R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Caturday: 10/22/16


“Caturday Gray”
LaGrange, Georgia – 15 August 2016
Model: Zora

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Sky on Fire, Centralhatchee


Heard County, Georgia – 30 September 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


A Year of Hank

One year ago today, in the small hours of the morning, I stepped onto my front porch to call my cat Clark indoors. He didn’t come right to me, so I called for him again: “Kitty-kitty-kitty! Come on, it’s time to go to bed. Kitty-kitty!”

That’s when I heard a loud, scratchy, frantic meow from the dark front yard. Again and again, MEEEEOOOOOWWWWW! My first thought was that it was Clark. Maybe he was hurt, stuck under the car, and yowling to get my attention. But just then, Clark came running up the steps. He gave me his usual tiny meow, sat down, and turned his head toward the yard.

I got a flashlight just in time to see a bony gray kitten struggling up my front steps with what was probably the last of his strength. MEEOOOOWWW! MEEOOOWWW! MEEOOOOWWW! He stumbled across the porch, turning one way and then another. The poor thing was so weak that he could hardly walk or tell where he was going.

So I picked him up with one hand, put him inside my housecoat, and brought him indoors. You know, the usual operating procedure when I find a stray kitten on my porch.


That night was pretty miserable for both of us. Oh, the big cats hissed a little, but that was all. Once I got a pet carrier set up for him—with some dry food, a dish of water, and an old towel to sleep on—the other cats mostly just sniffed at this unexpected guest, then walked away. Whew. I closed the carrier door, climbed into my own bed, and turned out the light.

Then the raspy meowing started again.

MEEOOOOWWW! MEEOOOWWW! MEEOOOOWWW! “What’s the matter, kitty?” I climbed back out of bed to check on him. As soon as I opened his cage, I saw he was shaking so hard that he was nearly vibrating. He hadn’t eaten much, but he’d already drank almost three-quarters of a cup of water. The poor little thing was incredibly dehydrated, and had no body fat to speak of to keep him warm.

“Little cat,” I said, “we have both got to get some sleep. I’ll call the vet in the morning.”

I put him inside my robe. Between my flannel pajama top and the polyester fleece robe, he was finally warm. How he managed such a loud diesel purr while being so small, I never will know. For the rest of the night, every 90 minutes or so, I awoke to the sound of lonely, frantic meows. After a bite or two of food and another long drink of water, the kitten calmed down, and snuggled up next to me once again.

The next afternoon, my veterinarian examined the kitten. “Good thing he found your house when he did,” Doc told me. “Without your help, he might’ve had a couple, three days left to live.”

“Do you think someone just tossed him out at my house?” I asked Doc.

My vet shook his head. “To get in this bad a shape, he’s been on his own a while.”

Doc gave him one pill for the worms in his gut, and another to take care of the ear mites and fleas trying to eat him alive. I’d have to wait to find out whether he had FIV, FeLP, or any other deadly feline virus—at eight weeks old and just 1.1 pounds, the kitten was so skinny that the vet techs couldn’t draw a blood sample.

“Got a name for him?” Doc asked.

“Hank,” I said. “For Hank Williams, Sr.”

Doc laughed. “The name fits. Just keep this little guy away from your liquor cabinet.”

The next few months saw Hank endure one medical crisis after another. Gastrointestinal issues, upper respiratory infections, abscesses, salivary gland problems—he’s been through a lot in his first year. Add not feeling good most of the time to his feral, no-humans early months, and you see why he’s extremely shy, even with me. Oh, he’ll come out for Grandmommy and Paw-Paw if they bring Waffle House bacon. The rest of the time, though, he runs from people.

Well, no. He does have one friendliness window. Every day, somewhere between 2:00pm and 6:30pm, I hear MEEEEERT!—raspy and worn out and impatient—from the floor under my chair. I stop writing and look down. There’s Hank, making figure-eights around the chair legs and my ankles, purring and arching his back in “Time to pet me” mode. I put him in my lap, and for about 15 minutes, he purrs at top volume, drooling happily all over my shirt sleeve as I scratch his ears and chin. Then he jumps down and is touch-me-not for the next 24 hours. Every day, without fail.


He’s grown into a beautiful cat. (Yes, he really does have eyes; he just squints a lot.) His frame is on the small side; he should weigh about eight pounds, but currently weighs 12 pounds. I guess he still hasn’t quite absorbed the words I sang when he was small, when I sat him on top of my guitar and made up my own version of his namesake’s “Move It On Over'”:

I heard him meow at my front door
This little kitty won’t starve no more
Move it on over
Move it on over
Move over, big kitties, the little cat’s movin’ in

So what if Hank still “doesn’t know how to cat?” He’s not starving any more. He’s off the street, never again to face the dangers of being a feral cat. He’s got a warm place to sleep, and treatment for his various ailments. And, despite his rough kittenhood, he’s doing pretty well. As I type this, he’s passed out asleep next to the food bowl, belly in the air and one paw covering his eyes. Hey, progress is progress. At least he’s not hiding in the wall of the spare bedroom, like he used to.

He’s my goofy, sweet rescue boy. I’m forever grateful that Hank found his way to my house one year ago today, before it was too late. And I’m forever grateful to be his forever person.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 10/19/16


“Feathers with Milky Quartz, No. 1”
Heard County, Georgia – 9 October 2016

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


On Disappointment

Not getting what I want isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The human experience is about trying and failing. It means success and disappointment, sorrow and joy. When I don’t get what I’d hoped and planned for, when I’m deep in the pain of rejection, I reconnect with life. It keeps me solid and humble. It keeps me present, in awe of the power of human emotion.

When I don’t get my way, I experience life fully. The ebb and flow of my feelings, of events and things and the world, turn solid and real. When I don’t get what I want, my sadness (or anger, embarrassment, hurt, disappointment) rushes over me, engulfs me completely.

No, I won’t drown. I’ve been here too many times to fear what happens next.

When a letdown comes along, it presents me with a precious opportunity to understand a tiny part of life’s incredible richness. Without cushion, without excuse, without escape, I welcome it all.

Though I stumble often, it’s okay. I’m learning to appreciate the missteps. I’m learning not to be so terrified. The agony of freefall—when what I think I know shimmers, then vanishes, like a heat mirage over asphalt—turns bearable when I remember that I will be all right.

Ten thousand times before, this has been so. Heartbreak, anguish, fury, grief: each binds me to what it means to be human, to what it means to be truly alive.

Last night, as I mopped the kitchen floor, these insights nearly knocked me over. And for them, I am tremendously grateful.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 10/17/16


“Big Chicken, at Rest”
LaGrange, Georgia – 5 June 2009

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Caturday: 10/15/16


“The Eastern Gray-Striped Possum-Tailed Butterball, in Its Natural Laundry Basket Habitat”
Model: Buddy
LaGrange, Georgia – June 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Reflection in the Drive-Thru

ReflectionsInTheDriveThruWindow_2014-12-19 11.33.11-1COPY

LaGrange, Georgia – 19 December 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 10/12/16


“Waffle House, 12:19 PM”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 10 July 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 10/10/16


“When the Moon Wears a Hat”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 September 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Caturday: 10/8/16


“Orange You Glad It’s Caturday?”
Model: Fly (full name Anthony Francis Xavier Superfly Knoppe)
Denver, Colorado – 3 August 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Title Pawn Siren Song


LaGrange, Georgia – 24 October 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Sisterly Help

VAL:  What’s the matter?
ME:  I’m stuck. Help me come up with something for Throwback Thursday on the blog.
VAL:  Hmm. Lemme think…
ME:  An entertaining story from way back, from when we were kids—something like that.
VAL:  How about the time we went to Cub Foods, and you bought a gummi rat as big as your hand? When we got home, you stomped into my room and bit the head off it like a 7th grade Ozzy Osbourne.
ME:  God, I can’t tell that one. Grossed myself out after the first bite.
VAL:  Okay, umm—how about when we were in high school and I’d make that noise kinda like WNNNNNNNNG!!! and push your butt up the stairs with the top of my head to make you move faster?
ME:  Nah. Too hard to explain the context.
VAL:  You’re right. How about the Halloween where you went to school as Mr. T? Mom ripped the sleeves out of an old t-shirt, and you borrowed every single Estée Lauder free gift bonus necklace Maw-Maw had. Mom made you a Mohawk skullcap from old pantyhose and black acrylic yarn.
ME:  I pity the fool who suggests that story.
VAL:  Wait! How about the time when you fell out of the car at the South Carolina welcome center? You skinned the hell out of your knee because your entire left leg had gone to sleep and you didn’t know it.
ME:  You are supremely unhelpful.
VAL:  I’ve got it—how about the time in the front yard at the house in Alabama, when that guy hauling a mule in the back of a furniture truck ran over our mailbox? You must’ve been about 12—you started screaming that you couldn’t send anyone any letters anymore, and that your life was totally ruined. And then you flipped the guy off, and Daddy just about fell over from laughing so hard.
ME:  Forget it. No Throwback Thursday this week.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


A Late Grocery List

Candy corn.

Candy corn:
It is the worst of the worst Halloween candy, plentiful as fleas and twice as hard to get rid of. In all its corn syrupy FD&C No. 6 glory, it refuses to masquerade as blood sugar-friendly. He never craved sweets like we did, but it was his favorite—in small quantities. At Halloween, when we brought home sack after sack of the stuff, he never complained. Had we asked him to, he would have eaten it until Kingdom Come.
Overall: Cloying, slightly giddy, with a letdown at the end.
Base: Unabashed enthusiasm.
Top Note: A bad case of the Sunday evening can’t-help-its.

Maybe he switched from PBR and Bud tallboys to feel more sophisticated after the divorce. Maybe it was too many late nights spent thumbing through Cosmopolitan, trying to figure out “the modern woman” and what she wanted. She wanted back then the same thing she does now: To be treated like a human being, with respect, dignity, and compassion. Besides, would a modern man in a modern relationship with a modern woman drink a redneck beer? Of course not.
Overall: Hoppy, skunky, with a bitter finish.
Base: Rancid barley.
Top Note: Mule piss.

In oil, in mustard, in cream, but never in hot sauce. His ulcer couldn’t handle it. How he could work fourteen hours in 110-degree heat on just a tin of these and a box of saltine crackers is still beyond me. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the crew tried not to honk up our turkey-Swiss-teriyaki-meatball-chitlins-on-wheat lunchtime transgressions. He tossed the empty cans behind the stock pile, where they proceeded to attract every stray cat within a half-mile radius.
Overall: Stridently fishy, yet earnest, with a hint of struggle.
Base: Sweat-soaked long-sleeved Dickies.
Top Note: Waccamaw River silt.

Candy corn.

In memory of Newt Williams
5 October 1946 ‒ 16 January 1997

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 10/5/16


“Downtown Nashville, Tuesday, 6:00 PM”
Nashville, Tennessee – 2 August 2016

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


An Epiphany, Post-Workshop


Several months ago, I attended a marketing workshop on how to get more mailing list subscribers. The hosts covered some interesting and useful strategies. However, over the last year, I’ve been to at least a dozen similar workshops. They all miss the same thing.

In their quest to blast a message to as many people as possible for as little money as possible, these marketing folks forget the number-one reason readers sign up for email lists in the first place: because they like what they saw or read on a website. In other words, they sign up for the quality content.

Around Facebook, I keep seeing a meme worded along the lines of, “Don’t be impressed by degrees, titles, status, or followers.” Although memes often annoy me, this one contains an important truth: long-term engagement is what makes the whole social media thing work.

Likes and clicks are meaningless without an ongoing, sustained conversation between readers and website owners. If a website or social media account posts poorly written, poorly thought out content, people won’t be back. The Internet is far too large and far too interesting for readers to wait out the junk in hopes that something good will eventually show up.

After the seminar ended, I felt sad and restless. Too bad the hosts had missed the concept of great content. That, I thought, might be a big reason why many products, services, and authors never get anywhere in their online efforts.

But then I realized, as clearly as the day is long, that I already had a plan. I didn’t need to worry. Because if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to make the kinds of photos and tell the kinds of stories that people want—the kinds they aren’t getting anywhere else.

Marketing seminars be damned. I’ll make my own path, tell my own stories, and create my own art. It’s what I want. It’s what my readers want. And it’s why I’m here to begin with.

Photo: “Self-Portrait B, 13 September 2016”

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 10/3/16



“Big Chicken Loves the Grass”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2 June 2009

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Three Ears in the Window


LaGrange, Georgia – 17 May 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


The Door at St. Mark’s


LaGrange, Georgia – 18 July 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Rubber Soul


In the summer of 1988, in a gas station restroom in Aynor, South Carolina, my sister and I encountered our first-ever condom machine. Sure, we had heard about such contraception contraptions, thanks to Health & Human Development class. Mom had even confirmed for us that there really was such a thing as a vending machine for condoms.

Somehow, though, Val and I had never actually seen one of these mysterious metal boxes for ourselves. All we’d ever seen for sale in a bathroom vending machine were pads and tampons. But on that nasty-humid July day in Aynor, there the condom machine was—bolted to the wall in all its mute, naughty glory.

And since this was South Carolina, where of course in the late 1980s they didn’t have a teenage pregnancy epidemic or people with STDs or anything like that thankyouverymuch, the condom machine’s offerings were concealed by a large metal flap that bore a sign in inch-high letters:


Which meant, naturally, that Val and I were straightaway going to lift the flap.

As we did so, the flap made a loud crrrreeeeEEEEAAAAK.  There was no way that anyone outside this one-seater women’s restroom couldn’t hear it. It was a cheesy haunted-house-quality noise, too, no doubt alerting everybody in the Aynor Amoco  that the occupants were most certainly perusing the rubber selection. I’m pretty sure the creaky flap had been designed that way, state public health initiatives be damned. “Better barefoot ‘n pregnant than have everybody in the store know you’re gonna get laid,” or something like that.

The four different types of condoms in the machine scandalized our sheltered teenage eyes. There were plain, nothing-special condoms, of course. There were condoms bearing the dubious claim of being “ribbed for her pleasure.” Next were the Stallion’s Pride condoms, “For the Larger Man,” secreted away and SORRY, SOLD OUT. The last offering was a random and wonky selection of “fruit-flavored” condoms. Creativity must have died a slow and painful death when the latex process engineers met up with the marketing team in Rubber Flavorings 101. Time after time, it’s the same old boring fruits, banana jokes notwithstanding. Think about it: Why don’t we ever see any new, original condom flavors? Why not, say, licorice? Why not root beer, or cornbread, or BBQ?

We tried not to laugh. But the harder we tried, the funnier it was. The sign’s if-we-can’t-see-it-then-it-doesn’t-exist mentality was just so silly. Val was 12 and I was 14, but even at those young ages we could see through the high-and-mighty moral smokescreening. (It works, too, even today. Note the plentiful public outrage whenever the topic of condoms for high school students appears in the news.)

Again, remember that this was the late 1980s—long before the advent of smartphone cameras that people could take everywhere with them. Hilarious as the whole scene was, we couldn’t snap a photo of the prophylactic tomfoolery before us. We also needed to get back to the car before Daddy started to worry that we’d tumbled off to Wonderland down a public toilet rabbit hole.

I was washing my hands, still giggling, when Val said, “Don’t look!”

“Don’t look at what?”

She broke up laughing. “Don’t turn around until I say so.”

“Okay.” I dried my hands, and stood there staring at the floor, my back to her. “What are you doing?”


I heard Val rummage through her handbag. Then I heard the crrrreeeeeEEEEEAAAAK! of the condom machine flap, the quick light ffffrrrppp of a thick notepad, and the small skrrrtsksksksk of what was either a very busy pencil or a lone mouse scurrying across acoustic ceiling tile on a Tuesday afternoon.

Then, finally, I heard the crrreeeEEEEAAAK-THUNK-THUNK! of the metal flap settling to rest. “What the—what are you—”

“All right! Let’s go.” My sister stood bright-eyed and smiling with her hand on the restroom door, her purse tucked under her arm.

I took one look at her face, then at the condom machine. Lifting the big metal warning flap, I spied a purple Hello Kitty sticky-note pressed directly over the condom logos. Scrawled upon it, in Val’s distinctive handwriting:


Photo: “Condom Cathedral Window No. 4” (LaGrange, Georgia – 28 September 2016)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


« Older posts

© 2016 R. S. Williams

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑