Go Away

A chalky man walks around Dora’s brain. He’s hard to pin down, never stops long enough for her to get a good look. She knows he is a man, vaguely, or believes he is, because of the effect he has on her. He makes her squirm, not with pleasure, but with discomfort, as so many others have done before.

But the chalk man, unlike the others, doesn’t berate her. He doesn’t mutilate her. He doesn’t corrode her veins and swatches of her skin with verbal acid. His silence is far more terrifying. It is a waiting silence, a tense and pent-up silence, the kind of silence that you can pull like a piece of chewed up gum, pull and pull and pull until it snaps back and sticks to both fingers and is impossible to get off.

Dora walks through her life with this chalk man threatening her. His blurry outline haunts her when she works at the wood shop, overseeing the new people’s handling of saw and sander. He doesn’t distract her – Dora is not to be distracted – but she is as aware of him as of the cyst on her thigh that scrapes every time she walks. He is a physicality that she can put aside, that she can work with, but that she cannot erase with a hot compress.

One day, the chalk man walks through the doors of her workshop and looks around. Looks for her. Frozen, she stands next to a cabinet she has been decorating with delicate carvings, and sees him see her. She feels him come closer. She hears his voice inside her mind and ears both.

“Hi,” he says. “Long time no see.”

She wants to say I love you. She wants to say come back. She wants to say take me. She wants to say you hurt me. She wants to say, and touch, and forgive, and relive; she wants to drink beer in Munich and wine in Madrid; she wants to buy a house and decorate it with her furniture, and she wants him to carry her heavy things inside, to carry her inside too; she wants to erase his erasure of her.

“Go away,” she says. The live chalk man turns, a look of true disappointment blooming around his mouth and crow’s-feet eyes, but the chalk man in her head solidifies and keeps walking in circles.

It will take another year for the chalk man to blur again, to become unknown again, to restore Dora’s ability to keep her hands steady enough to work again. When the chalk man is blurry, he is safer. Not safe, never safe, but safer.

Quickie #5 – Stop

Think, for a minute, about the graduation ceremony you will never be a part of. And the seashell necklace strung together with seaweed crumbling dry on a neck fully formed and ready to be kissed across the Mason Dixon lines. Think about doors that won’t open and the secrets that aren’t behind them, that are actually right in front of you wearing Ronald McDonald red and yellow, jumping up and down to get noticed.
Think about the rest of it. The chairs you sit in and the people who think you’re worth telling stories to. And the Aw Shucks goodbyes of office doors and the hip caps on coal black heads.
Your life, yours, not mine, is made of stop and breathe moments and I am watching, and waiting, for you to come alive to them.

Exciting News!

I’ve been published in an anthology.

It’s titled After the Fall, and is a collection of a post-apocalyptic short stories.

I’ve known about this for quite a while, but it’s now been released on Amazon, and it looks lovely! So far, the anthology, published by Almond Press is only available as an e-book, but it will eventually be available as a paperback as well. If you’re interested in seeing it or purchasing it, click here.

 

Look forward to some more fiction posts during the coming days as well, as I’m queuing some up right now!

5 Years of This

This may be a bit of a sentimental post. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
It’s been five years. Five years since I opened this blog. In the past five years I’ve been diagnosed, medicated, enrolled, hired, accepted to, rejected, published – I’ve taken leave, applied, worked, written, studied, shared, departed, arrived at, met, said goodbye, recovered, relapsed, rerecovered, stuck to, made decisions, danced, drank, experimented, read, played, traveled, become. The actives outweigh the passives, all in all.

I don’t regret. It’s not easy, and it takes an active decision not to, but I don’t regret.

In the next week or two, I will be published in my first ever book – e-book first, then physical book. I will be linking here, of course. I will also continue posting fiction as often as I can. I won’t promise to be less sporadic than I’ve been recently, because, well, I know it’s pointless to make a promise I can’t keep. I can promise to try to post more – but I have also just received an acceptance to an internship position, and that and three intense courses at school may keep me pretty busy. Still, I’ve got some posts from this month of writing challenges that I will continue letting out slowly, and hopefully you will enjoy the mediocrity that comes of play as well as the more shining moments that come of experimenting with bizarre prompts.

Five years. Hard to believe.

30 Day Writing Challenge – 1

This month, I’ve been participating in a thirty day writing challenge with a friend of mine. The rules, for anyone who wants to take the challenge for any other time, are here. The first day’s challenge was: “Select a book at random in the room.  Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.” I had one of my housemates pick a book for me, believing I’d be biased if I picked on my own. She picked The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The yield is below. 

   And once more all the boys joined in his exclamation. They lifted him onto their narrow shoulders, their voices and bodies ragged from disuse. His fist signaled triumph to the waiting masses beyond the walls, where faces turned up in adoration to catch a glimpse of him, to call out his name. 
    “Patrick! Patrick!”
    And once more all the boys joined in his ridicule. They laughed at his slack-jawed disbelief, seeing the ruler hit his hand twice more. His skin, almost entirely covered by freckles, didn’t retain a red mark like many of the pasty children around him.
    “Patrick! Look at me when I speak to you.”
    He tilted his chin, straining. His neck was stiff on cold days. He met Teacher’s eyes, which darted away to stare at his forehead. Patrick hated this trick. It made him need to strain even more to try to meet Teacher’s eyes, but to everyone else it looked like it was he who was avoiding the man’s gaze. It made him look like a chicken. A little girl. Bad enough that he was a cripple. 
    “Now. I want you to please tell me what it was I was just saying.”
    Teacher had stopped asking Patrick direct questions – nine times five, Latin verses – because Patrick would answer them correctly. Now he played this game. There was only one right answer.
    “I don’t know, sir.”
    “Exactly. I would tell you to go stand in the corner, but, well. Sitting in a corner just isn’t the same thing, I think.” Teacher turned the ruler end over end between his short, stubby fingers, the flat wood seeming incongruous with his fleshy hands. The boys didn’t laugh outright, not with Teacher twirling his weapon lovingly like that – he could snap at any moment – but they exchanged looks and smiles, on the edges of their seats. “Instead, why don’t you just wheel yourself around the room while we continue the lesson?” 
    Two boys winked at one another. This was what they’d been hoping for.
    Patrick allowed his head to fall. The tension in his neck, the ache that went down his twisted back, ebbed. He slowly wheeled back from his desk, a large one that had to be made specially for him. He sometimes wondered whether it was this desk, this bigger, lower and definitely out of place desk, that made Teacher decide to make an enemy out of him. He was a good student, after all. His arithmetic and Bible recitation were both better than any other boy in the class. He remembered the historical dates that Teacher taught the class, banging his ruler on the desk for emphasis when the boys would begin to nod off during particularly hot and mosquito-ridden summer days. It didn’t matter. 
    His mother had told him that he was different, that God had made him different, and that men who were afraid would always remind him of it. Afraid of what, his mother hadn’t said. Certainly not of him, Patrick was certain.
    His wheelchair squeaked as he turned it, that was the thing. That’s why Teacher made him do this, this in particular. The desks were close enough to the walls that he couldn’t turn gradually, so each corner involved the execution of a slow turn with a few back and forths of the old wheels. It was a loud business, the second-hand wheelchair.
    Patrick’s mother had sewn a cover for the old padding, but he’d worn a hole in it with his finger so that he could see the old brown stain on the left side of it, which he was certain was blood. A soldier’s blood, from the Great War. A brave man, Patrick could feel it. 
    And once more all the boys in the back row wedged things into his seat as he turned around the room. They repressed their giggles and took whatever scolding Teacher gave them because he also coughed loudly at every squeak of Patrick’s wheels. His freckled face burned red with embarrassment but he touched the blood stain and tried to remember that he had nothing to fear. 
    And once more all the boys joined him in his exclamation. They stood in awe of the man with the clean-shaven face and close-cut hair who swept into the schoolroom and took Patrick up in his arms. His hand seemed larger than it had ever been before as he waved a farewell to the saluting, trembling, Teacher. 

Wendy’s Call [Flash Fiction]

Another call, another disappointment. Wendy put down the portable phone with the numbers that were all rubbed off from the rubber buttons and sighed. She was sixty-seven, almost, and it was time for a kitten. It wasn’t proving easy to find. A young voice had just informed her that the two males she’d been interested in had already been snatched up by someone else, someone with two daughters who wanted them to each have her own cat. They don’t work that way, cats, Wendy knew, but she didn’t try to explain this to the girl on the phone. She tried to hide her disappointment. She tried to tell herself it was going to be alright.

Doctor Kendall was a nice man. He’d been looking. He would keep looking. He knows I’ll take good care of a kitten, Wendy thought.

She got up from the kitchen table, where she’d been drinking a cup of tea. Her dressing gown was tied tightly around her waist, broader now than her hips. Her whole family was like that, holding weight around their middles, like barrels of rainwater. Her feet were bare on the brown carpeting, and she wriggled her toes in it for a moment. The cleaning gentleman had been over that morning, and the carpet was fluffed from the vacuuming, and it felt soft and wooly. The way she always imagined it would feel to stand in a cloud, even though she knew, of course, that standing in a cloud would mean falling right through it and getting soaked to boot. It was moments like these that made Wendy feel silly about being sixty-seven, almost.

Her eyes, handsome gray and the only vanity she still had, would have to be made up. It was time to go out. She did the dishes first, only the tea-cup and saucer and a small plate where she’d been nibbling some melon rinds, and thought about the rest of her day. She worried about not being home. What if she got another call about the kittens? She needed to give Doctor Kendall her cellphone number. She had one, though she rarely used it, but this was important.

The too-wide bed was where she spread out her clothes. A pair of sensible black pants. A bra, which was important, because she sometimes left the house without one and got stared at. She wanted to tell people that she’d been a flower-child and that bras were for conformists, but she really wasn’t up to long arguments, so she just wore bras when she went outside of her neighborhood. Around where she lived, people knew her. They knew she wasn’t as old as life had made her look.

Over her aching back and shoulders she pulled a light sweater, a big one, that had belonged to a long-ago man who had been bigger than her. A lot bigger, back then, but now the sleeves were long and the middle fit just right, hugging her tummy like maternity clothes.

She brushed her hair with her fingers. She didn’t look in the mirror. Why look, Wendy reasoned, when she was always surprised? Always disappointed? So she’d stopped.

Lifting the portable phone up she replaced it in its cradle, so it could charge. She checked her handbag for her keys, her wallet, her tissues, her Tums, her Advil, her lipstick – not that she often used it, but just in case – and her cellphone, which she had remembered, for once, to charge the night before. It was all there.

Wendy locked the door behind her and took the elevator down. She resisted the urge to go back up when she heard a ringing from one of the apartments. It wouldn’t be hers, she knew. She couldn’t hear her phone from outside anymore.

Found Poetry – Big Boggle

July 12, 2013 Big BoggleMy mother and I often play Big Boggle (5X5 tiles, not 4X4), which, for those who don’t know, is a word game in which you have a limited amount of time and you have to write down as many words as possible. Since we got to be too good at it, we decided a couple years ago to limit ourselves to four-letter words, eliminating the endless and obligatory three-letter words that show up way too often and make the game repetitive (tea, eat, ate, rat, art, tar, pat, tap, apt, etc.)

Tonight, for whatever reason, this list I made seemed to work very well as a slightly sinister, possibly political (class and gender commentary?) poem. It wasn’t on purpose, but as I was reading the words out, it just seemed to work out that way. So, as you see above: my first ever piece of found poetry. Read it however you want – with the crossed out words or without, across or top to bottom, it works out somehow. I’m quite proud of the bizarre and happy accident (less happy about sharing my atrocious handwriting, but, there you go.)