Friday, 24 May 2013

Flash Fiction Friday - "Room with a view"

“Kinda pretty isn’t it?”
Beyond the shatterproof windows of their seventh-floor room there stretched industrial processing plants, then the low income housing, with the final touches of the hazy horizon glinting off the windshields of used cars in their lots.
“If you think campy third world is the new ocean view then, sure.”
“Well, the view is in the eye of the beholder as they say. Beauty can be found when least expected.”
“Seriously Dan, you’ve got to quit reading those inspirational pamphlets from the lobby. That’s disgusting! Makes me wish the windows weren’t bolted shut so I could throw myself out of them,” she rolled her eyes, but they were smiling. He was always finding her something to tease - something to feed the appetites of both humor and despair.
“Fine. Would you rather me make some philosophical juxtaposition about a home of healing being located in the pollution of industry?”
“It would be more accurate. We’re not the inspiration people; We’re the dark humor people. You’re supposed to make me laugh, not gag.”
“What if I juxtapose the frailty of your body with the killer passion in those gorgeous eyes?”
(She loved attention.)
“I’ll juxtapose your face with my bedpan if you don’t shut up,” but she put on a puppy face, then continued “you think my eyes are pretty?” batting her lashes.
“Prettier than the smog from that resin plant over there,” gesturing toward the window.
They laughed but his face changed.
“Now if you die I’ll never be able to live in a city again. I’ll be driving through Los Angeles crying my eyes out.”
“Maybe I’ll haunt that factory.”
“I thought you promised to haunt me! What the hell?”
“Well, it’s not like I can’t do both.”
“You don’t know what the rules are. What if haunting location is mutually exclusive? I expect all of your apparitional attention.”
“But I’ll get bored while you’re sleeping!”
“Can’t you get into dreams as a ghost? Dreams are my fall back plan if I can’t keep you alive!”
“Dan, you’re getting close to no-man’s land. Don’t make me sad.”
“Your turn. I’m already sad.”
She glanced around the room, then grabbed the remote. 
“Here. You come lay with me,” she scooted and patted the space beside her “let’s watch TLC on mute and do the overdubs.”
He feigned skepticism and sat closer to her than he had to, "if we had a show no one would ever mute us."

Friday, 17 May 2013

Non-Fiction Friday - "If I had a Mary Poppins Bag..."

Home Away From Home

If I had a Mary Poppins bag? What would I do? I don’t even have to think about that answer - I’d attend more parties. I’m introverted enough to stay home, but extroverted enough to miss people when I do; I’m extroverted enough to gather socially, but introverted enough to feel weird and out of place. A bag that’s bigger on the inside could solve this problem for me; It could be my social companion. I know there are so many practical uses for a bottomless carpetbag, but I wouldn’t use it to carry lamps or books or the entire contents of my bathroom; I’d turn it into a cave, and whenever I felt awkward, I’d cozy up in that floral tapestry, take some deep breaths, and think of the witty things I will say in roughly fifteen minutes when I feel like being around people again. It would solve the problem of feeling uncomfortable locking myself in the bathroom or spare bedroom for said duration, it would be all feng shui inside which would help me chill out more efficiently, and if people ask where I was I’ll just say “in my Mary Poppins bag” and if they ask more questions, I'll have my witty comebacks ready! It would also make travelling much easier and cost effective... but I digress.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Flash Fiction - Video Games

War Games

“When was the first time you played?”
“Uh, about a month out of training I think. I remember expecting to play right away and then just sitting there for several weeks.”
“And you were part of the team for how long?”
“Two years.”
“How many times did you play in those two years?”
“Fifteen... maybe more. All the windows in the complex are blacked out and I was working nights so it’s really hard to gauge what memories go where. Only the really bad ones stand out. Maybe there were more than fifteen.”
“‘Really bad’ what do you mean by that?”
“The ones that went wrong. We’d mess up, have bad information, get the targets confused, but there was nothing you can do after that to try to help or make it right. You just sit there staring at the screen. Sometimes I’d be really disturbed, but by the time the game was over for the day, I’d just feel numb.”
“How did you feel on the days you didn’t play?”
“When I’d just go in, with no mission?”
“At first I liked those days. I’d just sit and listen to everything happening on the base, kinda amazed that we had technology like this, but also a little relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the game and moral struggle that day. By the end though I just felt restless on no-fly days.”
“Yeah. My mind would wander. I’d start imagining what it was like to be in the games instead of playing them.”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know... just thinking what it’d be like if I was just chilling out with my buddies in my living room and an attack happened. In training they tell you that they don’t, but you really start wondering if the targets on screen have lives too you know?”
“Is that why you quit?”
“Yeah, I guess when it comes down to it. I just couldn’t reconcile it. All I had to do was go to work and push a button. I’d watch an orange body on screen change color until it matched the blue ground, then get up and eat a sandwich you know? I was in a war without any personal risk, and I guess our brains weren’t made to deal with that or something... you’d know the technicalities of it... but it just felt unfair. I was raised to respect life like it was more than just a video game.”

I intended to add some more depth to this but its been a distracting week and it's now or never.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Non-Fiction Friday - Death

(this story is more of a listening kind of story, so here's audio of me reading if you please)

Crossing Towers

The highways to and from the small town I grew up in were not lit. They were sparingly punctuated by farms, with no other real landmarks on the flat Kansas plains. At night, the drive home from the city seemed infinite, with my eyelids heavy and my body aching for bed. I would ask and ask “when will we be home - how can I know how much longer?” Time did not exist to my five year old brain. But my dad, he gestured toward the only distinguishable mark out the windows “see those tv towers with the red lights Linda? Watch the towers. When they cross each other, it means we’re almost home.”

If you go through my old journals you will find entry after entry saying I’m not “one of those people” - people who color their grey hair, or put cream on their wrinkled face. “I’m not going to be a vain middle aged woman. I will embrace my old-ness!” said teenage me. But I have a smattering of grey hair now, and there are tiny lines between my eyebrows that don’t go away even when I’ve finished concentrating. The first time I saw those lines I learned something. It’s not vanity that buys the cream - it’s fear - and I was afraid. I was afraid because those lines tell me that I’m not in control. Written between those lines are every bad thing that could ever happen to me. They show me every day that I have lack; that control is a farce and that time is our curse, our chains, our enemy.

“What about the hope of heaven?” says the inescapable baptist woman that lives in my head. But I say “Screw heaven!” They say you’ll be reunited with loved ones, there will be new colors new tastes! There will be GOD! But how do I KNOW?! How do I know that these people I love wont be vapors? How can I know what this God who whispers to me is really like? How can I prep for the biggest culture shock of my life? One day my feet rest on this cheap brown carpet, and a moment later are flying through a sky that the smartest brains and deepest hearts have only guessed about? No thanks. You’re there then you’re not! No transition time. No planning the trip. I don’t even know if I’ll like it! So do not rip me from the arms of my lover. Do not take my love and my kisses from my children. Do not leave me... alone. Nothing to cling to. Alone with the wonders and monsters and huge, infinite God.

But maybe I remember. Barely. Maybe that infinitesimal bit of me that is my soul remembers God. Remembers what it’s like - the details of eternity. Maybe it remembers and it aches. Aches for all those things our great minds and deep hearts only guess at. Maybe it remembers what it’s like to never feel alone, or scared, or sad. Maybe it remembers what it’s like to never have to LEAVE someone. And maybe it rejoices at these faint lines starting on my face because wrinkles are the crossing towers, and it means we’re almost home.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Non-Fiction Friday - An inspirational speech in under 50 words

Inspiration - An Autobiography

Wear caution like a coat on a cold windy day. But you'd better toss that son of a bitch at the first sign of spring. Put truth in a bikini. It will set you free.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Flash Fiction Friday - "It's not unusual"

Black Jacket

“Oh no, it’s not unusual for men to have a hard time finding a suit that fits. Everyone always talks about the media pressuring us women to look a certain way, but just because you guys can wear a hairstyle for a good year longer than we can before it goes out of style, well, that doesn’t mean we can cookie cut you. So, is this the last one you had picked out to try on? Yes, it’s my favorite too. It’s handmade so the price is a little more, but it really makes all the difference. Most of our customers have shopped the big stores first, but you just can’t find suits like this one... We're the first place you came? Wow. Ok, turn - the shoulders on this one may need to be taken in a little, but there won't be any trouble having that ready by Thursday. The last thing you need is another detail to keep track of. Raise your arms a little. Just let me check that measurement again. Alright, yes this is the closest we have for you. We’ll have to hem the pants and take in the shoulders, as I mentioned. Since this is one of our higher end suits, and considering the circumstances, the tailoring will be on us... Don't apologize. Here, let me grab a tissue for you. I know this must be hard, spending so much money on something like this, and you probably won’t ever be able to wear it again. If I were you I’d never be able to even look at the thing without crying, but, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a nice coat to hold your insides together. Besides, I’m sure she would have wanted you to look wonderful.”

Non-Fiction Friday - "Acting like a kid"

"[Children] always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
-G.K. Chesterton

Recently I’ve hit a rough patch in my parenting experience. My kids tag team me with their needy-ness, and I found a lot of excitement in being stressed out about things. If I play with them I don’t get sh*t done. If I don’t play with them and obsessively attack my to-do list as if it were a French monarchy, each cross-off adding a sense of purpose and stability to my life, the kids are a train wreck. My first reaction was an immediate turn to Netflix, but that was only a temporary solution (because, let’s face it, I’m a better Mom than that... and its not working anymore). At this point I’m actually getting stressed (not the fun, exciting kind) and sporadically hiding in bed hoping to wish my kids away, with all their mess and crying and defiance. They just make me so damn insecure sometimes. I didn’t know something so much smaller than me could make me feel SO out of control. Aaaaaannnd that’s when I got back on track. Out of control. The lists made me feel in control. In a weird backwards way, the stress made me feel in control. But not those little kids. Those little kids want one thing from me - They want to take me away from my tasks and productivity and force me to ignore the passing minutes and focus on the present moment. I once asked a friend of mine who is the mother of three VERY spunky kids how she could deal with all the interaction that they need and still do anything for herself and here’s what she said: “Just pretend you are two, and then do everything you would have loved to do. It really becomes a lot of fun for me when I think that way, and they become my tiny little friends instead of the tiny people who won't let me pee alone.” Along with being scavengers of my solitary time, my kids keep my busyness in check. They make me play outside and pretend I’m a T-rex and dance and read silly books and waste so much time in such a worthwhile and exhausting way. And tomorrow I’ll do it again.

Flash Fiction Friday - "Caterpillar"

A Bedtime Story

Clive woke up on a green leafy bed. He was a brand new caterpillar - just a little baby. But even though he was a baby, when he looked around he couldn’t see anyone. No mom or dad, or anyone, and he was just starting to feel sad when he heard a little voice in his head. It said “that is a tasty leaf you’re on. Why don’t you give it a try?” so he did. First he licked it, then he took a teeny bite, then he took big bite, and another bite, and another until he had eaten the whole thing. Clive got a little bit bigger from eating that whole leaf, but his stomach wasn’t full yet! Now what would he do? But just then the little voice talked again “See that leaf just above your head? That one’s tasty too.” So Clive climbed up the stalk and ate that leaf and grew bigger, then he ate another and grew, and another and grew until he had eaten the ENTIRE bush! Clive was MUCH bigger now and his stomach still wasn’t full! Even after eating a whole bush! What would he do now? The voice said “See that bush across the yard? It’s tasty too.” So Clive walked his chubby body with his dozens of legs ALL the way to the other bush and ate every leaf on it too! This time he didn’t worry because he knew the voice would tell him what to do next. You see, baby caterpillars don’t ever get to see their mom or dad. They don’t have anyone to tell them what to do or how to live, but it’s okay! Because God knows they don’t have any help so HE helps them. He tells them what’s good to eat and how to walk and where to go so they don’t die. So God kept telling Clive what bushes to eat until FINALLY Clive’s stomach got full. By now he was a GIANT caterpillar from eating all those leafs! After all that work of eating and walking to new eating places he felt pretty drowsy. On top of it, his stomach was full for the first time in his whole life! (and you know how relaxing it is to have a full stomach.) Clive had only ever eaten. He didn’t know what to do when he was sleepy, but God whispered “see that branch over there? Way up that tree? That will be a really comfy bed.” Clive always followed God’s voice since it had taken such good care of him, so he climbed up in the tree and laid down on the branch. After a while he got cold, but it was okay because God wrapped him up tight in a super warm blanket and Clive slept and slept and slept. Finally, he woke up. But the blanket was wrapped SO tight he couldn’t get out! He wiggled and wiggled, until finally he got out into the sunshine and... What?! He wasn’t a caterpillar anymore! While he was sleeping God turned him into a butterfly with beautiful wings so he wouldn’t have to crawl on the ground anymore! And he had a new mouth that could eat sweet flowers instead of bitter leaves! And that is how Clive the Caterpillar turned into Clive the Butterfly, even though he didn’t have a mom or dad. The End.

Flash Fiction Friday - "What'll you have?"

He sat in the cramped lobby alone. A window seat with his bag on the seat beside him, reserving the space.

Renee asked if there was anything she could get for him. He stared at her for a moment. She expected him to say something but he didn’t.
“You know, a straight up espresso always gives me a lift on a day like today...” she had watched him trace the trails the rain left on the window.
“No. I’ll just have the honey lemon ginger tea... Um, and a sandwich.”
“Which kin...”
“The one with hard boiled egg.”

It was forty minutes past the lunch hour that the brown haired woman from the bar last weekend had suggested he come by at. Maybe she prefered alcohol centric dates. Maybe she just didn’t prefer him. It would have been awful even if she came. It was rainy instead of sunny and it was hard to talk in the little shop. She would have liked a walk in Prospect park. He was sure. It was even named ‘prospect’, but he stopped himself there. That train of thought was getting too corny.

She watched him rearrange his bag on the floor between his legs. She watched a lot of people. Commute Dave from Newark; Homeless Cathy from the park a few blocks east; Same name Rene, who lived in a town house on 14th. She loved those brick houses down by the park. She grew up on the west coast and there was something so solid about the old buildings here. Maybe, if she could ever get her life started, she’d live in one.


Renee, having taken the time to curl her long hair instead of her usual “keep it out of the cookies” updo and enough makeup to make her feel uneasy, was sitting on a stool at the bar. She was wedged between a drunk 30-something birthday girl and a handsome but too-broad-shouldered-for-this-situation businessman. She had heard this place was popular, but hadn’t considered the implications.

She was the only one sitting alone tonight. The bartender stood in front of her with a question hanging on his face. She hadn’t heard him. He repeated “What’ll you have?”
“Oh. I guess I was, um, hoping something would happen... I mean... I mean maybe I would have to choose a drink... if someone offered to buy one...”
She was trailing off. He was smiling and picked up a small tumbler “Straight up then.”

Non-Fiction Friday - "Being a writer"

My whole life I’ve felt like I had something to say. I’ve felt it steeping in my heart and in my brain. I can feel it on the tip of my tongue. I can almost, just almost, say it sometimes - sometimes finding the words to articulate this... this... thing that I have to say. But it never feels quite right. I’ve always had this theory that the problem is that I’m not old. That as soon as I get old I’ll be able to say that thing. That something will turn on. When I look like my Grandma I’ll be able to tell the story and it will be epic. I’ll open my mouth and wisdom will miraculously and eloquently and simply pour forth like the rock at Horeb; my water will refresh millions. This is how it’s always gone in my imaginations of my future. I’m the old lady with cookies - and advice.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about death. And in the process of attempting to confront, or even admit, one of my greatest fears, I’m learning. I’m learning that people don’t buy anti-aging face cream because they’re vain - they buy it because they’re scared. The lines on their face taking the place of odometer, counting the years they’ve accumulated, roughly estimating the years they have left. I’m only 26 and I can already feel my mortality weighing heavy.

So here I am, waiting until I’m old to say my piece; trying not to grow old. The thing is though, time passes, and as it does I can’t help but observe a change in how I view the world. Slowly but surely I’m seeing what people mean, or rather, what they meant when they told me something years ago. The classic moment when a child becomes a parent and can suddenly see through their parent’s eyes and so many things they had questioned now become clear. The more I experience the world the more I understand. The more humble I am when others share their troubles and the more willing I am to ask for help. And I’m learning why I was waiting for that old lady to show up on my face - it’s because time comes with a consolation prize - the gift of a broad perspective.

I've Moved!

An Explorer's Guide to Staying in:

As an aspiring writer/singer and secret club member, a blog is a nonnegotiable hobby. In the past I've posted my observations, adventures, and stories here. Now that the great scholastic migration is over and things are settling into a more consistent routine I've been updating everything - dinner menus, wardrobe, and this blog. I am posting all the Flash/Non Fiction Friday stories that have happened during the construction. Enjoy.