Brief Humor & Check-Ins

Pomposity, Ambulances & Narcissism: A Quaint Tale

It is Spring now in North America–in fits and starts with plenty of storms a blowing from global climate change and the hot air that blows in from D.C. I was at an event yesterday for work, acting as the octopus on roller skates handling 20 statues of pristine crystal, helping efforts behind the scenes. At one point, a “VIP-P” (a very important pompous person) came up to me and began half thanking me and my boss for our help with getting her her first big “thing.” What is this thing you ask? It doesn’t matter. For sake of literary appeasement, let’s call it a ring of power. A shiny thing; a most covetous thing. It is part of my job to help these people get these rings. Except these rings are supposed to help society, not puff up people like poisonous blowfish. But I digress…

They met me, face to face at the event, full of flashing cameras, a spread of food, and tablecloths. (It actually wasn’t that fancy and the carpet was badly in need of a cleaning. Definitely an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of atmosphere…) I helped this VIP-P get their ring, their first ring of their career. But to them, as I listened to their speech of half-thanks, they did all the real work–I just pushed the right buttons, it seemed. (If only it were that easy.) They proceeded to talk to me for about twenty minutes, taking my time from doing other things at the event. But I listened, politely, like a jellyfish suspended in water and shocked by accidentally stinging itself and waiting for the pain to subside. And funnily enough, I understood nothing that came out of this person’s mouth. Ever notice how some people’s e-mail language match how they are in real life? The irony is that the person witnessed this with me: “You’re very polite,” they said to a coworker about me that I half-heard as I worked; I was then ordered to listen to her penetrating observations. “Hey, I’m talking about you!” But ironically, they couldn’t see this in themselves. Like in their e-mails, their vocal mannerisms and speech meandered here, there and everywhere except for the point. After awhile, the conversation ended and I was inundated with other people’s questions: “What’s this food? Ooh, it’s a danish. What’s in this one?” and “I need a booklet and they’re out; can I steal yours like I shamelessly steal your energy and time?” And my personal favorite: “We need a flier made before lunch–we have an hour to do that and solve the energy crisis.”

Pray tell, I never learned that if one is behind a refreshment table, busily working on a last minute request on their bosses’ laptop, that you’re also expected to be a culinary chef. How quaint.

This same VIP-P later went around, complaining to everyone at the event (e.g., my colleagues) that their name wasn’t published in the program booklet. Luckily, they didn’t complain to me (I had been the one who supplied the names). I had reported the names of ring bearers (no wedding puns intended) like we reported all the data–by state fiscal year (July to June). This VIP-P fell outside of that timeframe by two months–her moment of fame would be next year. But no tears came from me–I’m sure she would dress for the occasion next year, as the prima donna she was proving to be. The other ring wearers got little yellow bags with a water bottle, a pen, and maybe a few other thingamajigs–tokens of appreciation and recognition. All of the highest quality plastic, rest assured, and could be cashed in at your nearest bank to avoid taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Later, this woman demanded a said bag of goodies from a coworker of mine. He was still baffled by this encounter as he later retold the story to me. I half hoped a dead spider was in the bottom of the bag he gave her, curled up in a corner, as these had been sitting in storage since last year. Highly desirable, indeed.

Quick side bar: Another VIP-P (emphasis on the pompous part) I worked under at a previous job, I heard, got promoted to a very fluffy chair of power and prestige this past week. Made the news and everything. This was the kind of position that comes with a gray cat you stroke while crowing over your power and musing your next move–you know the one. I overheard my boss talking about the news with a colleague of hers at the event. She summarized this person by (and I’ll use a word that rhymes with the actual word): “Yeah, he’s a real Rick. A real Rick.” As lunchtime neared, I felt I was surrounded by Ricks.

As time passed and technical difficulties made us scrap the flier and table solving the energy crisis, lunch ensued and then the rousing speeches began. Oh, goody. (Later I heard the grand pooh-bah of the place thought he was the key note speaker–apparently their narcissism was so large that they didn’t bother to consider any other option. A slight tussle of power ensued that was fortunately smoothed over.) Just when the speeches were reaching a crescendo, and the pompous lady was being called out in a speech for demanding a public apology, I stood up and walked over to two of my colleagues. They were off to one area, hidden behind a wall and had been lingering there for awhile. My coworker was having a seizure, and a very bad one–one my other coworker assumed was brought up by the flashing camera lights and interference with the speaker systems, among other items I won’t share. I ran and got water, and she managed to take her medicine. I ran again and got ice and more water. An officer came, and soon I was standing outside, flagging an ambulance down to ensure they knew where we were. All the while, twenty feet away, the narcissists dined, flashed even more bulbs, and looked at their rings like Gollum looked at his. “My….precious…”

Plague of the Red Death for $300, Alex?

Needless to say, after the event, I was one drained introvert. But don’t worry, the commute home wasn’t filled with a torrential downpour, making it hard to see, whilst on country roads lined with deep ditches on either side. What would make you think that? Thankfully I made it home in one piece.

That is my tale. Some facts are obscured or omitted to hide the innocent (or not so innocent) parties involved. Happy writing and stay away from the VIP-P blowfish. They come in all shapes and sizes and strike when you least expect them to. However, you do have one advantage: if they blow up in front of you–just let them. Eventually they will swell up so big, they will float far, far away…

Brief Humor & Check-Ins

New Seasons: Writing & Life Updates

We put away the last of our Christmas decorations today, tree included. Out came Valentine’s Day. New seasons; new changes. Sparkly red hearts, red garland, and heart decals. You pack each Christmas item away carefully, holding the ornaments and tinsel, wondering how your life will be different when you go to unpack them in eleven months. Or at least I do. Time is a complicated, strange thing.

Writing wise, I finished a novella recently, titled The Cellar Door. This started as a short story and developed into a feminist horror tale, set in post-war England in the early 1950s. The main character, Alice, popped into my head one day. I saw her standing by a window, half hidden by a brown curtain, looking outside to a dreary, overcast England. She was in deep thought, with shadows flickering across her eyes. Fellow writer and blogger, Mike Nevin, helped me get the English dialogue and speech right for the English characters and provided other valuable (and patient) feedback, including historical photos and documents. Fingers, toes and elbows crossed that a publisher scoops it up and gives it a big hug. If you know of any good publishers or agents wanting horror novellas, let me know.

Exercise wise: I have biked 75 miles so far this month on my indoor bicycle. It’s a goal of mine this year to take better care of myself and this is one way I do it–clear the cobwebs of my mind and body through pedaling. I have an iFit membership which I’ve found marvelous for this introvert. I tend to put on closed captions to follow along with the trainer, and listen to instrumental music.

Music wise: I’ve been listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance (the Helena acoustic is beautiful and haunting) , Taylor Swift (Anti Hero has beautiful vulnerability), Green Day (love this instrumental of 21 Guns), 21 Pilots (Chlorine) and some other goodies (Lord Huron, Sharon Van Etten, whatever I come across). I downloaded a self-care app recently and one goal I picked was to listen to a song I like every day. Voila.

Spiritual wise: I’ve been doing my daily Bible reading and journaling, and catching-up when I miss days. I have a difficult time reading the OT–it’s an honest depiction of the fall of humanity and the cultural context and history sometimes passes high above my head. It’s both frustrating and saddening. Figures like Jacob, Rachel, and Abraham run past me, saying this and that, doing this, not doing that–and I struggle to piece it together in my 21st century mind. But with patience and effort, and God’s grace, I trust He’ll guide me through this. 2022 was a very difficult year for the Saint and I. I am clinging to Jesus’ robes to continue in strength and faith, and to make changes in 2023. He is with me; He is with us.

Hope you are all well and continue to pursue your own writing goals and journey. For any readers in Ukraine, I am thinking of you and continuing to fly your flag. Take care and God bless.

Brief Humor & Check-Ins

The Letter: Horror Story Sneak Peek & Order Info

My short story, The Letter is now available through Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet anthology. Order links are below, along with a sneak peak of the story. Enjoy and have a Happy Spoopy Season.

Order Links:
Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet (“The Letter” appears here)
Darkness Screams: Howling Deep


The Letter, by A. R. Clayton

I set my cup of tea on the tray. It was late, and the day had been long. I had been out in the fields, working alongside the men and women on my estate, harvesting the last of our crops and tilling the ground before everything froze. The servants had been doing a month’s worth of baking and cleaning all week. Everyone would sleep well tonight. Excitement at tomorrow’s gala was ripe in the air. It was to be my birthday—an excuse to clear the cobwebs from our minds and hearts, to celebrate amidst our great sadness of late. My muscles ached, and I stank of sweat mixed with wet earth. My servant was somewhere, preparing my bath.

I stuck my fingers onto some cold beef and chunks of cheese and bread—my impromptu dinner. Food usually distracted me. I set the meal back on the plate and pushed it away, grabbing instead for my wine. Empty. I brought the envelope back out of its cubby hole and opened it carefully, as if holding a glass vial. It had been sent to me from a false address and misrouted several times. I could make out the painfully familiar cursive in the candlelight.

“My dearest Vincent. I write to you this day in low spirits. The horse I had been so afraid of dying has lived—some miracle or another, I do not know how to explain —”

“Your bath is ready, sir,” a voice called from behind me.

I turned round in my chair, hiding the letter with my sleeve.

“Are the preparations finished for tomorrow?”

“Yes, sir—the last shipment of flowers arrived earlier this evening. I will have your suit pressed and ready.”

“That will be all. Goodnight, Adam.”

I folded the letter and put it back in its stained envelope, tucking it away in a drawer. I locked the drawer in afterthought and stood to commence my toiletries.

Were it only as easy to clean the soul, I thought, as it was to clean the body.

“Why, whatever you do you mean, Vincent? Come now,” a woman next to me spoke, swatting at my hand playfully with her fan. I winced—the pointed tip had scratched my skin. “Certainly, there’s bound to be one or two ghosts on your fine estate. I’ve heard your servants whisper about them in the gardens—”

“Child’s play. Tom foolery,” one of the older men in the group spoke. I couldn’t make out his face amidst the pipe smoke, but I knew him to be a retired colonel—Colonel Thomas Williams. “People have been telling ghost stories for a millennium. Nothing for it.”

“Well, I for one would like to see your ghost,” the first woman’s sister spoke next, bowing her curled head innocently. Tara and Sarah—twins in every way. “Wouldn’t our father be surprised to hear of our adventures back home, Henry?” This last remark was addressed to her brother seated beside me. I reached up to rub at my temple as my guests continued chattering around me.

“Let us all go!” an elderly woman was now saying who had overhead the conversation and invited herself to our table. “Oh come now, colonel!” she pouted, plucking at the man’s sleeve. “We need a brave, strong man like yourself to protect us ladies. Henry wouldn’t accompany us if wild horses dragged him.”

The twins turned to each other and giggled. Henry groaned, reaching to pick up his wine glass.

“My lord,” a whisper sounded in my ear. I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was my lead servant, Adam.

“You are needed by a guest, sir,” he spoke carefully, his eyes not leaving my face. I rose in understanding, making my excuses.

Curious what comes next? The story is available for purchase here in the Darkness Screams: Whisper Quiet Anthology. Enjoy and happy reading.