* Clipped phrases from retro Sears catalogs and some phrases from Dylan Thomas's short stories collection - Adventures in the skin trade. I love doing found poetry. *
The Garden of Sears
Creation screamed forth
in an enchanted garden
Of non-conformist comfort.
two available in your choice of colors
He - lab-tested, excellent resiliency
She - fully immersible, high polish,
He had been invisible
Till, she opened eyes
of handcrafted, leaded cathedral glass
You were lonely before I came
They stood fresh-as-spring
It’s got bounce, he thought admiring her pompon elegance
She ignored his big 10 “ swivel nozzle
The fine-quality, vitreous china Classic
had waited for this Sculptura
One by one the funflowers died
as the Fooler purred his way through
“Take off your frock of freedom from defrosting and
resistant to the effects of smoke, humidity, and
a spark of wing and fire
the safety shell drops
leaving a hole in heaven
she took his hand and lead him racing over the Magicube
truly amazing, they move as though alive
and multiply, multiply by 3,500,000
Pattern is protected under a hard glaze for long wear
We are chip-resistant
We glory in - a cool-down tumble
complete with spill catchers
trapping tiny tubular travelers
What is death’s music?
The stunning modern look!
Was going to enter this in a contest here ( little black dress ) but as usual I went over the word limit and then haven't finished, yet. I would like to expand on the theme of cowardice & masculinity but I'm not too sure if it's too obvious.
Prove Your Y
Out of all of them, I kept my eyes on the slimy creature in the little black dress. He/she/it’s craftier than the others. He, I’ll call him he despite his get up, came slurging down the road yesterday like a seal, but when he noticed the others starting to imitate humans, taking bits of refuse to give themselves a frame, a mock skeleton, he broke branches off a tree. He used limbs to give himself limbs. I let out a wild donkey bray, something between a laugh and a cry of hysteria and had to back away from my watch at the upper floor window. ‘Cause whenever they hear noise, they move towards it.
This thinking gelatin, this meteoric goo - that some dipshit CNN newscaster two weeks ago had laughed off as ‘watch out people the blob is here’ - had propped himself up, gave himself bones. This was no blob, this was something worse.
There were about eighty of them in my neighborhood. A week ago, before their numbers had climbed into the double digits, the troops had come and banged on doors and most of my neighbors grabbed bundles and willingly vacated. Had to do with that Youtube video in which some teenage boy challenged by his friend had touched one of the blobs. That was before they’d begun taking shape, when they were just stewing and sliding along the gutters, like loogies, feeding off the water, ingesting whole puddles ... Growing. The boy convulsed and died. The trolls cried Hoax! Faker! But then the army rolled in. Other hospitalizations became public. News bulletins told the people to stop spraying the goo out of their yards with garden hoses, or trying to bang it into the gutters with rake ends and enough with the bleach.
I stayed behind, with my wife Angela. It was her idea to stay.
“Those bastards aren’t driving me out of my house. I just put up new wallpaper.”
It was hard to tell who she meant by bastards; the invading troops or the invading goop. With Angela it could be either or both.
I think there are three others on our block that stayed occasionally in the strange traffic-less quiet, beyond the sticky noise of the blobs traveling, you can hear the wheeze of a screen door.
Ten o’clock. Angela is in the house opposite gently opening the window. She got stuck in the house a week ago looking for food. I tried insisting I go ( although I didn’t want to. ) I said stupid things like, ‘I’m the man.’ She just raised her eyebrow and said, “Bully for you. I suppose having a cock gives you an advantage in dodging intergalactic Jello, is it part compass?”
I started to defend my angle by stating I’m in better shape but Angela glared reminding me if I finished that sentence her wrath would be ten times worse than whatever those blobs could dish out.
I ate the last can of ravioli yesterday. The water still runs. Though I keep the bathtub full just in case. Angela tried throwing me new supplies. She tied them in a little black dress and threw them from the window across to me. I bungled the catch and her package dropped onto one of the blobs below and burst open. The blob spread out like a splat and worked itself out from under the contents. Then it spent most of the day examining the boxes, the cans, the dress and a magazine Angela had thrown in because it had one of my old modeling ads.
Later, the same blob, I suppose, after he’d given himself arms and legs and shape and structure, and a mock head from a neighbor’s basketball, had put on the dress. Now it hobbled around like some freaking eerie Jack Pumpkinhead.
“Pssst,” went Angela with a wave. How is she always so fearless? I opened my window reluctantly. A couple days ago the blobs started creeping up along the house like snails. Scared the shit out of me. I ran around locking every window, shutting every curtain. Shook for hours. Angela just got a Swifer Broom and tried to pry one off - “No, you don’t you slime balls!”
Angela’s plump cheeks have been rouged and she’s done something to her eyes. Glued sequins on, I think. She’s been passing the time playing dress up with the neighbor’s loot. She blew me a kiss. I blew her one back. My eyes kept roaming. They’ve heard us, they’re coming.
“How you doing for food?” Her stage whisper could travel blocks.
“Shhh. Ate the last can yesterday.”
“What? Oh, ouch!”
I got the pun. “Funny.”
“I’ll run something over.”
Too late to find the pun in that -my stomach plummeted. “Don’t!”
“Levi,” she began, her tone straining with impatience.”You have to let me try sometime or you have to come over here.”
My hand wouldn’t stop shaking. It was sickening to be this scared in front of my wife especially while she remained rather calm. I slouched down out of sight, and turned my back on the window. Just squatted and thought. It wasn’t as if I was some he-man now reduced to a quivering mass with less substance than what was now creeping out there. I couldn’t feel the loss of courage like the cowardly lion. Who knew or rather had, or claimed a rightful place of authority in this world. Nor was I some sensitive journalist who would think it sexist to even entertain the thought and could bluff my sagging ego that this was the ultimate opportunity to show I have no sexist bone in my body and could embrace my cowardice, smug in the knowledge that as a right to equality, I owed my wife nothing, not an ounce of heroism. Bravo, pilgrim. But that was not my ideal to prove. I was no contriving actor counting on tears to earn me the Oscar that my lack of anything else couldn’t.
I stood for no one but me, Levi Hammel, an ex male model who spent most of his days in underwear pouting towards cameras and fending off gropes from the photographers. And Angela still seemed to buck tradition even while embodying it. She created and sewed clothes - bohemian hats and dresses. A plump Tinkerbelle who always looked as though she was on her way to a seance. There was never a weirder, more wonderful match-up. Now I was Angela’s model both male and female. I was used to wearing all types of crap and never blinked an eye, so I didn’t struggle and barely protested when Angela shaved my legs and put me in paisley leggings or broomstick skirts or gypsy blouses. Photographing me from the neck or waist down for her ads on Sign of the Owl boutique. This time I longed for a grope from this photographer and she always came through purring, “My very own compliant, anatomically correct, Ken doll.”
“Ken Doll!” She hollared now, as if plugged into my thoughts. An idea so eerie and comforting I scratched at the goose pimples she’d raised, and bit my tongue to keep from shushing her.
I imagined them slurping into the window. Finding me.
“Angel Doll.” My call was much quieter.
“We need a plan.”
My brain froze at the thought of leaving the house but I turned and looked out the window. They were thick on the ground all their makeshift heads - one used a melon from a garden down the block, another a ticking clock ( from inside a house - chilling thought ), another a trike wheel, an empty mayonaise jar, a wasp nest anything that was round or cylindrical - every makeshift head turned towards us. “What do you have in mind?”
“Don’t you have any ideas?”
“Have you tried the phones -”
“The phones are dead, babe. Dead. We can’t count on anyone to help us.”
“Who’s fault is that?” I quickly shot back. The wet flash of pain in her eyes made me instantly regret it. “I’m sorry.”
“It is my fault.”
“No, I could have - ”
“You never give in when I want my way. ” She stopped and snuffed. I was glad she didn’t continue as it sounded rather accusing. It made me feel as though I’d always been weak but had never had to face a mirror and see the weakness. And this is all this situation was one big mirror revealing all my flaws. “Shit, they’re climbing up the walls again. 2 o’clock.” She says and closes her window. She draws the curtains. I follow her lead.
I never sleep long any more. Maybe they’ll get in. Maybe I’ve forgotten something: the flue on the fireplace, a cracked window to let in a breeze, the dryer vent, the hole for the cable wires. Can they thin down to spit strings and find their way in like mice? What do they want?
They just seem to wander.
A question on the forums had me dragging out my first book to see how far I’ve come ( or not *gulp* ) in my writing. It was definitely eye opening. I took some pictures. Check out this behemoth.
I wrote it back in the early 90's when I was around 14. I’m having issues trying to date this ( I never wrote dates on anything. And there are about 4 10-30 page outlines I had done of the story previous to writing this draft which is throwing me off on the dates. ) I got inspired by Twin Peaks which was inspired by old movies and my ms bares a lot of similar themes ( both with old movies and Twin Peaks ) - There are serial murders, and a quirky detective, lots of strange folklore, an amnesia theme, and a sort of horror/surrealism. It took a year or two to write ( dates evade me. ) But the final result is a block of paper almost as high as your average Dr. Pepper can. Lol.
Ew that yellow paper, you can tell I just grabbed anything because chapters written after look older. But I had a habit of grabbing any paper I could find. I’m really going to have to transcribe it onto a computer or something - Some of the paper is so cheap, ditto the pens that some of the words are pretty faded.
Notice how I tabbed the chapters, I kinda like that. I’m terribly organized so I not only tabbed the chapters, I named them to keep track of things. There are 44 chapters. In later drafts I tried to whittle them down to 32 but they ballooned up to 53. Every time I got rid of something it seemed like some new character took it's place or a new scene filled the gap. The shortest chapter is 3 pages long and the longest chapter in the world - look at that sucker was - 665 pages.
A novel within a novel.
One thing that made me nostalgic for the time when I wrote this was how into the writing I got. I wrote so much so fast that the ink would run out in my pen and rather than search for another I’d grab anything that I could find- in this page it happens to be a navy pencil crayon - and kept going. Gah! The dedication. Here's the pen starting to fade - but it picks up and - says Nice to meet you Farrell is now in navy pencil crayon.
And rather than loose momentum - here's the next page in pencil crayon ( lol ) -
- *Groan* That dialogue! So cheesy. Notice the random note at the top of the page to remind me of something I missed. Ragged Robin, a flower, happened to be some important clue in the serial murders. Not quite sure what's it doing on this page.
At first glance over my story, I cringed ( and am still cringing over that dialogue ) , then I kinda gave myself a break. It wasn’t the day and age ( for me anyway ) of computers, or backspace, erase, or delete. I just flooded the page and to hell with coherency. Plus, I wasn’t the best student in the world, I wouldn’t know an adverb or modifier if they angrily bit me on my skinny behind.
On the page below, I circled and underlined some stuff. Note how I was doing the present tense thing back there ( doesn’t sound half as good though. It sounds very script-y. ) And apparently I loved hammy ideas -
- Also, I loved the dash. Rather than indent a paragraph I just used a dash, same for the start of dialogue which I never bothered to use quotes on. And I hated speech tags ( huh, still do ) so they didn’t always show up, clouding who the hell was speaking. Notice the circled Help...me that's actually supposed to be a thought but there's no distinction. I didn't bother printing in italic.
I attempted a second draft of this story and got as far as the 26 chapter - 600 pages in, oh I didn’t tell you how long this book was - 2178 pages. I decided to hunt up some paperbacks to show you the equivalent size wise. I chose some hefty horrors approx 400-500 pages a piece, but despite the fact that there are four paperbacks - I’m still 90 pages over them in length.
I would love to say I got much more word concise but when I attempted a second draft - it wound up running almost parallel in length. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you learn that I ditched five characters, lots of scenes and I developed a nastier habit than the dash. Instead of using the dash I wrote everything in a huge block on the page. No paragraph indents, no distinction in dialogue patterns just words. That second draft is more unreadable than the first draft. Fortunately this all took place in the early to mid 90's. And I've gotten better with my layout, word choices and hopefully grammar.
Good things I noticed - despite my awful spelling, fluky grammar, and tendency to slip into present tense - were those quirky touches I love which I thought had only come about recently. A lot of things didn’t work but I love that I tried and that I keep on trying. - Here’s one line -
Just wanted to show everyone that even a bad, overwinded draft is better than nothing. I'm glad I kept it all these years. There were times when I wanted to burn it or throw it out but it's shown me that I was on the right track in finding my style, there were many years when I wanted to cave but somehow that same quirky voice has fought it's way through. And at the very least it's shown how much I've grown in my writing.
It’s cold out. But time for Pug to do his duty.
He blinks big soft eyes at me as if to say, out there?
Small scoot with foot to help him out.
The snow is thick. We’ve shoveled trenches from the house to the gate at the driveway. The pug paces in the trench like a solider.
The walls of the trench are pee-stained. From the pug, the shitzu, the boston terrier. The pug takes his time. Then puts his face in the snow, the yellow snow, and emerges tongue out of his mouth doing a wild shimmy. Yuck, stop tasting pee! I yell. His computer-like-brain ( monkey with a broken abacus ) sorts the info while he aligns for a counter attack pee. He turns right no-not good enough more to the - leg lifts, he stumbles a bit. Steam wafts and the walls cave a little.
He trots for the door, blinking threw snowflakes.
Old fool, I say. But fondly.
Feeling dark. My poems are coming out weird and dark.
My torture chamber
carved with jaguars
Conclusions all dark
Watch the monsters
sink beneath my eye moat.
Tongue like a
gouging dreadful things:
how are you?
A tongue bridging
as ash from a corpse
blows red across
When I first heard of Nanowrite ( which I think was last year ), I was like uhuh, not for me, who could write 50,000 coherent words in 30 days? I’m lucky if I can manage 10,000 coherent words in three weeks. But this year I thought - what the hell, what have I got to lose.
I signed up maybe five days before it started and hadn’t even settled on a project. I was currently tinkering with my Doll’s novels and thought about trying that out and even entered that as my project until I read the rules - ( Yes, first things first, Peach. Dive in then read the rules. ) - You must start from scratch. Not wanting to ditch an entire chapter, I dusted off a screenplay, ditched most of the characters, scenes, outcome - lol. Not much left but the idea and main character - perfect. With a couple days to go, I cranked out a 17 page outline.
Nanowrite is kinda like setting out on a cruise there’s a lot of fanfare before hand, ticker-tape curls thrown and bon voyagies. Imagine Elvis Costello crooning his approp ‘Everyday I write the Book’ and when the shiphorn blew at midnight - cast off time - ah, the excitement, the adrenalin! My fingers flew across the keyboard. The next day I couldn’t wait to get started again and update my word count.
For the first week I seemed to operate on a pure high. It was part the novelty of belonging to this cruise-like, clubby atmosphere - I’m with nanowrite! Part the sharing of a similar experience - look at all these people who want to write a book - how cool is this! Mainly, though it was being immersed in a fresh project.
Second week the novelty begins to wear off. Not necessarily a bad thing. Can anyone write a book on a high of sheer novelty? Whoever you are out there, let me know. I hit some rough patches. Some might scoff how can you call them rough patches if you consistently made your goal each night and more than your goal. Because some of that writing was done down to the wire. Seconds to the clock an hour left to midnight and I’m taping away, my the little-turtle-that-could pace - a hour and a half = 1 page ( if I’m lucky. )
I practically pulled my hair wondering what comes next. Outline aside, I still had to come up with fresh dialogue and little things on the fly. And there were moments of complete chicken-little panic noticing glaring inconsistences. I forgot my mc smoked and given his position in quarantine he should be going up the wall. Some characters are supposed to go to the bathroom ( don’t ask but it’s essential to the plot ) and they’ve been holding it for over a week - lol. And then I’d write some winning sentence that made me wonder if I really knew what I was doing. A real hum-dinger like -‘ the creatures’ appetite was so fierce they were resorting to cannonbalism.’ Mmm -Yes, I suppose that’s where they shoot themselves out of their paddock with a cannon. Well, at the very least it’s good for a laugh.
But what have I learned? Firstly, a routine. Which is definitely not to be under rated, Before, I merely wrote whenever I felt like it letting precious days slip by. Weeks even, dare I admit months? But I had the time just nobody to push me.
Secondly, I discovered when my best writing times are - afternoons ( when I can spare them ), and late evenings.
Thirdly...Oh, to Hell with the numbers. Here’s the list.
* Daft Punk can add a David Lynch-like twist to your writing.
* Love your first draft - it’s the diamond before it gets cut so don’t be so hard on it!
* Keep your forum chat to a minimum. My best writing days were the ones I didn’t go on the internet.
* Attempting the lambada, in the middle of writing a scene, just because the song came on,
is mere procrastination.
* End your writing day in the middle of a scene and even in the middle of a sentence. It’s so much easier to start the next day filling in a scene. By the time you’re ready to begin a fresh one you’re already in a groove.
* I’m off track, my creatures have planted a vegetable garden and for the last five pages I’ve forgotten their big mysterious project. Panic time? No. I keep going. I decided if the problem doesn’t work itself out to cut and paste for the second draft.
* Open a document a day. For Nano, I named each one Nov 1, Nov 2 and so on. It made keeping track of everything easier, plus, I wasn’t as tempted to reread what I wrote the day before. Oh, also, at the end of the day copy and paste the last few sentences so you’ll know where to start in the morning.
* Don’t tell a lot of people you’ll be busy writing. As soon as they think you’ll be unavailable for a while they’ll panic and become extra pesty.
* Laugh don’t cry at your flaws - Cannonbalism - lol.
* Argue with yourself later. Normally, I could spend fifteen precious minutes tinkering with a simple line like - “Write that symbol.” Arguing, shouldn’t it be, draw that symbol? Put the second option in brackets and power on.
* Set a writing goal. Nothing absurd like I will write a 600 page historical novel about African bush tribes in two weeks. Be practical. How much time can you spend a day writing and what would be your average output for that time be - three pages a day? Five hundred words? Pick it and stick with it. Always undercut - that way you’ll be jazzed when you surpass it.
Overall, I discovered I’m still that kid who loves a gold star. Maybe everyone in Nanowrite is that kid beaming over a badge for a job well done. I think that’s what’s been missing. I’m so busy trying to write a novel, tell my story and have it be perfect that I haven’t even allowed myself to feel pleased about the actual act of writing of conquering small goals. The more I give myself kudos for getting stuff down on paper, the more I put on paper. Whether or not it's garbage is worry for another day -
Decided to try out Nanowrimo this year and I'm feeling jittery and nervous. That same feeling I got in track and field just before a sprint. You'll never make it! Well, I never did get a ribbon in running. Standing long jump was my specialty. God, I hope there's no writing metaphor in that?!
I have no idea if I can keep up my writing goal especially since I'm going in on this with my usual mode-of-operandi - fly by the seat of my pants. I'm not sure that's the smartest position but I do have a loose - read extremely flimsy - outline. Technically how I roll is to sit down jot some ideas about the scene before actually writing it. I haven't got a pov yet. I'm torn between using the I pov because I think perhaps it might be easier but I don't especially like I pov so I'll probably fall back on deep third.
I can feel those filter words creeping up on me already - Phineas felt this Phineas felt that.
I don't even have a location nailed down. I initially picked a farm in Minnesota but I know doodlysquat about Minnesota so I'm considering some unnamed town in Canada and fake my way through - only trouble is I need a government contamination squad to swoop down. Me thinks Canada wouldn't be as fast on the ball as the U.S.
Two days to go - Arghhhh!
sulphur laden clouds
black limbs filtering
burned bulb of sun
floating apocalyptic babies
who grin, stare-stuck into forever
amputated from yester-era
A foreign body is lovely you think
finger-climbing up twin hills
plunder valley cleft
tangle in thicket
entwine and orbit
cosmic fall in reflecting -self -reflecting
mark your claim
watch it shift from under your grasp
for your trumpeting footprint
tender abuse this tongue of flame
saying, speaking, ordering
do something about yourself
after the words brand a seal
enclosing a scored heart
he becomes chill as wax
has frozen him grotesque
as a half melted saint
Am I nailing it when I fullfill what I want to say?
This thought came to me while contemplating a critique on someone’s story ( not here ) and then working on my own. I found myself doing what I was shaking my head at. Guilty! During the dialogue exchange, the physical reactions had been reduced to stock motions; he laughed, he grinned, he raised an eyebrow, he looked. Simple phrases that in the end dragged the story down an ordinary path. The occasional interesting event or phrase would catch my eye, but for the most part the author coasted on ‘what I want to say.’
Using ‘What I want to say’ is not necessarily a bad thing.
In the paragraph above I used vague phrases like ‘occasional interesting event’, ‘catch my eye’ and ‘coasted.’ I grabbed for them like a cook grabbing for familiar ingredients.
In fact a good many writers feel relieved - I know I do - just by discovering what they want to say and getting it down or paper ( or word doc. ) But ‘what I want to say’ can often lead to cliches. In one self published story that I read recently, I found a cliche and a tired phrase in nearly every sentence; greatest idea since sliced bread, without a hitch, out this jam, truly wished a loved one was there ( during a moment of crisis ). And on and on. The writer was saying what he/she wanted to say without going deeper. By the end of the story, I felt as though someone had written it with a Mad Libs, fill-in-the-blanks form.
Can a writer write a novel and publish it by saying ‘what I want to say’? Definitely. But should he? Are you finishing it or did you you nail it ( get it right. ) Why not go deeper and discover what you really want to say.
I’m going to pull apart opening sentences to two well-written books, Lolita and Z is for Zachariah, to show you what I mean.
Let’s start with Nabokov, now, imagine he’s a newbie whose first drafts could be posted for critique. Here’s the end result, what he’s striving for -
Lolita. Light of my life. Fire of my loins. - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
But, lets say he starts by putting down a sentence that gives his opening chapter the general idea he needs -
Lolita was the most important person in my life.
No snickers. Whose to know genius doesn't start this way. And this could be his ‘what I want to say’ moment. After all it does what it’s supposed to. But then he thinks about it and admits, okay, it’s to the point but rather drab, and it feels familiar. Everyone has someone important in their life so why should the readers think the mc feels something special? And by its vagueness Lolita could be a mother, a sister, an aunt or a friend. I need to clarify the relationship. See, by continuing to ask questions - Why is this revelation special? How does Lolita affect the mc? The writer is really asking - is this what I really want to say? He’s going deeper and deeper until finally, he tweaks the sentence -
Lolita had me, body and soul.
Maybe this is the author’s ‘what I want to say’ moment, or as it’s clearer than the previous sentence, maybe it could be the author’s ‘what I really want to say moment.’ Then again he could think meh, body and soul is an ordinary phrase I want something special. He goes deeper, asking more questions. What am I trying to convey? The mc’s obsession/ focus for Lolita and his lust. What is a symbolic focus? Light is an element, a focus point. It’s also a spiritual symbol. Aha. And lust begins in the loins. Fire is also an element. Lust is a heat. Light and fire create an echo by their similarities. Now, echo the sentences to highlight that connection.
Lolita. Light of my life. Fire of my loins. - Vladimir Nabokov.
I’m not saying this is how he did it, heck these lines could’ve been the first thing he wrote down, but it makes for an interesting experiment.
Going deeper is not just about swapping vagueness for clarity. It’s about finding what you really want to say by how you want to say it. It’s the very conception of your writer’s voice.
If Lolita’s not your thing lets try the same go-deeper experiment with an amazing Ya book. Here’s the end result -
I am afraid.
Someone is coming. That is, I think someone is coming, though I am not sure, and I pray that I am wrong. - Z is for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien.
A great opening. But let’s say Robert in his first instinct types out his general idea -
I’m trembling like a leaf because I saw someone up on the ridge.
Perhaps he looks it over and tweaks it -
I’m trembling like a leaf because I thought I saw someone up on the ridge.
Maybe he’s having a ‘what I want to say’ moment. After all it’s showing fear and the cause of it. But he’s not satisfied. It’s not really what he wants to say. Often what you really want to say has to challenge convention to truly nail it. He cuts trembling like a leaf, it’s cliche, plus, he wants to use the telling word 'afraid' so there will be no doubt in the reader’s mind.
He reworks it.
I’m afraid because I thought I saw someone up on the ridge.
Still unsatisfied, he asks himself what is wrong with the sentence. He reads it out loud. What do I want to convey? Fear. But also confusion in the reader. I want to draw it out. How can I do that? I have to chop up the sentence.
Still not right but what’s wrong with it? She’s afraid, that’s serious business. Aha. He’ll remove the contraction -
I am afraid.
I am afraid. I thought I saw someone on the ridge.
Now the following sentence doesn’t mesh well. It must be reworked. He asks himself questions about fear, and why she’s afraid. Because she saw someone/ thought she saw someone. Keep it simple. Let’s focus on the person and remove the ridge as unimportant. Now she’s just spooked. There in is the truth. Fear comes by movement, being certain you saw something first before the doubt. The next sentence has to be as assuring as the first.
I am afraid.
Someone is coming.
I won’t go deeper on the rest as you can see where it’s going.
These exercises are mainly for fun but they do allow writers to see, by breaking it down, just how the author came to craft these amazing sentences. Going deeper, asking questions, is something to keep in mind even when writing the first draft as it will keep it clearer, cleaner.
In a recent forum discussion on setting ( not here elsewhere ), I noticed a lot of writers seem to think setting is not all that important to the story.
I was flabbergasted. Others argued it was necessary but not the end all/be all of a story.
As I was trying to argue my belief that Setting is not only important but extremely essential, I realized I couldn’t articulate on the fly, I had to think about it.
Interestingly enough I had just finished a book by Debbie Macomber called Mail-Order Bride, a Harlequin romance ( don’t groan ), which can be used to make my point.
Now for arguments sake if setting is merely a location as generic as say a home, or even as generic/specific ( if that’s possible - a location but not quite exact ) as Alaska than a writer who is working on a romance could build her characters - fiesty woman, stubborn hunk and plot - mail order bride and decide after where she wants to place them. She could even go as far as to tweak them to fit the location. For instance if she’s toying with location she must keep in mind that the cowboy would be wearing less than the Alaskan man. That Utah scenes might take place more outdoors than Alaska. And while the cowboy is clean shaven the Alaskan man might have a beard to protect him from the weather. The writer could even split the difference admitting the rustic cabins in either location are pretty much similar, each with the proverbial roaring fires. But what has the writer really done? She’s allowed herself to fall ( comfortably ) into the slot of genre and pretty awful genre as that.
Why is this?
Let’s take Mail Order Bride as an example. Here’s the story - Two Great Aunts, resembling the Baldwin sisters’ on the Waltons, brew up liquored tea, and an idea to get their great-niece’s mind off of being dumped at the alter. The idea is to send her off to Alaska under the guise of a paid vacation while waiting for her is a man whose mail-order bride ad they’ve answered. She is so drunk on her aunts ‘special’ tea that she goes through with the ceremony. In the morning however she’s horrified by her whirlwind marriage and tries to escape. He likes what he sees and plots to keep her.
Now for the most part it’s a pretty generic idea that knows no bounds, it can happen in the 1800's or for this book, the year 2000. It can take place in the west or Alaska.
Instinct, lead her to choose Alaska, and it’s a good choice. You can isolate the characters, the weather can stop the woman from fleeing, there are rough crews out there making her idea to travel alone dangerous. And here’s the big one; the cold can be used as a metaphor for her behavior.
Oddly enough out of that list the obvious are used, the metaphor ignored. That is how setting can become cardboard backdrops. She’s picked the obvious things about Alaska: a beard, the cold, the isolation, and lack of travel. She’s even tossed in Indian friends, knitting for tourists, a mysterious fever epidemic. In the cabin there are quilts on beds, dinners are rich stews, and nights are composed of Scrabble games. But nothing is wrung from setting it has stayed completely on the surface of Alaska. Everything you expect has been covered. In fact without the cold any isolated place on the planet would suffice.
Now what if to fix the book we added more detail. We could add descriptions of glacial waters, the aurora borealis, history of the town and people, detailed description of culture and fish recipes but would the story become better? Relatively speaking - yes. However, if nothing links back to the character, plot and theme, if the writer misses the opportunity to expose this place as an echo of deeper value, than the story remains in mediocrity.
Here’s the kicker - all the detail in the world is not going to matter until you realize the setting must interweave character, plot and theme.
First of all, the writer had good instincts to place this story in Alaska had she dug deeper, a better story might’ve emerged.
Had she linked Alaska to the barren feeling of the heroine, the isolation of the hero, worked in the freeze out on her emotions, the beard not just as protective shield against frostbite but a shield against love than symbolically cutting it would’ve been to let down his guard.
But every opportunity the writer had to go deeper she flubbed it by turning the beard cutting into a cute compromise with a look-he’s-a-hunk moment. The isolation was also a plot ploy and nothing emotional was culled from it.
This is why certain genre can be destructive, the writers play it safe. In fact you could easily say Mail-Order-Bride has no theme, no character and no plot. What it has is an idea, stereotypes, and a formula.
I’m being hard on her, I know but she can’t complain, she’s a bestseller.
Now, here’s an example of how Setting links to character, plot and theme and delivers the payoff.
Take We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. ( I haven’t read it but I’ve seen the movie - there are several differences but it’s pretty close * spoilers upcoming if you haven’t seen or read it. ) There is an important setting scene in the movie in which Eva decides to redecorate her office. She glues maps, postcards old travel memorably up on the walls. The travel items are not just part of her past but future. She loves to travel. In the time it takes her to retrieve her husband to show him her handiwork little Kevin as destroyed the room by squirt gunning paint all over the walls. His act of ‘violence’ with a ‘weapon’ has not only destroyed memories but a future. At the end of the book she is stuck in her hometown facing the repercussions of Kevin’s actions and ironically working at a travel agency to make ends meet rather than traveling.
Details are not as important as links. The travel theme is a link, the gun and the sight of sprayed walls are a link ( later the exterior of her own house will be doused with red paint - the anty is upped from the isolated and enclosed behavior of her son to everybody in town is now aware forcing her not to live with it - as she accepts the ruined room - but deal with it by scraping the paint off her house. )
Now, what if the writer had focused merely on details, not links. Well, then Eva could’ve decorated her office with paisley wallpaper. Kevin could have scribbled on the walls with Magic Marker - see, the difference? Details are an issue, yes, but the right details- the links are more important. When you break the links, the impact of the story fails.
Anyone know of any good poetry magazines? I'm in Canada and found the Malahat review which
is really good. I also ran across one on the internet Mudfish but I'd have to order it. Jill Hoffman is the
editor and I really loved her book of poems Mink Coat that I got last week at a used book store.
Usually I check out the contest theme. Sometimes it sparks a good idea, sometimes not. But if I go with it and start a story I - A. - never finish it in time or B. It's always too long and I can't enter. Today C. happened - I finished it! and ( wonders never cease! ) it was short.
I've finally made a deadline and kept a word limit!
Definitely a cheesy smile moment -
I was collecting new critiques on my old story Thunderbolt - and the consensus was - who is the narrator? I decided to clean up the story and give it a proper narrator. Here's the old version if you want to see the difference - http://www.writingforums.org/entry.php?b=63325
I think this version turned out pretty good. Not sure if I wandered out of the pov though. I struggle with that.
Collie got himself a roomie last week. Some white boy. Short, thin, he got pretty blonde hair but a big ugly-ass scar runs jagged cross his face like a thunderbolt. Nearly spoilt his good looks. Only nearly, cause Rudy-T and his gang a’ hussies, well, they jus don’t care bout stuff like scars or tats, or nothing. All they see is that nest of blonde curls topping that pretty little head, and soon some brick-red hand is gonna swoop down into that nest and make its home there.
I bets two packs a’ smokes that hand will belong ta Rudy-T, Collie, who think maybe he’d like to keep that fine piece o’ sugar - ha, I see that eye-twinkle, bet first on himself with a great whoop, showing his gold front tooth, then he switches, maybe - Grotto, yeah, he stick with Grotto. Grotto, he somehow get all the pretty ones. He got technique. Be nice a moment like a snake charmer, next he got that snake round the neck, trapped in Grotto’s basket. Ha! Ha!
Collie dubs him Thunderbolt, heard his real name once, think maybe it wer some watery, no-good name like Alan. But when those eyes hurl through you like a sickle, he need some biblical hammer of a name like Ezekiel - so Thunderbolt will do. Some just call him Goldilocks, or Goldfish or Scar until that reeper look hit ‘im, and a name like Goldilocks fades like dey memory of a woman’s kiss. He be a Thunderbolt, never mind that he slim, and pretty.
We’s sitting at the caf table, Collie’s got one arm wrapped round his tray, though nobody
stupid enough to steal even a wandering glance from Collie, let alone a fast scoop. He eat kinda dainty. Little spoonfuls, chewing with his huge eyes like elephant egg marbles rolled up. Today he be thoughtful.
“I seen me Thunderbolt before, can’t place where. But ooh it buggin’ me. It stuck in
there like a froze movie with some star grinning his teeth. And his name floatin’ away on a bubble - eh? You know?” Collie say this with his mouth full of mashed potatoes some slid off his gold tooth and it look like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.
“Saw him take out an ‘natomy book from the library yesterday. Think that fish like to look a’ naked folk without their skins on?”
Collie had been there, he like to follow that Whitebread. He point to the page with the hang dog pecker on it then he say to Thunderbolt - “looky here, I see what interest you, now. Ha!” But Thunder-B doesn’t rile so easy, Collie will have to try harder.
“Here, he comes now. You tell him Collie , no-white ass punk sits at this table. Tell him.” Josiah points his spork at Collie, real serious.
Thunderbolt got his head down, not meek, but watchful like wary dog, he in lead with other cons winding through the maze of tables, but they fall away, filling empty spaces on benches till there’s only Thunder-B left. Collie waves to Thunderbolt.
“What you want to be so mean for, gotta be friendly. He, my roomie, might come in handy.” Collie grin an’ give a hearty chuckle. Yeah, I’s gets his drift, handy - like he could be trading Bolt for a carton o’ smokes or home brew.
Thunderbolt drops his tray on the table, drops himself down on bench, don’t look at us cons round him with our skin, dark an shiny as shoe-polish. He hook a finger in his mashed -taters and put it in his mouth.
“Hol’s Pen?” Collie starts.
“No.” Thunderbolt turns his slice of bread like record to see label, picks it up then takes
big bite. Butter smears on his lips like gloss. Rudy-T takes notice from a table yonder and blows him a lil’ kiss.
“Musta been State. State pen?”
“Never been to jail. I told you that before.”
“How’d you get that nasty scar than whitebread? Hmm?”
“They got knife fights in suburbia now?” Meegar say and we all be laughing over dat one. “Lemme guess some Corvette-driving, manicure-flashing, big shit catches a little shit like you, humping his gold-card- carrying wife, and cuts you up.”
“No.” Thunderbolt is one cool cuke.
“C’mon aren’t we roomies. You can tell ole’ Collie. We sharin. ‘Bout all we got. Eh?
Swapping da shit. Ha!Ha!” Collie got a wheezy laugh. Usually, everyone laugh when Collie laugh, not Thunder-B.
“It’s shoot the shit.” Thunderbolt corrects.
“Be friendly, Thunder-B. I’s friendly who tells ya not to walk down past Hurky and his boys on way to the store or he’ll jack yer shit. Who tell ya not to take shower near Rudy-T huh? Who tell ya how he got here, an show ya snaps of my most, beautiful ma - huh? You best be friendly Bolt or I gon sell you to Rudy-T for a carton. Eh? Mighty temptin. Now, you gon tell us, how you got that scar?”
Thunderbolt’s still chewing his veggie-supreme, still sipping his Kool-Aid. Threats roll off him, like beads o’ water in the shower, like the whistles following those beads o’ water in the shower room.
“I did it myself.”
“Yo-self!” This hit Collie hard, he reeling, not that it take much to blow Collie’s mind. “Why you wanna cut yerself? Mess up that pretty face. You outta yer head, Thunder-B?”
“Some crazy-ass woman.” Meegar mutters. “It’s always a woman. Wouldn’t be in here if it weren’t for that - that lousy, stinkin whore- ” Gobs fall from Meegar’s mouth. He a mess. Collie stop lookin’ a him. Look back at prettyboy.
“How come?” Now, Josiah’s looking at Thunderbolt different like. He got maybe respect, for this white-boy that cut up his own face, an nearly spoilt his looks. Something psycho about that. Josiah got to admire that, they kindred motherfucks, now, cause psycho be stamped all over his shrink-form. Or so he says. Nobody really see Josiah as psycho, least he no crazier than anyone else you don mess with.
“I was angry.”
“Hhhrmph. Never cut my own face jus cause I’s angry.”Collie stirs the last little bit of mashed potatoes before scooping it up and putting it in his mouth.“Cut up a fella who made me angry, not me-self. Hhhrmph.” He have last say cause he get no arguments, most everyone agree with Collie, don’t nobody understand Thunderbolt, not at all.
* * *
Later that night, after lights out, when them guards shoo us back into our cages, us birds with clipped wings, I gets out my mirror so I can see if Collie gonna try anything tonight on Thunder-B. I gots a bet with Meeger. I say Thunder-B gonna put up a fight. Meegar bet that fish will float - he’ll roll on his back for Collie an takes it like the last roomie. Wailing.
Collie swing his mammoth leg up and thump the top bunk where Thunderbolt is trying to sleep. Not as hard as he could though, I seen him launch his last roomie into orbit.
Din quite catch Thunder-B’s reply he got his damn head under the pillow agin.
“You don’t sound very friendly Thunder-B. You don know roomie protocol. You s’poused ta say, evening Collie, what’s up.”
“What the Hell do you want.”
Now if Collie be a good roomie, he’d pull Thunder-B down off his top bunk and shake him till all those smart-ass comments fly out o’ his head an never come back. That’d learn him. But I’m guessing Collie be thinking of Grotto, gotta be a snake charmer to get his hand around this one cause he say - “Now, now that ain’t friendly like. Someone gonna think you real sourpuss, Thunder-B an give you ‘nother scar to add to your collection. You got ta learn to be sweet n’ sociable. Lets start with how come yer here. I told yous alls ‘bout my armed robbery. Now it’s your turn.”
“You didn’t tell me alls about it.” Thunder-B was really begging for a smack.
“What?! You callin me a liar. You sayin I didn’t buy no ski mask at K-mart, you saying I didn’t go into the Royal Bank on Eastchester avenue with Harlan and Mack and stick a saw-offed shot gun in that ole lady’s teller’s face and watch the sweat jump out of her pores like I be waving a blow-torch, huh? You saying I didn’ hop in a green Trino driven by cousin Ernie, that shit-head, who crash us up on William street, and we spill out o’ there like rats from a garbage heap while them pigs be raining gunfire on our ass.”
Collie shape his fingers into guns, he’s shooting at the top bunk. He need to catch his breath cuz he’s all outta ammo. His lungs heave like bellows.
“You’re pissin’ me off, roomie.” He grumbles.
“You ever shoot rats in a garbage heap?”
“Betcha you never kill nothing in yer whole life.”
“I’m in for manslaughter.”
“Eh? You! Ha!”
“It’s true. I killed a man. A lawyer.”
“Well, ha! Ha! A lawyer, eh? In your wet dream, Thunder-B. In your wet dream!” Collie rolls chuckling lookin’ all cozy. Nearly made me laugh - His roomie - a murderer? Ha. Collie was the murderer, not Thunder-B.
“Did I eva tell you Roomie ‘bout my mama. How she believe God’ll throw thunderbolts,
javelin style at anyone who gets away with murder. Law don getcha, God will.” Collie got a smirk in his voice. He laughs, and it comes up from deep down like a roll o’ thunder. Considering Collie been in jail four times and one for manslaughter already, he probably think this big pile o’ hooey, and don’t care what Thunderbolt think.
But Thunder-B, he offer anyhow, “Maybe he will, Maybe he won’t.”
“You got a pretty voice Bolt. Betcha you were one of them - whatchacallim? Them boys in church carrying candles and wearing nightgowns.”
Thunderbolt likes music, plays the guitar, dabbles with this n’ that- can play anything, Collie believe this like gospel, and spread the word at lunch - Glory be didcha know - Thunder-B worked in a music store before he got his stretch, Lordy no, tell us more. He even made himself a ukelele from a Kleenex box and a bunch of rubber bands. Kid stuff, but he can pluck a tune and nine times out of ten, if Collie knows the song, and he better, he guess right away, what is it. You don’t say. Call Thunderbolt his canary bird. Then, Collie say once all dreamy-n-shit on homebrew. “I plays a picture-show in me head of music-store Thunder-B wearing a three-button shirt that hug his long, fine torso showing off that sea-foam of chest hair. Oh, and a belt, I be generous, looped through jeans, no slacks, cause Thunder-B got legs like a swimmer and an ass like a bongo drum, that somehow shows up in me picture. Don laugh none, or I’s caves your head in. Then, Thunder-B is cradling a gleaming guitar, got them long fingers wrapped around the neck, pressing cords like they veins. Like a pulse waiting to throb. An he plucks, and give it life! Hear it throb? He look up, like he knows he star of ole Collie’s behind-eye movie. And he smiles that only-spotted-once-before smile when Vito got stabbed in the yard. He plucks another cord. I felt the hum. And there between Thunder-B’s lips, I sees a plastic pick, protruding like a wee valentine heart.” Ole Collie gots a hard on for Thunder-B. Makes me bet a lot harder. I gots no time for snake-charmers.
“Sing me sumtin.”
“What am I, hit parade?”
“I could tell you to do sumtin else, Thunder-B.” Collie’s words crackle with coy menace. He no joking now.
So, Thunderbolt sings, what else can he do.
Under him, that fat vulture, be grinning.
* * *
Morning rings, jarring loud. Con’s grumble.
Thunder-B already up I hears him pissing in the toilet. Collie grinning because he can stop the flow like a foot on a sprinkler hose, just by looking over Thunder-B’s shoulder.
“Quit it.” Why Thunder-B never think anything funny?
When I hears that whitebread snap Leave it alone. I think this be it and grabs me mirror. Last morning I catch Collie giving Thunder-B a wack on his bare rump as he trying to pull on clean shorts “That’ll learn ya not to bend over show off that sexy target.” I think today, today I win. Only Thunder-B not talking about Collie diddling around with his person. He talking about a moth, a damn moth that somehow fly and now it doing laps around their caged bulb. Thunder-B go on to mutter - “Only innocent thing in this hole.” While Collie track the moth with his eye. Maybe if Thunder-B had asked him pretty, maybe, but he orders Collie. Collie don’t take no orders from no white boy. His huge hands come together like a thunderclap.
“Got im.” He opens them to show Thunder-B, a veiny wing like a dab of tissue paper and a bit of gray ash. Collie rubs his hands together in all-finish manner. Smug. Dares, Thunder-B to say anything. Thunder-B say nothing.
* * *
Weeks go by. Meegar tell me ta give up. Only I say ain’t no limit on our bet. I hold out. Not much happen accept Collie like to sneak in an ass grab whenever that whitebread climb to his top bunk. Collie chuckle like it big joke, but one day he asks - Don’t you ever be lonely Thunder-B? and he answer, I was born lonely. Today Thunderbolt gets a letter and this cause enough to get out the mirror. Collie yanks it out of his hand. Thunderbolt is still holding the envelope, and watches as Collie lifts the letter up to his face like he willing their secret to rise up in him, like an erection. Like something your body should just know and give ya, when it’s needed. Now Thunder-B know for sure what everyone else does - Collie can’t read. Oh, he had suspicions. Collie made that whitebread read all his ma’s letters aloud to him. But he say it’s cause he likes to hear Thunder-B’s smooth voice. Collie fakes disinterest in the letter and tosses it. Whitebread don care and he not bending to pick it up. In the bottom of the envelope is something that Thunderbolt shakes out, a picture of a young girl with curly blonde hair just like Thunderbolt. Got skin like cream, just like Thunderbolt - no scar though. Her eyes are blue, only they not cut like sickle, they warm as summer sky.
“Who’s that little girl?”
“Youse got a kid? Get da fuck out!” Collie’s amazed. So is I. We never quite believe Thunder-B all that old. Tried running a bet to find out, only that damn fish wouldn’t cough up and tell us. We settle on twenty-five like we rename him Thunderbolt. Now I’s thinking we all be off and this fish be closer to thirty. Why Rudy-T wanna pant after a thirty year old for? That hag usually got his tongue hanging out after all them boys that squeak in here, cuz they a fart too old for juvi. Maybe, he’d cool his slacks once he learn Thunder-B’s a papa.
Thunderbolt gets da gum to stick up his picture.
“What’s ‘er name? Betcha she’s an Amy - Youse white bread got no imagination. Eh, not like my most beautiful ma ...Collingsworth.” Collie chuckling over that.
“Laurel.” Whitebread brings his lips to his daughters smiling face. Gives it a smooch.
“Laurel...Laurel.” Collie say snapping his fingers, and pacing like a tiger in its cage. Act like he got that feeling again that movie-star-name-won’t-form feeling.
* * *
Later that night Collie wakes us all up with his groaning. He swear and sweat and accuse.
“What’s up Collie?” I say trying to be nice. Not like Becker on the other side who be swearing for him to shut the fuck up.
“They tryin ta kill me.” I gets me mirror. This could be good. Meegar lean over our bunk.
“That whitebread strangling him? If so you owe me- that’s a bet breaker you know it.”
“Soap chips... they’re trying to poison me.” Collie don’t reach the toilet, he spew on the floor. I angle the mirror away from that mess. Thunder-B just a silver outline and he blows out the scent from his nostrils but it come back in next breath. I knows it. I taste it too. We all kennel dogs only we worse we gotta share our cages.
* * *
Days later Collie make a midnight plan -We get ‘em. He voice glowers. Whoever they be.
Thunder-B say he want a weapon.
I get out da mirror. What dat whitebread up to up?
Collie puff up like Santa, and show Thunder-B how he makes his magic sack o’ toys.
Thunder-B is smoothing plastic, wrapped round his toothbrush bristles. He borrows Collie’s lighter to melt it.
Collie sniffs like he enjoys the smell.
He’s hovered over Thunder-B’s work. Fat vulture.
“Not too much.” Now, he mother-hen.
Thunder-B’s thumb is near burnt. I can smell it.
“I’ll kiss it an make it better. Ha! Ha!.”
Thunderbolt yanks his thumb out of Collie’s huge paw never knowing if it’s a true joke.
Thunder-B and Collie both wait until Thunderb can file the lump of plastic against the concrete floor. Thunder-B start sharpening. That rasping sound coming out o’ the dark is a real shiver-maker.Cause them smart cons be knowing that sound and be wondering whose sharping a shiv? Smarter one be wondering whose gonna taste the edge o’ that shiv.
* * *
I lose my bet with Meegar, he call time at three weeks. Coulda argued I’s suppose. Collie getting more frisky with Thunder-B but maybe it’s best this way cuz we both woulda lost our bet eventually.
Than one year pass since that whitebread show up and I gots me a new roomie on account a Meegar got paroled. This new fish we calls him Greener. On account a he’s got to be the greenest dumb shit we eva see. Ain’t never been ta jail before. Still says sorry when he bumps us cons.
“How come Collie never talks?” He asks one day in the caf at lunch. An’ that just prove how stupid he is.
“Don you see that scar?” I asks pointing to Collie at table yonder, an give the kid a wallop upside the head making sure no guards looking our way. Dis kid gotta learn. Collie and Thunder-B don’t sit with us much anymore. Not since the incident. We calls it da incident. Thunder-B calls it the attack. Nobody believe him but nobody say that to his face. Even Josiah say he crazier than we eva thought and should be thrown in the psych ward. Trouble is that whitebread more smart than crazy. Even Rudy-T not dumb enough to blow ‘im kisses anymore.
We all gots our ideas about what happen that day. I play mine like Collie with his behind eye movie and I tell Greener about it.
“Collie he like to beach himself like a whale in the supply closet instead of doing laundry likes he supposed to. I’s figure he sleeping, ha! Snoring that day when Thunder-B comes in. And that Thunder-B he smart, he be the smartest con in this whole damn place.”
“If he is so smart why is he here?”
“Ha! Dat that mystery ain’t it. How you catch a hunter?”
“You step in his trap, fool! You make like the prey.” I chew my food. Let that nugget sink into Greener's windy skull a'fore continue.
“So Thunder-B I guessing maybe he straddle Collie’s lap. So when Collie wakes he feel all flooded with sunlight- declare it be Christmas today! Whitebread know Collie like him so he play it like da music man he is - he play Collie like a fucking fiddle. He ask think I’m pretty and he got that rare-smile on. And Collie says Shoor. He real cool, don’t wanna come across totally interested. Then Thunder-B push - he ask Want me? And Collie shiver thinking this were too good, just the idea that he wer wanted. Look up in case his angel dissolve into air, but naw he still there the fluorescent lights hitting the edge of that whitebreads hair making it glow.”
“Jeez, you guys all talk like homos. I got me a girl, Lashonda and she’s waiting for me.”
“I give her four visits, what you bet Josiah.”
“Two.” Josiah gots on a nasty smile, takes some of the spark out of Greener’s fire.
“Hey.” Greener give weak protest.
“Hey, what. So you see your Lashonda between glass until she figures unlike you, she don’t have to jail herself up. She got men all around her. And us, when the women stop visiting and they will, we gots to find our own beauties, something that don glass us out. That’s all Collie was doing. He in for twenty-five years no parole. Done five before that whitebread show up. Hard not to look at that face and wish. Yeah wish, that he could be his Lashonda. Maybe even Thunder-B play with that, he cruel. Maybe he say - I been wanting you Collie. Maybe, he lean down and pour his words right into Collie’s ear. And make Collie quiver. Make his eyes close in rapture of hope -thinkin’ could this be real? Ain’t had no roomie like dis before. Yeah, that’s what he do. So Collie won’t see the toothbrush come up. Ah not the toothbrush no more - it the shiv now, the shiv he helped Thunder-B make. But he’d feel the slash and his eyes they’d pop open and his hand would come trembling, feeling his own blood on his neck. Maybe this is where Thunder-B say why he done it. Real calm - alls the while slashing up his own arms so that every guard think they got jumped. Nobody knows why he done it. Pauly he say Thunder-B got a woman visitor while back maybe it be his wife. She cryin’ but Thunder-B hard like a stone. Tell her never to come back. She never does. He tears up every letter he gets after dat. I’s thinks maybe it’s got ta do with his little girl. Maybe one of Collie’s crimes all deem bullets shot for money or stereos, or jewelry maybe one of dem bullets hit a little girl and nobody take notice but the girls papa. If it belong to a pig gun, why they won’t take the blame and his defense attorney not allow Collie to take da blame and Thunder-B could cry in court and say listen to me and nobody would. All maybes, all guesses. Dis make him crazier ta think he’d want to step into this trap all cuz he want to cut Collie’s vocal cords. To be heard. Pauly he say - Thunderbolt just did it to show Collie he won’t take his shit no more. I’s don know, only Collie know. I believe his eyes blurred wit puddles and the froze-movie unstuck and he remembered a papa in the courtroom holding up his daughter’s picture saying her name Laurel so no one would forget. And they all did. So Thunderbolt got to come make ‘em remember. And Collie feel like the snake charmer who jus got bit. Or like his mama said - thunderbolts do come and take care of the wicked.”
“He don’t act like he hate Thunderbolt. If that story was true.” Greener is suspicious, not so green as to believe it all, and watches them for the truth. Thunderbolt doing all the talking. Collie listening. Collie break his corn bread into two pieces. Give half ta Thunderbolt cause he knows Thunderbolt likes the corn bread. Thunderbolt in return give Collie da last scoop of his applecrumble.
“Some men liked to be burned, it prove someone out there took notice of ‘im. Maybe that’s how they like it.” I say.
Greener shoves in his cornbread. “Lot of maybes.” He mumbles around the wad.
“Well, like Collie used ta say bout all we got, is swapping da shit.”
* Short poem I'm working on after being caught at my grungiest during an introduction. Ha.
Sum of me today;
Chipped lilac nail polish,
Feeling like a squirrel has taken fussy
residence in my chest.
Over there is a woman with
satin nails and satin hair
no squirrel, but a smile that suggests a song bird
flutters in her heart -
Sum of her.
What can I do?
kick out the squirrel, coax in canary birds?
Why must I always feel like
the chipped polish? -
Something must be done about it.
Yesterday, I noticed the new theme for this weeks short story contest - Plan B. Last weeks Downtown through me for a loop. The city were I live has a pretty interesting albiet rather scummy downtown. Nothing spectaculuarly
interesting but I do recall one drunk sitting in his apartment window threatening to drop empty beer bottles on
the pedestrains below. Of course that was on a lively day. This week, however - Plan B revived an idea I had
jotted down but forgot about because I couldn't pull it together. I was up till two in the morning writing the
Separate names with a comma.