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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

You will eventually have had enough of my grieving process I’m sure, but for the moment you may be finding comfort in walking alongside me. This is what keeps me going. Perhaps you’ve lost someone or perhaps that hasn’t happened for you yet and you’re trying to understand what to expect.

 

Expect nothing.

 

I can safely say that although the journey will hold similar jumps for all of us, the method and speed with which we get through (not over) them, will not be the same whatsoever. Emotions and reactions are dependent on so many things—age, proximity and support for example, come immediately to my mind.

 

I tried to tell you a story today, but couldn’t find the words. Everything else seems trivial right now and even though I know that’s far from the truth, I can’t seem to muster the creative backbone needed to spin a tale.

 

But I did visit my girlfriend this weekend. I’ve known her for twenty years and she moved to what I’d call far away a couple of years ago. I miss her terribly, but it’s also nice to be able to make an excursion out of seeing her now.

 

So off we went, my daughter and I, painlessly driving the three-hour jaunt, stopping only for cheap gas and cheerful wine. (The wine was for me. My daughter is not allowed to get cheerful just yet.) Once settled and after eating (a delicious Thai meal courtesy of Leslie’s hubby) we sat on the couch and the dreaded reared its inevitable head. We hadn’t, of course, seen each other since my Papa’s passing and she asked how things were going and how everyone was doing. We talked for some time…well into the night, and as we headed off to bed we were still pondering what happens on the other side.

 

I told her that as much as the idea of a guardian angel seems comforting, I don’t like the idea of them having to watch over us. After all, what kind of torture would it be to see our children but be unable to touch or talk to them?

 

“No,” I said. “I like to believe they take a version of us along for the ride and that way, for them, not a thing has changed.”

Cool-memes-living-life-in-the-clouds

 

 

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This article.

 

 

This article winks at me from across the room, then leaves with someone else. It asks me out to dinner and dodges the check. It promises tickets to a show that isn’t playing. It snatches my last Rolo and while we huddle side by side in a muddy, war-torn trench, it tells me we don’t stand a chance.

 

In a shell, I’m the nut and it’s the cracker and it splintered my little blog-bound heart into a million tiny pieces.

 

I admit going through a similar process to what Carol describes. Writing has always been in my life, but I felt that putting my work out there was the next step. In fact, I believed I’d be hiding in the dark ages by not leaping into the light. That’s how I came to birth my blog and as is human nature, I continue to nurture it despite the pain it causes me.

 

Next, they fall in love with the blog, and then spend way too much time on it.”

 

It’s almost three years old now, and yes I’m in love. Not because—“…it’s so empowering, pushing that ‘publish’ button on whatever you want to say…that it becomes addictive.”—but because I don’t feel alone. It’s not just me anymore. I went from what was, in my mind, selfish, to sharing, hopeful my words would entertain and inspire. At times, I even dare to believe I’d be letting you down should I vanish into thin air.

 

“It’s a dying niche because semi-literate, half-baked posts you dash off in 15 minutes for search robots to index don’t work any more.”

 

Piercing music screams in my head, reaching its crescendo as the shards of my heart are flattened and ground into a fine dust by this suggestion. Half-baked…dashed off in 15 minutes…I’m writing for robots?

 

Ouch.

 

But, I read Carol’s article through several times, washing it down with a tall glass of cool coherence. And you might be surprised to know that once I’d swallowed the pulp and circumstance, I concurred—If you want to write articles, you should of course, write articles.

 

But if you, like me, simply want to write of myth and whimsy to see where the wind takes you, there’s no need for a plummeting spirit. Tice’s advice doesn’t apply to you. Just keep doing what you’re doing because well, it makes you so darn extraordinary.

science_fiction_11

All bolded quotes taken from “Why You Should Stop Writing Blog Posts (and What to Do Instead) by Carol Tice at makealivingwriting.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I try to eat. I really do. But the numbers keep jumbling around in my tummy—making their way up my throat and filling my mouth, leaving no room for food. I can barely stomach the math test I’m about to endure, never mind the syrupy oatmeal my mom has been simmering on the stove top for the last half hour.

 

The sweet smell is what woke me. A deep inhale, one eye open, then the other. What normally would have made me snuggle deeper into the mattress and relish what a lucky kid I was instead made my stomach twist and turn on this particular morning.

 

I’d stayed up most of the night meaning to study, the flashlight casting a warm glow beneath the covers, right down to my toes. Though it had shed enough light over the pages of my textbook, concentrating had been impossible. The equations consumed me. Each symbol became a joint and each line, a top or bottom jaw. They’d snapped at me amongst the shadows and the sharp edges of their difficulty had left imprints upon the worried creases in my mind.

 

“Breakfast!” My mother had cheerily called, oblivious to my grief.

 

Sitting now at the table, trying to not look as miserable as I am, I toy with a small spoonful of thick oats.

 

“Cream’s on the table,” my mother sing-songs. “You might want to thin it out.”

 

Her head is buried in the fridge, pen poised over a notepad as she makes a grocery list for her morning shop, but I can tell she’s picking up on something. She’s slowly raising her head and sniffing the air, honing in on my turmoil as only a mother can do.

 

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Grandpa mutters as he shuffles into the kitchen. He’s dressed for his walk in running shoes and track pants, but his sweatshirt is crumpled in his hands in a ball of frustration.

 

“What’s up, Gramps?” I ask, quite frankly happy for the distraction as my mother’s head ducks back into the fridge.

 

“The Goddamn string,” he snarls. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” He holds up the long cord that has come loose from inside the seam of his hood. It dangles freely, no longer attached to his sweatshirt in any way.

 

My mother, clearly wanting to avoid any Grampa drama, turns her back and hums a loud, happy tune and as she opens and closes cupboard drawers, scribbling away.

 

“Let me see it,” I offer, holding out my hand.

 

He shoves the soft, grey material at me and sits down in a pout.

 

“You stay and eat your fruit,” I tell him. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

 

When I return, he’s concentrating on his getting flimsy pieces of mandarin and slippery chunks of pear from his bowl into his mouth without letting them slip off the fork.

 

“Good as new!” I announce, knowing this will make his day.

 

“How did you do this?” He asks, astonished. “I tried for so long…it seemed impossible.”

 

I take the large safety pin out of my pocket and show him how I’d pierced the string with it and fed it through the long tunnel of fabric, grabbing the pin and pulling it, and the string, further down the line as more fabric bunched up around it and until it popped out at the other end.

 

My Grandfather’s eyes widened as my mother’s rolled behind him.

 

“Amazing, just amazing.” But his pleasure is somewhat short-lived as his brain kicks into gear.

 

“What’s to stop this from happening again? I don’t want to have to do this every time I go for a walk.” His brow furrows as he brings his palms up to his face.

 

“You won’t have to, Grampa. Look.” I tie a small knot into each side of the drawstring, just at the base of the opening into the hood. “See? It’s not going anywhere now!”

 

“You’re a genius, my darling! A true genius!” The last part is muffled as he pulls the hoodie over his head, excited to be able to tug it tight.

 

I finally begin to smile as I watch my Grandfather head off to meet his pals at the park.

 

And why wouldn’t I? Geniuses after all, don’t fail math tests.

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Do I have to come out?

 

I admit I’m sort of comfy here in my hiding place. I mean, it’s soft and warm and I know that just outside of it lies the prickly and confusing.

 

I didn’t realize that’s what it was at first. A hiding place, I mean. Hiding wasn’t my intention. Honestly, all I wanted was to decompress. Absorb, grip and wrap…it all around my little finger.

 

But that hasn’t happened yet.

 

I attended a Conference the first week of October. My first one. Ever. I went with a friend to test the waters, be inspired and learn. Man, did I learn. It was for Blogging, much different, I imagine, than a Writing Conference. Writing was of course touched on, in the way of, no matter how much promoting is done, none of it will matter if a reader lands in on spelling mistakes and poorly structured sentences.

 

This, I knew.

 

What I didn’t know is how much promoting is possible. A blog can be saleable! Yes, I get that you’re all laughing right now, chuckling about my naiveté and rolling your eyes at my childlike misconception. Imagine. I’ve been using this platform as a simple journal. Silly me. Tsk, tsk!

 

At this point you’re probably hoping you won’t start seeing banner ads for preemie diapers and adult depends hovering above the short stories that have come to call my site home.

 

Heaven knows I support making money. I can even say I feel I should, in a world made of cotton candy clouds, be paid for my musings on this blog. And, why not? It takes me days or at a minimum, hours to compose a post. I even believe, that at the very least, I’ve managed to be somewhat entertaining. (Should you think differently, feel free not to leave a comment below)

 

But this seminar brought together two minds under one roof. Those that advertise loud and proud and those that either feel advertising is wrong or out of place on a personal blog.

 

Now that I know this dilemma exists, I can say that I don’t think it’s wrong.

 

If that opportunity comes your way, you should grab it. Obviously, I don’t display ads here, but let it be heard by the financial Gods, I’m open to it. I write for my heart and yours, and being paid for doing so does not make that any less sincere. I do think the ads you choose to place should be a good fit for your blog’s theme. So, if your blog is unfocussed, or, ahem, hazy like mine, I guess you’ve hit the proverbial pot of gold.

 

Money must be funny...

Money must be funny…

 

Really though, when we write a novel or paint a masterpiece, notice I said when, we’ll hardly be looking to give it away. Writing for unmonetized pleasure, and this does bring much, much pleasure, is wonderful, but deciding we’d like to pay for things with it, doesn’t make it tacky or low. It simply makes it lucrative.

 

I don’t know if I’ll ever run ads or make money from what I do, but what I do know is that every time the word writing was mentioned at that conference, my heart skipped a beat. That’s gotta count for something.

 

– – –

 

Post Script:

 

I’d like to mention that I really have been stuck for a couple of weeks, so if you’re still following me, bless you. And, if you’ve followed me in recent days, know that you are a big part of what dislodged the stick from my spokes and I’m truly grateful to you.

 

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A solution for nothing and not a thing to be solved, death loses him.

From the top of the hill, the tall fawn grass waves in the wind like the fringes we used to cut into the bottoms of our brown-bag puppets. We’d slice deep into the paper openings, my sister and I, making long hula skirts for the girls and stunted choppy shorts for the boys. Our stage, a bent up box, fashioned a Broadway buzz we’d only ever heard of, with its wide-open flaps draped in red.

The audience, made of the few neighborhood kids we’d manage to rope in, would wait while we tried desperately to remember our lines. More often than not, we’d end up filling the theatre that was our backyard with unplanned garbles and hysterical giggles ⎯both theirs and ours.

I look down at him now, from my perch on the hill, and although his feet are firmly set in the dark tousled dirt, he doesn’t know where he stands. He can’t fix this, so his hands are lost at his sides, compulsively ducking in and out of his trouser pockets. Weight shifts from one side to the other, but stays with him. Unable to shake it, he glances uphill, towards me.

We’d fought this morning⎯today of all days. Awakened from my fitful sleep by haunting catheter fuck-ups, I was tired and beyond sensible words, dreaming of broken needle tips, embedded and unreachable beneath her veiny skin. I’d envisioned the consequential surgeries and probable infections they would cause and the nightmare had stirred my sleepy heart, sending it stampeding through my ribs.

My eyes raced to find his for comfort, but as soon as he’d seen my sweat-glazed face shrouded in twisted sheets, impatience had crossed his own.

“You don’t have to worry about this anymore, Syd,” he’d said. “No more long days or late nights. We should move past it. We can move on.”

I’d looked away, sobbing. Crying until my softened soul frosted into a hard shell, like melted chocolate over ice cream.

“We?” We can move on?”

“Syd, I…”

We can’t do anything, Mark. Including care for my sister. That was me, not we.”

“That’s not fair, Sydney. I was here.”

“Yeah, here. Not there.”

I’d wanted to run. Put a literal distance between us, but I couldn’t. The day had different plans.

He became unrecognizable through my tear-clouded gaze and I’d dug my heels deep into the mattress, pushing against the headboard as tight as I could.

He’d sighed.

I’d buried myself in the useless warmth of the duvet, hoping he’d slide under and hold me, but when I heard the shower running, I’d dragged myself out to face the black buttoned blouse and matching skirt that darkened my closet door.

The stalky grass tickles my legs and I lift my bare feet up in the air. My toenails, normally primped and polished, are chipped and ragged⎯the skin on my shins, dry and scaly and suddenly, I can’t remember the last time I’d had more than a sip of water to wash down a Valium. My mouth is as dry as the Sahara.

“Do they make me look fat?” Stacey had joked as she slipped them over her long, twiggy fingers. I’d spent hours picking them out. Trying on pair after pair, imagining how they’d feel if my fingers were half the width. Finding a pair slim enough had been a challenging task and I’d taken great care so as not to stretch the fine black leather. But when she’d pulled them over her own hands, they’d fit, quite compassionately, like a glove.

“Well, they’re beautiful, but so are your hands.” I’d said. “I don’t think you have anything to cover up.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stacey had balked. “I could be a hand double for Skeletor.”

As dramatic as she was, she’d earned it.

And, it was the truth.

I hold my hands up to the sun and study the opaque bones nestled inside the tangerine translucence of my own plump flesh⎯like Stacey’s hands are a part of mine. I slide back into my shoes, slap my sister’s well-worn gloves across my palm and for the first time in months, I’m light as I walk down the hillside.

After all, death is a solution for nothing and not a thing to be solved.

I can move on.

hands holding the sun at dawn

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She moves through the office of pencil skirts, short shorts and barely-there bottoms, feeling like her very walk is an apology on behalf of women with thick ankles and swaying backsides everywhere. She hugs the files to her chest, hoping they cover what should probably be the least of her worries and tries to hold her head high.

She gets as far as the third cubicle.

Sure that Monica produces a snicker, certain Shelley looks up from her ledgers and giggles, mortified that Terry might’ve just let out one big howl⎯she looks down at her feet.

And walks on.

She endures growing consciousness with every step. Aware that the fabric in her own knee length skirt bunches with every movement, mindful no one wears hose anymore as her own cause her to sweat right through her high-wasted undies, regretful of the tightish blouse she’d questioned herself on twice this morning before eventually locking her apartment door with a sigh.

Today is no different than yesterday or the day before or the day before that. Her clothes never fit right. Never look right. Never, ever, feel right. She doesn’t walk the aisles with the ease the other women do. She doesn’t head in early to stand at the Keurig allowing everyone to acknowledge her new, may as well be painted on, skinny jeans.

Why did she chose an office where every day is Friday?

No, she comes in early to clamber into her chair and hide behind her desk before anyone else gets in. She waits well past much needed bathroom breaks, hoping for a clear coast and sits parched long after everyone else is off to be fed and watered.

“Hey, Dot. Sitting in again?”

Her boss is a tall man⎯thin and wiry, looming over her desk like a flag at full-mast.

“Oh, yeah, I guess. Just finishing these last reports.”

He glances at all the other desks sprinkled with open files, papers askew, clearly nowhere near completion.

“In a dream world, your co-workers would do the same.” He laughs.

“Well, we can’t all be perfect,” she jokes nervously.

She’s good at her job. Gets her work done. She’s thorough, accurate and always on time. She works through her lunch and stays late without complaining. She is perpetually professional and despite what she feels is a less than desirable façade; her appearance is unfailingly tidy.

“So true.” He smiles. “Ah, well I hope you get time to eat at some point today. I wouldn’t want you fading away.”

Her face is a fiery inferno. Fading away? Is he making fun of her now too?

With shaky hands hidden below the desk’s surface, she tries desperately to smooth out the fabric covering her belly. She pulls her body out of its slouch and shifts in her chair.

“No chance,” she replies uneasily. “I’m hardly that fragile.”

Mr. Brig looks her up and down and then directly in the eye.

“Don’t underestimate yourself, Dot.”

tape measure images

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Unearthly quiet fills creeks and crevices. Swings sway loosely in the intermittent wind, their rusty chains straining against the tongue-tied backdrop. They make their way through littered streets, Luna’s fingers loosely curved around Elian’s palm like the branches of a wallowing willow.

 

“My feet are so sore,” she says sadly, stooping to poke a finger down the back of her slack boot.

 

He knows they’re too big, but a good score nonetheless. There they’d been, waiting for him it seemed, on the red and gold foyer rug. He’d swung open the heavy double doors and their soft leather had slouched, making them look half as tall, their laces still strong and intact.

 

He’d found them in a house, clearly once cozy and comforting, now forlorn and deserted. Unable to face a childless life, many had fled the outbreak thrust upon them, running in search of a life restored. Luna had long been wearing sandals that barely clung to her feet and with winter approaching, he’d known that despite the size difference they were meant for her.

 

Anything left behind is fair game as far as he is concerned.

 

They come upon the market with its soaped out windows now caked in dirt. A yellowed newspaper lounges on the cement, lazily waving in the breeze.

 

“Won’t be much in there,” she smiles a little. Her hair, lit by the cold sun, looks like the soft caramel he used to eat.

 

Panic had ensued as missing person reports increased by the day. Hours had dissolved into a myriad of search and rescues, candlelight vigils, prayers and séances. Confusion and chaos became a way to survive and finally, angst and torment, depression and mourning, a way of life.

 

“It’s boarded for a reason.”

 

Elian has always been wise but has had to hone his wits since this all began. He is responsible for Luna and will protect her with his life. However, he needs to ensure it doesn’t come to that. He must remain with her and avoid any risk that might separate them.

 

He walks Luna over to a dormant vending machine and has her lean against it while he checks the perimeter of the market. Once he decides it’s safe, he returns and begins prying off the boards that have been haphazardly slapped over the entryway. They come off easily enough but he feels Luna watching him intently and is again reminded why he needs to maintain his strength.

 

As he wrenches the last board, she is at his side, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow, anything to stop the useless feeling that often overcomes her.

 

She coughs as a billow of grime hits them in the face.

 

On the second day of what they now call The Salvage, Luna’s younger brother and sister had disappeared. Like so many others, gone without a trace. After months of searching and hoping her parents had decided to journey on in pursuit of peace, maybe to the next town, perhaps across the ocean, they didn’t know, but Luna would not go with them.

 

She and Elian had taken over the family home, but were forced to leave when it became overrun with drug-toting squatters. Again, Elian had been wise in realizing it wasn’t worth the fight. He’d had to pull Luna by the arm for miles while she sobbed, devastated her siblings might return to the nightmare she’d left behind.

 

“Normally, I’d say after you, but in this case…” Elian steps inside and bats away the cobwebs that immediately engulf his face.

 

There had been many town meetings in which ideas were thrown about. Terrified mothers worried there’d been a mass killing and the bodies just hadn’t been found. Fathers held their shotguns at the ready, waiting for whoever had taken what wasn’t theirs, to return.

 

It was a long time before sense was made, but bit-by-bit, the town’s people had little choice than to admit the children now gone were conceived without love. They were the ones that had grown from desperation or greed – a marriage that needed repairing or a hole that had to be filled. At times, money had been the motivator or sadly, some were born an appointed whipping post.

 

The women, eager to replace what had been lost, tried to conceive through despair but their loveless attempts were no longer fruitful.

 

Luna follows behind Elian as he clears a path. Once inside, they stop in awe. Canned goods and jars of jellies practically glow on the shelves.

 

Elian opens a package and spreads a thin plastic tablecloth over the dirty floor.

 

“You’re my everything, Luna.” He says watching his wife stroke her pregnant belly.

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