Small Spaces Contain Great Patriots.

Each year on Memorial Day, I try to touch on the experiences of my fellow veterans in remembering our friends, comrades, neighbors, uncles, cousins, and fine citizens who have given their all in service to this nation. Memorial Day is not to honor the living, but to remember those who gave their lives in service of us all.

Today’s story is flash fiction. I wrote it in one sitting, as God seems to take the keys from me each year and provide a story that provokes thought. I hope you enjoy it, it is below for your consideration. If you enjoy it, I ask that you share it on your social media. That exposure on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and your own blogs, helps me spread this story. Thank you.

Please, on this Memorial Day weekend, don’t wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day.” Don’t fall for the trap to view it as a shopping day, or a fine time to get drunk with your friends and watch Neflix. Unless, that is, you’re all remembering your friends who didn’t make it to your age because they were killed in combat, and the movie is one that they enjoyed, or about the conflict in which they served. That, in my opinion, might be worth hoisting a few. Instead, consider the loss of their families, the pain of their final moments, and the fact that they did so in preservation of this land and our freedoms. It’s not a lot to ask.

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It was located in a small churchyard in the middle of one of America’s ten largest cities, and yet it was as isolated and neglected as the American flag left behind by the last astronaut to step on the face of the Moon.

Calvin R. Espinoza had been a proud cavalryman during the war with Spain, and had died in 1907 as a direct result of his wounds during a dismal time spent in a coastal area of Cuba. Roosevelt had all the history written about him, but it was the guys like Calvin that had provided the support that the Rough Riders needed to storm those hills.

When he died, his family had requested that he be allowed to rest with the clerics of the church who were buried in the small yard. Permission was granted, and a small foot-stone was placed in 1909 with his name, his dates of service, rank, and branch.

It was a small thing for the church to do, but Calvin had been a faithful member for many years, and when he came back from Cuba he was different in some way. More reverent, more devoted to the church, less likely to move much beyond the city block where the edifice stood.

Over the years the congregation waxed and waned, and with each changing administration the small graveyard became less of a priority. Until Vietnam. Then, some of the neighbors held a mock funeral there for the youth dying in that hot, humid land on the other side of the planet. The church elders had thrown them out with no mercy: this was sacred ground. But like the burial plots, they were old as well, and it wasn’t more than thirty years later that the church finally died and the congregants folded into a larger church just five blocks away.

Because the church was solid in a structural way, if not spiritually, it continued on as a retreat center for some years, the garden planted heavily with prairie grasses to bring a peaceful feel to the little plot. The leaders of the center didn’t really think that it was wrong to do so, but that in death we are all forgotten and the Earth will soon take us back just like the prairie grass covered the markers.

In September of 2016, new owners purchased the building. A young couple, both artistic types who worked in metal and clay. They turned the old church into a center for artists, and remodeled the rectory to be their home.

The young man had some severe issues with hay fever, and in one of their first acts to renew the outside of the property, his wife had filled a sprayer with herbicide and walked along the overgrown paths of the strange little courtyard, making sure that every one of the sneeze-inducing plants got a dousing.

A long winter followed, where the two worked indoors to make the place their own. Once the weather had turned warmer, Loretta headed out in a bundle of sandy colored mis-matches and began burning the brush away with a propane torch lashed to the end of a rake.

Three hours into her task, she ran across the corner of the urban prairie where the graves were located. Somehow the disclosure documents that the sellers had submitted neglected to mention human remains on the property, instead listing the area as a “meditation zone.”

Loretta carefully pulled the brush from the area by hand, burning only some buck thorn that had taken root between the stones. No amount of herbicide was going to kill that horrible plant.

Having felled all the mess, she raked up the remains of the vegetation and ash in to a neat pile in the corner. With an old straw broom, and a bucket of sudsy water, she commenced to scrubbing. It was not a new task for her: countless hours of her life had been dedicated to cleaning things that were already perfectly clean, or would never be clean. But clean she did.

With a final rinse of the suds, she sat down on the empty five-gallon pail and lit a smoke. Brushing the dark ringlets from her forehead, she read each stone carefully. It seemed only right that they get that much from her, as they shared this home now.

Calvin’s stone was the last one in the yard, and it had been the toughest to clean as it was under a patch of buck thorn and mustard plant. Even the broom hadn’t gotten all of the dirt out, and since it was dark red granite, the dirt masked the letters.

Taking the knife from her belt, she flicked the blade open and dropped to her knees. Pausing for a moment, she pulled the bottle of sparkling water from her jacket pocket and emptied it in a series of “z” patterns on the stone, affording maximum coverage.

Waiting just long enough for the dirt to sink a little bit, she began to scrape out the hollows with gentle strokes.

Working patiently, so as not to damage the stone, she eventually cleared the stone, and its carved letters, of all the mud and dirt that had accumulated over the past century. Wiping the stone with her glove, she quietly read the words aloud.

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and eventually ran down her dirty face. “I’m not going to let you be forgotten again, Calvin. I promise.”

Memorial Day of 2017 Loretta and Jason, her husband, invited all of their clients and friends to the garden for a ceremony to take place at noon.

Upon arrival the guests noticed a piece of drapery covered a large object in the center of the new rock garden and koi pond, right next to the flag pole where a large American flag flew at half-staff. Over the gateway from the street, another drape hid something shaped as an arch.

At ten minutes to noon, Loretta queued up the digital file she’d prepared and marched into the grave yard. Resplendent in her dress uniform, Sergeant First Class Loretta Casey proceeded to the base of the flag pole and called out, “Present, Arms” just as the first ghostly notes of Taps sounded over the speaker system.

Slowly raising a salute, she held her gloved hand in position until the last note faded. “Ready, To!” She lowered her hand with great solemnity.

Jason, reached up from his wheel chair and pulled the cord that held the drape over the mounded object next to the flag pole. It was a dark, brown bust of a man wearing an old Army campaign hat, eyes squinting into the sun as it seemed to look up at the flag waving overhead.

Jason reached inside his Navy Dress Blue Jumper and produced a card.

“This yard, and our home, is hereby rededicated to the memory of Calvin R. Espinoza, patriot. We were lucky enough to find a picture of Sergeant Espinoza in the boxes in the rectory, and we apologize that his grave, the grave of a patriot, was neglected for so long.

“Mark, will you tug on that rope by the gate?”

Jason’s brother reached up and yanked on the rope. As it fluttered to the ground, all could see that in bright, brass letters the archway read: Sergeant Calvin R. Espinoza Memorial Park.

Jason and Loretta formed up next to the grave and rendered a smart salute. “Thank you, Sergeant, for giving your all for this land.”

Over the loudspeakers the Star Spangled Banner played, and Loretta briskly raised the flag to the top of the pole. Stepping back, next to Jason, the two held a salute until the last notes ended.

“Today we honor our departed comrades. And we know that this Republic is a better place for their sacrifice. Please spend the rest of the day in reverence of their gift to us all. Sandwiches and cookies are available in the dining room if you would care to join us.”

As the crowd moved inside to grab a snack, Loretta was pretty sure that she saw a young man in an old uniform return her salute as he faded away once again.

“Thank you, Calvin. We will remember.”

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Donald Of Arabia.

Before the scoffing gets out of control, I’d like to point to a visual from the television on Sunday morning: Donald J. Trump at the podium in the royal meeting hall of the House of Saud. Less than 50 feet from the King, and less than 20 feet away from the President of the United States sat an Orthodox Jew and his wife. In the Royal presence.

Now, if you’re a follower of the Arab and Islamic world, you’ll see the significance of this in a heartbeat: Israeli Jews are not given visas to the Kingdom. But here, because of the prestige and influence of the President of the United States, two Jews, members of the First Family sat on the same stage as the leaders. While not Israelis, it’s still a huge thing in the Arab world.

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To continue, it was a great speech. Not only did Trump not put his foot in his mouth, he stuck to the script and engaged his audience. I watch things for content and subtext. In that hall, on that morning, almost everyone was paying rapt attention to the man. Not the translation in their ear, but the man on the stage. There were exceptions, but those idiots were also Skyping with their niece in Chicago during services on Sunday morning from the back row of the church – you know who I mean.

During the speech Trump touched upon common facets of both civilizations. He addressed Islam and terrorism. He rightly pointed out that the terrorists have killed more Arabs and Muslims than Americans, and that it’s a mutual threat that needs to be eliminated. Most of all, he brought out the issue of financing. Once it’s clear that financing, and harboring, of these animals will not gain you anything from here on, it’s a matter of time until some of it withers and dies on the vine. Not all of it will, I’m not stupid enough to buy that, but a lot of it will go away once it’s no longer profitable.

Item next: travel back over time and look at presidents visiting Israel. They never, to my knowledge, fly directly there from an Arab nation, nor do they fly to an Arab nation from Israel. They always make a stop in Italy, France, Kenya, or somewhere else so as not to make it a direct connection. Donald Trump is breaking with that tradition. The message is clear: I don’t pander to your prejudice, and all of my allies need to get along.

This is not as big a leap as it would have been 10 years ago. Say what you will about Barack Hussein Obama, but he did unite the Arabs and Israelis in the last few years of his rule. Not in a good way, but by creating an existential threat to both with the groveling and cave-in to Iran. He not only let them off the sanctions hook, but he empowered their nuclear weapons program.

If there’s anything the Iranians hate more than the Israelis and the United States, it’s all those apostate, smug, Gulf Arabs in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Those people offend Allah, and the Iranians have done as much as they can to intimidate and suborn the governments across the Straits of Hormuz as they can manage. Their nuclear weapons will be first used on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially since the Kingdom now actively cooperates with Israel on a wide range of security matters.

Once the visit with our strongest ally in the region is underway, I suspect we will hear all sorts of wild rumors about settlements, additional breaking news about Comey’s bunions, and the fact that someone living three blocks from the White House heard gunshots, and they’re pretty sure Donald Trump is shooting black children from the roof. But the conversations will be kept under tight wraps, and both sides will gain something that they want in the process. Trump and Netanyahu are natural partners on a great number of levels, mainly their steely love of their own countries.

The Vatican will be a trip to let the world’s Christians know that President Trump values the stability of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not sure that it has any great meaning beyond hitting all three of the major religions (what ever happened to Buddhism and the Hindus?) in one trip. It’s symbolic only, unless a surprise comes out of the visit. That, ladies and gentlemen, would not be a huge surprise given the man on the trip.

So far, it seems to be a great trip for the White House. My one hope is that they hid his phone and changed his Twitter password so that he can be judged on the merits of his policy, and not on the spelling and bravado of a 140 missive. He’s much better in the long form.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Not An Interview With Larry Timm Regarding “Murder For Emily’s Sake”

Several years ago I met Larry Timm at a writer’s conference. He was the other guy there. Seriously, it was mainly well dressed women. And Larry. We were both waiting for our chance to go and flop in front of agents and publishers. To prepare, we both wore ill-fitting clothing and sweat that oily stuff that coronary patients exude. For the next two days we went from table to table together, inflicting our insanity on unsuspecting women at the conference. They usually gave us their desert just to shut us up.

Knowing a good racket when we found it, we continued this schtick at other writers conferences for the next two years. We at a lot of other people’s creme brulee. Along the way, we became great friends, and we somehow weathered the storms of new authors without losing what was left of our warped senses of humor.

Larry W. Timm


Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Larry’s book, Murder for Emily’s Sake, is now on sale. Since he asked me to write a blurb for the book (it had better be on the cover) I thought it only fair to interview him for the blog. I am honor bound to only give the book one star. I threatened him with it, and we both thought that was pretty funny. We’ll see how funny he thinks it is when it appears on Amazon later tonight. (The actual rating will be higher – maybe. Depends on how quickly his check clears.)

Anywhooo…

Where was I? Well, I was going to interview Larry for the blog, but since we talk to each other on the phone, or he annoyingly texts me (I hate texting) at least every other day, I figured I could answer the questions without even asking him. His lovely wife will no doubt be the judge of the content here, so I’ll just get on with it.

Here is my non-interview with Larry W. Timm, author of Murder for Emily’s Sake:

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Joe: Larry, it’s very nice of you to take the time to talk to me today. I appreciate it.

Larry: So I’m supposed to pretend you’re not delusional and you’re actually talking to me. Fine. I was done mowing the lawn and had to sit down for a while. I didn’t realize I’d eaten that much bacon this morning, and I’m a little dizzy. Seemed like a good time to get this out of the way.

Joe: Yes. I can see that when I look at your twitching left eye. I understand your book is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other platforms. How exciting is that?

Larry: It’s considerably better than not being published. I worried about that for a long time. I messed up when pitching the book and told some of the publishers that I knew you. Thankfully, Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas decided to take a chance on me anyway. It appears he’s forgiven you for disrupting his lecture at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. He does, however, wonder if you still have that cane you were trying to break chairs with?

Joe: No. But I remember him, and it’s nice to be noticed!

Larry: Aren’t you even going to mention the book?

Joe: Why?

Larry: Because I’m here to sell books. Let me take over. I wrote Murder for Emily’s Sake over the last five years. It was a project near to my heart, as I’ve been a pro-life advocate for a long time. I got to combine my passion for this cause with my sense of humor, and work a few details in from my time as a Funeral Director. Somehow, in spite of being your friend, I managed to sell the book to a publisher. I think it’s pretty darned good, and should be popular with Christian readers.

Joe: I can’t disagree. You’re doing okay, keep going.

Larry: The book focuses on the travails of a team of women who have helped save a baby by counseling the mother-to-be at an abortion clinic. Unfortunately, the young woman … Am I giving away too much of the plot?

Joe: Not yet, but you tend to go bonkers if nobody stops you. Let’s just leave it at “A book with both humor and drama.” You don’t tell them any more than that here, they can click this link and go read the blurbs/sales pitch on the website. Fair enough?

Larry: Very reasonable for you. Do your readers know about your sick sense of humor?

Joe: Yes. Now, back to you: is there a sequel in the works?

Larry: Not a sequel, but I’ve got some other things I’m working on, and one of them involves you, a detective agency, and a small car.

Joe: Thanks for dropping by today, Larry W. Timm. I hope you see all your wishes come true with this book. I’d hope that includes bacon.

Larry: Why is a picture of your book in our interview about my book.

Joe: Because I couldn’t find a picture of bacon. I suppose I’d better do this:

Larry: Thanks. It’s been very strange not being interviewed today.

Joe: You’re welcome.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Lighten Up, Francis: Comey Had To Go.

Just a little note on this fine spring morning to all of the nattering-nitwits on the news: shut up.

Let’s start with all of you who were howling for Comey’s head last fall when he “stole the election from Hillary.” Yes, you know who you are. Okay, your wish finally came true. Happy now?

Chrissy Matthews and company are saying that Trump’s a fascist for firing Comey.

Seriously? In real totalitarian governments, when the head of the secret police (which is a role the F.B.I. fills, among others) gets fired, he usually gets a firing squad as well. Not a gig speaking on CNN. The whole thing is how a democracy works. Comey lost the respect/faith of his agents, his superiors, and most of the Congress if you look at the last 8 months. (Don’t let the memory hole get you: you all wanted his head in October…)

What do bosses do with employees like that? They fire them. Which is what happened.

Nobody was rounded up in the night. Nobody was beaten to death in a dank basement. Nobody shut down the media for 48 hours to let it get done.

Nope. None of that.

So all of you can now go back to your daily activities and quit acting like morons.

If you were not acting like a moron, don’t take this personally.

I have to go to work. You see, life goes on. For Comey as well.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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The DSM5 Hasn’t Gotten Around To Gardening – Yet.

Let’s start at the beginning:

Yes, at the heart of it all it begins with dirt. Lots and lots of dirt. This is half of what came to visit (and stay) a few weeks ago. I decided to get the new garden going early, so that the soil would settle in before planting. It has now rained, and snowed, on the evenly distributed dirt.

Obsessions sometimes manifest slowly. My obsession with gardening started with Tulips when we bought the house. Over the years I’ve planted about 1,000 bulbs. The squirrels have dug up almost 700. I’m way ahead. Great crop growing right now. The next step was corn. Just wanted to see if I could grow it in my yard. It is delicious.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

In the last decade that madness has morphed into a “what can I grow that will be fun” kind of thing. Much of what I hope to grow this season will not be consumed in my house. My wife doesn’t even like a couple of my main items, but they are a challenge to grow and that’s all I need.

This year I may have hit the zenith: habaneros. There are approximately 30 spots where I’ve planted seeds. I have eight varieties, and planted about six seeds in each spot. I have no idea which ones will come up in which place. That’s half the fun. What, you might ask, will I do with approximately 6 bushels of habaneros? I will dehydrate a bunch and give them as gifts in decorative Mason jars. They are quite pretty. The dehydration will take place in my nifty Cabela’s unit on the back deck: if you do it inside it produces pepper fog and the dog dies. Seriously. The gas from last fall’s experiment would make your eyes water 50 feet away. It was not a good week to be downwind.

That dehydration bunch counts for a small fraction of the haul. I will use the red/yellow/orange ones to make hot pepper sauce. I am already eye-balling small glass bottles that can be sealed and labeled with custom labels. Yeah – that kind of obsession. I may even give some away on the blog. Something inside makes me happy when I can things and share them. Consequently the basement looks like a glass store, as I cornered the market on jam jars when the fall clearance season hit. I really need another $50 worth of glassware (that I’ll give away) to make it complete.

I have a hunch a bunch of the produce will be given to the homeless meal program I work with – fresh beets will be on the menu at some point. I grow a nice, sweet variety. Same with the corn. Get a ton of it, and there’s only so much salsa a guy can make. But I will.

There are a few lessons along the way, some of them good, some of them bad. Examples abound on the good side: it’s good exercise, I like cooking, I like the look of the garden when it’s weed-free, I love the bees taking care of the plants, and I love eating things I grow.

On the negative side, I hate hornets (they love corn and beets), some creatures eat faster than I can grow things (Edzell, my late Sheltie, loved corn and fed himself well on my stalks before I got wise to him – I’d been blaming the squirrels…), and planting for 1.5 hours is just like doing squats. That one I discovered two days later when I couldn’t walk without looking like I’d been riding a horse. Something about moving about the patch, digging with my fingers and dropping seeds, all from the squatting position. I only stood up to see how things were laid out overall. Yeah, need to do squats at the gym, it seems.

The season is young. But my mental health will improve on those very hot days when I stand next to the garden and water for a few hours. Something about working up a nice sweat, listening to Al Stewart, and watching God provide me, and others, with food is pretty good for the soul.

Happy gardening to the rest of you addicts.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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