Friday, April 08, 2011

100 Word Challenge: You're Crazy

Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge is proud to announce it has been designated an essential service and will remain active during any government shutdown. This week's word is "broken", and my story is called "You're Crazy".

The receptionist was stretching, reaching up to get my chart. I watched the fabric of her pink scrubs as it pulled tightly. I could tell what kind of underwear she had on.

I'm not crazy, I thought.

The blonde took the folder down. There were brightly colored letter stickers along the edge. One stood for my last name, but what did the others mean? Did they indicate how nutty I was?

I wanted to say I wasn't crazy.

She saw what she needed, and put the sheaf of papers down.

"Your copayment is 20 dollars," she said. She sounded bored.

Author's Note: Mental illness has touched my family numerous times, as I expect it has most of your families as well. Please note that the preceding is a work of fiction, and it is a character using the word "crazy", not me or anyone I know. Absolutely no disrespect is expressed or implied towards the mentally ill or those who love them by the use of the word " crazy". As I said, I is one of those touched by mental illness.

Blinded By The Flash

This week's 52/250 theme is "Blind Spot", and I managed to make the cut this week with a story called "Stiletto".

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

IndieInk Writing Challenge: Unsure

This week's IndieInk Writing Challenge comes to me from Trish, who asks what I have done that I didn't think I could do. This is not an easy question for me- I have done very little, and I think I am capable of even less. I never learned to ski, or play the piano, or play the piano on skis. But challenges are to make us stretch, so stretch I will. (My challenge will be answered by Alyssa.)

I don't know how to approach this through the front door. I'm not a inspirational person by nature. I don't dislike inspirational stories- you will find no bigger fan than me of Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" (the book, the audiobook, or the lecture itself). But I have trouble translating inspirational stories into the blood and sinew and bounced check fees and library overdue fines of my own life. I read it and feel inspired, but when I come away from it, the lessons don't seem real.

I'd like to tell you about a big goal I set, worked hard for, and achieved. That seems to be the point here- dreaming a big dream, then achieving it. I guess having a child suffices- that certainly wasn't hard to achieve for us, but the nature of it as an achievement is questionable. Graduating college, maybe- I certainly had my doubts I could do that, and I did. But that was less a matter of achievement than one of stubbornness- I graduated because I was too stubborn not to.

So once again, I'm going to attempt a bank shot. I'm doing this because I can't think of what else to do, and I'm doing this because I have an instinctive distaste for talking about myself. (Strange quality in a blogger, I admit.) In truth, I am doing this because it feels like the only thing I can do. What follows is fiction.

"Chase? Chase? Are you listening to me?"

"Yes, love."

"I don't think I can do this."

"Of course you can do it."

"No, no...I really don't think I can."


"It's so big. Such a big thing to do. Bigger than anything. It's too large for anyone to handle. I know it's natural, and it's normal. But it is too much for me to handle. Too much work, too much stress, too much."

"People handle it all the time."

"I know. I feel like a freak for saying so, but I'm scared. I'm scared of what this will to do me, what it will do to us."

"I know," Chase said. "I'm scared, too. But I'm here for you. With you, You don't have to do it alone."

"Believe me, I appreciate that. I do. But there are parts- like this part- I have to do by myself. You can't do this for me."

"I know." Chase was quiet.

After a few minutes, she spoke again. "Chase?"


"It doesn't matter if I'm ready or not, does it?"

"No, it really doesn't. This is happening whether or not we're ready. But I think we're ready. We're as ready as anybody is, doing this."

"I don't think we're ready. I don't feel ready. There's so much to know."

"We'll figure it out."

"We don't have a lot of time. Any time."

"No, no we don't," Chase said.

"Don't you feel guilty? I mean, don't you feel like we should be better prepared? It's our fault she is here."

"I know. But we'll learn."

"I can't help but think we should have gotten ready. Read a book or took a class or something."

"Maybe. But we're here now. We know what we know, and what we don't know, we'll learn. But I'll be with you, every step of the way. I'm not going to abandon you."

"OK," the doctor said. "Time to push!"

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Explain The Unexplainable: "New Kid In Town"

I have been a fan of Chuck Wendig's weird and wonderful writing site, Terrible Minds, for a while now. While decidedly NSFW, Chuck has a lot of interesting things to say about the craft and how it's done. He has been posting flash fiction challenges, and while I have tried a couple of times, I never had anything worth putting up until now. This week's is based on a set of truly horrifying stock photographs, available here, and the challenge, issued here, is to write a story based on one of the pictures. My story, New Kid In Town, is based on picture number 40.

Amanda Heymann opened the door, then shut it just as quickly. She didn't, Amanda thought in foot high letters across her eyelids. Another part of her brain reminded her that her mother, obviously, had. She had told her mother that her first birthday in her new town didn't mean anything- that she needn't bother, that it didn't matter, that she wouldn't care. She had seen, in the flash of color and riot of smell and sound when she had opened their front door, that her mother had bothered.

Amanda thought briefly about leaving- simply taking off, walking back down the driveway. She didn't have anywhere to go, of course- no boyfriend, no sympathetic older sister with a car to drive her to safety. She could just walk, going down sidewalk after sidewalk in flight from the party, but that would bring attention and concern. Amanda wanted that even less than she wanted this.

She opened the door and stepped inside. Her mother Nancy was coming out of the kitchen, adding a plate full of what looked like Geno's Pizza Rolls. There were maybe 15 or 20 faces she knew from her new school, scattered around her living room in clumps of 2 and 3 and 4.

"Honey, you're home," Amanda's mother said, "I just couldn't stand the thought of not doing anything for your birthday, so your teachers helped me find some of your school friends to have a little party. Isn't that fun?" She used her high, tight, overly cheerful tone, the tone of voice that sounds like glossy photographs look. It was her tone when she was trying to convince herself of whatever she was trying to tell you.

Amanda walked across the carpet, measuring her steps carefully. To her right was Sara, she knew, a willowy blonde who seemed above the earthly concerns of mortals, along with a tall, athletic boy who kept one hand on her whenever he possibly could. She saw Zane, a dark haired boy she would admit only to herself she wanted to get to know, along with a bitter, gossipy trio from her Spanish class she called "The Harpies" inside her head. She saw on her dining room table that the food her Mom had come up with was at least being eaten- so they couldn't tease her about that, she reasoned. More was gone than sheer politeness would require.

She saw Jane, a short, dark-haired girl who seemed a tiny bit frightening and intense, talking with a broad, expansive redhead, making the taller girl laugh softly, as if she was used to choking off her natural reactions. Amy was alone by the table, chewing excessively on a tortilla chip with salsa while an overweight boy she knew sat in her math class seemed to be telling her the denouement of a long, complicated story.

Amanda kept walking. Her mother had plugged her iPod into the little speakers attachment a thoughtful uncle had sent, and she imagined that her musical taste was drawing little snickers from around the room. She saw balloons, and streamers, and thought that the only thing that proved that she was no longer 8 years old was the taller party guests and the absence of a piñata.

She looked around at them, huddled in their groups and their private worlds. Why did they even come? She felt sweat starting to trickle down her back, and her skin itched under her black hair. No one spoke to her, continuing their conversations as if she had never come in. Her mother was bustling away in the kitchen again. She finally reached the door to the laundry room, opening it and stepping through, closing it behind her quietly.

It was an insane thing to do, she thought. There were probably a few eyes on the back of the door now, and without a doubt her mother would drag her out of here in another minute. It was one of those things that made sense for just a moment. She had to be away, even for mere seconds, from the judgment in their eyes. She couldn't believe her mother had done this. It was like so many things she did- sweet, well meant, but utterly wrong.

There was a single pink balloon that drifted in here from the living room, and Amanda grabbed it and pulled it down. She looked at the decorative ribbon curled around her fist with its chipped nail polish and patches of itchy skin. She felt dizzy, nauseous and uncomfortable, holding on to a single pink balloon, abandoned in a room by itself. She felt another sudden, sad impulse- suddenly imagining stripping off her clothes, climbing into the dryer and sitting there, her face buried against her own knees, like she did when she was 6 and just needed so desperately to be apart.

Amanda stood there, balloon in her tightly clenched fist, tears making silent hot tracks down her cheeks, when she heard the knocking, gentle at first, then more insistent. "'Manda?," her mother was saying in a voice that she thought was soft, "You need to come out and be with your friends." She had no idea, Amanda thought, her body sliding down until she was sitting on the floor, how wrong every part of that sentence was.