meanwhile, back at the cabin*

Posted October 16, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock


We made a day trip down to Roundrock on Saturday, doing nothing special until is was time to leave. Then we got our big surprise.

I’m sure I could count on one hand (yes, I can count that high!) the number of months over the last decade when I hadn’t made at least one visit to the cabin, but with this October shaping up as it is, I was worried that it would become one of those unvisited months. Thus our trip.

We had nothing much on our agenda, and since I forgot to bring the gasoline for the chainsaws, even the vague idea to clean up here and there, was dismissed. Upon entering the cabin, though, I found that both of the mousetraps I had set on my last visit had fulfilled their destiny. There were two dead (and mostly desiccated) mice in the traps. While this was good, it was also disconcerting. How are the mice getting into the cabin after nearly a decade of not being able to? (Or not having done so?) Libby suggested that we couldn’t reuse the traps since they now had the “smell of death” on them, but I’m not sure mice have that level of existential thought, though I do think they are attracted to smells. (I had baited the traps with a piece of extra sharp Swiss cheese and a bit of a chewy dog treat, and topped them both with a dab of spicy mustard.) Either way, I threw the traps onto the ash in the fire ring, to be consumed in the next fire (and to add their metal mechanisms — sprung — to the ash).

We poked around. I swept some corners of the cabin. I screwed an attachment in a wall stud so I could hang the wheelbarrow and thus regain some floor space. I liberated some cedars from their earthly toil. I raked leaves away from the back of the cabin. I took a “nap” which mostly consisted of closed eyes and slow breaths as I imagined a scene from a story I’m working on. (This resulted in a page of notes I wrote soon after.) We ate our lunch an hour early. I pulled weeds out of the gravel near the fire ring. I loaded the wheelbarrow into the bed of my truck to take home in faraway suburbia for some much-needed yard work. That kind of thing, for about five hours. (It’s a two-hour drive each way for a cabin trip, so we strive to spend more time actually there than it takes to get to and fro.) And then it was time to begin packing to head home.

We were nearly gone — the dogs were already in the car — when Libby opened the drawer of the metal cabinet to get a tissue and made her discovery.

There was a mouse in the drawer. Not only a mouse, but a momma mouse with three babies hanging from her. (Apparently they’re called pups.) She had made a nest of the oven mitt we’d kept there. When Libby spotted the mouse, she quickly disappeared, leaving one pup behind. We slowly began emptying the drawer (and throwing out many foul-smelling things), but we could not find the mother mouse. Then we moved to the cabinet below the drawer. In here we have kept the extra sheets for the beds, towels, blankets, and all sorts of things we’d put away exactly because they would make nice mouse bedding. Slowly we began removing these, and on the fleece blanket Libby uses to keep warm on cold nights, we saw a chewed hole in it. Still, we could not find the mother mouse. But as I was holding the blanket, I saw it move and I knew the mouse was within the folds. Just has Libby had done with the one pup we’d retrieved from the drawer, I took the blanket far from the cabin and then opened it. There was momma mouse, looking bright eyed and plump, with clean, thick fur. (Another mystery is how these mice are feeding themselves in the cabin since we’ve put away all of the edibles. The conclusion is that they’re coming and going through some means mysterious.) Also with momma mouse were two pups. I shook them off the blanket and wished them well there in the woods, then I opened the blanket fully and shook it again.

We brought home all of the washables from the cabinet (and put a new oven mitt on the list of things we need for the cabin). They’ve all been laundered and are ready to be returned on our next visit.

I should say that we had purchased this metal cabinet specifically because we thought it was mouse proof. Even with it emptied (and Windexed clean), we could not find an entrance. It will get a more thorough examination on our next trip.

I’ll get more mouse traps, and I think I’ll get some of that nasty poison to stick behind the cabinet in the corner. We’ve always been reluctant to use poison because of the small dog, though there are places he can’t reach that mice can.

I intend to bring a ladder on my next visit and examine closely the eaves outside of the cabin and their corresponding parts inside. There has to be an entrance somewhere.

You may remember that we’d had a break in last spring. By squirrels, but still! Libby’s idea is that once the forest learned that there were edibles in the cabin — in that case birdseed — the word got around and now the mice, who’d never shown an interest in the cabin before, are determined to move in. That makes the most sense right now.

In my One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” the narrator laments that his father had never been able to make their cabin mouse proof, and I was always a little smug that mine was. I am chastized.

Also, this is not a mouse:



*A paraphrase, as I’m sure you recognized, of the phrase “meanwhile, back at the ranch” which has a long and storied history.


“remembering makes it new.”

Posted October 12, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , ,

“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet remembering makes it new. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

spoken by the narrator in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

I hope to hear Tim O’Brien speak this evening at the Kansas City Public Library.

“Moving Day” has found a home!

Posted October 10, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories

Tags: , ,

My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” has been accepted by THEMA Literary Journal and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue next June.

I had submitted the story last June (by snail mail!) and had nearly forgotten that I did. I responded to a themed call for submissions — the theme being “The Face in the Photo” — and sent this story since a photo plays a critical role in it and in the plot of the novel, actually directing the course of one character’s life in part. You can read about my submission in this old post.

So I have a small, one-page contract to sign and return and I’ll get one copy of the printed journal (next June) as well as actual payment of $25! Aside from the 15 cents I got for one story (a Buffalo nickel and a Liberty dime), this is the first time I’ve ever been paid for my fiction. (Actually, not quite true. I was promised $10 for a story years ago, but the check never arrived.)

This is the seventh One-Match Fire story to see publication — that’s one-third of the whole novel — and my twenty-fifth story published.

I had been reviewing my various outstanding submissions in the tracking function at Duotrope’s Digest that very morning and was sad when I learned that I had not seen a single thing published this year (which didn’t make sense since I’ve had two stories published this year). In fact, the day THEMA’s acceptance letter came (via the postal mail, by the way, in my return-addressed envelope), I had received two email rejections for different stories I had submitted elsewhere. I was feeling dejected, but not so much anymore.

the state of things (or of one thing in particular)

Posted October 9, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons


Above is all that remains of that notebook from my grad school days that I burned in the fire ring at Roundrock. I wrote about it in this recent post.


I devoted a lot of time over the weekend (betwixt watching Emmett and also driving the course of the half marathon I have in less than two weeks) to “finalizing” One-Match Fire. I’ve been tinkering with the stories, trying to focus and enhance them based on the understanding of the characters and the plots as they’ve developed over time. Now that I know this about a character or that is going to happen, I find places in the stories to develop or set the stage for these things. Nearly every story received a dozen or so new words, some a lot more, and I’ve written an entire new story (“Special-blest”) that includes a flashback that helps fill in some of the early years of one character. I’m now up to 68,237 words for the whole novel, not counting chapter titles, of course. This is about a 5,000 word increase since the last count, and most of it is due to the new story. Still, I feel more confident that it is novel length and that I can pitch it as such.

I have some thoughts still to come from a trusted reader, and that may affect (will, likely) how that new story evolves as well as a “guy thing” that I wanted to bring into the stories somewhere that I think is important for understanding part of the dynamic between one of the fathers and his son.

And then? A comprehensive read through to get the tone more consistent; the early stories are lighter, the later stories more serious. And I’ll look for any opportunities to flesh out characters or story based on what I know now that I didn’t know then. And now that I have the narrator clear in my head, I want to capture that person’s voice more consistently throughout.

And then? The terrifying work of sending it to agents? I must get myself to that point. I can’t fool around with this novel any longer. I have other ideas waiting in the wings of my poor brain.

sunrise ~ Skywatch Friday

Posted October 6, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


For years on my old blog, Roundrock Journal, I had participated regularly in Skywatch Friday. Bloggers would post a photo of the sky, and sometimes say something about it, and then link the post to an aggregator at Skywatch Friday. It was/is a way to reach out to new readers and to see some impressive examples of photography from around the world (though under the sun).

I could rarely put up a photo that was a match to some of the beauty that the regulars there did, but I’d always felt welcomed and encouraged.

And so here is a picture of the sky, looking east, from the parking lot of my local bagel shop. I expect to be in that same location tomorrow morning, possibly even having run there, though I don’t know what kind of sky I’ll see then.

consider this

Posted October 5, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

There is an American novel that deals, directly or indirectly, with racial hatred, attempted lynching, poverty, ignorance, mental illness and disease, rape, incest, alcoholism, false accusation, perjury, evidence tampering, attempted murder, and even rabies, and it is considered one of the most beloved novels in our literature.

spherical stones

Posted October 4, 2017 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock

so, round rocks.