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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Hope floats, right?

 

Or is it that we float on hope? Do we need to search for it? Call it? Or does it just know where we are? Does hope simply show up at the door…ring the bell? Grab our hands and take us for a spin?

 

I don’t think hope is as lighthearted as that.

 

I do think it finds us. Yes. But it finds us because it’s looking very hard. Looking for the ones who will take it seriously. That won’t waste what it has to offer. That will use its power for good. Hop on its back and have faith that they’ll be in the right place when next their feet touch the soil.

 

I think hope is still.

 

And heavy. A good heavy. An anchor. And that once we manage to grab hold, it weights us. Makes us stable. Gives refuge to wait out the storm. And lets its optimism shower down from a star-studded sky.

 

I think hope is like an Orchid.

 

It’s looking for the people who are willing to turn the crap life has handed them into mulch. Cultivate its roots. And still…still have hope that hope will believe in them. People who trust that if it’s well looked after. Nurtured. Respected. And truly happy.

That they’ll be blessed with living alongside its bloom more often than once a year.

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I wrote a post the other day. Yay, me! About a bird. Well, it seems it was about a bird, but to be honest, I rarely write in a literal sense. I’m just usually the last to know.

 

And people liked it. Oddly, I did too. And that’s a real rarity for me. Because sadly, though not surprisingly, I am plagued with the writer’s plight. One’s own work is never good. And even worse, it’s never enough. In fact, why am I even showing it to anyone, silly monkey! So, to feel like it passed muster is a true blessing indeed.

 

But…I need the formula. What was so likeable? Why did you like it? And the harder question – why did I?

 

It’s laced with attractive language. And a lightness that brings a certain prettiness to the page. It’s short. And sweet. Grammatically correct. And even though it might be what some would perhaps call, wandering, it still manages to be direct and to the point. When you believe I’m actually talking about a bird, that is.

 

And all those things are good. But I don’t think they’re the reasons we liked it, do you? If I had to guess, (which obviously I do because, for some reason, very few people ever actually comment on my posts) I’d say it’s because it’s mysterious. And moving. And metaphorical. Have I gone too far in patting myself on the back? Another thing about writers…most of us are delusional.

 

Anyway…

 

Mystery. Movement. Metaphors.

 

We usually like those three things the best, don’t we?

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Lately, anyone who can get me to finish what I’ve started has my full attention.

 

Obviously.

 

It might also be obvious—at least I hope it is—that I get joy from writing. Despite the fact that tucked inside that joy is a tag. Much like the grating kind that is often stitched into the neck of a shirt.

 

Okay. Side note – Why do they do that? I can’t be the only one who thinks it an unnecessary form of torture. No matter how painstaking my snips, I have inadvertently cut holes in 80% of my wardrobe while trying to remove every last pokey bit.

 

Unnecessary, perhaps. But clearly effective in capturing my attention.

 

And writing is that for me too. I never forget it’s there. It scratches at my skin. Claws at my neck. Breathes, I’m here and you will not be rid of me that easily. Writing is up in my face as boldly and relentlessly as that damn razor-threaded spikey tag. It won’t let me clean. Or organize. Or putter contently the way I used to.

 

It sticks to me while I attempt to be as satisfied as I once was, arranging a closet or making the beds. “You’re not thriving,” it hisses behind me. “None of this stuff will last.” Its tone is chiding, as it references my efforts to keep the house clean. The words, you are not making a difference, branding my neck red and raw. Leaving holes in what once was the solid fabric of my life.

 

So yes, writing itself is a distraction for me. It even makes reading tough. I start a book and can only think, you should be trying to write. Look at this author. They did it. Why can’t you?

 

I have a lot of ¼ (not even ½) read books on my shelves because of this. And I know this is wrong. It is the opposite of what an aspiring writer should do. If you want to be kickass, one of the most important things you should be doing, besides writing, is reading. Lots.

 

Thankfully being unable to finish them for the last year or so hasn’t squelched my enthusiasm for buying books.

 

A short while ago, I picked up Not That Kind of Girl. Purchased in a University bookstore, no less. Which now makes me feel kinda kindred with the author. Like, I “got” her before I even read the book.

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And yes. I did read it. Cover to cover.

 

It’s a compilation of essays. Journal entries. Perfected blog posts. Micro stories. (She may cringe at those last three depictions) And in them, Lena Dunham chronicles the notable times and moments in her life to date.

 

Entertaining. Painful. Hilarious. Tragic. Raw. Moments.

 

She masterfully pegs subjects to the line most of us tend to keep buried at the bottom of the pile. With a hilarity that can only be understood as, broken but mending.

 

Things like, an aggressive sexual encounter in university. One she tried to laugh off initially, but later, had to admit was pretty much a rape. You don’t usually, after all, cry regularly over an encounter that is not.

 

She talks about drugs. Prescription. Illegal. And her use of both. Her family. Growing up. Relationships. Interactions. STD’s. Sexuality. And sexual orientation.

 

Disorders. Eating. Mental. Personality. And physical. Her weight. Her fame. And her low self-esteem. Despite the fact that she has achieved massive success making use of all of these.

 

I know there are a lot of people who will wonder why anyone would ever need or want to share such delicate thoughts. To tell the world they are imperfect. That their life to date has been far from the Shangri-La it may have seemed. “Air dirty laundry,” so to speak.

 

But, even though I sprout from a tight-lipped culture, I do not find myself wondering.

 

Not one of us will get out of here alive, so why be a façade? What’s the point? Like Lena, I believe there’s a bigger picture to be disclosed. We’re not here to impress. To come across like we’re living “the dream” day after day.

 

Positivity is a gift for sure. To ourselves. And to our circle. But so is sharing what’s real.

 

When a life ends, we scramble for answers. We tend to ask, what was it all for? And if the only answer we come up with is, to create the illusion that life was seamless, well, that’s a sad injustice to those that struggled, isn’t it?

 

They were more than that. No matter what it was, good or bad, they had something to teach.

 

Lena Dunham is the itchy tag of her generation. She refuses to be cut out and forgotten. She leaves a hole. Retaliates the smokescreen.


That’s why she wrote this book.
So we don’t feel alone. So we know someone else out there feels like we do. So we can see that there’s “crazy” in us all. And that it’s okay.
And, that it’s also not all that crazy.

 

That we’ll be alright. Somehow. That mistakes are standard. That it’s fine to make them. To be where we are.

 

And to stay there until we’re ready to move on.

 

That’s why we’re living. That’s why we connect. That’s why we ask what it was all for.

 

Lena Dunham is letting us in. She’s just not waiting until she’s gone.

 

I appreciate that.

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I need a fake blog. One where I can post to my heart’s content without anyone knowing who wrote the posts. Why, you may wonder. Well, because post post seems to be the optimum time for me to see the errors of my ways with pure and utter clarity …the many, many errors.

 

It happens every time. I write for hours. I read and reread. I edit. I edit some more. I perfect. I post.

 

I repent.

 

Last week I had to write another short story within 48 hours as part of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Writing Challenge. My assigned genre was Science Fiction, my location, a park fountain, my object, a paper airplane.

 

Now, Sci-fi is truly not my thing. I don’t read it and I certainly don’t write it and I admit that writing it in 48 short hours would have been challenging. However, writing it in 5 hours was downright ball-busting.

 

You’re sent your prompt at midnight on a Friday and you have until midnight on Sunday to submit a 1000-word (max) story that includes all of the elements you were given. As luck would have it, I had commitments pretty much all weekend. I do, after all, consider taking my 3 kids downtown for the entire day to eat, watch a movie and enjoy a live soccer game a priority.

So by the time we got home I was exhausted and convinced myself I’d get up at 5am to start writing Sunday morning. And I did. I got up at the crack of dawn, but when I got downstairs, I decided that getting the laundry corralled, sorted and spinning was yet another priority.

 

I could write in between cycles, right?

 

Well, there’s not as much time in between laundry cycles when you’re trying to get something done, as there is when you’re in a frazzled frenzy waiting on your favorite jeans to dry before you’re due to meet a friend.

 

And then there was the tidying so that the cleaning I needed to do later would be faster. There was an event scheduled to take place at my house the next morning, so Sunday required some home TLC and as we all know, less clutter equals quicker results.

 

I started writing at 12.

 

I finished writing at 5.

 

5 agonizing hours of trying to wrap my mind around the Sci-fi genre, of trying to hurry, of fretting over the impending cleaning, of wondering what dinner would be and who was going to make it, of not hearing what I was reading anymore, of trying to get it right. Of freaking out. Of torture.

 

Anyway, here’s a link to my story just how I submitted it.

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Missing Love

 

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He fills with words that will only reach the earth, he’s been warned, should they carry their weight in truth. The sweat of his pudgy finger crimps the creases he’s so carefully bent, and he pulls himself in tight, hurdling his most sincere spirit into what he must believe, is an accepting unknown…

 

It can be hard to remember how something began. Details fuzzy and timing, non-specific, but Elian and Luna are not spared in this way. The moment that first child disappeared is forever cut into their hearts. After all, watching someone fade is not easily forgotten. Laughing one minute and evaporating like a recalled raindrop the next, hangs heavy in the atmosphere.

 

At one time, this small town had been a home. Long before despair scraped its way to the core with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, they’d slept on cozy beds inside colorful houses and shrilled as they’d swung high enough for their toes to touch the moon. They’d trailed fingertips in the park fountain and sacrificed their pennies for precious wishes.

 

But children continued to vanish. Panic rose. Terrified mothers fictionalized mass killings and undiscovered bodies. Fathers waited with shotguns at the ready for evil that would never show its face. Paranoia and mourning became their way of life.

 

Time passed and slowly, the township reached a decision to understand it rather than to fight. And as they deliberated ideas, they became shamefully aware that the departed were solely the ones conceived without love. The conceptions cultivated from seeds of greed, selfishness or pride, some spawned out of lust or envy. They determined that not one of the lost had blossomed from a pure moment of tenderness.

 

True to human nature, they were eager to replace what was gone, to fix what was broken. They attempted to conceive through despair, but their still loveless efforts refused to bear the fruits they once had and a relentless darkness swathed their barren souls.

 

Now, unearthly quiet fills the creeks and crevices as Elian and Luna make their way to the fountain. Swings sway loosely in the intermittent wind, their rusty chains straining against a tongue-tied backdrop. The two make their way through the littered streets, Luna’s fingers curving around Elian’s palm, long and loose like the limbs of a weeping willow.

 

The park is so much smaller than when they were young. The surrounding fence halts at their shins and they now loom over the jungle gym they couldn’t quite conquer at three feet tall. Roots from the massive Oaks have thrust up through the dusty earth and turned the timeworn slide upside down. A carousel is cocked on its side, a discarded toy on a vacant nursery floor.

 

But, today is unlike any other time they’ve ambled this path. The waterless fountain urges them on, the air surrounding it fused with static and a vibrating hum that pulls them to it much like the tow ropes used to haul them up to the highest mountaintops. With no words, they each hear what the other is thinking. With one glance, they feel what the other is feeling. With one touch, they each want what the other is wanting.

 

They are one.

 

Elian turns and presses his lips to Luna’s forehead. They stand this way for some time, paused in the moment between what was, what is and what could be. Most had given up, some had moved on, others, simply bided their time, withering to ash between their sheets, but Luna and Elian only got stronger, looked after one another, grew together.

 

Built a life.

 

They stand at the fountain’s edge with Luna’s coattails flapping in the wind and Elian’s dark curls shifting freely over his brow. He takes her hand in his once more and they wait together while the sky begins to change. Shapes and patterns kaleidoscope into brilliant hues of azure and indigo, folding into amethysts and tangerines. They believe it to be the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen.

 

And it is.

 

Until a small white tip—the nose of a well-intentioned craft—breaks though a slit in the colorful clouds and glides gracefully, softly, silently into their hearts.

 

This is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. Luna feels the stir. Elian reaches to touch the swell of colors that have drifted down from the sky to stretch across her belly.

 

“Welcome, little one. This is love.”

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Hayley Mills

Hayley Mills

I was almost a Heidi. However, some distant cousin, thrice removed, whom I haven’t seen since I was six and was not actually related to at the end of the day anyway, was born mere weeks before me and snagged the name first.

 

Who’da thunk?

 

So my mother figured calling me after her favorite teen actress was a much better idea and I ended up a Hayley instead. And because we are of that befuddled British bunch, that name was never used. 
I have been called by my middle name my entire life. Yes, right from the get-go. A name my parents thought they’d made up. My dad’s name with an a on the end, Alana. (Rhymes with Savannah, never to be confused with banana) And really, there was not one other Alana to be found in my early years; I’ll give them that. In fact, I didn’t meet another Alana until I was fourteen, which in child years, is an entire lifetime.

 

Not to offend all the Heidi’s of the world—it’s a lovely name—but I’m glad I’m not one of them. A name not only states who you are, it can shape who you become and I am who I am because I had to repeat my name several times when meeting someone new. Because I had to enunciate it slowly and clearly over and over—painful for a shy young girl. And because I was made fun of by kids who feared all things new and foreign. 
I’ve evolved and strengthened a certain way because I wasn’t one of the five Lisa’s in the class, just as the Lisa’s are who they are, in part, because they had to vie for individual identity at every turn.

 

Branding someone is a hefty task. One loaded with potential and possibility. Obviously, we’re given our names at birth, sometimes even before, and rarely do we get to pick them. In combination with many things throughout life, we are kneaded with the experiences and interactions we have because of our names.

 

This is why they often bring me to a halt. I’ll be plodding along; engrossed in creating an opening scene, and…urrrrch…I need a name. It sometimes stops me for hours. I have even been known to write short stories in such a way that I don’t need to name anybody. Not a single character. Sometimes it’s a copout; sometimes it just works well with the tone of what I’m writing.

 

So you can imagine I had an agonizing time creating the name for my blog. Looking back on my “brainstorm list” now is embarrassing. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to write about—ahem, we need not note that not much has changed there—so picking a name for it was, needless to say, challenging. 
I’m a Make-up Artist by trade and beauty blogs are extremely popular, but I figured out early on that I didn’t want to start off writing about beauty, or, be pigeon-holed to just that one topic at the very least. 
So in the end, Hazy Shades of Me was born from a combination of my indecisiveness, much play on the metaphorical and cosmetic connotations of shades and shadows, my desire to be as uncommitted to one subject as I possibly could, and, of course, my long-lost first name.
 

Maybe you pick names that have meaning for you? Or for your character? Or your subject or story? Perhaps your storyline determines your decisions? 
Do you decide on the fate of your subjects before their birth or after? Maybe they tell you who they are, or do they mold to the names you chose for them? Have you ever changed a subject’s name mid-way through?

 

By some miracle, I have never, ever, had one pang of regret for the decisions I’ve made in naming things that cannot be changed—my children, my pets or my blog. Someone clearly has my back in that department, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

As a writer, I know there are many different answers to the questions I’m asking and that they will even vary coming from the same person, depending on which story or topic they’re writing or referencing.

 

I’m curious. How do you name the important things in your world?

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This piece is part of the NYC Flash Fiction 2015 writing challenge I’ve entered. We were given our group assignment, genre, setting/location and an item at the stroke of midnight and then had 48 hours to write a 1000 word story inclusive of this criteria. My criteria turned out to be Romantic Comedy, a recording studio and a Cactus. This is what I came up with: (*warning – profanity)

 

This To That

I smell it as soon as I walk in—creepy incense rolling down the dim halls, bouncing off the photo-filled walls, air punching at my already aching head.

 

“What the fuck?” I reel from the stench that seems to be seeping quickly into my skin and making me contemplate hurling into the big standing plant pot by the door.

 

“Yeah, sorry dude. The chick in 4C is burning some voodoo shit or somethin’. She’s real hot though.” Phil looks at me across the counter guiltily. “I was gonna tell her to stop, but she came out right then and caught me snubbing my butt, so I kept my mouth shut.”

 

My own cigarette dangles from my dry lips and I prop my elbows up, waiting for him to pass me the book. My leather jacket creaks as I move to lower my shades and my hand trembles when I reach for the pen to sign in.

 

“One too many?” Phil asks with a scoff, mostly ‘cause he already knows the answer.

 

“Maybe. Maybe ten too many. I can’t really remember.”

 

“Well, you’re here now. If you’re up for it, you can head on in. 4B is yours.”

 

“Coffee made? The boys’ll be here any minute and I need a brew bad.”

 

“Made it myself.” Phil says all proud. “Miss Spritz there ain’t drinkin’ it though. Brought in her own Jasmine tea or some kinda shit.”

 

I make my way down the hall, grab a coffee and stop at 4B, as close to 4C as you can get. Even 4D is across the way. But 4B and 4C share a glass wall, so as soon as I walk in, a stronger version of the incense I’d smelled outside the room smacks me in the face. I slump into one of the chairs, swivel to face the control board and kick my feet up onto the ledge, taking a deep sip of scalding coffee.

 

The panel comes to life and the big green button flashes.

 

“How’s the java?” Phil was always scrounging for praise, usually while being a smartass. “Made sure it was extra hot.” His voice crackles through the speaker. “A sore tongue’ll stop ya thinkin’ ‘bout yer head.”

 

I lean forward and press the green button down as my boots hit the floor with a thud. “It stinks in here.”

 

“That sucks, Mickey, but I ain’t riskin’ it. She tells Joe I was smokin’ at the front desk and he’ll have my ass. Let her burn her shit. She’s only booked for a few hours.”

 

The button goes red.

 

I close my eyes and swirl around to face the window. 4B looks insane. I slip my aviators down my nose to make sure I’m not seeing things. This chick has actually changed out the regular spotlights for purple and orange bulbs. Amidst hues of eggplant and cantaloupe, I can see plumes of fine smoke drifting through the air. She’s brought in her own rugs and they’re scattered everywhere. Her back is to me. She’s at the mic, moving her arms in time with sounds I can’t hear.

 

Is that a Cactus? I swear that wasn’t

 

Green button. “Dudes aren’t here yet, Mickey. You want me to sit in for a bit?”

 

“Yeah, man. I gotta lay down this track. I don’t know how much longer I can stick.”

 

Phil appears instantly, always eager to be in on things.

 

“Phone’s set to voicemail an’ I’m all yours, sunshine.” His widely spaced teeth create something of a Cheshire grin as all six foot four of his lanky physique folds through the doorway.

 

“I guess I’m up.” I force myself out of the chair, each cell of my body angry at the disturbance.

 

As I open the glass door of the sound booth, she turns as if sensing me. All at once, her chestnut curls, saucer eyes and doll-like skin are caught in shades of maroon and burnt gold and, she’s breathtaking.

 

No, literally, I can’t breathe.

 

She gives a cute little wave. And then again, beckoning me over.

 

Oh God, I think. I am so not up for this.

 

“Hey!” She glows as I come cautiously through the door. “I hope you don’t mind.” She opens her arms and twirls slowly around the room. “It’s not too distracting?”

 

“I, uh, no. No, not at all.” A cold sweat comes over me and with horror, I realize I might actually hurl.

 

“You do not look well.” She notices and I feel sincere concern. “You want to sit?” Gesturing to a plush purple chair I’ve never seen before, she takes my arm and moves me.

 

Again, literally.

 

Before I know it, she has my jacket and boots off and my feet up on some marshmallow-looking thing.

 

“I’m Daphne. Daphne Dane.” She offers her hand but I’m too mesmerized by the flecks of sky in her lavender eyes and the thick black lashes that hit the tops of her cheeks every time she looks down.

 

“Daph,” a voice over the speaker, “I need your okay for that last one.”

 

“Oh, just play it. I’m listening.” She’s curled some kind of beanbag around my neck and is on her way over to the Cactus when a voice unlike anything I’ve ever heard fills the studio. A cappella.

 

She’s humming along, eyes fluttering, clearly taking mental note as she begins to lightly burrow a Cactus needle between my brows.

 

“Umm, hey! What…”

 

“You just never know when these will come in handy,” she explains. “To relieve your headache?”

 

Phil gapes through the window in awe.

 

She skips to her mic. “Josh, another cup of that Ginger tea if you would be so kind?” Heading back to me, “A bit of acupuncture and a touch of Ginger will have you right as rain.”

 

This isn’t how I foresaw my morning, but I cannot believe my luck. Melting into the chair, I let her work her magic while trying to figure where to take her for lunch.

 

I’m thinking organic.

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