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Mike Reuther books

4 Feb
blur book stack books bookshelves

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

 

Thanks for checking out my site. The image above with the bookcases holds all my titles. Okay. That’s a load of crap, but I have written books, about twenty at last count. Check out the link below to see what I’ve written. C’mon. It won’t take that long.

 

books2read.com/u/m0MMp0

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Searching for Sanity – a book excerpt

8 Jan

 

Chapter 1

Mondays were the worst. He would rise from bed, and after a brief period of noting his aching joints, his general malaise of having to shake off the morning lethargy to face the day, he realized it was another work week – a long endless parade of assignments he dreaded, and the overall feeling that something might go wrong, a foul-up of a story, a sudden pink slip.

But that was his life, at sixty-one, the wall he faced, until that door to retirement would creep open in a few years, that is, if he could afford it.

Steve Sloan didn’t ask for much. Thoughts of stardom, fame, riches he’d long assigned to that dusty bin of youth, when anything was possible, before reality creeped upon him, and life’s miseries had smothered him.

What he wanted, perhaps like every human being, was the feeling, that wonderful high, of late adolescence. To be eighteen again, when the world appeared as a carnival, when everything was there to taste and sample and partake, when anything really was possible.

He saw them come and go in the newsroom, where he sat at his cluttered desk, the twenty-somethings freshly sprung from colleges, eager, wide-eyed, hopeful of careers. He wanted to tell them, to shout at them, that it was all a myth, that careers, perhaps especially in journalism, were over-rated. But who was he, a miserable, frustrated old man, to issue such opinions? Let them dream, let them live, let them be crushed by reality. Was it not the best way to learn?

And yet, he too remained hopeful. Rays of sunshine penetrated his dark and depressed thoughts, and lit his soul. He could get fired up. Every day, the internet was filled with stories of outcasts and wanderers and even fools who shook off their demons and became rich entrepreneurs, reality TV stars, Tony Robbins-like cheerleaders, and even celebrated authors. He felt it silly to fall prey to such dreams. And yet …

For months the story obsessed and haunted him. Steve had come across another one of those stories of an otherwise obscure writer, a scribbler of short tales, who had suddenly crashed through the literary barriers, and emerged as a success.

Tom Waiter. Yes. That was his name, a heavy equipment operator, living out an otherwise anonymous life in some tiny town in North Dakota, for God sakes, when his book had become this literary sensation.

He was fifty-nine, nearly as old as Steve, when he’d caught his big break after years of scribbling out stories in longhand on his kitchen table. The story Steve pieced together from various sources he’d read on the internet was that Tom Waiter had tried unsuccessfully for many years to sell his stories to publishers.

Literary agents, those cruel gatekeepers to the publishing world, had informed him time and again that his stories, while perhaps good, were just not right for the reading public. Short stories didn’t sell, they said, especially tales of blue collar people and other unremarkable folks living out their lives on The Plains.

Waiter was a bachelor, who, until his recent success had never been farther east than Des Moines. As he told one interviewer, he had no mentors, and growing up as a farm boy, no real visions of being a writer. “There were no books in my home,” he stated. He hated farming and saw how farmers like his hardworking parents struggled and were forever at the whims of Mother Nature. He perceived his only hope out, and perhaps of gaining some degree of security in life, was to join the Air Force.

He had hopes of becoming an electrician, though he had only vague notions of such a job. It seemed to him a solid, perhaps viable means of launching a kind of career. But he scored too low on the military aptitude test to be considered for such training and was instead placed in the security police career field.

For four years, he lived out his life on Air Force installations, in Texas where he stood sentry next to B-52 Airplanes loaded with nuclear weapons, and later, reporting to work at a missile site in an underground bunker in his native state of North Dakota. Working security was lonely, boring, unchallenging work.

“I had a lot of time to think,” he told yet another interviewer. “Many times, I would just stand there in front of a plane in Texas while the wind was blowing off the flight line, or when I was down in that bunker, and just make up stories in my head.”

After his four-year military hitch was up, Tom Waiter returned to his parents’ farm.

“I was only home for two weeks when the tragedy happened,” he told an interviewer on a podcast.

It was the first recorded interview of Tom Waiter that Steve had come across. Tom Waiter’s voice was that of a plain, shy, soft-spoken man, of someone truly reared in a lonely, cold, unforgiving and altogether forgotten place such as North Dakota.

He went on to explain how his parents had been in the barn milking cows early one windy morning when the roof collapsed on the two of them, crushing them to death.

“Things kind of changed for me after that,” he said simply.

Tom Waiter went on to explain how he sold off the dairy cattle. As an only child, and few relatives living in the area and no one to take over the farming, he didn’t relish the thought of milking two-hundred cows every morning. “I hated farming. That bit of family misfortune, you might say, was my way out of agriculture.”

He found jobs on construction crews, doing just about any of the work that needed done. Eventually, he got familiar with driving bulldozers and other heavy equipment, but he grew tired of working for other people and started his own business, contracting his services out to companies. He built up a small fleet of bulldozers and dump trucks and half-loaders and added a few employees, working out of the family farm.

“I got restless,” he said.

The rest of the story Steve pieced together from different interviews Tom Waiter had granted to magazines, newspapers and other sources. A podcast, and it turned out, the last interview Tom Waiter gave anyone, filled in the rest of the story.

He was tired of the daily routine—of talking to customers, and heading out to worksites to move around dirt, and dealing with the hassles of bills and employees and maintaining the equipment. Many days, he wanted to quit. But what could he do? He had no training or any formal education beyond high school.

On his thirtieth birthday, he decided he was going to get drunk. It was a story he had told time and again to interviewers. He was not much of a drinker at all. He really didn’t like the taste of beer, and he’d only ever been drunk once in his life, when he’d downed too many Budweisers at a keg party next to the softball fields back at the Air Force Base in Texas. A couple of his fellow airmen got him back to his barracks and put him to bed fully clothed, where he fell into a drunken stupor and spent much of the following day throwing up into a latrine toilet down the hall.

He had vowed after that to never get drunk again. But now, years later, he felt that he deserved this night of revelry, this little misadventure, so contrary to his reserved nature and sober, uneventful life.

There was a roadhouse out on the highway, a place that drew a variety of locals—ranchers, farmers, young blue-collar workers. Basically, a shot and beer kind of place with a single television set at the far end of the bar where Tom Waiter took a seat and ordered a beer.

He had a plan: To drink slowly, and carefully. He figured, as a non-drinker, it would take just a few beers for him to get drunk anyway. He wouldn’t again make the mistake of slamming down beer after beer as he had foolishly done a decade ago back in Texas.

But after ordering a draft, he sat before it, staring at the yellowish, brown liquid in the mug. He recalled the day following his single drunken night, the churning of his stomach, his vomiting into the toilet. Beer, he thought, looked like urine.

He looked around him. It was early in the evening–happy hour–and the bar was mostly filled with drinkers well on their way to getting drunk. He touched the outside of the mug with a single index finger, noting the chill of the glass from the beer. He noted the foam from the beer and the tiny bubbles rising in the glass. Yes, he concluded, there was something perhaps to this idea of having a beer. Something altogether romantic.

He slowly lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip. Immediately, he was repulsed. He set the mug down on the bar and stared at the beer. Maybe he needed something to go with this foul drink, to perhaps neutralize the awful taste. Spotting a small bowl of peanuts nearby on the bar, he scooped up a handful of them and stared at his beer. He put a few of the peanuts into his mouth, chewed them up and swallowed before lifting the beer once again to his lips. This time, he took a good healthy gulp of beer. Once again, it tasted bitter, foul.

Bringing the mug down on the bar a bit too hard, some of the beer spilled from the rim of the glass. He looked furtively about him, wondering if anyone had spotted this fool who obviously couldn’t drink. He heard a man’s loud voice from the other side of the bar: “And I told that son-of-a-bitch I ain’t working for him no more.” And then laughter.

He sat staring at the beer, concluding that it was perhaps time to get the hell out of this barroom, where he clearly didn’t belong, when out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone slowly edge onto the barstool next to where he sat.

“Going through a divorce or just plain miserable?”

Tom Waiter turned.

An old man, well into his seventies, perhaps older, was turned toward him with a faint smile. He was dressed in a suit and tie, clearly out of place among the younger people in the bar in their blue jeans and plaid shirts and work boots.

“Nothing like that,” Tom Waiter said.

The man turned to the barmaid who had appeared before him. “Bring me a scotch and water,” he said.

“So,” he said, staring ahead. “Is this where everyone comes after their days of toil?”

Tom Waiter had already made up his mind that this old man was a man of means, someone important, but clearly nobody he knew, and likely not someone from around here. It wasn’t just the suit he wore, which seemed a bit big for him. He noted the cufflinks and the big ring on one of the fingers of his right hand. His thick mane of gray hair was neatly trimmed.

When his drink came, he brought the whiskey to his lips and took a small sip before bringing it down on the bar. He turned to Tom Waiter once again and studied him with a kind of calculating look that made him feel uncomfortable.

“What’s your business young man?” he said.

At first Tom Waiter wasn’t sure if the old man meant what he was doing here in this bar or if he meant his job. He decided on the latter.

“I have a small heavy equipment business.”

“Ah. And are you happy doing that?”

The old man was looking straight into Tom Waiter’s eyes. He was, Tom Waiter, concluded, someone who got right to the point.

Tom Waiter stared at his beer for a few moments. “I guess so,” he said.

The old man smiled. It was a disarming, knowing sort of grin.

“No. You’re not.”

“I’m not?” he said.

The old man shook his head. “Your response was vague, and it took you too long to answer.”

Tom Waiter wanted to take his beer and find another seat. He was not at all used to such direct dialogue. Clearly, this was a man who relished getting into other people’s heads. Perhaps he was a psychologist or one of those sociologists making a study of human nature.

The old man took another sip of his whiskey and turned once again to Tom Waiter.

“Okay. I’m not happy.”

“Now. That wasn’t so hard. Was it?”

“Look. Who are you?” Tom Waiter swiveled around on his bar stool and threw the old man a challenging look. Take that, he thought.

But the old man clearly was up to this challenge. “Most people don’t like to talk about their lives, at least with respect to their feelings and those tied to happiness.”

Tom Waiter said nothing. Hell. He wasn’t happy. He was clearly aware of that. The business did okay, at least well enough for him to pay the bills. It kept him busy.

“I’d say you’re what? About thirty-five. Thirty-six years old?” The old man sat now with his chin resting in a hand studying Tom Waiter.

“I’m thirty,” Tom Waiter said, feeling a bit miffed at the thought of someone thinking him older.

“Excuse me. You just look a bit older. Maybe it’s your face. I guess you’re outside a lot. These hot summers and cold winters in this part of the county. They can age a fella.” He continued studying Tom Waiter.

“I guess,” Tom Waiter said. “Listen, what do you want? Are you selling something? You’re asking a lot of questions.”

“A lot of questions? I suppose so, but I enjoy talking to people, finding out about them, learning about their lives.”

“Why?”

“Why? Why not?” he said in a slightly annoyed tone.

Good, Tom Waiter thought. Perhaps now he would go away, find some other bar patron to bother with his probing questions. But Tom Waiter clearly misjudged the man.

“Do you have a family young man?”

“No. My parents are both dead.”

“Oh. Well that’s a shame. But what I meant was, do you have your own family? Are you married?”

“No. Not married.”

The old man shook his head and looked out toward the dining room. He seemed to mull this little bit of information in his brain for a few moments. “You’re not married. You’re not happy in your chosen avocation.”

And now it occurred to Waiter that perhaps this guy was one of those—someone out to spread the gospel. Sure. They turned up now and then at the farm, usually earnest and pleasant young men or women, sometimes young Mormon men in pairs, out to find converts.

“Listen … if you’re trying to …”

But the old man raised a single hand. “No. I know what you’re thinking and I’m not peddling religion.”

“Then what?” Tom Waiter nearly shouted.

“I was a businessman too,” he said. “I made good money selling insurance. But I was never happy doing it.”

Tom Waiter stared at his beer.

“I had a number of offices in the Dakotas and Iowa and in Kansas. People say I’m a born salesman, and I can’t disagree with that. But like anything, selling insurance, which, let’s face it, is not exactly the sexiest kind of business, grew stale for me after a while.

“I got caught up in the whole treadmill of trying to make increasing amounts of money. I was demanding, even cruel at times with my employees. I didn’t like myself and I certainly wasn’t happy.” The old man paused to stare across the barroom. “I finally cashed out. I sold everything. With my investments, I easily had enough money for my wife, Margie, and I to live comfortably for the rest of our lives. But there was a problem. I was only fifty years old. What was I going to do with the rest of my life?”

Tom Waiter saw the twinkle in the old man’s eyes. He took a sip of his scotch and slowly put it down on the bar, as if warming up to the story’s conclusion.

“Do you know what I did young man?”

Tom Waiter shook his head and waited for him to continue.

“I was looking for answers, and what better way, I figured, than to go out on the road and seek them. I bought one of those big recreational vehicles and Margie and I set out in search of America. Well sir, it was wonderful, for a while. We saw all the great parts of the country we’d never had a chance to see in those years I was far too busy with my businesses.

“I remember we were heading north through Oregon on that road that runs along that beautiful coastline. It was a gorgeous summer day. The ocean was shimmering from the sun’s rays. I pulled the RV over at a roadside café where we had lunch. At one point, I looked out from the window overlooking the sea. Sea lions were perched on the rocks sticking out of the ocean. ‘Margie, I said. ‘Why is it people are so unhappy? In this wonderful, beautiful and bountiful country, where there is so much to see and do, why can’t most of us find that elusive thing called happiness?’ Margie didn’t have an answer.

“And so, I decided right then, that would be my mission. I went back to school and picked up a degree in sociology. I flew through those courses. I loved the assignments of going out and talking to people and find out things about their lives. For a few years, I taught courses at a community college. I took groups of students to inner cities and Native American reservations, to poor Appalachian communities. I found out that people really are the same everywhere, that we all have in us this burning desire to be happy. But often, our direction, our goal, is misplaced. We become like rats in a maze running around in desperate search for that elusive brass ring.”

The old man had become animated now, flailing his arms to make different points.

“I only taught for a few years. The academic life can be a drag, and I grew tired of the routine of classroom teaching. But that’s fine. I decided I could do what I really wanted to do without the structure of teaching. And that’s what I do many days. I come to places like this, where I find regular people, and I talk to them, just like I’ve been talking to you. I find out a little bit about them. Mostly, I want to know why they aren’t happy.”

Despite his initial resistance, Tom Waiter had warmed up to the old man. He liked his philosophy, his honesty. “But you must find some people who are happy? Don’t you?”

At this, the old man shook his head. “Not many, I’m afraid. Far too few.” He looked hard at Tom Waiter. “And what is it that would make you happy young man?”

He sat studying Tom Waiter, waiting for an answer. “I know,” he finally said, in a soft tone, leaning toward him and patting him lightly on his arm. “It’s not easy.” He took one last drink of his whiskey before slowly climbing out of his seat. He reached into his suit pocket and put a business card on the bar.

“You have time on your side son. Don’t waste it.”

With a wink, he turned and left Tom Waiter sitting at the bar with a lot to ponder.

The books of Mike Reuther

23 May

Mike Reuther
Do you like fiction, humor, baseball, fishing? How about books on writing? Mike Reuther is a longtime newspaper journalist who has a special fondness for books and literature. Check out the link below and explore his world.

https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Reuther/e/B009M5GVUW

FREE book – Jan. 17

17 Jan

A story of fishing, baseball but mostly life

5 Jan

Here’s an excerpt from Mike Reuther’s book, Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic.

To really understand this story, I guess you have to start at the end. For it was on a particular Labor Day Weekend, after we’d won our amateur adult baseball team tournament, that I first shared my story about Sir Jon. Up until then, I had never talked about Sir Jon, a kind of mythical figure from my days spent on trout streams, not even with my friend Hal, who’d been with me on one or two occasions when Sir Jon had showed up while we were fishing. Most people had never even heard of Sir Jon, and he remained an elusive kind of creature. It was as if he didn’t exist. It was Sir Jon, you might say, who made me finally realize what’s important, even if there were many other people who would play a big part in shaping me and my philosophy about life.

So there I was, Nick Grimes, still at the ball field long after most of my teammates had gone. I guess I was basking in my glory at the advanced baseball age of forty-five, the winning pitcher in the championship game. Somehow, my assortment of deceptive slow curves and changeups mixed in with an occasional fastball had baffled the opposing hitters. The only other person left was my young teammate, a kid named Leggett, who’d had a big day at the plate, going four for four with a couple of home runs. He’d been a high school star but had decided against going to college and playing ball. Some people said he was crazy for not pursuing baseball more seriously. He certainly had the tools for turning professional, and he was tall and lanky with a perfect kind of baseball body that the scouts loved. But I could tell he didn’t have the passion for the game. “I like hitting home runs,” he told me one day. “But the rest of the game … It pretty much bores me.”

What Leggett really enjoyed was trout fishing, and he never missed a chance to query me about my own experiences fishing and guiding anglers around central Pennsylvania. I was sitting in the small grandstands behind home plate when Leggett plopped down beside me on one of the weathered, wood planks.

“I don’t know if I’m going to play next year,” he said.

“Oh. Getting too old?” I looked at him and smiled.

“Ah … It’s just not that fun,” he said.

“Even on days like today … when you blasted a couple of home runs and led your team to victory?”

“It’s cool but …”

“But what?”

“It’s the same old shit. Tomorrow, I’ll go to work at the mall and put in my eight hours. Then back to work the next day and on and on it goes.”

“Yeah. I know how that is.”

“I’ve been out of high school two years now,” he said. “My girlfriend wants to move things along. Know what I mean?”

“You mean, get married?”

Leggett shrugged. “Sure. Have a kid, start a family. The whole deal. I won’t have time for this.”

“Okay.”

“There’s gotta be more to life. Ya know?” He looked at me and then down at the ground.

“Like fishing?”

Leggett grinned. “Now that I can relate to.”

“Sure. Fishing is great.”

“Nothing like it,” he said.

“So. Go fishing.”

“I do man. Every chance I get. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.”

“Like I said, I’m still stuck in that job and probably headed to the same old life everyone else has.”

“I guess it comes down to finding your passion.”

Leggett looked at me and then out at the field. The sun was low now and the trees along the first base line, some of which were just beginning to show their fall colors, were throwing long shadows across the green grass of the infield.

“You probably think I’m nuts for not taking one of those baseball scholarships a couple of years ago.” Leggett’s eyes narrowed in on me from beneath his baseball cap.

“What can I say? It was your decision.”

“Maybe I should have gone to school,” he said.

“Yeah … maybe.”

Leggett threw up his hands. “Aw hell … sometimes I drive myself crazy. Sometimes I think I am crazy.”

“Like I said, follow your passion.”

“Yeah … well. What the hell is my passion? Just tell me Grimes. What is it?”

“That’s for you to find out.”

We both sat there for a few moments staring out at the field.

“Sir Jon,” I said.

“What?” Leggett asked.

“Sir Jon. He’s this crazy mountain man who lives by himself not too far from here. You could become another Sir Jon.”

“And why would I become another Sir Jon?”

“He’s doing what he wants. He’s probably the most incredible fly fisherman I’ve ever seen.”

“Sir Jon?” Leggett looked at me with both suspicion and interest as if I’d just told him the lottery ticket he’d bought that morning had turned up a winner.

“A legend. But more importantly, a student of life.”

I didn’t know if I had gotten through to Leggett, a talented ballplayer who didn’t really like the game of baseball all that much, a kid who had spurned college scholarship offers to play. Leggett was like so many other kids on the verge of manhood, a bit lost but not hopeless, wondering what the hell he was going to be doing with his life for the next fifty years.

My reference to Sir Jon seemed to resonate with him, however. A hermit who’d given up a career to go live in the mountains and spend a lot of his time trout fishing seemed to appeal to Leggett.

“Sounds like the dude is doing what he wants to do,” Leggett said. “That’s cool.”

“It is cool.” I said.

“Yeah,” Leggett said.

He turned to me then. “Thanks man.”

“For what?”

“For giving me something to think about.”
He picked up his baseball bag and stuck out his hand.

“It’s been real,” he said.

“See you next season?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I doubt it. I think I’m done with baseball.” He took one last look out at the field. It was close to dusk by now, and the strange night calls of birds could be heard.

“Maybe I’ll look up that Sir Jon dude,” he said.

“Good luck,” I said.

“Yeah man.” He gave me a thumbs-up and headed across the field for his car parked out behind the right field fence. I watched his figure grow smaller and smaller in the fading light as he made his way across the outfield grass. And then, the engine of his car started up, and he was gone.

Sir Jon is a big part of this story I’m telling as is Leggett, even if you won’t read a whole lot about them. Keep their names in mind as you read on. Of course, the story is also about me, Nick Grimes.

 

FREE book, May 21-22. Take me out to the ball game to investigate a murder

21 May

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http://www.amazon.com/Return-Dead-City-Mike-Reuther-ebook/dp/B00A0VFQLM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1400674195&sr=8-3&keywords=Mike+Reuther

Only the drug pushers and scoundrels appear to thrive in Centre Town, Pa., home to the Class A baseball team Mets and childhood home of Cozzy Crager, the world-weary protagonist of “Return to Dead City.”
Crager and Centre Town are a perfect fit. Batting booze and his worst nightmares of years spent on the Albuquerque police force, he’s back in this decaying, crime-ridden town for the first time since he was a young man. Crager is barely settled into his gig as a detective when he gets an anonymous call of a murder.
Lance Miller, the Mets’ slugging star with the shadowy past, has been found dead in a downtown hotel. Lance’s time with the team had been brief, his relationship with teammates, lovers and others somewhat vague and mysterious.
And so, Crager begins the task of following leads and ferreting out information, a job that takes him from the back alleys of the city to the halls of academia. Crager works alone and without as much as a stipend. Soon, he wonders why. For he will have his hands full.
In “Return to Dead City,” Crager has come home without feeling exactly at home. For as Crager is to learn,Centre Town is a town where nothing has changed, but everything has changed.