Gate Crashing

If he hadn’t blacked out, he would’ve remembered the swagger with which he entered the house. Of course, he was the only one who would’ve thought it was a swagger; everyone else saw what could only be described as a stumbling kind of weaving between the wall on one side and the crush of people waiting to get their coats on the other. He would’ve – if he could’ve – remembered the way he’d begun to laugh at the expressions on everyone’s faces. As if they’d never seen him before! As if he hadn’t been dandled on the laps of half and had his hair ruffled or his cheek pinched by the other half!

If he had been able to remember anything in the morning, he would’ve been embarrassed by the way he’d attempted to sing. It had been that kind of night, when everything seems like it should be a musical. So he’d decided to burst into song, and he’d sung, or more probably screeched with a cracking voice, about how he was a big boy now, with pubic hair and deodorant and the ability to get illegally inebriated (he’d been very proud of how he hadn’t stumbled over the word “inebriated,” but he might’ve been less cocky if someone had told him that it had sounded like “in-a-bread,” as if he was trying to describe what a sandwich was).

If he hadn’t woken up with a splitting headache and a mouth that tasted like a tar-pit, he might have even realized that someone had tucked him into bed, gotten him out of his vomit-soaked clothes, and closed the curtains of his east-facing windows. He might have realized that it must mean that no matter what scene was going to greet him downstairs, someone cared enough to make him comfortable through the suffering caused by his own idiotic behavior.

But he’d blacked out, and he remembered nothing. So he spent the rest of the day sulking over the grounding and making up stories to tell his friends about the wild things he’d probably done during the night he couldn’t recall.

The Man in the Park

The duck waddled across the expanse of green grass until it reached the fountain. Its head was a dark and glossy green that shone in the sunlight. As it slid into the water gracefully, it knew itself to be beautiful.

A man dressed in two pairs of pants, three button-down shirts, a windbreaker and an overcoat stared at the duck hungrily. His hair, some might say, looked like a nest. But the man knew that no nest would be as messy, as greasy, as greasy and limp as his hair was. The man knew that nests were works of art.

Watching the duck ruffled its feathers, the man sank to his knees. He hadn’t eaten in two days, but there was a fair amount of cheap wine in his system and he felt dizzy. He wished he’d saved some of the money he’d gotten from begging at subway stops and bought some seeds or oats to feed the ducks with. He knew that bread wasn’t good for them.

He tried to remember the last time that he’d handled a bird, helped to fix its wing or given it its shots. He couldn’t remember quite how he came to be this way, dressed in everything he owned, with only a few keepsakes stuffed into his pockets from a life he didn’t know how to live anymore.

Lying down on the grass, he shut his eyes and tried to catch a nap before the inevitable policeman would tell him to get up and move on.

The Ogre in the Bar [Flash Fiction]

Brad knew he was drunk because the ogre across from him was buying another round.
“Listen,” said the ogre. “I’m telling you, man, Shrek was the worst thing that ever happened to us. I mean, sure, now everyone loves ogres, right? But the problem is now we got standards. Before that blasted movie it was pretty much do-what-you-want, you know? No ogre told another ogre how to set up his swamp. Now, though, now we all gotta look kind of humble and be bad-tempered but not too much, and a lot of us have even started buying donkeys and turning their places into tourist attractions, and that’s just selling out as far as I’m concerned.”
“Yeah,” said Brad. “Yeah, that’s right.” He took a long sip of his sixth – or maybe eighth – glass of beer. “Tell me, friend,” he slurred, peering shortsightedly over the tops of his glasses, trying not to see the ogre too clearly. “How you got money to buy me all these drinks? Do ogres have jobs?”
The ogre looked offended. “‘Course we do! What do you think, we just loaf around all day making bubbles in mud-baths? See, that’s another thing, Shrek’s this layabout bum who doesn’t do nothing, and now people think we’re all like that.”
“What do you do, then?”
“Construction, mostly. Got the natural muscles for it. Sometimes I get a shift or two as a bouncer. But some of us have gone to school, you know, gotten an education, used brains instead of brawn and all that.”
“That’s great,” Brad said. He clicked his fingers at the waitress, who shot him an angry glance. “I think I’ll get the tab, man. I’m pretty beat.”
“Sure, sure, whatever you want. If you’re around tomorrow come by to chat. I’m here almost every night after work.”
Brad nodded vaguely. When he got home and climbed into bed, he thought about the ogre’s offer to hang out again. He had a feeling, though, that he would never to go to any bar on that side of town ever again.

A Pleasant Surprise – A Writer’s Tale

I tell people that I write. Because I do. But I have a hard time calling myself a writer. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone I was an author, either, even though I’m working on my third novel right now.

However, I just had one of the coolest writing experiences I’ve ever had, and one which I’m eager to remember in years to come. Which is why I’m writing a second blog post today, something I rarely, if ever, do. Ready? My tale might not be exciting to anyone who isn’t me, but here goes.

My current work in progress includes some six main characters. I wrote the first ten pages of it about a year ago, in this blog in fact [if you’re interested, search for “Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” “Amanda,” and “Heather.”] During my semester at Sarah Lawrence this year, I took a writing class, and began to write this novel in earnest.

About five months ago, I wrote a scene in which Amanda, one of my characters, is drunk and having a breakdown of sorts. She has never been drunk before, is introverted, is scared of her own passions and hides behind her instincts as a caregiver much of the time. As the listener, she can remain safe and closed off while still maintaining meaningful relationships with people she cares about.

Now, this scene I wrote so many months ago was, I knew, going to fit in only towards the very end of the novel. I haven’t looked at the scene in months, waiting for the right time to go back to it and insert it where I wanted it to go. The day before yesterday, I was writing the scene that I knew would directly precede it, in which Amanda’s friend makes her a drink, and Amanda, for the first time ever, decides to be reckless and takes it.

In the scene I wrote the other day, I had her friend making her a White Russian. The next scene I wrote was about other characters. Today, I wanted to put in the scene I’d written all those months ago, and so I scrolled to the very bottom of my file to reread it and see what I was going to have to change. And here’s the kicker. I’d written there that Amanda was drunk on “milky White Russians.”

!!!

I had NO IDEA that I’d specified in that scene what she’d been drinking! I didn’t remember AT ALL that I’d already had the idea of what I wanted her to be drunk on! When I’d written the scene a couple days ago, I’d decided to go for White Russians because I thought it was the kind of yummy alcoholic drink that her friend would mix in order to lure Amanda into drinking!

But it seems that Amanda told me ages ago that she wanted her first experience with alcohol to be with this particular drink. It seems that even her friend, a relatively minor side-character, knew in February already that she was going to make Amanda a White Russian for her first alcoholic beverage. It seems that I know my characters even better than I thought, or else that they’ve been driving me to write what they feel is the truth for them.

So. Maybe not the most exciting tale for anyone who hasn’t had the experience of their writing taking on a life of its own. But let me tell you, I’m going to be grinning about this revelation all day long.

EDIT: Another thing – in this same scene, written months ago, I’d mentioned homesickness for her mother. In a scene I wrote about a week ago, Amanda was missing her father and feeling homesick. So yeah, I think Amanda is really quite alive in my mind. Which is exciting.

Crazytime

I’m going out to a bar, and it’s going to be KER-AYZIE!

Yeah. No. I mean, yes, I’m going out to a bar with my cousin and a couple friends. But no, I am not leaving the house with that kind of attitude. I think I skipped over the PAR-TAY stage of puberty and jumped right into middle-age, because my favorite pastime is curling up on the couch with my kitties and a book.

Work has been insane, and my creative juices need to be refreshed. Strangely, the way for me to do that is to just sit my butt down on my chair and WRITE. I haven’t been writing my work-in-progress for a few days, and I really miss it. I know that Sunday, my birthday, I’ll finally have the time to get back into it, as well as catch up on all you lovely people’s blogs.

But for now, I’m going out. Maybe I’ll come back with some fun stories, maybe not. The thing I’m looking forward to most right now? The fact that I don’t have to set an alarm for tomorrow morning. Now THAT’S a cause for celebration.

Chance [Flash Fiction]

There was no reason in the world for them to meet that night. If anyone wants to prove the existence of Fate or God, they might use this example in their studies.

She was supposed to be on her way to London from Wiltshire, but the taxi she was taking (her father had given her the cash for it, she could never have afforded such an extravagant means of travel on her salary) broke down unexpectedly.

He was supposed to be halfway to America, but his sister called, hysterical, just as he was checking in at the Delta desk at Heathrow Airport. She was having her baby early, and her husband was abroad on business. When he told his sister that he was about to fly away as well, she screamed at him in no uncertain terms, and scared him so much that he decided it would be a good idea to get his butt to the hospital, pronto.

They met in a pub around the corner from the private hospital where his sister was having her baby, and where her taxi had broken down. They both sat alone at the bar, and it was only when she ordered her drink (“White Russian, and put in as much ice as you’ve got, I’m parched.”) that he realized she was there. He had the same drink in front of him, looking just as full as it had when he’d gotten it, because of the profusion of ice-cubes which had begun to melt as he drank it down.

“You’re having what I’m having.”

“Oh? Right.”

“No, no, you don’t get it. Nobody likes extra ice in their White Russian. I had a friend swear to disown me if I let him see me order it like this again.”

“Hm. Interesting.”

“No, listen, I’m not drunk, my sister is having a baby, I’m just tired – okay, right, sorry, I’m babbling, enjoy your drink.”

“Your sister is having a baby? Over at the hospital?”

“Yeah.”

“My dad owns that place.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“So I should complain to you if something goes wrong?”

“He hasn’t seen the place in ten years. He just owns it. Sorry.”

“Interesting. Owning something and not knowing anything about it.”

“Pretty much like all our internal organs, you mean?”

“Never thought about it that way.”

“That’s okay. Most people don’t.”

“I’m Greg.”

“Martha.”

Watched Pot

It was four in the morning, still dark, and Laura leaned against the counter and sighed. The coffee-maker burbled behind her, trickling the dark liquid into the clear pot – taking what seemed like forever. A watched pot never boils? Well, even if you don’t watch, they take as long as they like. She was in a sour mood.

The night shift was fine, usually. She didn’t mind starting work at eleven at night – that was when she was most awake anyway. She also didn’t mind dealing with the characters that came in and out of the all-night diner. Some were shady, scary even, but Laura treated them just as if they were a couple of middle-aged lovebirds stopping in for afternoon tea. Some of the more aggressive guys would try to hit on her, or else make fun of her relentlessly so that she’d snap at them, but Laura never caved. She was calm to such a degree that it made the thugs get bored and back off.

There were the sad people who came in, too; the prostitutes, makeup smudged, counting their earnings in a corner booth and asking for take-away pie for the kids at home; the homeless men and women who collected enough change during the day to buy a cup of bad coffee and maybe a bowl of fries; one or two crazies who wandered in and yelled about the end of the world or Jesus living inside them. Laura knew most of them, since they were regulars. The diner was the only twenty-four hour one in about a mile around. Anyone who worked or lived on the streets around it would come there instead of trekking over to the all-night Starbuck’s that was ten blocks away.

So Laura normally liked the night shift. The denizens of the darkened city and small hours of the morning were familiar to her and she wasn’t scared or judgmental of them. They were just there, and like anyone else, they needed to eat and drink.

Sometimes, though, like tonight, the familiar tired, worn out, or constantly tough faces were supplemented by others. In the big booth right in the center of the diner sat six of the rowdies, most obnoxious teenagers Laura had ever seen in her life. It was people like them that made her irritable to the point of wishing dearly to serve up coffee with spit in it.

They were obviously drunk or high, and they were laughing uproariously as one of the guys did some imitation of a comedian. Laura was rather glad they’d moved on to laughing about stupid stuff like this, because what had come before had been much worse. She already knew everything about their evening – they’d gone to Big Tod’s penthouse, and they partied there, and then they went to Shazzam, the biggest and most dangerous club in the area, where they’d partied some more, and then Trudy-O met them at the liquor store where they knew her and sold her whatever she wanted and they partied some more right there on the street until some cops came by and told them to get home or else. Instead of doing that, they’d decided they were hungry and wanted to sober up a little, so they came to the diner, where they unknowingly became the stuff of Laura’s nightmares.

Gangsters, she could handle. But these rich kids slumming it for a night? She couldn’t stand them. She knew they were just kids – probably just a few years younger than her, maybe even as little as two – but she felt that their naiveté was like a bad joke. They honestly thought they were living dangerously, taking risks, being cool. Laura could almost hear the thoughts in the heads of the other customer – thoughts of how much they’d like to teach these kids just how dangerous danger could really be, but why bother when mommy and daddy the lawyers will be swooping down on them tomorrow? No reason to create more trouble with the law than there already was.

Laura didn’t approve of harming people just because they were annoying, but she couldn’t help fantasizing about it, especially since these idiots had been mean and abrasive towards her, and she knew that she was going to get next to no tip, despite the fact that they had a big order coming. Including, of course, six coffees, and right now, followed by an audible whisper and giggle concerning white-trash waitresses.

The coffee-maker clicked off, the pot full, and Laura turned back to it. She poured the coffees, put the mugs on a tray, and carried it over to the teenagers.

“Here you go,” she smiled brightly and put the coffees down in front of each of them. She caught the guys staring down her shirt and the girls turning away from her, continuing to talk over her, as if she were invisible. No thank-yous came, but Laura smiled and told them their food would be coming out any moment now. She smiled all the way back to the coffee machine, which she refilled and started up again.

This time, she faced it. Maybe this way she wouldn’t be able to go back to the table to bring refills. No coffee boiled and brewed, no refills, right? So she stared at the machine, willing it to adhere to adage and never boil.