Monday, June 23, 2014

LGBT Roundtable: In 100 Years, What Will Gay Be?

LGBT Round Table

This week on my blog, we’re trying something a little different. In honor of LGBT Pride month, I am among a great group of panelists who will be hosting a month long discussion about Pride, LGBT Youth, Allies, and more. Our panelists are a diverse group of readers, writers, and supporters of gay fiction, including Larry Benjamin, Rick Bettencourt, Brandilyn Carpenter, Rob Colton, Andrew Q Gordon, Lane Hayes, Debbie McGowan, and Brandon Shire. Each week, two people will answer two questions related LGBT pride, rights, and related topics. We will also be giveaway free copies of eBooks by our participating authors and a Amazon gift card. You can enter on the RC below. There are special entries for each week of June, so don't miss out on those.

Please join in the discussion in the comments. You can gain entries into the giveaway, but more importantly, you can be part of a important and fun discussion. Though only 2 panelists will be posting each week, we will all be joining the discussion. Please visit this week's other guest panelist, Lane Hayes.

This Week's Discussion


Marriage equality has been achieved in 19 states and DC and 11 more have had their bans overturned in court and are on appeal. How do you think Marriage Equality has affected the LGBT community.


Rick: I'm one of very few gay men who can say they have actually had two gay marriages. My first one wound up in a "gay" divorce—and even featured in the NY Times. A few years later I met Chris and we were married, in Massachusetts, in 2012. We have since moved to Florida and are now dealing with the consequences of our marriage not being recognized.

In my first marriage, we had been together several years. Like many relationships—gay and straight—we had our problems. But at the time, gay marriage was so new that there was talk of it being repealed—some things never change. So, we decided to get married and try to work on “us” later, before the courts ruled it illegal. While it may have been a mistake, being able to marry allowed us to bring things together in order to break it apart, at least legally. Like so many unrecognized relationships, there’s a lack of lawfulness that can hurt the couple. For instance, look at how many couples (gay or straight) marry for the health insurance and/or so other benefits. Without the protection of marriage, many people can get hurt.

Being able to marry provides legitimacy, not only, in the eyes of society, but it also gives validity to the feelings of the couple.

What are gay activists/allies getting right? What are they getting wrong?


Rick: I live in a pretty conservative area. Living alongside a bunch of religious Republicans doesn’t really bother me. In fact, I think I fit in just fine. Don’t revoke my gay card but I kind of like my conservative neighbors even though I don’t agree with them on every issue. I try to respect and understand their point of view.

My husband and I are considered “the boys” by our neighbors. Some know we are a couple—we have a one bedroom, for God’s sake!—and others barely care. I suppose there are a few who talk behind our backs—think we’re going to hell in hand basket—but we don’t seek them out, and nor do they of us.

Our area is filled with Romney-stickered cars that take our neighbors to church every Sunday. Yet I don’t think these people care about our gay marriage. In fact, lately we’ve been going to church with them. Mixing in is a great way to show them that we’re not the evil mongers that some paint us out to be.

I may be a bit of an anomaly but I kind of like living around people who are different than I am. I could live in the Village, San Fran or Provincetown but—no offense—after a few days there, I have enough gay energy in me to light up Las Vegas.

Maybe I’m not a good gay: I don’t regularly frequent gay bars. I don’t make it a point to travel to gay destinations and when I shop, if the business is gay-friendly great but I don’t go out of my way. In fact, I kind of like being around people who are different than me—straight people. Sure, it’s nice to regroup with the gay pack now and again but most of my friends and family are heterosexual—and I like them that way.

A lot of us gay folk don’t live in the big cities or those towns that even make a blip on the gaydar—and I think that’s great. Those off-the-beaten-path towns are where we need to be who we are even more.

My little “meet the moderates in the middle” approach may not be as brazen as those that came before us—fighting for our rights at Stonewall, for instance— or by being the first of openly gay NFL player. But there’s a place for us moderates who are quietly gay wherever we go. In fact, I would argue that temperance can sometimes speak volumes over the Johnny Weirs who parade about Russia in black leather pants, wedge-heeled boots and a wrap of salt and pepper-tinged fur.

Nowadays America sees homosexuality differently than just five years ago. Why? Surely because of those liberals who have fought for our rights but also because of Tom and Bob who quietly raise their son in suburban America; and Mary and Ellen who are just an ordinary couple trying to make a living in a straight town.

We’ve come a long way. And we can go a lot further by being who we are, meeting in the middle and embracing the differences of those who are not like us. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what we’ve been asking of them?

As more and more fence-sitters come to their senses and realize being gay is just as ordinary as having green eyes or being left-handed–and we respect their traditionalist views, we’ll show conservatives that being gay is normal.

Today's gay activist is just a regular Dick or Jane.

About our Panelists


Larry Benjamin: Bronx-born wordsmith Larry Benjamin, is the author of the gay novels, Unbroken, and What Binds Us and the short story collection Damaged Angels. Larry will be hosting the discussion starting 9 June 2014 Twitter: @WriterLarry Website: http://www.larrybenjamin.com

Rick Bettencourt: Rick Bettencourt is the author of NOT SURE BOYS, PAINTING WITH WINE and TIM ON BROADWAY. Rick hates to cook, and can often be seen eating out. He lives in the Tampa Bay area, with his husband and their dog, Bandit. Rick will be hosting the discussion starting 23 June 2014 Twitter: @rbettenc Website: http://rickbettencourt.wordpress.com/

Brandilyn Carpenter: Brandilyn is the odd duck in this group. She owns an LGBTQ fiction focused review blog, Prism Book Alliance, and is the married mother of 3 young children. She is an advocate for equal rights and tirelessly promotes the gay fiction genre. Brandilyn will be hosting the discussion starting 16 June 2014 Twitter: @BrandilynRC Website: http://www.prismbookalliance.com

Rob Colton: Rob Colton is a software developer by day, and avid reader of romance novels at night. A romantic at heart, he loves stories that feature big, burly men who find true love and happy endings. Rob will be hosting the discussion starting 16 June 2014 Twitter: @robcub32 Website: http://robcolton.com/

Andrew Q Gordon: Andrew Q. Gordon lives in the DC Metro area with his husband and 2 year old daughter. While he enjoys most types of fiction, his current works include MM Fantasy, Paranormal and Contemporary Fiction. Andrew will be hosting the discussion starting 2 June 2014 Twitter: @AndrewQGordon Website: http://andrewqgordon.com/

Lane Hayes: Lane Hayes is a M/M author, 2013 Rainbow Award finalist for her first release Better Than Good, designer, reader, lover of chocolate, red wine & clever people. Lane will be hosting the discussion starting 23 June 2014 Twitter: @LaneHayes3 Website: http://lanehayes.wordpress.com/

Debbie McGowan: Debbie McGowan is based in Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven fiction, runs an independent publishing company, and lectures in social science. Sometimes she sleeps, too! Debbie will be hosting the discussion starting 2 June 2014 Twitter: @writerdebmcg Website: http://www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk

Brandon Shire: Brandon Shire writes fiction about human intimacy and interactions. He loves chocolate and is a staunch advocate for homeless LGBT youth. Brandon will be hosting the discussion starting 9 June 2014 Twitter: @thebrandonshire Website: http://brandonshire.com

Giveaway

Prizes (4 winners):
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire, & eBook Not Sure Boys by Rick Bettencourt
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Painting with Wine by Rick Bettencourt, & eBook from Andrew Q Gordon's backlist
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Unbroken by Larry Benjamin, & eBook Champagne by Debbie McGowen
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook from Rob Colton's backlist, & eBook from Lane Hayes' backlist
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 26, 2013

We've Moved...

I have a new blog and a new book. I know, what a coincidence.

But I'd love to see you over at my WordPress blog. Here's the new site: http://rickbettencourt.wordpress.com/

Hope to see you soon!

Over and out...

Rick

P.S. Bandit says hello!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Need A Job?

Hi all!

Long time no write...

If you haven't heard about my new job search blog, and career advice and personal development website, check it out. Stay current on information to not only find a job but be better at the one you may already have.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Rick


Monday, June 04, 2012

WritingWellNow.com

Well, I'm not officially retiring BanditTalks but...

It's been a long time, since starting with the trials and tribulations of my personal life, back in 2005.  I have other things to share and started a new blog called WritingWellNow.com which speaks to my passion for writing.

I've been quite busy the last couple of months working on a couple of new short stories and the seemingly never ending edits to the book.

WritingWellNow.com is a site for tips and tools on writing. Check it out.

Over and out (for now)...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Been Awhile

So after the last couple of soap opera posts I want drag things out.  This is what's happened since:

Chris' dad passed away.  We found him dead, alone, when we went for our weekly visit - mid-February.  Very traumatizing...it wasn't a pretty scene.  Chris is faring well.  He has his good days and his bad. Last night was a particularly bad one.

On a happier note, we just got back from Florida.  We visited last week, enjoyed the sun and the roller coasters at Busch Gardens.  Here are a few pictures from our trip.

Coquina Beach, Florida

At the Condo

Rick Walking the Beach

Rick and Chris at Busch Gardens

My Favorite Dish:  Calamari Salad at Ezra's

Country Singer, Eric Von 
Animal at Busch Gardens

Pals Since Birth: Cheetah and Dog Playing
That's about it.  I'll try and post for regularly.

Rick

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Part III: The C-word (Final)


In case you missed the first two blogs on this topic, read part I here and part II here.  This is the last installment.
------------

The afternoon of receiving news I could have cancer, I was scheduled to go back to work.  Yet I could barely focus enough to drive myself home let alone sit through meetings and ponder system documentation.

I didn't want to call Chris and get him worried.  I drove in silence.

I let my boss know I got some bad news; there'd be more news to follow.  He was  very supportive.

I went home, hugged Bandit and then sat in front of my computer.  I researched prostate cancer on the Internet.  Bad idea!  Did you know that lower back pain and prostate cancer could mean that it has metastasized to the bone which substantial decreases the chance of survival?

I was dying.  It was clear.

When Chris came home, I told him the whole story.  He held me and we cried. 

I couldn't believe this was happening to me.  All the healthy choices I had made in life yet everything about it just didn't sound good.  Besides my dad died of cancer, as did my uncle and my cousin.   I assumed it was just my time.  While I had planned on living a long life, maybe I just wasn't meant to.

Things seemed different:  I appreciated the simple things; the stuff I previously found annoying I now found meaning in.  I Facebooked  words of gratitude.  I had had a good life.  If now was my time than so be it.


The weekend met with little sleep.  As I laid in bed, eyes searching through the darkness, each ache in my lower back I felt to be the cancer eating away at my bones.   I was nearly sick to my stomach with worry.

I got a blood work up on Monday.

On Tuesday I met with the oncologist to finally see what was going on with my bleeding issues.   Coincidentally the nurse was an old friend ; she helped lighten my mood and had me laughing about old times - working as bill collectors for Sears. Those were the days.

The doctor reviewed all my blood test results, spanning the last five years, and then ordered more.  He told me my PSA level, back from the day before, was only 0.85 which equated to about a less than 1% chance of having  prostate cancer.   Good news at last?  Perhaps all this was nothing after all. 

I left slightly encouraged.

The next day I was back at the urologist for  the scoop up the penis.  He was looking for any abnormalities in my bladder and kidneys.  Uncomfortable kind of puts it mildly.

"Are you really going to fit the entire thing up my…"   I said looking at the long tube.

He laughed.

"I've been told I'm well-endowed but this is crazy."  At least I still had my humor.

The procedure didn't take long, less than two minutes.  It felt like someone blew up my bladder like a water balloon and then put in a little bit more for good measure.  It's gonna burst! I thought.

"Everything looks pristine," he said yanking the 2 foot probe out from within. 

I thought the twenty-seven liters (at least that's what it felt like) of saline inside me was going to come out with it.

"Next week we'll do the biopsy and the following week we'll have the results for you," he went on.  "Your PSA is excellent.  Things are looking good but we really won't know conclusively until…"

"I'm sorry doc, I really have to pee!"  I never had to go so bad in my life.


More waiting but a little sounder sleep and a tad less anxious.

The oncologist called:  the results from an extensive blood analysis came in.  I was on the cusp of having Von Willebrand disease, an asymptomatic coagulation disorder - nothing dangerous.  This would explain my nosebleeds.  But what about the blood in my...?


Finally the biopsy day came:  I had to take the entire day off.  I was given a Valium and a Percocet  prior to going.  Chris took the morning off to be with me, and to drive my high-as-a-kite ass there and back.

It hurt!  Like a mother_____!  And that was with drugs. It felt like someone went up inside me, grabbed a hold of my prostate with their  fist  and then squeezed.  Then just as it cramped into the worse Charlie horse you could imagine…12  long needles, up the butt...one... at... a...time. 

"How you doing Mr. Bettencourt?"

"Ar-argh,"  was all I could get out.  I was biting my sweatshirt.  Tears and drool spotted the table's  paper lining.

The medical assistant, a tall guy in green scrubs and a goatee, began to describe to my doctor what he was seeing  through the scope.  "Calcification, look here.  This is what you were feeling on the right side of the prostate."

Some sort of calcification...isn't that what my primary care originally said it was?

Promising yet not conclusive.

Waiting once more, this time for the results.  Another full week.

Lastly the day had come:  I had an afternoon lunch time appointment with him.  I slotted the rest of the afternoon to be off, just in case the news was bad.  I wouldn't be able to go back.

Chris met up with me.  We held hands in the examining room waiting, once again.  Chris, with his new iPhone, fiddled around to find something to calm me down.  Knowing I like Bette Midler, he thought he'd find a song on Pandora to comfort me.  However, the app selected The Rose.  It just didn't seem appropriate.  The volume was on full blast.  He couldn't figure out how to shut it off.

"And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live."

Here I am waiting to get news whether or not I'm dying and I'm hearing one of the saddest songs in recorded history.

Finally the door burst open.  It was the doctor.  The first words out his mouth were, "you're fine!" 

I couldn't comprehend.  I was still pissed about hearing The Rose which Chris had finally been able to mute.

The doctor went on, "no need to pussy foot around with hellos and delay any further.  Your results are good."

"What?"  My neurons were still trying to process. 

"No cancer," he explained.

Chris gave a smile.  And we then sat listening to Dr. Geffin going over some multi-page analysis.    

While he mumbled on about testing scenarios and benign this and benign that and calcified ejaculatory ducts.  I thanked God.  I was truly grateful (and still am) for having a wonderful life.

I wasn't dying, not now anyway.  Maybe I will live to be 80 or 90 or even 100.

Waking out of there, I knew life to be so much better than it had been just the month before.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Part II: The C-word


I don't mean to drag things on or to sound like an episode from the Guiding Light.  All I want is to tell these series of events as I saw them, as I went through them.  Yes, I'm alive.  And I'm doing fine.  But it took a bit to know all that.  So, onto part II…this is how I experienced it.
---------

When we arrived in Boston on Sunday it had snowed.  Luckily it wasn't enough to haul out the snow blower.  My mood wasn't very upbeat and I wasn't up for shoveling.  With a broom I brushed off the front steps, enough for us to get the luggage in and for the mailman, in the morning, to get up the stairs.

From the office on Monday at 8 am I called my primary care.  "Hi, Mr. Bettencourt.  What can we do for you?" the receptionist asked. 

I couldn't tell her what was really going on.  "Um, I've had a little blood in my urine…"  Lie.   "Some back pain and the nose bleeds continue."  A month earlier I had been in for horrific nose bleeds that lasted up to twenty minutes and left me dizzy.

"He's free at 1," she said.

Dr. Smith wasn't overly concerned.  "A lot of men get blood in their semen.  It's usually calcification in the ejaculatory ducts but since you also have had back pain, for over a year now, we'll send you to a urologist to rule out anything serious.  It could be a kidney stone but we'll do the right thing and get you looked after.  And for the nose bleeds we'll get you a complete blood work up from a hematologist.  Still no bruising?"

I knew bruising was a sign of leukemia.  "No," I  said. 

My blood  tests from the end of last year indicated a slight slowness in my clotting time, which he thought was most likely brought on by too much fish oil and supplements, and not enough iron but he wanted a full blood work up to be conclusive.

After leaving his office I felt less concerned.  That was until I went to see the urologist.

My work week was packed with catching up.  I tried not to check my BlackBerry while on vacation but doing so meant more to get up to speed on.  Luckily the next few days kept me busy enough to forgot about my health.  Also, I wasn't particularly excited to see if there was still blood.

The urologist's office managed to squeeze in a lunchtime appointment for Friday. 

I was reading a short-story in the New Yorker when he came in.  At the time, I found this all to be an inconvenience.  I hated waiting, despite the story being good. My attitude was a bit carefree; I had work to get back to. 

We exchanged greetings. He was pleasant and had already read my self-evaluation.  I respect a man who's prepared.

"So I'm a little confused," he said.  "I'm getting conflicting messages.  Blood in the urine, blood in the ejaculate.  No blood in the urine."

I had lied to his receptionist as well.  What am I supposed to tell her, "I shot a wad of blood all over the sheets?"   At the time, I couldn't come (no pun intended) up with a word like semen or ejaculate to describe my condition.  Behind closed doors - though the walls were paper thin as evident by my knowledge of the next door down's patient's prostate being the size of a baseball - I was able to divulge everything.

He examined me. 

I've never made a good bottom, despite the small width of a doctor's finger.

This was much more exploratory than my yearly physical.

We cleaned up.

I felt like I just had sex.

He sat me down.  I'm not sure exactly what he said but it went something like this:  "To be honest, I don't  like what I feel.  It feels like prostate cancer but we won't know until we do a biopsy."

Cancer.  That was all I heard.

"I'd also like to rule out anything in the bladder and kidneys so we'll need to do a scope."  He continued on…

I didn't hear what he was saying.

Cancer.  Did he say cancer?  Is this really happening?  I went cold, similar to how I felt two nights ago when we nearly burnt the house down.

He mumbled on, something about waiting a week or two for lab results.  "I never  give a results over the phone.  We'll schedule you now for a follow up visit  a week after the biopsy."

"Cancer?"  Really?  And the back pain, is it in my bones?  "Could it have metastasized to my back?" I asked. 

"Well we'll run a PSA test.  Your last one, three years ago, was in normal range.  Let's just take one step at a time."

One step at a time?  I already had myself buried and in the ground.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

Part I: The C-word


As I alluded to in the last post, it hasn't been a very good year.

Two days after almost burning the house down (The Incident), I went to the doctor and got some bad news.  But before I go there let's step back to a week, before the fire debacle and prior to that horrific appointment - to our Florida vacation.

"It's so nice spending time here," Chris told me as he dusted the chest of draws then stood back admiring the new trinket we picked up at the Salvation Army.  "You'd never know we paid $2.99 for it." 


"It looks good," I said not bothering to take my nose out of my Kindle. I only had a few more page left of  Water for Elephants.  Beside the ice pack felt good on my aching back, a persistent problem for the last year - I didn't want to move.

 "Aren't you glad I talked you into getting this place?" He was referring to the condo.

"Um, wasn't it me who chose this one?  You wanted that older style unit, the one with a view of a street and tiny little backyard."  I pointed to the golf course out our bedroom window.  "Even though we don't golf I'd much rather look at the greens."

He smiled.

It was a persistent joke. Who could take credit for a decision - be it big or small?  Of course the condo purchase was mutual but the chide makes for a little fun.   Usually it's me on the losing side of this little game.  For instance, after being forced  to do something I don't want to - watching AMC's The Walking Dead is a good example - I eventually come around to loving it.  In the middle of a particular heightened scene, I often say, "I'm so glad I talked you into watching this show."   My stance is usually met with a flippant, "mmm-hmm."

Anyway, I digress.  Back to the vacation. 

"So where do you want to go for dinner?"  I asked putting the Kindle down and adjusting the ice pack.

"I don't know.  You want to go to Ezra's again?  I have another LivingSocial we can use." 

We bought three or four $25 gift certificates for $5.  We gave some away but still had a couple leftover.

"Yeah, sure!  It's a tad pricey but what better way to spend our last night here.  You know  I love their calamari salad."

"Should we make reservations?  It might be busy on a Saturday night." 

We went the prior Monday and had the entire place to ourselves.  It was nice; we got to know the general manager and staff quite well.  But a quiet night at Ezra's was an anomaly.

Let me make a call."  I grabbed my BlackBerry, their number in my contacts. 

The unassuming exterior of this restaurant, nestled in a strip mall,  hides some of finest food imaginable.   The wasabi vinaigrette  on their calamari salad is fantastic.   For an entrĂ©e I knew I had to get the grilled skirt steak; I hadn't had it since our last visit in the fall.

Crystal, the hostess, couldn't fit us in till seven.  We've only been there a handful of times yet she knew us by name:  "Is this Rick of Chris and Rick?" she asked.  She was happy to have us back.

With some time to kill before enjoying some of Bradenton's finest food, one thing led to another.  And in the pinnacle of our fun...

There was blood.

My blood. 

"Oh my God!  Are you okay?"  Chris asked.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WritingWellNow.com

I've started a new writing blog.  Check it out at WritingWellNow.com.

BanditTalks - my personal journal - isn't going away.  Now you just have more options.

Till later...

Rick


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Part III: The Incident (Final)


This is the last installment of The Incident. Click here for Part I and here for Part II.  But wait there's more!  It's been a crazy year.
------------------------

After hitting the keypad's panic button, I grabbed the land line phone.  ADT will certainly be calling, I thought. 

"Chris!  Chris!  Get out!"  I said.   But the screech of fire, enh...enh...fire! added to the already overbearing siren from the smoke detectors made me wonder if he could even hear me.  Where was he?

"Chris!"  I said one more time before heading out the door to the garage.  I couldn't  hear the phone from inside.  I opened the bay while trying to get a dial tone on the phone.  Why is the phone not working?  Of all times!

"Call 911!"  I heard Chris yelling, still inside.

I assumed ADT would be calling emergency services for us. (I later realized that was a bad assumption on my part; hence my looking for a replacement service - another story.)

Pacing around out front, still trying to get the phone to work, I remembered Bandit being tethered to a chain in the backyard.  I thought about the chimney being so close to the upstairs' furnace and the gas line: What if the fire gets to the gas?  It'll explode...raining down balls of flames? Poor Bandit!  I ran in the back to get him.

As I was hitching him onto his leash - I must've grabbed his lead from the kitchen without thinking - I was finally able to get a dial tone.

"911, what's your emergency?"  The operator asked.

"I have a chimney fire."

By the time the fire engines arrived Chris had emerged from the house - dressed and nursing a burnt finger from trying to open the scalding fireplace screen.

A swarm of emergency vehicles converged and tried to wedge their way down our tiny street.   A police car's strobe threw a scatter shot of blue across the neighborhood.  An ambulance blocked the top of the hill.  Parked beside the house, a ladder truck's engine hummed and added a stream of red to the light show.  My neighbor peered out her bedroom window.

I told a man looking in charge, from shine on his badge, what was going on and he and another guy went inside. 

About five minutes later the fire chief, as I learned, came back out.  He stood on the front porch and asked who owned the house.  Chris and the EMT sat on the granite steps.  I was caught up in Chris refusing to go to the hospital: "I'll be fine.  I'll just ice it,"  he told the EMT.  The police officer beside them jotted down their conversation.   My mind felt like it was swimming in pancake syrup, a slow ooze of thoughts bubbled here and there.  My hands shook so bad I swore they were sending out Morse code. 

"Who's the owner?"  The cop looking up from his notepad repeated for the chief.

"Oh, I am."  I said as did Chris.  "We both are."

The fire chief slipped past Chris, left the EMT to examine his finger.  He walked down the two-step.  God, what's he going to tell me?

"Your damper broke, trapping the smoke in the house.  Luckily, the fire was contained to the pit.  There's just a lot of smoke - no fire damage," he told me.

I let out a sigh of relief.  "Thank God."

"We opened all the windows," he went on. "The fire's still going but is fine.  Just let it burnt out tonight.  It's perfectly safe."

I went to Chris, put my hand on his shoulder.  I wanted to cry.  I watched as the firemen took out an industrial fan.  They placed it in the garage, on the interior landing and with the generator from the truck began to draw out as much smoke as they could.

Next, I was prevented from collapsing into a puddle of relief by an interruption from the fire chief who wanted to take me inside and show me the damper. 

I followed him upstairs and on the hearth sat the guts of the metal contraption.  He proceeded to tell me that it had crumbled and fell inside the pit when they tried to open it.  He pointed to a busted nail.  "They should have installed this side with the same screw that's over here," he said pointing to latch's opposite end.   "It snapped from metal fatigue...from over the years."

I didn't care.  It could have been fastened with toothpicks and thread; as long as there was no fire damage, I was happy.  I smiled.  I thanked him for the fifteenth time.  I walked him down the stairs, asked him if he wanted a water.  A soda?  A bottle of champagne?  I was so appreciative that I would have withdrawn from my 401K and sent his daughter to college if he asked.  

He didn't want any water, nor did he want any bubbly.   

I wasn't thinking clear.

It took a good week, and a dousing or two of Chris' thorough housecleaning but the smoke odor finally went away.  I didn't mind it though.  The smell of a camp fire can be comforting.

The Daily Puppy