Collecting Local Stories

I’ve been collecting local stories in case I need colorful fillers in my new haven’t-yet-written-a-single-word novel, though to be honest, I have my doubts about some of the stories.

For example, right before I got here, a fellow was killed in a cottage across the alley. (Around here, a cottage is a house built onto the back of a garage.) Supposedly, they were drug users who got in an argument. Or maybe they were drug dealers. Or maybe they were narcs scoping out the drug situation in this neighborhood. In support of the third possibility, one neighbor told me that the dead guy was seen around the courthouse in a nearby city. In opposition, if they were DEA agents, they weren’t very good ones because another neighbor (who has since moved away. Yay!) was the local purveyor of illegal substances, and they never caught him. Though I suppose it’s possible they were looking for his supplier. The general belief, however, is that they were drug users who had a falling out.

Another interesting story is that a while back, many years before I got here, someone a few blocks away decided to put in a frog pond. He created the pond, then ordered a thousand frogs. Those frogs turned out to be toads who prefer a damp shady environment rather than a wet one, so they disappeared during the night. The toads I see are supposedly descendants of the mail order toads. It’s a cute story, but such a tale is not necessary to account for all the toads around here. After all, there are rivers and irrigation ditches, which could also be a source for the toads. When I lived on the western slope of Colorado, in a rural plains area similar to this (though surrounded by hills and mountains rather than the flatlands we have here), there were also toads. There seem to be seasons for toads because I remember one year when the baby toads were as plentiful and as fidgety as the grasshoppers.

There are other stories, such as the family who had fourteen kids, the fellow who won’t let anyone in his house because he doesn’t want anyone to see that he is a hoarder, the lady who lets all her dogs get killed, the dispatcher at the sheriff’s department who was married to the local drug dealer, the ex-soldier who was so “ex” there is no record of his being in the service. (His story is spooky, reminiscent of my novel More Deaths Than One). As everywhere, there are gossips and godly people (sometimes one and the same), courteous folk and curmudgeons, those who have lived here for generations and those who are elbowing their way into the power structure (such as it is).

I don’t know what I will do with all the stories I am collecting. I don’t even know if I can use any of them because I wouldn’t want people to think I was writing about them, even if I were. And even if I weren’t. (People often see themselves in a character even though I didn’t put them there.)

Some people would like to be in my book. In fact, the wife of the ex-soldier would like me to tell her husband’s story, but I don’t want to do another mind control novel. Though come to think of it, much of the latter part of that story is similar to stories of people who have been alien-abducted, which could be a way of introducing the story, and then only later letting it be known that our own government was the abductor. Still, it’s too tragic a story for me to want to tackle. I’d prefer a more lighthearted story I wouldn’t mind living since an author does live his or her story for however long it takes to write it.

But none of this matters at the moment since I’m just in the collecting phase of my new haven’t-yet-written-a-single-word novel. Once I’ve collected a critical mass of information, then perhaps the story will explode out of me, and I’ll finally rack up another novel.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Janus-Faced Town

Generally, a town with a low-rate of owner-occupied houses is a sign of a transient population and people who are not vested in the community. Because of this, I hesitated to move to this town since more than half of the houses are rentals; I thought it boded ill. But my house was here, and so now I am too.

For the most part, I’ve had a great experience, almost idyllic, and this is the face of the town that I generally write about.

But there is another face that makes me leery, such as a drug dealer who rents a house on the corner, who allegedly steals tools, and who plays his music way too loud (that thumping can be heard a block or two away, which someone told me is code for his “store” being open). Making matters more tense, his girlfriend is a dispatcher at the sheriff’s department, so the complaints of those who call seldom get past her, and, even worse, she knows exactly who is calling.

In a house across the alley, a pair of drug dealers apparently had a falling out right before I moved here, and one shot and killed the other. I don’t know the truth of that. Another story has it that the killer was never charged and that the dead guy is alive and living in a nearby town. The story goes that the two purported drug dealers were actually DEA agents scoping out the local drug scene, which seems specious at best, since they lived within sight of a known dealer.

Four marijuana shops are in the process of opening, and one friend, who moved here to get away from the legal marijuana trade is worried. It’s not those who buy for themselves that concern him, but he says that too often people “trade up,” buying pot and trading to the dealers for the heavy stuff, which increases the overall drug traffic.

Adding to this whole situation, not far from here is a residential program for the homeless, which helps them recover from any substance problems and then transitions them back to self-sufficiency. Hundreds of people are brought in from Denver and other big cities in Colorado, as well as veterans from all over the country. This is a great program, but people who drop out are not sent back where they came from, so they hang around here.

Worst of all, mostly because they are so ubiquitous, are the dogs. There is a leash law, but it is not enforced, and too many dogs end up roaming the streets. This is the only place I’ve ever lived where I feel the need to carry pepper spray.

A few months ago, a woman who lives at the far end of my street was ravaged by dogs, and her husband had to shoot one to save her. Nothing happened to the dog owners, but the husband is in big trouble for shooting off a gun within the city limits. And the dog owners are tormenting them. What they once thought was a Mayberryish town turned into a nightmare for them, so they are leaving.

It sounds like a horrible place, doesn’t it? And yet the life I am building for myself in this community really is close to ideal. My nearest neighbors are great, as are the people I see most frequently. When I was forced inside because of a bad cough, I had more offers of help than I did in all months I was dealing with a shattered arm. People I’ve never met recognize me. Almost everything I need is within walking distance. My house is lovely, it and feels safe (will even feel safer when the fence is finished.)

Maybe all places are like this — half horror, half heaven — but this seems a particularly Janus-faced town.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Don’t Fence Me In

Oh, wait. Do fence me in! At least do so if you are the people putting up my new fence.

I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of fencing myself in — I worried I would feel a bit like a prisoner, and I worried it would cause problems with the neighbors since the fence would cut off some of the access to their vehicles. But I do like the safety factor, even if it is mostly an illusion.

This town is a mixture of the good and the iffy, with less than 50% of the houses owner occupied. The street where I live is wonderful, though there have been instances of people walking off with stuff that doesn’t belong to them, more homeless are moving to the area, and the drug dealers are quite blatant. One drug dealer lives on the corner, and a couple of drug dealers supposedly got in a gunfight in the rental across the alley right before I moved here. (The rumor is that one of the guys killed the other, but the dead guy has been seen on the streets of a nearby town, and the killer was never arraigned. They say he could have been a cop or agent checking out the local drug situation.)

To my surprise, I feel good about the fence, and not just because it will protect against impulse theft, keep dogs out, and deter the reprobates. I think my neighbors have come to an acceptance, not of the fence, but of my need for the fence. (Whew!) And I don’t feel at all as if I’m fenced in, at least not in a bad way. It feels as if I am claiming my territory, and expanding my home into the outside.

When I moved here, only a fraction of the backyard was fenced, and originally, I liked the idea of a small yard, but it turns out I like the big yard even better. Although it’s only about 1/6th of an acre, this property feels quite substantial with the little fence out and the big one in. It will feel even more substantial when the garage is done and the carport out. (Right now, it sits in the middle of my backyard.)

I’m so looking forward to planting flowers and bushes and whatever else I can think of to make my outside “room” as livable and homey as my inside rooms.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.