Short Story of the Week: The Conviction of Charles Donovan Gregory

The Conviction of Charles Donovan Gregory
by Dustin M. Weber
April 7, 2017

March 25, 2017

Dear Vices:

It’s over.

At long last, I’ve decided to move on from you all and focus on that which I should have kept at the forefront of my mind this whole entire time. In fact, I’m actually pretty disgusted at the notion that I’ve succumbed to you for as long as I have—disgusted, that is, but not surprised. After all, with my will having been so weak for so long, why would I be surprised that I’ve leaned on you all the way I have? It wasn’t as if I’d had a broken leg, you know. I could have easily stood on my own two feet at the time, and quite frankly, I would have been much better off for doing so. In fact, if I was suffering from anything, it was from a slow, dull mind and a poor sense of self, and looking back nowadays, I’ve come to realize that the more I tuned to you, the worse each of these things got. Well, no more! I’m putting my foot down against it all. Starting today, I’m stepping away from each and every one of you so that I can put my life back together, get myself back on track, and finally earn for myself that which I should have earned years ago.

First off…video games. Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been plenty of times when I’ve drawn inspiration from you. Heck, the idea for this one book I’m working on right now came to me in part after I’d played one of you, and even in recent months, I’ve been laying the groundwork for whole entire franchises based on what I’ve made using whatever character creation mode some of you have offered your players. That being said, don’t expect me to be as into you as I used to be back in the day. Sure, you were a great diversion for me when I was a kid, and even when I was working my way through college, you were one of the best ways I could think of to blow off steam. Sadly, that was then, and now that I’ve got more pressing matters to attend to, I have to set you off to the side from here on out. You’re a hobby, after all—a diversion—and a very expensive one to keep up with as well. Take it from a guy who hasn’t bought a new console since college, save for when I replaced my PlayStation One once upon a time, which I rarely even play these days. Besides, being a full-grown adult who’s long been eager to accept the responsibilities expected of someone my age, I don’t have nearly as much time to spend on you as I did during my younger days. Then again, there have been times when I’ve felt that I should have focused more on my writing even back then, especially considering how much help I needed in that department. I don’t care if I was just a kid at the time, either. The fact remains that I loved to write then, too, and honestly, had I the mind to put more of my focus on my writing and less time piloting some person made of pixels or polygons across my TV screen and making him beat other people up, I could have very well made a prodigy of myself…or, at the very least, something more than what I am now. Ah, but who am I kidding? I am what I am, and I have only myself to blame for letting myself get as wrapped up into you as I have. See you later, then, video games, when I need a break…and only when I need a break.

Oh…and all you flash games? Don’t even get me started with you and all your mindlessly repetitive yet ironically charming and addictive glory. No disrespect, but seriously, consider yourselves dead to me from this point forward.

You’re next, pro wrestling…and no, that wasn’t meant to be a pun on Bill Goldberg’s catchphrase. All unintentional wordplay aside, I’ll be brutally honest with you: I’ve actually been done with you for quite a while. Yes, I still respect you as an art form, no matter how stupid you can be at times in your execution. Sure, there are still morons out there who love to crap all over you for being sports theater as opposed to a full-fledged sport, and as far as I’m concerned, they can all take their infantile, narrow-minded, condescending ignorance and shove it right back down their throats until they choke on it. Truth be told, though, their moronic mentality isn’t why I’ve turned away from you. Rather, it’s your own idiocy as an industry, as you just haven’t been that great since the spring of 2001 when Extreme Championship Wrestling went bankrupt and good ol’ Vinny Mac bought out World Championship Wrestling. Ever since then, the World Wrestling Federation has become World Wrestling Entertainment and hasn’t faced any major competition for the past sixteen-plus years—not even from Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, which was once the closest thing WWE had to a serious rival since WCW. Trust me, too, when I say that even I can’t begin to tell you the number of fans who’ve been predicting TNA’s ultimate demise to the point of placing bets on when it’ll at long last go out of business. Then again, my doing so would distract me from telling you about just how many other promotions have risen and fallen over the century as we all have known it so far as well as about those that had promised to launch, yet either a) have failed to do so or b) actually have, yet have turned out to be little more than independent promotions. All this in mind, I hope you can see part of the reason why WWE’s long been struggling to put on a consistently good product, even with the talent they have now and have had over the years on their roster and even when they try to give the fans what they want. Of course, I don’t envy the bookers—or writers, whichever they’d rather be called—one bit, seeing as no matter how many honest-to-goodness fans you as a business still have as a whole since your decline, there’s always going to be that one portion of your fanbase that’s full of nothing but screaming, cursing, fickle malcontents who are never satisfied with what they see from any wrestling show, yet are far too stupid to walk away, no matter how bitter they’ve become towards you. Then there are the mindless fanboys, fangirls, and trolls who constantly cause drama amongst the community for whatever excuse might come to mind who are no doubt making others’ enjoyment of you every bit as much a chore for your fans as the soreheads are. Hell, they’re probably just plain assholes, pure and simple, and nothing more. Whatever the case, pro wrestling, I’m glad I’ve stopped caring about you as a business before I ended up becoming one of these schmucks, as I know well enough at my age that it’s better for a person to leave what he or she loves when it doesn’t love him or her back rather than stick around and let it burn him or her. Come to think of it, I’m even gladder that I never became a pro wrestler myself. Otherwise, I’d have had to put up with a lot of the terrible mismanagement and general ignorance with which today’s wrestlers must cope—not that they’re wholly innocent when it comes to your overall product’s current lackluster state, but really, when even the wrestlers who have been stepping up their game are still struggling to get over with the masses, then honestly, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.

Good luck, then, pro wrestling, for I may never come back to you as an industry, even though I still appreciate you as an art form and still hope you survive so that the next generation will get something out of you as I had back in the day when you were arguably much easier for me and so many other people to enjoy.

Finally, there’s you, YouTube, and all the videos I’ve seen on you, which have long been by and far the biggest distraction I’ve ever given myself throughout the course of my writing career. Now, I’ll admit that just like I’ve said about video games, having become familiar with you hasn’t been the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. After all, how else would I’ve ever found out about some of the things that have inspired some of my work? I can only begin to tell you, for instance, how nice it’s been listening to some of the videos on your website that have music that I either remember from my younger days or hadn’t heard before but have come to love—both of which have made for some okay background music for when I’ve been working on my writing. I’ve also learned to enjoy some of the old movies and television shows that I’ve managed to watch on your website, thanks to the users who’ve uploaded them. I’ve even seen video game footage that has brightened my day on one occasion or another, both with and without commentary from the person who was recording it. Unfortunately, even with all this in mind, you’re not exactly all peaches and cream, if you know what I mean. For one thing, just looking at some of the videos you’ve hosted since your inception in 2005 has reminded me in the worst way that it “takes all kinds,” as the saying goes, as a good handful of your videos have shown me some of the most discouraging archetypes of humanity I’ve ever seen: fried-brained conspiracy theorists, small-minded political loudmouths, embarrassingly macho e-toughs, perverted dark humor aficionados, oversensitive drama queens and other blatant pot-stirrers, screaming lunatics, narcissistic brats, potty-mouthed troglodytes, droning deadheads, over-the-top “comedy” acts and other desperate wannabe celebrities…you know…the pride and joy of the Internet (sarcasm). Sure, I know better than to stupidly click on these videos myself and give these waking examples of humanity’s grotesque imperfection the benefit of a view, but there have been times when I came across a video that I was hoping to like, only to discover that the person who posted it was more of a fool and/or scumbag than I’d previously assumed. I’m not even talking the blatant click-baiters who use false titles and thumbnail pics to draw in unwitting audience members, either, but rather simple guys and gals who make videos similar to the ones I’ve come to like over the years, only to prove themselves inferior in comparison to the examples with which I’d become familiar. This is especially true when the narrator of a given video happens to present his or her opinion on a given matter in a decidedly snobbish or ill-tempered tone or with information that he or she clearly pulled out of his or her derriere. Seriously, am I really that unreasonable to expect reviews and rants on the Internet to be honest, straightforward, unbiased, and sensible as possible, regardless of the presenter’s disdain towards the topic he or she is discussing? Don’t even get me started, either, with these reviews in which the presenter is attempting to portray himself or herself as a “character” of sorts. I’m sorry, but I listen to reviews to be informed on a given item rather than entertained, and the steeper the precedent that entertainment takes over information, the less worth the review in question has to me.

Needless to say, YouTube, I’ve learned the necessity of being picky when it comes to listening to and watching videos on your website. From now on, then, I’ll be using your music videos as background accompaniment for my writing sessions and saving the TV, film, gameplay, and similarly themed videos for after I’ve completed my daily writing objectives. Not only that, but I’ve promised myself to be especially selective when it comes to videos from the later category, as I’m more or less done with all the negativity that I’ve absorbed from those that I’ve watched already. Trust me…my work will benefit in the end when I adopt a more positive attitude and cut out all the nastiness I’ve taken on in my life at this point.

So that’s the scoop, vices: I’m moving on, and I’m doing so for my own good. Please don’t take it personally, either, for even though I keep calling you my “vices,” I’m the one who’s really at fault here, as I’ve said before. All this time, I should have squared my shoulders, put my nose to the grindstone, and taken care of business like a man rather than bury myself in each of you whenever I would so much as have the slightest bit of writer’s block. Alas, such was not the case, and it wasn’t until recently that I’ve finally come to terms with the problems I’ve been causing for myself by wallowing in each you, falling behind in my own deadlines and all. It’ll take me a nice long while before I’ll be able to forgive myself, too, but hey, if Roy Knable can come to terms with his TV addiction in Stay Tuned, then I, too, can come to terms with my overreliance on you three things. Better sooner than later, yes, but better later than never, and from now on, as was the case for me during my schooling days, it’s going to be work before pleasure and not vice-versa. Otherwise, I’ll never get anything done to save my soul, and I’ll only further drown in my own stagnation.

Thank you all for your understanding, and for now…goodbye.

Regards,
Charles Donovan Gregory

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

MoveMeQuotes.com
PlayStation History Collection 1 – Takara Tomy 1/6 Scale Gashapon Video Game Systems! by INVISIGOTH
10 Things Pro Wrestling Fans Hate about Pro Wrestling by Ben Flanagan (AL.com)
YouTube.com
Success.com/Shutterstock.com

The short story above, however, is the author’s own.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
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                         Amazon.co.uk

Short Story: To the Woman Who Could’ve Been the Future Mrs. Owen E. Stevens

Hey, readers!

I know this blog here has been bereft of material for the past couple of months, particularly August and especially when it comes to non-poetic works of mine (i.e., articles, short stories, and product release announcements), and I would like to take the time to personally apologize for that. However, I promise you all that once I finally—finally—finish editing my latest novel, UWWX: The Underground Women’s Wrestling Xperiment, I will get right back to work with such material, particularly the articles in my “In Relation to My Work” segment. For the time being, though, I have managed to come across an old work of mine in my collection of original short stories that I feel is appropriate for this blog, and not just because it is similar in tone to a number of works I have published here recently (e.g., Vow of the Imperfect, The Meaning of Love, and  Visions of Love). Granted, that’s part of the reason, but moreover, this particular story was an experiment in storytelling for me in that it taught me how to take a familiar format (i.e., a love letter) and put a twist on it for the sake of narrating that which was on my protagonist’s mind and to illustrate the events that have gone on in his life up to the point where he is writing his letter. Without a doubt, too, this piece is perhaps one of my favorite short stories out of all that I’ve worked on for reasons that I hope each of you will be able to see upon reading. Therefore, without further ado, here is To the Woman Who Could’ve Been the Future Mrs. Owen E. Stevens. Please enjoy!

*****

To the Woman Who Could’ve Been the Future Mrs. Owen E. Stevens
by Dustin M. Weber
March 1, 2007

March 1, 2007

To the woman who could’ve been the future Mrs. Owen E. Stevens:

Hey, it’s me–you know, the guy who could’ve been your husband, had the passage of time flowed more favorably for us, or at least me. Personally, I’m not certain how life has treated you up to this point–perhaps extremely well, perhaps very poorly–but I’ll admit right now that I sure could’ve used your love and affection to help me get through this pathetic first stage of my adulthood and would have gladly returned the favor, lest I have been the one to initiate our romantic connection. Trouble is, though, I doubt that I would’ve been very good at being a reasonable caretaker for you under my present circumstances, seeing as I’m still trying to financially restabilize myself after the biggest kick to the groin I’ve ever taken. Personally, if things had gone the way I wholeheartedly believe they should have, I’d have never been in this mess to begin with. Truth be told, I’d have been far more successful in that reality than in this one, with far more money rolling into my bank account than spilling out as well as a much better career–not to mention job history, while we’re on the subject–than what I have now or have had in the past. Not only that, but I’d have moved out of my parents’ house long ago and started living my own life without having them baby-sit me. Additionally, if I were a better man all the way around, I’d have been far more mature, responsible, and otherwise amiable than the spiteful, antisocial freak of nature I’ve all but degenerated into. That won’t necessarily stop me from improving myself for future events in my life, of course, but I still believe that if I had paid closer attention to how I was growing up and what I was metamorphosing into as the result of my childhood and adolescent choices, I’d have actually done something with my life that even I would’ve been proud of. Hopefully, things’ll change for the better soon, but it’s an unreasonably tough situation all the same, although I can assure you now that I’m not giving up just yet–especially since I can’t afford to.

Okay, that’s enough whining from me about my present financial and professional situation. Now the time has come for me to discuss something completely different: my desire to make it through this life successfully so as to earn your admiration in the next. I know it may sound as quite an abstract notion and as such a little too bizarre to be discussing with friends in everyday conversation, but since this letter is more about me coming clean about my feelings for you than just a casual hello, I’ll explain what I mean. You see, I’ve been thinking about you off and on for a matter of years since college, and most recently, I’ve had this longing feeling in my heart for you–the same kind of longing that I’d had since I first started teaching at that ungrateful community college that I’d now much sooner forget I was ever employed by. Granted, between my release from my contract with that school and these past few weeks, romance and marriage were the furthest things from my mind, as I was wrapped up in all the drama concerning my need for reemployment and my desire to prove myself as a self-reliant and sophisticated man rather than a needy, bratty mamma’s boy in a man-suit. Even so, my longing for a lasting relationship has never fully left me, and even though I may very well remain a bachelor until my final days in this world, I find it hard to believe that I’ll ever truly be happy without a woman by my side. I hope you can find it in you to forgive me for coming off so theatrically, but with all due veracity, I cannot emphasize enough my realization of just how important a long, lasting, loving relationship has become for me, even as a figment of my own imagination.

First off, I’d like to discuss how my desire to espouse you has become a distraction for me in the waking world, regardless of how pleasant a distraction it may be at times. To begin with, whenever I’m working on something at my computer–especially if it’s the one book that’ll [hopefully] lure me out of the dumps and into the reality that I’ve always wanted to live, I often find my mind going blank as if I don’t even know what I’m staring at, much less how to further move the plot of my story along. As it does, I more likely than not envision you within my mind undertaking increasingly intimate roles within my life. At first, you are an acquaintance of mine– a girl whom I’d but newly met outside the gymnasium at whatever college I’d have gone to after having stepped up against a line of guys who’d just hurled a line or two of sexually insulting dialogue at you. Later on, you become a close friend of mine who would help me cope with a particularly nasty breakup I had lately endured with my previous girlfriend, whom I had discovered to have had cheated on me with someone who apparently was more apt to fulfill her personal appetence despite my always having treated her like the gentleman my parents had raised me to become. As my thoughts send me plunging deeper and deeper into this sadly fictitious “affaire d’amour” between us, you take on even more serious provinces–namely, those of steady, fiancée, wife, and last but not least, the mother of our daughter Leslie Alexandra–and with each function formalize yourself as a crucial part of my adult life as we both take on an ever-growing list of responsibilities towards our family as a whole as well as to one another. Such is the life I’d secretly longer to live for more years than I can possibly begin to count–the same kind of life that any decent man could ever hope to live with the subject of his affections.

The problem here, however, is that I strongly doubt in my ever having the competence to fulfill such tasks for the woman to whom I’d devote my life, as my many flaws more frequently than not have demonstrated unto me just how far from perfect I really am. I’ll readily admit that my own perfectionism is by and far my greatest fault of them all, oftentimes degenerating into an absolute obsession with being perfect specimen of humanity, period. I know this is a highly unreasonable attitude for me to express, but back in the “good old days” when I was growing up, I could have had attained anything I’d wanted if only I’d tried hard enough. This was mainly due to my having nearly every possible gift a kid could hope to have: intelligence, personality, kindness, and even a touch of athletic potential–the lattermost of which I hadn’t brought out until the summer of 1996 when I tried out for the football team during my freshman year in high school, but that’s not necessarily the point. Rather, my point here is that since I’ve moved on from that period in my life–or at the very least tried to–I’ve let quite a few opportunities slip out of my grasp, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve no one to blame but myself for the unhappiness I now feel as the result of such carelessness. Thankfully, the Powers That Be have given me the opportunity to regain at least a percentage of that which I’ve lost, but I strongly suspect that I’ll never feel as complete as I could have, had I only used my gifts and talents when I first had the chance. Oh, well…maybe in the next life…

I know what you’re probably thinking right now: “Owen, nobody’s perfect; nobody’s a saint. Why expect yourself to be what you can’t?” That’s a good question, and my answer to it is simple: Because I demand the best of people, especially myself. Call it narcissism if you will, but for so many years, I’ve been under the impression that I was meant to be better than many of the people with whom I’ve interacted over the course of my present lifetime. Unfortunately, since growing up, I sincerely feel I’ve lost touch with many of those talents over the years–both my actual and my potential ones–and as such am all too aware of all the other flaws I have aside from my aforementioned preference for self-perfection. If I had to choose one of these additional problems of mine to be the most significant obstacle in my quest to reclaim myself, that one flaw would be my ever-growing intolerance for the world around me. Honestly, I can only begin to tell you just how easy it can be for anyone to find something to become impatient with, take argument against, or even become hostile over in this world. It makes no difference which decade or era one finds oneself living in, either, for even during the best of times, there’s always something worthy of complaint in the mainstream society: poverty, disease, diminished resources, environmental decimation, corporate greed, senseless violence, broken families, sexual exploitation, rampant deceit, moral degeneration, and the flagrant obliviousness of the general public. Believe me, if I hear one more word about a certain date and the specific event connected to it that the media keeps compulsively promoting and shoving down my throat for the mere sake of glorifying said event to the point of overwhelming infamy and making money off the obsession that they have inseminated the masses with, it’ll be too soon. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here in a less vague sense of the topic, although I can never emphasize enough the corruption that befalls upon a population when only one side of the story is presented for such citizenry to see while the other side remains completely ignored by all but a few intelligent and perceptive yet oft-ignored individuals.

Sorry about that tirade of mine, darling. I know I should pay closer attention to the moments when I get carried away with an idea, but let’s face it: Such is the extent of my imperfection. Please don’t think for a minute that I actually enjoy droning on my own weaknesses as a human being, though, because doing so is more of a means of inadvertent torture than anything else. To be quite frank with you, I’d much sooner be happy with myself and with life in general than wallowing in self-loathing and self-pity for hours, days, and even weeks on end. Trouble is, though, that for the past fourteen years of my life, wallowing is all I’ve known, and despite my being completely disenchanted by it all and my efforts to feel something else other than down, my bad mood has yet to be elevated after all this time. Indeed, there’s just that much garbage going on in the world–especially here in the good old U.S. of A., where the term “common sense” has been degraded into a complete oxymoron and basic intelligence and decency have all but dissolved into vestiges of what they once were. Seriously, whom can I trust when the just have been long censored by the clueless and the self-righteous and the people whom I’d expect to speak with wisdom and discernment are blithering, egotistical morons who value frivolous and redundant mindlessness over refined sensibility? Where do I turn to when all of the noble and enlightened souls have either passed on into the afterlife or faded into anonymity if they hadn’t already retrograded into the same lot of vacuous, vainglorious fool as the rest of society? How else can I protect myself from all the soapbox preachers, teary-eyed whiners, and grandiose-stricken braggarts who think they’re such heaven-blessed heroes other than crawling into a hole and praying for such blowhards to simply up and vanish when those three types are the only variations of people I ever hear from–never anyone whose mindset is even remotely similar to my own? For crying out loud, people, grow up and leave me alone with your inauthentic, closed-minded, self-serving poppycock!

Sigh…there I go again. Why do I even bother? I should know by now that I’m not marriage material–never have been, never will be. What’s the point, then? Why am I even wasting both my time and yours with words you’ll more likely than not disregard as pure drivel from a man you probably have never met before and perhaps hope you’ll never have the misfortune of meeting in the future? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure, although I strongly believe that my main reason for writing you this letter is to get things off my chest and say unto you how I wish things were different–not only for me, of course, even though I’ve talked so much about myself so far, but also for you…for us. Like I’ve said before, I’ve no real idea about your experiences in this lifetime, but I hope that you’re doing far better than I am and are as joyous and prosperous as you could ever hope to be and that good fortune smiles upon you daily, even when things are at their worst for you. After all, even though I’ve more or less devolved into a bitter, contemptuous, spiteful creep whose primary hobby is feeling sorry for myself for being so down on my luck, I still haven’t turned into the completely despicable creature I often feel like, and though you may find it hard to believe, I actually care about you. I might go as far as to say that I love you, but that would be coming on too strong–even though I do wish I had it in me to grow up, get over myself, clean up my act, and actually show you some affection every now and then. No, no, I really mean it; it would do me some good to hold your hand every once in a while or perchance give you a hug or a kiss for the simple reason of feeling like it. It wouldn’t kill me in the least, either, to run my fingers through your hair, whisper sweet nothings in your ear, or hold you tightly in the evening when the night sky covers the land and Madame Luna watches over those in her charge. I would especially enjoy doing everything in my power to see you through your greatest grievances and to help you cope with the evils of this tainted world–you know, just to be there whenever you need someone to comfort you. Just to care for someone other than myself for once would do wonders for this blackened heart of mine–that is, of course, if I can only bring myself to overlook all of the idiots and jackasses on this planet and concentrate on those who deserve my attention. Then again, I’m sure that’s why so many people try to become involved in romantic relationships in the first place: to place themselves in another person’s shoes and accustom themselves to that other’s needs and aspirations in an effort to teach themselves to think about other people in general as opposed to only themselves.

You know, I’ve heard time and again that love conquers all–that love is so powerful a force that it can dispel any and all negative emotions that one may find oneself enduring. Even hatred, its antithesis, only barely stands a chance against its influence simply because of hatred’s purely destructive nature and love’s capacity to heal many a tortured spirit, regardless of the multitude, extensiveness, or basic severity of the wounds the subject has had to endure. Personally, I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never had a single girlfriend in my entire life, and by no means have any of my closest friends–which were few and far between, I can’t help but say–never showed me what I would consider to be “love,” as whatever respect and dignity they treated me with was a little too casual to satisfy the definition of such a label. Personally, I grew up thinking love meant more than just palling around or hanging out with someone or greeting said individual in the hallway with an affable, “Hey, how are ya?” every time I passed him or her. To me, love meant opening up one’s heart and sharing one’s deepest feelings and desires with little to no sense of shame or guilt–to share a special bond with a single, solitary human being that one couldn’t possibly share with anyone else, even if one were unscrupulous or otherwise crazy/foolish enough to try. As such, I’ve always considered lovers to engage in activities together that they never could bring themselves to do on their own or with persons whom they simply regarded as their friends–things like taking walks along deserted beaches or through empty parks just before dusk, dedicating love songs to one another over the radio, and treating each other to candle-lit dinners for two. All of these activities merely seem too intimate for ordinary friends to do with each other and are thus far more suitable for couples whose halves want to spend quality time together nurturing the sacred bond that has been growing between them for weeks into months into years on end. Such is the kind of thing I’d always wanted to experience somehow for myself, should it have been in the cards for me. At least then I would’ve come to the realization that hey, guess what–I’m not as evil as I once thought I was.

Well, I haven’t had good enough luck to experience that in the waking world, but I have in my imagination. You see, whenever I think about us as a couple–even though we never have been in this reality, as you and I both know–I always think of us as two people who thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, regardless of where we are or what we’re doing. Even a basic trip to the mall turns into a romantic getaway for the two of us, what with the way we stroll hand-in- hand from one shop to the next buying different things until we decided to take a break so that I can treat you to lunch at the restaurant of your choice. On the other hand, nothing beats a night of fine dancing, whether that occurrence takes place at a classy ballroom (a dying breed of an all-American institution, if there ever was one), a swinging 1940s-style nightclub, or even at home to the tunes playing on the radio or my CD player. Admittedly, I’ve never enjoyed the luxury of a slow dance with a girl, but I must say that I’ve thought about the notion quite frequently, so far to the point where I’ve used my CD burner to make three albums that consist entirely of love songs for couples to slow dance to. Since I’ve been so preoccupied with my studies and my job search, however, I don’t really do much with those albums other than listen to them, though I’ve often enough done just that whenever I’ve felt my sense of longing for love swell up from deep inside me. If you ask me, I’d think it’s be quite a nice change of pace for me to be sharing such a sweet, heartfelt moment with my future bride–you know, just the two of us gazing into each other’s eyes and swaying to the music, her hand on my shoulder and mine around her waist, lest I take the occasional opportunity to twirl her around and “dip” her just as all those dashing gents did with their dates in all those great romance movies from the mid-twentieth century. Who knows? We might even enjoy the pleasure of a deep, passionate kiss, thereby furthering the cementation of our “affaire de coeur.” I have to tell you, just thinking about such a moment melts the ice that has otherwise completely frozen this jaded heart of mine.

Of course, even with all this talk about love and togetherness, I’ve neglected to discuss possibly the most crucial step in our relationship–namely, our marriage. After all, if love is but a game and we are naught but players in it, then I’d at least like to be one of the players who’d play for keeps–especially if the reward were to be a lifetime of happiness with an adoring wife whom I could take care of. I don’t necessarily mean financially, either, although being a provider in that area would certainly be a great responsibility that I certainly wouldn’t shirk in the least, had I only the means to fulfill such a requirement. Basically, if I were your husband, I’d also enjoy doing many other things to make you proud to be my bride. For instance, I wouldn’t at all mind chipping in with any household chores that needed to be done, seeing as keeping our house in top shape would be just as much my responsibility as it would yours. Similarly, as much as I’ve learned to love the art of cooking, fixing up dinner for the two of us as well as for our daughter would suit me as being the ideal way of telling you both as to just how welcome you’d both be in my life and how proud I’d be to be the man in our family. Speaking of little Leslie Alexandra, I’d most definitely enjoy watching her grow up into just as fine a young woman as her mother and teach her the values of being the same kind of caring, responsible, hard-working adult that you and I were both raised to become. I wouldn’t even be embarrassed to talk about certain “women’s issues” with her, either, even if for no reason other than to help her understand the world around her and a woman’s role in it. After all, I know myself that I’d much sooner treat a woman with dignity and respect if she were to carry herself with poise, maturity, and sophistication in an effort to earn her way into society–even if she had struggle the whole while doing so–as opposed to taking the “easy way up” by sexually objectifying herself for the perverted pleasure of a bunch of boys in man-suits. Why, I’d even go as far as to give you the side of the bed closer to the bathroom so that when you would conceive Leslie, you wouldn’t have to take the long way around me in the middle of the night just to get up to empty your bladder. I know this specific instance is a particularly distasteful one for me to bring up, but when it comes to taking care of the gal to whom I’d be wed, every little bit counts.

Anyway, that’s it. I know this is a very exhausting letter to read, but when it comes to spilling my guts, I really do spill my guts–even if only figuratively and not literally. To me, thoroughness is important–if not downright crucial–when it comes to speaking my mind, and I thank you for having the patience with my mile-a-minute rambling to read me out and find out precisely what I’m talking about. Let it be known, sweetheart, that despite our never having met each other and the multiple flaws I have yet to get over, I love you like the soul mate I believe you would have been meant to be, had fate turned out the way I would have preferred it. As I may have said before, however, the chances of me marrying someone in this lifetime are slim to none, even if I do pull myself out of this rut I’m in and redeem myself for undergoing my own personal moral decline. Who knows, though? I might yet be able to prove myself worthy enough of redemption and effectively earn my right to lead a more successful, productive, and overall worthy life in the next reality, and at last we’ll have the opportunity to meet, fall in love, and exchange vows with one another just as I secretly hope we will at this moment. Not only that, but I’ll also be more competent, mature, responsible, and respectable as a man to be able to take care of you and our daughter by then, and because of that, our love will last a lifetime. Until then, of course, I can only dream, but even so, at least that dream will be one worth fighting for in the reality after this one.

So, until we finally meet, take care of yourself, and may fortune smile upon us soon.

All my love,

Owen

*****

Well, that should do it for today. Hopefully, this read has been an entertaining one for you all. If it has, please don’t hesitate to leave a response to this post. After all, who knows? I just might publish more on this blog along with my poetry and articles. Otherwise, my promise to provide more of what I had been this past summer will indeed continue once I’ve finally put UWWX on the market—possibly even sooner. You never know. It depends on how well I can get my act together in that regard. Until next time, though, thank you for reading, and please visit (if you haven’t already) my author page at Smashwords.com and follow me on twitter (@DustinMWeber). Happy reading!

Regards,

Dustin M. Weber

Short Story: The Meaning of Love

Welcome back, readers!

Well, as promised in my post from August 26, we’ll be taking a break from the poetry for the time being and focusing on a different kind of work that I’ve experimented with once upon a time—namely, short stories. This particular piece should fit the bill nicely considering the fact that it is the first of a small handful of short stories I’d ever had the chance to write back in the day. As a matter of fact, I’d chanced to write this story back on September 24, 1999, as part of a writing assignment for my first ever college English course. I’ll be brutally honest; being a roughly inexperienced teenager at the time, I suppose I could have done a better job in terms of developing and expanding on certain thoughts and ideas that I’d managed to present throughout the course of this narrative, among other things. Even so, being that this particular story is short, sweet, and to the point and came straight from the heart during the time I wrote it, I’d be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t proud of it. As such, I hope you people enjoy reading this next piece, The Meaning of Love, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

*****

The Meaning of Love

by Dustin M. Weber

September 24, 1999

What is love, anyway? As simple as this question may seem, a surprisingly large percentage of people aren’t able to answer it as accurately as they would like to. Then again, who can blame them? Love, as is true with similarly abstract topics, has so many definitions and interpretations that no two individuals can ever reach the exact same conclusion about it no matter how parallel their views are. Personally, I especially have a rather different perception of love as compared to those of others based on my past experiences regarding the issue. The one that taught me the most about it, however, was a brief yet influential moment that I had not too long ago with a girl named Ashley Studebaker, the first and only woman I’ve ever had an intense feeling of admiration for. In fact, the more I reminisce about the event, the more I realize that no other date in time will stick out in my mind like that one instant when I first locked lips with an angel.

We first met when we attended the same middle school during the sixth grade. A close friend of mine, who had previously been one of her classmates in elementary school, introduced us to one another during the second month of classes. Even back then, I could see the sparkle of her bright emerald-green eyes and quartzite smile and the golden shine of her long blond hair as it gently sloped down to the back of her narrow shoulders. Her face had a nice rosy hue to it–a deliciously pinkish magenta that remained uncorrupted by even the slightest hint of blush or mascara. Her slim, limber torso and legs gave her an admirably athletic carriage, reminding me of a graceful ballerina in a musical production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Heck, I’ll go as far as to admit that the soft, rich moistness of her full crimson lips had intrigued me, too. Truth be told, it felt as though I had just met my future wife right there on the spot.

That’s not to say, of course, that her material beauty was the only thing that had struck a cord within my heart; her character had managed to win me over as well. Truth be told, I actually found her cheerful optimism and straight-forward respect towards me and, quite frankly, towards people in general to be two of her most appealing traits. It needn’t have mattered when we two would meet, as we’d always have this effervescent feeling of warmth and comfort flickering between us, burning within our very souls like a well-managed campfire on a cool October evening. Likewise, I can’t even honestly recall a single argument that had ever occurred amongst us–almost as if we were incapable of showing any sign of anger toward each other. In short, we both enjoyed each other’s company to the utmost possible extent, and that–as anyone can determine–is the prime element of any long-lasting relationship, friendship or otherwise.

As the passage of time pressed on, Ashley and I continued to grow closer together with every blissful moment. More or less, we’d go out of our way to spend every instant with our respective significant other: attending the same parties, hanging out at the mall, studying…just the usual in terms of teenager-related activities. Then again, none of those experiences were quite as memorable for us as our strolls through the woods every Sunday afternoon. During these little trips, all our personal feelings, beliefs, and values would pour out between us like individual drops of water during a summer rainstorm. We’d generally become more open towards each other, but not because we felt it necessary; we did so simply because we were really starting to enjoy the sacred bond of loyalty that was gradually growing stronger between us with every passing minute. In other words, our small jaunts through the forest helped us build a greater understanding of our growing interpersonal connection and allowed us to dive head-first into our relationship without thinking about where precisely it would lead us.

On our last “friendship walk,” however–late in the April of 1996, as I recall–I felt some strange power within the air influence me to pull one of the most impulsive stunts in all my adolescent life. I couldn’t see for certain what it was that promoted such a brash, random action. Did the crisp, gentle spring breeze put me into some sort of odd romantic trance that I wasn’t aware of? Had I allowed myself to become too mesmerized by the tranquil silence that enclosed upon my shivering frame? Was it merely the fact that I was all alone with the most elegant, compassionate girl I’ve ever met in my material existence on this planet?

Well, whatever the case may have been, I tried to reign in my ambitiously primitive urges to the best of my ability, reminding myself over and over again that what I was feeling wasn’t exactly love, but rather lust–not that I knew what love really was, I admit, as I’d never designed any serious commitment to any girl before then. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but to merely glance at Ashley’s forlorn face every once in a while and still manage to drink in every detail with my avaricious, wolfish eyes.

She looked quite stunning then with her smooth, clear skin glowing with a ghostly luminescence against the cool fall shade and her sunny mane glistening like a halo around her head. Her lips, I also noticed, were dry and parted as if she had something to say but couldn’t find the right words to help illustrate her thoughts. Her expression displayed so much frustration and regret that it just killed me to see her in such a state of lost hopelessness. Surely there was some way I could help her regain her usual self-confidence. If only I could have reached out to her and eased her aching soul…

I stopped dead in my tracks and asked her what it was that was bothering her. She paused as well, but instead of saying anything, she simply lifted her head shyly, like a juvenile box turtle peeking out of its shell, and focused her somber gaze upon me. Soon enough, the two of us found ourselves paralyzed by each other’s stares with our tongues frozen within our slightly gaping mouths and our hearts thudding heavily against our sternums. We could see the fireworks exploding in one another’s irises, exposing the spark of three years’ worth of friendship that was about to ignite into something greater than either of us had ever expected.

We motioned slowly to each other, pulling together as though some electromagnetic force was uniting us at its own scientifically indomitable will. I clutched her shoulders and surely, though cautiously, summoned her delicate form toward me with my trembling hands. As I did so, I could detect the hairs on the back of my neck prickle like porcupine quills as she stretched her long, thin fingers along my trapezium. Her hot, sultry breath swept into my sinuses in one long stream of cinnamon-scented air, leaving me even more drugged than I was before. Her controlled, rhythmic breathing added to the hypnosis and made me want to just melt there right on the spot like a block of wax on a radiator.

Finally, in one smoothly calculated execution, the inferno within us raged forth.

Our lips touched lightly at first, then fastened firmly around each other as they connected. I soon found all of my organic systems increasing at a rate I’ve never experienced before, endangering my emotional stability and setting my mind so off balance that I couldn’t think or act with full clarity. I knew that I should have stopped right at that very instant, but the sweet taste of Ashley’s nectar had overpowered my brain’s pleasure zone and weakened my capacity for reason to such a degree that I felt my self-control slithering out of my grasp like earthworms from a child’s muddy little hands. My adrenaline raced like brushfire, speeding the flow of blood through my veins as I inhaled the luxurious aroma of her natural metabolic perfume, yet depraved myself of the oxygen that my lungs so desperately craved. Her arms, too, had a dangerously delightful sensuality about them as they wrapped around my torso like twin boa constrictors and encompassed me in a vice of fatal affection.

My conscience panicked as well, telling me to stop the madness at once before I ended up hurting not only myself, but Ashley as well, and send whatever faith we had in one another to the brink of oblivion. Neither one of us deserved to put ourselves–or each other, for that matter–through such reckless chaos and force our mutually hard-earned trust to coincide with something it wasn’t quite ready for. The pressure we were undergoing was senseless, foolish, insane–just plain wrong! Then again, how many teenagers stop and think about the consequences of their decisions before acting upon them? Besides, I, for one, had become so addicted to her that redeeming myself for my weasel-like greed had gotten less and less possible with every passing nanosecond. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that she had felt the exact same way that I did.

Luckily for us, though, we were able to break out of our embrace before we could cause any greater damage.

Holding Ashley at arms’ length, I could see that she was just as frightened as I was, if not even more so. Her eyes, losing their usual crystalline glimmer, bulged out of their sockets while her jaw dropped so far down that if it wasn’t properly hinged, it might as well have fallen off into the dirt. I also noticed that she had adopted a stance that made her look like she was ready to flee from me at any given moment like a rabbit after spotting a hungry fox. Of course, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did, as I might as well have done the same thing–had I not been so busy trying to catch my breath and clear my thoughts, of course.

As soon as we shoved ourselves apart, however, we had both managed to talk about the episode with a shocking amount of rationality. The pair of us agreed that our little scenario, unnerving as it had been, was merely a fluke of nature that would have occurred between any couple of really close friends (albeit those of the opposite gender, in most cases) and that we had no need to feel ashamed of our actions. In fact, she told me that I was a rather adept kisser and that she was glad to have had her first kiss with me instead of some arrogant jock or self-centered preppy. I couldn’t help blushing when I heard her say that; it simply sounded so ridiculous that such a gorgeous, soft-hearted creature as herself would fall for a hideously embittered goon like me. It had to have been something about my personality that had lured her to me—some intangible trait of mine that I never knew I had the ability to acquire until that one magical incident.

Suddenly, I could identify right then and there my own personal definition of love and what power it could hold over two people with a strong, long-lasting interpersonal connection. The sensation of actually being able to define such an abstract concept in my own terms gave me the shivers at first, as I didn’t quite know how to apply such knowledge to the rest of my future experiences. On the other hand, I actually enjoyed making such a breakthrough discovery about the reality that had just occurred between the two of us–long-time friends who had finally unearthed our most powerful and life-altering secret after an intense instant of truth. Overall, I had developed a stronger notion of commitment to Ashley than I had ever made to anyone or anything else in my entire metaphysical state of existence. Nothing could tear me away from her, not even many years’ worth of departure from her, for that was exactly how mighty my emotions had developed from that moment on.

Three more years have passed since that episode–long, dismal ones at that, too–during which personal obligations have forced Ashley and me to take our separate journeys. We still find the time to keep in touch, however, despite the heavy demands of our respective life schedules. Within the letters we send one another, we express our continuous mutual devotion and the desire we each hold to meet again one day to fulfill our sacred destiny. All right, so maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I refuse to deny the fact that our first kiss taught us precisely what we needed to know about romance and the ideals of true love and that only the coldest, most insensitive person on the face of the earth would dare defy its institutional message to the masses. In other words, love maintains its title as the strongest natural power of all and will continue to stay that way even as the world fades away into nothingness.

*****

And that should do it for today—probably for the entirety of this season, in fact. September is just around the bend, after all, and I still have every intention of publishing my latest novel, UWWX: The Underground Women’s Wrestling Xperiment, sometime that month. If things change and I have to push the date back, I will let everyone know, but so far—even though things have taken much longer than I’d hoped they would in terms of editing the doggone book—things are looking okay. In the meantime, let me know what you think about this particular story (including any constructive criticisms you might have for consideration in future short story submissions) and whether or not it touched a nerve with any of you. Feel free, too, to let me know if any of you would be interested in reading a novel with themes similar to those presented here. Granted, I have a different type of novel in the works, but even with that in mind, I am always willing to try out a new genre and/or style of writing.

Otherwise, thank you all once again for reading, and as always, check out my author page at Smashwords.com to see what I have available for your reading pleasure, and don’t forget to follow my on Twitter @DustinMWeber. Until we meet again, then, happy reading!

Regards,

Dustin M. Weber