Hi! *blows away some dust kaff, kaff*. Yeah, I know, It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. Kept meaning to come back, but stuff kept happening. Mostly good stuff, I am happy to say. Like what I’ve showed up her e to share with you now.
I wrote another book. Dreamspinner kindly consented to publish it. And here it is, all bright shiny and new and ready for you to make your own if you are so inclined.
I hope you will give this one a look. It’s kinda close to my heart, not only because there’s a lot of me in it, background and personal experience wise, but more so than anything else I’ve written so far, it’s much more about the message. You see, this story is about heroes, in the true old fashioned sense of the word. My protagonists are old school, and so am I, but the values presented here never go out of style. Or at least, they shouldn’t.
What is a hero anyway? Are they made, or born? If someone does something good, and there’s no one there to see it, does it count? What if something we did for someone—a small, seemingly inconsequential kindness—comes back around decades later and whacks us right between the eyes.? What if we live our lives believing because we didn’t get to do ‘the big thing’, than nothing else we’ve done in life… matters?
What if someone who thought he never made a difference discovered he really, really did? In a way he couldn’t possibly have imagined . What about impossible dreams? Perhaps attainable if only two men who yearn for what they’ve always believed they could not have find the courage to reach for each other.
Find the answers to these and other questions in “Hero Worship”.
In 1975 Douglas “King” Fisher is a teenage crusader who, with the help of his three friends, keeps the environs of Warden High bully-free. On the last day of school he is about to leave, thinking his job is done, when he answers one last call for help, never dreaming this particular intervention will make much more of a difference than he can possibly imagine.
Thirty-five years later, King lives a quiet, deeply closeted, completely unremarkable life, far different from the destiny he was bound for on that long ago summer day. An unfortunate accident sidelined his dreams, and he never left town. While he never “made his mark,” he still does whatever he can to make things better for everyone—except himself.
He sees no value in what he is or what he does. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, but he has one: larger than life Rex Rodman, 80s action hero and former idol of millions. His impossible dream. Or is he? With his fifty-seventh birthday swiftly approaching, King is about to learn some amazing lessons about himself from the last teacher he’d ever expect.
Available from Dreamspinner Press
And now, to round out your blog experience, how’s about an expert from the book! Read on and enjoy! Hope you like!
“’SUP WITH the poster? Who is this guy, anybody?”
The intrusion of a lightly sneering adolescent voice into my unsuspecting awareness jolts me from my depressing perusal of the depressing figures cluttering the screen of my laptop.
Customers? We have customers? Holy loss leaders, when did this happen?
A glance up confirms it. Whaddya know, Wilma? I’m no longer alone in this humble, unassuming, and lately mostly unprofitable retail space I have the misfortune of being the sole owner and proprietor of. Whether by accident, intention, or divine intervention, two—count ’em, two—actual living, breathing entities hopefully with retail intentions, have somehow wandered into my increasingly untenable comic-cum-movie memorabilia establishment, aka The Silver Screen. I don’t know whether to pass out with shock or do a happy dance of joy. Since I can’t dance and the floor’s too hard, decide against either. I opt instead for adopting a “wait and see if they want to see anything” posture.
Haunting the bins at the back of the shop, we have a middle-aged man coiffed to the nines and wearing a suit probably costing more than this place made all month. Can’t tell from here, but betcha he smells good too. Right now he seems to be checking out some back issues of Superman; I say apparently because, while he’s doing a fair imitation of rooting around in the long box, he doesn’t look like your typical comic-book fan. At least not the ones who come in here. Less and less as time goes by.
Yet after thirty-some years in this business I’ve learned not to judge a geek by his cover. You never know what’s gonna walk through that door.
So much for the cursory contemplation of Mr. Brooks Brothers. He is not alone.
Now we’re talking. Mr. Surly here definitely looks a hell of a lot more like the Silver Screen’s current demographic.
Potential customer the second is a lanky, skanky kid with a face full of acne and piercings, ear buds jammed in both ears, and wires dribbling down his chest terminating in a mighty pricey iPod jammed into the back pocket of the baggy jeans pooling around his knees. Judging by its barely visible tip, the beat-up but otherwise top-of-the-line skateboard propped against my counter cost a bundle new. Wonder how much all this gear set mommy and daddy back.
I know every kid in town, and I’ve never seen this wiggler before. Musta rode into this backwater burg in his parents’ Winnebago. They probably slipped him some cash to get him out of their hair, and lucky me, he’s selected my establishment for his afternoon shopping spree.
He’s got money. My hope that he plans on leaving some of it here is instantly flamed into a raging inferno of rampaging woo-hoo by an impressive stack of comic books carefully piled by the till.
Woo-hoo indeed! But wait.
My mercenary heart commences to thrill with unaccustomed avarice, but before we can really get the ball rolling, I see where the young heathen’s glare is directed and realize upon what—and whom—he is heaping all this scorn.
I weep for the future that has such asshats in it.
Who the hell is that? Who is that? You need to ask? Feckless child, you should be down on your knees in humble acknowledgement of His greatness instead of gaping fish-faced at that singular, iconic, unforgettable image like you’ve lived an entire life without ever seeing Him and knowing who He is.
He’s a national treasure. Or He used to be. Either way, you can’t possibly not know who He is.
Also, uncultured adolescent swine-child, that poster you presently curl your skewered lip up at? I cannot believe you do not have the first clue how collectable—and valuable—it is. It’s probably worth more than your parents’ raggedy old Winnebago. Fine, maybe not quite that much, but more than enough to make you turn your head twice. It’s worth a pile. That is, if I chose to sell it. Which I never, ever would. Cuz I love it more than life itself. Aye, I know it’s madmadMAD to hang it here, in plain sight of all, where anything could happen to it, but I’m loco like that.
Besides, I like having it—and Him—where I can see Him every day.
Kinda my privately public way to uphold my sacred trust to keep The Faith alive.
As long as His image hangs in my shop and I draw breath, Rex Rodman won’t fade from the minds of men.
But why am I telling you all of this, ignorant and oblivious child. You don’t care about forgotten icons, secret vows, and hopeless dreams. You probably don’t even have an attention span longer than thirty seconds.
Teenage troglodytes. When they inherit the world, as they unfortunately eventually will, I hope I’m not around to see it.
Won’t be able to stand the soundtrack, for starters.
“That’s Rex Rodman.” I bite back the “don’t you know anything, you ignorant oaf” addendum burning to burst out of my throat. No point in stating the obvious.
The kid squints at me like the few brains he figures I have left are slowly seeping out my ears. Yeah, that’s right, punk. Sneer at the senile old man. Enjoy your imagined superiority while you can. The Nike will be on a younger foot sooner than you think.
Give me strength. I close my laptop, push myself up from my chair at my desk, and saunter from my office alcove to the sales counter.
Fine, so I walked. My best sauntering days are pretty much behind me.
“That, my fine young friend, is Rex Rodman.” I refrain from glancing at the poster hanging on the wall behind me before facing off with the kid on the other side of the counter glaring up at that amazing image with a face full of scorn. No need to reference the larger-than-life paper simulacrum of Rex in his heyday, right at the start of his meteoric rise to fame.
So young, so virile, so incredibly handsome.
My impossible dream.
The image on that wall behind me is burned into my brain. I’ve probably spent the best part of my life—which isn’t saying very much—staring at the object of that boy’s derision, drinking in Rex’s blazing, amazing gorgeousness.
Holy Hunkola, look at him. I was so gone on him it made me sick.
Not much has changed. Except I’m older. So is he.
Time and the world haven’t exactly been kind to either of us.
Ah Rex, Rex, where has it all gone? Once upon a time you couldn’t turn around at a checkout, walk past a magazine counter, or switch on a TV without seeing his face. He was a young, amazing Adonis, at the top of his game, on top of the world, and the world couldn’t get enough of him. Every girl wanted to date him. Every boy wanted to be him. He was everyone’s ideal. Now punk kids like this sneering sweetheart wander into the store, goggle glassy-eyed at his gloriousness, and don’t even remember his name.
Never mind, Rex. You were too good for all of them. You still are.
I know attempting to educate this child is pointless, but I’ve always been a huge fan of lost causes. Spent most of my life being the poster boy. “You’re not going to stand there and tell me you’ve never heard of Rex Rodman. He’s a cultural icon. He was everywhere in the ’80s. One of the greatest action heroes who ever lived! Arnold, Stallone and Rex Rodman. Seriously? ‘Go Fish’? ‘Don’t touch the hat’? ‘Does it say “stupid” on my shirt’? ‘You might wanna take that back’? Ringing any bells?”
The kid gives the poster another gander, squinting while minutely contemplating the larger-than-life color glossy montage of Rex and the Alpha Squad forever frozen in their most famous action pose, poised like they’re about to burst forth from their cellulose confinement.
Concluding his perusal with a casual shrug. “Sorry, dude.”
Yeah, I can see how broken up you are about it. Your sincerity is smothering me.
I feel my indignation level, not to mention my blood pressure, inching up incrementally with that clueless little shit’s admission of his unrepentant ignorance of the identity of my lifelong hero. I wish I could say this has never happened before.
I could say it, all right, but I’d be lying.
This is where I should leave it alone. Just give up and walk away. Not like it matters to anyone.
That’s what I should do—cut my losses, shut my mouth, take the kid’s money, and console myself later in private, screening an Alpha Squad ep or two. Just about any ep from Season Two usually does the trick when I’m this depressed.
But you know what? I can’t.
“The Alpha Squad. Led by none other than Colonel K.F. McAllister. Two Ls not one. ‘We’ve got the might, we make it right’? ‘Code it, kids’? You’re not going to stand there and tell me you’ve never heard of Alpha Squad? It was a huge, monster hit in the eighties. The number one show for five years.”
It was still on top when it went off the air. Would have had a much longer run, if Rex hadn’t done what he did.
Jennifer has told me more than once I can be slightly sensitive vis-à-vis the subject of the undeserved amnesiac void Rex fell into since his fall. It’s even possible I might—on occasion—become marginally overzealous in my efforts to educate the occasional representatives of unwashed, uncultured masses prowling my premises and unfortunately admitting ignorance of his existence.
This may be one of those times. Also, I may have turned up the volume on the tirade a tad.
The presence in my peripheral vision of the well-dressed dude formerly out of frame and now inching forward to see what all the screaming is about—either that or looking for an opportunity to escape—alerts me to the possibility I should maybe ratchet the rant down a notch or two. Before whoever’s manning the counter at Flower Werks next door calls the cops on me again.
Just kidding about the cops; that hasn’t happened in—oh—a long time. Unappreciated ardor, not to mention noise complaints, is the fate of a true believer. However, just as I am about to throw the towel at this lost soul and wash my hands of the whole sad encounter, I sight a slight glimmer of recognition in those formerly vacant eyes.
Rex: 0; Alpha Squad: 1?
Kid Dubious scans the poster again, frowns, and scratches his scruffy head. “Naw. That’s not K.F. McAllister. I dunno who this dude is, but he’s not the Big Mac.”
Great thundering assholes, I hate that name and the snot-nosed trumped-up plagiarizing punk who foisted it on the franchise.
“I am not talking about the goddamn reboot! That upstart, misguided, misbegotten, overblown, blasphemous, unwarranted, unnecessary travesty of an abomination of a cinematic desecration they unloaded on us last Christmas was not Alpha Squad. That—that—that—” I know the hand I’m pointing at the poster is shaking and I’m stuttering with rage but I don’t care. “That is K.F. McAllister. The real K.F.! The only one! Not the ridiculous, no-talent knockoff imposter they presumed to replace him with. That BS K.F. is nothing but a never-could-but-wish-he-was. He’ll never be half the man Rex Rodman is if he lives twice as long! Excuse me; I have to answer the phone!”
The kid holds his hands up in the universal gesture of surrender, backing away from the counter while I beat a strategic retreat to my administrative slot to grab the phone that’s been ringing since I started yelling.
“Like, whatever. It’s… like… just a movie, bro. Don’t go all mental on me.”
“Yes, Mrs. Delaney, it’s the reboot again.”
“Easy, King. Remember, crunching the customers is bad for business.”
Ah look, it’s the help. Well, that tears it. Now I have to behave.
Lucky for the kid, Jennifer’s timely return from lunch prevents me from vaulting (Fine, got me again. Pretty much past my vaulting days too) over the counter, grabbing the little shit by his ratty collar, and shaking some good taste into him.
Because it behooves us so-called adults to set a good example.
Mind you, they never tell you when you’re a clueless adolescent convinced the wonderful world of grown-ups is a magical kingdom of unbridled permissiveness that you should be careful what you wish for. They never tell you once you get there most of maturity involves an eternity of doing what you don’t want while having as little fun as possible.
Still, as far as the acting-our-age thing goes, even the best of us have been known to momentarily… lapse.
“Hi Jen, back so soon?”
She shakes her head. “Not soon enough, obviously. Swear to God, King, I can’t leave you alone for two seconds.”
I resemble that remark. “Aw, lighten up. You know me. I wouldn’t have hurt him.”
Some perverse part of me can’t resist giving Pimple-puss one final Hannibal Lecter grin. Can’t imagine why.
Yes, I am twelve.
And proud of it.
The kid starts to back away toward the exit. Slow and easy. No sudden moves. Might be smarter than he looks.
“You know what, this isn’t worth it. Keep the books. I’m outta here.”
I have the lad in full-rout mode, intending to run for his life right out of the store, but the instant before he bolts Jennifer draws even with him, he glances left, and gets his first good look at the new arrival.
My pint-sized, pert female employee.
Just the other side of sixteen, she’s a wiry wisp of a thing, blonde, blue-eyed, and usually cheerful, although occasionally her demeanor dips toward the surly side.
Her attitude toward her elders could use some work. Although at the moment I don’t think the young man could give a rat’s ass about her attitude.
Arrested in his tracks by my scowling blonde cherub, the boy gives Jennifer a pointed and appreciative once-over followed by a speculative smile. Evidently the insufficiencies in his pop culture education don’t affect the proper functioning of his libido. He might not know his heroes from Adam, but sussing out a pretty girl when he sees one?
Potentially homicidal shopkeeper behind him forgotten, he sees only fair maiden. He’s going for it, and her. Propelled by speculative lust, he swaggers up to her, fearless and insanely confident.
I hate his young guts.
“Tell your dad he’s a mental case.”
Not the opening line I’d have gone for, but what do I know. It’s been a while.
Jennifer is unimpressed. There’s a surprise. In the short time she’s worked for me she’s fended off more horny geeks than you could stuff in a TARDIS.
“He’s not my dad and he’s right there. Tell him yourself.”
“Say, you wouldn’t wanna, you know….”
Jennifer snorts, leveling him a withering “you’re kidding me, right” stare. “As if.”
Call me crazy, but I don’t hear a lot of wiggle room there.
The kid shrugs like he doesn’t give a shit. Grins again. Bowed but not beaten. Obviously not the first time he’s ever heard a “no,” but he clearly doesn’t accept it as final. And he’ll definitely be back—scary shopkeeper notwithstanding.
Much good it will do him. He could—and probably will—try hanging around here, dogging Jennifer’s every step. Wouldn’t be the first. I guarantee he has about as much of a chance with her as I would ever have with the object of my secret and deepest affection.
Only difference between us is that I know it. Only too well.
The boy here has not yet been ground into the dirt by poop and circumstance. He still thinks anything and everything is possible. No worries. He’ll learn soon enough how it really works.
An education I don’t envy him.
The kid hunches his shoulders, shaking off the fact that the saucy blonde just dusted him off like so much dandruff. “Oh, okay. Maybe next time.”
In your dreams, kid.
But what the hey, dream big.
And in the interim pigs might achieve escape velocity, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
“Later, ya psycho!” he shoots back over his shoulder at me before heroically darting out the door.
Don’t let it hit your skinny ass on the way out.
He’s out of earshot of my parting salvo, but I let it fly anyway. “Yeah, that’s right, get the hell out of my store. Philistine! Go reimagine Super Mario Brothers or Saved By the Bell and leave my cultural icons alone!”
Jennifer comes over to my side of the long glass display case, rolling her eyes skyward with such dramatic force I’m surprised they don’t pop right out of her skull. “Omigawd, King, I swear, if you start in again about J.J. lifting the idea for Lost from a Lloyd Bridges movie, I will punch you in the face.”
Not the first time she has said this to me. However, I think she means it this time.
She stands by the till, looks pointedly at the pile of abandoned comics on the counter.
Puckers her pert little face at them before glowering even more ominously at me. “Atta boy, Luther. There goes fifty bucks we’re never going to see again.”
Clever girl, I see what you’re doing. You think you can placate me by throwing me a retro pop culture bone. Not this time, precious. Not even a Ghost and Mr. Chicken reference will shut me up. “Maybe if you’d talked nice to him.”
Not the dumbest thing to ever come out of my mouth, but it’s definitely a contender.
She regards me with disgust, as well she should. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Really? And you’ve known me how long? But don’t worry; I know how it looks, but trust me. The sale isn’t lost, merely indefinitely suspended. You and I both know he’ll be back. And by the way, I don’t know how many times I’ve told you this, but what the hey, what’s one more? If you wouldn’t mind, please don’t call me ‘King.’ I don’t like it. I don’t know why everyone in this gosh-darned town is so determined to keep that stupid high school nickname alive, but I wish you all would quit it.”
I’ve been trying to put that misguided moniker behind me for years. Creeps me out. Every time I hear it, it resurrects far too many ghosts of follies past best left dead and buried.
Maybe I need an exorcism.
I’ve said all I need to say, but apparently I’m the only one. Jennifer dear is not through scolding me yet. “You better be right. It’s not like we have so much business we can afford to scare it away. But then, I don’t have to tell you that, do I?”
Ouch. That’s hitting below the belt, half-pint.
I have no answer for this. She’s right; as much as I love this place it’s hardly a cash cow. Au contraire, the poor, lame, swaybacked thing’s been bleeding away to almost nothing for the past year and a half. Even if I could bring myself to sell it, who in their right mind would buy it? Who other than me would want an over-the-hill, used-up, past-its-prime, obsolete comic book and collectibles store?
Any more than anybody wants an over-the-hill, used-up, past-its-prime, obsolete….
Say, let’s not see that depressing analogy to its inevitable conclusion.
My face must look as down as I feel because her expression suddenly softens. She winds her slim little arms around my chest, giving me a fervent squeeze. “Hey, King, snap out of it. You do this every year.”
I drop my arm around her shoulders and squeeze her back. “Do what, you impudent minx?”
“Go to your grumpy place for practically the entire month of July. You spend so much time there you should rent out rooms. That way we might actually make some money for a change.”
The child can be cruel, even when she means to be kind.
Next I get a hip bump. Evidently the pep talk isn’t over.
“Everybody has a birthday once a year. You need to get over yours, already. It’s only another day. Don’t need to get all weird about it.”
I give her a spiteful glare and a playful backward shove. “Easy for you to say; you haven’t racked up as many of the damn things as I have. Try being so stinking chipper about ’em when you’re my age. I double dog dare ya.”
“I’ll never be your age,” she loftily asserts with all the erroneous confidence of the young and deluded. I’m about to demolish her certainty with a witty but cynical rejoinder when I notice our late departed homeboy isn’t the only potential patron to slip the hook. Suit Guy has left the building at some point during the recently concluded floor show. When, I’m not exactly sure, but no doubts about it, he’s gone, gone, gone.
Go ahead, make my bed. The day’s a lost cause.