Book shout: Resilience by Bindweed contributor, James Bates

Congratulations to Bindweed contributor, James Bates, on his recent short story collection, Resilience.

James has contributed fiction to Bindweed and has been published in Issue 10 and Issue 11. You can read more of his work on Bindweed here.

We wish you all the best with your new book, James!

James Bates – Fiction



“Hey, Dad, watch me.”

I waved. “I’m watching. Go for it!”

My five-year-old son, Owen, was on the swing set kicking higher and higher and higher until he was nearly parallel to the ground.

“Dare me to jump?” he asked.

I was just about to yell, “No!” when he jumped.

I watched as he flew through the air like his favorite super hero Superman. He was in the air for so long that time seemed to stand still. But, of course, it didn’t.

“Yippee!” he called out, waving at me before he crashed to the ground. Fortunately, the area under the swing set at the park was full of beach sand, and the landing was relatively safe.

“Good jump,” I called running over to him to check to see if he was okay. “You were really flying there.”

He got up, dusted himself off, and hugged me around my knees. “Oh,
Dad, this is so much fun. I wish we could do this every day.”

“Me, too, buddy,” I said squatting down to brush off more sand. “Me, too.”

But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, if ever. Owen’s mother, the light of my life for the last ten years, had made it clear what she wanted. And what she wanted was, as she put it, “some space.”

“Why?” I asked at the time.

“I’m not sure I love you anymore.”

Ouch. Could she have been any more blunt? Or succinct? I doubted it. So, six weeks ago I moved into a small efficiency apartment on the edge of downtown Minneapolis and tried to adjust. I worked for Hennepin County Recycling driving one of their trucks so I was unaffected by the pandemic. My wife worked as a sales clerk for one of the big box stores in near downtown, and she was given the option of staying at her job or taking a leave of absence. Her employer paid more money if she continued working so rather than being furloughed, she stayed. Her younger sister took care of Owen when she was at work. I did whenever I could.

I loved my son and would do anything to be with him. My apartment was about two-hundred square feet so there was not a lot of space. Taking him to the park worked out great, and I enjoyed taking him.

After I’d cleaned him off, we stood up. “Look over there,” I pointed to a war memorial in the center of the park. “Do you know what that is?”

Owen laughed. “It’s a truck like you drive, silly!”

I laughed with him. “No, it’s not. It’s called a tank. Do you know what that is?”

He frowned and shook his head. “No.”

“Shall we go see it?”


My dad was a veteran of the Vietnam War who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD after he returned. He had been drafted in 1970, spent his year “In Country” as he called it, and came home to a world he couldn’t adjust to. Mom told me once that my dad had witnessed the Mai Lai massacre and it had changed him forever. No one, especially not me, expected that’d he’d shoot himself in the head at the age of forty-two after a night of heavy drinking while on a solo camping trip in the hills above Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. I’d been five at the time, the same age as Owen was now.

Did I have an ulterior motive when I took my son over to the tank? I’m not sure. But, in retrospect? Probably.

We walked through lush green grass toward the tank. It was a sunny day in June and three months into the pandemic. The park was small and we had it to ourselves except for an elderly couple on a park bench fifty feet away in the shade of a huge oak. They were wearing their face masks and quietly reading. To be courteous as well as cautious I took ours out of my pocket.

“Here,” I gave Owen his. It was blue and had a picture of a flying superman on it. “Put this on.”

“Okay Dad.”

I put on my black one.

I glanced at the old couple and the guy waved at me and nodded his head. I gave him the thumbs up sign. Solidarity, I joked to myself.

The grass was ankle deep. The word was that with the pandemic, lots of services were being cut back to encourage people to stay inside. But we were outside, and I saw no problem as long as we masked up and kept social distance when necessary. Like with the old couple.

The park was about the size of two football fields placed side by side and ringed with large oaks and maples providing shade around the perimeter. In the middle it was sunny and as we approached the tank, I could feel the heat reflecting off it.

“This is cool, Dad,” Owen said holding my hand. “It’s…”

I’m not sure what he was going to say because he was distracted right then when a bird flew out of the barrel of the tank. “Dad, look,” he pointed and excitedly jumped up and down. “It’s a bird. A pretty bird.”

It was a pretty bird. I was a backyard bird watching enthusiast (until I’d gotten kicked out of the house), and I could tell by the raspberry red feathers on his head what kind it was.

“It’s a house finch.”

Owen’s eyes went wide. “Cool.”

“You know, it might have a nest in there.”


“Yeah. Want to check it out?”


We quietly approached the end of the barrel of the tank. I looked in. Sure enough, there was a nest about three inches from the end. There was just enough light to tell it had four brown speckled eggs resting in it.

I picked up Owen, “Here. Take a look.” I held him close so he could see.

“That’s so cool, Dad!”

I smiled beneath my mask. “Yeah, it is.”

Behind us a voice said, “I see you’ve found the finches.”
            I turned. It was the old man. “Yeah, we did. I was just showing my son.” I set Owen down and he took a hold of my hand.

The old man was staying away a respectful stance. He smiled, his eyes crinkling, “My wife and I have been watching the finches every day for the last couple of weeks.” He knelt down so he was eye level with Owen. “The eggs should hatch any day, young man. Then in about twenty days the babies will fledge.” When Owen frowned at the unfamiliar word, the old man added, “It means they’ll fly away.”

Owen turned to me. “That’s so cool, Dad.” Then he thought for a moment and asked, “Can we come back again to watch them?”

I looked at the old man. “Would you mind if we joined you sometimes?”

“Not at all. By the way I’m Fred. Fred Anderson. My wife over there is Edna.” I looked in her direction and she waved. I waved back. I turned to Fred and said, “Hi. I’m Loren and this is Owen.”

Owen said, “Hi,’ but was distracted watching the finch who was perched in a nearby tree, chattering away like mad.

Fred Anderson said, “We should move away and let the mom and dad bird come back and do their thing. They’ll alternate sitting on the nest until the young one’s hatch.

“Good idea,” I said.

Fred walked back to join his wife and Owen and I stepped back from the barrel of the tank. In a minute a female finch, distinguished by being a duller color than the male, flew into the barrel. I had no doubt she got herself positioned on the nest to keep her eggs warm.

Owen watched the whole process with wide eyes. “That’s so neat, Dad.”

I nodded, “Yeah, it is.”

We were standing next to the sign by the side of the tank. I pointed it out to Owen. “Want to hear about the tank?”

He dragged his eyes away from the barrel and said, “Sure.”

I read, “This World War I tank was made from molybdenum infused steel. The steel’s superior durability, corrosive protection and much lighter weight than the original tungsten steel made it an excellent building material for tanks.”

I turned to Owen. He looked up at me and said, “What’s that mean, Dad?”

What it meant was that it was great for warfare because their light weight allowed them to travel at higher speeds and cover more ground and kill more people. But I wasn’t going to tell him that. Not after what my dad went through. Instead, I said, “What it means it that it makes a great home for birds.”
            Owen clapped his hands and smiled. “It sure does.”

We watched as the male finch brought a piece of food to his mate. “Do you want to come back tomorrow? Check on how the birds are doing?”

“Yeah,” he jumped up and down. “I’d love to.”

I looked over at the old couple. They both waved.

I thought about Owen’s mom. I knew she worked tomorrow and her sister was going to be with Owen. “I’ll tell you what. How about if I take the day off? Me and you can spend the day here. I’ll pack a picnic. We can play on the swing and watch the birds. Make a day of it.”

Owen hugged me. “That’d be great, Dad.”
            I couldn’t get the whole day off, but I did get the afternoon. We came to the park and saw the birds and made it a point to come every day if we could. We were even there when they flew off, or fledged as the old man said.

Owen’s got their nest in his room. “To remind me of how much fun it was seeing the birds,” he tells me.

“I’m glad,” I tell him. “It was a great time for me, too.”

And it was.

One of these days I’ll tell him about the tank and war and all that stuff. Maybe even about my dad. One of these days. When he’s a little older. For now, I’ll let him enjoy being a kid. For a little bit longer.


Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories and poems have appeared in over two-hundred online and print publications. His short story “Aliens” has been nominated by The Zodiac Press for the 2021 Pushcart Prize. His collection of short stories Resilience is scheduled to be published in early 2021 by Bridge House Publishing and Short Stuff a collection of his flash fiction and drabbles will be published by Chapeltown books in 2021. In addition, Something Better, a dystopian adventure, will be published by Paper Djinn Press in early 2021. All of his stories can be found on his blog:


James Bates – Fiction


My counselor Joycelyn says I need to work on my communication skills, so I’ll be upfront right off the bat. My name is Paul and I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. How’s that?

            I’m twenty-four years old and live in a group home in Redrock, Arizona, a big city on the Colorado River. I’ve got a GED certificate from Redrock high school, and I have a job and that’s what I want to tell you about.

            Mr. Ramirez runs Ramirez and Sons Pool Cleaning. He’s been in business for seventeen years, and he hired me six months ago. It was the first job I ever had an interview for. Boy, I’ll tell you, I was nervous. I was sweating so bad you’d have thought I’d just stepped out of one of those pools I was hoping to be hired to clean. Ha ha.

Anyway, Mr. Ramirez liked me and hired me right away. “We’ll get you helping the crew,” he said, “and take it from there.” I was so excited I thought about mentioning my sweaty pool joke but decided against it which was probably a good thing.

I took ‘We’ll take it from there’ to mean it was what they call a trial period which was fine with me. I started the next day.

I liked the work. Me and the crew got along great. There was Johnny, who was Mr. Ramirez’s son. There was Nicko, a black kid who had a great sense of humor. There was Jody, a native American from the Kootenai tribe up in Montana, and Newt, a white guy like me who was the oldest on the crew, maybe sixty or so. Even older that Mr. Ramirez. Anyway, we all got along great. They called me Pauli. I like it.

            The best news, though, was what happened last month. It was mid-July and the day was like most days, sunny and hot and not a cloud in the sky. The temperature around one-hundred and fifteen degrees so we took a lot of breaks and sat in the shade. We drank a lot of water, too, but Mr. Ramierz wouldn’t let us swim in the pools we were cleaning.

“I catch any of you in the water, you’re done for,” he’d tell us every morning and morning break and noon and noon break. I got the message. So did the rest of the crew.

Anyway, on the day I wanted to tell you about, after work Mr. Ramierz was driving me back to the group home. I forgot to mention that he always picked me up and dropped me off because I don’t drive due my mental problems.


James Bates – Fiction


“And, so, it is proven that too much sun causes skin cancer,” the anchor on the evening news said, looking past the camera, and, Lorrie felt, right into her soul. “Without a doubt,” he emphasized.

She picked up the remote and turned the set off, the anchor’s words, “Without a doubt,” ringing in her ears. Well, you didn’t have to tell her because she was a firm believer. Sunlight was bad, and Lorrie was done with it forever.

It had all started with a simple getaway with her boyfriend, Ron, to Florida that past February. The Minnesota winter was dragging on and on with endless cloudy days, freezing temperatures and an unrelenting, brutal north wind.

“Let’s go someplace warm,” Lorrie had suggested. “Get away for a while.”

Ron, ever the jokester, grinned and said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

Two weeks later they were lying on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, soaking up the rays, sipping cold drinks and, in Lorrie’s case, not being too diligent with the PSF 50 sunscreen. One day later she was writhing in agony in their hotel room, suffering from a second-degree sunburn that covered her body with a blistering rash. Her skin felt like it was on fire, like sharp needles pricking into her every time she breathed.

“I’ve never burned like this before,” she complained to Ron after they’d made an emergency stop at a clinic before returning to their room. “I’ve always just gotten a really nice tan.” She grimaced as sat up when Ron held a cup of ice water to her blistered lips.

As she drank thirstily, he took one look at the oozing pustules on her blistered skin and fought back a gag reflex. “Well, there’s always a first time,” he managed to comment, an observation she didn’t think was very sympathetic.

He set the ice water down and stood up briskly, obviously in a hurry get out of sight of his par-broiled girlfriend. “You take care. I’ll be back later. I’m going to the beach.” He quickly stuffed sunscreen, a floppy hat and a beach towel into a canvas bag while doing his best to avoid looking at her.

No, not sympathetic at all. “Thanks for nothing,” she yelled, but didn’t think he heard her due to the slamming of the door as he left her to her misery.

A week later she was back in her apartment in southwest Minneapolis. She worked writing technical manuals for an electronics control manufacturing company. The doctor at the clinic in Florida said that she’d probably experience heat sickness for a while and she definitely was, feeling nauseous and generally out of sorts twenty-four seven. She was also still sore from her burns. Fortunately, her boss understood her situation and told her she could work from home.

“Take your time,” Fran told her over the phone. “Just get that project done and we’ll take it from there.”

“Sounds good, Fran. Thanks. I’ll do my best.”

Lorrie settled into her ergonomic chair, flipped open her laptop on her desk and began working on her new project, writing detailed specifications for a new energy saving thermostat. A week went by, her burns were on their way to healing, and she was pleasantly surprised at how much she was enjoying the peace and quiet of working at home. She could focus on her project much better without all the extraneous office racket, and there were no interruptions to break her concentration. It was quite nice.



James Bates – fiction

Patchouli Oil

The stink of the diesel idling outside their apartment agitated the old man. His caregiver opened a vial of patchouli oil and wafted it under his nose. Instantly he calmed. A smile formed as he remembered the sixties, a long-haired, tie-dyed hippie in love with life and a flower child named Sunshine. Who became his wife. And caregiver. He watched as Sunshine breathed in the scented fragrance and put a scratched Jefferson Airplane album on the old turntable. Then she joined him on his lap and held him tight while Don’t You Want Somebody To Love played. It was perfect .





Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLitThe Writers’ Cafe MagazineCabinet of HeedParagraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords, The Drabble and World of Myth Magazine, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit 8, Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing and Gold Dust Magazine. You can also check out his blog to see more: