OLWG #4: Dig Down Deep? Maybe Not.

I’m taking the essay approach to the Online Writer’s Guild prompt today. The prompts are: 

  1. Time to excavate our relationship
  2. A twenty dollar shine on ten dollar boots
  3. It’s a handicapped spot

Ah, the dreaded, “we have to talk.” We’ve all been there. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a twenty-dollar shine on a pair of ten-dollar boots. The time comes when all relationships need excavating in order to get reacquainted with what forged and molded them in the first place.

Couples expect, at some point, they will have to open up and reveal themselves in order to determine either how to carry on, or if it is time to come apart. It’s the unspoken understanding when we enter into a romantic relationship. But, other relationships undergo a similar journey of discovery, or at least, ought to.

Professional relationships, advisedly, don’t wander into the touchy-feely, emotional-needs-being-met realm of human interaction, but they need examining nonetheless. You can have a department full of smart, experienced, talented, hardworking souls, but if they are not getting along, their potential won’t be realized. We all can attest to the ultimately destructive power of a snarky, gossipy workplace.

Now, friendships…Well, that’s tricky. Unlike romantic or working relationships, drilling down into what makes a friendship tick is not required. You hit it off with another and the two of you get along. It’s as simple as that. Contrary to other relationships, it’s unnecessary to explain the reason why a friendship works. And, when it doesn’t work anymore, that’s that. You part company.

Depending on the emotional depth of a friendship, unearthing what lies at the heart of a platonic bond can be misconstrued as a rude intrusion of privacy. There is a point at which that level of exploration feels pushy. I suppose it’s why we differentiate one type of friendship from another. Someone is just an acquaintance, for example. A friend of a friend. Other friends are considered akin to a sibling or close relative, signifying an emotional union. These friendships may be able to tolerate, “we have to talk,” moments, but, in my experience, only to a certain extent.

What’s fascinating about true friendships is their endurance and a high level of tolerance. We give our true friends leeway; a get-out-of-jail-free card we don’t typically hand out to our lovers and co-workers. Our true friends can commit some pretty egregious errors, even betray us, before we decide to sever our ties to them. It’s like being unconcerned if an able-bodied person parks in a handicap spot. It’s wrong, but, hey, whatever. And, our true friends can go for weeks, months, even years, without contact, but once reconnected, it can feel as though no time has passed. No one ever seems to resent the lack of communication. Try that with your sweetheart and you’ll definitely be greeted with, “we have to talk.” Probably over packed boxes and a returned set of house keys. The workplace certainly has a “zero tolerance” for lack of communication. It’s usually cited as the primary cause of workplace dysfunction, or why errors were made.

This isn’t to say friendships don’t take work. They do. Friends have to navigate hurt feelings, misunderstandings and negotiate neglect, by simple virtue of the fact that all relationships need care and feeding. Friendships may have it a easier than others, but all relationships take work. It is the price we pay for being a sentient creature.

I blatantly ignored the clock this time. Sorry! I need to go back to writing these during lunch hour.


Unhurt Amidst the Wars of Elements

kanji immortal rose

I’m enjoying reviewing old posts. Gave this one a little polish and am reposting…

The Daily Prompt reads: You’ve imbibed a special potion that makes you immortal. Now that you’ve got forever, what changes will you make in your life? How will you live life differently, knowing you’ll always be around to be accountable for your actions?

“The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years,
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the wars of elements,
The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds.” – Joseph Addison

Part of the prompt’s premise seems to assume I have, to date, been living life recklessly, if I’m reading it correctly. I don’t believe there’s anything to date I’ve done for which I haven’t already been accountable, so I’m not sure what more the prompt is looking to discover.

But, to the bit about what I would do differently now that I know I cannot die: If it is to remain a secret that I am immortal, then I suppose, as several science fiction/fantasy authors have also supposed, I must move from one society of people to another, because at some point it will be obvious I’m not aging like the rest. I would have to be circumspect regarding the relationships I create, as a result. That would be a pretty lonely existence, which would not be a life to which I would aspire. But, I suppose I’d move around the globe a lot, which would be fun. If I’m going to be on the planet forever, I might as well explore all of it.

What fascinates me is the practical aspect. For example, immortality does not also come financial security. I assume I will have to work. How do you explain a résumé that goes back 150 years? 300 years? That’s a lot of great experience I’d want to brag about! In a day and age when background checks are routinely administered, I image the same would hold in the future. It would be a challenge to maintain verifiable college education and early job experience to fit a person of my seeming age, and not that of someone who is actually 150 or more years older. I bet I would become a very good con artist.

Another practical conundrum: If all the philosophers, prophets and prognosticators are correct, and there is an apocalypse, what the hell happens to us immortals? Do we just float out into space? Is it possible that, biologically speaking, a body that is designed to survive only under a certain set of circumstances, because of this one significant derivation, can survive without oxygen and all the rest of it? And who the hell wants to just go floating around in space for all eternity? Yikes.

Being frozen in time at age 50-something is not as compelling a notion as, say, age 40, let alone 30 or 20. Since my body would no longer evolve (devolve?), I assume it’s not going to change from what it is now. Therefore, I’d rather be frozen in time at 35 or 40. I looked pretty darn good  during those years. And, having a body that doesn’t change means I certainly wouldn’t give a damn what I ate, or if I was getting enough exercise, or concern myself with contracting a flu bug, let alone a disease. It’d be nice to never be fat or be sick a day in my life again.

Having a younger, fit body that couldn’t die would make taking up risky adventures more palatable. I might get injured, though. Because I’m immortal, does it necessarily conclude that I would recover from injury without medical assistance? Sci-fi/fantasy authors are always assuming magical regeneration; that the body must return to the state it was in when it became immortal. Before I took any unnecessary risks, I’d like to have this matter confirmed.

In the final analysis, what does immortality actually buy? I don’t know that dying is the issue, so much as aging is the concern. If, as they say, with youth comes the sense of immortality, then I’d much rather imbibe a potion from the Fountain of Youth. That is, if I could also keep the wisdom I’ve gained from the years I’ve already lived, because, as the other saying goes, “youth is wasted on the young.”


To Those Who Wait

From the first Occupy Daily Prompt/Blog Propellant “Picture Prompt.” I had fun writing this, so decided to give it the ol’ once over and re-post.

i see you

It’s a pelican’s life. Foggy mornings, calm waters, and blessed, blessed fishermen. The human kind.

Argus was one of the feathered fisherman who kept a special place in his heart for his human comrades, and Pedro, a human fisherman, liked the feathered fishermen like Argus. They understood where each was coming from: There’s the sea and therein are the fish.

As a young bird still learning his way in the world, Argus found Pedro after a long, mostly unsuccessful day looking for food. On that day, Argus stood on the end of the pier, frustrated and hungry. His mother never told him there’d be times like these and he wondered what to do about the pain in his belly. The seagulls taunted him. Swooping and screaming, always either begging, bullying or scavenging. Eating crap. What did they know. Fish are fish. Whatever the other humans ate, who didn’t fish, was crap.

Argus looked the other way, ignoring the gulls. It was the first time he saw Pedro. Pedro was tying up his boat. He then picked up a bucket and dumped an amazing amount of delicious fish back into the water.

Argus took a step forward, and stopped. He looked back toward the seagulls. Two of them were fixed on Pedro. Argus learned early on, in circumstances like these, you just gotta flap like hell to keep the damn seagulls away if you were going to get anything from the likes of Pedro. As the two gulls flew in, Argus ran across the pier, wings out stretched, mouth agape, and gave the loudest squawk he could to threaten the gulls, but it was too late. The rest of the flock had swooped in, making all that racket like the hysterical freaks they are. There was nothing for Argus to do, but hang back on the pier and wait. And hope.

To Argus’ surprise, Pedro stopped throwing fish away as soon as the gull flock arrived. “Shoo! Git!,” Pedro called out, waving his arms. “Git! Go on! Shoo!” he repeatedly scolded until the last one left. Pedro moved over to the side of his boat where Argus and a couple other yearlings expectantly stood.

“You kids, now. You ought’a learn right what yer folks taught ya. Don’t be waitin’ for no more handouts, ‘K?” He repeated his admonishment as he threw out the rest of what he didn’t want. Pedro’s scolding did no good, of course. Argus and his friends would come to always count on to him to throw his unwanted fish away.

It was late one day in winter when Argus decided the float along side Pedro’s boat slip was as good as any place to stay the night. Argus knew he was supposed to be back with all his family and neighbors, but here, next to Pedro’s boat, it was quiet and calm. Just a few clanging sounds, water lapping against the other boats, and no one else but live-aboard fishermen like Pedro. Argus liked the solitude.

A flicker of light caught Argus attention, and he turned to see that Pedro was staring at a small box that looked like it had light moving inside it, like the sun reflecting off the ripples of water. He knew better than to climb aboard, but Argus had to get a closer look. He quietly padded up to the window behind Pedro. To his amazement, there were tiny fishermen, just like Pedro, in that little square space. Pedro just sat there, watching them.

Every night afterward, Argus would quietly watch the tiny fishermen in the square on Pedro’s boat. They leapt and jumped, hid and snuck around corners. They were very, very good hunters, concealing themselves from notice before making their kill. And every time they got their prey.

One day not long after Pedro returned in his boat from hunting fish, Argus tried hiding behind a post, just like the tiny fishermen he’d watched in the small box. Argus figured he’d make a move like the tiny hunters and swoop up all of Pedro’s unwanted fish before the gulls or his friends got to it, but a couple of gulls came after him right off, teasing him about pretending to be such a tough guy.

The next day, Argus tried hiding again. This time, he kept to his hiding place and did not make a move. None of the other birds seemed to notice he was there. He tried it the day after that, and the day after that, and still no one seemed to notice him.

On the fifth day Argus chose his moment, and from his hiding place behind the post, he stormed Pedro’s boat with a loud screech, startling all the other birds and frightening them away. He landed on the back deck railing of Pedro’s boat, and gave his wings a little flutter before settling down.

“HA!” Pedro exclaimed. “I seen you, all stealth-like the past coupl’a days, back there, behind the piling. Wondered what you were up to. Way to go! You showed them!” Pedro threw him a huge handful of fish that Argus caught it mid-air.

“Oh, HO! Right on, buddy, good catch! Here…some more!” and Argus made another clean catch of another handful of fish.


OLWG #3: Nothin’ Special

This week’s Online Writers’ Guild prompts are:

  1. I have to find a way to tell them
  2. Nothin’ special
  3. This was not what she needed right now

Woman-Sitting-at-Desk-Exhausted-Work-in-Front-of-HerAfter the month she had, the last thing Paula needed was her manager laid up with pneumonia.

“Six weeks?!”

“Give or take, but yeah,” the department director said. “This means I’ll need to you to jump in with Sean to get that proposal finished.”

Paula resented everything about her job, but this really put it over the top. Filling in for her manager will mean staying late and starting early. Her husband will have to get the kids ready for school, pick them up after soccer and gymnastics, and make dinner most nights. She dreaded telling him the bad news. She dreaded the silent treatment she was in for.

Maybe sweeten the sour deal with an offering. Like, more sex. Not that he complained, but she knew. More sex. Or, maybe let him get both cars fully detailed, which he had complained about. After all, it’s just money. Speaking of which, Paula thought, since we’re going there, let him sink more of their hard-earned/even harder to save dollars into that bottomless pit project of his. On the weekends she’ll make two breakfasts: pancakes for the kids and Denver omelette and all the bacon he wants, instead of making everyone miserable with her tofu-is-food-too scrambles.

As her mind turned over her options, Paula thought again about how many hours she’d be stuck at the office, never mind the work she’ll probably have to bring home. She was going to have to offer up a whole plate of concessions.

Sean knocked gently on her office door and cautiously opened it. “I can see you’re doing what I’ve been doing.”

“What’s that?”

“Thinking of what all you’re going to have to do to make up for all the time here at work in the next six or so weeks.”

Paula smiled and sighed. “Yeah. I was thinking how much more exhausted I’m going to be after making good on all the bribes I’m going to have to hand out.”

“What’cha thinking you’ll have to do?” Sean asked.

“Ooooh, nothin’ special. Just, become a short order cook on the weekends, ready with a special meal for anyone who demands it. A hooker, whenever and wherever wearing whatever. Watch our bank account dwindle to zero. But, hey, at least the cars will be sparkling and that completely useless project of his will be done so he can move on to the next useless and ridiculously expensive project.”

“I hear ya!” Sean laughed. “I’m going to rock the pink tutu look for the next six weeks. My daughter will be thrilled.”

Paula waved Sean in. “C’mon. Take a seat. Let’s get to it.”


What a Nightmare: OLWG #1

She walked in to see me banging away at my keyboard.

“Not you, too!”

I finished my thought and paused to look at my old muse. “Yes, yes. I see you stopped in on TK to harass him. I like the name he gave you. Annie. Annie, Annie, bobanny, fee, fi, fo, fanny. Annie!”

My old muse stepped in front of my table, arms crossed. “You guys don’t learn.”

“Oooh, I don’t know about that.”

I returned my attention to my laptop. Four minutes had passed on the timer. Gotta get back at it.

Untitled-1A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown. Mortified to realize she was standing in front of her fourth-period social studies class, Mrs. Wilson did her best to hush the students’ tittering.

“Hey Mizz Wilson,” Thomas jeered, “why don’t you write on the blackboard, you know, what you were just saying about the United States government. Cuz, I don’t know how to spell ‘Senate!’ Show me how to spell, ‘Senate!’”

Thomas’ gaggle of goofs let out a loud laugh and gave Thomas high-fives. How desperately Mrs. Wilson wished she could wake up, regardless the pain she would feel if she was able to manage it. The anesthesia had too strong of a hold for her consciousness to break through.

“Come on, Mizz Wilson! Show us! Show us! HAHAHA!” the class kept heckling.

“I never said I’d show you…that’s not what I said…what it said… what was said…” Mrs. Wilson tried explaining; tried getting control, but her body was frozen in place and the words jumbled, tossed and turned around in her head.  Desperate for escape, she wondered if could manage to jump out the window, make a run for it…

The classroom faded. Hushed sounds filled her ears. As Mrs.Wilson came to, she was grateful to open her eyes to a hospital room. Her husband looked up from his phone and smiled.

“There she is! How ya feel?”

“I feel …. like I’m done being a Junior High School teacher.”

The 3 prompts for OWLG #1 are: A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown; She did her best to hush the classroom; That’s not what it said. 

Always a fun exercise in creativity! Grab the one prompt that resonates and force-fit the other two to work with it. Such a blast!

Can’t do the timed-writing thing unless I do this at lunch. Wrote in 30-ish minutes. Took 15 more (or so) tonight to tweak.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Old-is-new-again Online Writer’s Guild!

My Trip to Florida

cheshire noirSomeone read this yesterday. It’s one of my favorites. So, I made a couple of revisions and am reposting.

My Trip to Florida (Or, I Seem to Keep Having the Same Dream)

The problem with doors in dreams, especially in nightmares, is that they usually aren’t doors. Or windows, garden arbors, tunnels, passageways or worm holes. They usually turn out to be baby buggies or dandelions. Or baby buggies filled with dandelions that get stomped on by a man in a fedora and trench coat, who then turns to you asking how you are going to get back to the tree-house if you don’t have a scooter. He smiles at you, a fist of crushed dandelions in his hand, and you wonder if falling in love is such a good idea. But, if this is a nightmare, you can’t get a hold of a door handle anyway, no matter how hard you try to scream. Instead, you try to stop the goldfish you had in college from drinking the water in its fish bowl, only to suddenly find yourself in a nail salon getting a pedicure with your mother who always used to say she hated getting pedicures. The man in the fedora and trench coat smiles again and turns to leave and you wonder if he meant to smile again, but you were too late to see it. You miss him. But your mother is smiling, so you are smiling, because you knew all along your mother was making that bit up about hating eating lemons. So, spooning lemon curd over your oatmeal, which you know is strange, but you can’t seem to stop yourself from doing it, you stand there with Peter Gabriel (who now looks like your cousin from when you were kids) admiring the view from on top of the ant hill when you remember you completely forgot to go to the beach. You panic and look for a way out. Your cousin gives you a pat on the head and the dogs go running ahead of you through the grocery store and onto the stage where those ladies you’ve seen walking in the park have taken up downhill skiing. It’s funny how one of them has an accordion. No one needs an accordion to ski. And here she is, thinking she is such a big deal which makes you feel and look small, especially since she is a skyscraper. Anyway, how they are ever going to pull off that wedding when they keep forgetting to plan it, you have no idea, that’s their problem, but if you can just get to the library to fix the leak in the toilet before the kids come in from recess, everything should be just fine on the flight to Florida. The cat won’t stop meowing. Quiet, kitty, I’m fixing a toilet on a flight to Florida. Quiet! Wait. The cat’s meowing? Oh…right. Morning. My bedroom. I’m conscience and the cat is meowing to be fed. Good. That means I’m not on a flight to Florida, because— as I sit a moment longer on the edge of my bed waiting for the last of the cobwebs to clear—I can’t figure out why I was on a flight to Florida in the first place (Meoooww! Meeeooooowww!) Right. Not going to Florida. Feed the cat. Go to work (sigh).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Just a Dream.” and “Nightmares”

Rain’s Respite (Revised…a bit)

I recently read a blog post that reminded me of Rain’s Respite. I wrote it about 3 years ago. It’s a favorite of mine, but it irked me a bit. It wasn’t quite right. So, I’ve taken a stab at a few revisions.

…you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you….

junk shop windowI stood just inside the doorway for a little while to get my bearings, glad to get out of the sudden downpour.

A large cowbell attached to the door on a protruding metal brace was still clanging. I didn’t remember it from before. I stared at it as it continued to wobble and clang while my eyes adjusted to the dark interior.

“I know. Makes me crazy, but there it is.” An old woman was standing at the end of the register counter, hand on a hip, eyes also fixed on the cowbell.

“ ‘s wet out there,” she continued as she lowered her gaze to me.

“Yeah. Plenty.”

“You gonna just stand there looking out at the street or you gonna look around?”

I gave the old woman an apologetic smile and stepped farther into the place. “Of course. I’ll browse.”

With feigned interest, I made my way down the first aisle in front of me, absently taking in the flea-market selection of odds and ends. The time-worn junk store was well-known in my city, at least to those like me and my friends who liked to spend weekend afternoons crawling through antique malls, consignment stores and thrift shops. The place had its fair share of classic junk shop crap, and I bet a few items could be considered valuable antiques, but it was more like the old-time curiosity galleries that used to line beach front boardwalks.

Shrunken heads peered out from behind glass merchandise cases, or under bell jars on wooden pedestals. Who knew if they were actual shrunken heads or novelties made in Japan in the ’50s. They looked real enough. Large bins of polished rocks, sea shells, marbles, plastic doll parts, unmatched Tupperware containers, nails, nuts and bolts of all sizes, and unopened rolls of Christmas wrapping paper were tucked into corners and beside shelves. An assortment of ceramic figurines were just about anywhere you looked, along with various pottery pieces and tableware. Musky smelling used clothing from no particular era of fashion hung on various clothes racks, with very worn out shoes scattered on the bare cement floor below. The occasional large specimen jar with a deformed piglet floating in formaldehyde would pop out at you as you turned the corners of the narrow aisles, and taxidermies of just about every sort of creature were everywhere, from the ceiling rafters to niches under crates and between shelves and display cases. This included a large German Shepard at the entrance, facing out, which I assumed was once the owner’s dog, placed in the very spot it used to sit or lay, watching people walk in or walk by. Looking up, you saw a myriad of black velvet paintings, the centerpiece of which was a reclining female nude with a handwritten Post-it note stuck to the frame that read, “Gorgeous Glenda is anitomicaly (misspelled) incorrect. What’s missing? Guess right and get a penny for the gumball machine.” On a previous visit with friends someone finally figured out Gorgeous Glenda didn’t have a belly button.

“You looking for somethin’ in particular or you just wastin’ my time?” the old woman asked.

“No. Just browsing,” I lied. I was listening to the rain beating down on the roof, trying to gauge when would be a good time to head back out, rather than having my usual fun poking through the flotsam and jetsam.

“Cuz we don’t have no security cameras in here so I has to stands here while you shop. If you ain’t shoppin’ then I just assumes you go on ‘bout your business elsewheres.”

I couldn’t help letting out a laugh. “I’m not casing the joint, ma’am. I’m just browsing.”

“Well, I’ll just stands here while you just browse then.”

“OK,” I replied, pretending not to notice her snark.

I wondered if someone actually tried shoplifting something from the place. I mean, what is here that is so valuable to make someone want to shoplift? I studied the shelves closely. What would I want so badly that I’d shoplift something from here? I looked at a jar with one of the deformed piglets. Probably one of those. I’d never pay money for one, but it would make a great gag at work. I’d anonymously leave it in the lunchroom. I could just imagine the official memo the next morning about respecting common office areas and not to leave personal items in plain view.

As I continued my aimless wandering, still listening to the downpour outside, I spotted a set of glassware exactly like the kind my grandmother had: thick, gold/orange molded stemmed glasses with facets that replicated ornate leaded crystal. A sledge-hammer wouldn’t break the stuff and it was my grandmother’s pride and joy.

“Your grandma or old auntie have a set of those?” The old woman’s voice came from her place up front. I didn’t understand how she was able to see where I was from there.

“Thought you said you didn’t have security cameras in here.”

“That’s right we don’t. I can tell where you are just from the sound of you walkin’ around. Anyways, everyone’s grandma had a set of those glasses. Everyone always stops there and says, ‘Oh grandma had a set of these I remember these.’ ”

“They were my grandmother’s special occasion glasses. She loved them.”

“Yes, ma’am. That they were. They all did.”

“So, where do you keep the things everybody’s grandfather used to have?”

“Over yonder there, by that big clock.”

I looked around for a big clock. There were several. “Which one?”

“That big ol’ one goes almost all the ways to the ceiling.”

I spied it and instantly remembered seeing it before. I noticed its pendulum was still. “Didn’t that used to run?”

“MmmHmm. But it broke. Got over-wound or somethin.’ ”

“It had a very loud, deep chime, right?”

“Worse than that cowbell, I’ll tell ya.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I liked it.” I was now standing in front of the giant clock. I hadn’t really looked at it the times I’d been in the old store before. It was a massive thing, looking as if it was carved from the entire trunk of the oak used to make it. The pendulum alone was at least six feet in length and the clock face had to be just as wide in circumference.

“Where did you guys find it?” I asked the woman.

“It just showed up one day. Someone left it out front. Helluva time getting it in here.” She paused and continued, “Someones told me it looked a lot like the clock used to be in that old train station, downtown.”

“Well, it certainly would have had plenty of room in there. No wonder it was so loud,” I remarked mostly to myself. “Ever been?” I called out to the old woman. “The lobby is huge, with ceilings that go up four or five stories. And all that marble! Amazing place.”

“Nope. Never been on a train.”

I meandered back to the front to take a peek out the front door. The rain had let up a bit. The old woman was still standing at the end of the counter with her hand on her hip. I turned back and looked at the shelves full of books near the check-out counter.

“You have a lot of what looks like first editions,” I said. “Bet you could actually do better selling those online, you know, like through eBay or something.”

The old woman shrugged. “I’ve read every single one of them books,” she proudly stated.

“Yeah? Any of them any good?”

“Sure. I guess. People had a different way of seein’ things back then.”

“Recommend one for me? To buy?”

She looked at me with a faint look of surprise. “Nah, you don’t want them. You take a look at one of those over there,” and jutted her chin toward another bookcase of beat-up paperbacks. A copy of I’m OK, You’re OK was prominently displayed among them.

“I’ll think I’ll pass on those, but thanks.”

The old woman, the stuffed German Shepard and I were silent for a moment; the three of us staring out the glass front doors.

“So, you done browsin?” she asked, still staring out at the street.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” I headed for the door. It was still raining pretty hard, but I knew the rule of the third time being the charm. The old woman wouldn’t ask again nicely, if you could classify her previous inquiries as nice, if I was there to shop or waste her time. I gave the stuffed dog a pat on the head and opened the door to leave. The cowbell started clanging.

“You come back and maybe next time that ol’ clock be workin’ again.”

“What, that monster and this cowbell? Are you kidding?” I smiled at her and she smiled back.

“Damn thing,” she muttered.