Thursday, December 10, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
OK, two things:
#1: I got my NaNo badge! Woohoo!!
I'm still working on my novel, and probably have at least another 30,000 words to get to the end. Then, I've got to get it edited into some semblance of non-suck in order to get my free proof copy, another goodies for making it to 50,000. I mean, I could get the free proof copy of my unedited rough draft, but why?
#2: Heard this song on the radio two days ago, then went home later that day and found a free download of it. Now, can't get it out of my head. Enjoy!
Monday, November 30, 2009
Listening to: Band of Skulls - Death By Diamonds and Pearls
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wow. It's been a while, blogosphere. I've just been too busy with NaNoWriMo to post anything, but as you can tell from the widget in the sidebar, as of today I am three-fifths done. On the down side, the month of November is more than three-quarters done.
But this is OK! No need to panic! I have all along planned for a sustained push over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I figure that I should get at least 15,000 words over that period, and added to my current total (approx. 30,000), that leaves me only 5,000 to get between tomorrow and Wednesday. Totally doable! That weird Viking helmet blog badge is so mine!!!
As far as my novel is going, it's not as great as I had hoped, but not as bad as I had feared. I'm sure it'll need the recommended two revisions before it's ready for another person's eyes. There have been some really pleasant surprises, little stories within the stories that just sort of popped into my head as I was writing, and the overall generalized outline I had made while prepping for NaNoWriMo has held up quite well, with only a few minor adjustments along the way.
One of my greatest fears going in turned out to be baseless: I have plenty of story to get to 50,000. In fact, just getting my two main characters to meet each other so that the story could begin in earnest took nearly 12,000 words. And now I'm sitting at around 30,000 words, and not halfway through the story. This is a little worrying, and I'm sure some of the first part will have to be cut to keep readers from falling asleep, but all in all, I'm very happy with the way things have gone thus far. We'll see, I guess, if this attitude still holds around November 28th. I'm guessing, probably not.
Listening to: Björk - One Day
Saturday, October 31, 2009
P.S. Good luck to all NANoWriMo participants tomorrow!!!
Listening to: Maximianno Cobra - Europa Philharmonia - Orchestra & Choir - LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 9 - IV. Presto “ Finale with Chorus on Schiller’s Ode to Joy ”
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
For lack of content, I'll just share a song I just downloaded because I can't get it out of my head. I have this theory, you see, that earworms can only be vanquished by feeding them until they die.
I think once I have committed "The comfort of the knowledge of a rise above the sky but could never parallel the challenge of an acquisition in the here and now" to memory, I'll be over it.
Listening to: OutKast - Hey Ya!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
How To Walk A Plank
Friday, September 25, 2009
I received the nicest rejection letter the other day from the folks at Storyglossia. Rejection letters are nothing new to me, and they don't carry the potent sting they once did, but still, frankly, mostly they suck. Not this one, though.
I won't reprint the email verbatim here, as I don't have, nor have I sought, their permission; however, this email was much more than your standard "Sorry...pass!" rejection letter. No, the editor actually took the time to commend me on several elements of my story, including its' subtlety (one of my most sought-after compliments!).
I almost want to print it out at post it at my desk, it's so unique in the juxtaposition of rejection and praise.
Has anyone else had a similar rejection letter? Or a rejection letter than was just dripping with meanness? Or maybe even some funny Lolcats? I'd appreciate any of that.
Listening to: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Mozart: Symphony #40 In G Minor, K 550 - 1. Molto Allegro
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The streets of Dublin extend mercifully delirious.
Listening to: Mission of Burma - That’s When I Reach for My Revolver
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This coffee shop is actually located in the walled city of Derry, in N. Ireland (I prefer Bogside myself). There was no violence when I was there last year - this year a police officer was killed not far from the hotel where I had stayed - but there was certainly a palpable, almost exhilarating tension throughout my stay, especially as darkness began to fall in the evening.
Listening to: Dinosaur Jr. - Start Choppin (LP Version)
Monday, September 14, 2009
*I really don't want to, but I love Hole's Live Through This. It's the album that she ought to have made after Kurt Cobain died, instead of the piece of crap that she ended up releasing. And, oh yeah, boo.
*The Daily Show has not been on for a really, really, really, really long time.
*My computer's battery is running perilously low on power.
*Facebook is a total succubus.
That not enough for ya? Then enjoy these blasts from the past:
Fiction (w/ swears!!!)
Hope to be back on Wednesday...
Listening to: Cortney Tidwell - Eyes Are At The Billions
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
( ( ,'"""""-.
/` ` `._
( , ,_\
| ,---.,'o `.
| / o \ )
\ ,. ( .____,
\| \ \____,' \
'`'\ \ _,____,'
\ ,-- ,-' \
( C ,' \
`--' .' |
| | .O |
__| \ ,-'_
/ `L `._ _,' ' `.
/ `--.._ `',. _\ `
`-. /\ | `. ( ,\ \
_/ `-._ / \ |--' ( \
' `-. `' \/\`. `. )
\ \ `. | |
Maybe I'll draw my own damn picture. Woo hoo!!!
*hat tip to http://www.chris.com/ASCII. Thanks!
Listening to: The Secret Life Of Sofia - Moose Collision
Monday, September 7, 2009
Then it happens. A flash of insight, usually when I have finally stopped thinking about all my frustrations with the writing process. This happened to me just this last Friday night, as I was lying in bed.
One of the most encouraging feelings a writer can experience is the sudden realization of growth and maturation as a writer. If you've been writing for any length of time, you have likely experienced this. So awesome. Jump around squealing like a girl awesome.
Where was I? Ah yes, this past Friday. A story I had been working on had hit a dead end about a week previous and stayed stuck there. I began to obsess about it. I tried to go directly at it, to kind of force my way through it and hope that it would all work out in the end (which sometimes does happen, and is another thrilling moment in writing). Nothing worked out this time though, and I ended up just writing and deleting, writing and deleting. That and watching a lot of US Open tennis.
I then decided to try to go at it from the periphery, which sometimes works out very well. I usually try to write a short story or two, maybe the back story of a character, or maybe a random scene from the big story. In the middle of one of these short stories, I was running into the same wall that I had hit in the larger story. Double frustration. At a loss for what else to do, I went to bed. Drifting off, I began imagining how one of my characters might have arrived at the location of my story, something that wasn't in my original outline. And that's where it hit me.
I needed a character to be duplicitous (or to seem to be duplicitous, to be more precise), but I hadn't really worked through what her motivation might have been. That's the answer that came to be as I drifted off to sleep on Friday. I was so excited I got up, re-did my entire outline (as well as spent more time on my character's back stories), and wrote for nearly 3 hours straight. I got a fresh burst of inspiration, confidence, and a better developed, more three-dimensional character to boot.
I think I'm going to get all my notes together on this one and use it for NaNoWriMo!
Listening to: Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks
Friday, September 4, 2009
As always, constructive comments (and, of course, encouragement, be it genuine or bald-faced lies) are welcome.
Katja leaned back, propped up on her elbows, the high sun glinting off her shiny horns. She was young and beautiful, and couldn't have been more exotic, Jake thought. Her eyes were squinted into tiny slits, scrunching up her nose in an adorable way. She was much
more tan than a girl from Finland ought to be. Her head swayed gently from side to side, as if she was listening to music only she could hear. Jake was immediately drawn to that particular idiosyncrasy, almost fell in love with her on the spot because of it.
"I don't want to die...don't get me wrong," Jake said. He was looking out where the river from the melting glacier met the ocean, watching the chunks of ice flowing swiftly out into the wavy blue infinity. A seal popped his head above the surface of the river, looked around momentarily, then went down again.
"Do you ever think you might be of...possessed?" Katja asked.
"I have thought so many things...I used to think, back when I was a little kid, that everyone could see music. I don't know, the kids seemed to sort of understand at first, but as we got older, I got more and more weird looks." Jake picked up a handful of black sand and let it slowly sift through his hand. It was a thrilling sensation; the sand on top was hot from the summer sun, the sand underneath was cold, the way you would think it would be in a place called Iceland. The temperatures mixed as they traveled between Jake's fingers, creating a sensation that his nervous system didn't quite know how to deal with, and so just got all tingly. He lost his train of thought momentarily.
"Weird looks?" Katja prompted.
"It was so familiar and natural to me - I assumed everyone could. I still kind of think that it's something we all have when we're born, something we lose as we grow. Of course, I realize that it's more likely all here." He pointed to a spot on his head a little above and in front of his right ear, where the tumor that caused his vision resided.
Katja sat up and scooped up a handful of sand herself, and let it slip through her fingers, just like Jake did. She also experienced an odd sensation, Jake noticed, as goosebumps raced across the bare skin of her arms and chest above her breast plate. She scooped up two more handfuls before giving her head a little shake and brushing off her hands.
"Maybe this is from God, do you think?" she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out cheese, bread and a tin of tuna, which she spread out on the blanket they were sitting on. She then reached back in and retrieved two bottles of water, handing one to Jake.
Jake scoffed at the idea, waving his hands as if the very idea was a pesky insect that wouldn't go away. "Some people in my family think that. I don't know, maybe that's how they're making sense of my thinking."
"Your thinking about the surgery?" Katja asked. "I understand...I think."
"Like I said, it's not like I want to die or anything. I just think about how...different my life will be. I won't have this special gift or talent, or, I don't know...curse, affliction..."
"What does it look like?" Katja interjected. "The music when you see it?"
Jake paused, rolling his eye up towards the heavens and then closed them. He took a couple deep breaths and appeared to be lost in thought for a few moments. He turned his gaze back towards the water and saw the seal's head come back above the surface, closer now. He exchanged a glance with Jake before slipping back under.
"Sort of like the Northern Lights, I guess," Jake finally said.
"I have seen the Northern Lights," Katja said. "They are beautiful, but I don't think I should want to see them all the time."
Now finished with their lunch, she reached bag into her bag and pulled out two cups of skyr, handing one to Jake. Jake reached for it with a reluctant slowness, wondering how long they had been in there - were they still safe to eat? And how deep is that bag? It's like a cornucopia or something. Sensing his apprehension, Katja said, "It's OK. It keeps without refrigeration." Jake opened his and tucked in. He had grown fond of skyr.
"Is it distracting?" she asked.
"The Music thing? Sort of. I can't listen to the radio when I'm driving - at least not when I'm driving in the city, anywhere where I'd need concentration. I drove through the desert once listening to some CDs. That was...a... great time."
Katja's eyes never left Jake as he talked. She brought the little fold-out spoon up from the cup of skyr to her soft mouth, twirling it in there to lick the concave side clean, slowly withdrawing it through her pouty lips. Jake tried hard to not keep his eyes on her the whole time and turned his eyes again to the water, where he saw the seal again, by the shore, nearly half way out of the water. The seal was waving his nose in the air, sort of like the way that Katja's head would sway slowly from side to side. As he sat there observing it, the seal was suddenly pelted with a scattershot of small pebbles. Jake turned immediately to Katja; it took a couple seconds to get his head around the fact that she had thrown the rocks.
"Pesky," she stated, just the slightest hint of contempt in her voice. "They will come and try to steal food."
She leaned back again, propped up on her arms, her body in that revealing costume spread out in front of Jake. She reached a hand up to hold her horned helmet, to keep it from sliding off. She craned her neck toward him, squinting into the sun behind Jake, one eye completely closed, as if she was winking, and said, "I think you should have the operation." This had the effect of plunging Jake into a complete state of indecision.
Listening to: Nine Inch Nails - Lights In The Sky
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Is the figure waiting for something? Dreading its arrival? Contemplating a life-changing decision? Just spacing out?
Listening to: Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film)
Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
The contest? Hint Fiction.
The deadline: August 31 (this coming Monday, I believe).
The skinny: Compose a story in 25 words or less - perfect for a twitter post. Come to think of it, I should post mine on my much neglected Twitter account. I'll try to due that right after I send in the entries for consideration.
Well, here they are:
The Funeral of an Enigma
The programs were referred to often - compulsively, it seemed - as the structure they provided was some sort of relief from the awkwardness and boredom.
From the pedestrian bridge, she emptied the purse into the river, laughing through the tears. She kept the purse, though, for the memories it held.
"There is a indifferent, yawning chasm in between compassion and resentment," Drake drawled as he withdrew the blade. Footsteps echoed down the alley.
He Was Supposed To Have Made His Mark By Now
From the opposite sidewalk, surreptitious sideways glances at the girls walking by in tight, skimpy clothes. The sight was suddenly, for the first time, depressing.
Listening to: Miles Davis - So What
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I took this photo from a pedestrian bridge over a small river. From what I can figure, the ice had partially melted the day before, and when it froze back up over night, a thin slice that had been turned on its side by the river current froze into place, jutting out of the surface at funny angle. Sort of a beautiful, ephemeral sun dial.
Listening to: Marnie Stern - Every Single Line Means Something
Monday, August 24, 2009
I was going for a weird jazzy trippy number. Not sure what actually happened, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't stand a chance in front of Obama's Death Panel, which, by the way, would be a good band name.
Listening to: Gogol Bordello - Start Wearing Purple
Friday, August 21, 2009
"It's hot already," John muttered to himself as he wiped his dampening forehead with a white handkerchief. He thought about just unfolding it completely and draping it over his head, like he had seen the Arabs do back in the war, then thought better of it and folded back up and slipped it in his shirt pocket. He slowly traversed the blinding white concrete of his driveway, like a firewalker, towards his mailbox at the end. Today was the day he got his Social Security check - they arrived like clockwork on the 5th of the month, or the 6th if the 5th was on a Sunday. And the postman was always there by 10 AM; it was 10:30 now.
His shuffling feet had made their way halfway down the driveway before he had to pause for a break. He had a walker but refused to use it most of the time. He was still man enough to walk out to get the mail, for Chrissakes. Again the handkerchief came out and wiped away the sweat, on his face now as well as his brow. He remembered marching through the deserts of Africa during the war, in the somewhat romantic way that time can tint such things. He started toward the mailbox again, letting his memories distract him from the pain in his joints until, like a blessed oasis, he was at the mailbox at the end of the driveway.
It was impossible to see inside the dark cavern when he first opened it; his eyes needed a few seconds to adjust. His eyes still worked pretty well, he thought. He took comfort in thee small blessings whenever he noticed them.
To his surprise, the box appeared empty. He reached his shaking hand inside and felt around. Nothing. An odd sad sensation flooded into his veins, and he closed the mailbox. He retrieved his handkerchief yet again and wiped himself down. It's too hot to think, he thought. The handkerchief finally went on top of his head, awkward appearances be damned, in an effort to cool down.
John checked the watch on his well-tanned wrist, a beautiful gold Rolex he got when he retired from the car factory. The watch said 10:40. John opened the mailbox again. Still nothing.
Listening to: Sybris - On Man!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I found this at an abandoned campsite at the edge of the woods right along Lake Superior. The paper scrap and the lake rocks were sitting on an old stump. The rest of the letter was nowhere to be found - probably blown away. This bit seemed to have been plastered to the stump by the rains of the previous couple of days; it was just drying out as I found it.
Listening to: Harlem Shakes - Strictly Game
Friday, August 14, 2009
Kvasir sat alone in the large alabaster room. The immense space was lined in the distance with billowy curtains, also white, which hung still and sterile. The room seemed to have no discernible boundary. Kvasir sat on a weathered wooden stool in the middle of the room. In front of him on a large raised pedestal was a chunk of marble, rippled and veined with thin rivers of crystals in several magnificent colors. In and of itself, the marble might be considered a work of art. Kvasir sat.
"What am I going to do today?" he asked out loud into the expanse.
His tools, a chisel in his left hand and a hammer in his right, were heavy. His grip was, ever so slightly, weakening. The instruments were heavy not only with the substance of their composite materials, but heavy with time. All the time.
The block of stone and the pedestal it sat upon were covered with a thick layer of fine dust, so powdery and light that it was hard to actually see. A thin layer had even seemed to have settled over Kvasir himself, collecting in the whiskers of his beard and the wisps of his long thinning hair. His naked back, though muscular, appeared worn by time and the enervation of a difficult existence.
"What am I going to do?"
The sound of his voice had an empty quality, most likely due to the fact that his words left his mouth and just kept going, into seeming infinity. His hands tensed up, absentmindedly manipulating his sculpting instruments. Kvasir sat, staring at the block of marble in front of him, at first intensely, then drifting off into something more like lassitude. He let out a deep sigh. His breath disturbed the dust on the marble and pedestal, sending a whisper of silvery powder into the air. Some of it drifted back and settled over him.
"What," he asked, "am I doing?"
Listening to: Sleater-Kinney - Dance Song '97
Monday, August 10, 2009
Today Part 4 of the agonizing pain in which I live every daaaaaaay.
By which I mean it's New Music Monday!
Listening to: The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Friday, August 7, 2009
"What nationality you think the Sun-Maid girl is?" Steve asked through the wispy trails of smoke that rose between us.
"I don't know, Steve," I replied, and left it at that, savoring - in a moment of fully self-aware passive-aggresiveness - the deliciously agonizing limbo in which he was now swinging, just begging for me to relive him, which, finally, I did. "What do you think?" I asked, extending my open hand.
Floodgates open, the words gushed through. "I used to think she was like, Italian or something, I don't know - when I was growing up. Or maybe just a white chick like that Dorothy chick in 'Wizard of Oz'. Now that I'm older and more world-weary, I'm thinking Mexican...maybe an outside shot she's Indian."
I think he meant 'world-wise'. "She's fictional..."
He finally passed me the lighter and continued. "Like Pocahantus."
I ignored him and sparked up, drawing the dancing orange flicker in until it was a barely visible blue.
"I wonder what her life was like," he said, looking to me for a response.
I turned my eyes to him and shrugged, grateful that my mouth was occupied so he couldn't expect much in the way of a reply.
"She probably died young," he supposed out loud. "Smallpox...or maybe the Spanish flu. And I wouldn't be surprised if she was raped more than once."
I exhaled a smooth plume of blue smoke. As my lungs emptied, it began to feel like I was melting just a little. I smiled dumbly to myself, feeling very much at peace. "Sucks," I said to Steve; I was referring to the fate of the poor Sun-Maid girl, but I then thought that he might think I was referring to the weed.
"Oooh!" Steve burst out, pointing a fat, boorish finger excitedly in my face. "Oooh! Like the Land O Lakes chick...you know, that Indian chick with the butter?"
I thought of that trick where you cut out the butter she's holding, then fold her up so that her bare knees show through and look like boobs. I was going to mention it to Steve, as I'm sure he'd constructed one before; hell, probably even jerked off to it, but he pre-empted me.
"Do you think, Joe, that they were..." he seemed to lose his train of thought for a bit, then found it again, "think they were...passionate women?"
"Fictional," I repeated.
"Man, I bet they could fuck," Steve said longingly. "The both of them."
I shrugged again. Soemtimes, that's all I can do.
"Tell me you wouldn't hit that," Steve demanded.
I did not tell him that, or say anything, actually. All I could do was sit there and think, over and over, that I simply had to get a new pot dealer.
Listening to: Brendan Small - Louis Louis Rap
Monday, August 3, 2009
Anyhoo...here ya go!
Listening to: Dead Confederate - It Was A Rose (Acoustic)
Friday, July 31, 2009
This is a piece I composed entirely from the subject lines on spam e-mails...very original, I know. But I thought it would be fun. Who knows - maybe I'll be the next Sarah Palin!
Here it is:
He that enola
I maxie ourselves girvin
of nimitz no dempster,
you which expellable.
An retrofitted from
as is arabi.
In huesyville yourself kopperl,
The no veracity
I lairdsville as ridiculous
Of drennen many greenleaf
Or what turnabout
do keshena from aguanga.
He venerable to oblivion
An scary or notorious
Or mart of noontime
My clyman till moapa
in benedicta well halworth,
In harrah which cordelle
In weston go esposito,
Of earling what bache
With krakatowa at carlisle.
New found sex drive
on himself saturnalia.
That he mollie
tender altered medic
Or renovate everything fickle,
do it shalom.
her usurious self verdant
Till it sashay
it quiescent is feminine.
Have a cassandra
no he manna
With so predispose
on my canadian.
Be no thousandths,
Be the grandson,
Or sap be combinatorial.
Do go dissociate
his inhibit the cache,
Which draftsmen is miles
To numeral do missionary.
To corrosive or burn
As by weller
It no suitcase.
Monday, July 27, 2009
This Monday's offering is another track from the project I'm currently working on (on and off), 7 Deadly Dwarves. I'm not sure if I've ever explained the concept behind the project, so here it is: each song (and yes, there are exactly 7) is supposed to be under 2 minutes, and be very, very economical in use of vocals. The theme is modeled, loosely, on the 7 deadly sins. Today's offering is entitled "Lazy" (get it? It's like 'sloth', but with a Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs style name. Get it?!?)
Listening to: Miles Davis - So What
Friday, July 24, 2009
Actual count: 613 words - close enough.
NOTE: The following scene takes place in a small town around the turn of the 20th century. The big tent for the traveling circus caught fire during a show. The town has no hospitals anywhere near, so all of the injured are brought to the town pharmacy.
THE CLOWN FLASHES BACK
Ross wandered throughout the triage area with a full bucket, offering ladles of water to anyone conscious. Except to those who were moaning, or crying, or screaming - they terrified him. He felt an odd revulsion, like he might catch something from them. He knew this was a ridiculous thought, but he couldn't shake it. His wanderings took him to a clown with an ink dark face and huge white mouth painted on in the shape of a frown. A clown next to him was painted similarly, except with a red face and a smile. They reminded Ross of the iconic drama masks he saw in advertisements. The smiling clown was dead.
"Kid," rasped the still-living clown, "help me out here." He struggled to prop himself up on his elbows. Ross knelt beside him, proffering an overflowing ladle.
"Nah," the sad clown waved the water off. "Can you reach into my breast pocket, kid? My medicine..." he asked.
Ross gingerly snaked his hand into the clown's pocket, carefully avoiding any physical contact. He pulled out a silver flask, dragging along with it a photograph, which fell to the floor beside the clown. The photo was of a young woman, light-haired and in refined dress. She was beautiful - Ross could not help staring.
The clown took a swig from the flask and wiped his mouth with a sooty sleeve.
"You have no idea what it's like, kid," the clown whispered after a moment, beckoning Russ closer as he spoke. A glaze was forming over his old yellow eyes. Ross figured his medicine must be kicking in.
"There was my Gretchen..." The clown paused briefly as emotions flushed through his face. "...lying limp on the dock - I kept praying she would pass out and be spared the pain. Her leg stuck out at an obscene angle. I could see the bone; jagged and messy. The blood was everywhere, kid, growing in a pool, staining the new white dress I had bought her."
He paused for another sip from the flask.
"A crowd gathered, and I felt as though we were in some absurd play. I wanted to yell at them - tell them all to go away...no one would help. They just stood there - dumb!" he exclaimed loudly. More quietly, he continued, "I suppose there was nothing they could do."
Ross listened intently. Between the clown's story and the beautiful picture at his side, he was able to block out most of the moaning and screaming in the pharmacy.
"As she passed, I stroked her hair and face to comfort her, and I positioned myself to block her view of her horrible misfortune...and then...such a beautiful sound I heard. Two ships in the harbor were sounding their signal horns alternatively. C# and A, so haunting and stark. A third horn joined. I closed my eyes. It sounded like a chorus of angels in my head. I felt an overwhelming impulse to lose myself in that sound, to leave the horror of the moment and flee to the world of those horns, like sweet Sirens they called me."
Tears were tracing big, ugly lines through his grease paint face.
"I was holding her, and all I could think of was running away! I hear that music every day - it haunts me, it won't leave me..." The clown broke down into sobs. Ross sat there as trailed off, afraid to move, unsure of what to do, until his father called for him to come back behind the pharmacy counter.
Behind the counter, his father grabbed him roughly. "Keep away from that dirty drunk!" he scolded. "Lord knows what you might catch from him."
Monday, July 20, 2009
As always, there is a media player in the sidebar featuring today's selection as well as blasts from the past. Enjoy!
Listening to: The Amps - Pacer
Friday, July 17, 2009
"These things happen, it was your first time, don't worry," Rick comforted her, sort of. "We'll try again tomorrow night."
Zoe let out a heavy sigh, surreptitiously slipping a burp in underneath it. She fiddled with the tattered remnants of the label she had peeled off of her beer bottle; she spread it out flat on the table with her hand and then let it go, watching as it slowly rose and curled back up on itself.
"Don't be discouraged," Rick added. Zoe dismissed his encouragement as an attempt to break the awkward silence between them.
"I don't know what the fuck I did wrong...I did everything exactly like I was supposed to!"
Rick bristled at her language. Zoe sensed his discomfort and felt a little surge of something - passion, adrenaline, anxiety - she didn't know what, but it kind of excited her. Maybe it was the beer. With her long fingers, she picked at the amorphous blob sitting on the table. She brought a bit up to her lips - a little salty, too gooey.
"Don't get upset. It happens to me all the time - I follow the recipe exactly, double check everything, but sometimes..." he trailed off, looking out the big picture window at the dark city outside. They sat in silence for a while before Zoe got up and fetched a couple more beers from the fridge in the back. She sat down hard on the padded stool. She was never good at concealing her emotions. She even sat angry.
Rick grabbed the opener out of his apron pocket and pulled the caps off of the beers. "Sometimes," he continued where he had left off earlier, "sometimes the bread just doesn't turn out right."
Zoe took a long swig, and Rick took the opportunity to continue.
"I'm worried about you," he stated.
Zoe pulled the bottle from her thin, strawberry lips and swallowed. "Worried about me why?" she asked, short of breath from her drink.
"You know why," he replied. "You should really come with me this Sunday."
"Oh, Jesus, Rick. Not this again..."
"It would mean a lot to me. And it could really help you; help you make a difference in your life." Zoe's big eyes rolled like fat summer moons as she turned her head to the side. "Look, I know what I'm talking about here. I used to be just like you. I went through all the same things: the doubt, the depression, the anger..." Rick trailed off, watching her face to see if he had hit his mark. She turned back and stared at him, poker-faced, for a moment before slowly bringing the beer back up to her lips.
"It doesn't have to be like this for you," Rick implored. "Sometimes things aren't as bad as they seem."
Zoe held her stare, gradually making Rick uncomfortable enough to look away. An old fan droned in the background.
"Sometimes," she paused to drain her beer before continuing, "sometimes things just don't turn out right, Rick."
Listening to: Warpaint - Billie Holiday
Friday, July 10, 2009
While cruising through the bloggosphere recently, I stumbled upon a flash fiction contest at The Clarity of Night. I had this idea knocking around in my head since last winter while I was lounging on the couch in a Nyquil daze. And at only 250 words, I figured I could knock it out quickly. The result is below; I intend to submit it sometime this weekend. Enjoy! Comment! Enjoy!
Two figures approached from the southern horizon - they seemed to have been brought along with the storm. As the lightning flashed violently through the downpour, Eva traced their progress towards the isolated shack. She tried to wake her father and mother, but they were too drunk to rouse. In a panic, Eva grabbed some bread from the table and ran out the back door. She checked over her shoulder as she fled, making sure that the shack was keeping her blocked from view.
Upon arriving, the two men strode right in, simultaneously drawing their hoods back as they entered the one room hut. They were nearly identical, and were often mistaken for brothers. Eva's parents woke abruptly, and sat up straight on their old cots as the two men sat down at the modest dinner table. The man on the right pulled a decanter out of his satchel and set it on the table, and the man on the left, the one who did all the talking, spoke.
"Glasses," he rasped, motioning to the decanter. Lightning silhouetted him intermittently. Eva's mother stumbled out of bed in a drunken hurry to collect two glasses for the men.
"Come, sit," he said as he poured. Eva's parents, terrified, obeyed. He pushed the glasses towards them.
"Drink," he urged, and they hesitatingly did.
"There," the stranger said as they silently set their empty glasses down.
"Now," he whispered, leaning in towards them, "where is the child?"
Listening to: The Pogues - Bottle Of Smoke
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
So I was a little reluctant when a friend asked me to go to the Fourth of July fireworks in his boyhood hometown. He was excited because it was the tiny town's centennial, and this was supposed to be an especially spectacular display.
"Really? Fireworks?" I asked incredulously. "Really?"
"Dude, just c'mon," Ryan insisted. "What else are you going to be doing this weekend? Come up with me; we'll hike, we'll get drunk, and we'll watch the fireworks. It'll be fine."
I actually had been looking forward to doing something this weekend, but video games and masturbation hardly seemed to be a slam dunk counter-argument. So I relented. I went up north with him, and the trails were breathtaking, the beer was free, and the evening air was deliciously cool. I couldn't believe I was wearing a sweatshirt in July.
We stayed at his cabin, which was a cabin only in the sense that it was out in the woods and wasn't his primary residence. Every modern luxury was at my disposal, which was really the only thing I had to rag on Ryan about the entire weekend. I was hoping for something a bit more primitive. But the walks in the woods were nice, so who am I to complain?
We left his cabin at around dusk and walked the half-mile to the high school baseball fields where they were holding the fireworks display. There was almost nowhere to go; every inch of grass was covered with a blanket or tarp on which sat a family or group of howling drunkards, sometimes both. We ended up finding a spot just off the paved path. There were cars parked on either side of the path, butting up right against it, so we had to stand. We were situated right in front of a new Lexus SUV that looked like it just rolled right off the lot. It didn't even have a metal license plate yet. It had backed in off of the path, so we were facing it's hood. About thirty or so feet behind us was a large pole building used, I would suppose, for storing all the field equipment and such. The moon was fat and yellow and low in the sky, and would be the backdrop for the fireworks display.
The show was supposed to start at 10 PM. We had arrived at around a quarter to, and Ryan and I stood there in the dark listening to people walk by us talking into their cell phones.
Now, in this small town, the air raid siren, which is also used to summon the local fire brigade, goes off at 10 o'clock - for curfew or something, I'm not exactly sure why. But the thing, which was only a couple of blocks, went off as scheduled at 10, and was ear-piercingly loud. Before the sound had faded from my skull, the first firework had burst in the night sky - a big shower of golden sparkles that sort of resembled a palm tree, I thought.
Of course, writing about fireworks is, to paraphrase David Byrne, like dancing about architecture, so I won't describe all of the amazing display, except to say that it was indeed amazing, and when my neck got tired from craning upward I looked at the dark, shiny hood of the Lexus SUV and could see the brilliant lights reflected there, and also the bangs reverberated off of the metal pole building with a cool 'pew-pew-pew' sound. There were spectacular fountains of light; the night was lit up by multicolored bursts, illuminating smoke trails that hung in the air like huge spiders. Ryan was right, the display was incredible, and I was glad I had come. The whole crowd cheered and yelled appreciatively after every large volley of explosions, and there were several.
Then, about 15 minutes in, the air raid siren goes off, this time repeatedly. A fire call. The alarm bellowed out into the darkness, and kept going. I would guess that most of the fire department was here at the ball field for the display: they were the ones who set them off, and they, of course, were also here because this was the most likely place for a dangerous fire to erupt.
I'm not going to lie - the mood was somewhat subdued after the siren started going off. It just kept going, a completely counter-intuitive soundtrack to the light show. They started setting off the fireworks more rapidly, trying to blow everything up as quickly as they could so they could finish up and get going. The resulting barrage was something I will remember the rest of my life, and I doubt this display could ever be topped and still be legal. It was so amazingly beautiful, and bright, and loud; and yet how difficult, how empty and even callous it felt to be celebrating our independence, to be enjoying ourselves, as someone's entire world went up in flames before them. The more dazzling it was, the more I hated myself.
Listening to: Pearl Jam - Dissident
Monday, June 29, 2009
Another short story of mine was published in an e-zine, although I never actually saw it because the link they gave me didn't work. Their check did not bounce, though, so I wasn't too upset.
The one piece of mine that I know for sure was up on the Net has now been taken down, unfortunately. I would have no record of it at all had my local congresswoman not sent me a news clipping:
And to think I didn't even vote for her...and won't next time she runs, either. Oh well.
I've noticed that I know exactly where most, if not all, of my rejection letters are...I wonder what that says about me?
Below is a copy of the short story referenced in the above news clipping:
“That’s not tornadic”, Matt opined. “Now if the sky was green, then that would be tornadic”. He recited to anyone willing to listen a list, obviously complied over a dull lifetime and endlessly rehearsed, of the times when he had witnessed a green sky; but I was much more interested in looking out at the actual sky through the one small window in the room. Matt’s voice droned on behind me about the tornado he saw when he used to work at a fast food joint, while my eyes searched outside, wondering what the big deal was. The sky was not particularly dark, the wind was gentle, and the rain was merely a moderate downpour, nothing to really get concerned about. I turned to notice Shannon walking up towards us.
“There were no customers there, so we all went out in the parking lot, and it had been blowing a blue streak, but then it got all still and quiet, and that’s when we went out.”
I glanced over at Shannon, thinking he might find the humor in all the Hardee’s employees standing in the parking lot facing an imminent tornado strike, but his eyes were focused far away, out the window. He tried to keep as uninvolved as possible with the people and politics here at work; probably a good idea, but it makes him pretty boring to talk to, which is too bad because he’s one of the few people here with half a brain in his head. I turned my gaze back through the window as well.
“What the hell is the siren for?” Shannon demanded, roughly stroking the scraggly red whiskers on his jaw, “It’s fine out there.”
I mentioned, while maintaining my focus out the window, that I had seen the weather report this morning, and that a cold front was coming in, bringing with it some possibly severe storms, and hopefully some cooler weather for the next couple days – a welcome break from the devastating humidity of the past two weeks. The severe stuff, I told him, was supposed to be passing to the south of us. Shannon grunted his agreement with my remarks.
“Yeah, it’s fine out there,” Matt added. “Now, if the sky was dark green, that’s a sign for tornadic.”
I looked to hopefully to Shannon again – still no reaction on his characteristic grim and serious face. Disheartened, I turned and looked out the window with him. A guy was sitting out in his car, waiting for the rain to ease up, I surmised. Finally he gave up waiting and got out of the car, holding his briefcase over his head as he rushed to the entrance. The headlights of his Buick were still on. I think we were all hoping that they weren’t the type that turned off automatically. That’s cold, I realize, but factory work will instill that type of mentality in you.
Matt was suddenly right over my shoulder and into my personal space, standing on his toes and trying to get a look outside. I cringed and shrunk from his touch when he put his hand on my shoulder to boost himself up slightly higher. He lost his balance and nearly fell into Shannon and me.
“Nah...that’s definitely not tornadic,” Matt insisted once he had stabilized himself. As he spoke, the excessively large wad of chew he kept between his lips and teeth threatened to spill over. Little bits of it were interspersed in his prominent braces. It was always uncomfortable conversing with him, as the possibility of being showered with tobacco juice was always there, and he had a habit of standing uncomfortably close when speaking.
I turned away from Matt without a word or even a visual cue that I was ending whatever conversation he might have imagined we’d been having, scanning the room for likely escape route. The room was a stark white abortion, a purely utilitarian cinder-block construction. Like the rest of the factory, there was no clock in here. The company did not want clock-watchers. Instead, they alerted us to our break times with bells over a loudspeaker, like we were caged rats or prisoners or something like that. More than anything, more than being an inconvenience, or an assault on our dignity, it was just sad – just sad that I, a grown man, viewed the simple act of putting on my watch every morning as a way to “Stick It To The Man”.
The siren ceased it’s warning, and I turned back towards the window. The sky was continuing to lighten, still raining, but any possible threatening weather was obviously well past us now. The white-collars stood up and went hastily back to their offices upstairs. Everyone else stayed put. It was hot and muggy out on the floor, and there was little work to do besides. Orders had been dropping off, probably the result of the sub-par product we had been turning out lately. Everyone had been talking about it for weeks.
“If they need us out on the floor,” Frank said, “they can come get us. That’s the supervisor’s job...give the ‘all clear’.” Frank had been with the company since the ‘50s, a fixture at the factory. He was not well respected by anyone here, especially the newer people. His reputation for laziness was not helped by his sloppy speech or his habit of napping after lunch, and his obsolescence put into sharp focus by the increasingly simple “busy work” assigned to him. It would be difficult, though, I would imagine, staying motivated while living through the golden age of labor and into the rise of the corporations.
Around the room, everyone mumbled and nodded their vague agreement with Frank. Someone else, I’m not sure who, not that it really makes a difference, floated a semi-articulated thought that we ought to stay in here all day no matter what management has to say about it. More muttered agreement. I couldn’t really tell who these splintered ideas of rebellion were coming from, or how a conformity was reached, but in the end almost everyone seemed to be of the opinion that we needed to make a stand, to air our grievances, to scream defiantly against the roaring tempest of corporate decision.
“It’s always been that way,” Frank repeated. “Stay and wait for the ‘all clear’.”
My legs were exhausted from standing all day, so I turned away from the window and went to grab one of the seats that had opened up at the long conference table when the office people left. I sat next to Laura, who had an injury and was temporarily working on assembling benefits folders to be distributed to all the workers at the factory. I glanced casually at the contents of one of the folders, and commented on the fact that over half of the material seemed to be out of date.
“Yeah, I know, “ Laura sighed impatiently. “Anita brought that up, and I told her: if you got a problem with it, go see management. It’s not my job to correct their mistakes. Talk to management about it.” Anita is the union steward. She’ll get all worked up about this or that, talk big about taking the company to task over infractions large and small, real or imagined, but in the end she’s all bluster, and everybody knows it.
“If they think I’m redoing these damn things they’ve got another think coming.” She slapped another assembled folder down on the stack to punctuate the end of her sentence. I think we both knew she’d spend weeks tearing these books apart and then reconstructing them, until she was well enough to work.
Sensing the air of hostility and anger she had enveloped herself in, I decided to get up and walk back to the window. Matt and Shannon had wandered off, so I stood alone, watching sheets of rain dance across the street. As I stared absently at the rain, I thought about how much of what we manufacture is done in the spirit of anger and hostility, how many parts just don’t quite fit right and so are forced into place with a wild hammer and fuming curses. I also noticed the Buick’s headlights were now off. I didn’t know if they turned off by themselves or if the battery had died, and really didn’t care too much about it either way. This whole damn factory could blow away, for all I cared.
Why the factory had gone to hell was fairly obvious – we switched to a new material supplier, who gave us our metal as a substantially lower price, but also a substantially lower quality. As we struggled working with the inferior new material, we fell behind because it was so time consuming and because so much of the product had to be scrapped. As we fell further behind, angry customers called, demanding their purchases be delivered immediately, and so quality control standards were relaxed, which meant that stuff that should have been rejected was instead shipped out. Our reputation after all this was obviously not good, and so we lost customers. And now here we were in what should have been the busiest time of the year for a industrial refrigerator manufacturer, with next to nothing to do.
The sirens had gone silent over ten minutes ago – if I hadn’t had my watch, I would’ve sworn it’d been about an hour – and still no one had come to get us. I held out a sliver of hope that we could while away the day in the comfort of the air conditioned bunker/conference room, but tried not to dwell on it. Instead, I eavesdropped on the several conversations going on around the room. They were all remarkably similar – they were all about tornadoes.
“Once I was in a mobile home during a tornado,” Cindy said. She rocked back and forth in her chair, simulating the motion of the trailer, I suppose.
“It was so scary and loud – all the trailers around us got damaged, but ours was untouched.” Her voice lilted up as she ended her sentence, bubbly with the good news that everything worked out all right for her.
She was holding court, most of the guys were around her, rapping off clumsily worded double-entendres which fell around her like so many errant arrows. She was by far the prettiest woman in the factory, in a way not too far different from her trailer in the story...of course, even though she made out OK, there she was, still in the trailer park.
“Untouched!” she emphasized.
“Speaking of touching...” one of her sweaty admirers began.
“Yeah, I tell ya, one hit my home once, sounded like a freight train coming through.” The attention of the room slipped momentarily from Cindy, but never quite fully, and the moment’s wavered attention drifted toward, but never really focused on, Frank.
“Like a freight train,” he repeated, far-off stare, searching for but finding nothing to add. He deflated in his chair, relinquishing any meager hold he might have had on the room. Cindy continued her story, which never really went anywhere or shed any new details, for the next several minutes to her rapt, albeit captive, audience. I thought seriously about leaving the window and moving out of earshot of her inane ramblings. Instead, I stood there propped against the window frame and waited, and waited, letting her voice lull me into a not unpleasant semi-catatonic state, and decided that maybe this was the safest place for me to be right now.
An annoying scraping noise distracted me eventually. Over in the corner, I saw the boys from Material Inspection. They were the Dead-enders – any newly hired person who was sent to work with them lasted all of two weeks, tops. Like most of the problems in the company, they were left unaddressed. They were ensconced in a bitter shell, numbly punching in every day and collecting a check every week, doing just enough to not get fired, waiting out the ravages of time and circumstance, holding on until retirement or death. They were scratching marks on the table using regular putty knives – probably the most used tools in the factory – shaped and sharpened using a grinding wheel into instruments resembling jailhouse shivs, sculpted with more care and attention to detail than they exhibited toward any actual product of the factory.
I turned away from them, suddenly more disheartened than usual. The morning had started wonderfully, a compassionate break from the routine drudgery and anguish; but now I saw that it had simply been moved to another room. The same inane conversations held over and over again - the lines of a dark and too obvious comedy. The same lack of concern...the same defeated mentality.
There was not so long ago a time of craftsmen, when pride was taken in one’s work; when a guy could get a blue-collar job and support his family. My grandfather worked hard every day, dirt forever on his hands, scraped knuckles, a couple of beers after a hard day, a gold watch and a fat pension when he retired. It was an honest, romantic way to make a living. I’m nearing the age of my grandfather when he was half way to retirement, but they keep raising the retirement age, leaving me to trudge onward like Sisyphus...the same defeated mentality.
Finally, the moment we had all been hoping wouldn’t come, had come. Ray came into the room – he must’ve drawn the short straw among the supervisors. None of them liked dealing with us. Most of the workers made a point to make sure any interaction was difficult and emotionally draining. New conversations began as if previous ones had never taken place, everyone played dumb – a supervisor would just have to start all over again, building from the ground up.
He stood there for a few moments. The conversations continued, but in a noticeably hushed tone. Eerily, no one moved. Hands on his hips, he surveyed the room with a scowl before speaking.
“OK, people, let’s get back out there. The siren stopped a while ago.”
“We’re supposed to stay put until we get the ‘all clear’ from the supervisor,” Frank challenged. “That’s the rules.”
“OK, OK...here’s your ‘all clear’. Now let’s get back out there. C’mon, people! Let's go!”
He rambled across the room, barking and flailing, dislodging people form their comfortable cliques and seats and conversations, upsetting everyone with his ruthless attitude.
Reluctantly, and with much groaning, everyone painstakingly got up from their seats and staggered slowly out onto the floor. As we left the room, the hot, sticky, dishearteningly overwhelming air of the factory weighed us down, slowing us even more.
Listening to: Atmosphere - Smart Went Crazy