Works In Progress

Current works in progress. Have a peek at some excerpts, check out the cover art or just get a feel for what DJ Cooper is up to.

Civil War

Second in the Nine Meals from Anarchy series of stories.

Synopsis:

Sir Alfred Henry Lewis noted in 1909, “Mankind is only nine meals from anarchy.”

How true this is, the second book in the set of books outlining the first nine meals of a scenario. Check out the excerpt for the opening to this great read.

Excerpt


I’d only wanted a pleasurable morning, and this was turning out to be a serious detriment to my psyche. Rather than face off against the gruff waitress, I opted for the lesser of miseries by choosing the table syrup rather than invoke the wrath of the waitress again. Grasping the translucent plastic ketchup style bottle with the brown sticky syrup in it, I tipped it upside down and prepared to squeeze out a string of this thick ooze onto my flat slabs flecked with black spots.

Waiting for it to slide to the tip of the bottle, my thoughts trailed off. “This was not how I’d intended to have breakfast.” As I awaited the agonizingly slow descent toward the opening of the container, again I thought about how I’d not gone shopping and was instantly remorseful. After this fiasco, I would not be remiss in this task again, or I’d likely better be prepared to face another bout of waitress rage.

I could never understand it. When I worked the same kinds of jobs in the past. Constant complaining by waitstaff about the customers and how they wanted this or that. “But that’s your job.” As waitstaff it is your job to wait on customers, see to their needs and smile sweetly no matter that a guy at the last table grabbed your ass, or the kids cried when you left this morning. Your job is to pretend you have nothing better to do with your days than see to every whim of the customer’s palate and smile while doing it. I would often remind younger waitresses how their tips depended on their demeanor and could not understand this one. I’d surveyed the diner and it was indeed busy but the staff were not running about in a confused frenzy. Our waitress was laughing with other at the waitress station while rolling up some silverware into napkins. There was no indication of anxiety or angst between them that could be outwardly seen.

Finally, the syrup had made its way to the cap and was ready to be applied to the pancake slabs. Grasping the bottle, I gave it a squeeze.

Plop!

The top had not been screwed onto the bottle properly and I now had a deluge of gelatinous brown sticky liquid oozing over the sides of the plate, onto the table, and headed for my lap in a slow creeping motion. Looking about the room of tables, searching for a savior with those ever present white soggy towels. There was none to be seen anywhere. No one. The waitress was suddenly missing as I sat looking at the floating rafts in my plate and contemplating how to avoid the wave headed for me in a slow-motion slide toward the table edge.

Looking first to my plate and then to my face; the combination of gelatinous slime headed for me in slow motion and horror as I tried to build a dam to divert the river anywhere but my lap must have been quite a sight. He laughed and offered me his napkin.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, the top just came off.” I said with some panic in my voice.

“Why are you eating that crap anyway?”

“Cause the waitress is so bitchy, I didn’t want to deal with it.”

He shook his head and looked around the room, as an old lady offered me her napkin from the next table.

After what seemed an eternity and the realities of the consequences of my failure to obtain the proper food items became more and more urgent in my thoughts. If I’d only gotten the stuff to just cook us breakfast, I wouldn’t be here right now. She sauntered over and asked my man if his food was ok; ignoring my precarious position with the ooze closing in on me. I was becoming angry, thinking to myself  “Is his food ok? Are you freaking serious right now?”

I interrupted her and asked, “Can I get a rag for this?” Feeling as though I’d done something wrong, I continued, “The top. It just popped right off.”

She rolled her eyes as she wadded up the placemat and told me to lift my plate of floating pancake rafts, so she could wipe. I’d become a little less than patient at this point and handed it to her saying, “I’m finished, thank you.”

She wiped up some of the deluge but left the rolled-up placemat and a huge swath in a now stable, sticky brown layer on the table in front of me, and the check to the side, never to return.

We sat there looking at the mess of a table. Questioning how we’d gotten to this point. I’d waited many a table over the years and it never got easier to watch bad service.

What causes waitresses to offer poor service? Bad day? Was it my fault? Not likely, sometimes they just don’t like you. Perhaps, they like your guy friend and treating you like crap is how they think they will get attention. Perhaps, they just don’t have a clue what they’re doing and you’ve just interrupted their smoke break.

 My boyfriend wasn’t happy with the service. “She’s getting no tip.” He said annoyed.

When rising to leave I said, “I’ve got the tip.”

Looking at me he raised his eyebrows in confusion, “Really?”  

I pulled a bill out of my wallet and slapped it hard onto the table. Right in the sticky mess she’d left there, making sure the entire bill was slathered in the lovely shade of brown sticky. Wiping my hands, I smiled at him and took his arm to go.

The old woman, with the napkin, brushed back a wandering piece of her white hair with her tiny crooked fingers. She’d been at the table beside us had seen the mess, she pointed her tiny finger at the bill, smiled and said, “That’s how it’s done honey.”

Smiling myself as we walked past her out the door, she winked at me. He grasped my arm before opening the door for me. Pausing momentarily and looking toward the waitress, I smooched him on his scruffy cheek and said, “Thank you darlin.”

My precious time with my boyfriend had been spent battling a surly waitress while staving off the wave of brown goo. If only I’d been more conscientious, I could have made even better food at home. The many times during the meal where I’d wished I’d not forgotten to stop made me realize how much more pleasant it is to just have a peaceful meal at home.

The ways our busy lives intrude on personal moments grow until there are none. We are working separate shifts, battling servers, or some other thing that robs us of the little time we have penciled in for one another. The world is disconnected in all its connections and people don’t know how to act in real personal situations.

The waitress, acting out in spectacular fashion, the others eating, each in their own little area of their table, never reaching out to the others nearby. The mother and daughter staring at their phones as they mindlessly shoveled in scrambled eggs. The one old man sitting at the counter eating alone.

Didn’t anyone see the murals on the wall, the farm, the community where people were visiting at the fence? I wondered if any of it was real, if anyone would notice the couple that struggled with a deluge of muck advancing in slow motion. There once was a day that people would notice, but no more.  The waitress would hurry over and correct the issue bringing you a fresh plate. Others around would laugh at the spectacle and  take bets if it would reach your lap, but no more. No one cared, except maybe the little old lady. She knew. She remembered; Sunday dinners and church suppers. I could see it in her eyes, the connection in just the one comment. She understood.

A thoughtful smile emerged on my face as I thought of the little old lady. Only a few words passed between us, but she’d noticed the goings on. This tiny woman with pure white hair, had spoken. “That’s how it’s done honey.” I smiled.

Maybe, just maybe… Breakfast was not all that bad after all.

The day like most other days we see social media posts about politics and foreign affairs, who did what that offended whom, and why we can’t post any good memes anymore. FanPages social media site has really come down hard on anything deemed to be outside of their acceptability standards; standards that seem to be subjective and inconsistent. We could see a video of an animal being abused but God forbid anyone poked fun at a screaming politician. The media now censoring everything, it is either too graphic for the public to see or considered too controversial and it might mislead the public opinion. It was all now little more than a circus, the three rings spinning incessantly riling up this group or that demographic.

It is as if there is some center stage; here the action is played out for all. There is no ring master only the clowns directing all of the action; orchestrating every move, directing every event or issue to incite the people. Oh, the spectacle of the political circus and we the people stand and cheer. As each act is unveiled in the political merry go round, the pandering begins. Let all hear, come close and see the next false event to distract the masses.

In some odd fashion things became extreme and almost crazy. Someone somewhere was offended by something and people needed legislating for every facet of their lives. I’m waiting for the true craziness to begin, for the pure silliness to take that center ring. We could all stand and watch as the circus began its next spectacle. Welcome to the stage the newest disgruntled group of people who need accommodating from the average guy. The guy with the house that has a yard of sand takes the stage; he claims that the house with grass is ruining his life because the grass wants to grow amidst his spectacularly worry free smooth golden waves. It’s slender green shoots rising from beneath the small yellow grit to create the unsightly speckled mottling of colors. It is an infringement on my space he screams.

“Yell it brother!” shouts the guy across the street.

He is triggered and the neighborhood must stick together. “Oh, the tragedy of grass, it encroaches and infringes on my space. Ban all grass for it is the root of all ecological tragedy. Here! I have a paper written by a non-ecologist to prove my point”

Now the town meets, but all grassland owners are excluded because the assumption is that they cannot be impartial. The decision is swift and decisive, the grass grower is a bigot who hates all people with sand yards and is plotting to have grass take over the neighborhood. All of the neighbors are shocked and begin to shun him. It is declared: All yards must look like other yards and be free from grass! The signs pop up amongst the other political pandering telling us to vote for the grass ban. It worked for straws; plastic straws are now replaced with paper ones standing proudly rising up in defiance of plastic and waving high above the rim in their plastic cups. We can dictate the yards people walk on just like we decided what they will drink with, what fast foods should be outlawed because they are fattening, and which history to allow and what history to eradicate.

The monumental implications of these wide sweeping and oppressive legislations that have been gaining in momentum are terrifying. With the new tendency to over legislate the populous for fear of offending someone — anyone; anything and everything we do is now legislated and regulated. So much so, that people are afraid to take a step without permission. Some days I wonder if George Orwell was some kind of a profit.

Again, we see it, this is the latest goal; it is to ban weapons, all of them. It wasn’t good enough to just go after the second amendment anymore; they decided arrows, knives and even decorative antique swords were implements of mass destruction. “Ban it all, end the violence.” The signs say.  The new legislation being laid out to take away the people’s right to bear arms has created a canyon between the candidates and their supporters. Not a divide or even a rift but a vast open void between two extremes. The election is tomorrow, and a new President will be elected. Every eight years there are brand new candidates, but this year there are eight of them. Political parties sprang up from all walks of life, each screaming their own agenda. All vying for the most coveted seat in town.

Elected — Pfft… that’s a joke. There are no real elections anymore. We have more voters on welfare, in prison, or simply in the country illegally, than we have citizens at this point. All paid a handsome price by some man behind a curtain pulling the puppet’s strings; bought and paid to pick a candidate. The non-taxpayers deciding where tax dollars go, now that’s the true circus.

I fear for our land because it seems that no matter who is elected there will be civil war! The media is playing on this for all it’s worth and neighbors are already choosing sides. Entire communities have begun cordoning off the roads in and out. Some homeowners have actually been run from their homes in areas where they do not fit into the political leaning of their neighbors. What have we become? I wonder.

We picked up some extra supplies in our wanderings, most definitely food; there will be no more pancake fiascos. We will likely stay close to home for now, but I still feel as though we won’t be prepared for what’s coming.

Today’s the day.

We rose early this morning to go and do our duty and vote. Sometimes I wonder if it is even worth it. Does my vote even count? The air is crisp with the scent of snow and most of the leaves are gone from the trees. We breezed through the local donut drive through for a coffee and bagel, there would be no omelets today either. We wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. As we drive into town to our local voting station, even in a small New England town such as ours we can see that there’s minor mayhem in the making. Signs line each side of the walkway leading to the voting booths. On the one side a loud woman screams nearly in my face, “If you don’t vote for what is right, it’ll be your fault when the next shooting happens.”

I hissed at her. “If people acted right and didn’t try to bully others into their way of thinking, there wouldn’t be any.” I would not be bullied or harassed into voting in a particular way, and that just ticked me off!

She stood glaring at me as the line slowly progressed. From the other side of the walkway a man shouted obscenities to a group of practically prepubescent voters who’d been taunting him. I wondered if they were even old enough to vote. All walks of life stood in line together, yet the division was stark. There would be no middle ground today, not even the fake niceties that most perform in civilized societies were offered. It was then that I knew for sure that this day would not end well.

We had anxiety the day before at the diner. Oh, the diner. I was still a little annoyed by that experience and preoccupied with the thought of the waitress flirting with my boyfriend. I chuckled a little, because he knew all along what she was doing and acted oblivious on purpose. Thoughts of the pancake fiasco brought moments of humor alternating with irritation, but overall it was a better day than this already promised to be.

Behind me I heard some shouting and glanced back to see what it was. Horror overtook me as I saw that sweet little old white-haired lady from the diner. She stood out of line looking down with her black patent leather purse clutched close to her chest. A young couple were pointing at her and shouting. “Get out of here old woman, your generation screwed this country up. Now it is our time.” They threw leaves and sticks at her and as I stood and watched the real terror came over me. The younger woman reached out and smacked the old lady, shoving her harshly making her stumble and fall into the fence.

I turned to look at my gallant man, but he was already gone. At six foot three he was an imposing figure. He towered over the young troublemakers and threatened to give back to them what they’d offered the lady. They cowered in his presence but once he’d helped the lady up and ushered her up to stand with us they began to shout insults again. The people behind us objected to her cutting in line but a glare from both of us ended that. We escorted the woman to the voting booth and stood guard for her to vote and then took our turns. We walked her to her car and as was his usual he opened her door and helped her in.

“Will you be ok?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yes, I’m sure I’ll be fine.” She looked to each of us with her wise eyes. A person could see the years in the pale green stare, the crepey way her skin lay on her face showed many years of laugh lines. She’d seen some stuff in her lifetime.

“Please,” I said. “Let me give you my phone number. If you have any troubles, just phone.”

“Thank you both for all of your help.”

She gave a tilt of her head and her eyes lit up. The memory inserting itself into her thoughts. “I remember you.” She smiled. “You’re pancakes.”

We all laughed, and she filled us in on what happened after we left. “That curt waitress? She didn’t come to clean the table right away we were also left to sit. Just to wait to pay.” She gave a bit of a sly grin. “When she did come back to bring our bill, she looked surprised to see the tip on the table and immediately snatched it up, shoving it directly into her pocket. It took her a moment to realize it was dripping with syrup.” She nodded knowingly at me. “If only you could have seen her face. It was worth the wait to watch it.” Her small hand went to her mouth to shroud the giggle.

We both giggled with her and I said, “Karma.”