Thursday, June 23, 2011

Corpses Wrapped in Dirty Sheets…

An infestation of bats, toilet paper down river, a wizard’s battle sneak peek, Fat Duck - a genius, Falling Skies might fall, Island Gal talks Santa, and more…

Poverty makes for interesting housing: Of all the emails I receive, the most surprising to me are the ones commenting about my childhood experiences. It seems that people enjoy hearing about true stories, especially when they show what an unusual childhood I lived.
My dad never made it past the eighth grade, which meant that in the world’s eyes he wasn’t qualified for a decent paying job. In Maine, in the 1960s, junk cars and broken machinery could often be found beside the road and in fields next to every other home. My father spent his days tracking down the land owners, getting permission to pick up these old iron hulks he would then sell to a salvage yard for barely enough money to support his family, which included my four-year-old self and two young sisters.
We lived in an old, dilapidated farmhouse with no heating system, only cold water and an outhouse. The electricity didn’t work much of the time, sometimes because the bill wasn’t paid and other times because the rural lines were down. One winter, when a predicted three-inch snowstorm turned into an angry four-foot nor’easter, the snow drifted so high we could only see outside from the second floor windows. My dad had to dig a tunnel just to get out the front door. This particular storm coincided exactly with my younger brother’s due date, which meant for four days my mother lived knowing that if she went into labor, there would be no medical help.  
Fortunately, nature—or my brother—held off for another few weeks.
Knowing that we couldn’t live like that any longer, my dad did the best he could and arranged the purchase of a rundown building in the city. It stood on a corner lot, sandwiched between a huge warehouse and a railroad track. Riddled with issues that ranged from dangerously steep stairways, to numerous past fires to an infestation of bats, it wasn’t the greatest place to raise a family.
Only a few thousand feet from the Androscoggin River, which was a literal open sewer at that time, our neighborhood often smelled bad enough to make visitors gag. I remember many days sitting on the river bank and watching clumps of toilet paper and brown foam churn over the falls and bob downriver like corpses wrapped in dirty sheets.
Our new home wasn’t all bad, though; by the time my youngest brother and sister were born (there were six of us then), I had made a few friends and had found that life in the city at least offered a nearby park and a library. Unfortunately, the fighting between my parents had grown worse. In an attempt to escape the insane screaming and sometimes physical battles, my older sister and I moved upstairs into the two ancient rooms on either side of the open attic where bats and lord knew what else resided. Several mysterious and dark crawl spaces also haunted our imaginations.
I remember waking one particular night in my room on the railroad side of the building. I had long since grown used to sleeping through the vibration and noise of the passing freight trains, but when I woke and jumped bolt upright in bed, I knew something was wrong. A cold breeze whipped through my room. Confused, I looked around and realized that my entire window was gone. The passing train must have shaken it loose from its frame. I poked my head out to see thousands of glass shards strewn across the sidewalk four stories below me.
Tired and cold, I sat down on the floor, pulled my blankets around me, and stared out past the railroad bridge at the distant moonlit rooftops.
It was a beautiful night.

Fat Duck’s perfect day: Every few blogs, I find myself wanting to report that Fatty has reached some new pinnacle of success, that he has somehow exceeded the expectations of not just myself but of his growing legion of fans. Well, yesterday was that day.
I went out onto the porch at the usual time of around eight in the morning and opened his cage. I then tossed him several fresh slices of bread to eat in peace before I flung the rest of the loaf out to Original Duck and his twenty or so Canadian visitors. Too impatient to wait for Fat Duck to finish breakfast, I went inside and immediately got caught in a string of phone calls.
An hour and a half later, I reemerged on the porch to see Fatty had waddled about forty feet from the side porch to the front porch where he was now resting comfortably next to the front door. Confused, I retraced my steps and realized there wasn’t a single duck poop anywhere along his trail.
Knowing for sure he was sitting on a mess, I returned to the front and gently urged him to fly down into the yard with the rest of the outdoor children. For once, he didn’t balk and instead gracefully flew over to his hay bale to begin his day’s work as our lawn ornament.
I hardly noticed, however, because there wasn’t even one mistake anywhere on the porch. Fat Duck had been on the porch for nearly two hours and hadn’t made a single mess.
I knew he was special and almost certainly a genius of his species!
This morning, I let Fat Duck out of his cage and went inside to answer some emails while he finished breakfast.  Half an hour later, I returned to the porch to see not one, not two, but five separate poops leading like breadcrumbs around the corner of the porch. And, there, sitting proudly by the front door was my little white friend perched on top of yet his sixth present of the morning.
He’s special alright.

My Review of Falling Skies, (2-hour pilot episode) TNT television show starring Noah Wyle, produced by Stephen Spielberg.
My rating «« (two out of five stars)
On the cusp of being mediocre or worse..., 23 June 2011
I should first say that I’ve been working some ridiculous hours, almost to the point of unmanageable, so when I sat down to watch this show the first time, I fell asleep within the first twenty minutes. Fortunately, a kind soul recently invented the DVR so all was not lost. I successfully finished the show the next night and thought it was okay but definitely just that.
Noah Wyle stars as Tom Mason, the father of three boys, who have all survived the first wave of alien invaders here on Earth (Massachusetts, to be exact). Sometime before the show opens, one of Tom’s sons has been kidnapped and enslaved by an alien “collar” that looks like nothing so much as a giant cockroach pressed against his spine and neck. With much of the population dead, Tom finds himself and his remaining teen son pressed into service in a last ditch human military resistance. His youngest boy seems to have been tossed into a few scenes as a failed attempt at emotionally hooking the audience.  
I’d like to tell you that something amazing beyond the typical post-apocalyptic fare happens, but I’m sorry to say that the ragtag group of 100 freedom fighters lead 200 civilians through the typical landscape of abandoned cars and burnt-out buildings. The acting seems for the most part to be half-hearted and the costumes and overall cast appearance can best be described as disheveled and uninspired. The casting of Will Patton as the tough-as-nails military leader is especially notable for its lack of originality. Patton is effectively playing an alter-ego of the similar but villainous military group leader he played in Kevin Costner’s post-apocalyptic movie The Postman (1997).  
Effectively this show represents Stephen Spielberg’s War of the Worlds for TV minus a major network budget. I would have been forced to rate this lower, but summer is always slow for supernatural or alien shows and Noah Wyle has done some incredible TV in the past, so I’m holding out hope that he and the producers can somehow rise above the obvious budget limitations and deliver something more than what has started out to be moderately watchable drivel.  

Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End, update: I fear you may all be disappointed that I don’t have the exciting news I was hoping for. I learned this morning that edits are still incomplete and likely won’t be available to me for at least another few days to maybe two weeks. I also have not received the next round of edits for Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers, which gives me at least another few days to finish up my Bones in the Tree story. With some luck, it will be available sometime next week. I’ll update you in Sunday’s blogJ.
I did want to leave you with a small excerpt from Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End however. Here it is…
“Zach, hurry!” Though his father hollered, his voice could barely be heard over the harsh sounds all around them. Surprisingly strong for a small man, his father nearly ripped his good arm out of its socket as he pulled him through the doorway.
“Get into the bathroom!”
Zachary hurried to do as asked and ducked as a bat with blood red eyes hurtled past his head. It made a sickening splatter as it struck someplace in the bedroom behind him.
“Enough!” Zachary’s father shouted in a voice so loud it made Zachary’s ears hurt. Another bat bounced off the hallway wall and hurtled toward them, but his father chanted something and a bolt of blue light burst out of the wand and struck it in mid-flight. Blinded from the flash, Zachary heard the bat fall in wet thump on the hallway floor not far from him. The air was filled with the sickly smell of charred flesh. He felt his father’s hands thrust him into the bathroom and he heard the door pulled shut.

“Lock it!” his father ordered.

Ashamed to leave his father alone with the bats but too terrified to do anything but obey, Zachary groped along the door and forced his trembling fingers to turn the lock. Then, he backed away until his cast struck the towel rack on the back. Pain vibrated through his arm like a hammer struck cymbal. He fought the need to scream, but couldn’t stop the breath that came and went in great gasps. Needing to hear what was going on, he clamped his good hand over his mouth and tried to block the sound of his own sobs.

“Krage, I’m done with this!” his father bellowed.
Simultaneously, a flash framed the bathroom door with a blinding blue stripe. Then everything went black again. Something heavy thumped into the door. Zachary feared for the worst.
“Dad?” he whispered. Then more loudly, “Dad!”
There was an explosion of glass, from the living room maybe, and loud crashing and banging sounds reverberated from all over the apartment. Suddenly, another flash of blue light left spots of blue light swimming in Zachary’s eyes after everything went dark again. Something was different this time, though; the darkness was accompanied by silence. No crashing, no wind, nothing. Zachary could hear his own heart beating in his ears.
The knob jiggled.
“Get away from there!” his father hollered from somewhere in the kitchen.
Blue light flashed again revealing dark curls of smoke, and something like a heavy boot struck the bathroom door. Zachary coughed and grabbed for a towel to cover his nose and mouth from the smoke that was making it hard to breathe. He heard feet run past the bathroom door.
“Tell Krage I’m coming for him!” his father yelled. “Tell him I’m coming!”

Thanks, Island Gal, for your positive review of The Santa Shop (Paperback)
Her review…
««««« (five out of five stars)
Poignant and uplifting, June 15, 2011
Tim Greaton has written an incredible book. It takes the reader on a journey through twelve months with a man whose life takes a tragic turn on Christmas Eve. His self-imposed guilt, surrounding that evening, weighs him down until he decides to take his own life. What happens at that moment shows us how we are magically tied together as humans. How every thoughtful thing we do, or say, to each other, can help lift another person up from the depths of depression. Can inspire them to do something positive with their life. And may save their life.
The Santa Shop is a truly inspirational book. J.

My Thanks: I once dreamt of writing for a living. Though a lot of my time is spent writing for nonprofit corporations and charities around the country, work that is incredibly fulfilling and that I will continue to do long after it is required on my end, each and every day more of my income comes directly from readers of my books. Please know that I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation.


  1. Wow, Tim, you had me going with your story, Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End. Now I am wondering what happened next!

    About Fat Duck, I often wonder if animals don't have a sense of humor. They do the darnest things!

    As for your memoir from childhood. Sounds like you really didn't have the easiest time of it. I am always happy to hear when others have survived such difficulties and done something with their lives. You and Tammy are examples of that!

  2. Hi, Suzie. Everyone at Focus House Publishing is really convinced that "Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End" is going to be a big book. I guess we'll know soon enough. It certainly seems to have generated a lot of excitement.

    Fat Duck definitely has a sense of humor, to the extend he has any sense at all. He did a lot of wandering around the yard today. Normally he's a stay in one spot kind of duck.

    I think that I picked up a serious streak because of the environment we grew up in, but it also gave me a sense of certainty about the kinds of things children should never have to endure. I believe my wife and I owe a lot of our parenting skills (which have worked out well judging by our children) to our desire to not repeat the mistakes of our parents. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my wife is an absolute angel on Earth and a naturally amazing mother :-)

  3. What a childhood. My father came from a family of fifteen but he didn't live as bad as that. I loved that with all your hardships, you could look out at the night sky and think it beautiful.

    I enjoy your duck tales.

  4. Tim, your passion is so clear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  5. I recognise my own chldhood in elements of your own, but in England. It is a part of what makes you and I appreciate what's been given to us. Enjoyed the ZP excerpt, too :)


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