I needed a break. Putting out two books in a year was serious business. Life, responsibilities, a complete reorganization at work and most cruelly, the unexpected death of my best friend, collaborator, comrade in arms, fellow punster and all around great guy, Paul Littlehale, passed away over the 4th of July weekend. I was the one who found him with the police during a welfare check after his work hadn't heard from him in a few days. We found that he'd passed away in his sleep at the age of 53. It's going to be a long time before the devastation of that wears off. He was a gulf war veteran and we arranged a proper send off with full military honors in the Georgia National Cemetery.
For those that have never experienced a military funeral, the precision of the folding of the flag, the rifle shots from the honor guard, the playing of taps, the presentation of the flag and the quite words spoken to Paul's brother, Dave, as the duty sergeant expressed his condolences...I've never cried so hard as an adult. It's a big deal. I had no idea until I was there bawling.
We gathered at his favorite bar, Johnnie McCracken's and sent him off with a round of the finest Irish Whiskey I've ever tasted. Paul's brother's family and his adopted one, mine, gathered and broke bread, swapped stories and it would have been perfect only if Paul had been the to share it with us.
Paul had been my friend and brother since 1988. We served together in operation Desert Storm and he was the guy who always had my back, was my wingman and I was his. We were designated as each other's porn buddies. While helping to pack his house, I was overwhelmed by the memories that came when sorting out old pictures, and trinkets from events we attended, gifts we gave each other and treasures priceless to small few. He lived alone and we dispersed his home and belongings to charities and people in need, some things were kept and much was tossed in the trash as it was only valuable to Paul, who was a mason jar collection away from being a hoarder. In the end I think we did right by him and the few tokens I have pale in comparison to the soul lost to me, to us. I have no idea what I'm going to do when the next Captain America movie comes out. That was something extremely special to the both of us and harkened back to one of the very first conversations and the one that sealed our friendship. A heated argument over superhero capes.
I loved him so much.
For some time I've not been able to pen to paper. I've been caught up in the skull fuckery that is this election cycle. It's given me a place to put my anger, grief and loss. Baseball season is moving toward the end of the season and my Boston Red Sox are looking pretty good for a division title. Next week, I get into my first college football pool. It's a family tradition, there's no money involved, but you'd think we were playing for nuclear codes in a bizarre live action game of Risk. The fantasy league is about to start with the pros and I have high hopes for the Fighting Geoducks. Amidst all the distractions there's a voice whispering in my ear. I haven't heard it in a while, but Rick O'Shae reminding me there's still a fight raging and it's going to be the biggest battle yet fought. I've been telling him to fuck off, but you know how he gets.
Earlier this year I had half a story written and it looks like the other half is now underway.
I hear them all as plain as day now. Rick doing what it takes to get to the truth no matter the opponent, Pink Panther taking on anyone willing to fight. Martin Steele working the shadows. Zack is a disaster, Mach bought a new pair of running shoes and Talon is sharpening her stiletto heels. A new enemy, an unimaginable threat and right in the middle of sail fest. The biggest holiday outside of Halloween. Did I mention a government threat? New London is in the crosshairs and there's a fresh pot of coffee on at Y-Knots.
This one's for you Paul.