How Long Do You Leave Christmas Up?

 

You know, the tree, the lights, the outside decorations, the fake snowman and reindeer in the front yard? Take the poll at the bottom of this blog but first, enjoy a short story about it from Ethan Holmes titled Taking Harry Down.

Taking Harry Down

By Ethan Holmes

 

Harry settled heavily into the battered leather recliner, huffing and puffing as though he was trying to haul his over-burdened frame out of the chair instead of plopping down. He mumbled under his breath as some of the egg nog in the calcium-spotted glass sloshed onto his lap. He watched the yellowish liquid slowly soak into his sweatpants and join myriad other stains. He shrugged and slugged some of it back, probably more bourbon than nog.

He looked around the room with a bit of disdain, this day after Christmas, when suddenly all the decorations, lights and even the tree seemed silly, like so much extra trash cluttering up an already cluttered home.

Harry stared at the cell phone on the small side table.

“I should call the crazy ol’ woman and see if I can start taking all this crap down. Box it and give it up to Goodwill! That’s what I’d do if it were up to me!”

He stared angrily at the string of lights Myrtle made him hang around the entire ceiling of the living room the day after Thanksgiving. There was one light, one stupid little bulb at the top of the twelve foot peak in the cathedral ceiling that was out. It had been out since the moment she made him plug the string into the wall socket. Of course, you know he had already put the ladder away. It was more than a stretch for him and his eight foot, rickety wooden step ladder. So was the ten foot artificial tree she insisted he drag out of the garage for the umpteenth time. Add in the porch decorations, the lawn ornaments, a whole box of outside lights and a partridge in a pear tree and Harry was exhausted. Nevertheless, that damn unlit bulb had driven him nuts for nearly five weeks.

“One of us should have died yesterday. Especially after eating her mashed potatoes.”

He wiped egg nog from his upper lip, wondering why she wouldn’t let them go to Denny’s instead of eating Thanksgiving leftovers.

“No restaurant should be open on Christmas. Everyone should be home with their family.” Myrtle was indignant as she spooned out the oddly solidified potatoes and some green bean casserole that had taken on a yellow hue. “Besides, I’ll be gone tomorrow visiting my sister. What would you eat while I’m gone?”

“Anything but what you made.” Harry kept that comment to himself knowing if he voiced it he would probably have to pull a wooden spoon out of his skull.

Harry stared at the single bulb, squinting his eyes, trying to will the bulb into suddenly coming to life. Not only did the bulb make him nuts, but Myrtle decided to jump on the bandwagon. Every day she had some comment about the dead bulb. His favorite was this one.

“Why don’t you just grab the ladder and replace the bulb. It’ll just take a second.”

That would start a sure fire argument every time.

“Really, woman? When was the last time you picked that ladder off the rack in the garage and hauled it into the house? What’s that, Alex? I’m thinking the correct Jeopardy answer is, ‘What is NEVER?’”

“You know I can’t lift that thing. It’s the only reason you’re still around.”

Harry could never quite figure out if that was true or not.

“Besides, chances are that we don’t have the right bulb anymore. In fact, those damn lights are so old I don’t think anyone has the bulbs anymore. The hardware store will probably laugh at me and send me to an antique shop.”

“Tsk. They’re not that old.”

“Older than you, woman.” Harry grumbled to himself as he relived the conversation while drinking his egg nog.

He glared at the taunting dead light.

“I’ll show you. I’ll take the whole lot of you down and pitch you in the trash. I’ll just tell her the whole damn thing shorted out.”

Harry grabbed the phone and speed dialed his wife’s number. To his surprise, Myrtle’s sister Delores answered the phone.

“Merry Christmas! Myrtle’s in the shower. Who’s calling?”

Delores’ cheery voice jangled in his ear with way too much Christmas spirit for his taste.

“Probably from the bottom of a bottle of spiced rum.” Harry took another slug of his egg nog.

“I’m sorry, what did you say? Who is this? You’ll have to speak up. We have Christmas music playing in the background.”

“Dammit Delores, tell Myrtle to call me when she gets out of the shower.”

Harry pressed the END button on the cell phone, pushing it hard as though that would slam the call closed.

Myrtle called back about thirty minutes later.

“I’m taking everything down. Christmas is over and it’s just taking up space. Besides, the damn light bill is going to through the ceiling.”

“Just wait till I get back, Harry. I want to see them one more time. It’ll be a year before I get to see them again.”

“Wish I could say the same about you.”

“What did you say, Harry? Delores has the stereo up loud. We just love all the Christmas songs.”

“Nothing! I’m just saying, might as well get ‘em down while I can. Sitting here doing nothing but watching Christmas shows on the TV.”

“Well, it’s not as though you have a lot of other things to do, Harry. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me you’re headed for the gym.”

Harry held the phone away from his ear for a moment as both women cackled with delight at Myrtle’s sarcasm. He could hear Delores snickering in the background when he brought the phone back to his ear.

“I’m taking them down, Myrtle.”

Harry stared at the single bulb at the peak and pictured himself up on the ladder gleefully pulling the whole string down with one violent yank. He could even see the staples sparkling as they flew through the air all over the living room.  “That ought to muck up her vacuum cleaner good!”

“You just wait, Harry. I’ll be back in a week. Besides, you shouldn’t be climbing up there without me to hold the ladder.”

“She means to push me off it.” Harry swallowed the last of his egg nog. He looked at the yellow coating left behind inside the glass. “I need another nog.”

Harry woke up, groggy and dry-mouthed. He looked down at the nearly empty glass still clutched in his hand. There was a wet spot on his sweat pants under the glass. He squinted at the digital clock on the mantle.

“Ten o’clock! How many of those things did I have?”

It took Harry four tries to get his rotund frame up to a position in the recliner where he could at least attempt to stand. He felt woozy and still sleepy. He leaned forward and stared at his feet encased in a brand new pair of DeerFoams. He wiggled them.

“I can’t feel my feet. I wonder if she deliberately got me the wrong size.”

His eyes rose to the TV, silently playing an old, black and white version of A Christmas Carol. “Must have muted the TV.” His blurry eyes traveled up the living room wall. “That’s weird. I don’t remember turning on the lights.” Then he remembered everything is on a timer.

He followed the blurry glow of the string and landed on the peak, on that one annoying, nerve racking dead bulb. Harry shook his fist. “Blink, you piece of crap!”

The bulb was defiant. There had to be three hundred bulbs in the string, but that one, single, solitary bulb stood mutinous in all its glory at the very peak of the ceiling.

Myrtle jiggled the key in the lock of the front door. It was bitterly cold and the key just didn’t want to turn in her frozen fingers. She beat on the door.

“Harry! Harry, come open the door! I can’t get the key to work.”

She turned around, noticing for the first time since she climbed out of the cab that all the Christmas decorations were broken and scattered around the yard. She went around to the kitchen window and noted that the fake candle was gone. She reached up and banged on the window.

“Harry, where are you? Come help me!”

Myrtle went back to the front door and after a few more attempts, finally got the key to turn. She went back down the steps and retrieved her luggage.

“Jeez Harry, the least you could do is get out of the damn recliner and come help me with my bags. And what happened to the Christmas …?”

Myrtle stopped in mid-sentence as she came upon a chaotic scene in the living room. The TV was blaring It’s a Wonderful Life. The ten foot Christmas tree, fully decorated and lit, was laying across the top of the TV. She peered over it and saw the wooden step ladder open and splayed across the tree. Behind all of that, she saw a tangled mass of string lights, still cheerfully blinking.

She pushed her way past all the mess that looked as if the place had experienced a major earthquake. Lying next to the tangled mass of string lights, Harry was blankly staring at a single bulb clutched in his hand. Myrtle could see it was the only bulb in the whole string that wasn’t blinking. A portion of the string was wrapped around Harry’s ankle and another short length of it had tangled around his neck but Harry had a firm hold on the section with the single bulb.

Myrtle stood there for a moment, gathering in the whole scene, a blank, emotionless look on her face.

“I told him not to take my Christmas stuff down until I got home.” She said this in a nonchalant, matter of fact way.

She looked around the room and slowly walked into kitchen. She opened the refrigerator, took out the egg nog and reached for a glass and the spiced rum in the cabinet. She dug her meat mallet from the junk drawer and crushed a few ice cubes, put the shattered fragments in the glass and slowly poured two shots of rum into the glass. As she did this she began to hum ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. She filled the rest of the glass with egg nog and headed back into the living room.

Frosty the Snowman played on the TV as the detectives kneeled over the two bodies.

“Look at this, Jack. They were both drinking.” Ed pointed at the glass lying on its side on the dingy carpet next to a large wet spot that vaguely smelled of rum.

“So, what’s wrong with that? It’s Christmas.” Jack kicked the glass aside as he stood up. “It’s just a simple accident. They probably got all tangled up when he got up on the ladder and fell.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.” Ed looked at Myrtle, face down on the carpet with a piece of the twisted string of Christmas lights wrapped around one fat ankle. “Hey! Would ya look at that! There’s a bulb out!”

Thank you for reading my new short story, Taking Harry Down.

Here’s the poll!

How long do leave Christmas up at your house?

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The Girl on the Train, Review by Ethan Holmes

This is a review of The Girl on the Train by author Ethan Holmes.

I rarely drop a book in mid-read and yet I find myself doing this multiple times during the past year or two. I bought the book as an author who is trying to determine what the ‘audience’ out there wants, basically, what makes a best seller.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins now joins my growing list of disappointments along side Fifty Shades of Crap and John Lescroart’s Plague of Secrets as books I cannot comprehend reaching the lofty heights of publication and notoriety they have attained.

Disappointment doesn’t cover it. Add in four cups of frustration, one cup of confounded, three tablespoons of astonishment, a dash of puzzlement and at least a dash of anger and you have the perfect recipe for an author who still does not know what the reading public wants or why they seem to want the trash that is making millionaires out of people who can’t write.

I was forty pages into The Girl on the Train and I could find no vestige of a plot. What I did find was the constant, incessant ramblings of a psychotic woman who was constantly watching trains, riding trains or drinking on the train. The only concrete characteristic is that she is an alcoholic. In truth, it felt as though I had inadvertently stumbled across the diary of a twenty year old whack job. I wasn’t supposed to be reading it and I didn’t want to read it after the first seven pages, and yet I plodded onward.

It didn’t get much better and I held little hope that it would. That is not a pleasant way to enjoy one’s precious reading time. I asked my editor about this book and she confirmed my increasing disappointment by informing me that she ‘could not finish it’.

When I began writing seriously with foolish thoughts of becoming a rich, famous author, one of the most important things I learned about novel writing was that it was necessary to capture the attention of the reader quickly. This book fails miserably and it stills fails miserably fifty pages in.

I also learned another frustrating fact or two while researching this ‘best seller’. The author pitched the book while it was only half finished, a big alleged no-no in this business. I would like to talk to whoever read the first half of The Girl on the Train manuscript and then sent this woman money. I think the main character was not the only one drinking that day.

The other bit of news was that this book somehow became a movie. That is where an author makes the real money in this business, movie rights. Apparently from the reviews, the movie is as bad as the book. What’s puzzling and mind-numbing frustrating to me is that it is no longer important to be a writer who writes well, (a goal I always had from the beginning). You just have to write the flavor of trash the buying public wants and hope they make a movie out of it.

The long and short of it is that I could have written a two sentence review of this book. It would read as follows. “I purchased this book at Costco for $9.99 plus tax. I would like to return to Costco and ask for $9.79 back….plus tax.

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books, including the highly relevant most recent release,

Water

Get your free copy of Ethan Holmes’ collection of short stories, Shorts and Other Laundry by clicking the book cover below.

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Asking Why, Not Expecting Answers

I’m asking why, not expecting answers. I’m Ethan Holmes. Yes, I’m weird. Yes, I have strange thoughts running through my head. These are things that cross my brain when the traffic in my head slows down.

Why does it take a hacksaw, a drill gun, a utility knife and a pair of pliers to get into modern day packaging?

Why do shoes made for a dollar in Korea or China and consisting of nothing more than a piece of rubber, a piece of foam and two shoelaces cost $150?

Why is rain a big media event in Phoenix?

Why do most, if not all prescription medications have many more dangerous side effects than the symptoms your ‘doctor’ is trying to help you hide?

Why are some women’s clothes marked as size ZERO? Does that mean you’re paying for nothing?

Why do people swear in front of God, Church, family and friends to stay together ’till death do you part’ and then get a divorce? Shouldn’t you just be allowed to legally kill each other?

Why is going without underwear called ‘going commando’? Is the military unable to afford underwear for the soldiers?

Why do all the plants in your garden become stunted and die due to a myriad of diseases and bugs, yet the weeds grow to four feet?

Why do kids learn to ride skateboards and spend the next five years trying to jump off of them and break something?

Why do people pay for someone to tie a rubber rope around their ankles and shove them off a bridge?

Why do people allow themselves to be overcharged by a major coffee chain for a 16 oz. drink only to be handed a cup with 8 oz. of fluid in it?

Last but not least, I’m asking why is it that there are nearly 320 million people in this country and the best you could come up with for President was the two clowns currently gnawing at each other?

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books, including his dry-wit look at life in general,

Live Your Life in a Crap Free Zone.

Live Your Life In a Crap Free Zone by Ethan Holmes

Available in paperback and ebook.

Ethan Holmes’ latest novel, Water, is available in paperback and ebook. What would you do if you tried to take a shower and nothing but mud came out of the shower head?

Water by Ethan Holmes

 

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Daniel and the Mall by Ethan Holmes

Daniel and the Mall by Ethan Holmes is a short story exhibiting society’s burgeoning addiction to their cell phones. It’s also an entertaining story demonstrating how easy it is to cause chaos and panic, even if you’re an unarmed and very angry teenager.

Daniel and the Mall, By Ethan Holmes

Daniel was an unhappy boy most of his life. When he was fourteen, his father went to jail for molesting his own daughter. His mother was a Bible-thumping whack job who couldn’t figure out whether to pray about her problems or cut her husband’s testicles off and kill him if he ever got out. She carried a lot of anger and bitterness around with her and handed most of it down to her son.

I won’t go into any more of his background except to tell you that he grew into his teen years rebelling fiercely against any authority, took to robbing convenience stores and stealing cars and generally became a walking time bomb. Then one day the bomb went off.

It’s amazing to watch a human brain, normally occupied by life, conjure up a plan of evil genius when focused on perceived revenge. Daniel was intent on revenge against society in general for having, somehow, done him wrong. What he came up with was brilliant.

He didn’t have the spine to perform the shootout-of the-day like so many before him. It’s been done over and over. You steal an assault rifle and an automatic pistol, a bunch of ammo and head for the local movie theater/store/post office. You kill and maim a bunch of innocent people who had nothing at all to do with your life and then you commit suicide or let the cops use you for target practice.

No, Daniel wanted to do something different, something unique. He finally came up with a plan designed to prove to the world how angry he was and how easy it was to show it.

Daniel got up one bright, summer day and dressed in four layers of clothes. The first layer was a pair of light blue gym shorts and a white tank top. The second layer was a larger, baggier pair of tan cargo shorts and a black Nirvana tee-shirt. The third layer was a gray sweatshirt and nylon gray sweatpants with a San Francisco Giants baseball cap turned backwards on his head. The final layer was black sweatpants and a black hoodie, both baggy enough and large enough to cover everything underneath. He wore black Nike tennis sneakers with no socks and he stuck a pair of black flip-flops and a red-streaked, punkish wig in the front pouch of his hoodie. Then he headed for the local mall.

It was 3:30 p.m. and Daniel paid for a matinee showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at the AMC Movie Theater at the far western end of the mall. He took a seat in the back row of the theater, just inside the left aisle directly behind two teenaged girls. He scanned the area taking note that there were only about thirty people there. He looked around, smiling as he saw that better than two-thirds of them were busily pecking away or staring at their cellphones. It looked like a firefly convention in the darkened theater.

Waiting until the moment the theater was completely dark and the coming attractions had just begun, Daniel reached over the seat backs in front of him like a darting hummingbird and snatched both of the cellphones from the two girls. He hurled them toward the front of the theater and quickly ducked behind the seats and scurried toward the aisle to his right. He stifled a giggle as the girls screamed several times.

The two girls reacted exactly as Daniel thought they would. First, they screamed in shock and fright because someone had reached over them in the dark. They looked at each other with their mouths hanging open and screamed again. Then they both stood up and shook their hands as though they were being sprayed with cat urine and screamed again simultaneously.

“OH, MY GOD! OH, MY GOD!”

Daniel didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the fact that they were literally freaking out because their cellphones were gone. He waited for just a second or two at the end of the row and once again the two girls reacted just as he thought they would.

Both of them frantically ran toward the front of the theater and dropped to their hands and knees searching for their beloved phones.

Daniel smiled again as he peered over the seat in front of him and saw that the commotion had done just what he hoped. Everyone’s attention was on the two panicked girls in the front. He slinked across the right aisle and slid in behind a woman and two kids. The woman was sitting there holding a cell phone lit up in mid-text as she peered into the darkness trying to figure out what was going on. Daniel reached over and snatched her phone, hurling it back in the direction he had just come from.

The woman screamed; the kids laughed. Daniel ducked back behind the seats and headed for the aisle by the right wall. The woman stood up, cursed and looked in the row behind her. She couldn’t see much of anything. She looked at the girls, the kids and back at the row and stomped off in the direction of her phone.

“I’m callin’ the cops!” She yelled this at no one in particular.

By now, the theater was rapidly being enveloped in the growing commotion. A few people yelled at the girls to go sit down and quit screaming. Others just kept poking away at the screens on their phones. Now they had something to text about to their friends. Only the three people who had their phones snatched knew what the reason was for the turmoil.

Daniel nonchalantly stood up and looked around as though he had just arrived, searching for a seat. He walked down the same row of seats he had just slunk down as the two girls up front started yelling again.

“I can’t find my phone! Please help me! Somebody help me find my phone! Oh, my GOD!”

Someone in the dark yelled back.

“Fuck you and your damned phone! Sit the hell down so we can watch the movie!”

The coming attractions and snack bar commercials played on as Daniel sat down in the middle section of seats about halfway down. In front of him were two men, laughing and poking each other as they shared photos on both their phones of the same naked woman holding pompoms on a football field.

Daniel sat there for a moment, the angry memories of his imprisoned father surging up inside him. He was waiting for one moment; just the right moment.

As the men chortled and made crude remarks, that moment Daniel had been waiting for arrived. The coming attractions ended and the screen went black for just a few seconds as the movie started. That’s all Daniel needed.

He didn’t even stand up. He simply slid forward in his seat and sharply banged both men on the shoulder opposite him; one on the left shoulder, one on the right. Predictably both turned in opposite directions and cursed simultaneously.

“What the fuck?!”

Daniel slid his long, thin arms forward between them, snatched their phones out of their hands and hurled them toward the right front corner of the theater. As the darkened screen began to light up with the movie production logo, the clatter of the two phones hitting the uncarpeted floor down in front could be heard.

The two men stood up and repeated themselves.

“What the fuck, man?!”

Daniel was already sliding toward his left down the row of seats, headed for the emergency exit door on that side of the theater.

The men stood there befuddled, momentarily unable to decide whether to look for whoever had done this or head for the corner of the theater to find their phones. It didn’t take them long to figure out why the two girls were down in front already.

As they stood there, they heard a loud clang as the emergency door was flung open. Instinctively, everyone in the theater looked in that direction. A blast of blinding white sunlight lit up the doorway and a dark silhouette exited the theater and slammed the door closed. Most, if not all, of the people turned sharply away from the brilliant light and didn’t see a thing.

“Stupid people! They’re so fixated on their fucking, little phones, they don’t even have the sense to chase me!”

Daniel was correct in his assessment of what he had just done. Of the five people whose phones he had snatched and thrown into the darkness, not one of them chose finding him over finding their precious phone. The fun was just beginning.

He headed down the covered walkway that connected the theater with Dillard’s, one of the anchor stores of the mall. He walked through the store looking not unlike any other teenager mall-surfing. Proceeding out the front entrance of the store and onto the upper level promenade of the mall, Daniel spotted his next target and slowed down.

He stopped at the wood and glass railing that lined the edge of the promenade looking down onto the lower level. He was pleased to see a large water fountain below him.

He turned to the two women he had spotted standing in front of Spencer’s, each with a stroller containing a small child and a bunch of packages and bags. Both of them clutching their phones, animatedly pointing at them and laughing.

Daniel pulled the strings on his black hoodie so that it tightened around his face, slightly distorting it. Then he put on his best ‘poor, little kid’ face and approached the women.

He addressed the shorter of the two wearing a white tennis skirt.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I don’t have a cellphone and I need to call my mom for a ride home. Could I borrow yours for a minute to call her?”

The two women looked at each other in surprise. The one he addressed responded.

“You don’t have a cellphone? Really? What’s the matter with your parents; they can’t afford one?”

Daniel ignored her rude ignorance and stood there silently doing his best to look helpless.

The two women looked at each other for a moment and the taller one handed Daniel her phone.

“Here, you can use mine. Call your mom and tell her to get you a cellphone.”

Both women laughed as she handed the phone to Daniel. He smiled and thanked her. He brought up the dial pad on the touchscreen and pretended to dial a number as he turned his back on the two women. Walking slowly from the women and acting as though he was talking to someone, Daniel reached the wood and glass barrier a few yards away. The two women, chatting as they waited, looked up in time to see Daniel appear to fumble the phone right over the railing and down to fountain below.

The taller woman yelped and ran over to the railing followed closely by her friend.

She turned to the friend, “He dropped my fucking phone in the fountain down there! Oh my God!”

To Daniel’s amazement, the women ran right past him toward the escalator, leaving their strollers, kids, packages and bags right where they had been sitting when he approached them. He looked over at the strollers as the women ran down the escalator yelling, “Oh, my God!”

The shorter woman’s cell phone was sitting on the canopy of one of the strollers. Daniel calmly walked over and picked it up. He glanced at the sleeping children in the strollers. He turned back toward the railing and launched the cellphone high into the air. He knew, by the trajectory, that it was going to land perfectly in the same fountain.

The taller woman was already in the fountain, having ripped her shoes off at the edge and wading in panic stricken. The shorter woman was at the edge vigorously cheering her on when they both saw a splash in the pool of the fountain. The woman already in the fountain walked straight toward the splash, reached down and came out with a phone.

She held it up and stared at it for a couple of seconds and then turned to her friend, puzzled and confused.

“Hey, Doris, this looks like your phone.”

Doris held up her hands as though she should have been holding something. Her face turned from astonishment to dismay as she clapped her right hand to her belt on her hip.

“That rat bastard threw my cell phone down here too!”

Both of them looked up at the railing but Daniel was nowhere to be seen. He was already halfway down the promenade toward the center of the mall where the food court was located. He turned into a small hallway that led down to a janitorial closet and removed his hood, turning his Giants baseball cap around so the bill was pulled low over his face. He stepped back out onto the promenade.

Some kids around Daniel’s age were in front of him as he walked and one of them had on baggy pants hanging around his hips. An Ipod was sticking halfway out of the back pocket with a long thin white cord running up to a pair of earbuds firmly planted in the kid’s ears. Daniel snagged the Ipod, pulled the cord and pitched it over the railing just as two shabbily dressed Mexican guys walked past the group headed in the opposite direction.

As quickly as the music stopped coming through the earbuds the kid turned around and felt in his back pocket. Daniel didn’t say a word. He just pointed at the two Mexican guys while keeping his face low under his cap.

The kid in the baggy pants stopped, confused for a moment. The rest of the group kept going, not realizing their friend had stopped. Daniel kept moving as he heard the Ipod kid yelling at the Mexicans to stop.

Looking down at the food court from the upper level, Daniel could hear a growing hubbub from the west end of the mall where he had entered. The kid and the Mexicans were already shoving each other and his companions were rushing back to see what was happening. Daniel smiled as he could hear more noise farther down the line where he had thrown the two phones into the fountain.

He headed down the escalator and into the food court. There he headed straight for the rest room. Mall traffic was light and he waited for a moment as the last two men left the rest room. He entered one of the stalls and quickly removed his black hoodie and sweat pants. He stood on the toilet seat and shoved them up onto the acoustic ceiling tiles. He turned his baseball cap inside out and put it back on, pulling the bill down. Now he was dressed all in grey.

He left the restroom and, just as he anticipated, a few people were looking around suspiciously as though they had some information about something. A mall security guard actually startled Daniel, tapping him on the shoulder.

“Hey, kid. You see anyone around here wearing black sweats and a black hoodie?”

“No, sir, I ain’t seen nothin’.”

Daniel kept his face angled away from the man as he replied.

The guard’s radio cackled and he walked away talking into it. Daniel headed for the far side of the food court.

At a table in front of a small restaurant selling Greek Gyros, four people sat eating sandwiches and French fries; a woman, two boys who appeared to be about eight or nine years old and a small girl who looked no older than four or five.

Daniel slid into the chair at the table next to them so hard that it spilled the soda nearest to him. It was a deliberate move. The woman shrieked as Pepsi went splattering all over the table and headed for her lap. The two boys laughed and jumped up and the little girl on the far side of the woman happily munched her fries.

“Oh, shit! You boys get some napkins or towels.” The woman dabbed at the growing puddle with a napkin and turned to glare at whoever had done this.

Daniel was already gone. In the moment it took for all of them to be distracted by the sudden, jarring spill, he had grabbed her cellphone sitting by her plate. While the two people behind the counter of the Greek restaurant were occupied with getting towels and napkins and helping the woman, Daniel reached over the clear, plastic counter top and dumped her phone in the fryer. He grinned as it made a loud pop and sizzled. He had more reason to grin as he headed out of the food court. He could hear her screaming as he walked toward Macy’s.

“Where is my goddamned cellphone?”

Daniel entered the store. He had scoped this out before. The two weakest spots in here were the make-up department and the jewelry counter. First, there was a slight change to be made.

He went to the men’s clothing section and slipped inside one of the changing rooms. He removed his gray sweatshirt and the nylon, gray sweatpants. He took off his baseball cap and put on the wig he had shoved in the pocket of the sweatpants on his first change-out. He also took the flip flops which he had transferred to the rear pockets of the gray sweatpants and put those on. He stuffed the sweatpants in one sneaker, the sweatshirt in the other. He stood on the small corner bench in the change room and lifted the acoustic ceiling tile. He threw both sneakers up there and replaced the tile. Now he was dressed like a punk, surfer teen with streaky hair in baggy cargo shorts, a black Nirvana shirt and flip flops.

Back out in the main area of the store, Daniel headed for the make-up counter. Only four people were in the area; the counter clerk, a single customer, a store employee stocking shelves in the ‘Teens’ section and an elderly security guard by the store entrance who was actually nodding off.

The customer was an elderly lady who had dyed her hair so red it had turned an eerie orange. She was sitting on a stool as the clerk applied a ghostly white powder to her face. Daniel had to suppress outright laughter as he heard the clerk tell the old lady how beautiful she looked while dusting her up to look like she was already dead.

He eased his way over, acting as though he was looking for something.

“Can I help you with something? You appear to be lost!” The clerk said this with marked sarcasm.

He took the opportunity to move closer, now standing between the two.

“Well, like, dude. I was wondering if you, like, had any perfume for like, my girlfriend. Is that some there?”

Daniel stuck his hand out, pretending to point, and knocked the container of facial powder off the counter. It went all over the clerk and the floor.

“Well, you little shit! Look what you’ve gone and done!” The clerk was livid.

The orange-haired lady slid off the stool.

“Oh my, my. What a mess!”

She half-heartedly brushed at the powder all over the clerk, trying fruitlessly to help her get it off her dark blue jacket.

While the two of them were occupied with this, Daniel used the time to abscond with the old lady’s cellphone sitting on the glass counter right next to her flower-embroidered, canvas purse. By the time the two of them looked around, he was gone.

Heading for the far exit, he had to pass through the jewelry department and it couldn’t have been set up better for him if he had called in ahead of time.

A young woman had been looking at rings. Her purse and cellphone were sitting on the counter around the corner from where she and the clerk were currently viewing some additional choices. It was almost too easy as Daniel floated by, snatched the phone and kept walking straight out the door of Macy’s into the bright warmth of the late afternoon sun.

He looked at the two cellphones in his hands, smiled, dropped them onto the sidewalk, crushed them both under his feet and started walking. Once he cleared the mall parking lot he headed for an underpass of the nearby highway. There he stripped down to his final change of the tank top and gym shorts. He removed the wig to reveal his natural sandy blonde hair. Removing the soft dirt from a hole he had dug previously, he buried the remaining items under the underpass and climbed the steep embankment up to the highway.

Daniel stopped for a moment and turned back toward the Macy’s he had just exited. He smiled as he saw the elderly security guard with a few of his colleagues standing over the spot where he had crushed the phones. They all had their radios in their hands. Within seconds, two police cars screeched up to the entrance and, as Daniel turned to walk away, another went screaming right by him, sirens blaring, headed for the mall.

That evening he found the news particularly satisfying and entertaining. Every channel was blaring news about the ‘terrorist attack’ at the mall by multiple assailants stealing and destroying electronic devices. To hear them tell it, in all their glorious ignorance, there had been at least four attackers, starting with the “vicious and mysterious assault in the movie theater”.

Daniel watched, at once fascinated and amused, as he saw rough video and still images of himself in various stages of his disguises. What was most amusing and satisfying was the utter chaos, panic and confusion he had caused with this single, well-planned expedition to the mall.

He learned that fear, agitation and hysteria are all highly contagious. He learned that knocking people out of their routine, for even a fleeting moment was easy. Causing them discomfort of any kind was a sure-fire ingredient for panic. Most of all, God help you if you mess with their beloved cellphones.

They tried him as an adult. He was actually turned in by his own family who recognized certain little details about him on TV. His mother vowed never to have anything to do with him again and assured him that he would burn in the fires of eternal damnation for his sins.

Nothing like a mother’s love; is there?

Daniel and the Mall by Ethan Holmes is a short story which will be a chapter incorporated in an upcoming novel in progress titled 5:23.

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books including Earth’s Blood and his latest release, Water.

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A Lonely, Lonely Man

A Lonely, Lonely Man

By Ethan Holmes

He sets his head upon the pillow,

as he has done many thousands of nights before,

embraced only by the confined dark of the room,

wrapped solely in the silence that comes with every inevitable night.

 

Sleep brings only what could be or might have been,

restless, no peace, tossing in the black with demons of tormented thought,

Waking and sleeping, sleeping and waking,

Always succumbing to the sheer weariness.

 

He is a lonely, lonely man.

 

He quietly sips the morning’s coffee, now tasteless and without comfort,

watching sunrise in no particular awe, listening to birds sing far happier than he.

He plods through work, mindless and without joy or pride,

hoping each week be longer than the last, that he could remain out, away, anywhere but home.

 

Doleful, even wistful, he gazes in wonder at the couple on the bench,

holding hands, each searching the windows of the other’s soul for love.

In his mind he holds his hands high to heaven and cries out to no one and nothing.

“Why not me? Where could she be?”

 

He is a lonely, lonely man.

 

He walks, the walk of a man with no life in the step,

slogging forward, one foot floating by the other, neither an inch from the ground.

He remembers he used to notice things, the water, the squirrels, the annoyed crows.

He recalls a man who moved with purpose, long lost goals, unfulfilled dreams.

 

The wind tears at his jacket, burns his eyes, tingles his fingers.

He wobbles against the beating, raising his arms as though to take it with him.

The white water races and jumps, cavorts over the red boulders below, begging him.

“Come down from there.” He barely hears her voice over the wind.

 

He was a lonely, lonely man.

lonely man midgley bridge

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Water Shortages, Rain Doesn’t Fix It

Water is the single most precious resource on the planet, not oil.

A couple of days of rain doesn’t mean there’s water and the global shortages are all gone. Humans tend to be short-sighted like that. Bring on a nice string of spring rain storms and everyone re-submerges themselves in complacency and waste. That’s not a good idea.

A few days ago, it was announced that Lake Mead, the single largest source of potable water in the southwest U.S., was at its lowest level since it was first filled up via Hoover Dam in 1936.

ethanholmesblogLakeMeadDecline_ModIn early 2000, I photographed Lake Mead from atop Hoover Dam and from various other vantage points. It didn’t look much different from the 1983 shot above. Today, it looks like this.

ethanholmesbloglakemeaddroughtAnd this.

ethanholmesbloglakemeaddrought3Water levels are so low that a billion dollars is being spent to construct a new intake below the current lowest one, (about 900′). Intakes are how we get water out of the pool and into our homes and businesses.

After that, Lake Mead becomes a dead pool. No water is going to leave the lake, such as it is at the time. Keep in mind that the whole reservoir is like a giant funnel that gets narrower as it drops. That means the remaining level is going to drop at a much more precipitous rate from now on. Something to think about while you’re washing your car, running the water while doing dishes or brushing your teeth, pouring it by the hundreds of gallons on your lawn so it will look pretty and running your irrigation for hours when it’s not necessary. (Unfortunately, these are only a few of the many ways in which humans nonchalantly waste this precious resource.)

This is why I stopped two other books in progress a year and a half ago and wrote the fact-based, fictional novel Water. Just as I did in writing Earth’s Blood, I did my homework first. The time is coming when large portions of this country will experience what I depict in Water. Already there are more than a few communities of all sizes that no longer have readily available potable water. You can find them spread all across the western U.S. as well as in many other countries around the planet.

What would you do if you went to your kitchen faucet and nothing came out? What if you turned on the shower and got hit in the face with spatters of mud? Try flushing a dry toilet. Go to the grocery store and find the produce shelves bare. Then what?

water-cover-5ARead what happens when the world runs out of water.

Visit the author, Ethan Holmes.

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A Return To Paperbacks

As an author, I’m making a return to paperbacks. Not that I ever left.

Back in May of last year, I wrote a blog titled The Death of Ebooks. Sales of ebooks have dropped significantly as device owners change the usage of their tablets and smartphones from useful things like news, weather, online magazine articles and books to games, photos and so-called ‘social networking’. (Less than 10% of the top forty apps on both Android and Apple platforms are for anything else.)

I am the author of six books and working on three more, all in ebook format and three currently in paperback. I find myself returning to the more traditional paperback and audio formats. Well, I say return yet I never left. My first novel, a sci-fi thriller about the largest seismic event to ever strike the planet, Earth’s Blood, was immediately put into paperback format. Since then, my latest fictional novel based on the current world-wide potable water shortages, Water, has also been put into paperback form. My dry-witted, cracked humor look at life and the many choices it presents one with, titled Live Your Life in a Crap Free Zone is the third title in paperback.

ethan holmes paperback 2

I believe that the majority of truly devoted book readers have always and will always wish to hold a book in their hands while they read. They want to turn the page with a moistened finger to see what happens next. They want to stick a tasseled bookmark in between the pages and reluctantly put the book down until the next time they have a few spare yet delightful moments of precious ‘me’ time.

This is not to say that no one is reading digital books anymore. Certainly millions are still doing just that. The problem is there are many more millions of ebooks out there. The number of purchasers and readers of digital books is declining. It’s not difficult to see where the math is going. Combine that with the fact that the name of the devices has changed from ‘ebook readers’ to ‘tablets’ with a much more diverse usage in tow and anyone can see what is happening.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire advertising say’s “it’s great for watching movies, playing games and reading books”. (Note the original purpose of a Kindle is now third.)

ethan holmes kindle fireThat said, I am making a return to paperbacks, hardcovers, audio books and seeking traditional representation and publishing. My books will all be available in ebook format. It just won’t be the primary objective anymore. Ten years ago, no one, including me, knew the ebook industry would have an explosive yet relatively short life span of growth. To borrow a song title from Dylan, “The Times, They are a Changin’.” It’s a good reason to change with them and make a return to paperbacks.

Instant Previews of Three Paperback Titles by Ethan Holmes on Amazon

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Earth's Blood thumnailCrap Thumbnail

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Ten Things That Burn My Biscuits

I have ten things that burn my biscuits. Actually, I lied. (You’re supposed to lie on the Internet, aren’t you? It’s the Internet.)

ethan holmes burned-biscuits

I have way more than ten things that burn my biscuits. I’m going to limit it to ten things just so you don’t burn your biscuits.

10- The latest thing to burn my biscuits is the biggest news story of the last few months, Donald Trump. I’d like to say I don’t understand why millions of people are going to the polls and voting for Mr. Trump, but I do. Okay, so he shoots his mouth off and says things you wish you could say to your least favorite politicians and leaders. But take a man who has declared bankruptcy three times, starts fake universities, can’t stay married to the same woman and can’t control himself and make him president of the country??? Now politicians are jumping on the Trump bandwagon and endorsing this blowhard. Go figure.

9- Watching novels, (and I use the term loosely,) like Fifty Shades of Garbage get published, made into a movie and make the ‘author’ filthy rich burns my biscuits until you can’t tell they were biscuits.

8- Realizing that people no longer use the amazing technological devices they are addicted to for anything intelligent or educational. E-readers, tablets and so-called ‘smartphones’ have become nothing more than gaming, texting and photo devices.

7- Something as stupid as a “selfie stick” can turn you into a millionaire over night.

ethan holmes selfie stick

6- It burns my biscuits to know beyond any uncertainty that the only way to get the notoriety required to become a ‘successful’ author is to get on social networking and do the following; get naked, do something stupid that nearly kills you, post photos of your pet licking the inside of your mouth out.

5- People who absolutely, positively must be ahead of you in traffic, no matter what, are enough to burn anyone’s biscuits.

4- People who won’t put their phones down no matter what. I actually watched a guy go into a public restroom, desperately clutching his phone in one hand. He used the urinal while conversing, went over to the sink and rinsed his free hand, wiped it on his pants and walked out while still talking. I watch them wander into my lane, bash me with their shopping carts and try to converse or text while shoving food in their face. Yikes!

3- You want to burn my biscuits? Change your mind 42 times. I’ve worked retail, run businesses and treated people to ice cream cones. If you can’t make up your mind in two minutes there are too many flavors for you.

ethan holmes ice cream

2- Burn my biscuits and call something anything but what it is. There is no such thing as thick or BBW when describing one’s figure. Thick is for steak or how you want your garlic bologna cut at the deli. The same goes for the phrase, ‘a few extra pounds’ or ‘smokes occasionally’. You either smoke or ya don’t!

1- Manners have disappeared along with the phone booth, the typewriter and the Dodo bird. It burns my biscuits when people can’t even come up with an ‘excuse me’ when they cut right across in front of you while you are looking to pick up something on a store shelf. Or better yet, hold the door open in a public place and watch six women pass through and not one of them can come up with a ‘thank you’.

That’s it, my biscuits are burned. Now I’m gonna make blueberry pancakes.

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books, including his latest novel, Water, available in paperback as well as ebook.

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Take a look at Ethan Holmes’ newest work in progress, The Town of Perfect, at

                                                               Amazon’s WriteOn

TOP COVER

Disclaimer: All statements in this blog are solely the opinions of the author.

 

 

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Thankful on Thanksgiving

I’m thankful on Thanksgiving. Hell, I’m thankful on any day I wake up and see I’m still alive. I don’t really need a particular day to be grateful for some very simple things.

For instance, I’m grateful that I have food to eat every day, food of my own choosing, food that is healthy. Many in this country don’t and not just around this time of the year.

While millions are prepared to go out and spend millions on Christmas, millions of others line up for food. I am so very grateful that I don’t have to do this.

ethan holmes food bank line thanksgiving

The other day I was standing in a line at a grocery store and I watched as multiple patrons of the store became upset that they had to spend more than two minutes in the line to pay for their groceries. It occurred to me that perhaps they should be more grateful, thankful that they did not have to stand in the line above. Perhaps they should be thankful they don’t have to go hungry. They can literally walk into any one of the giant stores and buy anything they choose, eat it before they get out the door or take it home and cook it up in minutes. We go buy a package of tilapia at Costco, people in Bangladesh do this. Say thank you.

 

Harvesting prawns in the pond of Halim and his wife Aklima Begum in the village of Molmolia, Dumvnia, Khulna, Bangladesh. The boy is Solaiman, the sone of Halim. Halim hires this crew of men to pull the net through their pond next to their house to collect the prawns. The prawns are extremely valuable, so the family never eats them, instead selling them on the market where they probably end up in the European market. On average a family will net something like $1500-2000 a year from prawns.  Contact for Agricultural Information: Timothy Russell Email:  t.russell@irri.org Phone: +880 2 989  8011  Mobile: 01766931971 IRRI Bangladesh House 9, Road 2/2 Banani, Dhaka 1213 Bangladesh Other IRRI: Bushra Rahman Manager, Communications and Documentation IRRI Bangladesh Office House 9, Road 2/2 Banani, Dhaka 1213 Bangladesh Phone: +880 2 989  8011  +88 2 988 6608 Ext. 104 Mobile: +880 1911 746 250 Email:  b.rahman@irri.org Field Locations for IRRI: A.K.M. Ferdous  Email : a.ferdous@irri.org Cell: +8801715026458 General Contact for WorldFish: Afrina Choudhury Portfolio Support Coordinator/ Gender Specialist T: +880-2- 8813250 M: +88 017 154 893 418 House 22B, Rd 7, Block F, Banani F: +880-2-8811151 1213 Dhaka, Bangladesh skype: afrina.choudhury www.worldfishcenter.org Field Locations for WorldFish: Ashoke Kumar Sarker  AK.Sarker@cgiar.org Cell: +8801711375573

It’s not just about the food though. It’s about a lot of things that occur to me. For instance, I was lying in bed one morning briefly pondering getting up and facing a hard work day. (Yes, I work hard when I’m not writing. I do stuff that would make most people crumple into a ball and die.) I looked up at the ceiling and closed one eye. Don’t know why, I just did. Suddenly I am saying ‘thank you’ that I have two eyes. Losing an eye cuts your vision in half. Half your world goes away. Your depth perception is gone. It’s disconcerting to say the least and if something happens you’ve got one eye left and then it’s blindness. There’s no spare. Thank you.

That lead me to think that I should also be grateful no one comes and lifts me out of bed into a wheel chair every day. I just roll and put two good legs on the floor. Thank you.

I found myself watching traffic on the way to work and laughing at the self-entitled, selfish, impatient goofballs who dash past and cut other drivers off in a desperate attempt to get just one more car ahead or run the red lights at intersections. I was thinking it might be nice if all these drivers were a bit more grateful that they have cars and the motorized ability to go wherever they please any time they please. You don’t have to walk, you don’t have to take a urine stained city bus, you don’t have to pay a cab. Say thank you. Better yet, say ‘thank you’ and let someone in front of you, wave them out of a parking lot, slow down and let them in when they are signaling a lane change. You don’t need a day like Thanksgiving to do it.

I am thankful for my health, for the food in my cabinets and refrigerator, the vehicle that starts up on a cold morning and keeps me warm on the way to work and the simple fact that I have a roof over my head and four walls around me. (I’ve had a time or two when that wasn’t so.)

I am grateful on this so-called Thanksgiving Day that I am alive despite the fact that life, at times, can be difficult and lonely. I am thankful on Thanksgiving that I don’t have to buy $800 worth of prescription medication every month to get through the days. I am grateful for all the huge stores nearby where one can get anything they wish as long as they can pay for it. I say thank you that I can go to the gym to work out my frustrations and be a healthier person. Thank you for my readers who take time out of their busy lives to read a thing or two or buy my books. Thank you that there’s even a way to do any of that.

I suppose it would not be such a bad thing to see Thanksgiving banished. What if we were all thankful on Thanksgiving and every other day of the year? What if we stood on a mountain, took a deep breath and said thank you just for being able to do that?

I’m still going to be thankful on Thanksgiving, regardless of the fact that, for me at least, it is no different than any other day of the year. I’m not going anywhere, I am not even going to see another human being today. Such is the nature of my so-called holidays. Nevertheless, I am going to be thankful, tomorrow.

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books including his latest novel, Water.

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Water is on sale for the holidays. It’s available for all ereaders/tablets and other devices as well as in paperback. Don’t forget to pick up your free ebook copy of Shorts and Other Laundry too. It’s a collection of short stories from the slightly askew brain of Ethan Holmes.

 

 

 

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WATER IS ON SALE!

Water is on sale! Hurry before it runs out!

water-cover-5AI’m sorry, I just had to write that. Yes, the pun was intended. You see, I don’t usually put my books ‘on sale’. Nevertheless, we may write it off to idea that the Christmas spirit has settled upon me early. Well, I say ‘early’ yet it’s only about seven weeks away. Yikes!

I thought it would be a nice gesture, ‘in keeping with the season’, to borrow a phrase from my favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Carol. Water is on sale from now until December 26th for just $2.99 for the Kindle version, ($2.00 off the regular price), and $12.99 for the paperback.

Most bottles of water, especially the fancy ones, cost that much. I must confess I never thought water could be fancy. At least my novel will last longer than a bottle of Perrier on your nightstand. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it more too.

Water is my latest novel, based on the fresh water shortages which have struck across the globe and across many communities of all sizes.

It was time, long ago, to quit treating water as an infinite resource and with the impunity that many people exhibit when it comes to many things on this unique jewel of a planet we call home.

Water employs fiction as a tool to depict real life and the consequences and ramifications of turning on a faucet and getting splattered with nothing but globs of mud.

Enjoy your water. Ethan Holmes

Ethan Holmes is the author of six books, all of which are available in any ebook reader form you wish. Three of them, Earth’s Blood, Water and Live Your Life in a Crap Free Zone, are available in paperback.

Here is Ethan Holmes’ Amazon author page. Don’t forget to pick up your free ebook copy of Shorts and Other Laundry while you are there. You’re welcome.

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