M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Stories from next to the grave

September 10, 2016
MThomas

img_0719In April, my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent.

In August, I was finally able to visit her grave. Anyone who is living overseas for an extended period of time (or permanently, as I probably am) will tell you how difficult it is to have a sense of closure at the death of a loved one. Particularly a close family member.

But as we were standing there, gazing down at the names of my great-grandparents (whom I had barely known) and my grandfather and grandmother (whom I had known very well from a young age), it wasn’t just a sense of closure I was seeking.

It was a sense of history. Of stories.

When the three cars of relatives arrived at the cemetary — myself, my wife, my two daughters; my parents and one younger brother and sister (I have eight siblings in total), one of my aunts and uncles (I have at least twenty…yes, it’s complicated…) an interesting thing happened.

We all started telling stories. Maybe it’s the Irish in us (Bushnell, Connally, O’Leary, and Dougherty, among others). But telling stories has always come naturally to people in my family, as natural as eating and breathing.

My uncle started it. Stories about my grandfather when he was in the Navy during World War II (he never left Florida).

My aunt followed. Stories about my grandfather when he was growing up. Stories about my grandmother when she was the same age as my cousin. (A recently discovered photograph showed her to be almost identical in appearance, too. Scary, that.)

My father continued (with a little prodding from me) with a story from when I was a child. (This is how I found out that the United Methodist Church-owned apartment building I had lived in as a young child had been and has been occupied by family members for at least four generations.)

When I mentioned my intention to write a book of non-fiction about my grandparents and their generation — I’m thinking of calling it “My Three Grandfather” — the stories came fast and furious.

Right next to my grandparents’ grave.

There we were, in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a centuries-old cemetary overlooking the Hudson River Valley (near HVCC, as a matter of fact), telling stories about the dead, with the dead. With the living.

Stories aren’t just all that’s left. Stories are what we always had, and have, and will have.

Eat your heart out, Washington Irving.

1000 Isles

April 1, 2016
MThomas

Some people have asked me on FB for some previews of Notes from the Nineties. It’s difficult to prepare excerpts from short stories (which are already short). So while I’m thinking of what’s appropriate as a teaser, here’s another poem from the volume. It appears right after the story “Boys Will be Boys” together with the poem “Grandmother.”

 

1000 Isles

 

Summers of my Upstate youth were spent

in the family station wagon, the six of us, or was it seven,

traveling to the great St. Lawrence

Seaway of a thousand islands.

 

The first time we stayed one night at Mosquito Heaven,

sleepless in a brown canvas tent,

and four nights on the biggest island—

half in the US,

half out.

 

I learned how to gut a fish, how to swim,

how to roll up a sleeping bag,

and where to buy fireworks—

I mean sparklers.

 

On my 12th birthday, I got a wallet,

put in a year’s allowance,

then when I forgot it in the campsite bathroom,

got advice in return the next morning—

“I told you so.”

 

Looking back, it makes sense

to me now

that I hate dressing.

Notes from the Nineties: Upstate is…where, exactly?

March 25, 2016
MThomas


This is the fifth and final preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior. In the third part, I delved into the “true story” of The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale. The fourth and penultimate part, I talked 
about my brief experience with occultism and the wisdom of teeth that led to The Four Teeth of the Apocrypha.

DSC00484I’m from New York. No, not New York City. No, not Niagara Falls (the Canadian horseshoe looks better, anyhow). Yes, there is something in between. An awful lot of something, actually. In fact, the oldest and still largest state park in the US comprises most of Upstate New York.

Yes, I’m from the Adirondacks. But it’s more complicated. Continue Reading

Notes from the Nineties: The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale

March 17, 2016
MThomas

This is the third preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior.

Bunny-smalljpg

Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny, isn’t it?

The first story in the anthology takes place in Ireland; the last, in Japan. But I’m from Upstate New York (NOT White Plains and Yonkers; those are downstate for the rest of us), so many of the stories in the middle of the book take place there. Most such stories were originally written for my undergrad or graduate thesis, from ’93 to ’96 (hence, the name of the book, actually…).

“The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale” was not written back then. However, the events do take place in the mid-’90s, and the style (I hope) is similar to those stories.

The main event — finding a post dedicated to a bunny rabbit in the middle of the woods — actually occurred. The details are fuzzy (most of the night was…) and of course I’ve changed around the names of the conspirators, as well as combined two or three people into a single character with some exaggerated personality quirks. But there is, in reality, a bunny shrine in Annandale. And we did find it. Among other things. Continue Reading

Blast from the Spring Past

March 30, 2015
MThomas

img008With only one week to go before the regular MLB season begins, I thought I’d go back and take a look at my old baseball pictures.

Only it turned out that I only had one: a tiny black and white picture of me standing at third base that appeared in my high school yearbook. Proud baseball Poppa to the rescue!

My father dug up about eight photos of me as a gangly 16 year old, doing what I did best that year: protecting the left bench from foul balls.

I also got really good at keeping score. When I wasn’t standing in right field while it snowed. Spring in the Adirondacks: we never played any of our scheduled games the first week of April, and even during the second and third week games typically featured flurries, sub-freezing temperatures, and rock-hard dirt surfaces to bounce on…ah, slide on when stealing second. Even now in my hometown, there are three feet of snow on the field, and I’m sure the players are tired of practicing inside the gym (the parking lot is also a favorite for ground-ball drills). Continue Reading

“Pitchers and catchers report,” and I thought…

February 19, 2015
MThomas

Spring training is here at last! Well, for pitchers and catchers, anyway. The full teams won’t show for another week. But the phrase “pitchers and catchers report” still has a special meaning for baseball players, and fans, too.

I started Approaching Twi-Night in a spring training setting partly because of my personal experience with spring training. I played baseball in high school for four years and only once did I attempt to attend the early spring training session for pitchers and catchers. I say “tried” because, quite obviously, I was not successful. Continue Reading

Batter Up!

February 16, 2015
MThomas

IMG_3341Welcome to my personal author web page! Actually, I have at two additional web sites to this one. One is devoted to my blog, Taking Leave (which is scheduled to be published in late 2015 as a book by the same name. Another is my academic page which includes courses taught at Ritsumeikan University as well as my CV (academic presentations, papers, books, and so forth).

But my passion is and has been baseball. I played baseball as a high school student — not a terribly outstanding player, as my high school classmates will be happy to tell you — and eagerly follow the minute details of any game I come across.

Approaching Twi-Night is my first foray into published fiction, and although I have varied writing interests ranging from historical fiction to science fiction, I thought there was no better way to start than to return to baseball. I’ll be blogging here in the upcoming weeks about where the story of “Ditch” Klein and his teammates came from, what literary and historical debts are owed by certain elements of the story, and, of course, about baseball in general.

Good reading!

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