Monday, May 21, 2012

Life - another short story...

Another writing assignment from five years ago. Unedited and uncorrected. I recall this one wasn't rated as highly as some of my others. Too much happening in 1000 words or less. We were supposed to write about an image supplied showing "an old man standing in front of a house wearing what I interpreted as an old army cap." Here goes nothing... enjoy!


By Richard Howes
Oct 15th, 2007

Gary answered his cell-phone, while he looked at his watch. It was nearly three in the afternoon. He wondered how late he would have to work tonight. The doctor was supposed to call with the test results for his son, Tom.
"Hello." He said flatly.
"Gary! TOMMY IS GONE!" Gary's wife, Jill, screamed into the phone. "He's gone, Gary. I went for groceries while the babysitter was here and I was downstairs doing laundry and the house is empty!"
"Jill, slow down!" Gary tried to calm his wife. "When did he leave?"
"I don't know! The babysitter said he was upstairs. You've got to come home! Where is he? YOU HAVE TO FIND MY SON!"
"I'll be home in forty-five minutes. Jill… Call the babysitter and the neighbors! "
"Where is he?! He might die! He could fall and have brain bleeding. His bones are weak!"
Gary raced down the freeway, avoiding snow-plow trucks and deep slush. He fumbled with his cell-phone as it rang. "Did you find him?" He asked.
"Mr. Peterson?" A man's voice said, "This is Doctor Silvers."
"Yes, Doctor?"
"I wanted to talk to you before I talked to your wife. I think it might be better if you knew first."
"The aging disease? What are the test results?" Gary asked as he thought of his missing son, 'Does this matter now? Tom must be playing in the yard or the wooded lot out-back, but Jill would have called back…' Gary caught himself not listening to the doctor.
"… more advanced form of Progeria. His heart is very weak. I don't think he has much time left…a few months…."
'Jill must be losing her mind. Did she call the police? I should call the police.'
".. This kind of advancement at eight-years-old is very rare."
'The doctor is saying something.' Gary thought as he tried to concentrate.
"…Gene therapy is in its infancy. There are some drug-trials scheduled but… Um? Mr. Peterson?"
"I'm here." Gary replied.
"Are you okay?" asked the doctor.
"Tom is missing. He is nowhere in the house."
"I see. Is there anything I can do?" The doctor offered.
"Can we have this conversation later?"
"Of course. I'll have the nurse setup an appointment in a few days. You should come in with your wife. Tom doesn't have a lot of time left. There are arrangements to make. I am sure you will find him. He is just a curious eight-year-old boy who probably is playing in the snow. Call the police and tell them of his condition."
"Okay. Thank you." Gary hung up the phone and dialed ‘911’.
Police cars blocked his driveway. Gary watched with trepidation as an ambulance followed him down the street. “Did they find him? Is he injured or…” As he got out of his car, several police officers walked down the snowy path from the porch. Jill rushed past them and grabbed him.
"HE'S GONE!" Jill screamed hysterically. "WHY AREN'T YOU LOOKING FOR MY SON!" Jill shoved Gary back and began pounding his chest.
Gary grabbed at her arms, trying to hold her as the police officers stepped back, unsure if they should restrain her or not.
"Sir? Are you the father?" a police sergeant asked. Jill turned on the police officers, screaming at them to find her son. Gary grabbed her and held her as she sobbed.
Inside the suburban row-house a din of excitement brewed. Gary and Jill's friends arrived with news or suggestions of places to look, or places they had already checked. The sergeant called for calmness, "Please! Quiet! We have to ask some questions. Maybe we can determine where he went. What was he wearing? Did he take anything?"
"His cavalry baseball hat is missing." Jill answered in a hoarse broken voice, as she sat on the couch sobbing. "His toy rifle he uses as a crutch and his winter army-coat, his mittens…"
Gary stared into space. The babysitter left a coffee cup, newspaper and a bus and train schedule on the coffee table. He wondered what the paper would print tomorrow, as the sergeant continued his questions. "Did he mention going someplace? A park? A friend's house?"
Gary's nightly talks with his son jumped to mind. "He wants to be a soldier. He wants to fly army helicopters. He said he wants to see lions and tigers and pet dolphins. Of course he can't do those things. He is very sick. The doctor just called…" Gary met his wife's eyes. The sadness in her face destroyed his soul, but he knew he must stay strong for her.
Glancing back at the bus schedule he was struck with an idea. Gary leaned towards his wife, "I think I know where he went." Her eyes lit up as he rushed outside.
"Sir! Where are you going?" the officer asked.
Gary sped hazardously to the train station as he thought of the next couple months and the limit the doctor put on his son's remaining life. He rushed to the platform as the first evening commuter train stopped, squealing brakes and spewing diesel exhaust. A small boy with a yellow, wrinkled face behind large thick glasses perched on a hawk-nose, hobbled with bowed legs down the steps of the train. He leaned on his toy rifle as he walked. He was warmly wrapped in an oversized army-coat with a baseball hat on his sparsely haired head,
"Tommy!" Gary cried as he rushed to the child, seeing that the boy was okay.
"Hi dad!" the boy yelled out as he waved a camouflage tee-shirt. "Look what I got! It's a Military-Museum shirt. A guard gave it to me!"
Gary scooped the boy up. "Tom! I'll make a deal with you." Gary's voice was stern and gruff but cracked with nervous relief.
"Am I in trouble?" The boy cast his eyes down as he grabbed his thick glasses that were slipping down his nose.
"If you promise to never leave home alone again I will take you to swim with the dolphins and we'll go to Africa to see the lions."
The boy smiled brightly. "Really?"
"But you must never leave home on your own? You got it? You promise?"
"Sure, Dad! You are the best!"
Gary smiled and said, "I'll look for flights tonight." He dialed Jill's number on his cell-phone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gold Digger - Short story writing assignment

I decided to post some of my short stories... These were writing assignments of 1000 words or less. I'll start with Gold-digger. I hope you enjoy it! (I'm pasting these as is and not going to do much editing at the moment. I may proof them later as time allows.)

By Richard Howes
September 12, 2007 (Was that really FIVE YEARS ago?)
            "Where are we going?" the naked skinny creature in the back seat of John's car asked through the sliver of its mouth. Large ears twitched and sunken eyes scanned the road ahead of them. In the moonlight its skin was the color of sallow candle wax and the dank odor of a thousand years of dirt filled the vehicle.
            "You know," John stated flatly. He knew he had to return this creature to where he had found it. Why he must do that, or how he knew it, John did not know, but he had a plan and he hoped it would work.
            It was after midnight as they arrived at the Saint Pierre Gold Mining complex. He parked the car on a turn-out just outside the gate. He knew the guard shift schedule and as expected the security booth was empty. He unlocked the gate with his stolen keys and closed  and locked it after they entered. John leading and the creaturing tagging along behind him.
            "What exactly are you?" John asked the creature, trying to control his thoughts and words.
            "Do you wish me to answer?" the creature asked.
            "It's just a question, not a wish."
            "I'm a lucky Buddha."
            John turned around and faced the creature and said, "Buddha was fat."
            "Buddha was emaciated for a time," the creature replied quietly, backing away.
            "You are not Buddha." 
            "I exist. I am," it spoke firmly, finding his feet and standing as tall as his four-foot-nothing would let him.
            John started across the parking lot, the creature following behind him.
            "I promised you three wishes. You chose wrong. You still have one wish left. Care to make it now?" the creature asked coyly.
            "No," John said as he thought about his wife. She was probably fast asleep in the dog bed by the fireplace, unless she climbed onto the couch. It would all be okay. He would undo what this creature had done, what he had done in his greed.
            The wind blew dust into the air. John knew the familiar old mine by its scent. He had worked this mountain range for fifteen years, his feet following the path to the entrance six days a week. He took a flashlight from his pocket, unlocked a storage vault and retreived a safety helmet and a shovel. Moments later the rattle of a cage-elevator echoed through the complex as it carried them deep into the caverns of the mine. The cool, dank moisture of wet rock rose from its depths.
            John let his thoughts turn into carefully spoken words. "When I said I wanted a thousand pounds of gold I didn't mean a phony deed to this mine."
            "The deed is not phony. It is a real deed. There is over a ton of gold still buried in their mountain."
            "No!" John turned to the creature. "It got me fired. It got me arrested for fraud. It got me sued!"
            "You chose poorly."
            "I WISH I never found you," John spoke through gritted teeth, repeating the saying he had tried before.
            "You cannot wish to change the past."
            “I wish you dead.”
“You cannot wish my demise. I live. I am.”
            "When my wife started yelling at me… When she accused me of stealing, I didn't mean I wanted her turned into a dog."
            "You made your wish."
            "I mentioned a metaphorical state of her attitude."
            "Not exactly. You said…" The creature's voice suddenly changed into John’s voice, "Liz. Sometimes you can become such a bitch."
            "Did I make a mistake? Should her… transformation… be permanent and not just on the full moon? You did say 'sometimes'."
            "I didn't wish," John said calmly.
            “A command is a wish, a desire.”
            "Fix it."
            "You must wish."
            “Do you want to stop talking now?” he asked.
            "Do you want me to?"
            John smiled. "Now you want verification and clarification?
            "It didn't seem necessary before."
            "And now? Why is it necessary now?"
            "You seem like you are about to do something rash." A worried look crossed the creature's face and a nervous tone snuck into its voice. "Where are we going, John?"
            John didn't answer. The creature verified what John suspected. He had a plan, an idea that would end this creature and its powers. He knew he must remain calm. He had to be careful of every word and thought as they approached the unnatural pit he discovered by accident two weeks before.
            The elevator stopped. John slid the door open and walked into the large cavern, past loaders parked in a row. They continued into darkness. Soon they arrived at the end of a passage.
            "You know what to do." John pointed to the cut-stone pit. He phrased his words so it could not be a wish.
            "I don't want to," the creature cried.
            John looked around. "This is where I found you. Your power is strongest here."
            The sunken eyes of the creature grew and its large ears pricked up. When John spoke again it cringed at his well-practiced words.
            "You will become that nonhumanoid form which you were before you became humanoid."
            The creature's eyes widened. A gasp left the slit of its mouth. All hint of humor and ego left its voice. "I… I can't. You can't…"
            "I can and I do."
            "I'll take it all back. I'll change the past."
            "You cannot change the past. You can only change the present, and the future. I cannot wish you dead, but your form can be changed."
            "I… I cannot become that which I once was. I was not of consciousness."
            "Then that is what you will become."
            Fear and horror crossed the creature's face. It screamed and lunged at John. Its fingers like lion claws scratched at him. John was ready. He jammed the shovel into the creature's chest. As it staggered backwards, John swung the shovel around in a wide arc. The creature dodged and leapt forward again.
            John pushed the shovel up against the monster but it was stronger than him, knocking him to the floor. Long fingers scratched at his chest and face. Its hands struggled to close around John's throat.
            Through ragged breath, he yelled, "I wish…you to become… that non…humanoid form… which you… were… before you… became… humanoid."
            Suddenly John awoke. It was still dark. The full moon shone in the window casting its light on the smooth skin of his wife's face as she slept beside him. The magic was broken as time and place shifted. She was human again, no longer a dog. He leapt from his bed and went to his desk. The deed to the gold mine was gone. The stack of legal papers from his arrest and lawsuit were missing. He smiled and climbed back into bed.

Windows 7, Windows 8, Blogger icon menus

When will Blogger rediscover what MS and everyone else keeps forgetting. People read words better than recognize images... But not everyone reads english, and still the world moves towards icons and images. I have a Mac computer and several Windows computers. Macs are great for what I use it for, such as book covers, but I don't need Windows to be worse and made to look like a Mac. Next thing I know the boss will be telling me to use National Instruments Labview "toys" in order to "write" computer programs... Ooops, too late.

Enough on this subject...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Poker - How to Beat the Donkeys

Julie Rayzor ~ Romance, Adventure, Zombies the Thriller Novel is NOW available in ebooks and paperback!
Check it out here in paperback:
Or on Amazon Kindle here:

Poker shows up in books, it's mainstream, exciting, and people like to watch risk-takers... Here's my take on Poker and why you won't see me writing about it in my novels (unless I do).

Poker is a game of strategy played 8 to 10 hours a day, everyday in casinos, by people who have no concept of tactics or place no value on money and usually BOTH. We call these people donkeys. Donkeys are, as I see it, the primary problem with playing poker.

Donkeys are generally retired or working from their "casino office", extremely wealthy, or blowing their inheritance. These people, in general, do not value money. I was working at Bally's Casino in Vegas around 3:30am as a Software Manager in charge of technical support for a casino equipment supplier when I saw someone who was refered to as the former CEO of WorldCom (You know that giant telecom company worth billions of dollars that went bust?) He had a roulette table to himself and dozens upon dozens of stacks of chips (30 and 40 chips tall) in front of him and a dozen tall stacks on the table being bet. He bet a dozen tall stacks every spin of the wheel. I was told he had been standing there all day and all night. Three hours later I returned to Bally's Casino and he was still there playing the same table. The hieght of his chip-stacks had dropped from 40 to 20. The number of stacks of chips dropped in half. He was losing a couple percent of his money on average with every spin. He did not value his money and these are the same type of people who play poker (Maybe not that much money, but the same category). They can literally lose $1000 a day, every single day, and it effects their life in no way.

Can you afford to lose $1000 a day as a writer, artist, manager, engineer, or even retired? I doubt it.

The house rake on a 1-2 NL Holdem table is generally 10% or about 4 or 5 dollars max, with another dollar taken from each pot for the progressives. That's $6 out of each pot gone. So if an average pot size is $40 (and it may be slightly more or less), then you lose $4 and $1 more for a total win of $35, minus your investment, which is typically 33% to 50% (1 or 2 other players who call everything all the time or he/she/they are actually on a hand.) So out of the original $40 you put in $13 to $20. Let's say $17. Therefore 35 minus 17 = $18. Now lets consider that you are forced to limp with the blinds and most of the time you get nothing for cards and are in early position. Generally, you will lose in BB/SB positions. That's $3 per round you lost. If you get winning cards, which actually only occurs on average once every two rotations of the table, you still paid in $3 (more likely six but I'm going easy on you in this scenario.) $18 - 3 = $15. You won a little less than double your money.

If you won double your money (which you won't on avergae) then your odds are 1 in 2 to win, which means you MUST win every other pot that you play (approximately).

Is your game that good? Do you win every other pot? I doubt it.
What do you do when you're 17, trapped in a fortress that's surrounded by a zombies, and your boyfriend is lost? If you're Julie Rayzor, you lock n load.
Let's talk about the rake. 10% goes to the house. That means 10% of your money going into the pot goes to the casino and 10% of your opponents money goes to the casino. You lose 10% of your money every single hand you play. Basic rules tell us that average starting hands only run about 60% in your favor pre-flop. Some are 70%, but not usually more than that. You are essentially flipping a coin (50/50, 60/40) in a game that takes away 10% from your winnings. Blackjack has better odds than that. 48% coin flip at 100% payback is far better than a 50/50 chance of winning 90% of the pot (after rake).

If the buy in is $200 and the average pot size is $50, with a rake of about $5, and you go heads-up, you will have wagered $200 within 8 hands that you see the flop.

Post-flop your odds can significantly decrease. You have no idea if someone flopped a set with pocket 3s and that your AA or KK is no good anymore. So you check and fold a big bet, or maybe the guy checks and you get to see another card, and then you fold a big bet or call a small bet? That coin is in the air!

Maybe you flopped two pair and bet the pot and a guy on a drawing hand calls. The turn comes and it's a rag so you bet the pot again and he calls. His odds of hitting his straight or flush are about 17% but he's calling bets that cost him 50% of the pot! Yes, he will lose 4 out of 5 times, except today - today he hits his straight on the river (and tomorrow too, and the day after that he's gone but another donkey is sitting in his seat.) My point is this happens over and over again all day long. When you lose, you go home broke. When the donkey loses, he pulls another $200 out of his pocket. When you win, you doubled your money, but you've lost so much from all the other hands that you can't recover.

Or MAYBE the dealer is a donkey who pushes the pot to the guy with King-high and takes your pair of eights and mucks them because in his warped world four-to-an-inside-straight beats a pair of eights. Then of-course the floor manager will defend his donkey by saying, "You mucked your hand by only placing one card across the line".

Perhaps a different Donkey-Dealer watches TV between dealing, talks to players about his weekend, and stares off into space for minutes at a time, thereby reducing your hands per hour from about 30 down to about 15. The number of hands you are dealt is critical to pushing up any kind of hourly-rate calculations. Getting one good starting hand every 15 to 17 hands with a donkey dealer means you get one winning starter-hand per hour instead of two.

To quote a dealer who also plays poker, "We're all donkeys." I believe that to be true and here is why: If we play poker, we are not valuing the effort and time it takes to earn a living, and by that definition we do not value the money. If we, as players, fold out of moderate hands due to giant bets placed by a donkey, we value the money too much, and by considering the pot-odds too closely will muck those hands we would have won with. If we call those big giant bets then we are not valuing the money enough to follow the rules of pot-odds, and again we lose.

If you want to play poker to win, don't play. If you want to play poker for fun, sit there and toss away everything but high pairs, QQ,KK,AA or sometimes see a flop by limping in with suited connectors. You will play one hand every thirty minutes and you need a good flop to win. To me, that sounds boring. I've got so many better things to do with my life.
What do you do with too many victims? Schwimer digs deep, exhumes the dead, and tracks down suspects. .
Anyone who says they are a "professional poker player" is one of either 10 people on the planet, has major sponsors covering their buy-in, or is lying to you and themselves. MOST likely they are losing in the long term and they don't care. As a friend once told me, "My gunsafe is filled with antiques that double in value every five years and I bought them all with 30 years of drinking and gambling money - I don't drink and I don't gamble."