Night Shift #17 – The Last Rung on the Ladder…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 4,800

This is Stephen King doing what he does best – urban horror, without any supernatural or demonic bent. There are no monsters under the bed, and nothing in the closet. This is just… stuff that can happen.

It’s a simple story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, how it ebbs and flows over the course of their lives, and about one particular incident that has defined them. It’s emotional and engaging in its simplicity.

King is prone to both falling down and rambling when he tries to wrap up a story, but this is impactful and stops before he finds something else less meaningful to say. The Last Rung on the Ladder is just damn good storytelling, and without a doubt, the first great story in the collection.

Recommended ⇑

Someone Used My Nose As a Bowling Ball…

I had my operation yesterday – a polypectomy along with a side of septoplasty. It went well, by all accounts, but after three hours under the knife and a further two in recovery I was ready for a nap.

Just before I went under I was thinking about that Simpsons episode when Homer has to get a heart bypass, and just before his eyes close he hears his surgeon, Dr. Nick say, “what the hell is that?” It was funny in the context of that show, but not sure how I’d have felt if my guy had said it too.

The surgeon came to see me after I had woken from the anaesthetic and explained that I had lost a lot of blood during the procedure, and they also discovered I had an infection as well, which slowed things down a little.

All the polyps are gone (for now, as it is possible they will come back) but my nose is currently sore to touch and still filled with blood, so I just have to be careful when I’m cleaning it. Bending is also a problem as it encourages blood flow, so I’m trying to relax for a few days.

I have an extra couple of days off work so fingers crossed I’ll be back on the wagon by Wednesday and fully recovered a couple of weeks after that.

Meeting the Nurse…

I have nasal polyps, which is what is stopping me from being able to breathe properly through my nose. It has also completely eliminated my sense of smell, and likely affected my ability to taste as well.

I went to the hospital today for what they called a pre-op assessment, which was basically the nurse asking me a whole lot of questions, and me saying no to almost all of them. I guess it’s them covering their ass while trying to protect mine.

She gave me a forest-worth of pamphlets to read before the operation and told me to make sure the underwear that I wore next week was cotton. Why? I have no idea, and I felt that it was too stupid a question to ask, so I didn’t. I don’t think I own any other kind, to be honest. Do people wear polyester pants?

I had a thumping headache and all the inane questions were not making it go away. She explained what it was I was getting done and I nodded like I knew what she was talking about. Ultimately, once they knock me out, they could tar and feather me and I won’t be able to do anything about it… but I have to trust them.

I’ve been advised that in all likelihood it will not be a permanent fix, and that I will have to get it done again at some point. It could last a year, or it may last for a decade – they just don’t know.

The only thing left to do, is to get it done.

The End of the World As We Know It…

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I’m not a fan of REM, so this is the first and (probably) last time that I look to them for a blog post title. However…

…the coronavirus now has a title too. Covid-19. Granted, it’s not the greatest name, but we are talking about something that can potentially kill you. At least it’s not like storms, which used to be named after the wife of the meteorologist who discovered them. I’m not making that up, right?

Over 1000 people have now lost their lives to this virus – a handful of which have been in the UK – and there will unfortunately be more to come.

Although not directly related to that, it’s interesting to speculate on how the end of the world will arrive, and indeed what that term even means. Is the end of the world the extinguishing of humanity, or the bigger picture – the death of the planet itself? Is it something a little more nebulous? If you have faith, maybe it’s the rapture.

Will a meteor enter our atmosphere, plummet to the earth, and wipe us all out in much the same way that the dinosaurs met their demise sixty-five million years ago? Are machines destined to become sentient and take over the world? Will it be war, waged initially between two politicians who just can’t keep their fingers off the big red button? Or will it be a parasitic cordyceps fungus that turns us all into mindless, brain-hungry zombies?

Whatever happens, hopefully none of us will be around to see it.

Unless it’s the robot thing, of course: that would be pretty cool.

Night Shift #16 – Children of the Corn…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 11,100

Children of the Corn has spawned about a thousand movies, which is strange considering the source material is this short story, which seems to run out of steam before the end.

A couple find themselves in one of those rural towns that King is so fond of writing about, only to discover that all the adults have been killed and the community is being run by a bunch of teenagers who worship a corn-God known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

It’s difficult to put Children of the Corn amongst the top tier of stories, because this deep into the anthology there have been several that are much better. This is too long and suffers from the pay-off not being worthy of the build-up. I can recommend it, but only just.

Recommended ⇑

What I’ve Done This Month #January…

I’ve come to a decision about Slipwater. I am giving myself until my birthday next year – that’s May 7, 2021 – to find traction with a professional agent or publisher. If I still have made no headway by that time I’m going to self-publish the novel.

I know, I have always been opposed to going down that route. It’s the easy way, right? Any idiot can do that. There are no checks at any point in the process, and certainly nobody to tap you on the shoulder to tell you what you’ve written is trash.

Yeah, I know.

But I wrote the novel for a reason, and it’s good. I believe in it, and I want others to have the chance to read it, and if I have to swallow my pride and do what I swore I never would… then so be it.

Of course, I would much prefer to do this the traditional, tried and tested way, so if anybody in the business is reading this, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor.

In other news I wrote a dark flash piece called I Am the Cheese. It’s something I put together very quickly – in about an hour actually – that isn’t particularly polished, but has potential down the line once I give myself the room to mess around with it.

I have sent off a few pieces to contests this month. I was going to give myself a budget each month for this, to get me in the habit of sending stuff away, so that may be an idea I can run with. I’ll have to see how it shakes out.

Eagles, Chapter VI – The Long Run (1979)

Members: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B Schmit, Joe Walsh

Timothy B Schmit joined the Eagles and original member Randy Meisner left before this album came out, so this felt even further removed from the original template of the band than Hotel California had been.

The Eagles had released their first five albums in five years. The Long Run was a troubled release and took three years to build, a truth that was fuelled by drug use and growing animosity between members. This was their last collection of new material until 1994.

The Long Run (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
Overplayed and probably a little overrated, this is still a fine track, although Henley is resting on his vocal laurels here. 8
I Can’t Tell You Why (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Timothy B Schmit)
Lead – Schmit
This is the debut lead vocal on his first album with the Eagles, and it instantly gives him the best win-loss record in the band. A great soulful song. 10
In the City (Joe Walsh / Barry de Vorzon)
Lead – Walsh
A decent Joe Walsh track that is probably better known as the song that plays through the end-credits of cult seventies movie, The Warriors. 8
The Disco Strangler (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Don Felder)
Lead – Henley
This is a fantastic tongue-in-cheek diversion into the disco sound of the late seventies, but with a decidedly dark sting in the tail. Nobody else in the band could have sung this. 10
King of Hollywood (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey & Henley
One of my favourite Eagles tracks – a sombre tune about Hollywood starlets and the dark side of the business – that works even better because of the split vocal duties. It is accompanied by some great, evocative guitar work. 10
Heartache Tonight (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Bob Seger / JD Souther)
Lead – Frey
This is a great party track and a standout moment from Frey that was destined to be an encore. It’s a nice light touch in amongst a lot of the heavier stuff that surrounds it. 8
Those Shoes (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Don Felder)
Lead – Henley
Another very good dark turn on this album about the predatory nature of the singles scene. You have to love the use of the dual talkbox as well. 9
Teenage Jail (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther)
Lead – Henley & Frey
Glenn Frey puts on the most sinister voice he can muster and dives into this obscure lyric. This track doesn’t get a whole lot of love, but I think it’s a good song on a great album. 8
The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
With a title that probably wouldn’t fly in today’s more sensitive times, this is a lot less offensive than you may think. This is a party track, complete with piped in crowd noises, so it’s hard not to smile when it’s on. 8
The Sad Cafe (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Joe Walsh / JD Souther)
Lead – Henley
This feels like the band tried to replicate the mood of the final track of Hotel California… except this is not in that song’s league. A competent ballad to bookend the album. 7

Overall: 86%
The Long Run is a much underated album. It’s not discussed as often as the band’s earlier releases, and certainly not as much as Hotel California, but this follow-up is almost as good, and the second best thing they have ever done.