Saturday, September 10, 2011

Indieink Writing Challenge: Modern Day Cowboy

This week, my Indie Ink Writing Challenge, "Bringing It All Back Home", goes out to Alisha, while mine, "If I were 21 again", comes at me from Angela.

This may be off a little bit on the timing of it- I may be going back to 19 or so. I am also borrowing heavily from a Hollywood film I've never seen, and heaping it with gobs of poetic license. This never happened. In the end, I'm probably better off that it didn't.

This is called "Modern Day Cowboy"

When you were driving, it didn't seem so cold. Everything looked shiny from a distance, made new by the ice and snow. It was only when you got close that you saw the imperfections, the dripping water, the black snowl kicked up from the car tires, the dirty, messy ugly side of it all. I drove through the night, Jeff Keith's rasp keeping me company on my car stereo. We sang along together about being cowboys of the modern day.

I was on a fool's errand. I knew that when I left, but I also had a feeling that if I didn't try this, I was going to spend the rest of my life wondering why I hadn't. She had hung up the phone in tears, almost wailing that I shouldn't make it any harder than it was. I said flatly, with a calm I did not feel, "I'm coming over. Look out your window," hanging up before she could protest.

Her parents had decided that I had become too much of a distraction for her, and she would be unable to see me for the forseeable future. Her phone call to me, late on a Saturday night as the snow began to fall, was supposed to be the termination point, the graceful exit where she could move on with her life, and I with mine. I rebelled against the whole notion of it, but she maintained there was no point in continuing if we couldn't even exchange phone calls.

I got up and left, not explaining, and the act was enough unlike me that I was in the car headed down the hill before anyone had the time to react. I knew there would be a blizzard of questions when I returned- where did I go, why in the middle of a storm, what could possibly be so important. They would be difficult to answer, but I knew I had to go. Sometimes you have to make your stand, even if it's not on ground you would have chosen.

Her street was close enough to the main drag that it got attention from the plows, so it was relatively easy to make my way to her house. I drove past it, turned around, and came back in front, parking by their mailbox. When I shut the engine off, and the cold began to creep in immediately, the imperfections of my plan were apparent. What if she didn't come out? What if they didn't let her? Was I prepared to stay here all night? What did I think this was going to accomplish?

I got out, shutting the door firmly with a slam that echoed up the street. I decided the pose was to stand against the side of the car, facing the house, which was set on a tiny hill maybe 10 feet higher than the street. There weren't many lights on, but I could tell her bedroom light was on, and someone was watching TV in the family room. I couldn't tell precisely what it was, but there was a lot of black stage with human forms moving around, so it might be ballet or opera on PBS.

It was snowing steadily, the sky a steady, gunmetal gray, spitting relentless waves at you. I couldn't see anyone moving inside, so I decided to just lean against the side of my car and wait. I wished I smoked, so I would at least have something to do with my hands. I looked up into the sky, watching the snow fall. I thought about that famous scene where John Cusack stood outside the girl's window playing Peter Gabriel. I was pretty sure that scene didn't happen in the dead of winter, plus John Cusack is considerably better looking than me. In any case, I had a pretty short window before the roads got fairly difficult, and it was awfully cold, so I hoped she consented to see me soon.

I noticed a few glances- glasses frames peeking over the top of the couch in disbelief, then her unmistakable silouette framed by the light from the TV. I could see the emotion in the way she moved her arms, up and back, shrugging, as if she was asking someone, "What do you want me to do? I didn't tell him to do this." I saw her disappear, and then their front door opened.

Her face was red and wet from crying, her long brown hair stuck to it in places. She had a blue coat on, zippered up over gray sweatpants and plastic little girl boots that had a black and white checkerboard pattern. I remembered a rainy summer day where she wore them and we laughed a whole evening away because they squeaked every time she put her right foot down. She crunched her way across the hard packed snow, finally stopping about a foot in front of me. She was looking down.

"Hi," I ventured.

"You know I'm going to get in trouble for this."

"Well, I guess. But you're already in trouble, right?"

She half smiled and looked at me. Her eyes were red. She was at my eye level because of the slope of the hill. "That's not funny."
"No, it's not."

"What are you doing here? We're supposed to get 10-12 tonight!"

"I know."

"So why did you come here? You know I can't go anywhere."

"I know."

"So what is it, then? Why did you drive all this way?"

"A couple of reasons. I wanted to see you, one. Sometimes you have to do things even if they don't make a lot of sense, two. And three, I want to change your mind."

She looked towards the center of town. The lights from the Sunoco looked gauzy and unreal with the snow that was lining our eyelashes.

"You can't change my mind. This is the best way. You can't be someone's girlfriend if they can never see you or call you on the phone. You deserve someone better. Someone who's available. You can't be in a relationship if I can never speak to you."

Her voice seemed to catch on the last sentence. She swallowed, which is what she did when she was nervous.

"I understand what you're saying," I began. "But I don't want anyone else. I'm willing to wait a month, three months, 6 months, I don't care. I'll write you letters-"

"They'll open them-"

"I'll write them in code, then. Or I'll mail them to Shari, and she can give them to you in school. I'll send you telegrams, Morse Code, smoke signals, whatever. I don't care. I just want to be with you."

"You're a lunatic," she said, chuckling, tears still rolling out of her eyes.

"Probably," I said. "It's a cowboy thing," I added lamely. "We're persistent."

We were silent. I motioned for her to step closer.

"They're watching," she whispered.

"I know," I said.
"I can't do this. It's too much."

"I think we can make it work," I said. "I want to. I can take not seeing you for as long as it takes. I just can't stand the thought of being without you. I'll make it. I think it can work."

"I know you think so. But I don't. And this has to be a mutual thing. You can't love me enough for both of us."

She took a step back.

"So this is it?," I asked, my mouth tasting bitter and dry.

"Yeah," she said. "It is. This is too much. You're too much. Even if they weren't grounding me, I...I can't do this. I just can't. I'm sorry you drove all this way. I'm...just...I'm sorry."

She took another step back. Her boot squeaked, then she turned and walked back into her house. As if to dismiss me, their front light went out. I got back into the car and started for home, wipers parting the snow as I went. As the heat burned off the chill and the ice melted away on my windows, Jeff Keith told me I'd find love again. I didn't believe him.

Write On Edge: Everything and Nothing

My new friends at Write On Edge have a flash fiction prompt up involving jeans. I'm not sure what brought all this on, but this story is called "Everything and Nothing".

I leapt up with the practiced scramble of a parent of small children. Naked, I bent low, hauling on pants with a smooth tug, standing up straight to pull them to my waist. They came up much too far, making it clear to me I had pulled his on instead of my own. They were loose in some places, tight in others. The fit was different- odd, but not unpleasant. I was ashamed to note I had enough of a belly to hold them up without a belt.

I stopped for a moment, wearing his pants, shirtless, listening, getting my mental processes up to speed. No one was vomiting, or coughing, or murmuring about bad dreams, or complaining about branches making strange shadows on their floor in the moonlight. It was silent, and I drank it in for a moment. A glorious fall Sunday, open and pregnant with possibility. The last Sunday we'd have for months.

He's leaving tomorrow. I bent and scooped up the shirt he hurriedly discarded last night. "ARMY", it said in simple, block print. Simple and utilitarian. No frills, no mess. Utility above all other virtues. The taxi would come in the dark, early tomorrow morning, taking him away from us again, while I laid awake, weeping silently to get all the tears out before the children woke up. I pulled the shirt on, braless, arranging it on my frame so it would hang correctly.

I crept forward, watching John as he slept. My toes found my flip flops almost instinctively, slipping them on. John's face, so intense and serious last night, was relaxed in sleep, reminding me of what he probably looked like as a teenager, dreaming about playing center field in Yankee Stadium. It was the only time he really seemed relaxed, when sleep finally took him and he unclenched all over. It was odd, hearing no sound in the house as I snuck around. Even the dog was quiet.

I moved down the hall towards the front door, his jeans rustling slightly between my thighs as I walked, intent on donuts and coffee. I could slip out to the store, letting John and the kids wake up to the smells and tastes of a wanton, carbohydrate drenched morning of no church, cartoons and laughter and wrestling on the rug, followed by naps and football. Perfect, I thought, smiling in the dark. An ideal sendoff.

I thought about the mess I was probably leaving in his jeans, his odors and mine mingled. I delighted in it, secretly, my inner child fascinated by the raw biology of us, our sweat and need distilled and faded to odors and stains on coarse blue denim. I would sneak these dirty jeans into his things, I decided instantly, tucking them far away down one side of his bag so he would come across them, still smelling of me, of us, and he would have this to remind him of what he had to come back to.

I smiled again, thinking of him, blushing softly in that faraway place, all the dirt and the mountains and the cold, remembering his last night with me. I hoped someone would ask him what that was, and he'd tuck them back away, saying defensively, "Nothing!," but the smell would fill his nostrils, and he would remember me, and that would mean everything.

Friday, September 09, 2011

100 Word Challenge: Obviously

Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge is bloody but unbowed after assaults from malware bearing pirates. Arrrrrrr.

This week's word is "Whimsy" and my story is called "Obviously".

"Let's go somewhere," he said to her.

She looked back at him. "What's gotten in to you?" He wasn't prone to flights of whimsy.


"What do you mean, go somewhere? Go where?"

"I don't know. Anywhere. Away."

"We can't afford it."

"Not like that. Something close. Local. A play. A movie."

"I hate crowds."

"A picnic."

"I hate bugs. What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. I just want it to be like it was."

"It can't be like it was. You're not like you were. I'm not like I was."


Monday, September 05, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge: Scenes In An Elevator

The Indie Ink Writing Challenge comes to me from Kelly, who asks me about fractured living. I issued a challenge to Karla.

I'm not at all sure about this one. But it's what came to me, so here it is: "Scenes In An Elevator"


those guys were up long after me, yet the room was empty this morning...where the fuck did they go...good not too many people on the I the only person who thinks about the cable snapping and plummeting to the ground? the impossible physics of being so damn high with only a steel cable holding this metal cage in the air?...yeah, im probably the only one...jeremy was so gung ho to have his bachelor party in a casino...he was probably imagining some wild "the hangover" type adventure...instead he gets the same four idiots he's known since the fourth grade all blowing their bankrolls the first day and spending the rest of the time watching games in the sports book and eating crappy takeout pizza...ah well, your boys are your boys, right? for better or worse...heh, that's funny- "for better or for worse"...with jeremy gone, that makes me the last one...last of the mohicans, my father would say...everyone thinks you're gay when you're my age and not married not..."not that there's anything wrong with that!" just, i don't know, not ready yet, i life is ok as it is, i think...missing something, but i'll find hard can it be, if that asshole did it?


god, my knee is killing comes somebody...oh, it's just one guy...bachelor party, i bet...he looks a little out of it and hungover...doesn't look that tough...a suburban softy...even at my age, i could take's nearly noon, son, shape up!...oh stop it. you're just a old man, out of touch, irrelevant and you have to do this, constantly remaining on guard all the time?...what the hell is the matter with you...that indian doctor at the va says its from the war, but marjorie would have said its just being a prick...dear marjorie...goddamn it, its been seven years and it still hurts like it happened this morning...she'd tell me to shut up and stop being a sentimental old man...the doctor asked me if i was having trouble controlling my impulses, and i thought about telling him about the gambling, but then i thought why's none of his goddamned business...besides, i know exactly how much i have left...and what do i have to save it for?...the kids?...they call on christmas and my birthday, but i hardly hear from them otherwise...ah well...its going to be a rude awakening for them when i kick and there's nothing for them...oh well...i didn't spend 34 years assembling transmissions to make them rich...a few more minutes, im back at the table, and all i care about is the cards...those damned, stupid, beautiful cards...


jacob is so fucking earnest, i just want to punch him sometimes...up before the damn birds, and downstairs hitting the elliptical, like I should he's probably sipping on some juice smoothie thing, feeling healthy and wholesome...looking at the 23 year old Korean who poured, stop. i shouldnt be so bitchy...he set this whole thing up for me...for us, he would say...he arranged for the kids, one at my mom's, two sleeping over at the neighbor's, so we could spend 36 hours acting like newlyweds...well, we certainly lived up to thighs are killing me....maybe i do need that elliptical work...after all that last night, i better not be pregnant...there is no way, no way in hell, that i am going through that again...i dont think i am...i better not be...we cant afford it even if i wanted it...i better look up the name of that pill the comedian talked about....i love him, i do, but sometimes its like he's my worst enemy...


where are you supposed to stand?...i usually just stand near mom...i cant believe she is letting me go down and get my own orange legs are cold...i should have put some leggings on like mom said...i hate it when shes right...its wierd standing here with all these feels like im pretending...i wish somebody would talk...its so wierd just listening to the rattles and chunks as it takes us down, down, down...janie was so jealous when i told her where we were going...she has two brothers so her mom says they cant afford to go anywhere...being an only child is kind of boring, but it can be awesome too...i can feel the ac blowing under my dress...its so ticklish and cold...i wonder if anyone famous is here...i read in that magazine that the blonde girl on that show wants to have her birthday here...i wonder if shes really gonna...shes like 19 though so she'd probably go to that club...i remember seeing all the people lining up to get in there when we came in from the show last night...all the pretty a glamorous...i wonder what its like to be famous...


there are like no single men here, none...wait, here comes a guy...not ring...but guys his age always have someone...maybe jonathan will call me back?...its been two weeks...he's not going to know he's not, i dont know why you keep thinking he will...jonathan was so perfect, rich and funny and cute and smart...why the hell did i ever let him killed me going to his wedding, absolutely fucking killed me...god, my head hurts...i drank so damn much...i cant remember anything after about midnight...i hope i didnt do anything stupid...usually anna is the one who keeps us under control. i wonder where she's at...i woke up dressed, so that's something...god, these elevators are slow...maybe try to talk to that guy?...have to get something to hungry when we stay here for some reason...there goes that guy...another chance lost...someday you're going to be too old, you know, and they're going to stop looking...


ok, everybody out...he's walking just have one chance to follow, forget head hurts too much anyway...i want breakfast more...


the lobby is so busy, all the noises and says just act confident, and no one will say anything...this is a little scary...which way was that store with the OJ again?


finally, downstairs...god, im going to kill jacob...ok, now to find him...the health club is by the pool, right?...yeah, there it is....


ok, we're that smell, the sound, the feel of the to the poker's showtime...


boy, that girl was cute...should have chatted her up...oh well...ok, coffee first, then go see where the other idiots ended up...see what kind of trouble we can get into.

Flash Fiction Friday: "Perfect Blue Buildings"

Our friends (well, maybe your friends-I'm not sure they are willing to be seen with me) at Flash Fiction Friday have posted a prompt about the "City of Lost Children", which, in 2011, is every city. Here's my shot, "Perfect Blue Buildings".

Antonio said he was gonna come back. He said I could watch Nemo and eat Cheese Its and he would come right back. Mama said I got to do what Antonio say so I sat on the floor and watched Nemo. I saw Nemo like a million times though so it a little boring. So I went and I looked out the window. It is dirty. Mama always says she gonna clean it but she never do that. When you put your head all the way on it you can look down the street and see the top of some of the buildings in the city. They look blue when the sun hit them, these perfect blue blocks in the sky.

Antonio said he had to go get some stuff from a guy on that street where the candy store is and he would be right back. So he left me watching Nemo by myself. Mama say he not supposed to leave me alone but Antonio said he had to do it and he would be right back so it okay. Sometimes Antonio he and that girl he with they let me watch TV while they go up to Antonio room but he say that don't count because he still with me even though he cant see me.

I ask Mama who live in the big blue blocks and she say that where she work. She clean floors for people there, important rich people who wear nice clothes and drive big expensive cars and trucks. She tell me that someday I gonna wear a nice shirt and work in that big blue building and make lots of money so Mama don't have to work no more. I hope that true because Mama work so hard and it make her tired all the time. That make me sad.

Antonio tell me to be brave and that he was gonna go to McDonalds to get lunch for me when he get back. I getting hungry now. Nemo already played all the way through to the end two times, even through all the music and the people names who made Nemo. I like Nemo, it my favorite. Antonio teach me how to hit the button with the triangles and then it go back to the start so I can watch it again by pushing the one with one triangle.

It lunch time and my tummy all growly. Antonio sometimes make me a grill cheese sandwich for lunch or mac and cheese but I like McDonalds best. I wanna have more juice but I drank it all already and Mama say she not have more until next week. Antonio teach me how to get water from the bathroom though so I keep drinking that while I wait for Antonio to come back like he say he will.

I know Antonio be back soon because he say he will, and Antonio always do what he say. I waited for the movie machine to stop making that sound, and then I hit the button with the one triangle and Nemo start again. I already watch it two times but it still a little funny. I hope Antonio back soon because I really want a cheeseburger and fries.

Mama say she comes home when I sleeping but I know it like 9-Oh-Oh because sometimes I stay up and wait for her. I hope I don't have to wait for Mama to have lunch because that mean Antonio in trouble and Mama yell at him and I hate when that happen.

I really hungry but I gonna just watch Nemo and Antonio will be back soon, because he say he will. It almost 3 Oh Oh now. I bet Antonio gonna get me my McDonalds first and then I can eat it here on the floor while I watch Nemo. I love Nemo. It my favorite movie. I wonder if those people in the blue buildings watch Nemo too? Maybe that why the buildings blue because they look like the ocean that way.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Terrible Minds Challenge: They Call This Mutha Revenge

Chuck Wendig, King of the Britains, Defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of All England, has issued a unique challenge this week. The theme is revenge, and we have a scant 100 words to work with. Here's my entry, "Mail Drop"

Marissa sealed the envelope, pressing the flap closed and sealing it with tape. She
addressed it carefully, making sure the address was right.

He had made it clear that her path to the top ran through his office, and through his bed.
She wanted the job too much to have principles, and as he rose through the ranks, she
came along for the ride.

When he said it was over, that he had to concentrate on his family, she said nothing
about the pictures, the letter, the evidence she had gathered.

He didn't want her to know.

Now she'll know.