Saturday, 12 October 2019

SERIAL PUBLICATION: The Recalcitrant P.I. ~ Chapter 20


a Mac Armstrong mystery


T.F. Pruden

Copyright © 2018 by T.F. Pruden

All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author


Jack stood nude, outlined by late afternoon sunlight streaming through a wide hotel window through which he looked.

A cigarette burned between his lips.  With cool nonchalance, he waved a hand to the woman across the parking lot three floors below.  Only a moment later she climbed into a large sedan, soon pulling away to leave Jack smoking in air-conditioned solitude.

The mid-priced three-story hotel on Portage Avenue, with a parking lot carved from a steep slope rising out back, provided a reliable source of privacy to those needing it.  Guest entrance was by side-street through the rear lot.  Sheltered by concrete retaining walls also surrounded by mature trees, arrival or departure remained unseen by traffic on the busy street out front.

A veteran kitchen served standard fare to a dim-lit restaurant of enduring popularity among a well-healed crowd of certain age.

Since the early days of married life, Jack on occasion availed himself of the hotel's reputation for discretion.

His preference for either married or recently divorced paramours, left him often in need of comfortable accommodations, private but reasonably priced.  Like the best of them, the old hotel cared little for the morality of its guests but much for profit, with their service the sole concern of management.

Despite the adulterous nature of his visit, Jack lounged in familiar comfort.

The woman now departed, was but the latest conquest added to what seemed an ever-extending list of visibly satisfied customers.  Yet no matter the number, in Jack now grew a suspicion more uncomfortable as it decreased in deniability.

What first he accepted as lingering need for youthful thrills, now seemed nearer a compulsion than desire.

Jack crushed the butt into the ashtray on the bedside table, shaking his head in disgust.  If he wasn't careful, such thoughts might lead to Dana discovering his latest indiscretion.  As usual, there was little time for existential nonsense.

Covering the tracks next required his attention.

The terms demanded by an otherwise happy marriage, Jack considered exceptional.  It was a deal under which he first expected to live with few complaints.  Discovering a routine urge to go beyond even the relaxed boundaries asked by his wife confounded him.

In the everyday subterfuge of his roommate's work meanwhile, Jack found not reason for caution but a source of excitement.  The satisfaction discovered in extra-marital escapades, was now further enhanced by thoughts of potential illicit surveillance.

Jack fought an urge of unknown origin.  Though long used to fighting the desires of a passive/aggressive nature, want for an audience emerged anew.  In his patient wife Jack first sourced his only relief, with her acceptance enabling the sexual experimentation earlier leaving him satisfied.

That increased deviance might lead him beyond the safe pastures of their marriage bed, was neither appropriate nor acceptable to his wife.

Aside from the eternally open-minded roommate, there seemed no one with whom he could even hint at the true nature driving many of his real interests.  Even with the amoral but accepting Mac, it remained necessary for Jack to speak in generalities, not specifics, when it came to depravity.

He also lived in fear of what punishment lay in store for breaking his vows without the permission of his wife.

Jack smiled as thoughts of Dana again entered his mind.  There remained no woman capable of satisfying him to the equal of his understanding wife.

The search to find another who might, while so far fruitless, yet continued at relentless pace.

While the more than flexible terms of his marriage provided Jack rare freedom, he surprised himself with resolve in their abuse.  Despite the best of early intentions, it would not be long before he took many feet despite being allowed, with the considered grace provided by his wife’s wisdom, no more than an occasional inch.

 The failure of Jack's faith either mirrored or reflected the less than apparent bounds of current societal morality, but so far, he could not decide which of the two it might be.

Jack instead, made hay while the sun of his youth continued to shine, albeit with certain investments made in hopes of assuring a comfortable nest for a wrinkled tomorrow.  His older wife was the greatest of these, making acceptance of whatever punishment she on occasion deemed appropriate, either necessary or encouraged.

In most cases, he remained unsure about the source of its real motivation.

With a near content sigh, Jack grabbed socks from a chair next to the wardrobe.  He also collected the boxer shorts waiting on the seat, taking them along to the bathroom.  The dark slacks with silk shirt, he left where they hung neat upon the chair.

Jack doubted not for a single moment, the love reserved for his wife.

The two-toned brown khaki uniform, a safari shirt featuring his name embroidered on the chest with matching tailored pants, hung in a suit bag in the cabinet awaiting his planned return to work.  As he ambled with glass-eyed satisfaction around the king-sized bed toward the waiting shower, Jack wondered again at the notion of a hidden watcher.

His clothes would be transported in the bag vacated by his uniform, for wear when clubbing later tonight.  Even now meanwhile, his roommate likely watched unseen, as someone indulged tastes not dissimilar to those enjoyed by Jack, somewhere close.

The work performed by his roomie paid well enough but required a suspension of ethics since discovered unpalatable to Jack.  Despite a sincere best effort, the longer Mac continued with it, the more Jack's respect for him dwindled.

Jack was plagued by growing discomfort at this development.

Much more than a roommate, Mac remained Jack's closest friend.

He thus continued to seek Mac's approval, while in secret harboring an uncomfortable but growing desire to be surveilled by the private investigator.  Jack also seemed to grow less aware of the boundary where his secret desires intersected with reality as time, with increasing speed these days, seemed to race.  The smoke Mac scored lately meanwhile, left him so disconnected from reality, on occasion it proved hard to tell the difference.

Jack shook his head, steadying himself by grasping the curtain rod as he entered the shower.  His thoughts, like the occasional vertiginous episode, were likely just a symptom of being one, or perhaps more than that, over the line.

A hot rinse would clear them from his mind along with the lingering scent of the woman.

An evening at the St. Vital Centre branch store lay ahead.  Jack needed to straighten up if he was to make it through another boring summer night of retail management.  It was almost sure to be slow, but corporate rental agreements dictated store hours.  His salaried position also improved the bottom line, when compared to using an hourly paid employee to fill a low producing shift.

Now a member of the regional management team, a significant part of Jack's compensation was tied to local store profit.

Few things motivated Jack like money.  The business of retail pets while not glamorous, returned healthy profits in exchange for easily surmounted inconvenience.  A man of practiced persuasion, within only months Jack’s skills led to rapid promotion up the ranks of the growing retail chain.

Now in charge of four stores across the city, his remuneration compared favorably with the corporate sales failure to which he earlier devoted greater energy.

To Jack at least, despite a steadily growing bank balance the business at which he toiled in anonymity lacked sufficient status.  He hearkened still to walk the halls of accumulating wealth fueled by stock options, where the real power behind tomorrow's society, now under construction, arose in relative secrecy.

In earlier times, employed in the white-collar world while living within shouting distance of an unseen coast, more than once he was near enough for it to be glimpsed.  Were he granted a moment's respite from learning the never-ending nuances of information technology; ethereal work requiring flawless perfection performed with too little guidance in his opinion, he might have touched it then.

Jack was not granted such an interlude.

Almost before he knew it, he was rendered a hapless victim of the downsizing wrought by leading-edge adoption of trickle-down economic theory.  While the wheels of progress since ground on relentless, to Jack, they seemed ignorant most of his desires.


Monday, 27 May 2019

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature


T.F. Pruden
1. Literature must provide questions, not answers.

The writer's job is sharing experiences, not telling readers what to think about them.  As the fundamental responsibility of art, music and literature is illuminating the condition of society, neither personal opinions nor rhetorical positions are acceptable for inclusion within literary work.  Specifically, the writer must share a story, while keeping both opinions and answers out of it.

2. Literature must be known by experience, not reported as bystander.

A writer may factually document only that which individual temporal experience personally reveals.  Specifically, third-party information must be identified in first-person narratives, with omniscient narration based on science, observed, or related behavior employed only when or if judged necessary to best serve the story.

3. Literature must respect the rules of grammar, not serve them.

The writer must demonstrate mastery of the craft.  As such, basic guidelines of mid-twentieth century English grammar are to be observed, aside from within dialogue.  While splitting the infinitive for reasons of style is approved meanwhile, use of the vernacular must always be limited to either first-person narratives or dialogue.  Specifically, this rule prohibits sentences from ending with prepositions, while those begun with prepositional phrases require use of a comma. 

4. Literature must rely on facts, not beliefs.

As science is fact while history but opinion, so genre fiction is entertainment and not to be confused with literature.  For a work to be literary, the facts of temporal reality must compose and provide the entirety of theme, plot and characterization.  Specifically, this rule identifies that while opinions are certainly as common as assholes, they have no place in literature.

5. Literature must be written individually, not by committee.

A writer must work alone, from a project's start to its completion. The writer's work is not finished when either draft or manuscript is completed. While editorial feedback is encouraged prior to engaging the revision process, neither line editing nor collaboration of any kind is allowed at any time. Specifically, this rule approves the use of word processing and editing software but limits third-party assistance to feedback, proofreading and copy editing.

6. Literature must provide historical perspective, not timely reportage.

Experience while most often the best teacher, must be allowed the benefit of time's perspective to be appreciated. The writer must not allow emotions or desire for timeliness to limit the perspective achieved only by distance and time. Specifically, this rule prevents the damning of a work to either period or emotional influence by requiring writing driven by fashions, fads or favorites be avoided.

7. Literature must be grammatically constrained, not mutilated.

While appropriate for the writer to incorporate specific language constraints to demonstrate literary mastery, such constraints must always be near invisible to the reader and incorporated throughout a work.  Specifically, this rule identifies either loss of grammatical consistency or stylistic readability in support of constraint as not acceptable.

8. Literature must be thematically defined, not limited.

While multiple thematic elements are acceptable within a single work, each must be effectively represented within its context.  Specifically, this rule recognizes broad implementation of either symbolism or metaphor as suitable but requires single-sentence thematic statements provided in explanation for a work be suggested within the text.

9. Literature must respect tradition, not deny it.

Defending traditional literary forms requires an understanding of the difference between influence and respect.  Those either hidebound by conformity or blindly devoted to innovation miss the point of not only literature, but also music and art.  The timeless secrets of form and function valuable to writers from all ages meanwhile, are most reliably discovered within classical works.  Specifically, this rule confirms those who don't read good books suffer a far greater loss than they who can't and requires the writer to read and implement the lessons found there.

10. Literature must be stylistically consistent, not obtrusive.

No matter what is written, literature must incorporate a narrative voice appropriate to the writer's taste, not that of either desired audience or treasured results. Consistency of literary style builds trust between reader and writer, and from that rises verisimilitude. Specifically, this rule identifies the intellectual and emotional bond created by consistent and unobtrusive style as necessary to a believable and lasting literary experience.

11. Literature must serve the story, not its writer.

The point of writing novels is neither enriching nor ennobling writers but documenting the ever-evolving conditions of life on earth.  As talking about and promoting the work might damage or affect its process, a writer must avoid intrusions related to fame, fortune and notoriety.  Specifically, to achieve success a writer must choose to write, not speak.

12. The writer must write, not make excuses for it.

As a wise man said long ago, to be, one must do.  Thus, to earn the authentic title of writer requires the act of writing be an undeniable and lifelong habit bordering on obsessive compulsion.  To those who must, the work produced should then and ever be allowed to speak for itself.  Specifically, this rule prohibits the writer from either written response to critics and criticism or seeking of awards and plaudits.


T.F. Pruden

Thorsby, Alberta, Canada



“Do not seek perfection, which is death.  Let it seek you.” ~ William Saroyan, 1908-1981


Thursday, 21 March 2019

Cards on the table.

Because it needs doing, this writer does it.

A fellow somewhat renowned for lack of ambition, were someone else tending to it, you may rest assured a man would not persist with effort both thankless and difficult.

For to this writer, the well of whatever from which the words spring has ever been both mystery and necessity.  A man was also forced, long ago, to accept that a life-long struggle learning to master and control what ~ from the outside ~ amounts to little more than angst-ridden neuroses propped up by emotional immaturity, could lead to neither popularity nor riches.

Despite this knowledge and with serious intent, the writer kept the business to himself through what was a lengthy and often public life.  Not because he wanted to, but as result of knowing it should not be managed by any other means.

For to know, there is but a single way.  One must be.  This according to a man reckoned wise by minds brighter than this, who is claimed to have once said ~ paraphrased here ~ that to be, one must do.

Long ago, in a land far away, this writer drank of that beverage.

Everything since was as result.

To make sense of it, one must first accept that playing a part, like an actor, is not a substitute for living life.  Nor is reporting of its events, from any perspective, be it live or from a historical viewpoint, considered here a realistic documentation of facts suitable for fictional history.  For by now, we should all know most of the stuff that fills our textbooks, web searches and news sources was written by peons at work on behalf of history’s winners.

The paradox and failure of most writer’s work, after all, is a need to report third-hand information as first-hand knowledge.

So it is, and so it shall remain.

For this writer, even second-hand information is much like moral authority, a necessary evil considered best practiced by others.  In these parts, the job is telling the facts of how it was for a participant, not telling you what to think, believe or feel about it.

Like it or not, life remains short, brutal and dumb.  The long-term danger of whitewashing both history and diversity, though often convenient, has rarely been more apparent in western democracy than it is just now.  A society spoon-fed single-viewpoints in search of homogeneity without acknowledging the sometimes-bitter facts regarding alternative lifestyles or differing perspectives, eventually leads to repressive and stunted political regimes marked by divisive populism and tyranny of the masses.

These are facts of early twenty-first century life.

The challenge to writers and artists in all disciplines, everywhere but here in the west particularly, is responding to the times in which we live and create history together.

As the next man, this writer leaves the crumbs he can produce to mark a trail for those who might seek to find them.

That’s part of what it means to be a responsible individual around here.

As required by such a philosophy, the writer works to record what happened, not as observer, but as participant.  In each case, with a first goal of telling how it was.  That means including the hard stuff, and not dressing up or rationalizing any of it.

How it went, is all that’s been told.

The characters you meet in this writer’s work may not be beautiful or famous, but they reflect a shared time and common experiences lived not so long ago.  A man is also comfortable saying that like many of us, most of them do the best they can to get by, and that’s about all that can be asked of anyone.  Thus, though like a mirror easily distorted, literature provides a lingering reminder of the endlessly confounding and multi-dimensional nature of our shared temporal existence.  Able only to reflect that which might pass before it, the looking-glass yet reveals secrets we find near impossible to either resist or deny.

In that way, this writer’s work seeks to provide a reflection of the singular experience of a markedly small and decidedly underrepresented group of people from within the cultural and historical mosaic that composes life in modern Canada.  The goal is to create a recording of a rarely-told individual history, written neither from a need for apology nor desire for reconciliation, but rather as an unvarnished and uniquely Canadian history that reveals the facts of life in post-colonial society.

For here, just as people do everywhere, we recreate each other using images distorted by perspective, for better and for worse.  This writer’s sole purpose and art’s real societal value ~ the raison d’etre for each ~ is achieved only by revealing that fact.

To this writer, there can be nothing more.

As the reader, everything else is up to you.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.


  • TFP
    March 21, 2019

Monday, 11 February 2019

RIP Mr. Koko Pruden, December 5, 2002 - February 11, 2019

After a brief illness, with great sadness I must report the passing of my adorable, Mr. Koko Pruden.
The resolute dog has left the building.
A little man in a hair suit made completely of love, Mr. Koko was my best friend, ever and always. The last of the actual road dogs, Mr. Koko stood guard for Harwill at over 1500 show stops and traveled more than a million kilometers from coast-to-coast and throughout North America. We spent the best days of our lives together and my baby boy gave love to the end before passing away in the arms of his papa.
Beloved by all before circumstance brought him to live with me at age two, throughout his life Mr. Koko also found great joy loving and caring for his original and extended families. For the life we shared and all I learned from him, there can be no recompense other than to report he taught me how to live. The subject of 2015 #1 hit song 'I love my dog (the ballad of Mr. Koko)' on the US Americana charts, there never was, nor could there ever be, another like him.
Though our tears must fall, the love and wisdom of his teachings lives in our hearts forever.
So long pard, it's been good to know you.

   Feb 11, 2019