP, VWOP, VWOPVWOP! I turned to see a blue police box sitting beside the dogwood. A police box that I can assure was not there when I passed the tree only moments before. Before I could run, the door opened, and a black leather jacket-clad man poked his head out.
         “Where are we?” he asked, and I noticed a British accent.
         “What country?”
         “United States.”
         “When? When are we?”
         “Uh, 2014.”
         “Fantastic!” he said, with a huge grin. He opened the door wider. I could see a huge room behind him, even though you won’t believe it.
         “It’s a time machine,” he said, and I didn’t doubt him for one moment. “When do you want to go?”
         I thought long and hard, but remembering my two cups of coffee, I said, “Nothing pre-toilet paper.”

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Hitchhikers and the Stories We Tell

During my experiences picking up and being a hitchhiker, I’ve come to realize the strangers getting into the car all have one thing in common: out of gratitude, they feel the need to repay the driver. And usually the only currency they have is stories.

copyright Vicki Watkins

copyright Vicki Watkins

From the obese preacher wearing a three-piece suit in the middle of July, to the mid-30’s man with his cattle dog on the interstate in New Mexico, none of the people I’ve ever picked up rode silently. When, as a backpacker, I was picked up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the middle of a rainstorm, I too, tried to share stories with my rescuers. Alas, they spoke only German.

The preacher’s car had broken down, and he just needed a lift home. It wasn’t even half a mile, but I was told, “Thank you, son. You just made a fat man very happy.”

The guy outside of Albuquerque introduced me to his dog.

“His name’s Puke.”

“Not in here, mister! This is a Mercedes,” I replied, a quote from the movie Spaceballs.

He laughed hard and climbed into my Honda. Puke jumped into the front floorboard and sat quietly for the hour I took them up the road. I’ve forgotten the man’s name, but I remember how he shared stories of places he’d been, trips he’d taken.

A guy I picked up on a rainy afternoon in eastern North Carolina said he needed to get to Carolina Beach, but would gladly ride as far as I could take him. His destination was an hour out of my way, but without any real schedule for my day, I took him all the way to the main intersection of Carolina Beach before saying goodbye.

When I picked him up, he threw his Army duffle bag between his legs in the front seat. I told him he could use the backseat or the trunk for it, but he said he didn’t want to get my car dirty. He was in his late 40’s and had been sober for two years. In the past, he and his brother had operated a restaurant in Colorado. His brother had been the manager, he was the head cook. But drugs and alcohol had destroyed that partnership and their relationship. Now, two years on the wagon, he had called his brother for help. He was told if he could get to Carolina Beach, he had a job waiting on him at the brother’s restaurant.

“I won’t be lead cook, I know that,” he said with a sad smile. “I’ll probably be line cook or something for a while. I don’t blame him. Why should he trust me?” He patted the duffle bag and grinned. “But I’ve got three weeks worth of clothes and my own kitchen tools. I’m going to show him it’s like it used to be.”

Another time, on a small side road in North Carolina, I picked up an overall-wearing man in his 70’s. He had probably my favorite story. He was born and raised in West Virginia, and as a young man he joined his brother and the rest of the guys in town working for a mining company.

“My job,” he said, “was to crawl through these small tunnels, pulling a cable as thick as my arm. The end of the cable was fastened to a rope. That rope was tied to my waist, and I pulled it as I crawled, my headlamp lighting my way. Since I was in the tunnel all day, I tied my lunch pail to my leg and pulled it along with me.

“One day, I stopped for lunch . . . I ate my sandwich on my stomach, then got my banana out. I peeled my banana and rolled over. Lying flat on my back, my banana touched the roof of the tunnel! That’s when I realized I had to leave. I told that banana, I said, ‘Banana, when I finish eating you, I’m gonna climb out of this tunnel and never come back.’”

He did just that. On the way out, he asked his brother if he wanted to quit with him. His brother said no, and the man just kept walking. He left town the next day.

There’s something in humans that makes us want to repay those who’ve helped us in hard times. And often, in the midst of that hard time, the only thing we have is our stories. If any of the men and women I’ve picked up over the years had offered me money, I wouldn’t have taken it. And I certainly wouldn’t remember now, fifteen to twenty years later, how much they’d offered. Instead, they offered pieces of their lives, pieces of who they were and who they wanted to be. The money I’d forget; their stories will be with me forever.


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book review: Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman

Today I am reviewing the  book Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman, written by Michael Tinker Pearce and Linda Pearce.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 3.05.14 AM

I would tell the authors two things, 1: please hire a copyeditor, and 2: please just tell me a freakin’ story already!

The first issue (the dire need of a copyeditor) comes from a number of problems in the book. To begin with, there’s this simple rule: “[use a comma] when “and” is being used to coordinate two independent clauses. An independent clause—also known as a main clause—is a group of words that has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.”

It’s not that hard, but the authors just don’t seem to grasp it.

There was an ugly edge to their laughter and as he neared them he could see they were shoving someone back and forth between them.

There’s also the fact that you use a comma after an introductory clause. You don’t have to know the rule by its description to understand that the following is a bit of a mouthful without the needed comma:

As they continued around the shoulder of the mountain the High road descended down a long ramp to the valley floor.

(By the way, I won’t even start in on the inconsistent use of Oxford commas.)

Then there was the problem where the authors couldn’t decide whether to capitalize “aunt” or not. I lost count of the times the words “his Aunt” were used, only to be followed a few paragraphs later by “his aunt.” (Which is the correct one.) The same problem occurred with the word Goblin/goblin.

These things may seem trivial, but when almost every page has missing commas and capitalization problems, I was constantly being yanked out of the story.

Sadly, though, there isn’t much of a story to be yanked out of, which is my biggest complaint. I could read a run-on sentence that was one hundred pages long if the story was interesting. I think I only noticed all the editing problems because I didn’t have anything else in the book to keep my attention.

I understand the authors are writing an epic fantasy. Heck, it’s practically in the title. But one doesn’t create an epic by simply making it long and taking forever for the story to actually go anywhere. An epic is vast and sweeping, not merely telling the reader everything the people packed.

They brought with them some small things that the family might need, odds and ends like a spool of strong thread, some iron needles, a small bag of salt and a box of 14-bore slugs.

Guess what. I don’t care. Unless that spool of strong thread and bag of salt are going to save someone’s life Macgyver-style on the next page, I . . . don’t . . . care.

The pace of the story was horrendous. Things would be happening, adventure was there! . . . and then the characters have to sit in camp for a week because someone broke a leg. But don’t worry; every single day of that week is going to be described in painstaking detail. Did he shoot a rabbit, or not? Did “his Aunt” pick these herbs but not those? Fear not! All these questions will be answered.

This may be a bit of exaggeration (not much), but that’s how it felt to read this book. Seven chapters in and I felt like I had been reading for weeks. Oh, wait, I had. Because I kept putting the book down, reading another book and two novellas before I finished six chapters of this one. Nothing made me care about the protagonist because he just watched things going on around him.

What did he think about while watching? Well, after a painfully long description of how rock slabs were lifted to be a roof, we get this doozy:

Once Engvyr had heard it told it seemed like the easiest thing in the world. He reckoned that a lot of things were like that. A dwarf needed to learn to look at things in different ways when the way that he knew wouldn’t do.


I wish I could say this was the only time the book seemed to be an epic fantasy hidden in a Life Lessons Primer, but alas, no.

“So I’ll tell you now don’t ever, ever judge a man solely because of his race. Judge him by his words, his actions and the company he keeps but not by his race.”

Didactic much? But don’t fear, father dwarf! Your son will have completely learned that lesson within a few pages when he comes to the aid of a Goblin!

Without thinking he stripped off his great-cote, threw it over the goblin and stepped between the drover and his victim.

Leaving the missing introductory clause comma aside, this sentence brings me to my next problem with the storytelling in this book: made up spellings of words to (I assume) remind the reader, “Remember: this is a FANTASY! Don’t they just talk funny in fantasy world?!”

He stripped off his great-cote.



Not coat. Cote. WHY?!

There’s also the constant use of the word hame instead of home. WHY?! (Since writing this, I have looked hame up and found it is the Scots language word for home. So no, they weren’t making that up, but the book wasn’t written in the Scots language, soooo . . . . Oh, and while we’re on the subject, a cote is a shed for pigeons. So there’s that.)

Finally, pyes instead of pies. Oh, look, “his Aunt” is going to make Travel Pyes to take on the journey!

And that’s where I stopped. Only 18% of the way into the book (Chapter 7 of 36), and I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t read another sentence. I rarely put down a book, because usually I have to know what happens. In this case though, I just don’t care. I mean, I guess from the title he becomes a rifleman, but nothing about him or his life in those first seven chapters made me care at all.

If I hadn’t been given a free copy of this book to review, I wouldn’t have even made it that far. Pyes was just the final straw in a haystack of problems with this book.

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I Might Want to Punch You

My mind is somewhere else today. So far, after two hours of “writing,” I’ve managed 154 words on a short story. And I’m pretty sure 81 of them are going to be removed when I revise it.

That's me, frustrated.

That’s me, frustrated.

As some may know, I plan to will publish my Young Adult science fiction novel, Runaways, this year (probably this summer). However, leading up to it, I want to publish a book of five or six flash fiction stories, just to get my name out there, generate some buzz, all that jazz (and other things that in end two Z’s).

BUT…I’m really struggling with four of the stories. One of the six is fully ready to go, one is finished and awaiting a second draft, and four are sitting there unfinished. I’m slowly beginning to think it’s because I don’t care about these four. Two of them have a lot of potential to say something, and the other two are a little, I dunno…silly?

I keep asking myself, “At what point do you say these aren’t the stories you want to tell and just move on?” Or is it just that I’m distracted and irritable in my life right now? There are so many times I feel I don’t have any stories I want to tell, but I still want to write. Most writers never feel that way. All the time I hear, “Even if I never came up with another idea, I’d have enough already to last the rest of my life,” or “I just don’t have enough time to write all the stories in my head!”

Then I punch them in the face.

Not really. I mean good for them. But I hope they see the punches in my eyes.

Update! As I was leaving the coffee shop where I wrote this, I found a quarter on the ground. So that’s a win!


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Two Questions to Immediately Improve Your Writing

In college, I learned the two questions to ask to immediately improve your writing.

pic from flikr

pic from flikr

I was taking a class on “Russian literature and film in the twentieth century.” On one of my first papers, the professor had circled almost every use of the word “that” and written “who.” There were a number of other uses of that which had just been crossed out entirely. Suddenly a lightbulb went on in my head and I saw what she was trying to get me to do. Those changes immediately made my writing better and they can work for you, as well.

First, the “that” vs “who” change. Once I learned this one, I’ve seen the mistake everywhere. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and even published books. Here’s how my professor explained it:
Use “who” for people, use “that” for everything else.
She was talking about a sentence’s direct object.

Example: He is the one that loved her.
It should be: He is the one who loved her.

It’s about the direct object and which word you should use to refer to it. Since “the one” refers back to “he,” and “he” is a person, use “who.”

Example: I love authors that use diverse characters.
It should be: I love authors who use diverse characters.
Again, though some would disagree, authors are people.

In cases where the direct object isn’t a person, that is correct.
Example: There are a number of toys that are needlessly sexist.
While sad, this sentence is grammatically correct.

The second piece of advice she gave me was the use of the word that as useless filler. Example? Before this professor, I would have written the sentence as The second piece of advice that she gave me was….

As writers, we want an economy of words. Just as most of us wouldn’t even think about writing The male boy was tall, we shouldn’t use any other unneeded word. And that is almost always useless.

I was thinking that orange really is the new black.
I was thinking orange really is the new black.

There are things that I’m doing to improve my relationships.
There are things I’m doing to improve my relationships.

This isn’t a matter of the word being “wrong;” it just isn’t needed. As writers, we want the words we choose to have meaning. You wouldn’t say rainy if you meant stormy. While similar, those words mean different things, and a good writer would want to use the one that means exactly what he or she wants to convey. And most of the time that doesn’t have meaning.

Ever since my professor pointed those things out to me, I’ve always questioned using that in a sentence. Sure, usually I don’t catch it until I’m revising, but that’s fine. As long as at some point I ask, “Can this word be changed to who? Can this word be removed without changing the sentence?”

 If you ask yourself these questions, too, you can easily improve your writing with little effort.

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Wanted: Cover Designer

“So what’s going on?” you might be wondering quietly to yourself. (Or asking me loudly, like Denise.)

Well, a few years ago, I wrote a YA science fiction novel, and after a number of drafts and revisions, I have decided that 2014 will be the year I publish it as an ebook. The book is pretty much ready to go and I am now in the process of looking for a cover artist. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want the cover to look like, but there are pretty much a quadrabazillion cover designers on the interwebs. Finding just the right one is proving to be hard. I actually haven’t even contacted any of them yet, because I’m a little OCD about things. As of today, I think I have my list narrowed down to 8.

There are a number of amazing artists out there who do great work with models in their cover work, but my book includes a reptilian humanoid and a Cyclops as two of the four main characters, so I may have to end up with an illustration, instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just can’t seem to find the illustrator I want to contact.

As I get farther along in the process, I’ll talk more about my novel, Runaways. But now I must take a look at the 7 tabs I have open in my browser and see if I can’t find the perfect match for my needs. Thanks, y’all!

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Thoughts on “Headlights” by Eminem

This Mother’s Day brought something I never thought I’d see: Eminem’s video “Headlights.” I never thought I’d see it because, although it is yet another song to/about Debbie Mathers, his mother, the song is an apology. An “I understand now you did the best you could” song. Their strained relationship has been public and rapped about for years, so no need to go into that, but here is “Headlights.”

Needless to say, explicit lyrics.

It’s been fascinating to watch someone go through this range of emotions, to watch someone grow up publicly. He wasn’t wrong to say the things he said about her when he was younger. That’s how he felt, the pain he was going through. The pain thousands have gone through, and he gave voice to that anger and hurt. But now he has grown, (he’s in his 40’s) and he hasn’t hung onto that pain. Yes, it defined him when he was younger, but he didn’t let it destroy him, and he didn’t let it define him for life. He grew and changed, as we all should. If we are the same person in our 40’s as we were in our 20’s, WE have done something wrong, not those around us. As we live, we should have the ability to see that it’s not always black and white. There may be reasons people hurt us that we’ll never understand, but it’s rarely out of evil or hatred. A lot of times, whether we see it or not, they’re doing the best they can, given the circumstances. And again, we rarely know the complete story of what those circumstances are. But growing up, becoming an adult, means acknowledging that we may have gotten it wrong or we may not have known the full story.

Good for you, Marshall.

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“Somewhere in Wyoming”

Stan rang the bell on the counter a second time, then wiped rain from his hair.

“Hello?” He was tired, he was wet, and he was impatient.

Finally, he heard a door open somewhere and the muffled sound of someone saying, “Just a moment.” A door behind the counter opened and an old man stepped out, still tucking in his shirt.

“Sorry it took me a second. I was catching a few winks.”

“It’s all right,” Stan said.

“Single room?” the old man asked, pulling a set of suspenders onto his shoulders.

“Yes, sir. And just one night.”

After a few clicks on a keyboard, the front desk clerk got the rest of the information he needed from Stan, then slid a key across the counter.

“Room 116,” he said.

Stan opened the door to his room and flicked on the light switch. Inside, he found exactly what he expected: two double beds with a night-stand in between them, a long dresser against the opposite wall, and a small table with two chairs in front of the window. A typical room in a typical motel, situated near a typical interstate. With embarrassment, he had asked the old man at the desk what state he was in. He had driven nineteen hours and had lost track of exactly where on the road he was. The old man said Wyoming, and Stan had no reason to doubt him, so Wyoming it was.

The clock between the beds said 3:17 A.M. He shook his head as he placed his duffle bag on the foot of the nearest bed. He knew he should have stopped earlier. He had been driving tired, but kept pushing on. Finally, after jerking himself awake when he hit the rumble strips on the shoulder, he decided it was time to find a motel. Two miles later he came across the Dew Drop Inn, located in what it turned out was Wyoming. He hadn’t caught the name of the town when the old man said it, but it didn’t really matter.

Reaching around the little table, Stan turned on the heat to knock the chill out of the air. Though it was just late September, he had been getting into higher elevations for a number of hours. He wondered what the weather was like in Seattle, his final destination. He took off his coat and tossed it beside the duffle bag. He walked into the bathroom and took a look at himself in the mirror. His hair was wet from the rain and he contemplated getting a shower. Instead, he simply grabbed a towel to dry off with. He was too tired to shower.


He froze, the towel covering his head and face.


He yanked the towel off his head but stood silently in the bathroom. Surely that whisper was in his head. He wasn’t going crazy; he was just tired.

“Stan? Seriously, come out of the bathroom. We need to talk.”

Stan swallowed hard. His eyes were beginning to ache from being held open so wide. There was someone else in the room, someone who knew his name. For the first time in his life, Stan Foster was truly terrified.

“Come on, Stan. We need to talk. If I could walk, I’d just go in there with you, but I can’t, so you have to come out here. You can’t stay in the bathroom forever.”

Stan slammed the bathroom door shut and leaned against it. He didn’t know what “if I could walk” meant, but he hoped it meant just that. How did someone who couldn’t walk get into his room? How did anyone get into his room, for that matter? He reached into his pants pocket for his cell phone. It wasn’t there. It’s in my coat, he realized.

“Stan? Stanley, come on, man.”

There was an odd quality about the voice, something he couldn’t quite place. It sounded like a male, but definitely not a man’s voice. Not a child’s either, for that matter. And there was a slight hollow sound to it. It almost sounded fake, like someone was using a fake voice to call out to him.

Finally, Stan got up the nerve to speak. “Who are you?”

“I’d . . . I’d rather not say. I think you need to see for yourself.”

“If you can’t walk, how did you get in here?”

“Stan, just open the door.”

“How do you know my name?”


“All right, all right! I’m coming out. But you had better stay where you are, okay?”


Slowly, trembling, Stan cracked the door. No one was standing in front of it, so he felt a little safer. He began opening it very slowly, still seeing no one. Finally, the door was open wide enough and he slowly slid out. A quick glance around the room showed him that there was no one else in the room with him.

“Good God, I’m going crazy,” he murmured.

“You aren’t going crazy,” the voice answered, and with it there was movement at his duffle bag.

Stan Foster stood wide-eyed with his mouth slightly open for what felt to him like years. There, poking out of his duffle bag was Teddy, the puppet Stan had used to make a living for the past nine years.

Little Teddy, as he had sometimes been called, was not a ventriloquist dummy, but a half-body hand puppet used behind a curtain. For nine years, Stan had gone to schools performing shows about the dangers of things. The dangers of drugs, the dangers of talking to strangers, the dangers of talking to strangers on the Internet, the dangers of peer pressure, the dangers of . . . well, it didn’t matter. Whatever the schools wanted him to cover, he covered. Sometimes Stan used other puppets at the assemblies, as well, but Teddy was a constant. He had been Stan’s first puppet and his favorite. And now Teddy was in the room with him, when Stan knew for certain he had left him behind. Stan planned to make a new life for himself in Seattle, and he no longer wanted to be a puppeteer. He had purposefully left Little Teddy behind with his old life.

“Stan,” the puppet said, and Stan screamed like a little girl, backing up into the clothes hangers behind him. Startled, he screamed again.

“Stan, seriously, get a hold of yourself.”

Somehow the puppet’s mouth was opening and closing on its own . . . like it was talking. It looked like it was talking to him!

“I’m dreaming! I’m going crazy! It’s late and I’m tired!”

The puppet shook its head, “You aren’t going crazy, Stan, and you’re not dreaming. True, it is late, but you’re not hallucinating because of that, if that’s what you think.”

“I need to sit down,” Stan said, partly to himself.

“By all means,” Teddy answered, and his left arm flopped to the side, indicating the other bed.

Stan slowly nodded and made his way to the bed. He sat down, facing the bed where his puppet sat in the duffle bag. His head seemed to be in a daze.

“How did . . . how is . . . I don’t . . . .” He couldn’t find the strength to finish any sentence.

“Stan, you tried to leave me behind in Greensboro and I understand. I forgive you for that. You’re trying to leave your old life behind you and I do not fault you. Sometimes we just have to move on, you know? I get that. I’m not mad at you.”

“I didn’t . . . I didn’t pack you in my bag.”

The puppet’s head tilted back and forth in a nod.

“When your bag was on the floor, I pulled all your clothes out and stuffed them under your bed. Then I climbed in and zipped myself up. I thought we’d never stop. Where are we, by the way?”

“Wyoming.” His own voice sounded far off, distant, and he wondered whether he was going to faint. His eyes gradually rose from staring at Teddy and he looked at the curtain, listening to the rain outside. Yes, he decided, he was going to faint.

“Stan? Stan! Stay with me, man, this is important. I didn’t zip myself up for a cross-country trip for the fun of it. We need to talk.”

“Okay.Yeah. I need some water.”

Stan rose and made his way to the sink, watching Teddy in the mirror the whole time. His hands were shaking and he couldn’t unwrap the plastic from the cup on the counter. Finally, he stuffed the plastic back into the cup and filled it that way. He drank two, three cups of water, keeping an eye on the puppet. His fourth cup of water he splashed in his face, to wake himself up. When he turned around, he saw that it hadn’t worked: Teddy was still there, watching him.

“Can we talk now?”

Dear God, he thought, it’s still moving its mouth.

“I need to sit,” he said and he went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet lid. “I think it will be easier to talk if I can’t see you.”

He heard what sounded like the puppet clearing its throat.

“Stan, she won’t marry you just because you drive to Seattle to see her. Change of heart like that only happens in the movies. She doesn’t love you anymore and no amazing, romantic gesture is going to change that.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Stan burst out of the bathroom. “That’s not why I’m moving to Seattle! She has nothing to do with—what the hell am I doing talking to a puppet? I’m losing it! I’m going crazy.”

“The only thing crazy about this is you believing she has nothing to do with your move to Seattle.”

“There are a lot of theatre opportunities out there. I want to get back into legit theatre and away from stupid puppet shows. Sure, she’s in Seattle, but that isn’t why . . . Are you smiling? Why—and how— are you smiling?”

“Do you hear yourself, Stan? ‘Theatre opportunities?’ Do you really believe that? What about New York City? Ever heard of that place? The theatre Mecca of the world? Or Chicago? Or L.A.? Hell, you could have moved an hour and a half to Charlotte!”

“Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I do. And that’s why you’re talking to me. You can’t ignore me or just write me off as a hallucination, can you, Stan? You’re talking to me because I know you better than anyone else in the world. Probably better than yourself. I may be fake but I’m not stupid, you idiot. You try spending nine years with someone’s hand up your ass and see if you don’t get to know them fairly well.

“You’re going to Seattle because you still love her . . . aren’t you?”

Stan walked to the door and opened it. He needed the cold air. He needed to see the rain drifting through the beam of the lone streetlight in the parking lot somewhere in Wyoming. In all honesty, he didn’t know why he left Greensboro. Yes, he wanted to see her again, but he had no delusions of a loving reunion. Other than seeing her with his own eyes, he had no other plans for Seattle. He hadn’t really thought that far. He had just packed and gotten in the car. Even during his trip he had rarely thought of what would happen when he arrived on the West Coast.

“I just want to say goodbye,” he whispered. “That’s all.”


The voice behind him seemed to distant and out of place, yet so familiar and so much a part of him. He realized that Teddy was speaking with the voice that he himself had been providing for nine years but had never heard outside his own head before. The voice was coming into his ears, not from his own mouth, and it made him uneasy. He reached his hand out into the rain. The feel of cold rain running across his hand made more sense, somehow. His shirtsleeve began to soak up water and get more and more damp before his eyes. This, too, made sense somehow.

“Yes,” he answered. “I just want to see her. I do still love her, but it’s not about winning her back or anything. I’m stuck, Teddy.”

“I know, Stan.”

“That’s why I left you in Greensboro. I want to start over. I want a new life. I don’t want to be a puppeteer anymore, and I don’t want to love her anymore. I had to leave you behind, and I need to say goodbye to her. To give her one last hug, look into her eyes and say, ‘You failed me. You took my trust and my love and failed me.’ I want her to know that I won’t love her forever, and that she failed the person who loved her the most.”

Stan’s arm was soaked as he dropped it to his side. He was cold but barely felt the chill. The slashes of rain in the parking lot changed from silver to gold and back to silver as they passed through the lonely beam.

“That’s all, Teddy. I don’t want her back.” He laughed to himself as he finally understood it. “I just need to say goodbye.”

Stan turned from the rain and looked at his duffle bag. It sat on the bed, unzipped. He walked over to it, already knowing what he would find. Sure enough, when he opened the bag, there were his clothes, just as he had packed them. Reaching for a dry shirt, he smiled to himself.

“I’m sorry I left you behind, little man, but I think it’s better this way,” he whispered to the air. “Besides . . . I know what I’m doing now.”



This story was written years ago, but since I’m in rehearsals I don’t have time to get something new posted. What’s fascinating to me is that this was written years before I moved to NYC . . . and became a puppeteer. An interesting case of life imitating art.


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Building Inspiration

I’m pretty sure I’m going to adopt this building as the kick in the pants I need to get to work.

photo by Chris Murphy. Some rights reserved.


I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about creating. Musing, dwelling, pondering…all that fun stuff.

But not creating. Not writing. Not crocheting. Not building. Not drawing. I feel like I’m drowning and all I can think about is swimming to the surface, but I’m not kicking.

I know all the tips and tricks to get started, but I’m not starting. Part of it is this long winter. With SAD, the cold and the gray of NYC is probably the worst thing for me. I retreat home from work and slowly melt into the couch. I watch TV or not. Either way, I’m barely absorbing any stimulation that comes my way. I haven’t finished reading a book in over a month. I start, I get bored, I put them down. It’s like pleasure can’t penetrate through the water around me.

I feel like I have no stories to tell, no vision as to where they are going. I can’t even finish the flash fiction I started! ha

But spring will come. Green will come. Stories will come.
Those are things I can count on.

But I also know that you can’t wait on the Muse. You have to be working and if the Muse shows up, so much the better, but it’s not required. Novels don’t get written because of Muses. The Stand couldn’t have waited on inspiration to get to 1168 pages. The Chrysler Building couldn’t have been built if the workers waited until their Muse showed up. No, they put the building together from the ground up, piece by piece, whether they were “feeling it” or not.

I don’t know much of the history of the Chrysler Building, but it’s one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the city, maybe anywhere. Sure, an artistic mind was behind the design, but it still had to be put together, piece by piece, day by day. And that’s the way of Art. You just get in there and do it.

So when I need “inspiration,” I’ll step outside, take a look at Manhattan, then go inside and get back to work.


Filed under My Writing, Thoughts