“Drills” by Laura Citino – Story #5 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♥Q♥ Queen of Hearts – my second queen in a row!
The Selection: “Drills” from the Spring 2014 issue of “Midwestern Gothic” magazine (about a year and a half ago I attended an event at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis Eastside) that featured several local authors who had been featured in this magazine).

The Author: According to the “contributors” section of Midwestern Gothic, Laura Citino lives in Terre Haute, though based on her Twitter account, I think this may have changed(?). She is currently a fiction editor for Sundog Lit magazine. Some other writing of hers may be found on thebarking.com (Author picture above from midwesterngothic.com)

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

“Drills”

**Spoilers follow**

I wondered what the title of this story, which I had chosen mainly because of the author’s Indiana Connection, could mean. Power tools? Nope. Multiple attempts to find water for a well? Nope. The author lets her first person narrator explain:

“When I was younger, my spring times were laced with constant fear of natural disasters. Grade school was one long series of drills. Every few days I’d have to crouch underneath lab tables, for thirty minutes crammed between boys who smelled like dogs until we were released back to language arts class. Not once do I remember a tornado actually taking place. Every piercing shriek of the alarm sent us under our desks, but none delivered on the promise of disaster.”

It’s an interesting idea to think about – that perhaps, just as being unprepared for a disaster, over-preparedness for one can be harmful in its own way. For example, every child learns the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” which was probably the first time I discovered that one can become desensitized to “exaggerated” danger. But I digress…
(Boy Who Cried Wolf image from https://aesopsfables.wordpress.com/the-boy-who-cried-wolf/ )

 

“Drills” is the story of “Di” (at first I thought the narrator was unnamed and had to look closely to find her referred to by name just once(?) when she visits her father in the hospital). Di is involved in an extra-marital affair with Steven, and we join the story during one of their trysts. Their dialogue is typical of how I would imagine such a situation: Steven’s wife is the metaphorical Elephant in the Room, as Di – maybe only subconsciously – seeks assurance that Steven favors her, and Steven denies that his romantic remarks have hidden meaning: “You don’t have to make is so obvious that you don’t love your wife,” she says. “That’s not what I meant.

Parallel to the story of Di and Steven, severe weather is in the forecast for the next two days (something that’s not unusual in the spring to us Midwesterners). It seems both literal and figurative storms are brewing… Another one is Di’s father’s impending health crisis. She visits him after the tryst, and we learn that “these days it seems he lives more at the hospital than at home” and describes his condition

“from diabetes to the first heart attack to my mother’s push for healthy habits to my father’s refusal and retreat into unfiltered cigarettes and double whiskeys with ginger ale…then the second heart attack, the weak lungs and weaker heart, it’s all been a limp rather than a leap into the abyss.”

It seems neither of Di’s parents have set a great example for her if she was hoping for a happy, well-adjusted life. Her mother, for example, is an avid drinker who matter-of-factly tells her that “there’s nothing wrong with drinking away the pain.” Nice job, Mom.

The climax of the story and the storm occur simultaneously, with Steven “trapped” at Di’s apartment when the worst hits. They debate about what to do and remember “the drills we had in school.” He receives text messages “of love and comfort” and seems not to know what to do (“trying to figure out where he should be, suspended by the fear that no matter what, it won’t be the right place“). Then story ends with a great thought of the narrator, laced with multiple meanings: “I wonder how long we have until it will all be over.


The kindle edition of the particular issue of Midwestern Gothic magazine that contains this story is currently available for just a dollar at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JCSD45O/. Certainly a low risk investment if you’d like to explore this story – and others! – further.

Personal Notes: When I was in elementary school (at Indianapolis Public School #68), the Cold War was still going strong and I can distinctly remember having multiple “Security” Drills, which were quite different from the Fire Drills where we marched outside. Instead we marched to the basement and huddled against the walls holding our hands over our head. As I understood it then, security drills were also applicable to tornadoes, killing two birds with one stone.

So what about YOU? Do you remember endless drills from your school days? Does your office or workplace conduct drills (mine does, but not very often)? Do you subscribe or support any “lesser known” literary magazine or journals? If you don’t, why not? 🙂

Below: Susan Roll Leach Elementary – Indianapolis Public School #68. When I attended, the part of the school with multiple floors housed the higher grades while the “ground level” wing (that extends out from the left of this picture) was for Kindergarten thru 2nd grade – if memory serves.

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“Life on a Flat Top” by Ernie Pyle – Story #4 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠Q♠ The Queen of Spades (pictured at left from my own deck of World War 2 cards; and below is a deck of cards distributed to armed forces by the Red Cross.)

The Selection: “Life on a Flat Top” by Ernie Pyle, from the collection of his reports titled “Last Chapter”

The Author: Ernie Pyle (pictured in the top middle, from the back over of this book) likely needs no introduction to most, but maybe you don’t know he’s a native of Indiana, born in the small town of Dana, a few miles north of Terre Haute. He was already a well known roving correspondent for Scripps-Howard when the United States entered World War 2 in 1941, at which time he began imbedding (in today’s terms) himself with U.S. fighting forces and reporting back to the folks at home how “our boys” were faring. His writing was wildly popular and he counted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt among his fans. “I shall never forget how much I enjoyed meeting him here in the White House last year,” she wrote, “and how much I admired this frail and modest man who could endure hardships because he loved his job and our men.”

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?

(For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post.  For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

 

“Life on a Flat Top”

So, I’ll start by admitting that, though I’m only up to week four of Deal Me “IN” 2016 so far, in this story I have an early favorite, and I’m also happy to know that I have two more pieces written by Pyle on my reading list for this year: “Men from Mars” and “The B-29’s” – both from his collection of reports titled “Last Chapter.” Though not mentioned by name in this report, the small aircraft carrier which is the subject of this piece was the USS Cabot (picture – from Wikipedia – below). I also learned, at least according to Wikipedia, that the US Navy had a policy of not allowing individual names of sailors to be used in reporting, but this was lifted in Pyle’s case due to his popularity. Pyle takes this to the extreme, even giving sailors’ hometown addresses in many cases. It made me wonder how many of these homes are still standing and what having their addresses given “in the press” back in the day may have led to…

“An aircraft carrier is a noble thing. It lacks almost every thing that seems to denote nobility, yet nobility is there.” 

“The first time you see a plane land on a carrier you almost die.”

In beginning this report, Pyle immediately states his intentions saying “I’ll try to describe what living on an aircraft carrier is like, and how a big task force works when it goes out after the enemy.” Though the carrier Pyle chose was classed as “light” it still was over 700 feet long and had a crew of over 1,000 men. Pyle points out that “…every Navy in the world has as its No. 1 priority the destruction of enemy carriers,” something he calls a precarious honor… but a proud one.” He goes into detail about the logistics of takeoffs and landings and how slight the margin of error is in those situations, with mistakes frequently resulting in the signalman waving off the attempt. Pyle notes that “…somebody said that carrier pilots were the best in the world, and they must be or there wouldn’t be any of them left alive.”

I also read – in some of my drive-by research for this post -that Pyle thought less of the Navy men and their hardships than he did of his European theater subjects, though I must say I felt little of that tone in this reading. The closest was a passage where he relates that “the boys” asked him “a thousand times” how their lives on board ship compared with “the other side” and tells of Seaman Paul Begley’s philosophical approach – and that of others…

“(Begley said)’I can stand a lot of the monotony if I know my chances are pretty good for coming out of it alive.’ But others yelled their heads off, and felt they were being persecuted by being kept out of America a year. I heard some boys say, ‘I’d trade this for a foxhole any day.’ You just have to keep your mouth shut to a remark like that.”

In my opinion, Pyle was just reporting the facts. Life on the carrier may have been monotonous for those aboard, but they did have movies, barbers, doctors, and dentists, good food, etc. so surely their individual privations were less extreme than the boys in the foxholes, even if their ultimate role in the war’s big picture was no less important.

(below: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” (as my Dad used to say whenever taking a break from anything) Pyle shares a cigarette with some of “the boys”)

 

Update 1/27/16:  Just ran across an interesting article in Investor’s Business Daily News toady with more info about this remarkable writer.  It’s here if you’d like to take a look.

Personal Notes:
I did have an uncle who served in the U.S. Navy during WW2 and will have to ask my mom where and for details (I’ll save that for when I draw one of my other two Ernie Pyle cards from the deck!). I also had a good friend and schoolmate from junior high school who went on to become a Navy Pilot and has blogged about his experiences at “Has-Been Pilot“ (link on the side bar) but aside from that, I know almost nothing about the U.S. Navy so having a fellow “civilian” like Pyle describe what life was like on the USS Cabot was particularly interesting.

I also have been intrigued by the very old copy of this book I picked up at Bookmama’s Bookstore on Indianapolis’s Eastside. The paper cover is crumbling apart as I read it, and I suspect it’s from the first printing, which would put its age at about 70 years old. It also includes a personalized note (pictured below). It’s faded and hard to read, but I think it says* “To Joe – Dec. 13 Christmas 1947 – Judy”. It’s been tantalizing for me to wonder and try to imagine who Joe and Judy were. Was Joe a veteran of the war? Maybe one who was dating Judy and had mentioned that he admired Pyle’s writing? Was Joe a father who had lost a son in the war? Was Joe a serviceman at the time this book was given as a gift? What do you think? Has an old inscription in a used book you’ve purchased ever captured your imagination and led to speculation? I’d love to hear about. It. 🙂

*I actually shared the photo with the “hive mind” of Facebook, asking what my friends on social media thought it said. One thought it said, “To Joe and Irene B,” while another wondered why the Dec 13 date would be included in addition to it noting “Christmas 1947” – also a good question.

“The Gods of Indianapolis” by Jason de Koff story #3 of 2016 Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: 7♥ seven of hearts

The Selection: “The Gods of Indianapolis” from the magazine “Punchnel’s” and the short story anthology “Mythic Indy”

The AuthorPictured at top middle left, Jason de Koff  is an Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Soil Science at Tennessee State University. (picture from the University’s website)

 

IMG_5408(For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post.  For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. In the 2016 edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”
since this year is my home state’s bicentennial. 🙂 )

For week three of the 2016 Deal Me “IN” short story reading challenge, I drew the seven of hearts, which I had assigned to this story from the Indy-based online magazine, Punchnel’s. The story will also be part of a soon-to-be-released short story anthology, Mythic Indy, for which this blog was happily one of the many sponsors rallied via their IndieGoGo campaign last year.

“The Gods of Indianapolis”

I’ve always been fascinated with names, both of people and of places. The names of people – surnames at least – often reveal where they come from. (Yes, I’m the guy who always asks someone he just met “where does your last name come from” – well at least if the name is unusual.) First names often reveal who or what someone’s parents admired – a favorite relative or respected parent and the like.

Names of places are fun too. Some places go through many names (think St. Petersburg, Russia, for example). Some go through most of history with an established name until the point that a ‘more civilized’ “discoverer” renames it after a head of state or generous patron (Think Mt. McKinley, now known (once again) as Denali). The state of Indiana’s name means, unsurprisingly, “Land of the Indians” and my home town city of Indianapolis, well that one’s kind of obvious when you remember “polis” is a Greek word for city.

This story offers an alternate explanation of how a famous street in Indianapolis got its name. If you’re not familiar with Indianapolis, its streets are laid out in a quite orderly, grid-like manner. Most main streets, north-south, east-west, and even a few radiating out from the downtown “circle” on the diagonals are named after our fellow states of the union. The main north-south artery, however is named “Meridian Street” and divides the city in half. Seems an obvious name as there are imaginary north-south meridian lines drawn all over the face of our planet. But maybe the name “Meridian” is a coincidence and actually has nothing to do with geographic concerns…  Above: an aerial view of Indianapolis from many years ago (but not nearly as many as the setting for this story) You can clearly see the layout of the major streets, and there’s Meridian Street running right down the middle.

Author Jason de Koff hypothesizes an alternate history of a pre-colonized Indiana where… “In the 1600s, a group of Icelandic traders made the voyage across the Atlantic and landed on the eastern shore of North America. Heading west, they eventually settled in Indiana along the White River near a trade route used for transporting dried fish north and beaver pelts south. A peaceful people, the Icelanders befriended the native Miami tribe, intermarried, and formed a new society that maintained aspects of both cultures. The blended tribe prospered and grew…”

The star of the story is “Meri,” descended from both the Icelanders and native people and combining the best qualities of both. Such are her skills that she has risen to become the first woman to be named chief of her tribe, and is its leader when trade seems to be drying up and the tribe is falling upon hard times. The story takes place in an era where propitiation of the gods via sacrifice is not an uncommonly suggested solution for those in trouble, but just whose gods should be turned to? That’s when the story gets really interesting…

I enjoyed this story a lot – though I am admittedly a sucker for “alternate history literature.” As of this writing, the story may be still read online at http://www.punchnels.com/2014/03/24/the-gods-of-indianapolis/ It only takes 15 or 20 minutes to read, so why not give it a try?  Let me know what you think of it. 🙂

I also think the question of a name’s origins is quite appropriate for my 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” since there has yet to be a definitive answer to the frequently asked question, “What exactly is a ‘Hoosier’?” After all, Indiana is known as “The Hoosier State” For an exploration of some possible origins of the word, I’ll refer you to this page of the Indiana Historical Society: http://www.indianahistory.org/teachers-students/hoosier-facts-fun/fun-facts/what-is-a-hoosier#.VpzaW688KrU

Beloved Indiana Pacers radio broadcaster and former coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard (below, with Reggie Miller on the right) is fond of saying, when a Pacer player drives down the middle of the lane for a dunk or lay-up, “He took it right down Meridian on ’em!”

Three down and forty-nine to go! 🙂

“And One for the Road” by Joanna Parypinski – Story #2 of Deal Me “IN” 2016.


The Card: ♦9♦ nine of diamonds

The Selection: “And One for the Road” from the short story anthology “Mistresses of the Macabre”

The Author: Joanna Parypinski (picture at left cropped from the author’s website), born in Chicago in 1989, but with an “Indiana connection” in that she spent her undergraduate years in Indiana as a student at Butler University in Indianapolis. (more about this author may be found in the brief newmyths.com interview at https://sites.google.com/a/newmyths.com/nmwebsite/contributors/joanna-parypinski )

IMG_5408(For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post.  For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. In the 2016 edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” since this year is my home state’s bicentennial. 🙂 )

“And One for the Road”

“I was on a merry-go-round with dark, snarling horses and poles made of bone. No off switch. Circles of hell.”

What are your thoughts on Deja-vu? Is it a phenomenon you frequently experience? And what if deja-vu were more than a mere trick of the mind – did you ever think about that? Maybe some segments of time are repeated and are “inescapable” and people can get “caught in a loop” with no escape. I guess this story could be described as a case of deja-vu on steroids. The author ends this story with the narrator herself telling us about another explanation of the Deja-vu like phenomenon:


“There’s a symptom of PTSD called intrusion, where the sufferer is plagued by nightmares or daytime flashbacks. They say in severe cases, the sufferer can return to the memory continually to change the traumatic event. Reality is broken, so they try to fix it.”

This explanation is closer to what happens to “Maggie,” the protagonist of the story, a 10-year veteran in her waitress job at “Ed’s Good Eats” diner “in the middle of Nowheresville.” The launch point for her story occurs when she is awakened by the short-order cook after having dozed off waiting for the coffee to brew (apparently a habit of hers). The diner is sparsely populated – one young mother with a baby who can’t stop crying, a “city couple” who ignore each other over their breakfast, and a “cowboy” with a smarmy smile fortified by three golden teeth. Another “customer” is about to join them… (if this were a Twilight Zone episode – and it wouldn’t make a bad one – the camera would pan over to Rod Serling at this point, perhaps with him sitting in one of the vacant booths gesturing with the hand holding his ubiquitous cigarette)

Turns out the next customer who comes in is a young kid who has just laid down his motorcycle after hitting a patch of gravel a little down the road. He is clearly scraped up pretty badly and – the telephone being out from an overnight storm – Maggie offers to go get the first aid kit to try and get him “patched up.” After this the stress of the diner’s confined space ratchets up pretty quickly. Baby crying. City couple getting rude. Unwelcome advances and gropes from the cowboy. Injuries to the young motorcyclist far greater than we initially thought, etc. Just when things are about to reach critical mass, Maggie is awakened again by the short-order cook. Just a dream? Of course it won’t be that easy for her…

This story may be found as part of the short story anthology, “Mistresses ofthe Macabre” available at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Mistresses-Macabre-Lori-Michelle/dp/0988556952 As of this writing, the kindle version is available for a mere $1.99.

I’ve posted about this author’s work before here at Bibliophilopolis, and recommend her novel, Pandora, if you’re a fan of the horror genre. My review of that book maybe found here.  and I also featured her short story, “The Garden” in a previous iteration of Deal Me In.
More about Deja-vu http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/the-psychology-of-deja-vu.html

Two down and fifty to go!

Playing card (at top of this post) found at https://playingcardcollector.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/nevskie_playing_cards_the_night_of_diamonds.jpg

“Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick” by Edward Eggleston – story #1 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣8♣ Eight of Clubs

The Selection: “Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick” from the story collection titled “Queer Stories for Boys and Girls” – read this story online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/15165/

The Author: Edward Eggleston, born in 1837 in Vevay, in Southeastern Indiana.  Eggleston (pictured above and, larger, below) spent some time as a circuit riding minister, but fragile health led him to take up a less strenuous vocation and he became quite a prolific writer. Likely his most famous book, “The Hoosier Schoolmaster” is the only title of his that I was familiar with before this project. He also wrote an intriguing-sounding book, “Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans” that I think I may explore at some point. More info on Eggleston may be found at http://landandlit.iweb.bsu.edu/literature/Authors/egglestone.htm

IMG_5408(For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post.  For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. In the 2016 edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” since this year is my home state’s bicentennial.)

“Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick”

Have you ever read and enjoyed a book or story, finding it “deep and meaningful” to you, only to suddenly remember it was “written for children?” I got a bit of this feeling reading this story. Does this mean I’m more childlike than I’d like to think, or does it mean that the story’s intended audience – children of a different era – was more sophisticated than we would expect today’s children to be? It’s an interesting question and one I don’t think I can answer.

Maybe my favorite thing about this story was how deftly the author (who I’d not read before) sets the stage in the first few pages – Mr. Blake is a minister. He has a cane he employs when he walks about town, calling on members of his congregation. To the reader, the cane seems at first an affectation, but it has also become part of Mr. Blake’s identity:

“It was a great black stick of solid ebony, with a box-wood head, and I think Mr. Blake carried it for company. And it had a face, like that of an old man, carved on one side of the box-wood head. Mr. Blake kept it ringing in a hearty way upon the pavement as he walked, and the boys would look up from their marbles when they heard it, and say: “There comes Mr. Blake, the minister!” And I think that nearly every invalid and poor person in Thornton knew the cheerful voice of the minister’s stout ebony stick.”

Mr. Blake also fancies that the walking stick “talks” to him via its clacking sounds on the pavement, and one day after visiting some of the particularly needy members of his flock, hears it echoing his thoughts, saying “Something must be done! Something MUST be done.” Yes, but what?

Enter Mr. Blake’s son, Willie – probably the type of offspring any clergyman earnestly hopes for. The elder Blake’s ideas have firmly taken root in the boy who, one night, when home alone as his folks have gone out on a carriage ride, hears someone “speaking” to him in the house. Turns out it’s the minister’s cane, resting in a corner. It’s also possible Willie has dozed off and is dreaming, but either way, young Willie is caught up in the “Something MUST be done” philosophy and organizes his friends and school into a veritable, charitable army, marching to the aid those less fortunate in the town whose struggles Willie and his father have come to know in detail.

Since this story was written roughly 150 years ago, I found it interesting while reading to look within it for things that remain true today and things that have passed out of modern understanding or parlance. Among the latter are Willie’s parents’ admonition on leaving him home alone to “be careful with fire.” They do this twice. Also, one of Willie’s friends advises a companion who is (unsuccessfully) plying a man for information to “Keep a-scratching, Fred; the old cow will give down after a while!” Apparently every boy and girl in the intended audience would have been familiar with the act of milking a cow when this story was written! Even in the passage above, the boys “look up from their marbles” – does anyone play marbles anymore?

Among the former were certain stereotypes among schoolchildren that are perhaps timeless and endure to this day. Like Tommy Puffer, the class glutton (treated quite unkindly by the author) and his indulgent mother. (I pictured him as Larry Mondello from the old sitcom, “Leave it to Beaver”). There’s also the hard and unsympathetic administrator of public charity in the town. Seems that, to him, the problems of the less fortunate are of their own making and any requests for aid are to be met with suspicion. Apparently people like this may be with us always, as his philosophy isn’t unheard of in today’s world either.

I also liked that Deal Me IN dealt up this card first, i.e. “right after the Christmas holiday” since the story is set during this time of year, and captures what would be referred to now as “The True Spirit” of Christmas, as one of the final lines of the story indicates: “It would be hard to tell who enjoyed the Christmas the most. But I think the givers found it more blessed than the receivers.”


What about you? Have YOU read anything by, or even heard of this author before? Let me know.

Book image found at https://mattsko.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/queer-stories-for-boys-and-girls/

image

This week’s Indiana playing card features the city of South Bend – one I’m quite familiar with from numerous childhood visits to “Grandma’s House” on 27th street (where my dad was born…)