I Want My Old Normal Back

selfie

© James Pyles – Selfie in the age of COVID-19

I’ve been hearing the phrase the new normal a lot lately. It’s the idea that even once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, the U.S. and the world won’t simply go back to “business as usual,” as if the pandemic never happened.

There are some people who even see this “new normal” as an opportunity to “improve” things. For instance, House Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is advocating for people to not go back to work once restrictions are lifted. She is specifically referencing people who work 60, 70, and 80 hours a week at low paying jobs and who feel no security in their lives. You can watch a video of her statement on YouTube.

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that the pandemic response is an opportunity for structural change. Of course that might only be a good thing if you share his political viewpoint.

Yet, from what I’ve seen, the protests people are actually doing go in the opposite direction from Ocasio-Cortez and Biden.

A few days ago, people in Orange County, California (where I used to live) held a mass protest at Huntington Beach opposing Governor Gavin Newsom’s closing beaches in Orange County and only Orange County. He did this in response to a perceived overcrowding at Newport Beach the weekend before. Just how crowded the beach was has been disputed, but based on the photos, it looks crowded.

Nevertheless, Californians are pushing back, including at a rally at the California State Capitol where 32 people were arrested, both because they were in violation of Newsom’s stay-at-home order, and because of the ban against protests on state property (but I thought people had a constitutional right to protest on any public property as long as it was peaceful).

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“Sorcery’s Preschool” Accepted into the “Fantastic Schools” Anthology!

school

Found at superversivesf.com. No image credit given

I wasn’t sure about submitting to this one since “magic schools” and “Harry Potter” aren’t my usual fare. On the other hand, I like a challenge, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I still couldn’t get a handle on it until my son Michael suggested something along the lines of “Jack Jack” from “The Incredibles” movies. How about a magic pre-school for gifted toddlers?

Authors Christopher G. Nuttall and L. Jagi Lamplighter are the ones co-editing the Fantastic Schools anthology. They asked for:

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My Grandchildren Are Storytellers

baby

© James Pyles

It was a hard day, in a hard week, in a hard nine months or more.

After dinner, while heating water for tea, I walked into my granddaughter’s bedroom. We’ve reserved one of our two spare bedrooms for her, mainly because when she was smaller and stayed with us, she’d take afternoon naps. It still has her bed, a lot of her toys, plus the walls are decorated with her drawings and paintings.

She’s four-and-a-half, and as I was wandering around, I remembered something about her I’ll tell you about in a bit.

My grandson is almost eleven. Ever since he was about five or six, we have played “the game.” It started out in a really primitive form. He made up some situation and what his character was going to do to my character, but being an adult, I’d always find a way to top him.

As he got older, the stories became more sophisticated. For about two-and-a-half years, I turned some of those role playing games into an ongoing story for him published on this blog. I adapted the very first story I wrote for him, and it became one of my early published short stories in the Magical Reality fantasy anthology from Pixie Forest Publishing.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2019

boise 3

© James Pyles

I haven’t had much to say lately. Too busy, for one thing. Had a rare day off and, as a Thanksgiving tradition, the family, including my elderly mother this year, went to the local convention center for an event called The Festival of Trees. I took the photo above as I was approaching the Grove plaza where I met my son and grandson. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving afternoon.

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My Short Story “The Dragon’s Family” Now Available in “Magical Reality”

dragon

Promotional poster for the my short story “The Dragon’s Family” published in the Pixie Forest Publishing fantasy anthology “Magical Reality.”

Available now!

A modern fantasy anthology from Pixie Forest Publishing featuring thirteen fantasy-related tales set in the modern world includes my short story “The Dragon’s Family.”

Aging retiree James Monroe finds a small, injured dragon in a vacant field behind his house, and taking the creature home, discovers that the grief and loss he, his son, and grandchildren are suffering from is mirrored in the existence of the mythical being. Together they learn how to demonstrate great sacrifice, healing, and love.

Magical Reality, edited by Jensen Reed and Donise Sheppard, is available now on Amazon.

Here’s what it looks like on my Kindle Fire:

dragon

Image of my short story “The Dragon’s Family” as seen on my Kindle Fire.

Dueling Holidays

christmas wordle

Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

“Oh come on, Dave. Certainly during this Yuletide holiday you can celebrate with your family a little, put a present or two under their tree, herald the coming of your Savior. I’ll even wear mistletoe on the front of my waist tonight the way you like it.” Suzanne, winking naughtily, was pulling out all the stops to get her husband out of his recliner in front of the smoldering fireplace in the cozy living room so they could drive the fifteen miles to his brother’s house.

Instead, he just looked up at her with a forlorn expression on his forty-five year old face. “We sent Bob’s family a card, and they know we don’t celebrate Christmas. I mean, they do the whole Santa, reindeer, stocking thing.”

“Get up.” She grabbed his arm forcefully, and he let her pull him to his feet. They both were already dressed for the festive meal his younger brother and their family had every Christmas Eve, so it was just a matter of her getting him to the car. “I don’t care if they put Christmas pudding in the ears of all their elves on their shelves, we’re going.” The forty-two year old software developer gripped Dave with all the strength her gym weight training produced.

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Santa Lives in Arizona

desert christmas

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Seventeen-year-old Humberto knew they’d never make it if they stayed with the mob, so hours before dawn, he took his Mama, his pregnant older sister Esmeralda, and his ten-year-old brother Joaquin and slipped into America just a few miles northwest of Nogales.

“We are lost, Niño.” Mama was always worried. If they could make it to Tucson, Uncle Carlos would take them in.

“No, we aren’t. Rio Rico is just a few miles ahead.”

“Humberto, I have to pee.” Joaquin had walked hundreds of miles, but he was still just a kid.

“We’re in a desert. Go anywhere.” Humberto turned to Essie. “How are you doing?”

“I’m only five months along. Stop acting like I’m going to give birth any second.” Mama catered to Humberto, and she resented him acting like Papa.

“Mama! Mama! Look it.” The child was jumping up and down excitedly. “It’s Santa’s house. Look.”

The squat home with the low rock fence was decorated in red and white, but it was the fat old white man with the bushy beard smiling and waving them over that convinced Joaquin.

“You’re welcome to stay here,” he said in spanish. “It’s Christmas and I’d love to celebrate with company.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of 23 December 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Yes, it looks like Arizona, regardless of where the photo was actually taken, so I looked up “Arizona news.” Among other stories, I found one chronicling the arrest of hundreds of migrants that had come into the state across the border near Nogales, so I based my we tale on that event. After that, I tried to “Christmas” it up as much as I could, given the theme.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Summer Reflection

reflection

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-nine year old Melanie Snyder stood sobbing at the shore of the lake where her Grandpa’s ashes had been scattered two years ago. She purposely had one hand inside her coat touching something precious she was wearing around her neck. The first rays of the April sun were just now creeping over the eastern horizon illuminating reflections of thin clouds, a pale azure sky, and the gnarled, barren tree under which he had taught her how to fish when she was five.

“I’m sorry I…” sobs shook her slender frame which was enveloped in the dark blue pea coat that sheltered her from the cold. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit…didn’t call that last year. I was so afraid of what I’d see…of what the cancer had done to…”

Long blond hair being slightly fluttered by the breeze, Melanie lowered both arms to her sides and clenched her fists in resolve, determined to finish her confession.

“You were always my hero, always strong, brave, kind. After Mom and Dad divorced, I could talk to you about anything, how I felt, how mad I was. You always understood. I thought you’d live forever, that you would never leave me.”

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Escaping Paradise

road

Photo credit: Jodi McKinney

“Are you sure this is the right move?” Sixteen-year-old Erin leaned forward against her seatbelt so her Dad, who was driving, could hear her.

“It’s too late to ask now. All our stuff’s moved to the new place in Glenbrook, the house in San Francisco finally sold, so Nevada is our new home.” He chuckled until he saw his wife giving him “the look,” which the middle-aged executive consultant could see out of his peripheral vision.

“Phil,” Esther hissed, adding emphasis.

“Sorry, Erin. I know you miss your friends, your school…”

“Everything,” she moaned. Erin’s six and ten year old brothers Matt and Chad were asleep next to her. “Am I the only one who cares what this move will do to us?”

“We’ve talked about all this.” Esther turned around in the front passenger seat to look at her daughter. “Your Dad’s right about what a mess things have become in the Bay Area. Look at this move as an adventure. I promise that in a year, it’ll be a lot better.

I wrote this for the 195th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 173.

I haven’t lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since the early 1980s, but I do keep up on the news. Most of it sounds pretty bad. The article I read this morning is called Videos shows Santa Con attendees trashing popular SF restaurant, reporting how two women tore a restaurant apart because the payment for their food orders was in dispute. I had to look up Santa Con, but vandalizing an establishment and assaulting an employee doesn’t seem much like the spirit of Christmas.

I also read recently how people from expensive portions of California, including LA and the Bay Area, are leaving in droves going to much lower cost Nevada.

In 1994, my family moved from Orange County, California to Boise, Idaho for similar reasons, but mainly because the nearest drive by shooting was a mile and a quarter from our house and we didn’t want our (then) little children to get shot, or involved in drugs and gangs.

Life isn’t perfect here, but with each news story I read, I must say I’m glad I’ve lived here for the past 24 years. My daughter, who is now 30, made the decision to move to Northern California, but so far, both of my sons are still in Boise. I’m pretty sure David will always live here, and maybe Michael too, although I think he’d like a place where the politics were more “blue.”

Oh, Glenbrook, Nevada is pretty small, but it’s really a bedroom community for Carson City and Reno. It’s right on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and according to Google maps images, it’s really pretty.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Family Day

veterans day parade 2018

© James Pyles

Yesterday, my son texted me at work and suggested spending Saturday together. He had a very specific agenda.

So this morning, I met him at his house, and we got the kids ready to head into downtown Boise so we could attend the annual Boise Veterans Day Parade (hence the image above). The parade has been held since before my family and I moved here 24 years ago. I can remember when my kids were in marching band in Junior High and High School, they’d perform in the parade each year.

We picked a corner near the start of the parade and met a lot of nice people, including a woman whose 13-year-old daughter was in it this year.

I took a ridiculous number of photos (and fortunately for you, I posted only one). The air was cool and crisp and if you were dressed properly, it was a great day to go to a parade.

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