My father and I are very different. He’s loud and confrontational and I tend to get lost in any group larger than four people. Make him mad and you’ll know. I’m the opposite. It is really hard to offend me and you would have to try really hard to make me yell.
Recently I did two things that really surprised me.
First, I was in a restaurant/bar with my daughter. She was singing karaoke and a really drunk guy kept hitting on her. He was about 40 and she was 17. When he started touching her I tapped him on the shoulder and shared a few words with him. Two minutes later he left the restaurant and didn’t come back. I didn’t threaten him per se, but I think he saw in my eyes that he was on dangerous ground.
Today I was in my allergist’s office. They have a policy about staying there 30 minutes after an injection because you could have an allergic reaction and die if they don’t attend to you right away. It’s a bit of CYA, but I have always complied with the policy.
Right after my injection I got an important phone call that was critical to one of my girls. I can’t say what the call was about, but imagine a highly confidential call that has to be taken in that second or else.
I got up and headed for the outside door.
The nurse told me I couldn’t go outside. I told her I needed to take the call.
She told me to stay inside.
I asked, “Do you have a gun?”
She said she didn’t and I walked outside. I didn’t see her again, but the doc came out with a concerned look on his face in about 45 seconds.
Driving home I chuckled to myself about the gun comment even though I felt bad about upsetting the nurse. The words just blurted out of me and I wondered where they came from.
It didn’t take long to realize I was acting like my father in both situations. While I almost never model his aggressive behavior, when my kids are threatened, my reaction is completely instinctive. I rarely confront anyone, but my father taught me how. I should thank him for that someday.
Fiction is similar. While most of us never have a chance to be heroic, books and movies give us a recipe for good decision making in a crisis. (And you thought they were just for fun.)
If an earthquake hit or if terrorists attacked your neighborhood, who would be your guide?
Dinner At Deadman’s is free today and tomorrow. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a guest post from my recent blog tour to get you in the mood. Enjoy!
Would You Eat A Dead Lady’s Food?
Lorado Martin, star of my new novel Dinner At Deadman’s, loves to rummage around estates of the newly-deceased and prepare them for sale. He’s attracted to all sorts of collectibles, antiques, about anything lying around someone’s house that proves interesting.
The title Dinner At Deadman’s comes from a night Lorado is working in a woman’s home and decides to eat some cereal from her kitchen. I have been surprised by how revolting people find the idea of eating something from a dead lady’s home, so I thought I’d explore that idea with you a bit today.
One of my most surprising food finds was a can of peaches at the bottom of a set of cellar stairs. The can had rusted through. The peaches had seeped out and all that remained of them was a dark-colored spot on the wooden shelf underneath the can. The can must have been sitting there for several years and I wonder if anyone considered eating those peaches in the few years before I found them.
I think we can all agree we wouldn’t eat peaches from a rusty old can, but what about a can of soup in the pantry that was shiny and new? Could there really be anything wrong with soup that’s been lying around a while? If it was free, would you take it home? Would you check the expiration date first?
For me it would be an easy call. If it was canned food that I would buy anyway, I’d take any can that was in good condition. I’m not sure exactly what makes eating food from a dead person’s house weird. Is it the idea that whatever killed them might be infectious? Or is it a superstition that the food could be haunted? Or maybe the ghost of the previous owner would torment you for taking it home?
Let’s go to the kitchen next.
I remember eating cereal at my grandmother’s house. It was always stale. And she always filled bowls by hand, reaching in, grabbing a handful, and dropping it in a bowl like an excavator. That always seemed a little gross to me as a kid. The idea of a strange old lady’s hand on my cereal is enough for me to forgo an open box.
How about you? If you found an unopened box of your favorite cereal would you take it?
It’s a slippery slope once you get started. You open the freezer and see frozen steaks. The food starts to have value and in these tough economic times I think a lot of us would be tempted to take some of that free food home, especially if it was in a sealed container.
Whether this sounds like a great idea or a crazy one, I hope you’ll check out Dinner At Deadman’s and explore a sweet little old lady’s kitchen alongside Lorado.
Come on in. Pretend you’re a date or a golfing buddy. Your choice.
The first thing that happens when you walk into my parents’ little cape, after you shake hands and sit down is the start of embarrassing story time. This tradition goes back as far as I can remember. Since gas prices are so high, why not come for a virtual visit?
One of my dad’s favorite stories of all time is the fishing song. He’s told it to every woman I’ve ever invited over to the house and he’s told it to my children so many times that one day my daughter mentioned it in a radio interview… She actually sang part of it!
The story begins one January day when we were going to catch eels on the ocean. It was around thirty degrees, maybe colder. If you’ve spent time on the ocean you know that with the whipping wind in winter, it gets mighty cold.
Before we left, my dad checked inside my shirt and saw I didn’t have long underwear on, so he sent me back upstairs to get them. I was about nine years old at the time and for a nine year old I was a tough kid. Dad had us hauling firewood in winter, working in the garden in the summer and working on whatever other projects he could find in between.
So… as cocky nine year olds do, I went upstairs and waited about five minutes and came back down. Sans long underwear. Of course dad didn’t check. You didn’t mess with dad or you got smacked. So we loaded the aluminum boat and away we went.
About an hour later, dad is standing in the water spearing eels, and catching a bunch. The wind is whipping off the ocean and the aluminum seat is conducting freezing temperatures right up my behind. I’m colder than I’ve ever been in my life. The problem was that dad was catching lots of eels and there was no way he was leaving.
I told him I was freezing and I wanted to go. To understand what that meant to nine year old me, you have to hear another story that I’ll tell you later. Trust me for now, I didn’t complain a lot. Almost never.
Dad came over to the boat and checked again to see if I had my long underwear on. He might have taken me home if I’d had it on, but probably not. When he discovered that I’d tricked him he did what I thought was the cruelest thing in the world.
He started singing…
Chrissy Martin don’t wear drawers
won’t you kindly lend him yours…
(Chris Martin is my real name)
Not very imaginative. One verse. Over and over for hours. I never heard the end of that song. He’s told that story to everyone I’ve ever brought home and now I’ve told it to you.
For years I left the room whenever he started on that story. It infuriated me.
A few years ago my oldest daughter realized how much it drove me nuts and started singing it to me. That’s when I did something about it. I thought long and hard about that day. There was a lesson and I learned it well. It certainly could have been taught in a kinder way, but what had been a lightning rod for negative emotions for years lost its sting once I thought about it. It may sound easy, but it actually took a while.
At some point I think I realized that my anger was that he sang the song, not that it was particularly embarrassing. I was just a kid being a kid. That’s a mistake I can live with.
I typed this whole blog and didn’t bang one key, so I guess I’m over it.
Don’t tell that to Charles Marston, the father in Sin And Vengeance. He messed up and paid for it dearly. I wonder if I was channeling that song when I wrote him? Maybe it’s a good thing my dad doesn’t read my books. Or my blog!
What’s the embarrassing story your family or your spouse tells about you?
Does it still drive you crazy?