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Cole Matthews

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  1. Cole Matthews

    Chapter 11

    Very exciting! I can’t wait to read what happened. Awesome job.
  2. Cole Matthews

    Our House

    What a lovely story. You could feel the sense of their connection. Thanks for sharing!
  3. Cole Matthews

    The Treasure of Escanaba

    The Treasure of Escanaba “Another Hamm’s, Red?” The young man nodded, his scalp gleaming beneath the glow of the red bar lights. Festooned around the mirror were strands of fake gray cobwebs, sprinkled with black cardboard spiders in the corners. Typical. “Is Hal meeting you here?” the bartender asked as he flicked the cap from the bottle of cheap beer. The sodden, blue label was peeling from the brown glass. He set the brew down with a clink in front of guy. Red picked up the bottle, saluted the burly, bearded bartender, and took a deep draw. “He is. Got some big news I guess. Hal’s always full of big ideas.” He belched to punctuate his statement. Beau, the day bartender, smiled perfunctorily and scooted his bulk down to the other end of the bar where waitstaff were waiting for him. There was a giant pumpkin glowing next to the wait station. Its cartoon grin was comical rather than scary. It seemed to taunt the patron. Red took another drink and sighed. Hal was late, as usual. The lanky redneck had no concept of time, which was probably the main reason he never had a job. Okay, that wasn’t the reason. Hal didn’t have a job because he was a party animal and couldn’t get up to go to work. He didn’t have a job because he was a bum who couldn’t be bothered with punching a time clock. Sure, the guy had three children from three different women, but chasing tail was still his primary occupation. Red snorted and took another drink of his ice cold, though weak and watery, beer. A slap on his shoulders pushed Red forward, and he almost choked. “Dude! Sorry I’m late,” Hal said climbing onto the stool next to Red. “I just got done with work anyway,” Red lied. “What’s up?” “You will not believe what I got,” the man blurted out. “Red, my friend, we are going to be rich.” Red nodded, taking another swig. “It’s all right here,” Hal said, slapping a sheaf of papers onto the sticky bar. “This is our ticket out of this shithole.” “Is that right?” Hal’s big paw pulled the smaller man around to face him. “What’s your problem? I’m telling you, this is the treasure map. My aunt died and left me a fortune.” Red closed his eyes and steeled himself. He was used to these pronouncements from Hal. “What’s the deal?” he said, trying to act excited. Hal was fooled by the words, if not the tone of Red’s remarks. “I inherited my aunt’s acreage down south.” That prompted Red’s attention. “You got some land?” he said, looking at his friend. He’d resisted until now knowing the man would net him like a dangling bass. Hal was a stunning man. He wasn’t classically handsome. Hal was long and lean with a prominent nose, a firm chin, tanned skin that was scruffy and masculine, smooth with an expressive mouth. Hal had lips that were thick and succulent, and eyes that…shone with energy. Hal was amazing. “My uncle’s land has been just sitting there for ten years doing nothing.” Red’s best friend continued. “My aunt finally kicked it and as it turns out, I’m the cousin to inherit. I bet my sister and those other relatives are pissing themselves.” “Which aunt is this?” Red asked. He didn’t really believe this was true. It was like a miracle. “My mom’s brother died, and his wife got the land. She was too prissy to live in the U.P. and so nobody has done a thing with it. That’s not the best part though.” Red nodded at Hal’s explanation. People didn’t respect the upper peninsula of Michigan, a camping and hunting paradise. Hal’s aunt probably had never even visited the land her husband grew up on. Okay, it wasn’t ‘his’ land. It was family land. “Is it on the lake?” Hal nodded vigorously. “The plot is right along Lake Michigan, across the road from the shoreline. This is prime property, but that’s not what’s so great about it.” “A drink?” Beau asked, scooting a paper coaster across the bar to land in front of Hal. There was a witch’s face emblazoned on the black surface -- a joyful, cackling crone. Hal grinned, his big white teeth shining in the bar light. “I think we should celebrate. I’ll take a CC and Coke.” He waited until the bartender walked away and turned to Red. “Can you cover me? I’m short right now.” Red nodded and turned on the barstool to face his best friend. “Tell me about this windfall.” Hal looked at him confused. “Windfall?” “You said the land was a great deal, but something else was even better.” Red could smell musk coming from Hal. It was sweat and soap, Old Spice deodorant and motor oil. Testosterone oozed from the man as he moved to face Red. “Here you go,” Beau said, placing a lowball in front of Hal. “That’ll be four-fifty.” “I’ve got it,” Red said, glancing at his coworker. “Of course,” Beau groaned. “What’s new?” Red scowled at the bartender, who walked away shaking his head. “Here’s the deal,” Hal began, his voice raised in excitement. “What?” Red asked and looked around nervously. Hal noticed his friend’s reaction, and leaned in closer. “My uncle told me there is a treasure left on the old farm. His dad found it and hid it.” “A treasure?” Red scowled. “That sounds ridiculous.” “It’s true,” Hal whispered. He took a drink and smiled, thrilled. “My uncle told me about it before he died.” “A buried treasure?” Hal nodded with enthusiasm. “Yes, my grandpa found it.” Red took a deep breath, and the scent of Hal’s masculinity was heady. “Your grandpa found a treasure chest and hid it on his farm.” Hal looked around at the empty room, glanced over Red’s shoulder, and then whispered to the man. “Yeah, that’s what he said.” Red wanted to pull away. However, Hal was close, so close to him, he could feel the heat radiate from the man. Hal’s presence was intoxicating. He felt high, stoned, messed up, and powerless. “What’s the plan?” he said, and he realized his tone was sharp and eager. Like a blue gill in a small lake, he was strung along in the water. Hooked. Reeled in. “We head down to Escanaba this evening, grab the treasure, and come back, easy as cherry pie.” “Hey guys,” Red heard, and recognized the voice as his boss’. “Hey Stan,” Hal said, blithely. “You’re not dragging Red into another of your schemes, are you?” Red could see out of the corner of his eye, his boss was scowling at them. He towered over them, arms crossed, looking fierce. The man was wearing a t-shirt with the picture of a vampire, like Count Chocula, posed and grinning. It was so offensive, like so much of the stuff about this holiday. “Is Boyd working right now?” Hal asked smugly. “No,” the manager of the White Oak Resort admitted. “But, Red works tomorrow morning.” “I think Red’s plans aren’t your concern.” Stan ignored Hal’s answer. “Red?” he asked. “I’ll be here bright and early tomorrow morning,” Red said. “Don’t worry about that.” “Okay,” his boss said. “You start work at seven winterizing those windows, right?” Red nodded and gestured to Beau for another beer. The bartender was glancing back and forth between the three men. Finally, he realized it was okay, when Stan walked away. “Did you tell him?” Red hissed at the bartender. “No,” was the response. It wasn’t convincing. Beau was always doing when Hal was around. Red decided they could drive down to Escanaba, grab the treasure, probably more like some old iron junk and car parts, and then they’d drive back. He’d be home by the morning for work, and for the holiday in the evening. *** “What the fuck is it?” Red asked pacing back and forth beside his faded red Ford Ranger. “I’m screwed. Fuck!” he yelled. “Calm the hell down,” Hal said, looking from beneath the raised hood. “It’s not that big of a deal. It’s the alternator. It’s shot. Get a new one and we’ll be back on track.” “Why do I let you get me into these things?” Red asked, panting and shaking his best friend’s shoulder. “The guy’s coming with the tow truck. We get a new alternator and we’ll be on the road in a couple of hours. We grab the stash, and we’re out of here.” Red looked up at the black branches waving against the gray, night sky, the wind twisting the limbs grotesquely. There weren’t many leaves left clinging to the twigs, and what few remained looked tattered. As he looked up into the gray light from the street lights, he had a strange thought. Maybe not really so strange given it was Hallow’s Eve, eve, and last night he’d watched a horror movie. One of those on the commercial stations that had lots of ads. A phrase kept popping into his head. The veil is thinnest on All Hallow’s Eve, when the dead and the living stand only inches apart. “He’s on his way,” Hal said again. “I can see headlights coming our way.” It startled Red, because somehow the big guy had crept up behind him. “Fine,” Red said, as Hal threw his arm around the smaller man’s shoulders. “We get it fixed and go back home.” “Sure,” Hal said, quietly. “What are you going to do with your portion of the money?” “I’m not planning anything yet,” Red said, more calmly than he felt. His heart was racing at his friend’s touch. His stomach was knotted from the scent of the man. His head was now light and filled with warmth. “What about you?” Hal sighed and lifted his arm off Red’s shoulders. He playfully boxed his arm and then said, “I’m getting a new truck and some new duds, something classy. Maybe those jeans with the gold embroidery to go dancing with and a shirt with real mother-of-pearl buttons, like the country singers all have. Something that makes the ladies get a little wet, if you know what I mean.” Red did know what Hal meant, and the knot in his stomach became a cobra, striking at his guts and making him squirm in discomfort. A sudden burst of light illuminated them, gold in the gray darkness, and the crunch of tires on gravel broke the still of the evening as the truck pulled over several yards down the road. It was the tow truck, and it slowly crawled towards them, the light becoming brighter and more brilliantly yellow. Red could see more of Hal now, his ‘pair-o-dice’ tattoo on his right bicep. The scrawl of the name, Phoebe, his first ex-wife, running down his forearm. Even Hal’s neck was decorated with a coiled snake, ready to strike, a vivid red tongue pointing towards his chin. Red didn’t have tattoos. He couldn’t think of something he liked that much. A tattoo was something permanent, a mark that never left, or so he’d thought about it. He considered his mom’s name or a fish or a gun on the skin of his hip, but he’d done nothing. “What’s the problem?” the tow truck driver asked as he approached from the cab, and Red’s attention returned to his vehicle and to getting the engine running again. *** The jukebox was very loud, with a country song twanging on about lost love and missed chances. Red nursed his beer, looking over the crowd two-stepping and laughing. The bar was decorated for the holiday, strings of orange lights, the usual cotton batting cobwebs, pictures of ghouls, monsters, an enormous cauldron filled with booze next to the bar, and black and purple streamers hanging all over the walls. Red tried not to look over at the jukebox again. He couldn’t stop himself though. Hal was punching buttons while a peroxide blonde woman in short jean shorts and a midriff top hung on him. She was literally leaning on his shoulders, his arms, and kissing him every chance she had. Her ample breasts were pressed against Hal’s dice tattoo while she licked the snake on his neck. Red felt sick. It was bad enough they weren’t getting his truck fixed until the morning. Now he had to watch the shit show of Hal being molested by some bimbo right in front of him. Red tried to look away, but bathed in the glow of the jukebox, Hal’s face was transcendent, his features angelic, his square jaw amazing. Hal stopped punching buttons and gestured for Red to come over. Red paused, then shook his head no. His friend only gestured more frantically, trying to drag him over by brute force of will. Red caved in and sauntered over. “You look bummed out dude,” Hal said when Red came within earshot. Even the loud music couldn’t overpower his friend’s booming voice. “I’m pissed about my truck,” Red answered. “And I had plans.” “Oh, quit pouting,” Hal said, play boxing his shoulder again. “This is great bar, lots of people partying, and it’s three-for-one drinks. What else could you ask for?” “Stan’s pissed. He said I need to get back as soon as I can,” Red answered. He took a drink of his lukewarm beer. It was skunky now. “Fuck Stan and fuck his dumbass hotel.” Hal belched and continued, “We need to get you laid, boy. You are more strung out than a guitar string.” Hal chuckled at his joke and the girl practically climbed up him like a squirrel on a tree, giggling and nuzzling him, her tail twitching excitedly. Red felt her attention on him. He glanced to her. “I’ve got a friend who’d like some company,” the blonde shouted over the music at Red. “She’s real nice, and kinda pretty. Her name is Darla and—” “No, thank you,” Red interrupted, shouting. “I can get my own dates.” Hal scowled as his chick recoiled from the outburst. Red could see his best friend was pissed. Without a word, Hal grabbed Red’s elbow and dragged him a few feet away, near the bathrooms where the music wasn’t so loud. “What the fuck is your problem?” Hal demanded, shaking with fury. “So what if your truck broke down. Tomorrow we get the stash and we’ll be riding high. Fuck!” Hal rubbed his face with his hand, cleared his throat and continued, “Listen, Red. I get that you’re different than most of us. You’re smart and good with your hands and you see things like the rest of us don’t. But.” Hal leaned closer. “You need to try to get along sometimes. Go out with a chick. Get your dick wet. Try something new. I mean, I know you aren’t like me or most guys. I get that and it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes you gotta try though. Just try to get along.” Hal’s speech finished a little hollow, like he knew what he was asking for or saying wasn’t exactly correct. However, Red watched him nod, and then his best friend marched back to his bimbo. Hal was still angry. Red went to the bar and grabbed another beer, and for good measure, a shot of whiskey. *** Hal was having trouble getting the wetsuit on. It was a little too small for him. Red watched as his best friend bent over to pull the pants up his legs after powdering them with talcum. This time, the fabric slid over the forested, hairy legs. When it got to the tops of Hal’s thighs, it started to bunch and squeak. Red looked at the small of Hal’s back, smooth and tanned, and manly. The ridges of his spine jutted out, the muscles bunched and twitched. Another tattoo covered the middle of his back. It was the name, Connie, with a big, elaborate flourish encasing it. Connie was his second ex-wife. Hal’s third ex was a woman named Trixie, and that had only lasted a few weeks, so no tattoo preserved his union with her. Red thought it was odd how people got so many tattoos. He had none. But, then he realized something he had never considered before. Almost all the local guys who hung out at the bars in Traverse City had tattoos and most of the women did as well. Almost all the locals had a few exes. They were all employed at jobs that required no training and no schooling. They were all happy to party and joke and sleep with each other and then pass out. Red never did any of those things, except for his job doing maintenance at the hotel. It wasn’t trained, but not many people could recharge air conditioners, fix heating fans, replace water heaters, and fix dish washers. He’d never slept with anyone from the bars they hung out in. He had no exes. Well, not really. He had no tattoos. Red got off the bed and handed Hal the top to the wetsuit. It would never fully cover the tall man. It was too tight and too short. It would have to do. A knock on the door made Red look up. Hal was grinning, tossing the wetsuit shirt from hand to hand. “That must be Christy,” he announced happily. Before Red could made a comment, his best friend strode to the motel door and whipped it open. Just outside, the blonde bimbo from the night before was holding a cardboard tray with three white cartons. “Coffee’s here,” she said brightly. Red wanted to hit her with his truck. *** “I need help getting the chain hooked up.” Hal was chest deep in the inky dark pond. The cold water had his teeth chattering and his face was ghostly white. At the edge of the water, about fifty feet away, the winch off the back of Red’s truck had a cable which angled down into the water. Hal’s face was pinched with distress. Red pulled off his jean jacket and slipped off his boots, untying and then toeing them off by the heel. The smaller man jumped into the water, and his breath caught in his lungs. The water was ice cold to the touch, and the temperature was only about forty-five degrees, so when he stood up, the skin of his torso prickled in the frigid morning air. “Fucking A,” Red yelled. “Get over here before I die of hypodermia,” Hal chattered, his teeth clinking. “Hypothermia,” Red corrected, but he quickly waded over to his friend. There was a water-proof lantern in the pond and as Red neared, he could see the problem. The chain around the crate was twisted. The hook on the end of the cable couldn’t slip around the bunched links, and so Hal was stuck. Diving into the water, Red swam towards the light. His hand reached down to loosen the chain. He placed his palm on the box and the other reached for the chain. That thought bobbed to the surface of his brain again. The veil is thinnest… “Ow!” he reacted, interrupting his reverie. Red quickly stood and lifted his hand. There was a black stain on his palm and there was something stuck in the meat of his right thumb. Without thinking, he pulled out the rusty metal object. He peered at it in the bleak light radiating from the back of his truck. It was a mangled tiny bowl of some kind, or a thimble or something. Red rinsed his palm in the water and the blood plumed the surface of the pond. “What was that?” Hal asked, and then added. “Can you hurry up? I can’t feel my toes anymore.” Red nodded and crouched down into the water. The chain was bunched, but a couple of twists and it settled into place. He grabbed the dangling hook and attached it. Standing back up, he gave Hal a thumbs up and waded back to the edge of the pond. Shivering in the morning cold, he ran the lever, and the cable tightened, at first not doing anything. Then slowly, laboriously, the line began spooling. Hal jumped back, and he waded towards the truck. As his best friend stepped out of the water, the blonde bimbo, Christy, wrapped him in a big beach towel, and rubbed his shoulders. She was cooing at him. He was whispering back to her. Red wanted to be sick. *** Red sat on the tailgate of his pickup swinging his legs, just like when he was a kid. His mom would go out to celebrate, and set him on the edge of the metal door jutting out from the back of their old, blue Ford pickup. She’d have a picnic basket packed for the party. The others all brought food. There were always several families around. He remembered, sometimes the weather was cold and damp. Most of the time he recalled the afternoons were sunny and warm. It was usually nice enough out in the woods. He and the other kids would run around playing games, usually with swordplay or a kind of hide and seek. Red remembered one boy a few years older who had a big cloak and a staff and he’d march around and organize the games. The memory made Red smile. Maybe that’s what sparked all this. Red jumped down from the tailgate and walked over to the passenger side door of his red Ranger truck. He opened it, flipped the lever on the side of the seat, and pulled the back forward. He reached down and grabbed the handles of a bag. It wasn’t heavy, but it was full. The man pulled it free and closed the truck door. Walking around to the back of the truck, he remembered more things. His mother’s loaf of Lammas bread, smelling of honey and nuts, rich. It was the smell of fall before the leaves turned or the nights became cooler. He loved Lammas because school was still out, and yet they got to eat tons of food and play in the woods. At night, there’d be a huge bonfire. They were sweet memories. Red had stopped attending the feasts and abandoned the old ways when he was a teen. He didn’t want to be teased about his pagan faith. At first, he didn’t miss it, at all. Over the last few years, that had changed, especially after losing his mother. This year he’d gone to Beltane festivities and hung around the edge of the party outside the woods in Warren. He got misty-eyed remembering his mother’s huge baskets of flowers she’d haul in the back of that old rusty truck. They’d dance and sing, and at night the kids would make little May baskets with treats and freshly cropped grass and drop them off at people’s tents. Throughout the summer, he tried not to think about the joy of the summer solstice or about Lammas bread baked from the wheat of the summer. By the time Mabon came around at the end of September, he couldn’t resist. He celebrated the autumnal equinox with wine at the setting sun and with a horn filled with apples and grapes at his feet. Red felt nothing except a sense of loss and a brooding feeling of loneliness. As he walked around the meadow on that September evening, he’d stopped to pour libations onto tree roots, and he remembered. Red thought about how his mother prepared for the feasts. She’d start collecting the herbs and candles, the implements, and readied outfits. It wasn’t a night. It wasn’t a feast. It was a festival, and preparing for the event was even a bigger part than the big Yule fires or the Imbolc circle of candles. Preparing for the holiday was as important as the day itself. Red started collecting things for Samhain right after his solitary Mabon. He went into the woods and picked oak leaves and acorns, pine cones and wild sage. From his closet, each day he’d look through photos and found ones of his mother, his grandparents, his brother and his father. His father wasn’t dead, but he thought a picture on the altar would be appropriate. Red bought new cider and chose the perfect pumpkins. He bought a bale of straw and constructed a king-of-winter, like he did as a kid. He stuffed the straw man with dried herbs and fragrant, dried fruit. Tonight was the most blessed Samhain, the holiest of nights in his faith. As he opened the bag, he pulled out each item one by one, remembering and saying a prayer for each thing. He laid each one side by side in the back of the pickup on the tailgate. This was his altar, his place to call to the Green Man and witness the Mother become the Crone. He’d celebrate it here in the woods alone and surrounded by the souls crowding this place. After he carefully placed each item on the bed of the truck, Red stripped off his shoes and socks. He paused, looked around the abandoned land and at the dark pond that had contained the crate filled with bricks and garbage, and felt at home. He continued stripping his clothes. Red would be skyclad tonight when he embraced his religion again. He’d greet the dying summer king as he came into the world; naked and open to the world. He’d cry out like he did at his birth, begging for the Lady to embrace him, suckle him, one last time, at her bountiful breast. Red threw his underwear beneath the truck and stood akimbo before the makeshift altar. “I’m ready for you my king and my queen.” Nothing happened. There were birds chirping in the waning of the light, but the veil hadn’t thinned. Not yet. Red took a drink of wine and felt it slosh into his empty gullet. He breathed deeply. The cold air made him cough. After catching his breath again, the man shouted, “Come to me, my god and goddess. I’m here for you!” He felt nothing. Red walked around the truck, the cold air making his skin pimple and his muscles twitch. What was he forgetting? Sure, he had no fire, but that wasn’t important. It was his head and heart that mattered, not the external items. He didn’t need to feel his gods in the presence of others; the woods were filled with them and their attendants. What was he missing? Above him, the dark branches and dead leaves rustled in the gusts of a chill wind. The moon was just beginning to rise, the stars were faint as a backdrop. Maybe if he turned off the truck lights, he would begin to feel the holiday. As he listened, he shivered, the cold getting to him. He coughed again. It was so lonely. The naked man stopped, realizing he’d stripped himself of everything except for one thing. He smiled, and with both hands, reached back to undo his silver choker. As he lifted it off, he placed it on his left palm. It had been a present from Hal, years ago. It spelled out his name. No, not his real name. It contained his false name. Red. He hefted the real silver chain in his hand, remembering the good times with Hal, and realized they were over. Boyd, that was his true name, cast the silver necklace into the dark pond. It immediately sank into the water. At first, nothing happened. The night was the same, until he heard it. The veil is thinnest… Boyd felt his heart sing, his pulse raced, when he recognized the voice speaking to him. It was his mother. She’d come to be with him. He knew it and he heard the same voice through the wind in the trees and amongst the trees. The veil is thinnest and the gods give us our odr, our inspiration… His mother told him about how your odr overtook you and told you truths. Your odr would never betray you. Your odr was your destiny, your hope, your inspiration, and your muse. It was the best gift the aging goddess and the dying god could give. It was from Odin, the all-knowing. It was his fate whispered from the lungs of the trees and the whirls of the wind. It overtook the man who was Boyd and he danced to the music of the wind in the trees. The breath that had chilled and made him cough was gone. In its place, he felt invigorated and filled with joy. The cold that pricked at his skin was gone. Boyd felt the glow of happiness and the calm of purpose. He’d hung around here long enough mourning his mother. His old home was safe and this is where she’d left him, in the woods of Michigan. But, now that had passed. …the gods give us our odr, our inspiration, and our fate. Boyd was so excited to hear his mother’s voice once more. Only on Samhain when the veil is thinnest, could his mother come and guide him like she had when he was a child. He’d healed and knew he must leave. A blackbird in a tree above the pond, took off. Boyd watched as it flew south. It was a sign. His odr whispered to him, to go south to meet his destiny. It was the sign he’d been waiting for. His mother was smiling at him, encouraging him to embrace his destiny. The goddess, now wise, and the god, fading, had sent his mother to deliver the message. He knew that was the truth. His mother had came to him, finally. Boyd gathered his materials. He’d leave tonight, wondering what the fates had for him next. For the first time, he knew he was ready.
  4. Cole Matthews

    The Treasure of Escanaba

    Red and his best friend Hal go on a quest. They are looking for buried treasure and for all their dreams to come true.
  5. The next chapter of So Weeps the Willow is out.  Rush interviews the firefighters.  What do they have to share that wasn't in the report and deposition?  Check it out!

  6. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 2 - Haunted

    Twyla really symbolizes caretakers and how they are expected to carry so much weight. She's got so many worries, but I think she's also a grounded person. You'll see soon enough she is strong but not afraid to ask for help. Thank you so much for the note about Twyla's struggle. I'm really trying to portray her story as well.
  7. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 2 - Haunted

    Yeah, there are certainly greedy lawyers. I think Twyla figures she needs a little justice for her brother and that wasn't the right place to get it. Thanks for the comment!!
  8. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 2 - Haunted

    It's unfortunate that the legal process can be misused. There are plenty of people who abuse the system. Sometimes the system can abuse an innocent as well. I'm glad the story had an impact on you. I love getting people to think. Thanks for the interesting and engaging comments.
  9. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica 3 - Cracks Appear

    Cracks Appear Susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers. It also is visited by many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lacebugs and caterpillars. Wood is weak and tends to crack. Branches may be damaged by ice and snow. Litter from leaves, twigs and branches may be a problem. Shallow roots may clog sewers or drains and make gardening underneath the trees difficult. Salix babylonica description from a tree catalog Rush unclipped the ID in the plastic sleeve from his belt and reattached it to his front jacket pocket where it was even more prominent. Rush had read and reread it a couple of times. It was a temporary Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department’s consultant credentials, expiring in two weeks. Hammond had gotten him the authorization after the private investigator promised to help him with the Wylie matter. Rush wasn’t sure what he could do, because they had a team working on both cases, but he was curious about Ogden’s case and the cause of his death. Hardly anyone on the team was working on Jake’s case, because Wylie’s was such an enigma. Rush would work Wylie, but he was more concerned about the Ogden case. Rush considered what the facts were as Hammond outlined them. Jake’s case was pretty much worked up. He went to bed, a heater spewed deadly carbon monoxide gas, and he died. The heater was tampered with in some esoteric and sophisticated way. The fail-safe switch hadn’t worked allowing the heater to run when it shouldn’t have. Jake and Wylie were secret lovers who someone wanted to kill. Hammond had said, “Figure out who killed Wylie and you figured out who killed Jake.” This exemplified the blasé attitude he’d encountered of the sheriff’s department concerning the situation. He’d heard the talk, from afar, and nearby. Rush wasn’t so sure. He wasn’t convinced Wylie and Jake were together in any way except as drinkers in the same bar. There were many reasons he doubted it, but mostly because everyone seemed so sure it had to be true. He didn’t know who killed Wylie, and while the same person may have killed Jake too, the methods and signatures were quite different. Rush also wanted to know all the particulars of the case from the perspective of the first responders. Sometimes they saw things they didn’t understand. They might remember an inconsistency that may not fit neatly into an official report. The smell of the bathroom. The lack of a smell. Even why an empty bucket was sitting in the middle of a studio apartment and what they thought it may mean. In this case, it was the two firefighters who had first arrived at the scene. Fire departments in this jurisdiction worked gas investigations from the beginning throughout the report. They knew the case backwards and forwards. Meeting him at the fire station in south Minneapolis in their dining room, these witnesses could give Rush the crime scene perspective he needed. He looked around, considering the space. This particular room had a door and was relatively apart from the rest of the space, except the kitchen, so maybe they’d speak more freely. Rush didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he had the report and the inventory handy as well as the deposition transcripts, just in case something guided him towards a clue, or something interesting. The room they placed him in had awards hanging on the walls and a tall showcase unit made of chrome with glass shelves. It was loaded with gold and silver-colored trophies; some figures holding tennis rackets, others poised with bowling balls in their hands, and even a couple of stylized people on skis. It was apparent the people in this station were athletes and took their competition seriously. There was also a neat line of books squared against the wall on a long table. The titles were all fiction, mostly mysteries, but some horror and even a couple of classics. The table was utilitarian in style, with a long table runner down the middle, gray and a bit ratty along the edges. In the center of the table sat a bowl of artificial fruit, plastic bananas and rubbery grapes, bright oranges and impossibly perfect pears and apples. It was a sad attempt at hominess. “Mr. Romer?” a woman’s voice asked. “I’m Brenda Stangeland.” A man stood behind her, tense, and reserved. Rush stood and shook her hand vigorously. “Please, call me Rush.” She nodded and her bright, intelligent eyes looked him up and down quickly, efficiently, and after the handshake, she smiled approvingly. “I’m Brandon. Brandon Freeman.” He was a stunning example of the male animal, Rush noted. They shook hands as well, and then they all sat down. Rush carefully sized up the two firefighters out of the corner of his eye. They were sitting apart, but their body language suggested something far different. The guy’s legs were wide open and angled toward the woman. Her body leaned toward Brandon. There was an intimacy about them Rush sensed, but he didn’t comment. “You wanted to speak with us?” Brenda asked. She was clearly the one in charge. “Yeah, I have a couple of questions, but mostly, I want to hear about finding Jake Ogden’s body.” Rush saw their eyes narrow guardedly. He continued, “I’ve read all the reports and your depositions, but those are formal and don’t necessarily tell the whole story.” “We didn’t leave anything out,” Brenda said quickly, and defensively. “All the information was reported.” “Yes, it reads very completely.” Rush continued, “However, I want you to tell me again what you found. I’m looking for things like impressions or suspicions, gut feelings, not facts.” Brandon reacted abruptly. “We’re trained observers and we collect data.” “Of course,” Rush said. “I understand that, but please, humor me.” He then fingered the consultant tag pinned to his suitcoat. It was impressive, from afar, at least, or that’s what Ben had said. “I don’t know,” Brenda responded. “It happened a while ago.” Rush noted she was the leader and was discretely protecting the fireman sitting next to her. “Maybe if you look at the report and then simply talk your way through the scene for me.” Rush pushed the fire department report across the table to the pair. Brandon picked it up and started reading. Brenda scooted her chair closer reading over his shoulder. Rush could now see the sparks fly as their bodies neared. Brenda’s face softened, and Brandon’s flushed. Brandon was the first to look up. Rush nodded his encouragement, and the firefighter glanced over at Brenda who also nodded. “The first thing I remember was getting into our gear and heading into the apartment.” “What did you think as you got your gear on?” Rush asked, interrupting the man. Brandon paused and squinted his eyes, remembering. “It was warm, wasn’t it?” “Before you entered, you did say something about the hallway being hot,” Brenda added. “As I got on my equipment, I recall feeling sweat running down my back.” “Go on,” Rush encouraged. “What else did you think?” Brenda said, “You said it was too warm for a heater.” “I did?” Brandon said. “I thought it, that’s for sure. The morning was pretty nice actually, and the hallway was really steamy.” Brandon looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes. “I walked into the apartment and thought, what a tiny place this is. It’s really just a large room with a kitchen nook at the back and a bed in the middle with a table by the window and a small couch facing a television. It was a cramped space and felt very stuffy.” “Could that have been because of the warmth?” Rush asked. “No, the apartment wasn’t that hot. There was a window open and a breeze coming through the room.” “The friend did that,” Brenda said. “She tried to revive him. At least, that was her statement at the scene.” “I guess,” Brandon said. Rush noticed the firefighter’s tone was dismissive. “What did you think of Natalie Howe?” “I only met her in passing. Brenda spoke with her.” “She was upset of course,” Stangeland began. “And she was quite worried about him. I got the impression, she thought Ogden was in a coma or something and not dead.” “Interesting,” Rush said, scribbling furiously though he had a recorder going on the table in front of him. “Is that why she opened the window?” “Yeah,” Brenda said slowly. “She was worried she’d get sick as well. So, she opened up the window and tried shaking the victim.” “Did you ask her why she thought she’d get sick? I mean, she walked in and found her friend unresponsive. Why did she think it was the air?” “She said the room was blazing hot and the heater was running and she thought it had to be that.” “Wait a second,” Rush said. “First of all, how did she get in?” “The door was unlocked.” Rush looked surprised at Brenda. “The door was left open?” “Yeah. We were surprised too, given the neighborhood. Ms. Howe knocked and when Ogden didn’t answer, she tried the knob and it was open.” “That seems odd,” Rush said finally after a short pause. “Did she have a key?” “She said she didn’t. We asked if she knew who did have a key, and she said Ogden’s mom and his ex.” “His ex-boyfriend still had a key?” “Ms. Howe was sure of it, and a later interview with Eddie Warner found he did still have a key.” “But Howe didn’t?” Rush asked, and both of them nodded confirmation. “What happened next?” Rush inquired. “After you entered the room.” Brandon breathed deeply. “I was surprised the heater was off.” “But, wasn’t it still on when Howe found it?” Brenda said, “Yeah. She tried stopping it. When it wouldn’t shut off, she opened the window and left his apartment calling 911.” “It was off when you entered the apartment.” Brandon nodded. “The fuel tank was empty. It must have burned out by the time we got there.” Rush nodded as he continued writing notes. “What else did you notice?” “Nothing else really. I checked the victim and determined he had been dead for some time. I checked the kitchen area and bathroom and found the elevated levels of carbon monoxide, registered the readings, and then exited the apartment.” Rush looked up from the paper. “Were there any other impressions you got from entering the place and leaving it?” “I don’t think—two glasses,” he said quickly. “There were two wine glasses on the table.” “That’s odd, isn’t it?” Rush asked. “Given the fact Jake had quit drinking a few days before.” “Yeah, but the forensic team said it was grape juice, not wine.” “He had a visitor,” Rush said. “Was it his ex who was supposed to visit or someone else?” “I don’t know,” Brandon answered with a shrug. “Did you meet Eddie?” Both Stangeland and Freeman looked at each other and back at Rush nodding in tandem. “What did you think?” “He’s a weasel,” Brenda said. “He was very skittish.” “He also lied about a couple of things. I wasn’t impressed.” Brandon added. “Like what?” Rush asked. “He said he was never at the apartment that night, but the camera at the front door recorded him arriving at eleven the night before.” Rush considered his interviewees and then continued, “What else can you tell me?” Brenda added, “And when confronted by the evidence, Warner said he came to the building but never went to Ogden’s apartment. He claims he left by the back door of the complex.” “However, the camera at the front door showed him leaving at two in the morning.” “The ex is definitely a suspect then, to you both?” Rush asked. “We think he’s hiding something, and it could be Jake’s murder.” It was obvious both Brenda and Brandon were uncomfortable with the idea. Rush thought about their discussion and then remembered the inventory list and pulled it out of his folder. He pushed the sheet across the table toward the firefighters. Brenda picked it up and looked over it briefly. She handed it to Brandon, who looked more closely. “It’s just the list the police made of the items they found in the apartment.” “Is there anything that jumps out at you about the list?” “Not really,” Brandon said, running a finger down the paper. “It seems about right. The place was rather neat and clean and it wasn’t filled with crap like most homes.” “Is there anything missing on this list?” Rush asked. “It doesn’t list everything, I suppose,” the firefighter said. “For example, it doesn’t list the couch and table, the candy dish with change and the blankets. I mean, it lists the little items that are scattered about, not those things that are supposed to be there.” “That’s because the scene is preserved in photos, but those small items can tell big stories,” Rush said, handing over the small folder with the scene photos. “What about these?” “Nothing strikes me as odd,” Brandon said. “It was just a tiny apartment with a dead man inside of it.” “Yeah,” Rush said, watching them closely. “One more question.” “Yeah?” Brenda looked up from the pictures. “How did you catch the call for the fire at Sunset Pawn? That’s quite a way away from here.” Rush asked. “Oh,” Brenda said. “Do you remember the Sunset Pawn heater thing?” Brandon’s eyes continued poring over the photos. He said, “We were at the Cub grocery store when that call came through. We were only a couple blocks away.” “Is that normal?” Rush asked. “Brandon likes that Cub better.” “Meat counter is better,” the firefighter added, and then he shook his head looking at another picture of the tragedy. “God, this is sad.”
  10. Cole Matthews

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist

    That is a wicked good story! Thanks so much for bringing Halloween to life like this. 👍
  11. Cole Matthews

    Caption This Challenge! Halloween Edition

    Morgan turned to face his stalker; the bright light blinding him as the shadow approached. The weight of the tire iron reassured him, though his mouth was parched with fear.
  12. Cole Matthews

    Story Review: The Web

    Ran will have to read this story. He’s terrified of spiders and this is deliciously sinister! 👍
  13. Cole Matthews

    Mendelev's Periodic Table

    I love seeing other people compare the elements to people. In elevators, observe how people chose where they stand. Four people who don't know each other will be spaced at equal distances from each other. People with affinities to one another gravitate together, while those without affinities (bonds) will space themselves from the others also at equal distances. We are controlled by our bonds and affinities, it's true. Great job!!!
  14. Cole Matthews

    Three Autumn Offerings

    I liked these poems very much. The first one was lovely and the second one evocative. But, I liked the third one the best because it really portrays friendship in a way that is so shockingly true. Oftentimes, friendship is something overlooked, but in this poem, you show in depth how powerful and necessary good friendships are. Very, very impactful.
  15. New chapter of So Weeps the Willow is out.  Salix Babylonica Chapter 2 - Haunted is live.  Twyla remembers Jake and she struggles with her husband's illness.  She also snicked a report from her attorney.  



  16. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 1 Listless

    Clay's coming up again soon. Next up, we have Twyla dealing with her husband's illness and a memory of her brother. There is another aspect to Jake she recalls. Thanks for the comment!
  17. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 1 Listless

    He's a teenager. I doubt he'll volunteer the information to Rush and Ben. However, that doesn't mean it won't get out. Thanks!
  18. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 1 Listless

    When you get the job you dream of, it can either disappoint or when it's gone, it's like the death of a loved one. For Rush, it's definitely a funeral. He's without a job at this point, but I have a sneaking suspicion he'll be part of solving this mystery. It''s hard for him though, and for Clay as well. Thanks for the great comments.
  19. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 1 Listless

    I'm glad you remembered that scrap of paper. It's coming up!! Never fear. As far as the pieces to this puzzle, there are far more than the picture needs. Rush and Ben will be putting them together and tossing out the pieces that don't fit. Actually, that is a very apt comparison to what I'm doing with this story. Thank you for the insightful comment!!
  20. Cole Matthews

    Salix Bablyonica - 2 - Haunted

    Salix 2 – Haunted Twyla sipped her herbal tea, which she’d laced with a bit of brandy. Okay, it was more than a touch. But, it helped her sleep. It was hard getting to sleep lately. The news earlier in the day may have made it a little easier, or so she hoped. Her husband was sleeping on the couch with a slight grin on his lips. Steve looked peaceful and relaxed. His face was gaunt and his skin had a grayish hue to it, but otherwise he could be a resting child, innocent and calm. Twyla picked up the stapled pages on the end table next to her chair. She read the top line again, and then set it back down. She didn’t have the courage to read it, not yet. She needed to collect her thoughts and consider her next step. Her family came first, and as she looked back over at Steve, she remembered the appointment. The one she didn’t want to remember. “The cancer is slowing.” Steve looked at Twyla, his mouth slightly opened in astonishment. “Let me emphasize the word, slowing,” his oncologist said. “Steve’s not out of the woods yet. The aggressive treatments are causing him problems, like weight loss and nausea, but it seems to be working. If you want to fight this, it will be difficult, but we are seeing positive signs.” “It’s working, though. I did hear you right?” Steve asked. “Yes. We probably need to increase the dosage, and we are looking at using an additional trial drug, if you’re willing to consider it,” she answered. “He’s so weak now,” Twyla said, looking at Steve’s ashen face, now showing a little spot of color in his cheeks. “How much more can he take?” “Honey, I’m fine,” Steve patted her hand and squeezed it. “There is hope then?” Twyla could hear the fear around the kernel of excitement in her husband’s voice. Or, was she feeling the fear she had for him--? And her? And the kids. Fuck! “Steve’s liver and kidney functions are good. The tests show his system is handling the toxicity with no problems so far. The team thinks he is a good trial candidate for even more aggressive treatment. That is, if you are willing to do so.” “Twyla and I need to talk about it,” Steve said, suddenly. “Can we have a minute?” “You can have the night if you like,” Dr. Sirtis said, leaning forward. “You don’t have to decide right now.” “Can you give us five minutes,” Steve said to her. “I want to do this, but I need to talk with Twyla first.” “Sure,” the doctor said, getting out of her chair. She moved quickly from the room, looking back at Twyla with a look of concern. “What’re your thoughts?” he asked, looking straight into her eyes. Steve looked intense, but not grim. His face was flushed, excited, and vital. She could feel something he’d been missing. Her husband was exuding confidence. “Are you sure you can handle this?” Twyla asked knowing the answer. “I need to do this. It’s my only chance, and it looks like I can beat this. For the first time since we found out, it’s like I have a chance,” Steve said earnestly. “It’s so hard watching you suffer,” she said, swallowing her tears. “You barely eat, and you can’t sleep.” “Listen, my buddy, Mark, has connections, and he is going to hook me up with some pot. The anti-nausea medication doesn’t work, but maybe if I get stoned, it will help.” Twyla tried to picture her buttoned-down, asthmatic husband toking on a joint or sucking on a little brass one-hitter, and smiled. “You’re kidding right?” “I’m not,” Steve answered. “And there are these brownies they make…” Twyla then remembered a night in college. It was right after they’d met. Steve took her to a party and a bowl had been passed around. She toked on it a little, more for appearance’s sake than to get high. Steve had taken it from her, and winked. He sucked deeply on the joint, and that had started him coughing. He couldn’t stop, hacking so hard, it sounded like it hurt. After a couple of minutes, his friends razzing him about his choking, Steve stood up, covered his mouth, ran to the bathroom. She followed, somewhat amused, but also worried. Sounds of him vomiting could be heard from the other side of the door. After a few disgusting minutes, he emerged and they left. Steve never talked about that episode, and he’d never smoked anything since then. If Steve was desperate enough to smoke pot, he’d do anything. She told him to have the treatments, to accept the aggressive dosages and they’d do it together. As long as she had hope, it was worth it. When the doctor returned, Twyla repressed her doubts. They were doing it. The treatments started that very day, and now Steve was sleeping. He hadn’t eaten. He wasn’t well. But, he was trying. Trying was the best they could do. Though what a trying day it had been. Twyla picked up the pages again, looking at the writing at the bottom of the first page. It warned, Confidential Materials for Attorney Eyes Only. Someone had accidentally left it in the folder with the papers that Twyla had to sign. Twyla stole these papers. Something made her do it, but now gave her pause. Why did she do it? What was in this report? Was she wrong about Jake’s case? Was she losing her mind? She thought about the meeting a couple of hours earlier, at the law firm, after hearing about Steve’s chances. Twyla sat listening to Laura and felt such relief. “Unfortunately, that means we must stop looking into the matter, for now. The police have determined this is a possible homicide, which overrides our ability to gather information. We’ve been told to stand down. Criminal investigations always take precedence over civil matters. I’m sorry about that.” Twyla knew that’s why they were meeting. Jake’s case was being suspended and she needed to sign papers acknowledging the situation and holding the firm harmless for their inactivity. Discovery, this bizarre stage in the case of collecting facts and information, was formally over. Discovery now stopped as the firm sent their reports and depositions, police inventories and call records over to the sheriff’s department. “I want you to know, we don’t think it’s a criminal matter. The police are required to look into it, but I’m sure in a couple of weeks, it will go forward,” Hardinger said, and yet it sounded unpersuasive. Twyla, who had been rather numb since getting there, spoke up. “Do you really think it’s not a criminal case?” The attorney sitting across from her looked up and cocked her head to the side. “Of course, we think—” “No. Laura, do you really think my brother wasn’t murdered or do you have to say that?” Something in Twyla made her doubt the attorney’s affect. She wasn’t telling her the truth. Akind of bell rang out in her head like it did with her mother, and like it had with Jake so many times. The attorney shook her head at first and then slowly stopped, and gave the other woman a sad look. “I don’t know Twyla. I really thought we had a good case. It seemed pretty clear cut and the heater obviously killed him, but…” her voice trailed off. “I appreciate everything your firm has done,” Twyla said. She’d struck a chord in the other woman. That was obvious. “The whole point of this was to make the guilty party pay. I wanted someone to be accountable, but not the wrong one.” She stopped for a moment noticing Hardinger was now quietly listening and absorbing every word. “If a guilty party murdered my brother, I want that person to pay for the crime. Everyone seemed so sure he died in a horrible accident. I wish that were true, but it never did feel right.” “What do you mean?” Hardinger asked, leaning closer. “You never knew my brother,” Twyla began. “He was a very self-destructive person sometimes. Oh, he was smart and lovable, but he also had this side to him that seemed lost and afraid. He did horribly reckless things in his life, and for a heater to accidently poison him seems a little too out of character.” The attorney squinted and peered at Twyla. “I’m not understanding your point. How is an accidental death to a person who was reckless out of character?” Twyla sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to explain it right.” “I’m very confused, I admit,” Hardinger said. She opened the folder and pulled out papers. That’s when Twyla saw it, the report with the warning at the bottom. Something about it seemed to call to her. The attorney got up, turned to the credenza behind her, and without thinking, Twyla fished the report out. Without looking at it, she rolled it up and thrust it into her bag, folding it so it didn’t show. When she looked up again, Laura was looking at her. There was a question posed on her lips. “Let me see if I can explain myself,” Twyla said, cutting off the other woman’s question. “Let’s say they found Jake dead from alcohol poisoning or from an overdose. I would expect that. If I got a call and Jake had been beaten to death by some guy in an alley, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Even if I found he’d been shot and died from a gunshot wound or had been stabbed with a knife, I’d have been sad and shocked, but that was Jake. His life was a mess especially when he was using.” “We know he’d stopped using though. He was a week sober if his diary can be trusted.” Twyla nodded. “That’s true, and I do think he’d stopped, but it wasn’t the alcohol or the drugs that made him take risks. It was a part of him that was scared and so he’d do things that proved he was brave, or worthy or something. Foolhardy things, like when he was quarry diving in Wisconsin.” Twyla threw up her hands in frustration. She noticed the attorney was no longer fussing with things, and was paying attention to her. Laura had settled in her chair. The papers were forgotten. The case wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Twyla found the courage to continue explaining. “Jake went with some friends when he was first in college to a party at a farm in Wisconsin. On this farm was an old quarry, limestone, and it had filled with water. Some of the guys were jumping from a lower ledge into the water, which was only a few feet deep. The rim of the quarry wasn’t far from the water so it really wasn’t very dangerous. “However, there was a high ridge on the other end of this quarry. It was tall, very high, and a couple of guys were bragging about diving from that cliff into the water. Keep in mind, this was solid rock, unforgiving, without any sand or silt to cushion the blow.” Twyla paused and took a breath and, then continued, “Some of the guys were daring him to try it. The water was pretty low since it was August or something, so no one else was going to try. They were just kidding him. I know that now, but at the time….” “So, you were there?” Laura asked. “I was there with Steve. We were tanning on towels alongside the quarry. There were the normal sounds of people swimming and joking and playing, and all of a sudden, we heard a splash and then a wail. It sounded like a cry from hell, it was so bad.” “We jumped up and looked over the edge and I saw my brother, swimming towards us and shouting. He was struggling in the water and a couple of his friends jumped into the water and helped him get to the edge. They had to lift him up and we pulled Jake by his right arm. His left was broken, his shoulder dislocated, and he was bleeding from a deep cut in his forearm. “I was so mad at those guys for goading my brother into something so stupid. I was pissed at Steve too, because he joined the other guys in taunting Jake.” “That was dangerous of them,” Laura said. “No, it wasn’t dangerous to anyone except Jake. My brother always had to prove he was just as good as anyone else, and so he found trouble every chance he had.” Twyla finished her story, and Laura then nodded and said, “You think something else caused the heater malfunction. You think Jake was targeted.” Twyla wiped her eyes. “I hate feeling this way and it makes me sick to think such things, but Jake got himself into trouble. From the moment we got the call and they said it was an accident, I knew they were wrong. Jake’s whole life seemed to be headed for an early grave and it seemed so unlikely a faulty heater killed him. “The worst part is, I feel guilty about having such feelings about my brother, who I loved dearly.” “It’s hard when we lose people, especially ones we worried about.” Twyla nodded and looked over at the attorney. “Thanks for your help, but I’m guessing this is goodbye.” Laura Hardinger began handing her client papers and Twyla started signing. Twyla picked up the pages next to her and began to read. It was a memo to the file about the defense counsel’s work. The company that made the switch had hired a private investigator. The investigator had contacts in the police department that leaked him leads about connections between Jake and the other guy, Wylie, found later. Apparently, they were both regular customers at Gallivant’s, which Twyla avoided like the plague. It was a creepy place with overly strong drinks, strange people, and the rough type of crowd, the kind Jake loved. This guy they found later was probably gay, or at least bisexual, and there was speculation he and Jake had hooked up. Steve Wylie, the other guy, had a kinky ad on some personal dating site. They found text messages in the guy’s phone from Jake’s phone. They were pretty graphic, according to the author of the memo. The memo concluded that Jake’s case was dead in the water. The connections between Wylie and Jake suggested a double murder had occurred and there would be no civil case in the end. The heater had been tampered with, probably by someone with a mechanic’s or electrical background. Twyla set down the pages and smiled. Laura Hardinger knew it and kept this from her. Her lawyer outright lied to her. That meant she couldn’t be trusted. However, she now had a lead. She had a name and a phone number that could provide her some answers. Rush Romer.
  21. Randy read and loved it. I will post when needed. Should I do so now or wait? Please advise. Im not sure how this works with the newsletter. Cole
  22. Cole Matthews

    Discovery - Chapter 5

  23. Cole Matthews

    Discovery - Chapter 7

    I don't know the story about the murder. However, there is a short story which introduces readers to Clay and I named the story Boy River. I did so because of something his boyfriend did to him and it is referential to the sex trade. Since there is a town called that in northern Minnesota, I used the locale as Clay's hometown. Thanks, Cole
  24. Hi! This is the discussion thread for So Weeps the Willow, a story in three parts. The first section of the tale is called Sobriety, and it involves the blog entries of a young man in his mid-thirties who is abusing alcohol. Jake Ogden is troubled, and we will get to know him through his own words and reactions to the events of the day. His approach with using a blog as a kind of 'talk therapy' has generated some interesting comments. Please feel free to add your thoughts and opinions. Cole Matthews.
  25. Cole Matthews

    Has it been 16 Years? Yup.

    Happy Birthday!!! Thank you Myr and thanks to all who help keep the lights on here. It's hard to quantify and qualify how this place has changed my life. I've written lots of stuff in the past but never really found my voice. Then, I found this place. It inspired me to try again, and this time I wrote a whole novel. It only primed the pump because the encouragement, the support, the wonderful critiques and suggestions, have all helped me to grow as a writer. I continue to write and read and critique because of this community of artists. Writers and readers come and go, and come back, and so this is a sustainable colony of people working on their creations and enjoying other people's stories. The longevity isn't a fluke. It's because people are committed to keeping the ship afloat and doing so with style, care, and love. Sincerely, Cole

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