All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 343–Some Good Things Lost, Gained and A Celebration of Hairspray

Some Good Things Lost



I asked my grandmother if everything was wonderful in the good old days. She told me that “wonderful” can exist at any time as long as you are young and have enough money. She also said it’s better to be young than anything else, but since nobody stays that way, sources of money should always be cultivated.



My Grandpa Henry was a custodian at a community college for forty-three years. And although he made a decent “working man’s wage,” and in all other ways was a generous man, not once in his life did he pay more than two-hundred dollars for a car.

He had a thing for extremely tuckered government vehicles at state auctions. One year he landed a 1970-something Plymouth Fury for twenty bucks because he was the only one to bid on it. Grandpa Henry was proud of that car even though the only way to start it was to wrap your left arm behind the wheel and pull hard on the shift while cranking the starter with your other hand and pumping the accelerator, hoping it fired before the battery croaked.



Grandpa Henry wasn’t much of a mechanic, but he was the best driver I have ever met. And when it came time to teach me how to drive he taught me in an elderly but street legal Ford pickup (a sixty dollar gem from the city of Yelm’s Parks Department). The truck had a standard transmission whose chief features were a sticky clutch and a column shifter called the Three on the Tree.



Grandpa Henry said if I could learn how to drive the truck I could drive anything. I didn’t protest much because the only option was the Fury, which was about the size of an aircraft carrier and its unique method of ignition probably wouldn’t have passed muster at the DMV. It took a while, but I eventually mastered the truck.



I am the only person my age I know who can operate a manual three speed–or would if I could find one. Amazingly few people can work any kind of standard transmission anymore, and not one can parallel park worth a damn.

Failed Attempt at Disingenuous Backtracking

I do not dislike new things. I’d much rather eat a bagel freshly made than one that has survived yet another week at the espresso shoppe. Nor do I believe that there should be prolonged intervals between bathing and changing your socks, or in people who have a “philosophical dispute” with wiping. Some items are best left to the past.

Yet there is no way in hell I will ever ride in a driverless car. For once, it’s not so much fear that will prevent it, but the insult of the thing. I don’t give a robot’s patootie how competent AI is; I learned to drive in a vehicle not far removed from a Stanley Steamer, sitting close beside a good man whose only shortcoming was breath like last night’s gin, and dealing with a clutch that popped up to the knee and a front end that pulled to the left faster than CNN if you relaxed your grip on the wheel. Baby, I have the scars; no goddam circuit board can say the same.


Like learning to drive, writing in a skill almost everyone can learn, but few do well. This week featured two debut authors, another pair who have quickly broken through with their second appearances and a writer whose mountain of stories keeps rising at a breathtaking pace. All excel at the literary version of the Three on the Tree.

Monday saw the site debut of Engela Snyman with The Eye of the Hurricane. This piece beautifully builds tension and, damn it, there’s something to be said for a woman sitting quietly in the garden, with a gun.

Richard Yu appeared Tuesday with his second LS story, The Bund. His voice is understated yet sincere, and he takes the reader gently into his world of quiet observations.

Another writer broke through with his second site story not far off the heels of his first. Poetic Loredano Cafaro’s brilliant The Maker of Creches will certainly “open your eyes!” It’s startling and it increases anxiety word by word. A stunner.

Thursday saw a first time writer who was a first time writer in the literal sense. The Wait was Lisa Toner’s first submission to anyone anywhere. Judging by her quiet, retained prose, I’d say she’s been at it forever, but here we have a fine exception to the rule.

This is my ninth weekly roundup and the ninth one in which Yashar Seyedbagheri is a part of. The odds favor that because Friday’s To Serve was Yash’s thirty-second story this year alone. You can read these in order or in any arrangement and understand the main themes in this ongoing tale–for Yash’s brilliant material does not take the linear path.

There you have them, the five good things that happened during the week that was. If you have missed any, they’re still around and are receiving visitors.

A Celebration of Hairspray

The 1980’s

I am a fan of 1980’s pop culture, and have a blind spot for the obviously cynical power ballads of that era. But I also like the little things that have been mostly forgotten. So, below is a list of things and people and critters who shone like comets then but not so much now. As always, I leave the tenth slot ajar.

  • Yahoo Serious
  • Max Headroom
  • “Jocko”
  • Just Say No!
  • “Screaming in the Night” video by Krokus
  • Bartles and Jaymes fogeys
  • Stroh’s Beer 15 packs
  • The Yugo
  • Fawn Hall


10 thoughts on “Week 343–Some Good Things Lost, Gained and A Celebration of Hairspray”

  1. Another entertaining post Leila. I learned to drive in my late forties and loved it. In UK a stick shift is still very common and I don’t think I’d have felt like a ‘driver’ if I’d only past the automatic test. I had to give it up for a while for various reasons but just these last months I’ve got back to it and I am really happy about that. Can’t add much to the list because my eighties were spent mostly in the middle east and it was a different sort of reality. I do remember Max headroom though. I suppose my favourite memory of those years is the applause on a plane loaded with thirsty expats when it landed in Larnaca – unbridled joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! Never too late to learn. Glad you can drive the standard, too. Whenever I’m in an automatic my foot always flops around for the clutch. Always good to be on a journey whose end creates spontaneous joyful singing.


  3. Hi Leila,
    For me, driving is up there with working, I detest it. I reckon, I’m a bit too flakey and don’t really like doing something that I need to concentrate on for any length of time.
    I think I always had to drive so I resented it from day one – I don’t think I’ve driven for four years and I’m delighted about that.
    Re-list – I’ll steal a few by adding in discoveries:
    Discovering Bacardi, Aerosmith, Rainbow, Only Fools And Horses and meeting Gwen.
    Brilliant post as always!!


  4. Thank you. There’s a drink at a bar I go to called a Harbor Light, said to have been invented in the 80’s. It comes in a huge brandy snifter and contains all kinds of goodness, mainly 151 dumped on the top. You light it with a match, cover it till the flame goes out then drink. Nine bucks nowadays for one, but still worth every penny–as long as you are not driving.


    1. Sounds delicious!!
      I also found one on holiday in Tenerife in 1984 – I don’t know if it had a name but it was; Crème De Menthe, Grenadine, Tia Maria and coke. I should have hated it, as I’ve never really like mint or Tia Maria but it’s like drinking a Choc-Ice!


  5. Good post. I can drive a stick shift and hope to go driverless one day, but will be closely supervising the AI. For the 10th slot in the 80s, I suggest VHS, whose makers’ celebration after displacing beta max was short-lived.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t remember anything good about the ’80s except that the USA took a break from major was, but did’t refrain for long enough.

    Leaned to drive on a 1939 pickup without syncro and a 1948 Chevrolet. Cars still had manual chokes. Have a Chev Volt we like, but would like to go EV on next vehicle.

    Liked by 1 person

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