Still Hazy is a collection of twenty-two short stories, reflecting the struggles of a would-be author, trying to balance a career, childrearing, and other household responsibilities. Originally appearing in local Maryland journals published by Ken Rossignol, they have been gathered in one place with additional updated advice for aspiring writers.
Still Hazy After All These Years
An introduction is supposed to make you want to read the book. It’s also supposed to lend the reader a bit of insight as to the direction the author is taking with his work. Unfortunately, this opening does neither. What I’m hoping to do, in these few, jumbled paragraphs, is apologize for not making the meaning of life any clearer. A good writer might have done that, but, then, I’ve never been accused of being a good writer. Certainly not by my editor.
On the other hand, I think I deserve at least a little credit for serving as a bad example. Not that I expect it. Long ago, I reached the point in life where justice and fair play seem to have gone the way of Santa Claus—right along with my notions of logic. But there was a time I would’ve sworn it was a sane world. Forty years ago, at least, it seemed relatively normal.
Of course, I was single then. No thoughts of ever having kids. Or a house with a mortgage.
What I had were dreams. Independence and adventure, travel and explorations; the world waiting for me to come improve it in my spare time.
I also recall having a lot more hair and a bit less sag in the middle. No doubt about it, my physical decline and the scaling down of my original lifegoals have managed to parallel each other. Visions have been replaced by wishes; expectations by fading hopes. Even my past has become distorted as I reflect on it through the veil of advancing age.
I realize now that I was adopted. Had to have been. It’s the only thing that makes sense. The way I see it, Joan Rivers and Dagwood Bumstead had an affair. I was the offspring, but neither of them was very happy about it. I was put up for adoption, and the agency gave me to a couple suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. On the way home from the agency, they stopped at the grocery store to pick up some formula but forgot where they parked their car. While they were looking for it, they set me down in the produce section and left. My mother—that is, the woman who raised me and called herself my mother—used to say that she found me under a cabbage leaf. I’ve come to believe that she wasn’t just making that up.
Despite such an inauspicious start, my childhood was normal. At first, I didn’t like girls. They confused me. As a teenager, I became obsessed with them, but they still confused me. Nor did decades of marriage bring enlightenment, though I did learn empathy. Spending a year at home with the kids did that. That was my wife’s idea, by the way. Somehow, she made it seem like an attractive offer: Quit teaching school and write. Produce the great American novel. Be the next Hemingway. And change a few diapers from time to time.
Well, it seemed reasonable, so I agreed. How was I to know that my world was about to go mad? I can look back now and see that the strangeness began in subtle ways. An invitation to a home products party that I should have turned down. A family outing to the circus that cost me a fortune. Agreeing to get a dog. Small stuff that got out of hand.
And then the weirdos started to show. The guy with the multilevel panhandling scheme. Texas Tommy and his road- kill cemeteries. Charlie Tann, dreaming of a toxic-waste theme park.
t took me awhile to realize there was something in my personality that attracted the bizarre. Just as a magnet draws iron filings, so I managed to accumulate around me the worst possible collection of misfits and con men. I’ve come to the conclusion it had something to do with a lack of good judgment. Which brings me to the reason I’ve compiled these chronicles. I want them to serve as a warning—a caution for other men who might believe they’ve got a firm grip on reality.
Guys, believe me; it’s an illusion at best. There is absolutely no such thing as a rational universe. If there were, wouldn’t this introduction make sense? I’d like to think so. But don’t take my word for it. Look around you. Crap games are illegal, but the stock market isn’t. To live longer, you’ve got to jog and eat oat bran, for which neither has Mother Nature given us the slightest desire. We spend half of each day working to provide ourselves with a place where we can go fall asleep and be unconscious most of the other half and all weekend. And, on top of that, you’re reading this book.
Kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?
–Tony Marconi Ohio, 2018