Author Debuts Three Short Stories

My Life in the Three Rs

Who remembers when reading, writing, and arithmetic once made up the public education curriculum? My phonetic Rs are reading, research, and writing. I can’t imagine any serious writer of any merit getting along without them. It’s been that way for me since I committed myself to gainful employment as a writer—first as a newspaper reporter, then as a technical writer, then as a copywriter. And now I’m a pro bono fiction writer. Luckily, I’m retired.

Deathbed Promise

For your reading pleasure, I have posted three short stories. The first one, Deathbed Promise, will appear in a book anthology before the end of this year published by the St. George chapter of the League of Utah Writers. So, where’s the novel you ask? It’s joined the thousands of “proverbial novels in draws” if the authors wrote theirs before computers, or like mine, it rests quietly on my computer hard drive.

Meanwhile, I’ve elected to earn my chops in short fiction. Oh, I’ll continue to write nonfiction, but I’ll spend most of whatever writing I have left in my life writing fiction. In terms of length, a novella falls within short fiction.

A Moment In Time & Santa In OD Green

I said three short stories. A Moment In Time and Santa In OD Green are two and three, respectively. Did I mention I read a lot? Among the books I read are books on history. A 1918 event in history inspired me to write A Moment In Time. Of course, while based on facts, my story is historical fiction.

I wrote Santa In OD Green to submit to a writer’s short prose competition. The prize payouts to winners run $10 up to a whopping $25. Hahaha! Everyone knows fiction writers shouldn’t give up their day jobs. The entry deadline is November 1, 2023. I’ll let you know if I collect any greenbacks.

Deathbed Promise

Reece Adler must fulfill a promise and face the loss of his proxy father, R.J. “Mac” Macauley, an unsung Vietnam War veteran who nurtured Reece to manhood. He struggles with grief until he finds a spiritual message in the promise Mac asks Reece to make.

A Moment In Time

Soldier Reece Adler left his outfit in Germany on a five-day leave to Paris. En route, he visits the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Wood, where a fierce World War One battle occurred between US Marines and German soldiers. An unexpected stranger shows up and gives Reece an account of what happened on the first day of the battle.

Santa In OD Green

American soldiers stationed in 1968 in the small town of Idar-Oberstein in Germany have their Christmas Eve Party interrupted. They join a search party to find a missing six-year-old boy.

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Shakespeare, “Soul of the Ages”

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely Players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His Acts being seven ages.”—As You Like It

Shakespeare, “Soul of the Ages”

Behold! Who dreams in this troubled slumber? Ah, ’tis a scrivener lost in thought. He reads too much of the nonsense writings of others concerning William Shakespeare, a man I knew well.

Hark thee now. His youngest brother Edward, my eldest brother Cuthbert, and I belonged to the same company of London actors. Amidst our troupe, Shakespeare and I were shareholders in Blackfriars and  The Globe, where I played Julius Caesar in 1599. This would later lead me to play Hamlet, my signature role.  Could it be true that my characterization of Hamlet still influences the actors who play him today? Alas! I digress from my purpose: clearing the untruths and confusion from thy thoughts.

Prithee, allow thy mind to imagine Will’m if you will—Did I make a pun? Ah! I overindulge myself. When the cock crows at dawn, I must begone.

John and William Shakespeare, Ambitious Men

William was the eldest son of John and Mary (née Arden) Shakespeare. An ambitious man, his father improved his social rank through hard work as a maker of leather goods, such as the stylish gloves of my day. He hawked his wares on Thursdays at the local market in Stratford. Eventually, he became prominent in Stratford, serving officially at civic affairs and guild meetings.

As the eldest, Will was expected to pick up his father’s trade. Yet, unbeknownst to his father, his son nurtured other aspirations for himself. But to his credit, he lent himself to his father’s craft for a time.

William Shakespeare Married Anne Hathaway

At 18, William married Anne Hathaway in 1582 from the nearby village of Shottery. He walked the mile and a half to her village to court her. Her father, Richard, was a yeoman farmer. It should come as no surprise that the Hathaway and Shakespeare families were acquainted. Although William never said so openly, I surmised the fathers had more to do with arranging the marriage than the locals knew.

Anne was 26, eight years older than her future husband, and carried his child. Was it not one of your countrymen who advised men to marry older women? Across the centuries, people made much ado about nothing. Tongues wagged like the tail of an excited dog. So, countless hearsay arose over her age and pre-marriage pregnancy.

Shakespeare Manifests His Love for Anne

Free thy mind of these rumors and chatter, for I say Will loved Anne. She bore him three children: Susanna and the twins Hamnet and Judith. For her, he erected New Place, an imposing house—the second-largest in Stratford. It had ten chimneys and thirty rooms. Neither Will nor Anne had much time to themselves. How could he possibly have lived a supposed libertine lifestyle in London?

His evenings were consumed with writing with a quill pen by candlelight. He wrote thirty-seven plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems during his lifetime. And his days, they afforded him even less time. Shakespeare filled them with stage performances, directing, rehearsals, investing money in theaters, buying land in Stratford, and caring for Anne, the children, his siblings, and aged parents.

In addition to his plays and the insights their characters revealed of human nature on the stage, his contributions to the English language remain unmatched in the history of literature. And it should also be noted that he had an enterprising spirit for words and business. I always said he inherited his ambitious drive from his father.

Salacious Rumors Surrounded Anne

And what of the alleged indiscretions ascribed to Anne? Forget them. They were baseless rumors that sullied her good name. She filled her daily life with chores: She managed the household diligently—overseeing its maintenance, cooking, nurturing three children, and attending to William’s family. As a child of a farm family, hard work and long days were no strangers to Anne. And she harbored ambitions akin to William’s. She ran cottage industries at New Place under her guidance. In her epitaph to her mother, Susanna hailed her as a priceless gift.

I sense the cock’s about to crow. And lo, the dawn breaks. I should impart more, such as the enigma of the “second best bed” and William’s omission of Anne from his will. Perchance, I’ll visit thee in another dream.
Farewell, scrivener! Consider these parting words: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” —Twelfth Night.

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Folktales, Oral and Written Tales Told by Folks

Folktales Predate Methuselah

I can’t pinpoint when, but I’ve long been interested in folktales, fables, and fairy tales. To say children everywhere heard oral tales recited or their written versions read to them may be a stretch. Yet, folktales exist in Western and Eastern cultures. They are free spirits, ever-growing, and changing in time and space. They are older than Methuselah.

Why do I enjoy them? Folktales come from the soul of common people, are told by them, handed down like heirlooms from parents to their children, and passed on from generation to generation. And folktales cross geographical boundaries freely without prejudice or malice. They are entertaining, often with a moral bent. And yet they also let “the folk” vent their dislikes of corrupt higher-ups in the voices of animal characters.

Folktales Go Wherever Folks Live

Folktales surround continents like oceans—from India to countries in the Middle East, to countries in Western Europe, to the United Kingdom, and across the Atlantic to the Americas. They intermingle and dress accordingly. They change not only settings and their place of origin but also from the past to the present while retaining their simple narrative. And more than anything else, their fluidity and adaptability separate them from fables, fairy tales, and myths.

One folktale character entered my life at an early age. His name is Giufà, which in the old Sicilian language means village fool. Here’s a tale of that folk character.

Giufa carries the door he pulled from its hinges.


“Giufà, Pull the Door!”

One day, before Giufà’s mother went to church, she told her son, “Giufà, I’m going to mass. Take care, and after I close the door, make sure you pull it.” As soon she left, Giufà went to the door and began to pull it. He pulled and pulled so hard that it came off the hinges. He carried the door on his back and went to the church to bring it to his mother. “Here’s the door you told me to pull.”

Discovering Giufà

I share a dual heritage­—German and Sicilian. My mother’s parents immigrated from Sicily at the turn of the nineteenth century. And like most immigrants, they brought more than their personal belongings in their luggage. They brought their culture and their way of life.

My mother had two sisters who were born in Sicily. So it’s from my Aunt Josephine (Giuseppina); I first heard about Giufà. And as I said, it means village fool. But in usage, it portrays a childish, gullible, or clownish guy.

Giufà popped into my Aunt’s conversations when she referred to someone who acted foolishly, usually a younger brother or neighbor. And she called me Giufà once or twice because, as a curious five-year-old, I opened a can of lard and smeared it in my hair and face before anyone noticed.

On another occasion, I climbed a ladder my grandfather left against his storage shed. I stomped around on its flimsy metal roof, almost giving my grandmother a heart attack when she saw me.

Giufà Arrives in Sicily

Folktales have a history of transforming themselves in several ways. They travel with the teller of the tale, and they sometimes change. The character of Giufà has origins in Turkey (formerly Anatolia).

the origins of Giufa are not entirely Sicilian… the inspiration for this character derives from… Nasreddin Khoja, a man who probably existed at the beginning of the eleventh century in Anatolia (now Turkey). He was a well-known teacher in the Arab world, whose name changed from Hoca to Khoja, from Khoja to Djuha, and from Djuha to Jusuf, from which the current Giufà.”

Photo Credit: Sicilian Post

How did that come about? The Saracens (Arab Muslims or Moors) ruled Sicily from 831 until 1061, a period of two hundred and fifty years. The first Arab settlement in Sicily occurred at Mazara in 827.

On March 26, 2011, a story entitled “Giufa’s Judgement” appeared in the San Angelo News. Here’s the first paragraph. To read the full folktale, click on the link. Under photo credits, I see the word “adapted.” So I wonder how much this narrative departs from the original folktale.

Photo Credit: San Angelo News

“Once upon a time a mother sent her son, the young fool whose name was Giufa, out into the woods to gather herbs. Giufa set off full of spirit, and all day long he picked rosemary and basil and thyme. He worked so long, filling his bag to the brim, that by the time he was heading for home, the sun had set.”

What I find so intriguing about folktales is their longevity and adaptability. They predate manuscripts and books. They’ve survived centuries, and they remain popular. And when I consider the novels, plays, and movies folktales have inspired, it’s almost like reading a tale within a folktale.

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Aspiring Fiction Writer

Becoming An Aspiring Fiction Writer

I can think of many things that are easier to accomplish than becoming a fiction writer. Leaping a tall building at a single bound comes to mind. What surprises me is how uneasy I feel about posting my writing. After all, I’ve been for decades in writing professions: journalism, technical writing, and copywriting.  Yet, I do. I think it’s because I’m putting my work up for public scrutiny as a budding fiction writer. My nonfiction work speaks for itself.

Regarding my fiction prose, my spouse and a few friends have read my short stories and a manuscript for a short novel I wrote. I know writers like to say it’s their novel in a drawer. Mine’s not in a drawer. Like mine, it’s most likely sitting on a hard drive somewhere.

My nonfiction includes my writing as a journalist, technical writer, and copywriter. Those also sit on a hard drive waiting for me to post them on my oeuvre page.  My unpublished work includes short stories and crime fiction. I never had any aspirations of writing anything but short stories until I discovered a Simon & Schuster contest in 2022. I entered it.

Unquenchable Thirst To Write

So, in 75 days, I expanded one of my short stories to a 51,000-word short novel and submitted it to meet an October 15 deadline. I didn’t get a publishing contract, but the effort left me with a horrible itch I want to scratch—the desire to see my fiction published in print. And I’m happy to report that one of my short stories will appear soon in an anthology published by Heritage Writers Guild. It’s the St. George Chapter of The League of Utah Writers.

Writers Guild. I’m also waiting to hear if a national magazine will publish a short story of mine. Well, there you go—not a bad start. I have a good work ethic, thrive on deadlines, and am committed. Yet, I have no allusions. Threatening a camel through the eye of a needle might be easier than getting your novel published the traditional way. But what the heck, my byline has appeared in print. That excitement has passed. What I want most is to tell a good story. And I’m most excited when I write because I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Something Mark Twain said comes to mind:

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Mark Twain Image
Mark Twain

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