Red’s a smart, fine-lookin’ dog

A few days ago my funny, clever, multitalented daughter asked if Red Dog had come up with any questions lately. I had to think for a minute; he hadn’t. Somewhat later – just today, actually – I realized why that was. Red and I haven’t had much trail time lately, just the two of us. (He never asks me anything when Mrs. Smith is around.)

With that in mind, Red and I set out this morning for a walk down by the Colorado River, which is still tryna freeze. The temperature was around 20F degrees when we started. Most of the ice I’d seen on Corn Lake in late January was gone. We went east for a mile or so on the river trail, then across a pedestrian bridge and up a steep, switchbacked cutout to the top of a bluff.

Trail down steep switchbacks by the Colorado River
Heading back down to the river.

Along the way, as if on cue, Red asked me why I spend so much time doing whatever it is I do on this computer or on the other one in my home office.

“Most of that is called earning a living so we can buy dog food and treats and .…” I stopped about there because I could tell by the cold stare that he got the point.

“I’m teasing you, Red,” I said. “Feeding you is a real bargain and we’re happy to do it. You’re family!”

He smiled at that, with those big brown eyes. We kept walking.

He’d asked a great question. I’ve seen many writers respond by saying things like “I can’t not write” and “because I must” and so on. My reasons are pretty simple to explain, at least when humans ask: My job is writing and editing.

I’m fortunate that people pay me to do that sort of thing. I didn’t try to explain that to Red, and I didn’t get into why I’m putting these particular words in this particular order right now, but that’s not complicated, either.

I do it because I enjoy doing it.

I do it because I enjoy doing it. I like making stuff up and I like writing true stuff. It doesn’t matter much if anyone reads this, but I do appreciate those who do.

Back to the walk, which was interrupted as almost every walk with Red Dog gets interrupted, sometimes more than once. Men on the trail never say much beyond hello, if that. But women…

This morning the woman walking toward us, with a guy I’d guess was her husband or partner or whatever, said with a big smile on her face, “Oh, you’re so cute! I’m gonna take you home with me!”

Red assumed she was talking to him, and I suspect he’s right. Nobody talks to me like that.

Write on,

B.J.

Dogs and old men on a Colorado trail

Red Dog Smith and I ventured out of the office late this morning for a walk down to the river. Mrs. Smith was out hiking with some friends after ignoring my sage advice to always have a pocket knife when hiking. Who doesn’t carry a pocket knife into the wild?

Red Dog on a Colorado trail.
Red Dog on a Colorado trail

Anyhow, the river isn’t far, and we got all the short way there without seeing another human being or another canine. We decided we are OK with having a trail completely to ourselves now and then.

On the way back, it got busy. We saw a total of three human beings – one walking his black Lab, two others going different directions on their bicycles.

To be more specific, we saw three elderly guys. All three had what some would call white hair, but I prefer to characterize as silver.

Sensing a pattern here?

Seeing three people in half an hour or so is what passes for busy in our rocky little chunk of Mesa County.

We also saw:

Two quick-footed lizards.

Butterflies.

Contrails criss-crossing the clear blue sky.

An enormous flat-topped mountain to the east of us.

On the way back, almost at the front door, I realized I have become some guy who writes about his lunch break now and then. I am OK with that. Red doesn’t seem to care.

Another made day for a writer

Last month I posted something about how some news from an online journal made my day. I said it was about getting a story published and that the story “may or may not have something to do with a kite.”

It has to do with a little boy, some other people, and something about a kite.

Here it is:

The Missing Kite

Read on, my friends.

B.J.

Making my day: Friday flash

It doesn’t take much to make my day lately.

Today, for example, I dropped my Colorado primary ballot in the box at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. That didn’t make my day, but the act of voting did give me some satisfaction as the next step in sending Sen. Cory Gardner from Washington, D.C., back to the Eastern Plains.

I voted on the way home from picking up my monitor and keyboard from the big building on a hill above Boulder where I’ve spent most of the last nine years doing my day job. After more than three months of working from my basement office, I finally accepted that it could be months if not years before I go back to the big building. A few people have returned so far, but most of us still don’t have that choice. My ultimate choice may be to work from home indefinitely, as much as I miss the view from Boulder.

That thing about retrieving my monitor and other stuff so I don’t have to use the company-issued laptop all by itself didn’t make my day either. It was a sad thing.

What made my day was having a little short story accepted for publication in an online journal. It took maybe 90 minutes to write a couple of months ago. After a handful of rejections, the first flash fiction I’ve written in years has found a home. It may or may not have something to do with a kite.

If you read my story when it’s published next month, it will take you however long it takes to read about 630 words. That’s the flash part – few words that go by fast.

Read on, my friends.

B.J.

The Book Hunt

It started with a tweet, the book hunt did.

Ebooks are OK, but eventually a person gets the urge to feel the real thing, smell the ink and old paper, to riffle through pages like a deck of cards and listen to the slap-slap-slap, fast or slow or both, again and again.

On a nicer day I would have ridden my bike, but today I took the Prius the quick eight miles to Inkberry Books in Niwot. I walked in the door with two paperbacks I’d grabbed from the cart out front. A buck each.

I told Gene I felt like I was stealing from him as I dropped a faded Nero Wolfe on the desk. Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout is older than me by a year. The real steal, though: The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction from 1987.

Successful hunting

Gene rang them up before I knew it. $2.16.

“I’m not done yet, Gene,” I said. I told him it was a great start but I was on a hunt. I wanted more crime fiction, the classic stuff. He pointed the way.

I soon latched on to The Case of the Blonde Bonanza, a hardback Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner. Continuing down the shelves I passed by my own Detective Red Shaw novels, two copies of each. Then Micky Spillane caught my eye: The Goliath Bone, a Mike Hammer novel that Max Allan Collins finished after Spillane died in 2006.

Small world.

Max led a week-long mystery writing workshop I attended in Iowa City way back when I’d only written the first draft of a couple of chapters of my first crime novel. He encouraged me to keep going, as did some of the other writers. He chided us all one day for being so polite in our critiques of each other’s work. Nobody cried. He took us all out for ice cream downtown the last day.

Years later he autographed his Road to Perdition graphic novel for my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids.

Nice guy. Helluva writer, prolific as they get.

Bonus: One of his stories is in the anthology I stole from Gene.

Read on, my friends. Read on.

B.J.