Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trifecta Writing Challenge: "Flight Delayed"

My Pythagorean amigos at the Trifecta Challenge have posted a picture challenge this weekend. I won't post the picture here, because it's not mine, but if you follow the link above, you can look at it. I call this "Flight Delayed".

It was so late even the pseudo pushcart vendors selling sunglasses and worthless plastic toys had closed up shop. Thunderstorms crossing the Texas prairie had set up a chain of delays that put him into his home airport several hours later than he had planned, in the bizarre emptiness of 12:34 AM. Everything was still there- the darkened McDonalds, the sports bar with a chain in front of the door- but everyone was gone, as if the apocalypse had come and no one told him.

Dave had performed a weekend in Indianapolis, which went well, besides a few hecklers to quiet using well honed putdowns, a drunk waitress who kept ignoring his protests that he was married, and a morning radio DJ who wouldn't let him complete a thought before segueing into a Nicki Minaj record. Annoying, but part of the job. Dave shrugged off the indignities of the weekend, walking through the empty airport towards his car and finally, blessedly, back to his tiny home.

The money wasn't great, but it was enough. The travel was aggravating, but it provided loads of anecdotes he could stretch and contort into material. Dave walked down a long hallway that led from the terminal to the parking. He could see out either side, watching the road below. A shuttle left the brightly lit terminal, taking no one nowhere. In the end, Dave thought, he did it because it was all he knew how to do and get paid for.

It wasn't curing cancer, Dave thought, or inventing the next iPhone. It wasn't defending the unjustly accused, or feeding the hungry, or inspiring inner city teens to pass AP Calculus. It was what he could do, and even if he saw less talented peers getting wealthy from TV deals, he was OK with the long nights and long, dull days, because over 100 people per show, six shows per week, left the room happier than they came in.

Flash Fiction Friday: "Unnecessary"

Our friends at Flash Fiction Friday have a simple task for us this week: 1000 words, as long as three of them are frenetic, cummerbund, and hobbit. This is called "Unnecessary," and it is humbly dedicated to my main man Lance, who, if he does not know whereof this character speaks, soon will.

Daniel knew when he was not necessary. Living in a house with three women and four cats, he developed a keen sense for the parts of life he was needed for, things like grilling burgers on major holidays, opening jars, and killing spiders. The rest of the time, he told his pal Steve at work, he just tried to keep out of sight. It was a matter of survival.

He sat in the living room, halfheartedly looking at a trade publication. The television was playing ESPN silently. He had passed by the girls' rooms upstairs, observing the frenetic beehive of activity at a distance. The bathroom was in constant use, doors slamming, girls in towels leaving one room, entering another, then leaving again and going back to the first one. He followed his usual dictum, grabbing what he needed and abandoning the upstairs to the fairer sex.

He knew this day was coming. Every father with girls did, and it was another one of those knife edge moments you faced, where your instincts and your deep emotions had to be tamped down by your logic and reason. He didn't want tonight to happen, but he knew he couldn't stop it, so like so many things, just take cover and wait for the storm to pass. He trusted them to make the right decisions. The boys? Not so much.

He was pretty sure they would be OK- they had talked about drinking, and drugs, and sex, ad nauseum, with their daughters, for years now, getting their full quota of eyerolling and long sighs. In the end, it was like his colleague Diane had told him years ago, clucking with sympathy at the thought of two teenage daughters, "you tell 'em, and you tell 'em, and you tell 'em- eventually, you just have to hope they listened."

Daniel stared at the condensation forming on the side of his Diet Pepsi. He wanted a beer. Needed a beer, really. But he didn't need to ask if that would be OK. He knew it wouldn't be. It was diet cola until the cummerbund clad boys and begowned girls had assembled, been fluttered around and fussed over, and then bid farewell. Lara would probably go upstairs and cry about her lost youth, and he would switch over to the Royals broadcast, open a beer, eat some chips, and see what new method they had divined for blowing tonight's game.

A door slammed, and he heard the solid sound of high heels on wood. As with any two sisters, Nicole and Justine had their little differences, quirks of personality that made them fully present individuals instead of carbon copies. Nicole was the girliest, wearing a skirt to any event more formal than gardening. Justine was always more reserved, quieter, more observant, spending one summer reading "The Hobbit" over and over while her sister tanned and painted her toenails and performed elaborate weddings between Barbie and Ken.

They were in Nicole's world now, updos and mascara and wardrobe tape in places he didn't want to think about and Daniel imagined Justine would be uncomfortable all night, secretly eager to shed the uncomfortable shoes and return to Jane Eyre and sweatpants as soon as possible. Lara loved every moment of the process, probably quietly reliving her own days as the center of the world before college and real life and age pushed you to the periphery of everything.

Daniel thought about his own prom, Sarah, so angelic and round hipped, who kissed him frantically in the limo on the way home, but demurred when his eager hand found her warm thigh. It was a weird formalized dance- they expected you to try, so you did, knowing they would decline. It was a confirmation of the pseudo adultness of the whole process, a nod to the effort spent making themselves attractive.

He actively, aggressively did not want to think about these boys, callow Duane and suave Robert, who would walk out of here with his daughters' manicured hands on their arms. He didn't know what the rituals were like these days, but he figured they couldn't be far different than his day. Lips would find lips, a perfumed, powdered neck, and then...what? Lara probably knew if they were virgins, but Daniel never asked. If he had to guess, he would say Justine was, and her sister was not, but he really didn't want to know. It was one of those walls, made of something as clear as Saran Wrap but also hard and bulletproof, that came between them now. Was this to be a shining, momentous night for one of them, a night to be recalled long into their own grandmotherhood, with him just a distant memory, buried under a grassy hill?

Daniel shook his head, watching Chris McKendry animatedly describe an auto race, then narrate a Kings team trying to defend the Stanley Cup. It was different now- different teams were winning, different things were important. Everything was different, and nobody asked you what you thought about it. It was prom night, and he was reduced to being a cheerleader, approving of everything and judging nothing. He thought about driving the girls home from the hospital, almost two decades ago, helpless and tiny, weak and soft, and it seemed inconceivable that these strong young women, with long legs and limitless potential and passionate opinions, were even the same species. Someday, he warned them silently as they eased their way downstairs, step by step, elegant, pointed toes exploring each step carefully, you'll have kids of your own, and you'll go back to being helpless again.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Return of Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge!

Though she has yet to involve a robot like our friend Lance, the mighty Velvet Verbosity, bloodied but unbowed, fresh from battling Russian cyberpunks and making the world safe for her wordnerd minions, has returned to the field of 100 Word Challengedom. This week's word is "fragile", and I call this entry "Like Copper, Like Tin, Like Lead."

"Divorce?," Ella repeated. She had heard the word, but it suddenly had a flavor she didn't remember. She stared at the place in front of her, where the sound waves that came from her mouth had traveled. Words were such fragile things, she thought, just a waving of some molecules, a gentle sweep of air pressure changes that fill the room and then fade away. The word she said was now attached to an idea, though, thoughts and feelings and concepts in her head, weighted down like copper, like tin, like lead. Solid and unbreakable.

"Yes," her father said.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Final (?) Indie Ink Writing Challenge: "I Won't Say Goodbye"

[Author's Note: There is some trouble in IndieInk land. It is unclear whether or not, or when, there will be more IndieInk Writing Challenges. Plus the site appears to be down at the moment. I do remember my prompt, "To [You] With Love", but I do not recall who sent the prompt and who recieved my quote, an Ernest Hemingway line from one of his letters. Sorry about that.]

[Author's Other Note: This is fiction. Made up. Not true. Bullpucky. Nonsense. "Not intended to be a factual statement," as the office of Senator Jon Kyl once put it.  "Hooey and Applesauce", as Dave Dameshek says.]

Dr. Kelly-

It's hard to know how to begin. There's so much to say, but it all tastes like ashes in my mouth. I can't make sense of it all. But I can't do this without trying to explain. It's up to you whether or not you believe it.

I can't really explain this. But I have this feeling I just need to tell you these things. These things are important, and I really feel like I need to tell you.

I know this probably isn't making any sense yet. Maybe it never will.

This thing isn't your fault. If you skim down this letter. you're going to get the impression that you should call the police, or an ambulance, or a doctor. Don't bother. I've been thinking about this for a while. I've been thinking about very little else. So by the time you see this, it will be far too late. I'm going to leave this in your mailbox late on a Friday, after I know you've finished for the day and taken your little red Accord home through the city streets. You won't see it until Monday morning, and, as I say, it will be impossible to change things at that point. Don't try.

I really want to add, at this point, that it's really not your fault. Not at all. You are probably going to think that it is. I understand that, but it's really not. You should try to remember that. All this happened because of me, not because of anything you did or didn't do. Cold comfort, I bet. But that's all I can offer.

Do you remember the first day of class? I certainly do. It was still warm out, and you were wearing a dark brown dress, which was almost tan where the sun hit it. I think I fell in love with you at that moment. Your perfect, pretty shoes with the little rat a tat sound they made on the floor. You were so fired up about teaching, so cute and gawky and just so very beautiful. The moment your first lecture finished, I knew.

Nothing could happen immediately. You were faculty, I was a student. It was ridiculous to think anything different. But my brain wouldn't stop, counting down the days until I could tell you, when finals were over and we were no longer bound by convention. I knew people would talk, but people always do. I knew I could win you. I was sure of it.

Even as I type that, I blush a little bit.  How monumentally stupid! To think that you would have ever...ah, never mind. Forget it. I was just dumb, dumb, dumb.

Did you know I followed you home once? Yeah, I know. Creepy. But I did. I waited until your car pulled out, then followed you all the way home to your little three story house, squashed on either side by other houses. After I knew where you lived, I would drive by sometimes. I don't know what I expected to find. Of course, if you sunbathed in the nude, that would have been great! But I didn't think you would do that. I just had to know something about you, something about what you were like when you took your shoes off and relaxed after a long, hard day. Did you drink wine? Watch sad movies? What were you like in "real" life?

Then, of course, your Mom died on that horrific weekend, right before Christmas. It was so awful to watch you struggle through that day's lecture, and then the fill ins were obnoxious. You finally came back after break, and we all sent you cards, and you were so kind to handwrite those notes to all of us. It was so neat, seeing your handwriting expressing real feelings instead of just all the endless notes you put on the board. I have it here, pinned to my cork board above my laptop screen. You loop your "j"s in this really special, unique way. I've never seen anybody do that before. I read it a thousand times, and honestly, just the first line and the last, those were the ones that hooked me. "To Thomas," and "Love, Lori."

I'm blushing again. To see those letters, those words- it set me on fire! It reminded me of that line from "Araby"-"But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires." It was marvelous. I feel stupid to have felt that way, but at the time, that's where I was.

Of course, I soon learned you signed everyone's note that way.   

I can't believe I let myself think that way.

I'm so stupid.

Please remember that this isn't your fault at all. This is kind of what set it off, but if it wasn't this, it would have been something else. I just wasn't built for this world.

Do you remember when you were talking about Hemingway, and you cited all the different things, his father, all the wounds, all the concussions, before he died? How those things were "necessary, but not sufficient" causes of his depression? That's kind of like this. This whole episode by itself isn't enough, but it just tops off a bunch of other things that I never told you about. Trust me, there are plenty of other reasons.

There's a line that I heard on the comedy channel. This comic was smoking a cigarette, and he said, "Look, if you've sat through the first half of a movie, and it's terrible, what makes you think it's going to get any better in the second half?"

I won't say "Goodbye" or anything dumb like that.  


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

100 Word Song: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

My compadre Leeroy, along with his somewhat more human pal Lance, have renewed 100 Word Song activities with none other than the Fab Four and "Revolution". My entry is called "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised".

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,
He told us when the Sixties died."

I stared at the words, cold and lifeless. I stole them from a dead man, recorded before my birth, forecasting a world we're still waiting for. I tried to feel his fervor, the certainty that rebels have that the force of their rightness will win out.

My parents tried to change the world, then got fat and moved to the suburbs. It's hard to imagine that they really meant it way back then, young people still naive enough to believe that the world can change.