Tag Archives: stories

Standing on a bridge watching life go by

12 Oct
brown mountain under blue and white sky

Photo by John Horrock on Pexels.com

 

“The thing is,” Reuther said as he stared off at the scraggy mountain top, “I’m past my fertile period. Making it as a fiction writer is out of the question.”

“That again,” Ritter said, rolling his eyes. “Every time you hit a wall with your writing you go on about being past your fertile period.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“It’s not true. C’mon. Let’s check out the Deckers Bridge and see if any trout are rising.”

“Since when do you care about trout rising?” Reuther said.

Ritter hoisted up his backpack and started off toward the bridge some fifty yards away. “I don’t, but it will get your mind of your stalled writing.”

“It’s not stalled. More like done … over, finished, kaput.”

Ritter didn’t want to hear it. Just that past winter, Reuther had come out with a dozen short stories that had wowed the literary world. What had followed had been the kind of success and attention that anyone would kill for – glowing reviews in the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, interviews on CNBC and the major networks, even a bit part in some silly reality show. Sure, it was October now, and much of the hoopla over Reuther’s book was in the rearview mirror. And that, as Ritter saw it, was the real problem.

“You’ll just have to write another book,” Ritter said as they stood on the bridge and peered into the roiling waters of the South Platte River. Ritter liked it here, particularly in the fall on weekdays, when it was quiet and the summer vacationers were long gone.

“I guess so,” Reuther said.

“You guess so. Shit. Just do it,” Ritter said, turning now to face his longtime hiking buddy. “I mean, God sakes alive Reuther. When you got into this writing business, you knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.”

“But I’ll never write anything as good as Misfits, Dreamers and Mad Poets again,” Reuther said, referring to his book.

“Probably not,” Ritter said, as they both watched a blonde woman in a skin-tight kayaking outfit suddenly emerge from the Ponderosa pines on the far bank.

“Wow. Not bad,” Reuther said.

“Er … not bad at all.”

“Boyfriend is probably right behind her somewhere.”

“Of course,” Ritter said.

Sure enough, a young, svelte and sturdy man clad in his own skin-tight kayaking outfit, the lightweight water craft balancing upon his back, emerged from the forest.

“You see Mike. We all have our time in the sun.”

“Guess so ol’ Bean.”

They watched the couple move quickly down the embankment and to the water before climbing  into the two-person craft. All at once, the man looked up toward the bridge where our two heroes stood, giving them a thumbs-up, a gleaming toothed smile, before using a paddle to nudge the the kayak into the swirling water. The woman, sitting behind him in the kayak, smiled and waved as well. They two of them appeared, Reuther thought, to be the very epitome of youth, and beauty and vigor. They were, he realized, the kind of people that could be found everywhere in the West anymore. And just like that, the kayak was heading downriver and then under the bridge and past them.

“There’s a rise over there,” Ritter said, pointing to the spot behind the boulder known as Elephant Rock that formed a deep pool.

Reuther had been watching the kayak carrying the young couple grow smaller down the South Platte. He turned to look where his buddy was pointing. Sure enough, a large ring slowly expanded from near Elephant Rock. “Guess I should have brought my fly rod,” Reuther said.

He thought back of a few years ago, when he first came out here from back East. Back then, he’d been fishing four and five times a week – when he wasn’t writing his brains out that is.

“You need to quit moping around and get back to it,” Ritter said as if reading his mind.

“Guess so,” Reuther said.

“You guess so. Hell.”

They stood for a while on the bridge not saying anything. A breeze carrying the hint of winter blew against their faces. The sun disappeared behind some clouds.

“A cold beer wouldn’t be bad right now,” Ritter said. He was leaned over the bridge’s iron railing watching a cluster of fall leaves drift below him. He straightened and smiled at Reuther.

They both turned to gaze across the two-lane road feeding into the village at the blinking beer signs of the tavern.

“Shit yeah,” Reuther said.

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It’s not too late …

27 Sep
architecture buildings business car

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

“You know Ritter,” Reuther said. “Downtown Lancaster looks more busy, I daresay even vibrant, with lots of youngsters in their 20s and 30s.”

“Hipsters,” Ritter said with a snort.

“Even in Chumley’s?”

“Especially Chumley’s,” Ritter said with disgust.

“You mean?”

“Exactly.” Ritter threw up his hands. “Used to be a gathering spot for writers and dreamers and misfits. Now, it’s junior executives. Young fellers and gals with laptops, their gaze on the bottom line.”

“Damn. What happened?”

Ritter used his index finger and thumb to pick up a stray crumb from the muffin he’d just eaten. He looked out the window from his balcony affording him a birds-eye of the Lancaster Barnstomers ballpark. He’d carefully selected this place back in the early 2000s before things had changed, when Lancaster was still holding on as a gritty, tough little city with a chip on its shoulder, very much aware that it couldn’t be little New York, let alone a tiny Philly. But shit … now …

“But Jon. Things change. I mean … look at us … Time was when we were the young rock ‘n rollers. Regularly knocking off fifty miles on the trails in a day, clacking away on our Remington typewriters, banging out thirty pages at a clip.”

“It’s not our town anymore.”

“Well … not your town anymore. I mean … I left years ago.”

“Right. You did the Kerouac thing. Found your true calling as a trout bum.”

“I begged you to come along. Remember?”

“I remember,” Ritter groaned.

Reuther studied his old hiking and drinking buddy. Geez. He was starting to look old, tired.

“It’s not too late you know.”

Ritter emitted a sigh. Shit, he thought. But it was too late. And yet … and yet …

“You know, when it comes down to reality. We’re all here on this earth just a short time. We need to grab the gusto while …”

“No,” Ritter snapped. “You’re starting to sound like a beer commercial.”

“Well … I mean …

Ritter slowly shook his head. The late afternoon shadows from the downtown buildings were throwing long shadows across the streets.

“I got laid off yesterday.”

“What?” Reuther couldn’t believe his ears. “This is it. Your chance … ”

“Er … I don’t think so.”

“But why?” Reuther said, jumping out of his seat. “This is it. C’mon. You can be out of this burg by tonight, on your way to a new life.”

“Yeah. And we could both sit around that stream you’re so fond of … what is it?”

“The South Platte River.”

“Right, the South Platte, build a campfire and belt out ballads like Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean. It’s elusive, a myth.”

Rutter pushed himself away from the table and began walking around the room.

“C’mon Jon. You can do this.”

“No. It’s a myth Reuther. All of it … the West and the outdoors and how it can save your soul.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“C’mon Reuther. Face it. Happiness … you can’t buy it, and you sure as hell can’t find it through geography.”

A tentative knock came on the front door – three soft, tentative raps upon the wood.

Reuther saw a sly smile appear on Rutter’s face.

“Did you order Chinese?”

“Er … you’ll have to leave now Reuther.”

“A girl?”

“Please. Take the fire escape down Reuther.”

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

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.

 

Sneak look at my latest book

28 Dec

Jack McAllister knew every hatch on every trout stream of Central Pennsylvania. Much of his life revolved around casting dry flies, wet flies, nymphs and other food imitations at that elusive creature known as the trout. He would have it no other way. Jack had gained a reputation as one of the most respected fly fisherman in the state, a dubious distinction in that it gained him no great rewards or wide renown other than that realized in fly-fishing circles.

His had been a mostly quiet life–a true trout bum’s existence–one of fishing, guiding and tying flies. In Jack’s mind, nothing was finer than catching an evening hatch down at the Shad River, just before dusk, when the trout were rising. Jack built this life for himself, an unhurried and quiet existence in this remote mountain area where the living was easy, and a man’s word was as good as a handshake. But it all changed in the year of the Great Green Drake Hatch.

In the years before the arrival of the Great Green Drake Hatch, when Memorial Day weekend in the Green Spring Valley was nothing more than a camper’s holiday and many a fly fisherman would have been hard put to find the Shad on the map, things had been different. In those days, Jack’s home was a ramshackle cabin just a long cast from the Shad. He had lived well there, perhaps even somewhat happily, or at least in a state that didn’t approach anything that could be even remotely referred to as misery.

Happiness, as Jack liked to say, was a damn elusive proposition, but with proper planning, you could latch onto it, and then “hold on like hell” as if you’re hooking up with one of the Shad River’s healthy sized Brown Trout.

“Hell, even if it breaks your damn line, you can have yourself a nice ride,” Jack had said more than once to Max Soothsayer.

Soothsayer nodded and smiled as he gazed out toward the water.

Jack and Soothsayer had spent countless hours together wading the pools of the Shad and the other streams feeding into it. Soothsayer was getting along in years now, and didn’t head out to fish as much as he had in his younger days. A bum knee forced him to use a wading staff even in the calmest stretches of water. Most of his time was spent tying flies in the back of the Roll Cast, the general store off Route 6 he owned, where Jack dropped in nearly every day for a sandwich, to meet a client needing guiding, or for the latest gossip. Although it was in truth a store, it was also part barroom, part eatery and more or less the social center of the village, that is, if you could call the half-dozen homes clustered nearby along Route 6 a village of any kind. Many of the homes were summer cottages, used by hunters or trout fishermen who could be depended upon to show up at the Shad every spring.

Soothsayer was one of the few people Jack could stand to be around for any stretch of time. For one thing, Soothsayer had more knowledge about the Shad River hatches than anyone he knew. Soothsayer also had a keen sense of just what the fish would take. More than once Jack had come tromping into Soothsayer’s store in his waders, frustrated over a particularly troublesome hatch the trout were feeding ravenously upon, but which were ignoring his every cast. Soothsayer, always calm in a crisis, would make a few simple suggestions, or perhaps calmly trim the hackles off some of Jack’s flies before sending him back out to the water. Often, Soothsayer’s sage advice turned around what had been a horrible fishing day.

It was true that Jack loved to fish so passionately that he was thought to be a little off his nut by the local folks. Indeed, he was obsessed with the whole business of catching trout. Jack was never able to explain this fever or love affair or whatever the hell it was he had with fly fishing, but he didn’t have much time for folks who elevated fly fishing to art or religion or other nonsense either. Damn it. He just liked to fish. Being out on the water with a fly rod when the trout were surfacing to grab white mayflies or March Browns or sulphurs. Well … there was just no better time to be alive as far as Jack was concerned.

He’d fished the Shad and every one of its feeder streams from Green Spring Valley to the New York state line. And if there as any prettier stretch of God’s lush landscape or any more productive trout water in America than that fifty-mile swath of terrain, he’d be damned if he knew where it was.

He’d been on some of those legendary trout streams out West and wet his line on more than a few of the other rivers famous for big brown trout, in the Adirondacks and up through Vermont. He took trips every August out to Montana with the local Trout Unlimited group for some serious angling on the fabled waters of the Madison River. But the Shad River right back here in Pennsylvania remained his favorite.

Jack didn’t claim to be a poet but there was something about the Shad he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He knew damn well that to the non-fishing crowd there was probably nothing special about the Shad. It was hardly the sort of stream that drew the canoeists, the kayakers searching for a white-water thrill. A narrow meandering sort of stream, its waters often ran shallow. In a dry summer, it became little more than a trickle in a lot of places, creating marginal trout water and lean economic times for him and Soothsayer. Summer brought a few hikers and campers but few anglers.

Before the arrival of the Great Green Hatch the Shad had been a decently productive trout stream holding the usual amount and variety of insect hatches. It had a fly-fishing only section and a handful of the more noted members of the fly-fishing fraternity were known to occasionally make appearances at the stream. Then came the Green Drake Hatch. It had been something not unlike a religious awakening for the Shad.

I’m a writer, and I just want to scream

30 Apr

Image

 

One of the worst things about being a writer is the godawful frustration you find yourself up against with trying to draw attention to the words you’ve put out there before people.

I often write these blogs with the first-time author in mind, but I know there are also loads of you who’ve published one or two books as well.

You know the agony of marketing. You remember how hard it was just placing the fanny into the chair every day and writing. Then, you finished your first book, sent it out to the world hopeful as a young child on Christmas morning.

Alas, you made little if no money for all that hard work and time. You think of all the many things you’ve done in life that bore some type of fruit after so much labor. If it was a job there was at least a paycheck waiting for you.

I often compare the life of a writer to that of an aspiring politician. There’s just no guarantee after all that campaigning that you’ll actually win. In fact, second place brings you nothing.

Yes, it can be tough out there. So what keeps you going as a writer?

Ask yourself why you write. Look for little things every day to keep yourself going. Take pride in the fact that you’ve finished a book and stuck with this writing life as long as you have.

In the meantime, keep marketing your work. There’s plenty of ways to get noticed out there. Maybe you’ve tried all the usual methods – getting reviews from readers, going on blog tours, submitting to interviews, – and perhaps book sales have only trickled in.

Try something different. Be creative. Marketing can take a while to really take off, especially for unknown writers.

The point is, there was a reason you wanted to write books. Sure, if you’ve stuck with it this long perhaps you experience that crushing feeling of what seems to be the utter futility of being a writer.

Maybe you want to give up and concentrate your energies on something else. Then again, think how you’ll feel if you just give up. I mean, is that really an option?

I would love to hear from readers on this one.

Writing a book is therapy … and safer than drugs

7 Mar

Those days when you’re feeling lousy just might be the best times to go to the keyboard and write that book.

Now why in the name of Truman Capote would I say that?

Well, for one thing, it will get your mind off the fact that you’re feeling miserable. Besides, you need to be writing anyway – just about every day – if you’re serious, really serious about ever completing a book.

Think about it. If you can write on the days you’d rather stay in bed until past noon or get in the car and drive across the country and never come back, you can certainly write on those other days, when you feel great and can’t wait to race those fingers across that keyboard.

I know it’s worked for me.

A number of years ago, after I lost a job and went into a anxiety-ridden period, including panic attacks and the whole shebang, I began writing my first book. It never got published, but that’s another story, as they say. It was late November, the weather was  lousy in Pennsylvania and wouldn’t get better for months, and as I mentioned, there was no work to go to. I suddenly had this time on my hands – a lot of it. For years, I’d dreamed of writing a book, and I figured what better time to begin.

I wrote every damn day in long-hand in a spiral notebook. I wanted to get my story down, and I did. The writing was wonderful therapy as it threw my mind off the troubling thoughts that were dancing around in my head most of the rest of the day, when I otherwise faced all this empty time to fill.

So, if you don’t think now is a good time to write a book. If you figure there’s too many other things swirling about in your life for you to get yourself together enough to write, think again. It just might be the best time for you to begin a story.

Again, if you can write during the bad times, you can certainly write during the good times.
Remember, there’s no way in hell you’re going to feel good every day anyway. Nobody feels as if they’re flying on air all the time. And guess what else? Writing through the bad times just might give you something to make you feel better every day.

Try it. You might like it. And it’s safer than drugs.