My One Star Review

               They found Vic Hoffman's body about fifty feet away lying in a heap near the sidewalk. He was dressed in his gray and red checked bathrobe. His graying blond hair was askew, and his glasses had been ripped off his face--along with his right ear. His eyes wore a look of shock and surprise. One moment he had been lying next to the warmth of his wife, and a few precious minutes later, he was dead. Life was definitely a bitch.
               "That the smell?" Elmer asked. He knelt close to the body but seemed unaffected by the odor.
               "Yes," Lou replied. "But it's not as strong. Charlie and Sheila stank to high heaven."
               "It's like when you make love all night to a beautiful woman," Elmer replied. "Each time there's a little less of you." He glanced up at Lou and gave him a crooked grin.
               Lou gulped. The analogy to sex was distasteful, but as much as he hated to admit it, accurate. 

                                                                           From “The Secret of the Sky”

I received my first bad review yesterday. One star out of five. Maybe I deserved it; maybe not. That’s not for me to say. I may not sell a lot of books, but I’ve consistently received good reviews; mostly five stars, a few fours. Never three. Never two. Never one. Until yesterday. As you can guess, the review was for “The Secret of the Sky”, the novel quoted above. The novel was designed to be an edgy, fast-paced story about an alien invasion that lasts one horrific night in an isolated town in Northern California. The book has received seven total reviews. Six good, one bad.

I didn’t have a very good day yesterday so this review, discovered at its end, was a little disturbing and a bruise to my ego. I only read it once, and I will never read it again. It’s just too painful. Now, I’m not here to say the reviewer is full of crap. He’s entitled to his opinion. It was not his cup of tea as they say. But I look upon my novels as my children. I’m proud and protective of them. I bask in the light of their successes. I bristle if they are threatened in any way.

If I remember correctly, the reviewer said something about me being a decent writer—forgive me if I have that wrong. I only read the review once before turning away. He just thought the story was obscene. And it is. It is a brutal, obscene story. It was designed that way. The story brings out the best and the worst in people. You see, an alien invasion, if there ever is one, will probably not be pretty.

For those of you who have read my other novels, “The Secret of the Sky”, which is my second, is a little out of character. I have been told that my writing has certain gentleness about it even when I’m writing about something bad. I have no problem with this assessment. I consider it a complement. But my alien invasion story does not have a gentleness about it. The story occurs over a twelve hour span and during that time a lot of horrible things happen.

The main source of the criticism has to do with the alien marking his prey. When I was researching the novel, I had a civet cat in mind. Civet cats, which are not really cats, are found in Asia and Africa. They have scent-producing glands that secrete a distinctive musky odor used to mark their territory. But I would be coy if I didn’t admit in my novel it has a certain gross correlation to—well you know what I mean.

I like “The Secret of the Sky”. When I wrote my first novel, “A Matter of Time” I didn’t know what the hell I was doing it. That book turned out okay. It’s a little long but most consider it my best work. But I have special affection for “Secret” because when I wrote it I did know what I was doing. It’s shorter and tighter than the previous work, and I think I created memorable characters.

As for that review I will say this. I don’t think he understood the book. I don’t think he appreciated the intent. Yes, it is  gross, but in my opinion, it’s a good type of gross.


Protector of the Language

Because school will soon let out for the summer break in a week, I have been preparing my Intention Statement. Haven demands that all its 1203 citizens be proficient in some skill brought to the colony from Earth by the original settlers. It is essential for our survival. Since I am the granddaughter of the mayor, I am expected to dream big. Maybe become a scientist, doctor, or some other core profession needed for Haven to prosper. Some have even suggested that I might be the mayor someday. This was stupid. I have no such ambitions. I told Grandfather that perhaps I’ll become a carpenter, a noble profession essential to the colony. He just looked at me, his glasses perched at the end of his nose, and said nothing. Guess I will not be a carpenter.
Anyway, Grandfather knows very well that my first love has always been words. That’s why he gave me this beautiful paper. In my Proper English classes, I have always received perfects. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll become a Protector of the Language and pass my knowledge of the English language to a younger generation.

I suppose I will marry someday. Every woman is expected to help seed Haven, whose population is stable but never seems to grow. (Maybe this is about to change. Mrs. Lester recently had triplets.) But that is a long time away after I have made my choices and the boys finally become men. I’m hoping that my trip to the Big Outside will help me decide which path my life will follow. Until then, I will prepare for my trip and dream of its possibilities.

                                                           From my novel, “The Lady of The Rose”

In my novel, “The Lady of The Rose”, my young protagonist, Abby Henry, says that someday when she gets older, she might become a “Protector of the language”. On her Earth Colony, the planet Zakura, somewhere in the faraway stars in a settlement called Haven, there are those whose duty is to keep the language pure. It seems to me we have no interest in doing this on Earth.

For a lot of years, I have marveled how weird politically correct expressions pop up now and again and how ridiculous they sound. It all started many years ago when they started calling garbage collectors “sanitation workers”. Then it moved on to calling a “chairman” a “chairperson” which is okay with me, but then they had to take it one step further calling the leader of a committee a “chair”. Whenever I hear that, I vision a nice comfortable wingback chair. How about you? 

The bottom line is there are certain segments of our society that love to twist the language into something they deem less hurtful to anyone that might possibly be offended by the truth. That’s why “illegal aliens” became “undocumented immigrants”. Now the sci-fi writer part of me does prefer that “aliens” be real aliens—like from outer space, I mean.

 Now I don’t want to get into politics—I don’t want to offend future book buyers—but let’s just say a lot of these people like to shop at Whole Foods Markets.

 These people never go to a class, they attend workshops. I always envision a lot of wood chips on the floor while they study modern literature. After the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, all of a sudden the word “infrastructure” popped up to describe the rumbling highways and bridges in the earthquake zone. Then the word was broadened and used in various other ways to describe anything and anything that might need a little work. Using it to describe the political infrastructure is one of my favorites. They loved that word for a few years before, thank God, it began to fade.

 When the letter “e” started to be used to describe anything on the internet from email to ecommerce to esex, every freaking commercial on television used it over and over again. Then there’s the word “green” to describe anything that might possibly save energy. Green this, green that. Green leaf emblems in the back of cars. Thank God that’s over with.

My favorite expression of all time was when the Mayor of Detroit called community gardens a“multi-diversity empowerment zone.”

Speaking of which, the word “diversity” had a long successful run and made me think evil thoughts.

Then there’s the global warming vs. climate change switcheroo that depends on the time of the year and the weather to determine which expression is used. Make up your minds, for God sakes. Here’s an idea: every fall when we turn back the clocks for the winter and change the batteries in our smoke detectors, we call it climate change, and in the spring we call it global warming for the hot summer.

Right now the word the currant word of the moment is “sustainable”. If I hear that word used one more time I might go mad.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I was listening to a story on an all-news San Francisco radio station about people who have to get food from a food bank. Now don’t get me wrong, food banks are a necessary and noble thing in our society, but when they refer to those who use their services as “food insecure” I want to vomit.

I wait with anticipation for the next mangling of our language. Abby Henry dreams of being a protector of the language. I fear that here on Earth, it’s too late.


My sister, Carol, passed away on the eighteenth of August. It was not unexpected. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five years ago, a vicious disease that carries an inevitable death sentence. Carol was five years older than me. She would have been seventy this Christmas. I don’t wish to dwell on her death, nor do I wish to recount all the details of her life. Like everyone else who comes into this world, it was filled with both joy and sorrow—good times and bad. Let’s keep that story secret shall we, hidden within the memories of those who knew and loved her. I want to speak to you of her spirit and what she meant to me.

There were four children in the Teves household; six people living in a small home with one bathroom in San Leandro. My brother, Danny, is the oldest child, ten years older than me. My sister Susan, eight years my senior, was three years older than Carol. I grew up with the disadvantage of being the baby of the family. There were things going on in my family that I was blissfully unaware of. By the time I became cognizant of our family dynamic, Carol was already into the double digits, a girl blossoming into a young woman….

Ten days before she died I went to see her. She was in bed and was deteriorating so rapidly it shook me to my core. I sat beside her, held her hand, now so fragile in mine, and wept. Carol and I had discussed the possibility of an afterlife. She didn’t think there was one; I wasn’t so sure. Through my tears I said to her, “Carol, if there's a place we go to when we die, I swear I will find you.”

Carol was uncommonly beautiful, a fact that was mostly lost on me as her little brother. She was, after all, my sister, and I didn’t see her as anything special. It wasn’t until years later when I saw a photo of her as a young woman that I had my “oh my God!” moment. Carol was, as we used to say back in the day, a fox. She had silky black hair and green eyes, the only member of our Portuguese family who didn’t have brown. Her green-eyed genes heralded back to the Azores, the islands of our ancestors. When you looked into them, you saw both beauty and a hint of the past.

My dad used to call her firecracker, a reference to her fiery personality. She had her opinions, and even as a little girl, she made her thoughts (and demands) quite clear. She was on occasion frustrating and hard to handle. I have fractured memories of verbal battles she conducted with our parents with regularity. She married her first husband, Ron Roach, and was out of the house when I was only fourteen, not enough years to be with her in the same home in my book. I used to have these crazy dreams that she left her husband and returned to me. But that never happened.

Of all my siblings, I was the closest to her. We had the same outlook on life, a complicated brew of irony, practicality and sarcasm. We both loved to read Stephen King novels and would talk endlessly about the latest one on the phone. The two of us always loved a good horror story. I will never read another one of his novels without thinking of her.

Carol was famous for her Christmas Eve celebrations. It was always at her home and was the closest thing we Teves’ had to family tradition. When she moved, the gatherings moved with her. I will always miss those winter evenings together that spanned so many years. The Teves and Roach families were together as one. Our children were young and life still had possibilities.

After Ron passed away, Carol was introduced to a man named Dave Victorino. Dave is a big guy, and the first time I met him I suspected he might be a gangster, but he was the furthest thing from that, our dear Dave. I had the surprise of my life when he asked me, the youngest brother, for my sister’s hand in marriage. I said yes, and he never gave me any reason to regret that answer. Their marriage was all too brief for two people so much in love. Dave cared for her with devotion and amazing grace until the very end….

Five days before Carol passed I went to see her again. This time I was prepared for the sight, and I did not weep. Instead I sat with her and talked for two solid hours about anything I could think of. Carol really couldn’t speak, but she could understand me. I once again told her we would try to meet again on the other side. Her eyes briefly opened and she said, “In Poipu”, the location of our home on Kauai, the island of our birth.…

When Carol was a little girl she couldn’t pronounce her name. Carol came out as Kakki. That became her nickname throughout her childhood and beyond. I remember calling her that when I was young. The beginning of her email address was KakkiCarol. So I leave this post with these words: I love you Kakki, Carol, my beloved sister, and I promise I will see you again.



Eddie Haye looked blankly out across State Street. "The copper," he said to no one in particular. "It's the copper. The copper. It goes down through the lines, I say. Electricity. It pierces my mind. It goes down through the lines. Down, down, down," he sang. "Down, down, down. Down," he added for emphasis before lapsing into silence. What happened next? He always forgot that part. It was part of their plan. It was in the part of his mind they took. They wanted to come back and take more, but this time he wouldn't let them. No, no, no. This time he had protection.  "Down, down, down," he sang again.

                                    From “The Secret of the Sky “

At the beginning of January 2016, give or take and assuming I’m still alive, I will begin a novel called “Brick”. It will be the culmination of my writing experiment, probably the last novel I will write.  When I began writing, I had some goals. Write a time travel novel (“A Matter of Time”). Write an alien invasion novel where it’s up to the teenagers to save their town (“The Secret of the Sky”). Write a series of young adult novels centering on a female protagonist (“The Land of Dreams” series.) Write a few credible shorter stores (“unexpected pleasures”).  

Last goal: write something really scary. This is not as easy as it sounds. Those of you who have read Stephen King take it for granted that he can scare the crap out of you if it pleases him, but let me tell you, doing that is not easy. It requires an imagination that can latch onto the sources of human emotion and give them a good shake.

I’m thinking “Brick” will be a ghost story, but the trick is to find a new twist on a somewhat tired genre that makes it come alive. I’ve got over a year to think about it, and damn it, I truly believe I can pull it off. But first I have to finish my current project.

As I begin the third book of the series, I’m currently about 165,000 words into “The Land of Dreams”. The ultimate word count should be around 300,000 to 320000 words. That’s one story broken up into four parts. I don’t know how I’m capable of this, but it appears I am. With me it’s always been that once a story enters my stubborn Portuguese brain, I can’t get rid of it until I write it down. So you might imagine how crowded my imagination is when a story is well over a quarter of a million words long.

For the most part, I never get writer’s block. For me the story is already out there floating in the vast universe of fantasy and imagination. One idea comes right after the last one is written. Is it a talent? Maybe, but I feel a little embarrassed using that word. It’s a strangely wonderful feeling as the story unfurls itself like a great banner. It’s like driving down a road you’ve never been on before, but you know where all the twists and turns are.

I believe that a constant theme that will go through this blog is “Why do I write?” It’s a question that most writers ask themselves, and it’s always on my mind. Why does Stephen King still write when he’s written 50 plus books and has more money that God? I know that answer. He writes because he has to. It’s part of his being. Now I am in NO way comparing myself to that great man, but the answer is the same for me. Not writing is not an option for me. If I didn’t write I would go mad.

So I will venture through my 320,000 word story. I will see where it takes me. And when I’m finished, I hope a few people will enjoy it. But let me reveal a secret. I’m writing it for no one but myself.

The Third Law Of Motion.

Harker took me to a room that was devoid of everything except for a wooden stool. On top of it sat a slender vase. In it was a delicate, yellow rosebud.
            “What’s this?” I asked.
            “It’s your target,” Harker replied.
            “This isn’t much of a target.”
            “On the contrary. It’s a huge target.”
            “Why do you say that?”
            “Because the rose is not your enemy. You have nothing against it, and it has nothing against you. So that makes it very important to the mission ahead.”
            My first instinct was to defer to him. He was older. He was my father. His knowledge of the world was vast and true, but this didn’t feel right. Did he really know the full extent of my powers? My eyes returned to the rosebud.
            “So I gather that you want me to destroy it,” I said.
            “On the contrary, Lady Abby. I want you to open it.”
            “Open it? What would that prove?”
            “In order to fully control the power within you, you must not only be able to conquer your enemies, you must be able to control the most subtle things in life. So go ahead, Lady Abby. Open it.”
            “How? How do I open it?”
            “Anyway you wish to. Heart will help you.”
            I had almost forgotten about Heart. She sat loyally by my side waiting to do my bidding. Could this blade of destruction really help me manipulate the beautiful flower in front of me?
            “Draw Heart from her scabbard,” Harker instructed. “Hold her in front of you. Point her at the rose. Then say to yourself: Wish. Dream. Want.”
            I drew Heart. She sat comfortably in my hand. It all seemed a little silly, but I did as he instructed. I pointed her at the rose, closed my eyes and concentrated.           
            “Wish. Dream. Want,” I said.
            “Do not close your eyes,” he said. “You must face the delicate and the deadly equally. Do not say the words out loud. Let them flow from in your mind. Think of this as a battle, Lady Abby. Think of this as a battle with beauty.”
            I raised Heart and aimed her at the flower. I tried to set my mind to purpose.
            “Wish,” I said to myself. “Dream. Want.”
            Nothing happened.
            I looked over to Harker. He nodded slightly and said, “Again.”
            “Wish. Dream. Want.” The words rattled in my mind. Nothing.
            “Tell Heart what you want. She will do your bidding if you are worthy.”
            Worthy? Was I worthy? I thought the words again. This time I focused them on Heart. Not all of Heart just her tip, the business end of this experiment.
            “Again,” Harker said.
            I did as instructed. Wish. Dream. Want…. Heart began to glow. Rolling colors of the rainbow ran through her over and over and over again. Then the tip turned golden. It seemed to…
            My eyes went to the rose. It was swaying back and forth as if caught in a breeze.
            “Control yourself,” Harker cautioned. “Open the flower. Do not destroy it.”
            It was already too late. Harker’s words had hardly left his lips when the rosebud burst apart with a loud “poof”. To this day I still remember the hurt. I had killed a great beauty. It was a metaphor for my life.
            Trig came from my left. He plucked the stem from the vase and replaced it with another bud. This one was pink.
            “Again,” Harker said.
            I pointed the sword. I repeated the words. Heart began to flow with colors. Her tip glowed golden. The flower evaporated before my eyes. I was filled with anger and sorrow. How would I ever do it?
            “Calm yourself,” Harker said. “Anger and frustration will not help you. It will only cause more havoc, and it will not help you in a time of crisis. We have plenty of flowers, Lady Abby. They grow wild in the Territory as you will soon see. Think of these few as sacrifices for the greater good. Calm yourself. Focus on the task.”
            We went through a dozen. Two dozen. Maybe more. Each time I would destroy a bud, Trig would appear with another. I wasn’t manipulating the flowers; I was executing them. How it saddened me. But I heeded Harker’s advice and forced myself to focus even though my head was beginning to ache and my arm tired from the strain. Then, nearly two hours into my training, something amazing happened.
            This rosebud was once again a yellow one. It was as if my task had gone a full circle. I focused. Heart reacted, but this time a slender slit of light emanated from her tip and slid to the rose. At first I was certain this was the end of it. The beam of light seemed like death, but that’s not what happened. The only word I could think of was that it tickled the rose. Tickled is not right, but I lack the ability to describe the interaction between myself, Heart and the rose properly. It began to slowly rock back and forth. For a moment I was certain it would gain speed until it flew apart, but that’s not what occurred.
            It opened.
            Graceful, radiant petals reached out to me then spread their wings. The beauty humbled me. Heart fell away from my hand and floated beside me. I couldn’t move; the rose had me in its grip.
            “So there you have it, Lady Abby, The Lady of the Rose,” Harker said with a wide smile. “The power to destroy, the power to bring forth the beautiful. It’s in your hand, in your mind. The ability to save Haven is within you.”

An edited scene from my novel, “The Lady of The Rose”

I woke up this morning thinking of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It goes something like this: “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” I didn’t learn this law from a science teacher; I learned it from a black and white sci-fi movie one Saturday morning at the Bal Theater “Kiddie Matinee”.

Like most “monster movies” of the fifties, a giant bug tearing up a metropolis was usually caused by mankind’s obsession with blowing things up. In most cases it was linked to atomic bombs which at the time were being liberally tested out in the Nevada desert and the deep recesses of the Soviet Union. Atomic bombs, it seems, caused ordinary animals to mutate, or in the case of the aforementioned movie, caused part of Antarctica to melt exposing a terrible demon that had been safely encased in ice for millions of years. At the time, it made perfect sense to me, but I would not fear. The great B actor John Agar would find a way to kill it by the movie's end.

I love Newton’s nifty little law. Though now quite as grand as “things in motion tend to stay in motion” which could warrant a blog post of its own, the third law explains precisely how life and the world works. A decade later my 60s self would call it Karma. The Bible says you “reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. If you do something, be prepared for the consequences.

As a writer, I have always kept this in mind when creating a story. The scene from “The Lady of the Rose” I’ve included above is a perfect example. To unfurl the power of beauty, a few rosebuds have to be sacrificed.

Or something like that.

The fact that Trish and I had two children and now three grandchildren is also an extension of that process. We put into motion a series of events that will go on and on for generations to come, even as we are part of the process from generations past. Everything in this world is linked together in a third law of motion sort of weird way. We are all just a series of reactions to events that go all the way back to the Big Bang.

What action caused me to get cancer not once but twice? Beats me. At least God or whomever is controlling the universe could have given me a cancer that I could sue someone for. Get a little cash to ease my suffering, but it hasn’t been my fate. I am left wondering who the f**k did I piss off? All I know is that my illness if further proof of the universe's cockeyed plan for all of us.

I’ve been day dreaming of a town in early evening, but darkness hasn’t quite taken hold. It’s raining. The welcoming lights are on in the stores that line the street. Cars are inching by, going with the grace of the Third Law toward their homes. There are a few people on the street under umbrellas. I watch aloofly from an invisible corner. The air is cool with a hint of ozone. Life is as it should be. Dinner is waiting. It goes on and on like a great wheel forever….





Where Do Ideas Come From?

I awake in the darkness the same way each night. For a moment I do not know where I am, who I am, what I am. For that brief span of time--no longer than a single, sorrowful second--I am as I once was: normal, mortal. The faces of my once beloved flash across my eyes like the silver lightening on the plains of my homeland, left behind so long, long ago The faces dance like ghosts, splintered fragments of warmth gone cold. I wish, I do not wish, they could be with me now.

And then, just as my nostrils fill with the sweet smells of life, it is gone. It is crimson time, once again. My pale hand pushes up, filled with lingering anguish and throws back the black, lacquered wood. The lid slides open, and in the dim hiding place I smell raw earth and hear the sounds of the others stirring from their graveyard sleep.

Crimson time. It fills my eyes with the vision of blood and washes away the last reminders of my former humanity. It fills my senses with the hidden lust of the night, the lust for eternal life.

I now stand with the others, communicating without words, acknowledging the need that can never be satisfied and never stopped by the sweet offer of death. And as the last grip of protection the sun offers the world slowly fades away, into the night we fly....

            "Crimson Time", a very short bonus story from my upcoming short story collection “unexpected pleasures”.


So as you can see from my previous posts, as a child I had a rich fantasy life. I didn’t write stories, I lived stories. There are many more examples of this—my childhood was filled with them—but I won’t bore you with more examples. Suffices to say that the imagination was there, I just never took idea to pencil.

 Where do story ideas come from? This is a question civilians like to ask writers. How do you think this crap up? Well believe it or not with a little practice thinking this crap up is a relatively easy thing to do. For me it starts with an image. It might be something I see in the course of my day. It might be from a song. It might be from the fears that are always lurking within me. It might come from nowhere.

Years ago, I wrote a series of short stories. I wrote these stories while I was writing my first novel, A Matter of Time. It was a time of great discovery. My abilities were coming to fruition and the ideas came like an open flood gate. They came one after another like glorious storms invading my mind.

Some ideas are slow in coming. For example, I’m writing a four volume series, The Land of Dreams. The first idea came to me maybe ten years ago as a single image: a young woman with flowing golden/red hair riding a bicycle around a translucent wall. At the time I had no idea what was on the other side of that wall, but eventually it came to me, a scene from the fourth novel. It percolated in my subconscious for years, and when the time was right, I started to write it down.

Sometimes something very odd happens. A complete story comes out of nowhere and is downloaded into your mind. It’s a very odd and somewhat frightening experience. It would leave me nauseous and unsteady for hours. My novella, Payday, from my upcoming collection, unexpected pleasures, was such an experience. Twenty thousand words appeared in my mind, a whole and complete story. All I had to do was right it down. It came out smoothly and without hesitation, and the experience still haunts me today.

I write because I have to. Once an idea comes to my mind, it will not go away until I bring it to life. If I don’t do it, the story will just sit there rattling around my brain, demanding attention.

Writing is a lonely life. If I played the guitar and sang, all I would have to do is play in front of people to get the instant feedback all artists crave. Writing is all internal. You have no idea what people will think of your efforts until it’s read by someone, and if you don’t sell many books that internal itch to be recognized is never really fulfilled.

So what’s the solution? You write for yourself. You write for the pleasure and the blissful release of endorphins when things are going well. You write because it’s the only thing that makes you feel mentally whole. It’s a wonderful/horrible thing.

The Day the World Disappeard

            Powerful hands griped mine. They were like my father's hard, calloused hands but in miniature. He was bare-chested and was dressed in a brightly colored malo tied around his waist. A lei of koa leaves rested on his head. His hair and beard were so black it was as if the night had fallen from the sky. 
            He let go of my hands and grunted. "Iki kaikamahine almost drown," he said gesturing at me and then the river. 
            I blinked my eyes, expecting that the apparition before me would disappear. I looked at Kenji. His eyes were closed. Was he dead? Then the apparition spoke again.
            "The Menehune are an ancient race," he said. "We once ruled all the islands of the Great Sea, but it is here we make our final home. We watch over the land and its people. We are proud and possess powerful magic and can do many wonderful things—but we cannot bring your mother back to you."
            "My mother?"
            "Shush, little one, for I must go." He smiled at me and laughed. He did not sound like a dog. He sounded like a babbling brook meandering through a quiet meadow.
            "Life is filled with both joy and sorrow," he said. "It is up to you to choose which will rule.  Your mother is gone, the Great Father has taken her, but someday you will see her again."

From “A Menehune Tale”, a story from my upcoming book, “unexpected pleasures”


One day. when I was eleven, everyone in the world disappeared for twenty minutes….

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1961. I had just left the Bal Theater on East 14th Street in San Leandro, fresh from a day spent at the Kiddie Matinee—ten cartoons, two movies, usually American International “monster movies”, as we liked to call them. I was alone. I began my walk home under a bright August sun, my eyes still adjusting from the luxurious darkness that had enfolded me since 11:00 that morning.
It was a breezy day as I headed up 148th Avenue using the shadows of the long theater building to walk in the shade for as long as I could. When I reached the next corner, I crossed Bancroft Avenue and turned right, approaching the myriad of residential streets that would eventually lead me to my home on Lark. At Coral Avenue I made a left, and that was when it all began.

I didn’t notice it at first. I was just walking alone down a deserted street passing 1950's vintage parked cars and freshly mowed lawns. I remember wind chimes tinkling in the breeze from a front porch. It felt lonely on that street. I liked that feeling; I was a weird kid. I let the emotion caress me as I walked. It didn’t hit me until I reached Tower Street that there was no one around. Not one person or a moving car on the street or even a stray cat.

It was just a quiet day, I remember thinking. A very quiet day. Halsey Ave was a long street. When I reached it, my eyes scanned up and down searching for proof that the people living there were alive. But I didn’t see anyone. Not a soul. Where were they? Were they huddled in their homes watching "Wideworld of Sports on television? Had they all gone downtown to the summer sale at JC Penny’s? Where were the kids who always roamed the streets riding their bikes or playing catch?

A chill went through me. Surely there would be people on Lark Street. It was always busy on Lark. It ran parallel to East 14th Street and people routinely used it as a shortcut. My mom was always complaining about the speeding cars that zipped past our home. Surely I would find someone there. I hurried to the corner and turned right. My house was nearly at the end of the long block, just three houses in from an even busier street, 150th Avenue. But Lark and the avenue at its end was empty of life.

I got very, very scared. And my walk turned into a full out run as I headed towards the safety of my house. My mom would surely be home. Maybe even my two sisters. Dad was working. That run was a blur. I kept expecting a car to pass me. As I rushed passed the houses of my childhood friends, I hoped to see at least one of them playing in the yard or looking out their front windows, but there was no one. No one!

I stopped in front of my house and stared vacantly at 150th Avenue. Surely a car would pass heading up to Foothill Boulevard. The seconds that passed seemed like minutes of complete and utter isolation. Finally I cried out and rushed into the safety of my house, my heart pounding wildly in my chest.

“Mom! Mom!” I called out. “Susan? Carol?”

No one was home.

What had happened? What would I do? I had had nightmares in my young life. Martians invading my street. Sometimes I dreamt of a giant Jesus appearing in the sky, ending the world in a terrible Second Coming. But I hadn’t bargained for being alone in an empty world. What would I do? What would happen to me? Who would cook my dinner? I was rooted to the floor, gasping for air in my living room when I heard the back door open.

“David? Is that you?”, my mother asked as she closed the door.

And the world was given back to me.