Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Troubled Waters by Allan Hudson



I’d like to share one of my short stories with you this week.


Photo by Marcus Woodbridge/Unsplash Images.

The Troubled Waters

The waves are relentless at battering the coastal cliffs. Water, soft as taffeta, reduces the shoreline to chunks of broken rock and diminished stature. Nathan Hall ponders the damage to the edge of his property and curses the wind and the rain. He raises his fist at the breakers that are bashing their heads against the bluff marking the peripheral of his land.

“Damn you Mother Nature! Will you continue to steal the very sod my ancestors gave to me?”

Over a hundred years have passed since Nathan’s great grandfather fished from the very waters destined to destroy his only legacy. Chewing up on the edges, little by little, the earth gives way to the authority of the sea. He built a home on ground solid enough to withstand the ferocity of northern gales, the sun’s hottest days, winter’s temper. The sea though, is a different story. Nathan will be the last of the Halls to inhabit the property of his ancestors. 

The rain pelts the wrinkled skin of the man, plastering his hair upon his forehead. It does nothing however to soften his features as he holds his face up in defiance. Nor does it wash away the torment he carries. Like the diminishing shore, his spirit has eroded with the pounding of the years. Between his body and his left arm, he clutches a photo album. Tears escape across his cheeks, impossible to distinguish from the raindrops, except for the salt of his sorrow. He drops to his knees, his head hanging. As the album falls to the damp ground on its spine, the wind flips the cardboard edges until it rests open with pictures tinting the wet verdancy with a square of black and white.

Photo by Laura Fuhrman/Unsplash Images.

As if to taunt him, the album falls to images of his son, his only child. Blurry eyed, he ignores them until the photos become indistinguishable. He doesn’t want to see them anymore. Not enough years have gone by for him to forget the haunting memory of an anguished sea claiming his son’s body and his future. Ripping the photos out one by one he throws them into the wind. They tumble, and flitter like birds as they drift out to sea. He yells into the storm.

“Take them you selfish whores. The same as you took my Davey forty years ago. Like you took my Helen.”

Frustrated with anger at not being able to get them out fast enough, he begins tearing whole pages out, flipping them into the air, watching them twirl and spiral away. When he starts to tear out the last page, the wind suddenly dies. The rain stops. Fierce clouds, warriors of the sky, split apart to reveal a brilliant ray of gold that sweeps across the waves, as if admonishing them to calm down. The immediate stillness astonishes Nathan. He’s stunned into inaction as he watches the seascape change dramatically from rage to pacifist. He’s never witnessed such a phenomenon.

 He wipes the moisture from his face, pushes the hood covering his head onto his shoulders and fingers the unruly locks from his forehead. Gaping at the whitecaps on the horizon as they dissolve, he rises and steps closer to the precipice. As he gazes down the rocky incline, he almost slips and steps back, unsure of the soft ground. The shredded album hangs by his side. It slips from his wet fingers and lands at his feet, pulling his attention away from the vista. Only one picture was left pasted on the last page. An eight by ten of him, his wife and baby David. On the other side are four photos. All of Helen.

Despite his anger to rid himself of all reminders, his shoulders sag at the thought of losing these last few images. Tearing the page from the binder, he hurls the empty album into the air and without the wind, it plunges into the sand at the base of the cliff. Hugging the last page to his chest, he studies the skyline, his features at rest, a calm after the storm. The troubled clouds have had enough of each other and break up into meaningless clumps. The morning sun sprinkles its warming glow where it can. A warm zephyr whispers to the water close to shore causing small ripples to lick the sand. Feeling somewhat weightless and tired, he looks for a spot to sit.

An old tree trunk lies close to the cliff edge. Once mighty and tall, it now lies dead and fading into the future one splinter at a time. He doesn’t care that it’s wet. He rests his butt on a smooth patch and flips the page over to the four pictures of Helen. The top left is one of her at a dance when she was a teenager. Her and her sister Martha are jiving together, their skirts flying and their ponytails swinging, glee evident in their large smiles. It was the night he met her. He can still recall the pink sweater and navy skirt, the enthusiasm in her eyes and how easily she blushed. It was the last dance of the night, a waltz and a lady’s tag. It had been the first dance he’d attended. He was thirteen. Too shy to venture onto the floor or ask someone to dance, he’d been a wallflower all night. He can still feel how his heart began beating faster when he watched her approach. Part of him wanted her to keep on walking, not center him out. Another side wanted to hear her voice. It was soft, melodic, like the last song.

“Would you like to dance with me?”


Photo by Alexandra Gorn/Unsplash Images.

The second photo on the top is her walking away from the photographer. Her head is down exploring the beach she strolls on, always looking for washed up glass pieces. The shoreline curves to the left to go around a bend, the water to her right. Her legs are bare to the knees where they meet rolled-up denim shorts. A short sleeveless blouse, with frills around the neck and the bottom show off her slim waist. A broad smile crosses Nathan’s face. He was the photographer.

Gazing off into the sky, his vison blurs. A memory so vivid, it could’ve happened a few days ago. They were exploring the cliffs at the edge of the property. She loved the beach. The surf and ice had carved shallow caves from the sandstone and left a carpet of fine granular sand, soft as a kitten’s fur. Along with his camera, he carried a picnic basket and a blanket. They cuddled into the larger hollow, scrutinizing the sun rays dancing on the surface of the wavelets. The blanket bore witness to the union of their souls and the tiny drops of blood could never be washed out.

Nathan looks out at the water where they caves would’ve been all those years ago. Only a few large slabs of stone are all that’s left. During high tide, they disappear. He takes a deep breath, smelling the heady scent of wet earth and brine. Pausing, he uses all his will power not to blink. He’s cried enough. His attention turns to the bottom left photo.


Photo by Jacalyn Beales/Unsplash Images.

It’s a close up of Helen when she graduated from Beauty School. It would’ve been in the school’s year book. Nathan touches the photo, his finger tracing her full lips, so red they look dark gray on the photo. Her light brown hair ends at her shoulders with a casual flip all around, a style popular in the seventies. The eyes. Nathan shakes his head with a smirk, reminding himself he could always read her looks. The eyes told him everything. When she was angry, her eyes said stay away. Or if she was excited, they said follow me. Or when she hugged him, they said I love you. Sliding the photo from its protective holder, he puts it in his coat pocket.


The fourth photo was taken the week before she died. She’s lying on the grass where she had been staring up at the clouds. Full of mirth, she was poking fun at the formations and how they reminded her of Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse or Bullwinkle the moose. He took the picture. He had to stand over her to get her photo and he remembers her gazing at the lens and him telling her how beautiful she was. When she turned her head to the side, cheeks rosy, he snapped the shot.

Even now, he feels the same way. Her beauty hasn’t dwindled in his mind. Several loose strands of hair fall on her cheek: her T-shirt off shoulder and her breasts like plump oranges, her navel showing and just the top section of her jeans. A lump in his throat makes him look away with pursed lips and a sad luster in his eyes. The memories so fierce. He removes this photo as well and adds it to the same pocket. Shoving it in deeper, he disturbs the letter he has in there.  He removes it and places it on the log beside him, ignoring it while he flips the page of photos over to the eight by ten.


Davey was only a month old when the picture was taken. A professional image from Robertson’s Studio. He thinks the owner’s name was Ben or something like that, he can’t remember for sure. Silly enough, he recalls the man’s easy laughter and how he fussed over them to get the best light. The black and white photo has been colored by hand. The faces all have the same blush of rouge on their cheeks. The clothing has a soft tinge as if you’re looking at it through gauze. The jumper his mother gave them for the baby is an appropriate blue. Nathan’s suit, dark brown. Helen’s blouse a shy pink. He had a moustache then. Long twirly ends to make handlebars. Helen thought it quite dashing, called him her pirate. He laughs out loud at the absurdity of it now and almost falls off the log.  The moment he falters and reaches to catch himself, the page of photos shoots in the air. Gasping at what happened, without thinking he lunges for it. His next step will take him over the cliff.

Photo by David Solce/Unsplash Images.

He catches himself right at the edge, his toes in thin air, the balls of his feet on firm rock, his heels an inch off the ground. He arches his back trying to arrest his fall forward. Arms start propelling to pull himself back as he totters on an edge like the tip of a knife. Glancing down at the jagged rock twenty feet below, a torrent of wounds flash through his head, with death close behind. Heart pounding, frightened, his back impossibly arched, he twirls his arms faster now, until he starts to regain his balance. Tipping back toward land, he falls on his side, panting and holding his chest. A tide of relief overwhelms him. He turns on his back and rests his forearm across his eyes. The sun is directly overhead and blazes with a gratifying warmth. He lies still for many moments before his heart becomes still and his breathing regular.

A wandering cloud, grey and spiteful on the bottom, pure fluff on the top, stirs in an upper wind and blots out the sun for a moment. During its snail’s pace, it mutates into a face-like shape, its features becoming distinct. With a long snout, a floppy ear, tongue hanging out, it looks like a dog. It reminds him of Helen in the grass seeing cartoon characters and it makes him think of Pluto, the dog. The laugh starts with a titter, then a hearty chuckle and a second later, full belly-holding guffaws. He’s laughing at the stupid dog and he’s laughing in reaction to coming close to dying. It goes on until his stomach hurts and he’s gasping for breath. Curled up in the damp grass, he realises how good it felt to laugh out loud. It seems like forever since anything’s been so amusing. He opens his eyes to the cloud now shaped like nothing recognizable, just an ordinary cloud. The sun flicks its edge around the sky wanderer and catches him in the eye.

Blinking, he shuffles backwards on his rump and palms until his back is against the log. Concentrating on the water, as motionless as the pictures he lost, he takes a deep breath, rethinking his original intentions at tearing into the storm. The strain on his brow makes him look like a man that has to choose between right or left, right or wrong. Looking out to where the land stretches away from him, only a ribbon of his land remains. It’s divided from his neighbour by a rusty wire fence with grey-faced poles, older than Nathan by many years. The erosion will soon be a problem for the couple next door.

In the other direction, the fence follows a bend to the right, where a half an acre of land still remains. A handsome house, needing fresh paint, sits only a few feet from the cliff’s edge. It may be one or two winters before the old wooden home meets its executioner. The motion of looking back at the house disturbs the letter he set there earlier. It falls to his side. He finds the underside is wrinkled and damp when he picks it up. The seal around the bottom of the V is starting to curl. The face is blank. No address. He’d meant to put it in plastic, tightly wrapped so it wouldn’t get wet but in his rage he forgot.

It doesn’t matter now. Tomorrow when the sun comes up, he’s going to start packing.

 The End

Thanks to all you wonderful readers for visiting the Scribbler. I hope you enjoyed the story. Please feel free to leave a comment below.


Next week you will meet Author Stephanie LaVigne of Florida.





Watch for the next Drake Alexander Adventure - Vigilantes.

Cover Reveal August 1/2021

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Authors Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie of Southern England.



Jaye Marie

This week, the Scribbler welcomes sisters Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie. Two accomplished authors who share many things – a popular website, a passion for writing, a love of detective thrillers, supporting authors and having fun. 

It’s a pleasure to have them as guests this week. Read on to discover more.


Take it away, Ladies.




When Allan asked us to write a post for his website, we thought we could tell you how we began…


8 years ago, when we first started hearing about indie publishing, we never thought for a moment that it could be something we could do, as the thought of anything complicated to do with a computer, apart from playing solitaire, that is, filled us with dread.


I had been writing for years and submitted my work to most of the mainstream publishers. Very nearly made it too, but as they say, a miss is as good as a mile! Which was a shame, for many people liked what I wrote.


It didn’t take long for the idea of doing it ourselves to take root in our imagination and became something we were determined to do. So, I enlisted the help of my sister, Jaye, as she is far more computer literate than I and much more stubborn too!


What Jaye had to learn was incredible, and unbelievably hard. I tried to keep up with her, but there were days when she was pulling her hair out. Some of it was easy, which tended to lull us into a false sense of achievement, but we persevered.


Eventually, we learned how to upload manuscripts to Amazon, and I was finally a published author (well, sort of).


Then something strange happened. Jaye began to write too. She had always been content with her many hobbies and to edit my work, but writing gets into your blood. Different characters started talking to her and before we knew what was happening, there were two writers in the family!


Learning how to do all of that was a nightmare, but soon, our books were on Amazon, and we were like a couple of Cheshire cats. We soon discovered that this was only half of the battle. Apparently, we needed a platform, a reader friendly website to promote our books or they would remain in limbo. Well, we managed to create a passable website and over the years we have established a presence on the internet, and we have met so many lovely people along the way. Not that this is the end of the story, there is no way you can rest on your laurels (that’s if you even have some!)

Now, we are learning all about marketing, and this might be the straw that breaks both our backs!


Even if nothing monumental comes from all our efforts, we know we have tried our hardest. But whatever happens (or doesn’t!) we won’t stop writing, that’s the fun part!

Anita's Biography

Anita Dawes loves all things esoteric, magical and other worldly and would prefer to live in a fairy tale. In between these moments, she likes to visit old churches and ancient buildings.

She has written six fiction novels in various genres, Bad Moon, Simple, Secrets, The Scarlet Ribbon; Let it Go and Not My Life. Presently working on a sequel to her popular supernatural romance, The Scarlet Ribbon.

Anita has recently rediscovered her childhood love of poetry and often writes and posts them online, which is how this book came about.

Once owned by an egocentric black and white cat called Merlin, named after her favourite hero, Anita hates computers with a passion and prefers to write longhand, sharing the website Books & Bonsai with Jaye Marie, who transcribes and edits her work...

Jaye’s Biography 

Jaye Marie came to writing rather late but has always loved books.

She enjoys reading many different genres, so was surprised to discover a passion for writing detective thrillers. Four of them to date, with more to follow.

For all you wonderful readers and visitors wanting to discover more about Anita &  Jaye, please follow these links:





 Facebook: https://anita.dawes.37



 Amazon Author page:



Thank you ladies for being our guests. Wishing you continued success with your stories.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Branching Out with Natalie Camaratta of Kansas City.



Natalie’s debut novel – Falling & Uprising – is coming off the presses on July 21st with great anticipation.

“A page-turner full of vibrant characters set in a dazzling dark world”

Nicole Bailey, author of Faye and the City in the Sea.


I was intrigued by Natalie’s enthusiasm and followed her on Twitter. Remembering my own debut novel, I can appreciate her eagerness to tell everyone about her novel. Anyone that has written and published a novel knows how she feels.

The novel has already garnered tremendous 

 reviews. You can check them out here.


She has graciously accepted an invitation to a Branching Out Interview and is offering an excerpt from the book.


Let’s chat with Natalie.


Allan: Thank you for being our guest this week Natalie. It’s an exciting time in your writing career. The book hits the streets in less than two weeks. Before we chat about your novel, please tell our reads a bit about yourself.


Natalie: Thank you for having me, Allan. The first thing people are usually surprised by is that I learned Spanish before English. My Cuban grandmother took care of me when I was a baby, so I understood that first. Since my dad doesn’t speak Spanish, we spoke English at home, and of course at school, so I lost it a bit. I don’t consider myself fluent, but I can get by.

I grew up in South Florida and went to college in Orlando where I majored in Hospitality Management. I worked in theme parks and hotels until I got married and had my first son. Leaving Florida was never in the plan, but about a month before my second son was born, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. After a couple of years enjoying mountains and the desert, we moved to the Kansas City area where I hope to stay forever! 


Allan: When did you start writing?


Natalie: I’m new to it. I started Falling & Uprising in February 2020. My boys were old enough for me to have more reading time, and that spurred finally getting to a book of my own. I had wanted to write a book forever, but never had a story idea. Of course, now that I’m busy with this series I think of new stories all the time.



Allan: Tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy of Falling & Uprising?


Natalie: Falling & Uprising is a character driven YA story. Strong voices, lots of dialogue, sarcasm, and banter. The two main characters are opposites in every way: Serenity is a celebrity-socialite always in the spotlight, and Bram is essentially invisible. When they end up in a revolution together, the way they deal with each other is fun to watch. It shows the disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ but they find their similarities as well.



Allan: What inspired this particular story?


Natalie: It started with a quintessential dystopian: The Hunger Games. I read the books and re-watched the movies, and kept thinking about the characters from the Capital. We knew why some of the rebels from the Capital joined the revolution, but I found the idea fascinating. Why would a character who lives in the utopian part of society want to overthrow everything? It changed and grew a lot from there, but early readers have enjoyed this flip on the perspective of this kind of story.



Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.


Natalie: I was a singer growing up. When I was maybe eleven years old, I sang the Star-Spangled Banner at a Major League Baseball game. At the time, the Florida Marlins played in the stadium where the Miami Dolphins played, which means it was larger than a normal ballpark.

 The echo in the sound system was a lot to deal with, so I kept waiting for my echo to catch up with me after each line. It was, perhaps, the longest rendition of the National Anthem ever sang. My father glanced up at the jumbo-tron where the lyrics were scrolling and I was at a different point in the song, so he thought I messed up the words. It was an amazing and terrifying experience!



Allan: Do you have a mentor? Who or what else has influenced you to write?


Natalie: I don’t have a mentor, but I’ve had so much assistance and guidance through this. I expected writing to be a solitary process, however, I came to find that being friends with other writers is not only fun, but a much-needed lifeline to get through it. Having someone read parts of the book as I was going, made for exceptional motivation to finish. Now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine ever not writing. Stories pop into my head all the time. But having a supportive community helps get the stories done.



Allan: Is there any characteristics of your own in any of your characters? Have you modeled any of the characters after people you know?


Natalie: There are bits and pieces of me and my friends/family in a lot of my characters. None of them are wholly a person from my life, though. My sarcasm passed on to many of my characters. (Which I got from my father, so thanks, Dad.) Serenity’s high expectations of herself is certainly close to home, too. Frankly, I didn’t realize how much I have in common with her until after I wrote it. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that struggling with how she’s perceived versus what she’s really got going on inside is something I do all the time. Writing turned out to be therapy and a way to discover my own issues.


Natalie's Dad. 


Allan: Favorite authors? Novels?


Natalie: Choosing favorites is so hard! I’m a pretty omnivorous reader, but obviously I love the genre I write in so Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Queen series are huge for me. I devoured the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown last year (and will absolutely drop everything as soon as the sixth book comes out). I’ve had the pleasure of discovering a lot of incredibly talented indie authors since I got into writing. Nicole Bailey’s Faye and the Ether series is a favorite of mine, and Bloodlet, the first book of T.S. Howard’s The Growing Veil series, ensured that I will read everything that man writes.



Allan: Is there a follow-up to the novel planned? Will it be a series or stand alone? Otherwise, what’s next for Natalie Camaratta, the author?


Natalie: This is a trilogy. The second book is being finalized and I’m drafting the third and final book. The ending of Falling and Uprising tends to leave people wanting more, though it’s not actually a cliffhanger.

After this series, I’ve already started a Fantasy novel which will likely be a series as well. It is my plan to keep writing as long as I live.




Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?


Natalie: In addition to the literary release of Falling and Uprising, the audiobook is being produced by Tantor Media. We are in the early stages with that, but I’ll have more news on that on my social media and newsletter when I have a release date.





An Excerpt from Falling & Uprising.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)



“I’m not here to force you into anything you are uncomfortable with,” Sophos says. “There is a way out for you.”

I could go back to the world I knew two days ago—the happy, uncomplicated world. I wouldn’t have to lie to anyone. I could speak to my family and friends without feeling an insurmountable chasm between us. I could look out at the sea without feeling like I’ll collapse.

But it wouldn’t be real. I wouldn’t know that I guess, but when ignorance was forced on me, that was one thing. Can I choose to be so ignorant? I’d be taking the guilt on myself when it belongs to the people who decided to lie to me all my life. They are guilty. And I don’t want to forget that. Even if I have to be alone.

“No,” I say. “I know it now. There is no going back.”

“Thank you for being brave enough to make that choice.” Sophos’ smile is triumphant.

I’ve never been described as brave before.

“And besides,” Bram says, “everyone is going to find out soon enough. At least this way, you understand it before all hell breaks loose, pup.”

“Pup?” Do I even want to know?

“You are basically a puppy.”

“How might that be?”

“You’re fed and pampered and primped, and when you get angry, you try to look aggressive, but you’re too cute to pull it off, so it ends up being funny.”

How dare you! “Puppies have sharp teeth.” My own teeth are clenched, and my blood boils. “Anyway, I’m sure my cuteness will wear off. Apparently, knowing the truth of how the world works can have the side effect of making a person a prick.”

This is new territory for me. I’ve never been this blatantly confrontational. Generally, slights are far more subtle, but I’ve never had to deal with anyone as hostile as Bram before. He shoots me an arrogant smile. It would be a great smile if it wasn’t being used to taunt me.

Sophos tries to smooth over our clash. “Now, now. Can we please recall we are on the same team?”

“Fine.” I take a breath and look back at Sophos. “Now what?”

“We’ll continue with your sanctioned education and our plans tomorrow. You can’t make it a habit to be at work too long. That looks suspicious with the work ethic around here. For now, you’ll make yourself appear perfect, as you have done your whole life, only now you’ll have secrets to hide underneath it. Can you do that?”


It looks like Millie’s instruction will come in handy in the real world after all. Having to use those lessons to mask myself from my closest confidants will be new, though. The little reprieve I ever have from who I must be in public will be gone. That perfect version of me will be the only version of me.

For you folks in the Kansas City area 


Thank you, Natalie for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.


For all you wonderful readers wanting to discover more about Natalie and her stories, please follow these links:


Saturday, 3 July 2021

Branching out with Author John Leister of Vancouver, BC.




I had the good fortune of being introduced to John by a fellow author, Bobby Nash, who has been a regular guest on the Scribbler. Bobby kindly did a call out for the Scribbler, offering fellow authors an opportunity to reach a new audience and John was quick to reply.

John Leister has over 50 novels to his credit and is writing up a storm. He has agreed to a Branching Out Interview and is offering an Excerpt from The Treehouse Avengers.


Let’s have a chat with John.



Allan. Welcome to the Scribbler, John. Tell our readers a bit about yourself.


John: I’m fifty-five and I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  About two years ago, I hit emotional-bottom and reached out to God.  Since then, I’ve been pursuing my dream

of becoming a professional writer of creative fiction with more passion than ever before.

For me, at least.  Now, I have twenty-eight books on Draft2Digital and other platforms.



Allan: Having read another interview where you were featured, you mentioned of all your writing, your favorite is The Treehouse Avengers. Can you tell us why? Give us a brief synopsis.


John: Because that book is the closest to my heart.  Here is a synopsis:

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Ten-year old comic-book fan Clint Wager is abused at home and bullied at school.

His not-quite-yet-friend, Billy West, is the leader of a nerdy group called the Treehouse Avengers. 

Clint will do almost anything to be a Treehouse Avenger.  Billy knows this and puts Clint to the test.


In Clint’s own words, “Boy, does he ever!”




 Allan: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


John:  My dad was a good man, but he had a terrible temper.  One morning, he lost his mind when my mom used his skin-cream.  That scene is recreated in The Treehouse Avengers.



Allan: Are any of your writing part of a series. If not, do you prefer stand-alone novels?


John: All of my characters exist in the same time-line.  I call it the “Johnny-verse.”

For example, Frank’s brother, Phil, from my Training Montages series, (SPOILER WARNING!) becomes Mayor of Vancouver and see himself as the first global leader of a world-government.

His vision comes to fruition in my Red Star series.




Allan: Do you see John Leister in any of your characters?


John: Yes, Clint Wagner.  I was an insecure, eager-to-please comic-book nerd who was an attractive target for bullies.  Lee Hacklyn is an idealized version of myself.  Kind, good-natured, but a heck of a lot braver!



Allan: When you were a boy, did writing stories ever enter your mind? Did you read a lot back then?


John: Yes, I was an avid comic-book reader.  Mostly Marvel and DC.  I also read the Hardy Boys series.  As I got older and more into novels, my favorite writers were Stephen King and Robert B. Parker.  His Spenser series was a major influence in the creation of Lee Hacklyn.




Allan: What project(s) are you working on at present?


John: Lee Hacklyn 1970s Private Investigator in Life Row.

Lee has one day to prevent an innocent man from being executed by the state.








An Excerpt from 1975 Queens, New York City.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)





 Have you ever wanted something so badly, you would do just about anything to get it?  When I was ten, I wanted to be a Tree-House Avenger.  Now.  What in the world is a Tree-House Avenger?  Well, let’s start with the tree-house.  Billy West’s dad was a carpenter.  Mr. West built Billy the most amazing tree-house ever.  Or so I’d heard.  In order to actually enter the tree-house, you had to be a Tree-House Avenger.

 Billy loved comic books.  He had the world’s biggest collection, or so he claimed to anyone who would listen.  My Mom and Dad wouldn’t allow me to have comics.  I had three issues of the Unknown Detective stashed between my mattresses.  I must have read each one about a hundred times.  God, I loved comic books.  There was a spinner rack at the 8-12 near my house in Queens.  Every day after school, I’d go there and look at each title.  One time, I tried to read an entire issue of the New York Knight, and Sam, the old man who managed the store, threw me out.  “This is not a library,” he roared, scaring me half to death.  The next time I went there, he pointed at me, then the door.  I showed him my one-dollar bill, which was my weekly allowance, and he nodded.  Curtly.  Back then, comics were twenty-five cents a pop.  Can you imagine?  As much as I wanted to buy some, I was nervous enough about my Mom finding the ones I had.  So I bought a root beer Pop-Fizz and a strawberry ice cream Mouth-Blaster.

 Boy, was I ever addicted to sugar.  At ten, I weighed around one-hundred and fifty pounds.  Fat?  You bet.  Self-conscious about it?  Leaning towards “yes.”  Lousy at sports?  Uh-huh.  Shy, insecure, fearful?  Check all the boxes.  I was as stereotypical a comic book nerd as they come, and I don’t mean to play the world’s smallest violin, but I had no friends, none.

 Once the tree-house was finished, Billy announced to all the other kids at school that he was starting a club called the Tree-House Avengers.  He pointed at his best friends, Dave, Louie and Scott, who all nodded and beamed with pride.

 We were in the school-yard, just before gym class, in our school t-shirts and shorts, waiting for Mr. Ryan, our gym teacher to warm us up for our weekly run.  God, I hated running.  I hated exercise of any kind, other than walking to the 8-12 to check out the new comics.  On top of everything else, I had the biggest boobs of all the other kids, including the girls.  Dan Brent, a jock and a bully, was forever grabbing my boobs and squeezing them.  “Are you sure you’re a guy, Wagner?”

 That’s my name.  Clint Wagner. 

Wally Whale would have been more fitting.  Clint Coward?  Frank Friendless?  Carl Comic Book fan?

 Anyway, back to that fateful day at the school-yard.  Fateful for me, because suddenly my life had gained new meaning.  I wanted to be a Tree-House Avenger.  Boy, did I ever.  More than anything.

 Billy continued to talk as we all shivered in our gym wear.  “Dave, Louie




Thank you, John, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.


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