Pillow Lips

The first line of this was a writing prompt from last night. There was, and remains, a lot I wanted to do with this, but this is what I managed last night. There may just be more later.

She had purple eyes and pillow lips

Blue hair and baby-bearing hips

He had fuzzy chains and lashing whips

Faded tattoos and graying tips

Esmerelda and Chuck had no guilt trips

Just love and lust filling their memory chips

At least at first, then came the blips

The hurdles, the stumbles, the skips

She left with the chips and the dips

Leaving behind a box of paper clips

He yelled after her, “You’re bigger than a ship!”

Muttering more, “I don’t give a god-damn flip.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Prized Possession

When I was in kindergarten, I didn’t talk much. In my report cards from that year, my teacher, Ms. Philippi, commented on my silence and encouraged me to speak up more. Well, that was a bad idea. My report cards from first grade on included not so gentle suggestions that maybe I should pipe down a bit.

Once I got out of school and entered the world of adults, I still had plenty to say, but as the years went by, I found the written word as an outlet. I write stories now. Sometimes full-blown novels. And every once in awhile, I may even publish a thing or two. I’ve yet to find much of an audience for my books though.

What I do have are some friends and family who are incredibly supportive of my efforts. They buy every book, some post reviews, others don’t but tell me they really enjoy my writing style. These friends and family also, if they buy the paperback versions, find a place for my books on their shelves and ask me to sign them.

One of those friends is a guy I worked with years ago. My sons and I affectionately refer to him as Fartman. Why? Because at work, he played this game with a couple of our other colleagues. When he had to let one rip, he’d walk into an office, fart, and then walk out. Hence … Fartman was born.

We only worked together for a couple of years before he was off to another job, but our friendship endured. Lunches regularly, text exchanges, the occasional phone call. Fartman is the type of guy who is always laughing, sometimes in conjunction with some absolutely brutal words he uses for somebody else, and he always brought laughter out in me too. Isn’t that a great thing to have in a friend?

When I started publishing things, he became one of my biggest fans. He has a copy of everything I’ve put into print and as he has gone from job to job to retirement over the years, his stack of my books has gone with him to each office he has occupied. He has repeatedly referred to my books as prized possessions. Things that he treasures.

Which brings us to today.

A former co-worker has a side business. She makes beautiful cookies, decorated in whatever theme you want. I asked her for a dozen cookies made to match my son’s favorite football team. While we were messaging about my order, she mentioned that she used to enjoy reading but hasn’t read much lately. She added that seeing me post about my books had inspired her to start reading again and she would start with my books. We agreed that when I picked up the cookies, I’d sign whatever she purchased.

This morning was pick-up and autograph day. She had purchased two of my paperbacks. I signed the first one with a note thanking her for her friendship and turned to the second book. I opened it. There was writing on the first page. What? I thought to myself. Somebody sold her a book after writing in it? Doesn’t sound like Amazon to me.

I looked closer. Wait a sec. That’s my handwriting! That’s my signature! That’s the note I wrote in the copy I signed for Fartman!!!

I took a picture and texted it to him with a note. You have some explaining to do …

We spoke a few minutes later. We couldn’t stop laughing about this. Fartman has absolutely no idea how his prized possession, a copy of my first novel, ended up being sold on Amazon via a third party seller. As far as he knew, it was in the stack of my books he kept in his home office ever since retiring.

Apparently not.

Our favorite theory of what happened is this. He and his wife are very orderly. They de-clutter frequently. Somewhere along the way, the book got mixed up with other books and went into the donation pile. From there it went to Goodwill, who included it in a bundle of stuff they offloaded to somebody else. The Amazon third party seller who sold it to my cookie-making friend? Orange Zebra, a company based in Texas. We are definitely not in Texas.

Think about the coincidences that had to occur for all of this to happen. It’s just so bizarre and worth a laugh.

By the way, I liberated his copy of the book by offering a new, clean copy to the cookie-maker. I’ll return it to him the next time I see him. And we’ll laugh some more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I Want To

A little poem in response to a writing exercise last night …

I want to

I want

I

I want

I want to

Words of such power

Words of such weakness

Words that speak

Words that breathe

Is a want a need

Is a want a desire

Is a want something more

Is a want even real

I want to

Love

Laugh

Cry

Feel

I want to

Feel the wind

Feel the sun

Feel the waves

I want to

Feel your touch

Feel your warmth

Feel you

I want to

Walk the world

Swim its rivers

Share its rhythms

I want to

Talk to you

See you smile

Hold you tight

I want to

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Dime … Again Again

A stolen Yankees t-shirt. A deal to avoid punishment. A date to a dance. A few moments that change the lives of Lily, Sophie, and Pete forever. Pete, who stole the t-shirt on his 16th birthday because his neglectful mother and abusive father haven’t celebrated his birthday in years. Sophie and Lily, sisters orphaned ten years before as a result of a car accident that killed their parents. Lily offers Pete the deal. He can keep the shirt if he asks Sophie to the End of Year Dance.

The Dime explores how three young adults form a social family when their parents, either through the accident that killed the girls’ parents or the abuse and neglect of Pete’s, are not available or present to provide them with the love and support they need.

The Dime JPEG

When I originally started this story, it was a short story that was initiated with a prompt — tell about a shoplifter who is let off as a result of a deal made with the store clerk. Just a little 1,500 word piece that I thought I was done with. Then I went to the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference and submitted the story for the morning workshop I participated in. By the time that three-day workshop was done, I knew I needed to write more.

I ended up with a 30,000 word novella that I thought was it. My teenage son read the final draft of the thing in one night and told me in the morning that he liked it, but he was unhappy with it … because he didn’t feel like the story really ended. Basically what he says about every story of mine that he reads.

I thought about it and pretty quickly came up with an idea for a three-novella series about Pete, Lily, and Sophie. I set out to write the next two parts and, as I seem to do all too much these days, got bogged down in the writing of the second part. Until recently. Yesterday, I wrote the ending to Part Two. I need to run it through another round of editing and then have a couple of people read it. Maybe run it by my favorite editor, too.

Once that’s all done, I’ve decided to try to get an agent for this — to pursue traditional publishing for what is done, and for what may continue to come out of me when it comes to these three crazy kids. If I can stand it, I can see multiple stories spinning out as they go through the next few years of their lives. But there are other things I want to write as well. Whether I write more of this story likely depends on whether it gets published and whether it develops any kind of audience at all. One issue is that the ending of Part Two pretty much begs for more … again.

In addition to finishing Part Two, I have now posted all of Part One on WattPad. I’m not entirely thrilled with the outcome so far on that site. As near as I can tell, nobody other than a handful of social media friends have read it and nothing I’ve done on the site has produced eyeballs unknown to me to give the story a try. So, if you’re so inclined, head over here, give it a try. The more views, comments, and votes for the story, the better the chance of others noticing the story and giving it a try.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dime … Again

I keep adding chapters to The Dime over at WattPad. It’s up to 18 chapters now. Here it is if you’d like to give it a try.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dime

The roll out continues on Wattpad. Five chapters posted today. Fifteen chapters in total up and the crescendo builds!!!!

Go here to read, comment, vote for. The more eyeballs, the more comments, the more votes the better.

The Dime JPEG

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Jumping. Flying. Dying.

I’d gone across the bridge countless times. During runs, on bike rides. Each trip across, I had the same thought. What would it feel like to jump? Hell, I think that every time I cross a bridge.

The thing is … this bridge was different. It’s one thing to cross a bridge in a car or a bus, or on the rare train trip. In a cocoon of steel it’s not as easy to stop and go to the railing. But on foot or on a bike? It’s all too easy when the railing is mere feet, only a couple, from my unprotected self.

This bridge spanned a river that rushed along 40 to 50 feet below. Downstream were some mild rapids. Upstream was a lake, dammed decades ago. The water that rippled beneath my feet, continuing its constant course through the cliffs and canyons from the foothills to the sea, seemed deep and dark. There were secrets down there, ones that no human really knew.

Bodies long forgotten, whispering into the watery shrouds. Treasures lost and never found. Boats abandoned and sunk with their own tales to tell.

It wasn’t the secrets that lurked under the river’s surface that intrigued me though.

No, when I thought of stopping and going over the edge, it was something else I envisioned. A dream, if you will. Where I could flee the gravitational bounds of Mother Earth, leaving my worries behind, escaping the chains of despair I felt, salving the pain that wracked my body.

One day I decided I had to give it a try. I got off my bike and leaned it against the railing. I looked left and right. There were no witnesses present. Lifting my leg over the railing and propping myself up for a few seconds, I looked into the dark corners of my mind and gave myself a chance to decide otherwise. There was no light in there. There was no turning back. I lifted my other leg over and rested my ass on the railing and my feet on the edge of the bridge.

Between my toes I could see the murky, dark green water race by below me. A light breeze at my back felt like it was nudging me forward. And so, I followed the wind’s command and pushed off, leaving the railing behind me as I reached my arms out and sought to soar with that breeze.

At first it lifted me and I began to fly, I really began to fly over the river’s surface, between the walls of the cliffs that stood guard. The sun beat down on me, the blue sky offered to open itself for me. Trees along the river whispered in the wind, “Look, he’s flying. A man, not a bird, in flight.” The leaves quaked as though thrilled with my effort.

In my mind I soared along the course of the river, on towards the dam several miles away, where I would be able to fly high and watch the boaters and jet skiers and sunbathers as small as ants on a shiny, glittery, blue ball. And at some point, I would keep going. To the mountains, snowcapped and cold, across the vast plains on the other side, and eventually to the ocean and the world on the other side.

I was free. Unencumbered. Weightless. Giddy.

I crashed into the river below the bridge. I was dead.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Trent Was Right

When I started writing this last night, I wanted it offbeat. But I don’t do offbeat easily. So I wrapped up The Dream Story with a cliched ending. Trent pointed out that the pregnancy was too cliched. And I agree. So …

 

Molly always did this thing when she was nervous. She would rub her left eyebrow with her right hand. I guess it’s why she didn’t see the accident as it was happening.

We were walking down Brittany Park Drive. At the corner of Elk Grove-Florin Road, we turned right. On our way to Taco Bell. A chalupa or two for me. Soft tacos for her. Maybe we’d split a Nachos Supreme. I loved their Mountain Dew Baja Blast.

I looked at her rubbing her eyebrow. Her hand covering her left eye almost entirely. Why was she nervous? I had no idea. That’s when two things happened.

First, she stopped walking and said to me, “Joe. There’s something I need to tell you.” I was about to ask her what when the second thing happened.

Two cars came through the intersection almost simultaneously. The one in the far lane, just slightly ahead, tried to change lanes. But there wasn’t any space to do so yet. All there was was the other car. The one clipped the other, pushing it up on to the sidewalk and into a utility pole, mere feet from us.

I saw it coming, but Molly didn’t. Her hand covering her eye, the other focused on me while she swallowed deeply and took a breath. She had to have heard it though. The squeal of brakes. The crunch of metal. The breaking of glass. The sounds of the accident caused her to drop her hand. The sight caused me to jump back. Not once, but twice. I tried to grab her, but my hand slipped off her elbow.

She felt it too, just as she turned to the noise. Part of the car’s bumper tore off the car and flew through the air, slamming into her side and knocking her to the ground right in front of me.

“Molly!” I screamed, trying to ignore the glass that fell around us, the sound of her breathe exploding out of her, and the crack of her head hitting the sidewalk.

“Molly,” I whispered as I fell to my knees and looked her over. The good news was that her eyes were open, she was breathing. She was going to be okay. Right?

“Joe,” she whispered to me. “I don’t feel so good.”

“I know.” I wasn’t sure what to do. They always say you shouldn’t move somebody until you know what their injuries were. But this was Molly, my wife. I needed to comfort her. I gently lifted her so she could rest her head on my lap, hoping I wasn’t causing more damage as I did so. “Sssshhh.” I gently stroked her hair with one hand while I dug my phone out of my pocket with the other. “I’m going to call 911.”

“Honey, there’s something I wanted to tell you,” Molly said haltingly. She lifted her hand to her eyebrow again.

“Not now. Just be quiet.”

A crowd began to form. Some were trying to help the driver in the wrecked car. Others were talking angrily about the fact that the driver who had caused the mess had kept on going.

“Did anybody get the license plate?”

“Nah, man. What an asshole!”

“What kind of car was it?

“A Sentra.”

“No, no, no. It was a Corolla.”

“You’re both wrong. It was a Honda. Something like that.”

“It was blue, wasn’t it?”

“Nah. Gray.”

“Again, you’re both wrong. It was silver.”

“Shit man, gray. Silver. There ain’t no difference there.”

“I think I saw part of the license plate.  Maybe something like 5JW and then I didn’t get the rest.”

“That ain’t gonna help none.”

“Maybe it will. We figure out the make, they can run those first characters and maybe get a match.”

“Is she okay, dude?” a teenage boy asked me, leaning over at his waist, hands on his knees.

I looked up at the kid and said the only thing I could because I didn’t want Molly to know I was worried. That I was scared. “Yeah, she’s fine. Just a little knock on the head. That’s all.” And who knew if the bumper hitting her had caused any damage to her hip, or anything else for that matter.

As the sound of sirens finally reached my ears, Molly reached her hand to mine. “There’s something I’ve wanted to tell you, but I don’t know how.”

“What? You can tell me anything. But now may not be the time. You’re hurt. Just take it easy.”

“No. I need to tell you now. I can’t hold it in any longer.”

“The ambulance is almost here.” I could see the flashing lights coming down Elk Grove-Florin. an ambulance and a police car were on their way. “We can talk later.”

“Listen, Joe.” Molly tried to sit up but grimaced before resting her head back in my lap. “Trent was right?”

“What? Trent? Who is that? What are you talking about?”

Molly sighed and began rubbing her left eyebrow again. “You are so … never mind. Trent. He was our server last night.”

“Yeah. So.” I wanted to take her hand away from her face. “Where the hell are the paramedics?” The sirens had stopped with the ambulance parked behind the damaged car. I wasn’t thinking about the driver in the car. I was only concerned about Molly.

“Wait a sec.” I forgot for a moment about the paramedics. “Trent? You mean the guy who got our order totally wrong.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Yes, it was. You ordered the jumbo shrimp. He brought you a cubano sandwich. I mean, it’s not even the same meat type.”

“Okay. You’re right. He got that wrong. But he was right about something else.

That’s when the paramedics finally got to us. Who I would later learn were Frank and Mick.

“She’s my wife,” I told them when they were checking her out. “Is she going to be okay?”

The one who I’d later learn was Frank replied, “Should be, but we need to get her to the ER and get her checked out. Have the doctors take a look at her head. The good news is it doesn’t appear to be anything else. No other damage. Just her head.”

“Just her head …” I mumbled to myself. The head could be a big deal though. I knew people who had concussions. Bad ones. Skiing accidents and skateboarding accidents and falls from bicycles. Knocking their heads on something and, sometimes, it took months and months for them to get right. To get past the headaches, the fuzziness, the grayness, the memory issues. All sorts of things. So … just her head. Yeah.

Frank and Mick put Molly on a gurney and rolled her into the ambulance. Just before they slammed the doors shut, Molly told them to hold up. “Joe, I need to tell you what Trent was right about.”It’s not that big of a deal. It can wait.”No, no. Hold on.” She propped herself up on her elbows. An effort I could tell wasn’t easy. “You didn’t like your burger. Too dry, wasn’t it? You should have got the manicotti like Trent suggested.”

“What? That’s it? That’s why you’re rubbing your eyebrow again? Molly?” I said as Mick slammed the ambulance doors shut. “Molly?!”

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

A Dream Story

I rarely remember my dreams, but this morning I woke up with a clear image from a dream in my head.

I was walking with a woman in my neighborhood. I have no idea who the woman was, but what I describe in the opening couple paragraphs below was the image I had when I woke up. And the accident that follows was in that image as well. I had an idea of trying to take the image and write something immediately, but I had things to do this morning, so I couldn’t do that. It came back to me as I ate dinner, so … what this is then is a somewhat spur of the moment, flash piece, based on a dreamed image. One more note … this is very much a first draft, rough, unedited (at least not much), and written in the WP editor instead of in MS Word and then transferred here. Whatever I come up with tonight will be it, and I’ll push Publish. Be gentle.

 

Molly always did this thing when she was nervous. She would rub her left eyebrow with her right hand. I guess it’s why she didn’t see the accident as it was happening. Maybe without the nervousness, with her hand covering her eye, blocking her peripheral vision, she would have seen it coming and would have got out of the way. Maybe.

We were walking down Brittany Park Drive. At the corner of Elk Grove-Florin Road, we turned right. On our way to Taco Bell. A chalupa or two for me. Soft tacos for her. Maybe we’d split a Nachos Supreme.

I looked at her rubbing her eyebrow. Her hand covering her left eye almost entirely. Why was she nervous? I had no idea. That’s when two things happened.

First, she stopped walking and said to me, “Joe. I’m not feeling so good.” I was about to ask her why when the second thing happened.

Two cars came through the intersection almost simultaneously. The one in the far lane, just slightly ahead, tried to change lanes. But there wasn’t any space to do so yet. All there was was the other car. The one clipped the other, pushing it up on to the sidewalk and into a utility pole, mere feet from us.

I saw it coming, but Molly didn’t. Her hand covering her eye, the other focused on me while she complained about how she felt. It likely didn’t matter because she heard it. The squeal of brakes. The crunch of metal. The breaking of glass. The sounds of the accident caused her to drop her hand. The sight caused me to jump back. Not once, but twice. I tried to grab her, but my hand slipped off her elbow.

She felt it too, just as she turned to the noise. Part of the car’s bumper tore off the car and flew through the air, slamming into her side and knocking her to the ground right in front of me.

“Molly!” I screamed, trying to ignore the glass that fell around us, the sound of her breathe exploding out of her, and the crack of her head hitting the sidewalk.

“Molly,” I whispered as I fell to my knees and looked her over. The good news was that her eyes were open, she was breathing. She was going to be okay. Right?

“Joe,” she whispered to me. “I don’t feel so good.”

“I know.” I wasn’t sure what to do. They always say you shouldn’t move somebody until you know what their injuries were. But this was Molly, my wife. I needed to comfort her. I gently lifted her so she could rest her head on my legs, hoping I wasn’t causing more damage as I did so. “Sssshhh.” I gently stroked her hair with one hand while I dug my phone out of my pocket with the other. “I’m going to call 911.”

“Honey, there’s something I wanted to tell you,” Molly said haltingly. She lifted her hand to her eyebrow again.

“Not now. Just be quiet.”

A crowd began to form. Some were trying to help the driver in the wrecked car. Others were talking angrily about the fact that the driver who had caused the mess had kept on going.

“Did anybody get the license plate?”

“Nah, man. What an asshole!”

“What kind of car was it?

“A Sentra.”

“No, no, no. It was a Corolla.”

“You’re both wrong. It was a Honda. Something like that.”

“It was blue, wasn’t it?”

“Nah. Gray.”

“Again, you’re both wrong. It was silver.”

“Shit man, gray. Silver. There ain’t no difference there.”

“I think I saw part of the license plate.  Maybe something like 5JW and then I didn’t get the rest.”

“That ain’t gonna help, none.”

“Maybe it will. We figure out the make, they can run those first characters and maybe get a match.”

“Is she okay, dude?” a teenage boy asked me, leaning over at his waist, hands on his knees. 

I looked up at the kid and said the only thing I could because I didn’t want Molly to know I was worried. That I was scared. “Yeah, she’s fine. Just a little knock on the head. That’s all.” And who knew if the bumper hitting her had caused any damage to her hip, or anything else for that matter.

As the sound of sirens finally reached my ears, Molly reached her hand to mine. “There’s a reason I’m not feeling well.”

“What? Yeah, I know. You just got knocked down and hit your head.”

“No. Before that.”

“Oh right. Probably just the heat.”

“No, Joe. Listen to me.” Molly winced and rubbed her head. “My God, it hurts.”

“Just take it easy. The ambulance is almost here.” I could see the flashing lights coming down Elk Grove-Florin. an ambulance and a police car were on their way.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Sssshhh. Just stop … you’re what?”

“You heard me.” She tried to smile, but it came out more like a grimace.

“But … but … ”

“Yeah, I know.” The grimace widened a little bit before it disappeared. “I guess the doctor was wrong. I guess we won’t need to start the fertility treatment now.”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“You know what. I think I’m going to throw up.”

That’s when the paramedics finally got to us. Who I would later learn were Frank and Mick.

“She’s my wife,” I told them when they were checking her out. “She just told me she’s pregnant.”

“Congratulations,” they both said.

“Uh … is she going to be okay?”

The one who I’d later learn was Frank replied, “Should be, but we need to get her to the ER and get her checked out. Have the doctors take a look at her head. The good news is it doesn’t appear to be anything else. No other damage. Just her head.”

“Just her head …” I mumbled to myself. The head could be a big deal though. I knew people who had concussions. Bad ones. Skiing accidents and skateboarding accidents and falls from bicycles. Knocking their heads on something and, sometimes, it took months and months for them to get right. To get past the headaches, the fuzziness, the grayness, the memory issues. All sorts of things. So … just her head. Yeah.

Frank and Mick put Molly on a gurney and rolled her into the ambulance. “What about the baby?” I asked Frank after he had slammed the ambulance doors shut.

“I don’t know. You should probably talk to the doctors about that. But like I said, there doesn’t seem to be any other injuries. You want to ride with us.”

I declined the ride. I could run home and get my car and meet them there.

As the ambulance pulled away and I turned toward home, I stopped and looked at the gathered crowd still milling around near the damaged car. “She’s pregnant. We’re going to have a baby,” I said to none of them in particular.

One of them, an old black man who was towards the back of the crowd heard me. “Well then, son, you need to get going then, don’t you? Go on, get out of here. Take care of her.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Phantom

The Monday night writing prompt was … phantom.

I’d write tonight

But I just can’t

A world torn asunder
By a virus
By racism
By violence
I’m overwhelmed
Watching the news
Watching twitter
I go around
And around
And around again
Over
and over
and over again
I can’t figure it out
How to stop
As everything falls
I watch and I write
I argue and I defend
And then the Phantom appears
Our President
Preceded by police
And tear gas
Breaking a peaceful protest
For a photo op
Of a man
So out of his depth
At a church that did not invite
Holding a Bible he has never read
Threatening war on his people
Dividing
Hating
What happened to love
What happened to tolerance
What happened to unity
What happened to respect
Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments