De-Worming Norpie

Compliments of Guest Blogger, Timothy State

After five days of no hearing in his right ear, the sensation he is underwater, and a YouTube diagnosis, Norpie was convinced he had a worm take up habitation in his ear canal. At 9 p.m., I finally said, “We’re headed to the MinuteClinic.”

photo 1When we discovered the MinuteClinic was closed, and not open 24-hours like the Web said, we asked the Pharmacist on duty where we could find another urgent care center that is open late, or 24-hours.  We explained the worm situation.

Pharmacist response to Norpie’s hypothesis a worm is living in his ear. “I got 2 Prozac I could give you; that would make you feel better.”

Within 10 minutes, we were at another urgent care center.

photo 2Intake clerk: “Do you have a religious preference?”

Norpie: “Christian Scientist. Sort of ironic I’m at a medical clinic?”

Intake clerk: “What’s your emergency contact?”

Norpie: “The bald man next to me.””

Intake Nurse

@norpsforkncork “I think I have a worm in my ear.”

Norpie indicated he would pay cash, and she offered him a 49% discount. After the insurance triage, he was swiftly taken to a treatment room where he was hooked up to machines.

photo 4

Norpie in the cuff

[#TwitterBan. Details of the examination are lost; the Doctor swiftly shut my social media down.]

“Do you think he is dying?” I ask the doctor in reference to the worm Norpie thinks has taken shelter in his ear canal.

“Seriously,” the doctor said, “Seven a.m., 42 year old Asian guy who ate vegetables and rice. Non-smoker. Had a full on heart attack. Right here.” She shakes her head in disbelief and walks out of the room.

Diagnosis: No worm, just fluid.

The diagnosis was devastating to Norpie, after learning how the ear is supposed to drain to the back of the throat.

The doctor called in a prescription that she said would help reduce inflammation, and help the fluid drain.

photo 2(1)PharmacybasketsWe head off to our CVS to get the script, hopeful that we might also get free Prozac.


The videos + the story “De-Worming Norpie” can be viewed on Storify where it was ‘trending’ on Twitter.

Timothy State is Associate Vice President for Alumni Programs at Lake Forest College. On the side, photography, writing, swimming, and biking are his things.

Calling All Writers!

Calling All Writers – Guest Bloggers Welcome!

Calling All Writers

To guest blog or not to guest blog? That is the question.

Yes, I’m looking to feature writers on my blog. If you didn’t see Friday’s post by guest blogger Pat Childers, Questions from the Oldest Living Middle-Aged Blogger, you might want to check it out.

I know Pat pretty well. We used to work together – she always lightened the day with her wit and humor – but I don’t need to know you well, or know you at all. And you don’t need to have a blog. You just need to have an idea in search of an audience.

Why?  For you – well, more readers, new readers, great fame (ha!) and a chance to plug your blog, if you have one (again, not a requirement).

For me – I need to work on my book now. Plain and simple. And since I can’t seem to do that and blog at the same time, and I’d like to keep this blog active until I can work on it again, well, you can see the problem.

Here’s the deal:

1.     You choose any subject you want to write about. Good deal, eh?  Or as Pat said to me, dangerous. Well I love danger! (One exception: no poetry please. When it comes to poetry, I’m the first to admit I’m a dangerously poor judge.)

2.  Word count –try to keep under 600 words. This is not a hard and fast rule, but desirable, as the gurus of blogs say they should stay under 350 words. But what do they know, eh? I’ve read my great blogs that are much longer such as Fransi Weinstein, Bitter Ben and many others.

3.    Submit to no later than on Wednesdays for my Friday afternoon posts. Word docs or docx please.

The post will be under your name, and of course, all rights belong to you. They always do anyway, just being reassuring that you know that I know…:)

Ok, that’s it for now. So think about it, then submit! This could be the beginning of a beautiful writing/blogging relationship….


Ps. Feel free to pass this message on to your readers and other writers.

Buck Up and Take It


Rejection Sucks          It hurts. I admit it.

Over the years that I’ve been writing and submitting my stories for publication, I’ve received hundreds if not thousands of rejection letters and emails, and I’m still not immune to the sting of rejection.

I have enough rejections to line the walls of my dining room. Stuff like, “not for us,” “thanks for submitting, but we’ve decided….” or the worst one: “not funny and not fair.” Yikes!

It’s hard enough to put yourself and your work ‘out there.’ Still, rejection comes with the territory. And of course, one can always rewrite (or not) and re-submit someplace else, move the story to an archive file, join a writing group, or simply rationalize: They wouldn’t know a good story if it hit them in the arse.

In my heart of hearts, I’ve never quite believed that once your writing has reached a certain level of competence, it’s a matter of taste. Still, this is what other (more accomplished) writers have been telling me.

And then this happened:

My story 13 Rules recently won first prize in the short-short story writing contest run by  New Millennium Writings. At the same time that I submitted 13 Rules to NMW, I submitted it along with two other flash fictions to Fiction Attic Press. (Yes, multiple submissions are ok, particularly if a publication’s guidelines say it is.)

When 13 Rules won, I was so bowled over I forgot to notify Fiction Attic and withdraw it from their consideration. Bet you can guess what happened next….

A few weeks after I won the NMW fiction contest, Fiction Attic emailed me to say it wanted to publish two of the three flash fictions I submitted – and the one they didn’t want was – ta da! – 13 Rules.

Which just goes to show:

1)    One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

2)    After a certain level of competence, it really is just a matter of taste.

Of course all of us who have had our work rejected are in really good company. Here are 30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers

p.s. Coward that I am, I never did tell Fiction Attic the story they rejected just won 1st prize somewhere else.


Shopping (Tiny Fiction #2)

Shopping, A Microfiction


The woman stood in front of her at the checkout counter, needing three receipts for several small items. A few items she paid with food stamps, a few were markdowns from the bargain bin, the last few more markdowns that she paid for with Visa. Loudly, she made much of not having her name spoken aloud by the cashier, a pony-tailed man whom it became apparent she knew. In all, the woman had possibly ten items – this woman in a business suit and smart flats – who needed these three separate receipts and her name not said out loud, as if some one were following her. Or perhaps some one might recognize her, if not by sight, then surely by name.


Copyright S. J. Powers 2013

Who’s Minding Your Wild Mind?

Who's Minding Your Wild Mind

George Takei says: “It is in those moments when our minds are clutter-free that true inspiration awakens.”

True inspiration:  If you create… if you’re an artist, a poet, a photographer, a programmer, a composer, a musician, etc… you know true inspiration is instinctual, intuitive, primeval; it’s what Freud called the unconscious, what Carl Jung called the collective unconscious, and what writers and others call Wild Mind.

I sometimes think of Wild Mind as sort of an un-state of mind. I know I’ve reached this state when my first drafts basically write themselves. And there’s the rub: the story ideas roaming around inside my cluttered conscious mind usually go nowhere.

Good Story Ideas I’ll (probably) never write:

Shaky Road – An unhappy couple take a long road trip.

Idea Guy – Sort of ironic, eh?

Scenes From an Apartment – Can’t remember (:

Below are some of the stories that came from – or at some point were taken over by – my cluttered conscious mind where my idea of the story took the reins, making sure the story followed what I thought/wanted it to be.

I’ve already written and rewritten these stories many times, and they still don’t work.

Stories from Good Ideas That Still Don’t Work:

Madison’s Absence – A man’s out of body experience.

We’re Not Them – A pregnant woman’s paranoia her baby will be born mentally ill.

How She Will Live – A cautious woman who finds herself single and suddenly in lust.

Bottom line, I’ve learned it’s okay to get your conscious mind (where you inner editor lives) involved when you’re critiquing your creation and when you’re re-working it. And let’s face it, we could all use a good editor!

But hard knocks have taught me that your first draft/sketch/form should come from your instinctive, intuitive Wild Mind, the seat of your originality.

Your inner editor might not like it, but your creations definitely will. But enough about me. How do you get to your Wild Mind? Music? A photo? Meditation? Doodling?

Sex & the ‘Burbs

By Guest Blogger, Timothy State

About two years ago, I sold out and chose a life with my partner in the suburbs over the urban lifestyle I’ve been used to for most of my adult life.  It was like moving to the country: occasionally we get public safety notices pushed to our cell phones that read something like, “Possible cougar sighting in the neighborhood.”  Of course there was a cougar sighting — and she was drinking a martini!

In this suburban wilderness, my partner and I seem to have amassed a following of tweens, who show up at our house wanting to tell us all about their boy troubles and girl troubles.  One young gentleman in particular has taken a fondness to me, which I am certain is because of his yet-to-be-realized need to be comforted in life by the arms of another boy. Despite being surrounded by images of gays everywhere, he seems to be trapped. Isolated in the way that every teen seems to be isolated by their own demons.

It’s a bizarre world here in the suburbs, where all the ladies on the street are either going through a divorce, are on the verge of a divorce, or have completed a divorce.  Those that are still married seem to be married to closeted gentleman who suppress their need for male companionship.

We’ve trained these ladies to show up at the front door, wine glass in hand, when we flip on the martini light that we place in the front kitchen window. Given advanced warning of the martini illumination, they bling out, like it’s a special occasion — a tupperware party, a Mary Kay bash…. But here, in the home of two gay men, they seem compelled to trash-talk their husbands who continue to not live up to the exacting and unrealistic standards they hold them to, unwilling to admit they themselves don’t live up to their own expectations.

After pointing this out (as a simple courtesy), they stare blankly over their blush-filled wine glasses, like cougars caught in headlights, paralyzed by reality.

On the other side of the room, in the gentleman’s corner, the husband with one testicle who shoots blanks with the testicle he has, finds an occasion at The Gays as the perfect opportunity to lose himself in a bottle of RumChata.  “Boozy Milk,” we call it. Drunk on the intoxicating cream, his hand slips across the inside thigh of another street husband whose raging homophobia has banned “Glee” from his household, driving his twelve-year-old daughter down the street to watch the show with the budding gay boy on the night that he thinks she’s at piano lessons.  The irony of this over-protection is that he seems to have no cause for limiting his daughter’s exposure to the dangers of FOX News, like the father who leaves a loaded pistol on the coffee table. But I digress.

Palm of hand firmly planted on the inside homophobic thigh, the shock of pleasure reverberates through both their bodies, like an electrical charge igniting the Hindenburg, leaving behind a sticky social residue calling for delicate diplomacy.  They retreat as stunned, wounded puppies, grabbing their wives. They share what happened with their wives, quick to place blame the other party, clearly a move of offensive masculinity. Are we imagining this, you ask?

Well, a few days later, walking through the neighborhood, a glass of wine in hand and the dog exploring on his leash, we spot a cougar housewife as she races out of her home to reveal to us that she and her husband returned home to have what could only be described as, “angry sex.”

“Angry sex?” my partner, Michael, and I ask in unison.

“It was so rough,” she says.

“Oh, so you mean rough sex.”

“No.  Angry sex. It was so hard and rough, filled with so much aggression; I’m bruised. I can barely walk, let alone sit down.”

Michael and I look at each other quizzically, wondering why we’re the receptacle of this over-share.

“He was on top of me and then behind me, then on top of me, and then behind me again.”

“Wait? What?”

She then describes how he penetrated her vi-jay-jay, then went to the vi-no-no, back to the vi-jay-jay, before finally shooting up her vi-no-no.  She doesn’t seem to mind it up the vi-no-no and he seems to really enjoy plugging her from behind when she’s on all fours.

The irony is not lost on us that in this moment of hyper-masculinity, her husband went right for the hyper-homosexual; we suck down wine to keep words from escaping our mouths.

“So you used a condom, and washed up in between, right?” I ask.

“No. That’s why I had to go to the doctor,” she says.

“The doctor?”

“I’ve got a vaginal infection. I’m on an antibiotic for ten days.”

Such is the normal neighborhood conversation while walking the dog.

We turn on the martini light about every other week, which means the cougars on the street are generally on a low-level antibiotic. Always.

Better than Cymbalta or Zoloft, I suppose.  At the very least, we know they’re getting some.


Timothy State, writer, photographer, producer, has been living in the North Shore of Chicagoland since 2011.  In that time, he’s spotted numerous wild cougars.