Two Tickets to Heidelberg

It’s a cold, Monday afternoon and I sit in the breakroom at work, staring through the window, admiring the blue sky. Hey, I’m allowed a 15 minute break. Blocking a portion of the horizon, an old-styled, brick building, which rises from the floor of the valley below my position, reminds me of something from the past and I’m transported back to Germany in the winter of 1971.

During my tour, I’d met many people in the states and made some acquaintances overseas within the processing phase, but when I stepped off the bus at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim Germany it was into a world of strangers. I know it’s a cliché, but it was true that I’d never felt so alone.

I buttoned my field jacket and fell in with the other soldiers, who’d been ordered to start a formation in front of the barracks.

The First Sergeant barked out an order and we all came to attention.

However, it didn’t take long for my mind to drift past the sergeant’s vengeful words of orientation and into my new surroundings. A ten foot, barbed-wire capped, chain-link fence encompassed the base where everything – the streets, the barracks, and the overcast sky – incorporated the same, monotone shade of grey: A prison-like quality for a prison-like place.

It sent a chill through my 21 year old heart that I’ve yet to forget. Not that the place was actually that bad. Life outside the base would prove quite interesting. At the time, Germany was a clean, beautiful country, and while the people weren’t exactly friendly, they weren’t exactly non-friendly either. It was just the times.

A few weeks later, with the pangs of curiosity having overcome my reluctance, I rolled out of bed on a Sunday morning with the intention of taking a site-seeing excursion. I’d made a few friends by then and I’d asked one of them, an Arkansas native named Billy, if he’d like to tag along. He and I had recently participated in a two-day, crash course in the German language, and I guess I’d thought he would be as eager as I was to try it out.

“So, you’re talking about leaving the base?” He asked.

“We pretty much have to, to get where we’re going.”

Billy took a moment to consider the offer. “And where exactly are we going?”

It appeared Billy’s heart wasn’t completely in with the idea.

“I don’t know. Mannheim I guess. We’ve seen all there is in Cowtown.”

The small village of Sandhofen, which, at the time, consisted of about ten buildings, occupied a space near the base. Everyone called it Cowtown.

Billy shrugged. “Whatever you think, Yoncas.”

That’s what he always called me. I never asked why.

I’d learned that some of the soldiers at the base had cars, so I asked around until I found someone, who was going into Mannheim that day and bummed a ride.

The trip proved interesting. We visited der Wasserturm, a Romanesque water tower completed in 1886, went to der Post (the post office) and mailed postcards to our wives back in the states, and later dined on sandwich mit schinken (ham sandwiches).

As luck, or fate would have it, a fellow American, a soldier who’d been in country for a while, stopped by our table for a short chat. He suggested we might further enhance our site-seeing adventure by visiting the Schloss (castle) in nearby Heidelberg.

Outside the restaurant, the expression on Billy’s face grew serious. “Are we sure we want to do this?”

After finishing our lunch, I’d asked the friendly American how we might go about getting to Heidelberg. He’d suggested the train. “I can’t pass this up,” I said, “so I’m going, but if you don’t want to, I’ll understand.”

“Okay, but how do I get back to the barracks?”

“Whenever you see an American, ask them if they’ll be going to Coleman. Most of them are from there anyway. They won’t mind giving you a ride.”

“What if that doesn’t work?”

“It’ll work. Anyway, even if you strike out you could always walk along the roadway with your thumb out. They say the locals are pretty good about that. I don’t know why they would be, but that’s what I’ve heard.”

Billy glanced at his watch. “The more I think about it, I would like to see the castle. Do you think we have time, though?”

Tune in next week to see what happened to Billy and me in Heidelberg.


Holiday Special

Holiday Special 2015


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Memories in the Making

Memories in the Making


The concept of children being self-centered has become generally accepted knowledge. Have you ever considered the possibility of our trust in that idea being misplaced?

Don’t let the lead-in mislead you. This isn’t an article about children. Or is it? I’m not really sure myself. As children, we soak in all the love we can get and we happily and readily depend upon our families for our every need. It’s when we mature into adults and leave the comfort of our childhood to become dependent upon ourselves that the real “me” culture begins. Think about it. Who is more selfish? The child who somewhat begrudgingly shares her toys or the adult who does whatever it takes to get ahead, gain a foothold over his coworkers and seize that promotion?

All right, I’ll now climb down from the soapbox.

My mom wanted to visit, so I drove to Kansas over the weekend and brought her to our home in Oklahoma for a week or so. Okay you guessed it. The older I get the more nostalgic and child-like I become.

Mom’s antics, annoying at first, have become quite entertaining. She’s always losing things. Usually it’s her cellphone or her garage door opener. Even though she no longer drives an automobile, the assisted-living duplex where she lives has a small garage. She has taken to leaving the front door to the apartment locked and using the garage to enter and exit the dwelling. I know. Anyway, during her last visit, she had lost her cell phone. She had looked everywhere. I offered to help, but she was ready to go, so I promised we would search for it upon our return and we headed for Oklahoma.

On Monday, after the weekend, my wife, Kathi, and I left mom and our son, David, at home and went off to work. Around 10:00 AM, I heard a mild commotion and glanced outside my cubicle to see that several of my coworkers had gathered and they were pointing and looking out the window. I joined the group and saw what had drawn their attention. People were streaming from the building and gathering in the parking lot. We all exchanged curious glances and wondered what in the world was going on. When a firetruck, with sirens blaring, squealed to a stop near the building, it unanimously dawned on us that perhaps we should exit the building as well.

It turned out there had indeed been a fire in the building. An electrical malfunction had occurred in one of the outdated, ancient elevators – we only have two and neither of them is dependable. To complicate matters, the fire alarms had gone off on the 5th floor, which accounted for the people we had seen running for safety, but had failed to work on the remaining floors.

Later in the evening when we returned home, mom informed us that she’d been hearing a strange, beeping sound. It had been bothering her all day. Sure enough, when we remained silent and listened, we, too, heard the sound. However, like the chirping of a cricket, it was difficult to determine exactly where it was coming from. With the scare from work still fresh in my mind, I immediately thought of the smoke detectors. We have two downstairs and one upstairs. I recruited the help of our son, David, who I sent upstairs, while Kathi and I positioned ourselves directly beneath the bottom two. When the beeping sounded again, we all called out, “It’s not this one.”

With the detectors eliminated as the source of the pesky tone, we turned our attention to the two thermostats, one upstairs and one down. They, too, emit a sort of chirp when the batteries become weak. No, it wasn’t the thermostats either.

“It seems to be coming from the kitchen,” mom insisted.

Kathi, David, and I all descend on the kitchen, where mom is standing, and while we have her surrounded, we once again hear, “beep.”

“Have you checked your pockets?” I ask.

“There’s nothing in my pockets,” she insisted. “I pulled these sweatpants from my suitcase this morning, and I haven’t put anything in the pockets.”

“Well, just to be safe,” I said, “please check your pockets.”

Mom rolls her eyes then shoves her hands into the pockets of her sweatpants. Her expression softens as she pulls out her lost cellphone, which had been beeping because it needed a charge.

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This article was written by Bob Avey, author of, Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer.



The Joker Part III

September 29, 2015 – Blog Post


The Joker – Part III


Picking up where we left off with the last post:

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the bruised feelings I’d erroneously nurtured due to my misunderstanding of constructive criticism resurfaced and planted the seeds of mild revenge. Riding the rebellious wave, I conceived a plan, which I thought might gain the attention of my fellow critique partners while simultaneously allowing me to poke a little fun at them.

Eager to crawl forward with the dastardly deed, I began to put together a story. However, as the characters and plot unfolded, whenever I perceived an opportunity I began to exaggerate, writing in a style I considered over-the-top with the characters behaving in a manner I thought almost comical.

The plan was to demonstrate to the group that I had understood what they’d been saying, and to show them that, yes, I could write that way, while at the same time throwing a redeeming comical light on the whole matter.

A few days later at the meeting, I almost lost my nerve, and entertained thoughts of telling the members that I hadn’t written anything, but had come only to listen and learn. Instead, when it came my turn to read, I went through with it.

Upon completion of my reading, the room hung suspended in silence. A sick feeling began to form in my stomach. I fully expected to be excoriated for my insolence, but that didn’t happen. To my surprise, each member orderly took their turn and showered me with praise and compliments.

As shame and guilt crept over me, I felt so low that I almost wished that they had assaulted me with insults. At that point, I could not bring myself to tell them the truth, so I went with it, each week bringing a new installment. About a year later, I had a rough draft of a novel, which would eventually become my first book, Twisted Perception.

To be continued.

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The Joker Part II

September 10, 2015 – Blog Post


The Joker – Part II


I left you hanging last time in the midst of my ramblings about criticism. Let me pick up where we left off.

A few days after having perceived my writing as being trashed – actually, while containing hints of inspiration, those early short stories were pretty bad – I was sitting home one night, watching television and feeling sorry for myself when something rather strange happened. An internal voice, which I realized as being a fictional character, actually told me how to pick up the pieces and proceed with my writing. You probably paused after reading that, and perhaps entertained certain doubts. I won’t go so far as to say there’s nothing to worry about, but having characters, which are actually part of the subconscious, pop into my thoughts with tidbits of story is now a common occurrence. However, with this being the first time I’d become aware of it, it was mildly unnerving.

This is how it happened: Halfway through some now forgotten television program, the internal voice, a character, said: You can’t fill out a homicide report, indicating the suspect to be a ghost.

The enigmatic phrase might seem like gibberish, but I immediately recognized it as a possible answer to my current dilemma. The character’s reference to a homicide report indicated he was involved with law enforcement, which meant, if he hung around, he would lead me toward some type of crime story that would be conservative enough to satisfy the critique group. At the same time, there was this ghost thing thrown in, which could offer substance, if you will, to satisfy my leanings toward the not-so-conventional. In short, it was perfect.

I immediately went to my office, which consisted of a cheap desk crowed into a corner of the master bedroom of our rented house, and began banging out what would eventually become a mystery novel. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the bruised feelings I’d erroneously nurtured due to my misunderstanding of constructive criticism resurfaced and planted the seeds of mild revenge.

To be continued.

Please check out the results of my quasi insane writing with the links below:

For an audio version of Twisted Perception:

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