A Conversation With Christopher Walken

Sometimes, it’s healthy to simply let your zany side off the leash. Let him/her speak, howl, whatever. As it were, this “conversation” formed as I waited in the car outside my kids’ martial arts practice. If there was some hidden or higher inspiration for such a moment, I wouldn’t know where to begin looking.

 

“What if I told you,” Christopher Walken says, dropping into the passenger seat, “that that Kind bar is the last thing you’re ever going to eat?”

“What?” I stammer.

Christopher Walken is in my car. I know it’s him because I’ve seen him a hundred times on the screen. Those eyes and that slightly testy smile with a voice that lets you know, at any second, for any random reason, he might deliver amazing bodily violence–via a henchman, of course. He’s sitting in my car.

I look down at my machine-pressed stick of nuts, chocolate and caramellish glue.

“What would you say?”

“How-how did you get in here?”

“Spare me the trifling details of that, Mister Edison. My aeroplane broke apart leaving Vancouver. Meryl Streep faxed over a fill-in request. I fell out of God’s ass when he evacuated last night’s green curry. A little too hot for the Big Guy.” He leans closer. “Does it matter?” he whispers in that sinister Christopher Walken whisper.

“Well, yeah, it kinda–”

Does it? Really? I’m trying to pass on a little two-bit wisdom, and you’re sitting there like a landlocked frog trying to divine the ins and outs of metaphysics. What’s important to you, Mister Edison?”

“I don’t know,” I mutter. It feels like a confession. “I don’t know, sometimes…”

“Ah, now we’re gettin’ somewhere. You’re spending too much time worrying about cyclones of moss chunks and how the new houses are thirteen right angles with goofy paint choices and Kansan-farm-ancient wood. Rubbish, all of it!”

“Really?”

“My spooge is more impressive, for Christ’s sake!”

Legendary film actor Christopher Walken and his famous glower.

“You’re saying…I’m trying to impress people?”

He leans closer. “You’re failing to impress people. How’s that for a little dose of reality?”

“Great. Even my daydreams are aligned against me.”

“Hey,” he barks with an icy-eyes stare. “No babies here. Don’t be a baby.”

“Y-yes, Sir!”

“That’s better.” He seems to soften when I slump against my window, suddenly tired. “Look,” he says. “If you continue on this path, your destiny is to get backed-over by Granny driving her gold Caddy at two-inches-an-hour. Whump-crunch-crunch. It’s not gonna feel good.”

“How do I change?”

His expression becomes a smug smile. “I like to help people, Mister Edison. That’s who I am. Right now, I’m gonna help you. Ya ready for it?”

“Ready,” I lie.

“Get off your ass! Do something. You wanna help people in Ghana get clean water, then step up, put your hat in the ring. You wanna employ people? Then start your website business, get this circus moving down the road. Just do it!”

“Okay. Okay!”

“And don’t you waste another scintilla of time worrying about how you could’ve done this better, or not shanked that opportunity. You’re too old, now, to die young. Ya understand me?”

“Yes, Sir!”

“All right,” he says. “Time’s a-wastin’. Tick-tock.”

“You’re right.”

“Novelist,” he says, with a smirk towards the darkening city. “Kids these days.”

 

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The Prince of Endless, pt. 3

In Dillingham, a walled village a mile uphill from the boat dock, Marvella and Ibix enter the constable shack. A messenger is waiting for them, holding two sheets of parchment. Ibix, the boss, takes the parchment from the messenger, who calmly ducks out.

Ibix reads the first message while removing his sword belt. “Miss Tammy’s half-blind cat is stuck up the oak tree. Again.”

“Prepare the trumpets,” Marvella says.

Ibix hangs his sword belt with other weapons behind the simple desk. “And we have a pickpocket operating near the Black Dragon pub.”

“Probably the Simmons kid,” Marvella says. “I’ll go.”

At the door, she pauses. “What of this Prince of Endless business?”

“Endless is a hundred miles away. It’s not our affair.”

“Do you think they know?”

“If what that dying Ehara said is true, that must’ve happened last night. They certainly know.”

“And what of this Dirkennion fellow?”

Ibix, feeling tested, says, “Marvella, we can’t get involved. Later today, I’ll take some pubbies down to bury the Ehara. Okay? Now, go save that goddamned cat before Miss Tammy’s heart gives out!”

Marvella lifts her hands, conceding defeat.

Outside, she pauses, looking at pink flowers near the footpath. With a wry grin, she moves on.

A lone pink azalea bloom in October

~~~

Later, far uphill, Marvella comes to a stand set in a clearing. The wooden stand has a large, peculiar horn set on one post. Two brothers are playing catch near the stand. With a bare finger, Marvella’s touching a fresh claw mark on her cheek. In her hand, she holds muffins wrapped in a large, clean leaf.

A boy says, “Constable.” They both come over.

“Young squires,” she says. “I am in need of a griffin. Do you know of anyone brave enough to call for a loyal messenger, perhaps to be rewarded with a treat?”

The boys eye the muffins in her hand. “Aye, Ma’am. We can do it.”

“Very well.”

~~~

 

High above, soaring calmly below the Aviarinelle river, is a griffin. The creature turns its head at a shrill whistle, which is coming from Dillingham. It sounds a second time, and the griffin turns into a swooping descent.

~~~

 

In Greenhump, Dirkennion is helping to mend a fence. The workers pause when a griffin announces itself with a bark. It calmly lands in the field beside them. Dirkennion looks at it and says, “Misha, would you please see if the butcher has anything for our visitor?”

The man named Misha runs off. Dirkennion approaches the creature with calm movements. Attached to its front right leg is a leather thong with a rolled-up parchment. Dirkennion gently goes to the thong, unties the note and takes it. Misha returns with a chunk of meat, and sets it on the fence post while Dirkennion reads. The griffin barks and eats the meat.

“An urgent matter in Dillingham,” Dirkennion says.

 

to be continued…

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Why I Give Up On Sports

For years, I’ve been saying that it’s tough being a fan. The loss, the heartache, the cyclical hope. Nothing compared to a hurricane or other legitimate tragedy, of course. And I mean it in jest. However, losing hurts. Your team losing hurts.

I was never a true die-hard fan, truth be told. I’ve never owned season tickets. I’ll never make it to the Super Bowl. A flat-screen at the local pub is probably the closest I’ll get to any packed stadium for a championship game.

Playing

Without a doubt, I love sports. There’s a purity to much of it, and I believe it brings out the best in people. My wife and I have kept the kids rolling through athletics for much of each year (with soccer, my favorite, being the default activity). At this level, as an assistant coach, I can connect with the kids, encourage them, and see correction for obvious errors or tactical problems. Last year, my son’s soccer team, Orange Crush, ran the table going into a state tournament. His head coach brought out the talents and best use for each sixth-grader, and the results were an awesome 13-0.

The other day, my daughter’s squad pounded their opponents 5-0. There was no attempt to run up the score. The other team simply didn’t have much of an attack (despite my daughter’s letting them through on a hilarious defensive whiff).

The Debacle

Contrast that with what happened that same night, a continent away…

Pen sketch of a USMNT soccer player kneeling and covering his face

The USMNT basically phoned-in an effort against Trinidad & Tobago–a game that should’ve put the Yankees in the 2018 FIFA World Cup for a ninth consecutive tournament. The American side lacked hustle and cohesion. Going by the highlights (or lowlights) our men didn’t look ready to compete on the world stage. Aside from Christian Pulisic’s goal, this seemingly rock-bottom showing paved the way for a much-needed housecleaning at US Soccer. And while us fans had so much hope for 2014, with Klinsman at the helm, we’ll be watching 32 other countries try to advance in this mother of all tournaments next year.

And these guys…

For years, I’ve been a fan of University of Tennessee football. Under Phil Fulmer, there was enough success (one national title, a .750 winning percentage) to keep Rocky Top happy during lean years. Then his offense got stale, he was canned, and a carousel of coaches has made the fan-base reminisce about the winning days in the rearview mirror. To become accustomed to such success is, inherently, a problem. Losses become crushing, embarrassing, disheartening–especially against the same squad every year, or just when your team appeared to have gotten its act together (see US 4, Panama 0).

Spikes of success, a packed stadium and ‘Believe’ banners aren’t enough to influence a miracle touchdown grab or stoppage-time goal down. It can be said a true fan wagers a lot of emotional capital on an outcome he or she can’t influence. At the end, half the players who walked on the field will walk off as so-called losers. Moral victories are a nice sentiment, but they’re hardly enough to sustain the faith in next season, for the next tournament.

Conceding defeat

So I’m turning in my expectations card. I’ll watch the Super Bowl, I’ll catch highlights of WC ’18 and I might make it to an MLS Sounders game next season. If the Mariners make it to the playoffs or Seattle gets a pro basketball team again, great. Call me a sports curmudgeon or fair-weather fan, that’s fine. I’ve got too many other things to worry about than a ball making it into a net.

For now.

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A Suspense Novel for the Ages

Okay, guilty: I’d love for someone to think so (and pen those words) about “Tempest Road.”

It’s possible. Maybe.

I could talk about the hours and hours and hours I’ve put into the research, the reading, the actual drafting, wending through pictures in various formats, etc. But I won’t, because that’s boring. All good writers have to do these things.

I will admit to, yes, wanting to write a deep, meaty adventure that grabs readers the way “Presumed Innocent” and “Absolute Power” and “Catch-22” grabbed me. I couldn’t put them down. I lived inside those colorful characters and absurdities and details and moments of violence and moments of even deeper, bewildering question. I wanted to write a book that, when people are finished, they’ll put it down, take a deep breath and say, “Damn.”

Yeah, I’d be good with that.

Justin Edison's Tempest Road covers features a jungle path with bullets, a black panther and a bloody knife in the title.

www.justinedisonnovels.com

An 8:23-a.m. Ramble

Lots of pain this morning. Bottoms of my feet, both sets of toes, left top of my foot (separate, somehow), knees aching, lower back disagreeable. This is ridiculous. I’m 42, I can’t be broken. Chalk the weight gain up to fatigue and pain (the eating beast self-perpetuates craftily) plus a liberal summer of milkshakes. Good thing I’m on my way to the gym, where sweat and pain are required. Then it will all be worth something.

I’m waiting on job news, both exciting and exhausting. Four phone chats. Five? Just give me entry-level work, for chrissakes. Foot in the door, turn the corner on my hole-ridden resume. I’ll work my way up. Delays in finding an afternoon nanny threaten to send me back to square one. I don’t like square one. I want responsibilities, adult interaction, a W-2. Kinda sick of hearing about the nobility and value in putting the kids (needs and schedules) first. Why can’t I put them tied for first while I work through a healthy hopper?

The house Wi-Fi took an inexplicable siesta yesterday. A little thing, first-world inconvenience, but the timing was excellent. Job research, Luanne’s paperwork, kids griping without reason to gripe. I need to get out of this house.

On Tuesday, I saw a heartbreaking moment. I’ll share that soon.

In the dark this morning, I revisited the sadness of ET. Would Elliott ever be okay? In real life, he’d be around 46, trying to explain loss to his own kids. I’m sure there’s a ton of manuals on the subject, and I’m sure most of them suck.

Tempest Road comes out in a few weeks. I want to celebrate it, share it with people, and then move on. I don’t want to entertain the fantasy of robust sales, this time. Hope can be a killer. The cover seems awesome to me–my idea, Greg Simanson’s work. I have about seven seconds to entice people with it. Seven seconds to pique a reader’s interest, because two thousand hours of sweat equity just looks like black type on white paper. And any fool can do that.

Sip the coffee, fill the water, get out to the gym. An essay on Sherman Alexie popped into mind, scrawled on the kitchen white board with my carbs-count and ‘gf’ for gluten-free days (wheat may not be hurting, but it certainly wasn’t helping!) and note to work on a friend’s website. At the bottom is a command, the way I imagine Mr. Alexie (ever the funny man) would put it: “Get a job, you bum.”

Swell.