Category Archives: short prose
The cold. Wind rushes through the leaves. My skin retracts, muscles convulse. The exhale of a cigarette escapes my mouth and rushes away from me. Smoke, gathers and writhes, billows, yet dissipates. A thought.
A thought that takes me from such treacherous cold; meaning, place, part of the plethoral consciousness.
The cigarette, I again, unwisely, place to my lips to take a drag. The ashes redden, smoke swirls and dances against the influence of the wind, my lungs fill with toxins. I pause. Nicotine infects my blood cells flowing false euphoria to my brain, and yet I still ponder the thought.
Meaning… What do I mean? There is no measure. I can only measure meaning by self importance, so what does it mean? Does it matter?
The cigarette ashes flick into the brass chalice with ease, yet the wind catches them to take them away. Not willingly, but taken by force. Quickly the cigarette is again raised to my mouth. I hesitate a moment, as I look five feet from me to the dark gray slate roof, with what was once a white gutter. The orange stucco impedes upon my memory as I now take yet another drag, smoke hugging my fingers as I shiver once more.
Place… Where am I? Not in position to my physical whereabouts, but more, my mind. The chill exhilarates me, causing me to stand now in the corner where the bitter claws may not reach me.
Something within stirs. It has been, yet I try not to notice. I notice, but I fear. I fear, but I’m strong. I’m strong, yet I fear the weakness it may present. Weakness, and knowing its whereabouts builds strength. Strength I need to overcome such fear. Fear, I have no affinity with.
Plethoral consciousness – a phrase of my own construction. The combination of all human and non-human thoughts, energies, and will. Where? Or shall I ask, what part do I play? Am I one that will rise above? Or the balance to allow others to succeed?
The cigarette is nearly done, and has been resting in my hand atop the railing along my balcony. The brisk cold scratches my face. The thought. Why would I think it? I guess we all must. We have to, at one time or another, question where we stand. Whether it’s dramatic or simply pondering. For the cigarette, it was time to end. The red-hot ashes explode as I plunge it quickly into the chalice. I smile at the cold, as I open the door to find my warmth, and answer to the moment.
A young man stood upon the rocks in ocean beach, peering into the vast darkness. A land, or space, or existence that held breadth and terrible power within. The waves are ever constant, in five’s or maybe seven’s did a large one come forth. A distant light catches his eye, as a voice from within begins.
“You’d never make that swim,” the ocean swirls upon the rocks to his right. Cresting high upon the barnacles, white froth displaying the water’s torment. “You’d tire just far enough off shore you couldn’t return, and not far enough to make it.”
The water recedes out as sanderlings run in. The young man takes two steps further to the edge.
“It’d be like everything else,” a wave sends a small flurry of splash across his face, and spurs small ripples in tiny tide pools.
“Like Jonathan,” a young nude couple runs down to a small private beach between the rocks. They laugh, as she tries throwing him into the now on-coming wave. He tugs her teasingly but sends her falling into the water.
“Or Aaron,” a piercing scream comes from the young nude girl as the frigid water rushes over her. The wave recedes as they both giggle, now allowing sand to cling to their bare skin.
The light still shines, off in the distance, across this barren space, full of unknown dangers.
‘The big one is due’ he thinks to himself watching the water swirl around the rocks, then the white crest of the in-coming waves tumbling upon themselves. The blue moon shines imperiously upon the surface, demanding attention, and breeding insight.
“Everything you’ve tried, you’ve failed at lately.” Another wave washes in, traveling up a small fissure within the stone embankment. The young man sits now at the edge of the slippery rock. Another wave crashes in, but still of no “big” proportion. The water churns below his feet, swishing and unpredictably taking paths not taken the same before.
The light from a boat off in the distance has traveled slightly to the right, both blue and red lights still bequeath their light, and strength upon the barren land.
“Failure is something that must be learned to be taken,” small waves continue to wash upon the shore. The young nude couple has quieted, except for a random female pleasure song. A long hoot is heard from a-top the steps as three college kids arrive to indulge in drinking, and eventually driving.
The moon shines promisingly on a white-cap well off to sea. ‘This could be the big one,’ it had been seven, eight, nine, since the last swell.
“Sharks infest these waters. They feed at night. You’ll be chum,”
‘the swell!’ he hoped. There were rocks beneath him, capable of bending his skeleton in ways not meant. It could snag him and hold him there, if that were her intent.
“He’s gone too far,” a whooshing noise came.
“You’d never make the swim,” the white caps frothed and exploded as they should.
The college students arrived upon the rocks.
Hollering ensued. The nude girl screamed in artificial orgasmic praise. Our young man planted the heels of his hands steadfast upon the rock.
The wave came in.
‘Nothing’ a small wave ran into the big wave, and reduced its power. The lone young man stood. Bottles smashed behind him as the reckless college kids wreaked havoc on this sacred place.
He walked past the three college kids, falling upon their 24 bottle load.
“Fuck you!” They yelled.
“Fuck you!” He yelled back.
“What did he just say?” The one asked to the other. Another waved crashed upon the barnacles, and rocks, and sand, and love making one-night-stand. He jumped from the rock to the private beach where the lovers once rolled in sand.
“Go get that fuckin faggot!” One collegiate roared at the other.
The pants of our lone young man loosened and fell to his ankles. He stepped from them.
“Dude really is a fag! Fuckin’ get him!” He marched past the nude girl whimpering in fake pleasure as her knight shook above her. The small wave caught his toes, then his feet, then his calves, it’s fuckin’ cold!’ he yelled at himself. Sand was flying high with the run-prints of his potential attacker closing in. The next wave, a medium one, rose to his thighs as he purged through the water. The shirt came off next to reveal the fat of the old relationships bearing heavily upon him. A sight no one in the modern world would want to see, fat, man-boobs, and a gut jiggling upon the slightest vibration from the universe.
“You’re going to die,” the voice rang within him.
‘if it gets me away from you’ he thought.
“Get back here! Are you nuts!” The drunken scholar hollered.
Sanderlings rushed in with the receding wave, as our young swimming loner took off to sea. The crest of the next wave intruded upon his sight of the light that lay off in the distance. No foot could be placed upon the ocean floor as it dipped quickly: nearly relentlessly. She, the ocean, demanded the strength and endurance of only a man.
The sound of water lapping around him stirred nothing within him. ‘I have to get to that boat’ he demanded.
“Get back here! Homo!” Roared the intelligently educated master of the arts upon his mast.
“You’ll die!” Roared the voice within.
With that, he saw it. The wave he was going to jump into upon the rocks. The one he hoped would carry him out to sea, to the boat where he needed to be. It raised high above the waves that crested behind him.
‘I’ll take you’ he said sure of himself. Ready to take a deep breath and ride her recession out to the boat. The boat that was now three-quarters a mile away.
“You’ll be chum.”
“Dude!” The collegiate sang, swimming in fifteen feet of water. Our lone-swimming young man was fifty yards from the rocks now. The houses and lights shown oddly about the shore. Perhaps it was the cold gripping him, perhaps it was this new perspective.
‘no time to linger’ he determined himself. He continued to swim, as the big wave went beneath him as nothing.
The splash of his arm, upon arm, upon stroke, upon stroke wore upon him. The unexpected wavelength cast salt water to his lungs. The swim was still to be made.
‘am I mad’ he asked of himself.
“Chum,” was all he heard back. Rarely could he here the call for what now sounded as a concerned college kid yelling from the rocks.
Peace was here now, while his breathing increased. He remembered his swim classes, “look away from the fishies; talk to the fishies.”
The lights of the boat went further than he could have hoped. Land was so far in the distance only a speckle of light shown where he once was. The poor girl, devoid of sexual pleasure assuredly made her male mate feel competent, the college boys probably talked about the crazy guy that went for a swim.
“You should have stayed, he would have come back for you,” the nagging voice ensued.
‘and then WHAT!’ the lone swimmer screamed before talking to the fishies.
“He would have taken you back,” the voice continued.
‘no.’ the swimmer continued. He continued to swim, he was making better time than ever before. ‘no he wouldn’t have’
“So why!” The voice asked. The swimmer continued to paddle. Wave upon wave, he felt the oceans force. “Why do this?”
‘Because I have to!’ he yelled within himself. His limbs were growing numb, the lights from the boat nearly getting further away. He took a second to wade water.
‘it’s only in my mind’ he said looking upon the darkness that surrounded him on all sides.
“This is no longer just your mind,” the voice of reality came in. It was true. All things ventured lately were failures, but he wasn’t going to give up on this. He continued to swim.
“You’ll never make it,” the waves lapped his face. He didn’t dare think of what may be trailing him, lurking, stalking, getting close. Though peaceful, it was loud; between the heavy breathing and the splash of each stroke he took. The cold water and his efforts bore down upon him.
‘I’ll never make it’
The ocean is a strange and powerful creature, so full of life it carries a soul of its own. A soul that reserves itself for no man, beast or fowl. A soul content with being beautiful, gently caressing places she holds dear, but bolstering a power never meant to be taken lightly. Rarely does she help to make one persevere, it had to be there before ever tempting her.
The ease of swimming to shore was not one our lone swimming broken-hearted boy ever intended. He could still hear what still sounded as a concerned college kid. Yet he was too far out.
“What are you doing!?” He heard. “I’m turning around!”
His jaw nearly dropped. The feeling of stalking wasn’t from a shark! Someone was following him, the college kid from the shore!
‘what is he thinking?’ he thought angrily swimming back where the voice came from.
“Where are you?” The voice called.
“Here!” He yelled.
“Here!” He splashed about to ensure he was heard. He swam faster than he had before.
‘someone really cares!’ he thought excitedly. The waves propelled him now. As he rose with the waves he could see a head not far off in the distance.
“Don’t do this man!” The head called.
“I’m coming back!” Our loner responded.
“C’mon, last one to shore is a chicken leg,” the college student yelled.
They swam, faster and faster. Head to head. And soon arrived to shore tired of their efforts, and breathing with sharp inhales.
“Why did you follow me?” Our loner asked.
“I couldn’t stand to watch someone try and off themselves.”
He looked at him. The kid was handsome, built, and had eyes that sparkled in the spotlights from above.”I wasn’t going to off myself,” he responded. The waves crashed around them.
“Then why would you swim off into the night ocean?” The student asked. Our boy looked out to the ocean, only a small flicker of light shown from the boat he was going to swim to, even if death had met him.
“I do it all the time,” he said, then scooching closer to the young man, “will you hold me?”
“What? No!” The student responded, still too out of breath to move.
“Right,” the loner responded seeing a kayak lantern off in the distance. He stood as the strong seventh wave came in. “You stay here,” he commanded. Then looked back at the handsome young man who thought he was saving a life. “I never would have made it, if it weren’t for you.” He said, then turning back to the lone lantern. He estimated a twenty minute swim to it. “Keep your faith alive in humanity. But this one has to make it alone.” He said walking then trudging into the ocean. He would embark upon the path he told himself he couldn’t make. The belief in humans renewed he had a plan, and one that wouldn’t require too much swimming.
Derrick Handleman, black hair formed perfectly into a wavy fohawk, stood in-front of the mirror adjusting his white bow tie situated comfortably upon his neck, settled on a white tailored dress shirt. The purposeful stubble shaped his angular jaw more so, than the cuts originally made by the god’s. Lite hazel eyes met his stare, as a reflection of his own when he
finally became comfortable with the look he so diligently prepared. He stepped back. The shine of the black belt had to be slightly less than the shine on his shoes, which it was. The shirt had to snugly hold his body, embracing it’s v-shape, it did. His dress pants, silky and flowing, had to bulge slightly in the front, and caress his butt, flaunting its tightness, they certainly did. The right corner of his mouth raised slightly as he smiled confidently into the mirror, adjusting his cuffs.
The sound of a glass hitting the marble bar top caught his attention. Joelynn must have been done with her last-minute prepping. Derrick leaned back slightly to look out the door, sure enough through the colorful display of orchid’s he could see her sneakily reaching for the vodka on the top shelf which was center of an accent light. The bottle was deserving of it’s display light as the bottle cost around $150.
Joelynn brought the glass with her onto the step-ladder. Setting it upon a shelf slightly below her breasts, she then reached for the bottle, and slowly took off the crystal decanter style top. She whispered something to herself. Convinced he could easily scare her if he yelled, or snuck up to her, his smile only broadened. He’d wait till the bottle was safely back in its display, and then he’d make the call. She poured the silver liquid into the glass, replaced the cap and set the bottle back, then moved it slightly to the right. She then turned the bottle slightly, twisted the cap, moved it left again, “shit!” She said.
“Yep, you’ll never get it,” Derrick called from his room.
“Shit!” She said now bending over in laughter on the step stool. Her laugh was loud, bubbly, and contagious, “o, no!” She laughed again.
“I saw ya,” Derrick smiled leaving the room and walking over the threads of the pristine carpeting.
“You caught me!” She smiled, then, “you wanna shot? Since I’m up here.”
“No, you know I’m a scotch guy,” he said walking into the bar area of his high-rise suite. The marble bar top rounded the lounge area, which then extended outside to a large patio with fire pit. Three orchids, accentuated by recessed lights adorned the left flank of the bar offering splashes of color against the black and stainless steel kitchen. Glenfiddich would do as it should before the party. The subtle smokiness would zing his lips and pucker his desire for more golden nectar of the ancient bards.
“What are you doing?” He laughed at Joelynn. The first shot must not have been enough as she now tipped the bottle into her shot glass once more.
“Sorry,” she said laughing as she put the bottle back, this time with less effort to situate it perfectly. “Cheers!”
“I hate that you treat it like a shot, rather than enjoying its subtleties.”
“It’s vodka,” she said clinking her glass against his and throwing it back. Her hair, which was currently nicely up and in a bun, was curly and voluminous, and it loved bouncing around at its every opportunity.
Derrick looked out his floor to ceiling windows across to san diego bay. A few lights blipped upon the water of small boats surely full of college kids embarking upon a night of boozing and sex. Drinking and sex, not exactly the worst idea of a night out, rather quite exciting.
“Don’t worry,” Joelynn said now coming up next to him, looking out over the bay as well, “we’ll find you a man.”
“Not quite what I was thinking,” he began. Then he saw the drink she had prepared. “Joelynn! When did you make that drink?”
“Just now,” she laughed, placing the straw into her lips and gulping it down.
“Lord, fish outta water.” Derrick laughed with her. Tonight would be a good night, not just anyone got a personal invite to a Details magazine party. Other celebrities would be there, and fashion icons, and article writers that reveled in the celebrities life. Yet, chances were better that the man Derrick searched for wouldn’t be there this night or any other night, he didn’t know what he was looking for, but it wouldn’t be there.
This is an excerpt from my book THE UNEXPECTED that I read today and was moved by it. I hope you feel the same way.
A man dressed in a nicely fitted suite walked through the door seconds after Carl. This gentleman, looking rather frank and serious, walked up the main corridor as the speaker stopped, and the rest of the room turned to look at this man. He carried nothing (as nothing was permitted in this room) but he strolled casually, yet with an important stride toward the president. He was proud to be the one to be able to approach the president, so he did not show the fear knowing there were laser sights attacking his back; ready to fire if he were to make a false move.
“Mr. President,” he began cordially. Andrew waved this aside.
“What!?” he asked, worried of the news.
“There has been an attack on Fort Lauderdale, and the Golden Gate Bridge,” the man stated, looking at the president sternly. “Mr. Beggins has requested your presence.”
Andrew stood. The president of the United States for only three hours leaned into the microphone that protruded from the wooden desk in front of him.
“If you will excuse me I must attend to a matter.” He remained calm, keeping his composure and charisma more than any one. “There has been an attack on Fort Lauderdale and the Golden Gate Bridge.”
The attending advisers looked down in disbelief. It was their new version of the September eleven happenings of 2001. Some had been there for this; others had only been in high school at the time. They had never thought an event like this would ever take place in their life again. Andrew himself thought of this time being only fifteen years old and sitting in his middle school class. He had immediately begun praying. He remembered crying as he watched the footage; he remembered his mother’s stories of her friends that were there. He remembered hearing of his father’s death as he ran up the stories to try and save a few hundred people only seconds before the towers collapsed.
Andrew, in his surge of emotion, repressed this and walked sternly from his desk with Mr. Riggel closely by his side. Now as they walked, Andrew remembered sitting in front of the television and quickly writing each of the names they named on a pad of paper until his hand had tired. He still continued to write as the names came, wanting to make it a point to pray for the families that lost loved ones. He had remembered thinking the pain in his hand was nothing to what the families were experiencing.
It was just then, as his hand was too tired to write any more names, when he heard his father’s name. He remembered sitting there watching his mother in tears in their trailer at 511 Spruce street. She couldn’t even keep up with the names that came rapidly from the reporter’s mouth. She prayed. Oh, she prayed. She prayed until her lips were blue for those poor people. She sat praying with the tears flooding down her face at the sight of this happening. She prayed as usual, and she prayed in tongues, all while having a heart for those people. He just got done writing a name that sounded like one of his friends when they said, “Ray Rakford”.
He wrote the first letter before he finished hearing the name. He snapped his head around to look at his mother. She had a Disney glass in her hand filled with some orange juice, but she didn’t care about that. She never looked so strange there on the couch, struck as if by some evil force. It reminded him of the look of a fearful child, as they would be soon possessed by some awful demon. Sick in the face, sunken eyes though wide, rattled hair and, of course, a jaw that hung low. Hung to the extent that it could naturally go and then some. She didn’t care about the praying any more, she just stared at the television. There on the side of the screen only for a few seconds did it say, “Ray Rakford: Firefighter NYFD.” The image was replaced by a name that Andrew still wrote down. He had to pray. He couldn’t stop just because his father’s name appeared. Now. NOW! The pain rippled through his body and tore at his brain.
Andrew’s pace slowed somewhat as he walked with Mr. Riggel.
“Are you all right?” Mr. Riggel asked.
“Fine,” Andrew responded, still intelligent and serious as ever.
NOW! He KNEW! He wrote faster, as his mother stared at the television and a surge of emotion made its way from the pit of his stomach and lingered now in his throat. He could literally see her color changing. He could see her start to faint. Now was the time to pray, he had to be strong. How could he feel like this after not seeing his father for years? Now he could say goodbye and his dad would hear him. This thought pulsed harder against his brain and pushed on the backs of his eyes. His lungs constricted as he fought this urge, he struggled to hear the other names. Now he knew what those other people felt. NOW! He couldn’t let those feelings overtake him. He had to write the names faster. He had to get all of them.
She cried, she wailed, he could hear her struggle for breath as she screamed! He STRAINED to hear the names. He HAD to hear the names. Fred Azar, he wrote. James Smith, he wrote. She cried. Henry Longafeller, he wrote, as his own tears now came. He couldn’t be selfish. There were more people in the world. He continued to get the names as she crawled to him and pulled him into a hug. He couldn’t get any more names. He could still feel the pencil in his hand, and felt the beating of his heart. It thumped hard and long. It seemed slow, yet full of strength and adrenaline.
“R” was all he wrote for his father. He never said a prayer for “R.” He looked at the letter and said, “I love you.” That’s all. Never anything more, this was one thing that he could not deal with. One pain that was too much for Andrew to feel. He remembered that “R” and always kept it with him.
Shandre Wintrell was a genius. He’d been informed of this by his therapist shortly after his I.Q. test. He always knew though, especially with his thought patterns. There was never a true straight line of thought, but often scattered and web forming; catching ideas and hypotheses only he could understand because he already drew the lines.
With the best intentions he wanted to use his genius to the betterment of the world. A savage war had begun in the middle east which had struck a chord with Mr. Wintrell. I will join the military, He thought in a particular genius moment of thinking. He came to this conclusion of thought after initiating it with a theory on war and the weapons we use in such. From this the lines went to our technology, then the training one receives in the service; the tactics the enemy employs for their training, and how we go about strategically implementing our resources from our men to the technology used in smart bombs. It was a rather simple solution; him joining the cause would only benefit the best nation in the world.
I’d get in much better shape too, He thought. Often the only dialogue Mr. Wintrell participated in was within his mind. It was a shame he didn’t clearly outline his plans to his therapist; he was a genius though, and knew that she would attempt to foil his plan with statements of insanity or manic depression.
I would be able to investigate the training, show my intelligence, specialize in weapons, and eventually develop the best course of offense and the ultimate peace keeping weapon. He smiled thinking his thoughts. A parade followed where instead of him being seated high and celebrated; his device was, as he marched along side his fellow men. It will be a great day.
Shandre Wintrell was a genius. He went to the recruiting office and spent particular time paying attention to which service he would join to better maximize his benefit to the world. The Navy had ships, My device isn’t a ship, he thought. The Marines were more specialized, My device is broad, he thought sending this to the side. He rested on the Air Force believing airplanes may be necessary to deploy his device. There were shadow projects of high intelligence the Air Force often initiated as well, which would be his ticket to getting the idea recognized.
The psychological exam was easy enough to pass. He signed the papers and went to his Therapist appointment. She was worriedly waiting for him. In the past five years she had gotten to know him he had never been late for a session.
“Sorry for being late,” he said walking confidently as the newest member to the Air Force.
“Do you mind me asking why?” She asked, comfortable now that he sat in front of her.
“I took a path not even I had thought I’d ever go down.” He said sitting, but with a more rigid stance than usual.
“Why would you never go down this path?” She asked with file in hand ready to make any additional notes. Today they were to be re-evaluating his treatment plan for his release from the program.
“Because it leads off the way. It takes me to a place I don’t recognize. While going from A to B, it isn’t normal to go to point F first. A point that is off the plain of where we need to be. Today I did that, I went from A to F and was fascinated with the perception change. It was a moment of clarity everyone deserves from time to time.” Mr. Wintrell divulged.
“Very good.” She smiled.
“The best part is, it got me here. I made it to my goal, though slightly behind schedule but with a gained sense of reality.” Shandre was certainly proud to have cleverly told her exactly what he was doing. It was better that she agreed. The rest of the session went as usual, while he still thought on the bus ride to base. He’d get off of the bus and run into the barracks go through intake, place a pornographic magazine in his bags just to seem normal; a minor infraction. Then he would be in his sleeping quarters purposefully clumsily getting his things together while the Drill Sergeant screamed at the other recruits. They would be called to formation when he would show as the best dressed with each seam aligning perfectly, shirt blousing as picturesque, while being berated for being too perfect.
His therapist finished with him. “See you next week.” She couldn’t actually say good luck, though he knew he told her exactly what was the next step. He played along with her actions.
“See you then,” he laughed at her cleverness.
Shandre boarded the bus as Recruit. Fascinating already, he began making notes. His pornographic magazine smartly settled into the bottom of his bag to make it appear as if he were trying to sneak it in. He left his hair go knowing the hair dresser, there, would gain a sense of worthiness from cutting his hair upon intake. The bus departed as he happily began way to fulfill his destiny. It was aggravating though, that the others on the bus were talking. He didn’t care why anyone else had joined, or where they were from. Everyone was supposed to be wearing meek expressions of fear on their face as they journeyed to a place unknown. Shandre perfected this face and wore it proudly, though the irritating leather seat plucked at his simple nerves.
A man boarded the bus and began shouting orders, adding substance to his ideas and fulfilling what was meant to happen. Rushing out of the bus with hidden porn in hand along with a few other personal belongings; this was going perfectly. He received the haircut he knew he would and smiled knowing he had fulfilled the dreams of his hair dresser. Getting to barracks he purposefully stumbled around his bag of items to make his bed and dress in uniform. Playing his game, he hadn’t noticed everyone was already lined up and at attention. The Drill Sergeant approached.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing recruit? I say fall in, you fall in.” He pushed Shandre backward.
“I apologize sir,” Recruit Shandre responded.
“You apologize! You apologize!” Two other Drill Sergeants that had been busy screaming at the recruits in formation ran toward Recruit, screaming as if they were in pain. This was not quite the way it was meant to go, so he gave into defeat and attempted to fall in.
“Where do you think you’re going! We’re talking to you!” The others screamed in his ear making it hard to hear exactly what was happening. They’ll apologize, Shandre thought, once they know why I’m really here.
The yelling continued. Their bodies were pushed up against Recruits knocking him back and forth while the first Sergeant demanded answers.
“You think you don’t have to follow orders?” He asked bug eyed, spit lapsing his lips.
“No sir, not my intentions.” One of the other Sergeants now stood on the bunks rattling the metal. He grabbed Recruits bag and threw it on the floor scattering the contents, kicking the notebook and shredding the clothes.
This happened to everyone. It was part of the game. Why was he there? He was a genius, but why did he join the ranks as a recruit? How was his plan not working? There was a silence within him. A hollow voice filled him, the one from years past. The one that got him to Therapy in the first place. She was the genius. She was the one that got him to this place. She was the one that wanted to take control now she was in position to. He didn’t want to fight her but thought better with the recommendations of his Therapist. A jolt of pain to his body released him from the reigns and allowed her to take over.
When he woke his face was unrecognizable; blue and swollen. His hands bloody with broken fingers and ripped fingernails. He was alive, behind bars, and back in control. The hollow voice of the women laughed, happy to have played a trick on him. He sat in pain. I’m a genius.
You’re about as smart as a man named Shandre Wintrell; the stupid fool.
Exercise: Write a story about a character whose imagination is taken over with an obsession– and obsession with an idea, a tale, a vision — that determines the way in which your character lives his or her life, and acts out the forward movement of your story.
The memorial day parade is about to begin! Looking out of my bedroom window I see there are no firetrucks lining up in front of my house. I’m used to watching them polish the bells on the front, and I think of myself crying, tied to the front of one; as my dad always says that’s where I should be when I cry. Buttoning the last button to the jean jacket my mom bought me at the thrift store, with patches from the navy, I smile because I’m going to look just like the army men that fire their rifles. I could almost pass as a real army man! Minus the navy patches. Looking to the right I see the balloon carts coming around; which means the parade is almost here! I’m missing a hat, but I know I have my camouflage hat hanging in the closet. Looking in the mirror, I know I don’t quite look like the army men that fire their rifles, but I put the hat on. They wear their camouflage and their boots. Boots! and gloves! My dad’s army boots are just in the attic, I’ll get them, and I have my black winter gloves; they will pass as Army issued!
Though the boots let my feet slide around in them, I proudly lace them up. Now I have everything that I need to stand at the side and collect as many shells as I can, before my brother gets them all. Whenever we play army he always wins because he has more shells than I do, so he kills me before I even have a chance! I’m going to get him in the next round! I can hear the bands playing so I grab the plastic American flag I got for free two days ago and walk out the front door to join my family. The band walks by with thuds from the drum that course through my chest, then the fire trucks! All so awesome and loud! Next I hope to see what I have been waiting for. I hear them. Their boots make a sound much like my boots made clambering down the stairs. I can’t wait! I hope it’s them! Here they come! It is them! The army guys!
“lept…lept…lept, rye lept” I hear the first man demand. They all follow his every word! So serious they walk by, but I get the most excited! I wave my flag. I know I’m going to be them one day. I want to hug them all! Their little kids, my age, have to stay home while they fight the war in the gulf. The gulf war is big, and I try to follow everything that’s going on, but that’s tough work for me. I smile, no I grin, no, I stretch my lips as far as they will go across the width of my face because, well; these guys are awesome! (Seriously this part brings tears to my eyes…ugh!)
They walk past, but I follow. “lept…lept…lept, rye lept.” my leader demands so I follow him. The parade goes right with the road, but these totally cool guys go straight into the circle, headed towards the American flag. Dodging baton twirlers I too head to the center, though a bit off cadence. I think it was cadence my dad said, I’m such a cadet, I think that’s the word I learned at West point last summer. My mom follows me as my dad is talking to a few guys outside of the post office. She’s talking to a lady with a camera hanging off of her shoulder and a notepad in hand. I don’t care though, the volleys are about to happen! The men line up as the lead man orders them to follow him.
“Ready,” he instructs. There is a distinct slapping of wood and metal as the totally awesome, I’m going to be them someday, men grab the rifles and bring them to their shoulders.
“Aim,” the commander instructs. People everywhere are covering their ears! What! I can’t wait to hear that sound of gunfire. The men change their stance, spread their legs and bring the butt of the rifle to their shoulders. Not quite sure what they are aiming for I simply just watch them.
“Fire!” The guns go off at different times but so close together it creates a sound I often try to duplicate. I stare. They know how awesome they are, right? I can’t wait to be just like them. It’s going to be so awesome fighting all of the bad guys, and having a gun! Following them to each stop, I have clearly collected more shells then Josh, my brother.
The very next day my mom wakes me with a newspaper in hand. “Look,” she says, “you made the front page.”
I look at the paper and see how awesome I looked standing there, waving my flag just as my role-models came into sight. But then again I’m sad.
“Where are the army guys mom?” I ask. I wanted a picture of them, not me.
“You are the little army guy.” She re-assured me. I smile and look at the picture again. I am an army man, I think.
[Okay, seriously don’t ask me why, but this friggin memory just brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it was the innocence in my thinking, maybe it’s because I never attained that dream. Either way this shit is sad! lol God Bless our Troops!]
Exercise: using the present tense, write an early memory in the first person, before you were ten. Don’t interpret or analyze. – The fiction writer should be able to present a narrative without nudging the reader or in any way explaining what she has written
I looked around the room and took in the beautiful woodwork. Cherry or Mahogany made the television stand, dresser, and doorway. A smell lingered that took me a second to identify. It was cigarette smoke; stale cigarette smoke. Plenty of pillows supported my head and lay around my bed, each having had a part as cuddling buddy through the night. I lay in bed a second longer remembering the night prior. Looking over to the next bed Mary lay motionless, still out from the alcohol induced coma. I didn’t precisely feel one hundred percent myself but thought of the Starbucks I had seen just off the casino floor.
Rousing myself, I stood; put my hoodie and hat on, then proceeded out of the room and downstairs for a caramel macchiato! The last thing I truly wanted to do at that time was stand in line, yet that’s what I committed to when I decided Starbucks was the answer for me. Returning to the room after the twenty minute wait and several dodged conversation starters, Mary was alive and staring at the ceiling. It was a good thing she woke herself up, now we could begin packing so we’d be out by the appropriate time.
People looked at me in perplexity as I walked past with my bike in tow. I guess it’s not everyday someone walks through the casino floor with their bike. Walking out of the doors to the parking lot; I was able to see the tall palm trees and the jagged tops of the desert mountains. It was moments like this that brought me back to what was really happening. I’m moving across the country; to a place I’ve never been, to a job I don’t have, and a place to live that doesn’t exist yet. They were scary thoughts. I put the travel bags into their tight spaces before putting my bike on the rack. Almost there, I thought more, tonight we will be in San Diego, my new home. It was a nice thought. Though I didn’t know where I was going once we got there, I knew it was going to be good.
Caught in the grasp of my dreamy thoughts, I hadn’t paid too much attention to what Mary was doing. Then I caught site of her droned out and staring that the tires of the car next to us. She sat out of the passenger seat with door open and a look of disgust about her face. “Mary, are you gonna put your bag away?”
“I’m jus gon hold it.” She responded rubbing her face with her hands. Her haphazardly done hair bobbed and moved oddly. The parts she managed to include in the hair tie slowly slipped from the weak grasp. She was a mess!
“Do you wanna grab something to eat? I’m getting the sense you’re hung over.” I declared setting the last bag into the cramped back seat. That messy mess of a hair bob bobbed, confirming she wanted to eat. I rounded to her side to put her bag away so she wouldn’t be stuck carrying it the whole last part of the trip.
“Wait!” She proclaimed quickly. In the sun the bags under her eyes shown shiny and dark. The tops of her eyes looked like she just painfully tried plucking both her eyebrows off. She then pointed to a bag she had neatly placed near the drivers door of the car next to us. It was at the exact location for the next placement of my right foot had I continued to walk toward her. Within the bag was a beautiful collection of something that looked like fruit cobbler mixed with stomach bile.
“Ew! Mary!” I was so grossed out. She laughed a little.
“What? You didn’t even hear it, right?” She asked like this was one of her life’s accomplishments.
“No, but throw that shit away!” I had to get to the other side of the car. I changed my mind. She could hold her bag or put it away herself but only after throwing away her spewed dinner. I am not sure where she put it, but she made a few grunting noises when she returned and tried forcing her bag into the back seat. Finally making it work she then rolled into her seat and looked at me. I was afraid to look. If she had anything running down her chin I might just spill some unwanted things into a bag of my own.
Avoiding looking at her and getting the car in gear to go, I had to make sure it was out of her system. “You’re not gonna throw up again, are you?”
“Do you have some gum?” She asked. I pulled the pack from the door compartment and handed it to her, without looking.
“You’re not gonna throw up again are you?” I had to ask again. Without waiting for a response I began to drive. I needed anything not to look at her just yet.
“Okay let’s grab some…” Then it happened. I couldn’t believe it. Spattering across the window, dash and hitting my face…
“Let’s stop at McDonalds and get a burger to soak up some of that alcohol.” I began as she googled the closest one. We drove down the strip and looked at all of the well known casino’s . We watch as a man jumps from the stratosphere tower with only a rope keeping him from hitting the grown. I’m thinking bungee jump so when he doesn’t fly back up once he got close to the ground I began looking for the snapped line. Then at a red light a man dressed like a hobo clown, signs hanging all over him, rides past the front of my car and squeals to a halt just to the right. He honks his horn on the bike which makes an appropriate sound for a clown. As we’re watching and smiling at this funny display he rears back and begins screaming at the cars. He sounded so angry and pointed at everyone at this light.
I gripped the steering wheel tighter and looked to the traffic signal. I wanted out! This guy was scaring me. Mary, thinking along the same lines already locked her door and had the window rolled up. He continued to yell frantically at the cars by us when I saw the slightest hint of green and sped off to the next intersection.
“That fucking clown!” Mary had a sobering moment there, “no wonder Krystal’s afraid of them! Shit!” I had to laugh at this point. We were out of any danger, if there even was any, and Mary had the best face when she was freaked out.
It was time to get on the highway and make our way to the Hoover Dam. Highways, ugh, I guess when you spend so much time on them there can be little left of any thought of anything but the Highway. We just continued to drive. For the second known time in the trip I went off the street signs rather than the GPS lady who had an annoying way of talking anyway. Passing the hoover dam without seeing it we drove a good twenty minutes past before I decided to listen to Mary and turn around. However, this was the spot where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip. The picture that I felt held the most perception into it. My car, bike on the back, Pennsylvania license plate, and vast desert spanning the width of the picture. The vast dessert expressing the opening of experiences that I will encounter and the beauty that could befall me from them. The road, a journey. A journey to a place that I didn’t know; a land far from my comfort, my home, Pennsylvania. And the mountain bike to give me wheels to succeed past any sort of mountain that might rise in front of me, to tackle the land I don’t know, the troubling aspects that would surely come from this journey. Poetic right?
We finally made the Hoover Dam. Of course there was a police force designated to the protection of this landmark, and of course with all of the crap piled in the back of my car, we were selected to be searched. It wasn’t as big a deal as I worried it to be. I popped the trunk and let them peer through the windows into the back seat. They asked if I was military, thanks haircut, and shortly thereafter let us pass by.
We drove over the hoover dam and parked at the first available parking spot. We got out and took a few pictures. It was surreal knowing this canyon was about as deep as the grand canyon, being forged from the same river. Simply looking like a pond we wondered at why it was so shallow. Clearly visible were markings of where the water had gotten up to, yet there was easily a thirty foot difference from then to now. We took a few pictures then changed position, drove a little higher and took more pictures. While up high we noticed a bunker that looked more like a sniper outpost, so we snapped a few pictures of that. We didn’t stay too long before we took to the road again. This time to our final destination, San Diego.
The road was long. It had been long. It will always be long. We drove and for some reason Mary became excited about the Alien Jerky we saw signs for along the way. We stopped and picked up this said “Alien Jerky” and filled the tank with the surprise of a whole dollar more per gallon than anywhere along the trek. One other surprise waited at that gas station. California doesn’t participate in the Subway points program!!! For years I have been cashing in on my free six inch sub, now I would have to buy every single one. Was this a sign of the fiscal hurtles I would come to experience while in California? Regardless, we continued. It was night fall by the time we got a glimpse of Los Angeles, and two hours later, San Diego.
We made it! Beautiful and lovely San Diego. She beckoned and I heard her call. The lights of my car showed palm trees lining the highway, ramps, and bridges spawning in every direction. Her warmth embraced me, while her kindness left me in awe. Mary and I, both could not believe stop signs were big here, not only that but the taxi’s didn’t threaten pedestrians, but let them go ahead of them! There weren’t a lot of cars on the roads but people walked to and fro. It was the gaslamp district we wound up in first, then we found Harbor drive and took that out towards the airport. There, we found a nice place to park and take a picture of the skyline of my new home.
I guess all in all the trip itself didn’t divulge wondrous thoughts of realism. It didn’t birth any ideas of fruitful gain. I didn’t even gain a fuller sense of self through the drive. I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts. I did experience a world beyond what I ever thought I would. I strengthened a relationship with my sister beyond what I ever thought I’d want to. San Diego was San Diego. Just the place I was, in the here and now.
Time began to work it’s magic. By the time we found a place to crash for the next couple of days, while I searched for an apartment, the realities began to kick in. I wanted to write it down and play it out. Watching Titanic gave me a great scapegoat to the tears that had whelmed within me. It was in this moment when I had the greatest clarity of all, even with the six beers I had already pound.
I am me. I will always be me. I hid from myself for a while. I hid myself from the world for a while. My world was my partner. How foolish could I have been. I hid me. The greatest attribute about me; me. Location, while important to inspiration, won’t change me. I am me no matter where I may be. That’s why I don’t feel the difference.I am where I want to be now. I am where I am meant to be now. I will grow and strengthen myself. It sounds selfish, but I did it for me. The mission was accomplished. I had hoped for a great realization along the trip but it didn’t come. Now it finally had. Originating with a want for change, I made that change. With this new realization I was quickly going to change. It happened quickly, and those that only knew me in my downed state were shocked by my change.
It’s nice getting the opportunity to start a new life. Though I miss everyone I left back home, I am forging my life now with clear slate and a clear mind! Wish me luck!
I stood, music blaring in my ear, staring out of the kitchen window. The grass was green yet, but was dying due to the constant and confusing fluctuations in temperature. A mild winter ranging from 20 to 50 within only a days time caused this conflicted grass. I was on cigarette number three and cup of coffee number four. Able to justify my apparent laziness, as I had only woken up forty five minutes earlier, the thought of the move loomed in my thoughts. There was plenty to do. I had hardly begun packing, laundry wasn’t done, and the enchanting evening prior played on repeat in my minds eye.
The smoke from my cigarettes played in the sun’s light. Curling and twisting to make a scene that added to my sense of dreaming. A smile had planted itself upon my face and I had no intention on changing that. Theses moments that I considered “waking up” was a time when I would plan things out. I would decide the most important things to do within the day, which goals to set and achieve, and my course of action. Once upon a time I would have a pen and paper near by so I could jot down my thoughts, even if to re-organize them later. Today, and many days prior, I felt it best to just “go with the flow.” Yet another fantastic way of minimizing the laziness which had crept so horribly into my life.
As of now there was no way to alter what had been decided. The prestigious job that I held was now in the hands of someone else. Insurance cuts off the last day worked as well. That has and continues to be deemed an issue. Last day worked I had to go to the doctor due to a nasty and quick flare up of strep throat. In addition my mornings coffee seemed to be taking a short cut out of my body. My boss, and the team, had already begun realizing how great life was without the loud singing and obnoxious noise making. The plan was set into motion, time bidding to take every moment hostage, and my yearning to do anything diminishing; by the second time held in it’s possession. Weeks prior I had fooled myself into believing that there was so much time. Now as I stood on the last morning that I would wake in Pennsylvania I knew I had been a fool. I may have planned too close, too close to a perfect time, that the money might not be there.
The last few weeks had been an amazing time. Thanksgiving I had found a wonderful new group of friends. Happy, beautiful, and responsible gay men. Time spent with them reminded me of how wonderful life was. How people were good. How a good time wasn’t just me laughing at mundane things while under the snare of beer. They didn’t say a word when they saw me drink. Not that they approved, but they watched with a careful eye. As a nervous mother watching her child with the neighborhood bully, afraid of the influence, while worried of his protection.
Thrashing the old cigarette around in the ash tray to diminish the ashes; left me pondering the other events I had planned for the remainder of the day. My grandmother came up a lot. I had missed seeing her this past Christmas. The one I blamed work for the reason why I couldn’t see anyone. While I closed up and hurled myself into gloom knowing the other half of my dream relationship and life was sitting in front of the fireplace by the tree he decorated, with his boyfriend of three months (you do the math). I had also managed to dodge every one of my father’s calls as well. I had to see them. I would see them.
San Diego was so close and yet I was so far behind. So excited to go, yet there was a very clear unconscious effort that screamed, “I don’t wanna go!” Damn unconscious, it always focuses on what I have, and what is comfortable. He didn’t want to focus on the excitement that lay ahead in the new chapter of my life. The acting, the surfing, the writing, the living, the singing, the dancing, the friends. A whole new life that beckoned me to join. A whole new life, I couldn’t wait to discover.
Thank you for reading,
Caleb A. Mertz