The sequence of events chronicled below actually happened (correction: is happening)
to someone I know well. Sound familiar to anyone? You can’t make this stuff up, but I may use it in a story someday.
OK. I had an ah… interesting morning. I had to appear in county court at 8:30am after getting home about midnight and getting to sleep after 1am.
Last October: Pulled over for not stopping at a crosswalk.
– was told it’s “Pedestrian Awareness Month” – plainclothes cop was hiding on the curb at night (a revenue trap – there were four other cars pulled over at the same time)
– I couldn’t find my registration immediately so the cop who pulled me over went back to his car to write me up for it.
– when he returned, I had found it and showed it to him. He said it was too late (first weird thing)
– he said ‘don’t worry it’s just a fixit ticket and all you have to do is take it to the sheriff’s station with proof of registration and they’ll sign off on it. No charge on the crosswalk violation.
– I said ‘great, station is right by my house. I’ll stop on the way home.’
– He said ’no, that would look suspicious. Do it in the morning.’ (second weird thing)
– stopped at Sheriff station and got it signed off (took like an hour)
– they told me I would have to mail in the $25 fee with citations do it at the courthouse
– I went to the courthouse immediately – was told it was not yet in the system so I couldn’t pay it
One week later:
– went to PO and sent money order with signed off citation
One month later:
– received citation and money order back with explanation it was still wasn’t in the system (third weird thing)
Over the next few months I would check online and it would never be found in the system.
One month ago:
– received a Failure to Appear citation with a charge of $800 to pay off the whole thing or appear in court. I’d never received a summons. (fourth weird thing)
– went to the courthouse and showed clerk the signed off ticket and the returned attempted payment
– was told he could reduce the payment to $400 or I could talk to the judge and maybe he’d dismiss it
– appeared before the judge (who’d demonstrated severely assholish behavior for the past hour to everyone else)
– told him that it was a false charge and I’d never received a summons to appear.
– he said you don’t actually get a summons – you get it if you make no effort to resolve and pay for the citation
– told him I’d made many attempts, showed him the returned attempted payment as an example
– He said I had a choice to plead guilty and pay the $400 or go to trial
I pled not fucking guilty and my trial date is set for October.
This is a tribute to Colette, who during her short time on this earth changed the lives of those around her. She left us wondering why such things are allowed to happen, why scientists in all their learned wisdom can’t solve these medical mysteries. It was written when those of us who loved her were forced to watch that which we had denied for so long come to pass.
A lovely young woman is leaving us.
She is a fighter, a beautiful, wild spirit, a joy to those fortunate enough to know her.
She has cystic fibrosis, and has known her whole life that she will die young.
The hospital visits, the cleansing of the lungs that gives a briefer respite each time, the endless medications; these have taken their toll.
The determination to live a normal life; the celebration of each day lived…the triumph of college, love, work; these have shaped a life worth living.
She is 22 years old, and she is tired. Tired of being sick. Tired of waiting for a cure that doesn’t come. Tired of the pity. She’s ready to go, but it is just so hard to let her.
She is the strongest person I have ever known, and the world has been blessed for a brief moment by her presence in it.
She is loved, and those who are loved by others never truly die. Live on, sweetheart.
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“You made me feel the pain of being young. The terror of helplessness when your kids get into something. The wistful pleasure of romance and the desire to have it be that way again.” Michael McShane, author, “Quaoar and Tukupar Itar”
“This story is well-written and engaging. It hooked me right away, and I read faster and faster to find out what would happen. Susan Liddle, author, “Lady Luck Meets her Match”
“They say our lives flash before our eyes just before we are about to die. You take this premise and run with it and I loved the surprising direction it went in. Wouldn’t we all like to have a second chance? Wouldn’t we all like to return to the past and fix our mistakes?… An uplifting story on the theme of regrets.” Susan Zenker, author, “Puppy Love”
I love the semicolon.I adore that unprepossessing little mark that situates itself between clauses that could very well stand on their own but just aren’t sure they can pull it off without help. Honest and brave, the semicolon—a true diplomat.
“Yes, sir,” it says.I am fully aware that you are a clause of complete thought, having a subject and a verb, and are therefore worthy of the greatest respect.But you see, sir, this clause coming along right behind you has something to add.It complements you;it makes you look good. (See what I did there?)
The semicolon is well aware that it must share the burden with its cousins, the flighty comma, the rigid period, the dreamy ellipsis and the flashy dash.It is told, by writers who have achieved great success by ignoring it, that it is unnecessary, superfluous, and stuffy.Any number of words quite hurtful to a mark of distinction that seeks only to serve the larger narrative.
And so it waits.Knowing that writers love to string thoughts together, it sits on the grammar shelf gathering dust, waiting for those two perfect clauses to come calling.
The comma has no such detractors.It is considered the epitome of good writing to insert commas into one’s writing regardless of the clausibility of the series.I point to the following as my exhibit A:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison.
Now, no one would argue that A Tale of Two Cities is among the world’s great books, or have the temerity to suggest that Charles Dickens might have a teensy comma problem.But if I wrote that particular paragraph, I would be accused of running my sentences together without appropriate punctuation.I humbly suggest that a semicolon or a period or two might not have gone amiss.
And speaking of the period—I have nothing against that little dot.What would our writing be like if we could never stop for breath?It is important.It is necessary.It just. has. too. much. power.It does not equivocate.It demands a full stop, and there is no further discussion.I just sometimes feel that I don’t want to smell the brake dust while reading a passage.I just want to slow down, give it some thought, and then move on in the dance of words.
The ellipsis…ahh, the ellipsis…that is in a different category altogether…I am quite fond of the ellipsis myself…it signals a cessation of thought, speech, breathing…sometimes the very heartbeat of the reader…as though the author wished for her writing to be the last thing experienced this side of the veil… it can therefore be dangerous and should not be attempted by the amateur…
Which brings me to the dash family.The hyphen, the en dash, and the em dash are all cousins, but their uses vary greatly—I will be speaking of the em dash here—the one that just eliminates large pieces of thought—a bigger bully or lazier punctuation mark I have never seen since—well, you get the picture.In the words of our period, enough. said.
So, I will now return to my defense of that most abused of all punctuation marks, the semicolon;it seems to get a bad rap;I do not know why;there is a pause in the narrative;the reader, however, can expect the passage to end at some point;all clauses are connected by some fundamental purpose;the meaning is complementary and clear;in short, the semicolon is my hero.
I have been told that I overuse the semicolon;I don’t know why.It is a wonderful little tool…I have forgotten how many times I’ve needed it to express—the meaning should be clear, and I don’t. want. to. give. it. up.
Disclaimer:No punctuation marks were injured during the writing of this essay, although several were annoyed.
I had to write something for a family member as an assignment for my Story Cartel on Becoming Writer (The Write Practice). After sending it to my sister I published it in the cartel workshop, and now I’m putting it here, because…well, just because.
I wanted a sister, and my mother refused to produce one.
It wasn’t that I was an only child.No such luck.She had three more after me…all boys.I was gracious after the first one (well, I was two, so pretty mindless about it then), and I gave her a pass after the second, but when she came home from the hospital with the third boy, I just lost it.
“Take it back!”I screamed, melting down into a lovely tantrum which contained all the despair and frustration of having to share my life with yet another boy.“I told you I didn’t want another brother!Take it back to the hospital and don’t come back without a girl!”As if any sensible infant, girl or boy, would want to live in a home with a screaming banshee in it.But my poor third brother had no choice, and I wasn’t in charge after all, so in he came.
Four years later, the law of averages finally kicking in, my mother had a girl. Too little, too late. I was twelve years old by then, way too ancient to bond with an infant.She was cute, and cuddly, and I got to change all the diapers I wanted.Turns out girl diapers aren’t much different than boy diapers when all is said and done.They all stink.And I was into school stuff by then;no time for a baby of any sex.She grew up closer to the brothers than to me, and I had a pre-teen and then a teenage life to lead, so I didn’t mind much.
I went off to college, where I met my future husband, and saw my sister as if through a glass darkly, in little snippets of visits during holidays.After I was married I moved away, and saw her even less.The sister I’d wanted so badly was a stranger.
Then something happened.My sister grew up, and that magic that shrinks the years between began to bring us closer together.We were both adults;we had things to talk about.And I found that my sister was a real person, a human being who was actually much like me.We shared a wry sense of humor, we could both be bitches at times—don’t ask the brothers how many times—and we realised that we liked each other.
We live across the country from each other now;I have kids and she has dogs.But when we get together, the magic is there.We laugh, sometimes we cry, we bake brownies and eat chips…we love.
At the end of my street, there is a blob of cement that looks like a musical note, left over from a repaving project. And I thought, laughing…look at that; music can be found anywhere, can’t it? Even in the most mundane places, there it is. I spent the rest of my walk humming to myself.
People sometimes pose the question: If you had to give up one of your five senses, which would you choose? And I used to think, oh–touch. I could live without the ability to feel things. But not to be able to sense the texture of a warm blanket, the smoothness of a baby’s skin? No, thank you.
Smell, then. We don’t always think of smell until the ripe odor of garbage permeates our consciousness, but what about roses…oh damn, what about single malt whisky? Nope. Not that one!
Ok, taste. I could give up taste. I’m always trying to stay on a diet, anyway; that would help a lot, actually. But then…chocolate? Mac and Cheese? Not to taste my morning coffee? Oh hell, no!
And now we’re up to the big two–sight and hearing. Between those, how could I give up the images of this amazing world in which we live? The ocean at dawn? Mist lowering over the mountains? The varied colors of the city? Not a chance!
So, hearing, then? I could stand not to have to listen to the din of traffic, the prattle of that annoying woman in the office who never, ever shuts up. But…music. I judge the worth of a historical movie by its music: Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves.. That guy on the High Street in Inverness who sang “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables with so much passion and beauty that I found myself crying.
It’s an impossible question to answer for a writer. We need all our senses to express the beauty, the sorrow, and the mystery of this life, and I hope I never have to experience the loss of one.
A musical note in the pavement calls to sight, hearing, and touch, and opens the imagination to the possibilities inherent in the simplest things this world has to offer. It’s those small pleasures, or pains, or amusements, that make life interesting.
I’m currently on a pilgrimage to Scotland, land of my ancestors and setting of my novel. Full Scottish Breakfast. Here are some pictures of Rait Castle, home of the Rait Castle Ghost. Looking up at the window from which she fell, it fills me with a sense of awe that she really existed. She is a part of history, and I hope I’ve done her justice in the novel.
This is the window from which the Comyn daughter tried to escape after warning her lover of a plot by her family to kill him and all his clan. Above is the tower window from which she fell, chased to her death by her own father. History is full of examples of heartless betrayal and enduring love such as that of the Comyn girl and her Mackintosh lover, and it is we writers who are tasked with sharing their stories.
Rait is one of the finest examples of a Scottish hall castle still standing. It is located outside of Nairn, near the city of Inverness.