Tuesday, September 26, 2006

DANCING IN SHADOW

Another writing assignment here. At one meeting we were given the task of writing about five hundred words and only using a personal pronoun once or twice, or some such nonsense. No horror show here. No blood or guts. Just bitter sweet wordplay.


DANCING IN SHADOW 443 words


Father’s funeral seemed so small.

The world should have stopped when he died. Colors should have faded into gray. Something should have at least happened that marked his passing as significant. Anything.

Nothing changed though, miraculously everything was the same though Father had been whisked away like a feather blowing from the window of a train.

Mother stood at the casket, looking down with red-rimmed eyes, lips drawn tightly together. Her breaths came in long sighs, each one painfully and bitterly drawn. I tried to remember the last time she and father had shown any affection toward one another. Other parents would hold hands or laugh together. Other parents sometimes gave glimpses of that child within. Other parents sometimes showed hints of what sparked passion before and what might still keep it alive behind the mask. Mother or Father stood together as strangers and shared the same shadow without joy.

“You never promised,” Mother whispered. “At least you never promised.”

Once Mother sat in the living room, silhouetted against the darkness. Father was hours late. She remained in expectant pause. When at last his foot sounded on the outside step, only then did her shoulders relax and her breathing become regular. Whenever she waited like this, she refused to turn on the lights.

“Leave them be,” she would say. “There’s nothing that needs looking at.”

Mother turned from the casket now, her face registering resignation. She moved forward and extended a hand. A sound came from her throat. It was humming. Soon her lips moved and she gave voice to an old song measured by hundreds of memories, each a broken facet of a whole reshaped in familiarity.

She moved her left foot and then her right, an old dance step. Her voice became stronger. Soon she was out of the shadow and across the carpet. Without breaking stride, she pulled me into step with her and the dance became more intense. Her eyes were alive and terrifying; they belonged to a stranger. She clutched with desperation, as though trying to hold onto something that inevitably must slip through her fingers.

As suddenly as it had begun, her song died. The dance ended. She stopped and looked about, tears flowing freely. Nodding to herself, she turned her back on what had briefly been her dance floor and stepped solemnly to the casket.

“You have your father’s eyes,” she said over her shoulder.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

YEA!!! TIGERS!!!!


People who know me well enough know how much this means to me --- the Tigers are in the playoffs.

Each year I sit and wait for something good to happen. Each year I shake my head at the free agents who have declined or who have escaped because Ilitch isn't willing to pay them. I've always blamed his dual ownership of the Tigers and the Red Wings for my misery.

Even in 2003, when they had one of the worst records in baseball history (rather amazing to think we are only a few years removed from that travesty), I still supported my team. I have given them pure dedication.

I admit I was skeptical at the start of the year. I shook my head at the acquisition of Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. "One's an old man and the older is a retread Tiger. Why not just call Jose Lima again and get it done with. And hey, while you're at it, where's Joe Randa?"

Of course, I watched the games and my jaw dropped as we broke from the starting gate. I didn't expect our pitching staff to mature as a group. I didn't take into account that Maglio Ordonez spent last year off being sick; that Pudge had back spasms; that Guillen had injury problems. I didn't take into consideration Placedo Planko. And hey, who the hell is this Shelton character? And who's Zumaya?

Will they beat the Yankees? No. I could be wrong, but NO. It would be nice..but I won't torture myself like that. I'm just thrilled they're in the play offs.

I also hope that although the Tigers won't do it, that someone else will beat the crap out of the Yankees. They remain the team to hate. George Steinbrenner is all that's wrong with baseball and all that's wrong with America.


GO TIGERS!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

GEORGE


My group has issued another writing challenge to members: Write a 300 word horror story. 300 words. Not a lot of space for description, plot, or character development. Not a lot of space to develop pacing. Still, I love a good challenge. What follows is GEORGE, 297 words.

GEORGE


George is back. He’s sitting and rocking. I can hear him giggling; it’s a horrible sound coming from the back of his throat. Sometimes his eyes gleam like a dog’s and sometimes his pupils are covered by film.

“What are you looking at?” asks my wife, raising herself up in bed to peer through the shadows. George’s head swivels toward her. If George wasn’t real, saying it would make him so. I lay back down and refuse to look again in his direction. I lay there listening to my wife’s breathing and the sound of George rocking.

I fall asleep and George wakes me with a shrill scream that’s all the misery and loneliness in the universe distilled into a razor's edge. It slices through me with a surgeon’s precision.

Still, my wife sleeps. I ache to tell her that George comes night after night, but again there are things you don’t say. I wonder who George is really haunting. Her. Or me. He’s her brother. She cried at the funeral for weeks and sank into depression. It hurt me to see her that way. Every time the police questioned her another crack developed. They never knew how close they came to breaking her and getting what they wanted.

That’s how I feel about George. Every night is another crack. Every night I’m one step closer to telling someone what really happened. My wife is stronger than I am. Maybe that’s why George picked me. I haven’t said anything to her, but she must suspect something. Which really frightens me. I don’t want to let her know what’s going on because if she were to get it in her head that I’m weakening, she might decide to take matters into her own hands.

Either way, George wins.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Ghost of Minnie Quay


I was reminded today of a legend. Maybe it's the time of year.

I used to live in Port Sanilac. A little north of that is the town of Forester. Or rather Forester is a town that used to be. Outside of the three or four buildings that still stand is a graveyard on a steep bluff overlooking Lake Huron. It’s windy there and on some days the sound of the lake beating the beach below is like thunder. The cemetery is old but not ancient. Some stones go back to the late eighteen hundreds. It’s still in use though and usually well maintained.

At the corner of one row of markers, the area people leave gifts. Stones, letters, notes, etc. These are a tribute to a spirit.

One day I was at the local library and overheard a conversation between a summer tourist and librarian. The woman said: “My son and I were driving along last night and we saw a young woman by the side of the road. She looked horrible. We turned around to see if we could help her, but we couldn’t find her again.”

“That was Minnie,” said the librarian

I spoke to the librarian after that. She is a heavy set woman with a deep voice. She smiles easily. “Who is Minnie?” I asked.

“She haunts the coast there,” said the librarian, and the statement stood as self-explanatory.

I have since researched Minnie, and if you want to surf the net, you can find her as well. Her full name was Minnie Quay. The local people are fond of their spirit and protect her. In the late seventies, Gundella, a witch from the Detroit area led a small party to the cemetery and there tried to hold a séance. They were driven off by the locals.

According to legends, Minnie was seventeen. Pretty. She and her family lived in a tall house in Forester, a thriving lumber community before the great fire that consumed "the thumb". Forester had docks and was a spot where ships came in and loaded lumber from a one-time lumber industry. That’s where she met him. His name is lost to us, but we’ll call him John. It’s a good name and one common at that time as it is now.

John was a sailor. He was a common man, with strong hands and a crude way about him. He stole Minnie’s heart. Her parents, who were respected in the community and who had higher aspirations for their daughter than to be wed to this roughly hewn timber, forbade the romance.

Seventeen year old girls are full of romance and rebellion. Minnie would sneak out and meet John, and their love took root. But word came back to the parents about their daughter’s behavior, and so they took sterner measures and watched her more carefully.

Lake Huron can be cruel. The November storms have taken many lives. I imagine such a storm wrecked John's ship. When news of the tragedy reached Forester, Minnie was devestated. She screamed and lashed out at those around her. Grief broke her spirit and in the madness of it, she ran to the docks and threw herself into the water. Her body washed up on the beach the next day.

It is said now that her spirit haunts that area.

Some have seen her dancing along the beach, or walking the road. Some think she is a seductress, calling to young women to join her in the surf that is icy Lake Huron. Some think her appearance is a dark omen. Other think she is merely a reminder of the fragility of life and the sweetness of new romance.

The next time you are driving along M-29, stop by the little cemetery and pay her a visit. Listen to the surf and close your eyes. Let youself be transported.

tags:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fan Fiction...or how I learned to stop worrying about the bomb and alan dean foster



Do a google for fan fiction and you will find that even now Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin live on. You'll blush at the further adventures of Buffy. You'll thrill to the ongoing adventures of the Jed, Granny, Jethro and Ellie May; the Professor and Mary Ann; and my favorite FBI agents: Fox and Scully.

The first impulse is to turn snobbish, but I can't. These fans churning out their pastiches are expressing themselves. They're keeping alive some of the most endearing characters given us by the glass teat.

However, if you insist on raising your nose, then you'll have to raise your nose at the beloved James Blish (who entertained fan fiction and who I believe was responsible for helping keep Star Trek alive long after most people had relegated it to a long dead curiousity). You'll have to turn away from all those Star Wars fans who kept the franchise alive. You'll have to shun the memory of Alan Dean Foster, who immediately after Star Wars wrote the continuing adventures of Darth Vader in "Splinter In The Mind's Eye" and showed that Luke and Hans continued to face the evil empire. You'll also have to shun the likes of the charismatic Harry Whittington, who pounded out a few Man From UNCLE novels.

People want to reimagine their favorite characters and to relive moments that have given them some joy. I say good. Go ahead...write the further adventures of Columbo. Keep alive self important wit of Maxwell Smart. Give us more days in the life of Jack Bauer. Copyright violation? Maybe. But you can't copyright love.

Quite frankly, I would love to write a James Bond novel. If there's anyone out there from Glidrose reading this, or Eon Productions, feel free to contact me. Hell, I've even thought of the opening line:

"He raised an eyebrow at her and smiled rakishly. "I don't believe we've met. My name's Bond. James Bond."


Monday, September 11, 2006

LOVESTRUCK

This story originally appeared on ZUZU's PETALS, a literary site that has since left us. Too bad. It was a tastefully done site. Anyway, this has always been one of my favorite little pieces of flash fiction, coming in at a mere 700 words. I hope you like it. Please let me know. Feel free to post a comment.





LOVESTRUCK

Mr. Wennerstorm was the sort of tall, well-scrubbed man who never seemed to age. He was quick to smile, his eyes exuded warmth and understanding, and he barely flinched when I told him how much I loved his wife. Mrs. Wennerstorm did though; she flinched, shuddered, and gasped.

“Do I know you?” she asked.

I grinned and stabbed at the carpeting with my toe. “We’ve never met before.”

“Okay, time to go,” said Mr. Wennerstorm, rising to his feet.

“I know how this sounds and looks, but I’m not crazy,” I said hastily. “I just wanted a chance to express myself. I didn’t want to wonder and regret, and curse my inaction. “

“But you don’t know me.” She waved at her husband and added, “Honest we’ve never met.”

I had to pick my next few words carefully, as Mr. Wennerstorm would only be giving me a few more sentences. I felt his wife and I were off to a good start, the alarm on her face being a sign I had touched her in some way.

I am not confused about love. I have never had a special person in my life and at the same time, all of them have been special. I don’t just love from afar, I love perfectly from afar. People don’t understand that.

Even those people who claim an understanding of spiritual love don’t really grasp the poignant, fragile beauty of that emotion.

I loved Mrs. Wennerstorm. I loved her frozen in a moment. When I looked at her, I was afraid to close my eyes. I was afraid that in a blink the love would shift somehow, gliding elusively away from me.

“I do know you,” I said, trying to impart urgency into those words. “It’s my gift. I know you, Mrs. Wennerstorm, in a way you’ve never been known before. I don’t expect anything in return. I just wanted to tell you. ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’”

Mr. Wennerstorm held my arm behind my back and moved me, on tip-toe, toward the door.

“I know this will take some getting used to,” I called over my shoulder, “but, you’ll understand eventually. You’ll understand.”

Mr. Wennerstorm helped me outside and closed the door. You had to appreciate his self-restraint.

Some ideas are given voice and fade away. Some ideas are breezes that send thousands of delicate seeds into the air. Mrs. Wennerstorm was now sitting in the middle of a dandelion storm, watching the pale seeds scatter and catch the wind.


I didn’t bother the Wennerstorms again. I didn’t leave flowers or notes for her to find; I didn’t sit in my car at the end of the day to spy on her as she left work. I had had my say and that was enough. I had declared my love and in the act of declaration there was fulfillment.

She called me three days later.

I was surprised she had found out who I was, though I supposed her husband had probably copied down my license plate as a precaution. I heard her voice and held my breath.

“I wish you hadn’t come here,” she said softly, without identifying herself.

I tried to picture her, but the image wouldn’t come. I waited. I waited.

“My husband was angry, you know. You’re lucky he didn’t kill you.”

I ran my finger down the phone cord and gazed distractedly outside. It would be raining soon. I had just had my car washed.

“It was a crazy thing to do,” she said and I could hear the delight in her voice. “I don’t think you’re crazy, but it was a crazy thing to do. I’ve never had anyone act that way toward me.”

I waited. I waited.

“If you’re interested,” she said at last, maybe we could meet more appropriately and become acquainted. We could get to know one another. Not that anything would happen, but we could talk.”

Mrs. Wennerstorm’s voice was muted excitement. I closed my eyes and was blind. In true blindness is sadness and desperation.

“Sure,” I replied.

She named the time and place. Of course, I never showed.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sometimes You Gotta



Sometimes you have to sit back and appreciate the absurd. It's either that or admit you're not wearing underwear. To view the video just click on the play button in the center of the above picture.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Loneliness of Innocence


Another post of flash fiction here; another assignment from a writers' group. This is perhaps one of my favorites. By the way, if anyone gets tired of reading the flash fiction and wants to read something else I've done, feel free to slip me an email. When I have my web page up and running I will include links to longer works of fiction there.

FROM CHILDHOOD’S END


He looked at the blank page and exhaled slowly, letting the tension run off his shoulders and all clutter flow from his mind. Completing this pre-writing ritual, he held his pen loosely and reached the focal point at the back of his mind where the contact originated. As always, he was unaware that he started writing until he looked down and saw the pen moving across the paper in a slow, meticulous fashion.

“YOU”VE COME BACK…..I WAS LONELY….”

He felt bad for her. Only he could know how unhappy she was and he often filled his empty time dreaming about saving her.

His ability to make contact had come a year ago when he sat at the kitchen table and tried to compose a letter to a mourning friend. Maybe thinking of death allowed him to make that first special connection with her. Maybe it was their shared loneliness. Whatever the reason, she had come to him, taking his hand and crossing into his world through his pen.

“I’m here,” he reassured her.

Their communication wasn’t limited to the simple words they exchanged through the pen. Every time they made contact her essence rushed through him, establishing the sort of honest intimacy that haunted his dreams.

“I love you,” he said, giving those words all the meaning he could summon.

“I LOVE YOU.”

Who was she? He once asked her name, seeking to link her with something tangible in his own world, but the question evoked pain and confusion, almost (permanently, he felt) breaking their connection. Their relationship required unconditional
acceptance of one another, as they were now, at this moment, in this perfect context.

An image came to him. He saw himself in bed, an old man, apathetic and surrounded by strangers. An old anxiety.

“THAT’S ONLY A PHYSICAL REALITY,” she wrote, her words soothing him. “I’LL BE THERE.”

“And afterwards?”

“I’LL BE THERE.”

He sighed and the tension left him.It was bound to happen.

In this unguarded moment, he spoke out loud, wistfully: “Where were you when I was a child?” And the response drifted through his consciousness like an echo, before the pen moved across the paper.

“I was there,” he heard himself whisper.

The pen moved across the paper, writing the words.

He put his head down and the pen fell from his hands, rolling to the floor, where it would remain. Bitter, lonely tears rained from his eyes.

Another Day....another.....day.


Before I jump into another post let me first pause and give credit to another blogger: Wayne Allen Sallee of Burbank, Illinois. Go to his blog (http://statelywaynemanor.blogspot.com)and I think you will find it entertaining, well designed and just plain fun.

Also, in case you're not familiar with Mr. Sallee, he's published numerous novels and has been included in a number of outstanding anthologies. You can find his work on Amazon.com

Now onto my post

I want to give a plug to an upcoming conference in Michigan. It will be held in Romulus, a western suburb of Detroit, in October. Here is the link (http://www.conclavesf.org/writers%20workshop.htm) You'll have to cut and past the link here, for some reason blogspot isn't letting me generate a shortcut where I want.

A writer friend, who will remain nameless (Rick) has on several occasions emphasized the importance of creating a business plan toward publication. A successful businessman himself (he is self employed and appears to be doing reasonably well), Rick believes the same business concepts should be applied toward getting published. Toward this end he has initiated a "business plan". I am not sure what the plan entails, but some elements involve networking, creating a calendar for submissions, market research, etc.

I like this pragmatic approach. Someone else who wants to be published recently bemoaned her lack of success. I askeed that person what she had done to accomplish her goals, and the answer was "nothing". Stories on hard drives do not publish themselves.

Lastly, the picture above is of Leo and Matilda. I promised to include Matilda in an earlier blog