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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inside the Needle

I never planned on writing another novel. It's tedious, lonesome, and exhausting. Besides, I didn't have one to write. If you force it, add frustrating anger to the list.

A few years ago, I wrote a science fiction trilogy, The Socket Greeny Saga. It didn't make me famous or rich, but that wasn't the point. It was a character and a story that was inside my skull. Once they got out, I was tapped. There was nothing left to write.

Until the Needle appeared.



It started with a character, Danny Boy. Then another one, later to be named Reed. What was going to happen and what they were to discover unfolded rapidly. Two days later, I had outlined 25 chapters, beginning to end.

Most of my writing occurs in my head, unfolding on its own. I just need to make space. My wife and kids tell me I get the 1000-mile stare. And then I'm lost on the keyboard for hours at a time, but I remember something Stephen King once said: the writer's desk shouldn't be in the center of the room. That's for family. For life.



But now I've a story. It might take two months or a year to complete, but there's no hurry. It won't pay the bills, but it'll look something like this:


Inside the Needle
by Tony Bertauski



Sunday, September 11, 2011

2,977

I don't remember where I was when JFK was assassinated. My mother was still in high school. I wasn't even the proverbial gleam at that point.

But I remember where I was ten years ago.



I took my daughter to a new playground. She was three. Bob and Tom had just announced on the radio that a plane had hit one of the towers. I imagined a small plane, a private one, that got off course, maybe the pilot had a heart attack.  I watched my daughter run across the wood chips with a sinking feeling. That instinctual feeling the pulls coldly when the phone rings late at night. That feeling when you can't find your kid in the toy store.

When I got to work, everyone was gathered around a TV. Together, we watched the second tower collapse. A desperate sensation of loss opened inside me. I didn't know anyone that lived in New York. I didn't know any of the people that perished in that moment of live TV. Still, I wanted to cry.

2,977 people died.

Our ignorance can feel so bottomless.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Student Observations: The Street Inside

He was big man. Intimidating to look at, but the nicest guy you'll meet.

He was taking classes part-time because he had a family and worked his ass off in between. He was often late, but always called. Always put in the extra time because he wanted to know this stuff. When his grades were lousy, he never complained. He asked what he did wrong. How he could do better.

He was about year into our program when he and a few evening students were still in lab. I told them about the time a stranger called my wife and told her he'd kill her if he found out who she was.

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Big man's eyes widened. "I'd *69 that mutherfucker and be on his porch in five minutes."

The reaction, it was genuine. It was for real. I never knew that was in him. For a moment, it was right there in front of us. Probably something he didn't want us to see, but the story triggered something. Then he put it back inside.

"All this," he said, gesturing to the warm, gentle smile we were accustomed to, "it didn't always used to be this way."

He grew up in a bad part of Charleston. Knocked around the streets, gangbanged his way through the early years. For the first time, I noticed the small scars on his face. He talked a bit about it, but not bragging.

"Nothing scares me, man," he said, not boasting. Just stating a fact. Then got back to the business at hand.

It was behind him.