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Archive for November, 2013

Better to write for yourself

Are you sitting down? If not, you’d be best to take a seat. This may come as a shock, but two people unfollowed me on Thursday. It’s not like I keep mad track of these things, but I did notice this. You see I’ve only ever had someone unfollow me once before now. I dunno…wordpress people just don’t generally seem to unfollow and I don’t have that many followers to begin with, so when one leaves, I feel it. The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.

These unfollowings happened to coincide with my posting of Bird of Paradise. Within an hour of that neat-o little snippet, I was down two. I know exactly what you’re thinking…shut the front door!

Now, why they chose to leave me is of course, a mystery. Maybe they like belly button rings, maybe they have one, maybe…they wish I had one. Or perhaps, they just thought the whole story, or my writing, stunk. Maybe both. Maybe none of the above.

I’m not privy to the elements that led to their decision, but what I do know is, Bird of Paradise is a work of fiction. It’s made up entirely of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. It is, in no way, a statement of my opinions on piercings, people who do or do not have them, men with terrible timing and thick skulls or women who pretend to be something they’re not in their relationships. To each his own, I say.

I take whatever floats in on that free-running stream I call a blessing and let it flow from my fingertips. Does it cross my mind before I hit publish, whether or not people will like my work? Absolutely. And then I press the button.

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Although I’d told him not to get me anything, I am secretly buzzing inside. Right there, on the dining room table, in the middle of two beautiful place settings and a chilling bottle of bubbly is a small black leather box, encircled in a bright red, glossy ribbon.

Engaged. Am I ready? Oh hell ya, I think. Four years together and I’ve been waiting at least three of those for this day.

“Honey?” Brett calls from upstairs. “Are you home? Do not go in the dining room!”

I tiptoe out of the room I’m not supposed to be in and call out; “I’m starving! When’s dinner?”

There’s a familiar creak from that fourth stair and there he is, curled lip, white teeth and a shock of chocolate locks. The smell of fresh laundry mixed with his cologne tickles my nose.

I shiver.

He still makes me shiver. I am so ready for that ring.

He crosses the floor in two strides and his tanned arms circle me like the ribbon around the box.

“Hey, babe. I’ve been waiting for you. Dinner’s ready.”

He twirls me around to face the dining room and guides me from behind, a hand on each of my hips.

“Sit,” he commands. “Dinner in a minute, but first…”

I close my eyes. Here it comes, I think. Oh my God, I am about to be proposed to. I am about to be a fiancé!

The pop of the cork makes me jump and my eyes fly open.

“Oh, I thought we’d do that after.” I say, confused.

“Absolutely not!” He says, seemingly appalled. “Champagne with dinner is a must.”

We feast.

Brett is head chef at the local Indian Fusion and we bask in Vindaloo smothered Basmati, crispy meat-filled Samosas and crunchy vegetable Pakoras dripping in Tamarind.

I eat a lot more than I should and drink a little more than I mean to. My eyes keep veering over to the box. I cover my impatience by pulling out the card I bought him from the back pocket of my jeans.

Hi rips through my leisurely scrawl and pulls out the content of the envelope.

“Nice.” He says from behind the big red heart on the front of the card. “I love you too, sweetheart. Which is why…” He finally hands me the box. “I got you this.”

As I open it, I can’t help but think it’s weird that I am the one doing this while he just sits and stares, rather than being down on one knee, but I put that out of my mind. I quickly realize it’s not what I want to be thinking while I ponder an impending lifelong commitment.

I’m blinded by the glint created as the light from our chandelier bounces off the large jewel in the box. It takes my breath away.

“Do you like it?” He asks hopefully. “There’s a card too. Here, open it. It’ll all make more sense.”

I put the box down, tears welling, and read the card he’s handed to me.

“I don’t get it.” I say, my voice strangled with emotion.

“It’s white gold and a real diamond, but if you don’t like it there were lots to choose from. We can go in together…”

I’m stunned.

“Like it? We’ve had this conversation a thousand times. No, I don’t like it. I…”

“Babe, it’ll look good. I know it will.”

I fight with the lump in my throat and somehow manage to swallow it down. I watch as he takes the gem out of the box and then dangles it in front of me.

“Just try it, honey. For me. C’mon, I don’t ask much.”

I look down at the piece of paper in my hand and see he’s booked me in for tomorrow morning. No time to waste. No opportunity to change his mind. No chance to stick to my guns.

I close my eyes again. The red place mats he’s bought especially for tonight, the way he’s folded our napkins into Birds of Paradise, the meal he cooked, the music he played, the champagne I drank. All of them gang up to make me slightly lightheaded.

“Alright,” I tell him. “Tomorrow it is. Tomorrow, I guess I will officially be one of those girls with bling in her button.” I try to smile. He grins.

I take another long sip of my now warm, sour champagne and wonder if this is the first or the last time I will pretend to be something I’m not.

And, I shiver.

Bird of Paradise 1

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Like I said before, sometimes the universe, even if it’s just that little writing corner that you frequent, seems to instinctively know when you need a little oomph.

I’m sending out a quick Friday post to let you know the long-awaited results of that writing contest I mentioned a while back came in. I managed to sink my claws into the rallying rung above and somehow clutched runner-up this time.

Here is a link to my SHORT STORY.

I’m thrilled, but I’m sure I need not point out the pattern forming here and the expectation it lends. I’m really not that tall, so I hope to grow, only of course, to reach the next notch up. I’m quite happy with my height.

Runner Up 1

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Bev’s tea is always so much hotter. It’s because she boils her water in a stainless steel kettle over a big gas range. As she slices carrots through the floral veil drifting up from my mug, I half listen while she chirps and chops.

“As for Dan, well I mean, he’s an idiot. That’s all there is to it.”

I contemplate responding, but before I have time to decide it would be useless, she’s talking again.

“I mean, ‘where’s my green shirt’ like I’m supposed to know where every damn thing in this house is. So, I say; Listen Dan, the key word in that question is my. Not green, not shirt, but my. It’s your damn shirt, Dan. You find it.”

I could suggest that perhaps Dan thought she’d taken it to the cleaners or folded it into a drawer instead of hanging it up, but I know Bev too well. It won’t matter what I say. She wants to be angry. She wants to rant. God knows I love her, but she hasn’t changed since we were kids.

Two clicks and a flame ignites under the pot she’s scraped chunks of bloody beef into. There is an immediate sizzle.

“So, what about you?” You and Ducky okay?”

There is a quick flash of Ryan, his chubby legs tangled in a hooded towel, his wet skin slick in the light of the lamp. “Ducky, ducky!” He’d shouted, madly crawling towards the yellow plastic duck he’d thrown out of the bath moments before.

“His first word!” Bev had squealed! “And I witnessed it!”

“Bev, he’s fifteen now. He hates Ducky. It’s Ryan. Besides, for the millionth time, you know that was not his first word.

“Well, it was the first one I heard.”

She slides the carrots, onions and potatoes from the thick cutting board into the pot, then mixes the jumble with a large stainless spoon.

“We’re alright, I suppose. “Ryan’s never home, really. It’s like I live alone.” I instantly bite the inside of my cheek, cursing myself for unleashing what will undoubtedly become a lashing.

Her head’s sealed in an envelope of steam but I can see her hands spritzing dashes of oregano and thyme, basil and pepper. The salty fusion wafts through the air and just about has me rethinking vegetarianism.

“And you will be soon enough. Alone, that is.”

I know what’s coming and to stall, I take a sip of my still scalding tea.

“Hmm?” I murmur deep into the cup.

“You need to find someone, Beth. You need help, someone to be a father figure to Ducky. Fifteen? No Dad? You’re asking for trouble.

I think about Ryan. Him telling me that he once again wouldn’t be home for dinner because he’d be working the late shift after school. Him explaining the horrifying reasons he didn’t want to go to any of the house parties he was invited to. The little list of chores he kept taped to the back of his computer monitor; a secret reminder of what he could do to help me out around the house. And, I think of why I’ve come to Bev’s today.

“Beth. Bethany! Are you even listening to me?” Bev’s hand is on her hip, the other still stirring the brew now bubbling on the stove. “I was just saying that Dan, when he can find the time, could have a chat with Duck.”

“It’s Ryan,” I interrupt. “He’d like to be called Ryan.”

She tsks and continues. “He could use a little guidance and Dan, despite the jackass he is when it comes to, well, most things, would at least be a male to talk to. I mean, it’s mostly me parenting, but I have to admit Dan has managed not to screw Stephen up. He’s such a great kid.”

I realize my hands are scorched and I loosen my tight grip on the mug. Stephen is Ryan’s eighteen-year-old cousin. He’d tried to sell Ryan some pills yesterday. Said he was trying to make money to get out of the house. He told him he kept his stash in a compartment under the steering wheel of his car in case Ryan ever changed his mind.

“Ryan and I are just fine on our own,” I tell her. “Listen, I gotta get going, but you should really take Steve’s car into the mechanic. Ryan said the steering wheel was shaking yesterday. He worries.”

“It’s Stephen!” She calls as I gently close the door behind me.

Rubber Ducky

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The Band-Aids are blue and there are four that I can see, one masking each little knee poking from below her skirt’s hem and one on each elbow like patches covering holes on an old man’s cardigan. The rest are hidden, but I know they’re there. They’re always there.

Back one night as she lay on her firm cot, she’d whispered into the lamp’s soft glow; “They can change, you know. When I’m happy, they turn purple. It’s like magic.”

I’d stayed very still, blocking the breaths of the nine other girls asleep in the room, silently willing Evie to share more secrets.

“But they’ve been blue for a really long time.” She’d sighed before drifting off.

Alone now, we sit facing one another, and she scans my expression. I see her brown eyes, upturned and massive through strands of mousy hair. Her lips look dry and her petite hands are folded in her lap. Her eyes dart from me to Jiffy who is trying his best not to squirm.

I’d planned various greetings while waiting for them to arrive today, even said them aloud while fussing with the fruit bowl, but when the doorbell rang, I’d merely opened it and stood, my gaze dropping from the social worker’s eager eyes to Evie, her backpack and her Band-Aids. She seemed even more fragile out here in the big world and everything I thought I’d say had left me.

My heart thumps. What do I do with this helpless creature? Adopting Jiffy was so different. A single pat had sparked instant love. But this? I suddenly feel like a fraud.

When I finally stand, she pulls herself smaller, shrinking into the chair’s dark corner.

Resisting the urge to scoop her up like a curly new pup, I present Jiffy instead. “Want to hold him? He loves kids.”

She shakes her head, unfolds her hands and gathers her skirt into two mid-thigh rosettes.

“It’s okay,” I assure her. “He might want to get to know you first anyway. He’s smart like that.”

I smile and her body seems to grow just a tiny bit.

“You should definitely come see your room though. I think you’ll like it in there. At least, I hope so. I read every decorating magazine out trying to make it look cool.”

She doesn’t laugh, but gently leans over and picks up her backpack. It’s a small victory.

I walk delicately terrified she’ll break along the way, but when I open the door, I hear her draw a quiet breath behind me.

It’s cliché, really. A room much like the ones most girls her age should find themselves in; shades of lavender, a single bed, a fluffy rug and an old bookshelf I’d bought at a yard sale up the street. I’d been pleased with my efforts but now that she’s here, they somehow seem not enough.

My doubt mounts as she walks in, drops her knapsack and kneels in front of the crammed bookcase.

“I’ve never owned a book,” she says in a Christmas morning kind of whisper. “We weren’t allowed to take them out of the reading room in foster care.”

“Which one was your favorite?” I ask, hoping I’ve masked the sadness in my voice.

“I don’t know what it was called,” she answers. “The cover was ripped.” She picks up one of the books I bought at the same yard sale as the shelves and runs her hand across the front. I can see she’s already lost in it.

I set Jiffy down and am amazed when he doesn’t rush at her like he would anyone else. We watch in silence as she takes the book over to the big beanbag and sinks in. It’s like she forgets we’re here. Her body becomes so engulfed in the chair’s violet fabric all I can see are the milky cotton socks spilled around her ankles.

I sneak away to make some lunch. She must be hungry and I’m sure I’ve burned through a thousand calories by now my heart rate is so high.

I smooth jam over bread, but can’t help myself and tiptoe back to Evie’s room for a peek. I find her and Jiff asleep on the beanbag and as I move Evie’s backpack out of the way, a frayed, coverless book falls out onto the floor. Stooping to pick it up, I notice she’s scribbled over her blue Band-Aids with a pink hi-liter, turning them a mottled purple.

“It is magic.” I whisper.

Magic Purple Band-Aids

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It should be no surprise when I tell you that my good friend Jim won the little contest I held the other day. Actually, I’ve never met Jim, nor had any kind of interaction with him until my post (and his comment) on my last entry, but I’m hoping, as I am with many of you, that we will now share a bond through writing (and reading) and the hike we are all on towards our own personal summits, wherever we wish to end up.

The deal was, the first person to like and comment on that post would win a highly acclaimed book that I have read, enjoyed and learned from, called; “On Writing” by Stephen King.

On Writing Stephen King

As soon as there was a winner, off to Amazon I skipped to order a brand-spankin’ new copy. Mine is hi-lited and marked up the yazoo and although I’m sure I’ve picked only the utmost important snippets, I was positive Jim would prefer a shiny new one. Generous of me, huh?

Well, Jim one-upped me with this:

“What I would appreciate you doing is donate it to a group or agency that you think would really enjoy it and put my name inside it along with how it got there. That would be great. it’s not that I don’t appreciate the gift but I would like to give it to those who are less likely to be able to obtain a copy. When you find a home for it could you let me know where it went.”

I know, right? I’m a schmuck! I knew that most writer’s would already own a copy of this book (duh) but figured that would be the case with most any writing book I picked and I was particularly entertained by this one, so I figured, meh – he’ll gift it to a friend or simply accept the fact that he now has two copies and move on…as I often do when I accidentally by a book that I already have. (Oops, was that my outside voice?)

But no, not Mr. Jim. He came up with a much better, much more grand-hearted idea than mine and it’s not because he already owns it. In fact, I don’t think he even clicked the link to find out what he’d won. (In his email he also admitted to being a tad challenged technically) He just genuinely wanted to give the book to someone with less resource and I am grateful for his outside the box thinking.

The giveaway thing was exhilarating and I will be doing it again, but my eyes are now open to a fresh myriad of modes. How cool is that? It’s proof there are benefits of connecting, gathering and collecting here other than to tout our own trips. At the risk of a little cheese, we can also learn from one another beyond a writing aspect. Now, if only Jim would follow me back…

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This is the second of two quick posts in a row, neither of them are worth any more of your time than what I’ve put into them…which totals mere minutes…but today is a day I’d like to mark despite having to steal the time do it, and you never know, maybe you have a few minutes to spare.

I started my blog on March 30, 2012. So far, I am enjoying it immensely and as of today, I have organically grown exactly 400 hundred followers. I am not including facebook or twitter peeps – simply the people that I have, post by WordPress post, managed to entice into my lair as magically as the Pied Piper. Okay – there’s been nothing magical about it. It’s all been blood,sweat and tears, nevertheless, I maintain that I’ve performed a miraculous miracle. At least, it feels that way to me.

Hazy's 400

So, to mark the occasion and include you in what I feel is something to celebrate, I’d like to send the very first person to both like and comment on this post, a book that USA Today refers to as; “A fascinating look at the evolution and redemption of one of the hardest-working storytellers today.” 

Take it and....GO!

Take it and….GO!

 Relatives and employees of Hazy Shades of Me prohibited from winning.  ;0)

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