Posted by: donaldgallinger | July 30, 2008

Your Mystery Twin

One day I received a phone call, and this guy from my past told me he was in town on vacation with his family. I was delighted to hear from him. I hadn’t seen him in twenty-five years. We had been childhood friends back in Connecticut, and then, while we were in college, we had a falling out, mostly because we were changing as we became adults.

We arranged to meet at a local pub.

After the first glad greetings and handshakes, we began to reminisce and to fill in our personal histories from the last time we saw each other. At one point, my old friend expressed some degree of surprise when I told him that I was gainfully employed as a teacher and had earned a doctorate degree in my subject area.

When I asked him why he was surprised, he appeared embarrassed, hesitant.

He told me that about ten years before, he had been walking down the Atlantic City boardwalk with his wife when he saw a guy who gave him chills. This person was sitting with his hand out, begging for change. According to my old friend, the guy had long, straggly blonde hair and beard, looked as if he hadn’t washed in weeks, and was pitifully thin, as if strung out on heroin. My friend stopped, horrified. He thought the guy begging was me—a grown up, filthy, drug-addicted, emaciated Don Gallinger.

It’s interesting how people think we’re going to turn out. To be fair, my friend mistaking the homeless junkie for me—at least at first glance—was not entirely unwarranted. I was once very thin and my hair and beard, although clean, were very long. There was also a time in my youth when some people thought I was utterly lost.


Sometimes, I wonder if all of us have “mystery twins.” Perhaps somewhere, out there, in another existence, I am that wasted individual begging on the boardwalk. Perhaps, together, we are making a life that neither one of us can yet see nor understand.

Who might be your mystery twin?

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets.

View Donald Gallinger’s official website blog:

Posted by: donaldgallinger | May 27, 2008

She Sharpened a Pencil; I Hit Puberty

Do you remember the first time you noticed a member of the opposite sex being a member of the opposite sex?

I was about twelve or thirteen. A girl I had known for years walked across the room to sharpen her pencil. I watched her hand as it moved on the sharpener; her body made a slight curtsey, a cute little dip in the waist each time her hand came up, and then down. While I watched her, I noticed, for the first time, the shape of her behind–it was so different now. Her behind seemed to have sprung from a new and glamorous organism. It had a jazzy personality, a strange and alluring mystery about it. Her chest, too, now belonged to another human being. It pressed itself against the fabric of her sweater. The fabric curved, breathed, gently sighed.

I never saw that girl in the same way ever again. Then again, I never saw myself in the same way either.

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets.

Posted by: donaldgallinger | May 4, 2008

The House on the Lake in the Mountains

When your friends are adults, it’s hard to buy gifts for them. (Unless you’re Oprah, in which case you would buy them a car.)

For a while now I’ve wanted to give my friends a great gift—something they can really cherish and remember.

If I had the money, I would rent a beautiful rustic house on a lake up in the mountains. I would rent it for the summer and invite my friends to come up and stay as long as they wanted. I would give them breakfast and dinner. If they wanted to spend time with me swimming or canoing, or any other lakeside activity, they would be welcome. But they could spend the day any way they pleased. If I only saw them at dinner, that would be fine, too. The idea would be to provide them with a beautiful and restful environment surrounded by people who liked them.

Every summer, I would want my friends to look forward to their vacation with me and my wife. I would want them to think: “I can’t wait to see that lake–to wake up in the mountains and smell the cool air. I can’t wait to see my old pals, the Gallingers.”

That’s what I would do for my friends, if I had the money.

What would you do for your friends?

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets.

View Donald Gallinger’s official website blog:

Posted by: donaldgallinger | April 13, 2008

The Joad Family-2055

(Exterior: Long Shot: Pan across a vast sea of rusted mobile homes stretching all the way to the horizon. As the camera moves in for a closer view, we see a ragged band of dirty children playing hop scotch in the dusk. We hear a shot fired in the distance. The children stop playing and listen attentively as more shots are fired. Soon, we see rockets flaring up in the sky, sparkling and twisting into fantastic shapes and colors of red, white, and blue.)

CHILD ONE: Oooh, pretty!

CHILD TWO: Pretty lights! Pretty lights!

(The children dance in a circle, delighted by the noise and fanfare. The camera cuts to the door of a mobile home. A grizzled, gray haired man and woman step outside to admire the fireworks. They are dressed in cheap cotton pants and shirts. Across the front of their shirts are stitched the same words: “Coca Cola is Motherfucking Good! Drink the Goddamn Coke, Yo!”)

GRANDPA JOAD: Yep, the fourth of JU-ly. Mighty good to see the country celebrating.

GRANDMA JOAD: Reckon the gov’mint will give us our three gallons, Pa?

GRANDPA JOAD: Hope so. They promised us three gallons a gas at Christmas. Wouldn’t do to lie on Jesus birthday, now would it?

Medium Shot: Two children run toward GRANDPA and GRANDMA JOAD: They are carrying something in a bag; they are very excited.

PANASONIC JOAD (he is a boy of about fourteen): Look what we found, Grandpa! (he dumps the bag upside down and several corroded cell phones and Ipods fall on the ground). Ain’t these the talking machines, Gramps?

GRANDPA JOAD: (he picks up the devices; then breaks into a broad, toothless grin.) Panny, you know what you got there?

PANASONIC: I dunno. If they ain’t the talkin’ machines, maybe they be—what do you call ‘em—digitalis watches?

GRANDMA JOAD: (She cackles in glee): No, they ain’t no watches, Panasonic Samsung Joad! Them’s phones! And them other ones is for music.

SNAPPLE JOAD: (she is a dirty faced little urchin of six or seven. In a pleading voice): Tell us about the rap music, Grandpa! Tell us about the S.U.V.s and the fast food and the bling!

GRANDPA JOAD: (chuckling): Don’t you youngins never get tired of hearing them stories?

PANASONIC AND SNAPPLE: Please, Grandpa! Please tell us the stories! Please!

GRANDPA JOAD: (grudgingly, but with obvious affection): Well, all right. Seein as it’s the fourth of JU-ly.

GRANDMA JOAD: How would you youngins like some sugar water?

PANASONIC AND SNAPPLE: Sugar water? Mm-mm! Yes, please, Grandma!

GRANDMA JOAD: All right. You stay out here while I get us all a nice cool jar of sugar and rain water. (She goes inside)

GRANDPA JOAD: (he sits down on an old piece of cardboard; PANASONIC and SNAPPLE sit beside him): I reckon it was in two thousand, ought six—or no, maybe ought seven—when I first caught sight of your grandma. She was a fine bitch in them days.

SNAPPLE JOAD: How fine was she, Grandpa?

GRANDPA JOAD: Well, let’s just say I never seen a better or prettier tongue piercin’. And your grandma, she do know how to make those studs sing.

PANASONIC: What about the skank, grandpa? Tell about the skank.

(GRANDMA JOAD returns with a tray of jelly jars.)

GRANDMA JOAD: Sugar water! Who wants sugar water!

(The kids reach eagerly for the jars.)

GRANDMA JOAD: You want to hear about the skank? All right. But I’ll tell you the real story, not the one your grandpa likes to tell.

GRANDPA JOAD: Aw, Ma, now don’t you go fussin’ over things that happened a long time ago….

(GRANDPA and GRANDMA laugh affectionately, lost for a moment in their fond memories.)

GRANDMA: Well, your grandpa was a player in them days. He wore his pants down around his a**, just like all the cool boys. Now, he was seein’ a ho named Amber, and she was known around the school as a real “cannon.” That means she liked to do the wild thing—a lot….

(The camera draws back as the happy Joad family talks and laughs. From the rapt expressions on PANASONIC’S and SNAPPLE’S faces, we know that they will never tire of hearing their grandparents talk about the good old days of two thousand ought seven and eight. We can also guess that we may be visiting the Joads again, as they reminisce while sitting on their comfortable old piece of cardboard….)

Donald Gallinger is author of the novel The Master Planets.

View Donald Gallinger’s official website blog: