Silence of the Elms

Our power-mad HOA slaughtered several trees this week. I was home to hear the last of them fall to the fearsome teeth of the chainsaw.

I heard the roar of the chipper shredding life itself into mulch.

Now all is quiet.

‘Toady’ on my mind today

Somewhere between 1.37 and 1.79 miles on my post-workday walk* on a treadmill at the gym today a favorite old word came to mind. I was watching CNN on a screen just off to my left – Fox News being a few monitors over to my right, of course – when it happened.

“Toady,” my brain said. I can’t say for sure if this was triggered by the sight of Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham, but they both appeared on the screen just minutes apart.

Unsure if either of them met the actual definition of the word, I looked it up when I got home. Among other things, I’d decided I absolutely have to use toady correctly in a poem that is beginning to take lumpy shape in my brain.

Here’s what I found.

What surprisingly fond amphibiotic memories came rushing back!

…the toad hotel my siblings and I built from corrugated boxes on the banks of the Little Cedar River, which flowed gently just behind our childhood home in Mitchell County, Iowa.

…the tiny toadlets leaping for their lives, desperately trying to escape the deadly blades of my reel mower in the big back yard in Cedar Rapids.

…the lovely toad sculpture that lives on my desk in the basement under the watchful eyes of a Milton B. Davis carving of a Golden Eagle.

Toads. You gotta love ’em, warts and all. Toadies, not so much.


* A brisk 3.2 mph on a steadily increasing grade, prelude to semi-vigorous and repeated lifting of weights.

Accidental trip to that time in-between

Speaking of being preserved on the internet (or writing about it as I was on Friday), I stumbled across my old blog, puncture proof, this morning.

It had something to do with bicycle tires and opinions about various stuff.

The last thing I posted there still pointed to a Tumblr blog that I no longer have, so of course I felt compelled to update it to point to the one you’re reading now. This other page caught my eye and took me even farther back in time and memory and I found myself obligated to fix a mistake I made there, too.

I’m supposed to be writing something else at the moment, so I won’t dwell on this for long, but seeing myself in that in-between state left me feeling pretty good about where my wife and I are now. Both of us have had two feet and all of our bicycles in Colorado for quite a while now.

Some other pieces of us, however, are still back in Iowa and probably always will be.

B.J.

Banish Columbus Day? It’s on the internet!

Dear Ms. Kafer:

As you may have heard, things have changed since that image of Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut was obliterated from ancient Egyptian stone.

Reliable backups were hard to come by in ancient Rome, too, so no doubt the stories of many notables of the time really are lost forever because of those damn damnatio memoriae decrees.

You really don’t need to worry about Christopher Columbus, though. When Columbus Day inevitably gets replaced, the story of how he bumped into a tiny piece of the New World – long after many others did – will live on at least as long as our data centers and power supplies last.

After that, no one will care.

B.J.

P.S. I agree that “Colorado Day” is bland and meaningless, and I guarantee it would never catch on nationally. Let’s call it Monday until we come up with something better.

Red Shaw is at Beaverdale Books!

My Detective Red Shaw novels are at Beaverdale Books, 2629 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines.* (There were hints.)

Tell Alice B.J. sent you.

* Since not everyone lives in Des Moines, of course, the books are on Amazon, too.

Detective Red Shaw is in the bookstore

The paperback crime novels featuring Des Moines’ very own Detective Edward “Red” Shaw have arrived in Des Moines. That just feels right to me.

Coincidentally, they’re in a bookstore that is not far from a taproom/bike shop that I made up for North of Grand: Detective Red Shaw Novel #2.

If I told you the name of the fictional bike shop for beer drinkers, I would be giving away the name of the real bookstore. Alas, you’ll have to wait until the books are actually on the shelf.

Read on.

B.J. Smith
Paperback Writer

Homegrown crime fiction coming to Des Moines

Hey, Des Moines! My Detective Red Shaw paperbacks are coming to a bookstore near you. Like, right there in my old hometown. Soon, too!

I’ll let you know when they arrive, and then I’ll tell you where.

Guesses are more than welcome in the meantime.

Maybe there’s a clue or two somewhere here, maybe some evidence.

B.J.