Meeting a legend

by Lori Hoeck

Over 40 years ago when I was a young adult in Aspen, Colorado, a one-man show came to town. A talented, but fairly unknown actor (not Hal Holbrook) had memorized almost every line and moment of Mark Twain’s life. The actor even had the look, gestures, and witticism of Samuel Clemens down to an art.

I sat mesmerized by the performer, enthralled to see my writing hero Mark Twain come alive before me. Every wave of the cigar, each dancing smile of self-satisfaction at a joke well received, and the playful Southern accent drew me into the act.

Toward the end of his evening of entertaining, the actor said he would answer any questions from the audience. The Aspen crowd was quick to ask Mark Twain about his take on current (1980s) politics and trends. The actor enjoyed adding Twain’s satire to his answers and took delight in the give and take.

Finally, I raised my hand. Sweeping across the room, expecting another barbed question, he drew near and asked, “And what would your question be, Little Lady?”

I replied, “I want to be a writer. What do I do to become a better writer?”

Suddenly the room fell silent. The actor and audience looked into my earnest face. They realized I wanted Mark Twain, not the actor, to answer my question.

The man’s face softened, his mind switched gears, and he drew even closer, as if Mark Twain and this young woman were to have a private conversation. Everyone leaned forward to listen.

Mark Twain looked me in the eye and said, “Experience of life—not of books—is the only capital usable in writing well, and one can make no judicious use of this capital while it is new.”*

Quite frankly, I don’t remember the words exactly, I just remember he talked about living life more fully so you can write more deeply and richly.

In that one, stellar moment, Mark Twain came down from a high literary pedestal and touched me with his words. As I looked into those Mark Twain eyes, I heard that old father of American literature answer my question, and it changed my life. In those eyes, I felt Mark Twain bless my journey as a writer, a journey I’m still taking.

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck


*An adapted quote from a letter Mark Twain sent to Bruce Weston Munro, 21 Oct 1881 (Karanovich collection)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Let’s keep it fiction

by Lori Hoeck

The Judgment———

Somewhere in the near future

“Trent Johnston, stand.”

The community judge’s voice filled the sweat box of a room, chilling Trent to the bones. He’d heard the tone before–the arrogant voice of someone trying to squeeze their viciousness and bullying into overly kind words. Appearance always mattered more than truth in what once were called halls of justice.

The sweat-covered and all-too-eager bailiff started to wave the five community officers standing behind Trent to get him to his feet. Before they could move, Trent stood. Back straight despite the recent pummeling from the five behind him. His eyes stared like lasers, but were unable too meet the shifting eyes of the man before him.

“Trent, you stand before us today accused once again of Mongering. I can’t let it slide this time.”

After spending 10 of his last 18 years on unforgiving city streets, Trent placed a mask of contempt over his face. Scrapping and scraping as an urban wild child, the child of a convicted Monger parents, Trent knew what was about to happen.

“You would think your parents’ exile to UrbanPrison should have taught you a lesson, but no.”

The judge, a fat man in skinny community, looked at the FedState’s record of Trent’s LifeNotes and shook his head.

“Perhaps your parents’ Mongering tainted you. It says here you were an accessory in their first offense for conspiring to start unsanctioned, untaxed, and unsupervised community gardens on the rooftops.”  The man’s jowls jiggled as he shook his head and muttered a tsk, tsk noise.

“You know that Mongering–or anything related to buying and selling apart from the FedState’s benevolent care–is what caused the horrors of American arrogance and oppression.”

The FedState propaganda rolled off the judge’s tongue like a wannabe’s badge of honor.

“Equally heinous, is that your parents sought to withhold their hybrid plants from discovery by the FedState so they could sell them for profit. These super-producing plants would have disrupted farming throughout the nation, causing farm-camps to no longer need half their workforce.”

Trent sensed the revulsion for his parents roll around the room like a sickly smell. None of these community helpers, as they liked to call themselves, gave a damn for the families that relied on his parents’ work to avoid starvation through the Dark Days after the Collapse. All they cared about was feeding their power through intimidation and lies.

“Young man, now we turn to your crimes. First there was the incident with the Oldsters on Jackson Street when you were 12. You willingly and knowingly deprived Community Workers–our own hard-working C-Dubyas–from helping those seniors by undercutting their services with black market goods and services.”

Trent could barely restrain himself from blurting out, “Your C-Dumbies were selling them dumpster-food from restaurants and calling it recycled foodstuffs!” He remembered the beat down he’d received trying to argue that point so many years ago and remained silent.

“And then at age 15, you sought to teach classes of first aid to your peers, thus undermining the credibility of our C-Dubyas on the Med-Force…”

The list of offenses, once honorable acts of citizenship, went on and on.

At least I did my parents proud,” Trent told himself as he heard his supposed crimes against the FedState and Community. Finally the judge reached the most recent event.

“And now to yesterday’s incident. You have been accused and now stand convicted by my authority for once again undermining the credibility of our Community by using your Monger-learned first aid skills on a little girl struck by traffic. Bystanders all agree in these signed reports that you did not wait for the Community Ambulance Service and Med-Force to attend to her, but instead interfered, and by doing so, delayed proper treatment.”

Trent spoke for the first time. “She would have bled to death if I’d done nothing. But doing nothing is just what you leeches want, isn’t it? Make us afraid to act, and you suck all our personal decision making out of us.”

The punch to his kidney from behind him dropped him to his knees. Most community officers preferred shooting, stabbing, or punching in the back because of a general adherence to cowardice. Trent recalled his parent’s words, “It used to be ‘To Protect and Serve.’ Now it’s ‘To Force and Convert’.”

In his agony, Trent couldn’t see, but he could feel the dog pack and mob mentality surge. He knew the five were practically salivating to be given the go ahead. He pictured the judge’s small smile of satisfaction race across his face and the bailiff’s fingers twitch with anticipation of forming a fist.

Trent knew even if he did make it through the next few minutes, he’d end up in UrbanPrison with too many injuries to survive the brutal welcome such a place was famous for. Fortunately for him, his parents had secretly taught him how to fight, both striking and grappling styles. He’d rarely used his skills, but now someone was going to pay.

Just as Trent steeled himself to launch into attack mode, the door burst open in the back of the room. All eyes turned to see who would dare interrupt a powerful community court session.

“Stop this immediately!” A familiar voice of authority brought everyone but Trent to attention. The figure crossing the floor toward them came surrounded by armed soldiers. Trent knew only two groups in the nation carried weapons — FedState Blackcoats or underground rebels from The League.

None wore black coats.

“Help him up,” the leader of the armed group said, pointing to Trent. His soldiers rushed to comply while the five bullies melted aside.

As strong arms gently lifted him up, Trent suddenly knew that voice. It was the voice behind The League’s Speak Free media broadcasts. The man, known only as Rafael, had an unmistakable Hispanic accent.

Walking up to the judge, Rafael growled his words. Trent could barely hear them. “You worthless wannabe bureaucrat. You would beat and imprison the man who saved my daughter’s life just to make yourself feel big and important?”

Drawing a menacing breath, Rafael added quietly, “What are you trying to compensate for little man?”

Trent noticed with satisfaction that the judge’s power was running down his pant leg. It made the judge speechless for the first time in a long time.

Now that he had the man’s full attention, Rafael made his words slice like a knife. “You will quit your job today. You will make all the reparations you can to the lives you’ve ruined. Do this and you will live.”

Turning away in disgust, Rafael made a quick hand gesture and his team quickly moved to tie and gag everyone but Trent. As they did, Trent found Rafael’s hand shaking his. “I owe you one, young man. Thanks to you, my daughter is alive.”

Trent, unused to unabashed appreciation, simply nodded.

“Trent, The League needs brave people like you. Will you join us?”

“Yes,” came the immediate reply.

For the first time in 10 years, Trent felt like he was going home to a place where things were right instead of upside down, a place where honor, character, and merit were valued. Without a look back, he followed The League Members into a future he would help shape.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The Roar of the Storm

January 20, 2017

Dust floated, blew, or blasted into the house, depending on the wind strength. It filled the air with a choking dryness, a desert in every breath. After fifteen years of high plains living, Margie longed every spring for the little green that would fill the sparse trees and wild grasses. Her friends in the city […]

Read the full article →

Setting the table

January 1, 2017

Coffee in hand, she watched the morning clouds first glow pink, then slowly fill the sky with a canopy of fire. “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” The old timers’ saying made her wonder, did the sky know her heart? Even with the warmth of strong coffee, she […]

Read the full article →

Gonna grab me some boldness

May 15, 2014

(LYRICS) Gonna grab me some boldness And rip timidity to pieces. Heart pumpin’, thumpin’ in my chest My vision, my drive increases. No map needed–North Star leads. My compass is tried and true. Freed feet race along the path As hope fills my field of view. My dreams are catchin’ fire– A golden glow of […]

Read the full article →

Power of Words

April 17, 2014

LYRICS “Old fashioned,” “out of date.” “Throwback to another time.” “Sky-god lover,” “jingoistic.” Clueless on the world’s design. The name calling may change; The sentiment’s the same: When the self-righteous rule, Hypocrisy becomes the game. The fingers point, noses rise. Time for holier than thou. Freedom to think is ratcheted down. The law becomes what […]

Read the full article →

Ancient Song

April 17, 2014

LYRICS “Dividers. Haters. Us vs. them”– The song’s been sung forever. Its tune appears right and clear, But the words can only sever. Tyrants–by might or guile– Lie softly to turn hearts dark, To kill the ties that bind, To give mistrust its spark. Tyrants require enemies, To keep themselves in power, Scapegoats hung out […]

Read the full article →

Rebels in the Coffeehouse

April 3, 2014

(LYRICS) Take a stand against command & controllers, Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers. They pout ‘N shout, creating doubt, Pushing buttons so you can’t log out. The system, the machine, the oppressive dream Streams from a narcissistic regime As it builds a compliant, victim-filled team. Take a stand against command & controllers, Holier […]

Read the full article →

Powerful ebook on dealing with narcissists

January 26, 2010

Have you ever been so perplexed by a relationship that it drove you crazy? Perhaps you are in one right now. Do you feel like you’re the one who is always wrong? Do attempts to set boundaries only meet with disdain and anger? Are new suggestions shot down or sabotaged? Do attempts to withdraw from […]

Read the full article →

Bad rappin’ happenin’ here

December 3, 2009

REAL NOT REHAB pop stars on par for flyin’ far fall ill with the pills and thrills shoutin’, poutin’, givin’ us an outin’ of their desire to be REAL i laugh, cause i walked the path, been there and back about the wrath. they think, and make a stink, that it’s them, within, but they’re […]

Read the full article →