‘Luv (Because I Haven’t Written a Cynical Love Story in a While)

“Where are you going?”

“I’d rather not say. I’m a free person. I can go where I want when I want.”

“Yeah, but, when will you be home?”

“None of your business.”

“Wow. What did I do to deserve this?”

“I feel like you’re smothering me. I don’t have any freedom.”

“What?”

“Seriously. Think about it. You always know where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with.”

“You always know where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with. It’s not like there are any big mysteries.”

“Why not? Wouldn’t some mystery make this relationship more interesting?”

“Seriously. You want mystery.”

“Well, yeah. With everything so predictable it’s not all that exciting.”

“You want excitement. Listen sweet cheeks. Mystery and excitement are not always good things. Maybe the mystery is I have another woman on the side. Maybe the excitement is that I’m leaving you for her.”

“Oh my God, I knew it!”


Showing and Telling

Funny that the word “persist” turns up as the prompt today. I’ve been looking at the work in progress wondering, “What next?” One direction and it’s a book I’ve already written. The other direction?” Something else completely. 

The only reason to write a story is because you want to. I guess there are people who make a lot of money from the stories they write, but I’m not one of them. 

One of the questions I ask myself when I’m writing is “How do I want to tell this?” With historical fiction, that’s kind of tricky. People reading the story don’t live in that historical world. People in the story do. For me there’s a fine line between offering the reader enough to see and feel that alien world and making it alien to the characters, too.

How much do we really notice about our world in the course of a day? When we walk through our house do we say to ourselves, “She passed the dishwasher then the beige and white cupboards on her way to the backdoor where the 85 pound black short-haired dog and the 75 pound long-haired white dog with the blue eyes were waiting to be let out,”

or do we say (in real life),

“Hang on, guys,” she said opening the back door. “It’s cold out there.”

I think a LOT about how my characters live and function in their world, probably more than I think about anyone reading my books. 

A lot of this hinges on the “Show don’t tell” philosophy. I’ve been aware of that since college. I remember it used to describe the way Hemingway wrote as the quality that set him apart from other writers and disturbed readers back in the day. Godnose he’s no Dickens. He wrote non-action narrative like this (from A Movable Feast):

I remember reading this book years ago and thinking it was fantastic. I still think so, but not for this “show don’t tell” thing, but because of Hemingway’s yearning nostalgia and the innumerable cafe au laits

A show-don’t-tell instruction website gives this example:

Telling: When they embraced she could tell he had been smoking and was scared.

Showing: When she wrapped her arms around him, the sweet staleness of tobacco enveloped her, and he was shivering.

I don’t think these two little passages say the same thing. How would I write it? I decided to give it a shot. 

His jacket stank of cigarette smoke. She stepped back from their embrace, frightened. “Where have you been?”

Anyway, the first example is grammatically confusing. Who’s scared? She or he? I thought she was scared, but reading it again it seemed it could have been either of them. 

I realized that I’m not sure about this “show don’t tell” stuff or what it actually means any more. It’s far more “Dickensian” now than in Hemingway’s fiction which is very spare and leaves a lot to the reader. It’s like this, from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro:”

THE MARVELLOUS THING IS THAT IT’S painless,” he said. “That’s how you know when it starts.”

“Is it really?”

“Absolutely. I’m awfully sorry about the odor though. That must bother you.”

“Don’t! Please don’t.”

“Look at them,” he said. “Now is it sight or is it scent that brings them like that?”

The cot the man lay on was in the wide shade of a mimosa tree and as he looked out past the shade onto the glare of the plain there were three of the big birds squatted obscenely, while in the sky a dozen more sailed, making quick-moving shadows as they passed.

“I’m only talking,” he said. “It’s much easier if I talk. But I don’t want to bother you.”

“You know it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s that I’ve gotten so very nervous not being able to do anything. I think we might make it as easy as we can until the plane comes.”

“Or until the plane doesn’t come.”

To me that’s showing, not telling and I like it. No one has a CLUE what’s going on with these people, who they are, where they are, what they look like. They are absolutely engrossed in the imperatives of their moment, as are living people. We don’t know the big birds are vultures. We don’t know squat, and why should we? It’s not us, not our lives, not our situation. Hemingway just opened a window on a random couple having a rather banal sounding conversation, but like conversations between couples in real life, it’s anything but banal.

As a reader, I like that kind of “here we are suddenly in the middle of someone’s real life” narrative. I also like Icelandic sagas which are all tell and poetry.

It’s been my struggle as a writer since the beginning, but I think I’ll persist

Because, fuck it. It keeps me off the streets. 

Here’s a song about persistence. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/rdp-sunday-persist/

“Schneeballs?”

image_562777025843467

Cold morning out here in the real west (no surprise). I’m sad that one cup of coffee is (for good reasons, not the least of which the second doesn’t taste that good) the limit. That one cup is so good…

The chilly draft in my 90 year old house swirls around my wool-socked feet. I have two manuscripts on the table here, and one has been printed into a book. The best part of that is that I spelled the faux title of my own novel wrong. Never mind it’s the name of members of my own family. I’m an endless sense of amusement and frustration to myself.

The thing of printing a manuscript into a book is that it’s very helpful to me in the proofreading process. This isn’t a legit book in terms of formatting and other stuff, but it’s book-like.

It’s been edited professionally, something I wish I had been wise enough to do for Martin of Gfenn. Every subsequent book has had that advantage and it’s major. There’s also the thing (with a self-published book) that each time you need to deal with the manuscript you risk typos. At this point with Martin of Gfenn the typos are mostly spacing problems, still, who wants that?

In any case, yesterday when the book-like-thing arrived I thumbed through it and realized (for the first time) that I like the story. I saw what I have done — I have written a love story that’s not smarmy and predictable. I have created a complex female protagonist with integrity, passion, and genuine feelings. My male protagonist (antagonist?) never overcomes his flaws or sees them; he’s consistently himself and worthy of Aescylus or some guy like that.

When I started this book, I fought it all the way. I didn’t want to write about a woman, and there was nothing about the male hero that I liked.

One thing that happens when a person writes fiction is they soon discover that the people in the stories are not “their creations” at all but the emerge all on their own and demand to be themselves.

But they’re pretty loose about how you spell their names…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/rdp-thursday-loose/

Not Happening

“It’s a lot to live up to.”

“What?”

“This moment. This dress. All these flowers. The cost. Why couldn’t we elope?”

“I thought you wanted this.”

“No, not especially. I’m not even sure about how I feel about marriage, let alone a big wedding.”

“NOW you tell me?”

“I’ve BEEN telling you, but you haven’t heard me and my mother? I feel like you two are in a conspiracy. This says ‘my mom’ all over it.” Tabitha looked at the white covered table laden with wedding gifts. The guest book. The other various wedding related objects that would have no use once the “big day” had passed.

“Do you want to call it off, Tabby?’

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m not Tabby? Tabby is a cat.”

Kent shrugged, but he had a sinking feeling — had had for some time.

“Kent, honey, in fact, I think we need…”

“…to talk, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Have at it.”

“Honestly, I don’t want to do this. I want to send back all these stupid presents, cancel the wedding, and go to Bhutan or some place. This is stupid.”

“Stupid.”

“Yeah, this retro-glamor-commercial bullshit. I don’t want it. I don’t want it at all.”

“Why didn’t you say sooner?”

“I’m saying now.”

“Yeah, but the invitations have been sent out.”

“Really? And how does that matter? It’s my life. And those three hundred people? They have better things to do than sit through some ceremony and then a reception where we do some dorky dance that someone puts on Youtube hoping it’ll go viral. It won’t. We’re not that good. It’ll just be embarrassing.”

“So you don’t want to marry me?”

“That’s a separate issue. I don’t want this stupid wedding. Thousands of dollars for what? Half of all marriages end in divorce. I think if people decide to marry with odds like that they ought to crawl away and do it secretly in case it doesn’t work out and maybe celebrate after 20 years.”

“Wow. I never knew you felt this way.”

“You never asked me.”

“All those dress fittings…”

“Good god, spare me the memory of that. Listen, I can’t do this, I won’t do this. You can tell my mom since you two are such good buddies.”

“That’s just cold.”

“No, it isn’t. You should care about what I want, what I believe in. It should matter to you.”

“Really? You’re a woman. This is your big day, your day to shine, be a princess, all of that. I have sisters. I know.”

“Maybe I’m not your sisters? Maybe we’re not all alike? Maybe I’d like to shine some other way? Maybe? I think this was a huge mistake.”

“Ah, so now you don’t want to marry me.”

“No, I don’t think I do. Here.” Tabby put the diamond ring on the table between them and stood up. “I’m not sure what I want, but I know I don’t want this,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ceremony/

Fan Belt

My radio worked sporadically. I had an old cassette player running on batteries and two tapes. Jane Oliver and Donna Summer. Such music was conducive to melancholy if not a sense of doom. My radio started working as soon as I got south of Las Vegas, and I took that as a good sign.

Ahead about a mile, I saw a highway patrolman spin a wild U-turn across the grass median strip. “Someone’s in trouble,” I thought, singing along to the radio across the open, dry country, my window down. I checked the mirror a little later, and there he was, cherry spinning, motioning me to the side of the road.

He came to my window.

“Hello, sweetheart. Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”

“No sir. My speedometer is broken.” My luck was good. In Colorado, that is something they can give you a ticket for; in New Mexico, it’s almost an excuse for speeding.

“You were going 82 miles per hour, honey.”

All I could think was, “Incredible! In this car? I was going that fast? I am a born mechanic.” I didn’t say that. All I said was, “Really?” The speed limit, of course, was 55.

“Yes, really. Let me see your license and registration.” He took my papers back to his car and made a call on the radio, all the while watching me.

“Do you know your license has expired?”

I knew, but knowledge is not always helpful. “Is it? How can that be? It expires on my birthday.”

“That’s right. Your birthday this year which was ten months ago.”

“Oh no. I thought it was my birthday coming up.”

“No, honey. It was your last birthday. I’m going to give you a warning. I ought to bring you into the Mora County Courthouse, but I’m not going to. I think you honestly didn’t know your license was expired. But listen here. I want you to go home, get a new driver’s license and get that speedometer fixed. If you do that, I’ll give you a twenty dollar fine. If you don’t send me proof that you did those things within sixty days, we’ll have to send you a summons, you’ll have to come back here and it’ll cost you a lot more.”

“Yessir. Thank you.”

“Drive careful, now. There’s no place so important that you have to drive so fast.”

I chugged along toward Albuquerque, but my good feeling, along with the radio, was gone. By the time I got to Pecos Pueblo, I wasn’t sure I was still alive. I thought maybe I was dead and driving on the Interstate Highway of Infinity. I had to get off the road. I knew that, so I took the exit to the pueblo ruins. I wanted to walk for a bit to clear my head.

The ruined church buildings were vivid red in the late afternoon light. It was depressing to think of the builders, long gone, gone with their crazy hopes of saving the souls of the Pecos Indians. Nothing remained but partial walls, pits, shards, all carefully tagged and identified with the latest anthropological conjectures. I went to the ladies room and looked at myself in the mirror. Who was I and what was I doing? I thought seriously of turning around.

It was nearly six when I finally got to Albuquerque. I parked where Charlie’s map had told me to, took a deep breath and walked to the door. I found a note. “Adrienne, if you come. I have gone to the store to buy something for supper. Go in and make yourself comfortable. Charlie.”

The door opened to a strange, stone room, a flagstone patio that had been enclosed. On the wall over the bed was a full-size poster of a Hong Kong movie star in a bra and bikini. I walked through the house, looking for the bathroom. I found it and washed my face and looked closely in the mirror to see if I were really there. Then I returned to the stone room. I didn’t know how Charlie lived. I didn’t know he rented a room in this house or which room was his. I had no idea where the common spaces were. I sat on a sofa and tried to read my book, but I didn’t like it, the stone room or the Hong Kong actress. I went to the kitchen which seemed neutral and safe. I leaned against the counter and tried again to read.

Finally, the door opened and Charlie walked in.

He had the most graceful walk of any man I had ever seen. His legs were strong, with large, muscular, calves. As he walked past me, his eyes met mine and looked at me deeply and long. I knew those eyes. I had one of those experiences where you feel that you’ve known someone before. I was thrilled — and terrified.

“I thought you weren’t coming.”

“I had a flat tire.”

“Did you get it fixed?”

“Yeah. I bought a new one.”

“What? You bought a new tire?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I had a flat.”

“How much did you pay for it?”

“$35.”

“Jesus! For a VW tire? That’s crazy. Why didn’t you go to a junk yard or get the old one fixed?”

“I didn’t think of it and I wanted to come here.”

“Wow.” Then he said, “When did this happen?”

“This morning. In Denver, when I was about to leave. That’s why I’m so late. I didn’t get out of Denver until ten o’clock.”

“I wondered. I didn’t think you were going to make it.”

The words “chicken out” hovered unsaid, but so obvious they were almost visible. “No, I came,” I admitted, feeling like an idiot.

“What are you reading?”

“This,” I showed him the book, Monsieur by Lawrence Durrell. “I don’t like it much. I liked the Alexandrian Quartet, but this? Not really.”

“Are you hungry?”

In my imagination, we were going to Old Town that night, but I didn’t say anything about it. I never suggested it, invited him, nothing.

“Let’s cook dinner.” He opened the sack which contained cheese and two cans of tuna. He handed me the cans and told me to open them, but I, who had never thought of getting my tired repaired rather than replacing it, didn’t know how to use his can opener. I suppose he thought I was some kind of pansy who had used only electric can openers, but that wasn’t the case. My can opener was even more primitive than his. “I don’t know how to use this,” I said.

“You don’t?”

“No. I never used one like this.”

“Here.” He showed me opening one can. “Now you do it.”

I did it and drained the oil from the tuna into the sink.

“What are you doing with all that good oil?” he screamed. “You’re wasting it!”

“You cook,” I said, and he did, winding up with a tuna casserole we ate with carrot sticks. Then, it was over. Everything had been prepared, cooked and eaten from one stainless steel pot. I loved it. No Cuisinart for this man; no fancy pasta machine. Just one pot, two knives, two spoons.

“That’s great,” I said.

“What?”

“That pot.”

“It’s all they use in Nepal, for everything. Cooking, eating, shopping. That’s what I learned there. You don’t need a lot of stuff. You shouldn’t have more stuff than you need because, one way or another, you just have to carry it around with you. The best thing is a thing you can use in a lot of different ways. So, this pot. I brought back two.” He washed it. “Come on. I have to do something. You can help.” We went into what had been planned as a dining room but was now a study. He sat down at the typewriter.

Next to the typewriter was a model of a molecule. I picked it up and said, “Benzene.”

“How did you know?”

“My husband — ex-husband — was a chemistry major.”

“You’re a writer,” he said, suddenly. “I’m trying to write my application for medical school. Maybe you can figure out a good way to say this.”

“OK.” It was the first time I’d heard that I was a writer. The idea was exciting.

“I need to explain why I want to be a doctor.”

“So why do you want to be a doctor? Maybe if you tell me, you can just write down what you say.”

“I don’t know. Inspiration? Inspiration, I guess.”

Inspiration. Wow. I was knocked hard. No one I knew used inspiration as a reason for anything. Reasons were money, success, prestige. Charlie had beautiful legs, a stainless steel pot and ordered his life according to inspiration. I was very, very frightened.

“What inspired you? Write that.”

“India. When I was in India, I saw so many sick, sick people. You can’t imagine. You want to see some pictures?” he got up from the table and went to his room, and I followed like a puppy. I felt like a puppy. I’d been taken in, fed, disciplined and now I wanted to stay.

“Here.” He handed me a big book filled with pictures. I was behind him, still looking all around me. On the wall was a photo of the Taj Majal. There was the dome, some minarets, a slight haze, a reflection; water in the foreground in which beautiful curves moved, curves like the necks of swans or a woman’s arm, everything your mind visualizes with the words, “Taj Mahal.” But, the curves were the necks of camels, not swans; the water was a lake, not the rectangular reflecting pool; the dome was not centered perfectly between the minarets, but stood to one side. The photograph did everything I believe art should do, force you to turn around and look beyond your expectations.

“I love this picture,” I said with solemn reverence.

“It’s mine,” said Charlie.

“You took it?”

“It took me a long time to get everything just right.”

So, now I had to imagine Charlie sitting on an unknown dusty hill in Agra waiting for things to get “just right” so he could take this picture, develop it, hang it on his wall in Albuquerque so that I, a person he didn’t even know, would see it. There was no longer any chance for coherent conversation between us. I sat down and put the book in my lap.

Faces came out of the pages, dirty children smiling in bright red clothes. Mud houses. I remembered a woman I’d known in college, a woman from Afghanistan, whose husband was studying architecture. “What do you build houses with in Afghanistan, Akbar?”

“Mud,” he had replied.

“You mean adobe or bricks?”

“No. Mud.”

Here were mud houses and walls painted with huge, vivid eyes, stupas (for which I had no word at that time) with golden bells, prayer flags on strings waving in the wind, frozen in the pictures. “Is this Nepal?”

“No. That’s Ladakh. That’s where the Dalai Lama lives now since the Chinese threw him out of Tibet.”

“Were you there?”

“No. But that’s what Nepal looks like. You find scenes like that in Nepal. We did. You approach the mountain by hiking through all of these small villages. The children came out of the houses to get money. Nepal is beautiful, but terrible, too. Have you been to Mexico?”

“Yeah.”

“You know the bridge between Juarez and San Antonio?”

“Not really. I haven’t been there since I was five years old.”

“Well, anyway, Nepal is like that in places. Very poor. They are destroying their forests to get land to grow food. Here’s a Japanese book about the climb up Everest,” said Charlie. I opened it and looked at snow peaks. Since I had known Mark, I had unconsciously avoided the mountains; my one hike with Anne that July had been my first trip up into the mountains in three years.

“Listen,” said Charlie. “Are you hungry?”

“Uh, uh, no, but if you are…” I mumbled, not wanting to look up.

“Let’s go get something to eat.”

He had a motorcycle. We went out back, and he said we could take the bike. It was a big cycle, I don’t remember what kind. I had, fortunately, ridden a motorcycle before so it wasn’t another affair of the can opener. I got on, he started it, we were on our way.

“Do you like motorcycles?”

“Yeah, I do. I used to have a dirt bike.”

“What kind?”

“A small Honda. My ex-father-in-law bought it for me. When I divorced his son, he took it back.”

“That’s mean,” said Charlie. Charlie was trying to help me to relax. I was so scared and so tense that even the least perceptive person would notice and Charlie was NOT the least perceptive person. A fast trip on a big cycle would give us lots of chances to touch, and touching would have helped, but I kept my hands in the back pockets of my jeans. We rode around Albuquerque, by Old Town and downtown, stopping in a small, unfinished, mall. His old girlfriend was an architect; maybe this was one of her projects? I think he still loved her then; I think it was she who broke it off, but I don’t know. Anyway, we drove past her house, then down a busy street filled with low-riders and neon lights.

He stopped at a hot-dog stand and got a hot-dog, which he ate, telling me about filmmaking school in San Francisco and a three minute film he’d made about The Doggie Diner, hot-dogs and dachshunds. Then we went back. We sat in the living room in the dark and talked. Charlie tried to “draw me out.” “Do you climb?” he asked.

“I did in high school,” I answered. “Free climbing.”

“Didn’t you like it? Why did you stop?”

“I loved it. Most of my friends were climbers. I never got into the technical bit, though. I never did a big climb. I have problems telling my right from left and I was afraid of the knots I would tie. I just climbed around on the rocks in The Garden of the Gods, some rocks in Eldorado Canyon, places like that. Some of my friends did a lot. One of them lost his toes on some mountain, I don’t know where, California? It didn’t seem worth it to me.”

“I thought you loved mountains.”

“I love mountains, but it seems like a long time since I’ve been in them.”

“Why?”

I didn’t want to tell him what I thought the reason was. There was something luminous about Charlie and I didn’t want to throw shadows on the moment by revealing anything about my life with Mark, or the suddenly stupid, vapid, supposedly sophisticated evenings I spent with my “successful” attorney friends. Charlie was touching something I’d been about to leave behind.

“I guess I haven’t had time. I just finished my thesis, you know. And I work full time. What about you? How do you feel when you’re up there?”

“You know, I was reading, here, look at this,” he handed me a magazine, but it was too dark in the room to read. “Well, anyway, these guys are hang-gliding. Imagine that, imagine putting these wings on, walking to the edge of a cliff, then — bam! — stepping off, trusting the wind and the wings to carry you. What that must take!”

I had been reading a lot of Hemingway. The question of courage in his books seemed to point not so much at the kind of courage it takes to step off a cliff, but the kind of courage it takes to live what Thoreau termed “a life of quiet desperation.” For all of his wars and bullfights, Hemingway spoke of heroism in the modern, urban world; maintaining your soul and integrity — and life! — when life offers no real adventures for sustaining courage. Charlie had another courage in mind; something that had to do with death. I didn’t have anything to say because, at that moment, I recognized my own position. I was on the edge of a cliff and I didn’t know if I had wings.

“You’re probably tired,” he said, standing. When he came back, he had his sleeping bag and pad. He rolled them out on the living room carpet. “You can have my bed.”

I followed him into his room. He was carrying a small tin can in his hand. Placing it on the table next to his bed, he said, “This is for you.” It was a peanut butter can from India, “Prutina Peanut Butter.” On the side was a face of a blonde girl in pigtails who looked like she came off a wrapper for Swiss chocolate. It was a present for me. I imagined it being in his bag on his climb.

“Let’s go to the balloon festival tomorrow morning,” he said. “I went today. There was a mass ascension. You can’t believe how beautiful it is when eight hundred balloons take off together. We have to get there before sunrise.”

“That sounds great,” I said.

“Pleasant dreams.”

“I have a lot to dream about. All the pictures.”

“Yes. A lot of new visions.”

Charlie’s words struck me. I have always understood things as images, visions, contours. The images in my mind that night were not entirely new.

“Goodnight,” I said.

“If you get cold, pull that sleeping bag up over you.”

“OK. Goodnight.” I lay on the bed a long time, trying to relax.

Suddenly, I remembered what made the images from the books familiar. When I was a child, I never missed Lowell Thomas Presents. It was on Wednesday nights at 7:30, at the same time as my little brother’s Little League games. I loved baseball, and I practiced with his team, but I wouldn’t miss Lowell Thomas for anything. Strangely enough, although we never had a color television set, my memories of those travelogues are in color. In color Lowell Thomas chased down the Dalai Lama; he visited the dye pots of Timbuktu; he climbed the High Atlas Mountains. I drifted to sleep, Charlie’s pictures and Lowell Thomas’ trips melting together in my brain. Still, it didn’t account for the frightening sense of recognition I felt when Charlie’s eyes met mine in the kitchen.

It got cold in the night. October in New Mexico — maybe warm days, but the nights are cold. I was awake early because of the cold, but not awake enough to cover myself better. At 5:30 Charlie knocked on the door. “Come on if we’re going to eat breakfast and make it in time.”

“I’m awake.” I got up. I was even more tired than the day before, but I was determined to be less catatonic and stupid.

“Hi. Do you like yoghurt?”

“Yeah.”

“I got this thing for Christmas.” He pointed toward a yoghurt machine. “Here, try it. It’s good. How about sprouted wheat? Can you eat that?”

I was thinking, “Health food?” but I said, “Why not?”

“My mother can’t. She can’t seem to digest it. I made bread yesterday. Do you like honey?”

“Sure.” He poured honey over my yoghurt and on my bread. The bread was tough and chewy, dense like a brick. “That’s my dad’s honey,” said Charlie. “He keeps bees.”

My resolution to be articulate vanished. Homemade, sprouted wheat bread, homegrown honey and yoghurt. I thought of my usual — Carnation Instant Breakfast and espresso. Charlie appeared with dental floss. He flossed comfortably, happily, talking. I had quit flossing when my first husband told me it wasn’t appealing. Every small, everyday thing this man did pushed me further into my pit of silence. We got on the motorcycle and went to the fairgrounds were the balloons were firing up. I managed the ride to the fairgrounds without touching him.

Truly it might be the most beautiful sight in the world, 800 balloons in dazzling colors, expanding in the early morning sunshine, then taking off steadily higher with the sun until all the balloons and the sun are well above the Earth. The balloons drifted silently toward the mountains. Near eleven, Charlie said, “Let’s go. I have work to do today.”

We went back to his place. Once there, I actually opened my mouth and invited him for dinner that night.

“I didn’t know you could stay so long,” he said. “I have plans to go to a volleyball tournament tonight. We only have a few tickets, or I’d ask you to come along. But you can stay if you want. I’ll be back around eleven.”

I should have felt rejected or brushed off, but I felt relieved. I was off the hook. It wasn’t just images of children’s dirty faces, snow peaks and the Taj Majal. Other things had happened and were clamoring to be thought about. I knew at that moment that I wanted to go home. I wanted to go home and write stories. I realized it was all I had ever wanted to do. Succeed, fail, whatever the outcome, there was nothing else. Inspiration, no other motive, deserved my life.

“No, I’ll head out. It’s sort of ridiculous to hang around if you have to study and have plans. I would have to leave early in the morning, anyway, if I leave tomorrow, so what’s the point? I’ll go get my stuff together. I went to his room and put my few things into my backpack. Charlie stood at the doorway watching me. The most important thing, to me was to remember the peanut butter can and take a long look at the Taj Mahal.

“Do you have a spare fan belt?” he asked.

“No. Why?”

“You should have one.”

“Oh no,” I said, “I don’t want to be outside of Walsenburg in the dark changing a fan belt.”

“I don’t want you to, either. That’s why you should get one before you leave.”

Now that I was leaving, my personality was returning. I thought to myself, “What is it? Some kind of charm?”

Charlie said, “It’s like a talisman. If you have one, you won’t need it. Your fan belt won’t break.”

“So, do I wear it around my neck?”

“Yes, exactly,” and he smiled. “Here, go to Target. It’s on your way out of town.”

We walked out back together. I decided to check my oil. I opened the hood of my VW and pulled out the dipstick. “Did I tell you I got a speeding ticket?”

“No. Where?”

“South of Las Vegas. I was going 82. Can you believe it? I was so excited. It was fantastic!”

“Fantastic?”

“Oh yeah, you see, three months ago I tuned up my engine and cleaned and rebuilt the carburetor myself. Isn’t it beautiful?” I put my hand on the carburetor.

“That’s amazing! I just did the same to my car!” His Karmann Ghia was sitting next to my Bug. He opened the hood. I was curious to see what the differences were between the Karmann Ghia and a Bug since os many of my friends seemed to think the Ghia was a piece of junk. It was not as simply and elegantly laid out as my engine, but it was OK. Charlie reached in a gently placed his hand on the carburetor of his car. We stood together, our hands on our respective carburetors, as if they were small, cherished pets. It was the first time I had felt relaxed with Charlie. Obviously we shared the same affectionate feelings toward our carburetors. It was something. “It’s incredible, you know? It’s something I couldn’t have done before I took chemistry. It’s been good, taking all of these courses.”

“You mean in summer school?”

“Yeah. I was a literature major — you know that. I had to get as many of my pre-med requirements this summer as I could because I’m almost too old to be accepted anywhere. I don’t have them all, yet. Now I’m taking Inorganic. It’s tough.”

“I know what Inorganic is. The one that killed my ex was Physical Chemistry.”

“I liked that one. So, you’re going?”

“Yep.”

“And you’re going to get a fan belt?”

“Right. Well, thanks for the pictures and the balloons.”

He looked at me intently and strangely. “Could you at least give me a hug good-bye?”

“God,” I thought. “Maybe not.” I walked to him and put my arms around him. Since I’d been asked for it, I didn’t die or faint. “Well, bye. If you’re ever in Devoid, let me know.”

“I will. Be careful. Get your fan belt, OK?”

“OK.” He followed me to the car. There in my back seat were my hiking boots. “Hey,” I said. “There are my boots.”

“Are those the ones you wrote me about?”

“Yep. That’s them. Probably have blood stains on the heels.”

“Why do you still have them?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why would anyone keep boots that hurt their feet? Give them to me. I’ll sell them for you and send you the money.”

I handed over the boots, awed by Charlie’s simple sanity. Why would anyone keep boots that hurt their feet?

“Well, goodbye,” I said, “thanks for unloading the boots. That should help my mileage not to tote them back to Denver.”

“They are heavy, but they’re good Italian boots.”

“They are, but they don’t fit me.”

I headed out of town, stopping for a fan belt. I felt light, luminous. In the sky I could still see balloons drifting off. I drove the short way, through Taos, but I got lost and found myself driving dirt roads in circles in aspen filled canyons at the base of Taos Mountain.

I love Taos. Miracles can happen there — or could, years ago. One day, as a tourist at Taos Pueblo, I stood on a bridge over a stream and looked at the mountain. My eyes wandered down to the buildings, the piles of homes that make up the pueblo. I saw that the rooms were heaped in such a way that they mimicked the shape of the mountain. It seemed that was true from every point in which I stood, the pueblo and the mountain were the same shape.

I found the highway and drove through the San Luis Valley at sunset. I climbed the pass and dropped into Walsenburg at dusk. I stopped for gas and got a burger at the A&W. The way home was dark, and I felt slightly paranoid about the fan belt, but at least I was no longer suffering from neurotic flat tires. The drive was long, the car unheated, but I was warm with excitement. I knew what I was doing and why for the first time in years, maybe ever. I was a writer, and I was going home to write. All the difficulties of my life and relationships were minor, now. They were food for stories. I couldn’t wait. The Law School Admission Test, which I was taking the following Saturday, seemed like a big joke. Let others be lawyers; I had decided to take the step off the cliff. That was the only way I could know if I had wings.

Just after midnight, I unlocked my door. I turned on my desk lamp, opened my bag and unpacked. In the bottom I found the peanut butter can. On the bottom was written “CM Glass Jar.” I took off the lid. Inside I found plastic bubble wrap. I carefully pulled it out and unwrapped a stone jar small enough to sit in the palm of my hand and exactly the right shape.

Hot Knob

Tom was astounded and scared. The smell of burnt mush wafted down the hall on the waves of Jordan’s screams. He stood up.

“Honey,” he said to his wife, “You have to get up. Miranda’s missing.”

“It’s just one of her games. You’ll find her somewhere.”

“I don’t want to argue. The mush is burning, Jordan is crying and Miranda is gone.”

“Welcome to MY world,” said Joan. But she sat up, slipped her feet into her fluffy bunny slippers and put on her robe. Tying it around her, she went to the kitchen, picked Jordan up so he would stop screaming, and turned off the fire under the mush. “Whoever said children change your life was right. I don’t know about the ‘for the better’ part.” Jordan grabbed a wad of her hair and pulled it. She went to Miranda’s bedroom and found Tom sitting on Miranda’s bed. He’d moved Miranda’s pink fluffy rug and the bed to one side and was staring at the trap door..

“Did you KNOW about this?”

“The question you should be asking, Tom, is whether it’s a real door or not.”

“Oh come on. Miranda couldn’t have drawn this. She’s five.”

Tom leaned down and touched the lava doorknob. “Good Lord!” he screamed, pulling back his hand. “This is crazy. That doorknob is as hot as fire.”

“Probably something wrong with the furnace. I think you should call somebody.”

“Get me a hot pad from the kitchen.”

“You’re not serious.”

“I had a funny feeling last night when Miranda came to our room, a premonition, that there really was…”

“A TROLL? Tom, call the cops. If our daughter is really missing — and hasn’t just found the perfect hiding place — but seriously?” Joan lifted her voice and called, “Miranda! Miranda! Come out from wherever you are. This isn’t funny any more. Miranda!!!!

Part One: Bad Dream

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/premonition/

Sticky Notes

“Good luck with that!” Tiffany softly giggled to herself.

“I’m serious. I insist you clean up your room.”

“Mom. I’m 38. You don’t have that kind of leverage any more.”

“You’re living in MY house under MY roof. You’ll do as I say.”

“Yeah, but mom, I took over the payments six years ago. It’s really MY house and yeah. I have to go to work.”

“Tiffany! I’m your mother! Come back here! Listen to me when I’m talking to you!”

Tiffany was relieved to hear the front door open and close followed by footsteps in the hall. “Thank goodness,” she thought.

“Hi Mrs. Baumgarten.”

“Who are you?”

“Jenny? Your nurse? Remember? I come every day, Mrs. Baumgarten. Have you had your breakfast yet?”

Tiffany’s mother shook her head and looked around Tiffany’s room in confusion. It wasn’t messy. It was as neat as a pin. She shrugged and followed Jenny to the kitchen.

“Jenny, can we have a word?” Tiffany passing the kitchen on her way out.

“Absolutely.”

“She just had an episode.”

“I thought she might have. She gets that lost look in her eyes afterwards, sort of ‘What was that?'”

“If you need me I’m only a text away.”

“We’re going to sit down after breakfast and write sticky notes to ourself to help us with the day.”

“I love that. I come home and see everything mom did while I was gone.”

“It keeps her on track. Don’t worry, Tiffany. Have a good day.”

“You too, Jenny, and thank you.”

“No worries. Remember, you pay me!” Jenny smiled and gave Tiffany a quick hug.

“Yeah, I know, but…”

“I know.”

“Bye mom!”

“Bye honey! Have a good day!”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/insist/

Satori of Pit Bull

“I think so, too. Roger. You were right. I’m not interested in anything, not here, anyway. I don’t know why. I mean we have a great place to live, good jobs, you’re a good looking guy, we’re pretty much free to do what we want…”

“Uh, I didn’t mean that talk.”

“WHAT talk, then?”

“Jasmine, I saw the green flash.”

“Comic books again, Roger?” Jasmine suddenly knew why she was so bored with this man.

“It was amazing. Miraculous, I didn’t even think it really existed.”

“Of course it doesn’t exist. He’s a comic book character. You are such a CHILD. If I wanted kids, I’d have some.” Jasmine stood up from the bed, looked into the contents of her suitcase, decided there were stores everywhere and she had money. Why was she packing ANYTHING? OH well. She closed it carefully, making sure it was latched. She didn’t want her dramatic exit to turn into a comedic movie scene where the lid popped open and lingerie spilled everywhere. “Roger, I’m leaving. I don’t know if I’m leaving for good or not, but, yeah, this isn’t making me happy.”

“Wait, Jasmine, what I learned is that NOTHING makes us happy. We’re either happy or we’re not. You know what? A bum, a homeless fucking bum, on the beach who’s got NOTHING, offered to share his beer with me. He said I looked ‘forlorn’.”

“So? Were you?”

“Well, yeah. Trev and Candace were, I dunno, and then you didn’t want to go with me, that was, I dunno. I took a walk and kept meeting weirdos. I ended up sitting on the sand with a pit bull and a teenager waiting for the green flash.”

“A pit bull and a teenager?”

“Yeah. Sweet dog.”

“OK, well, you know, it’s been real, Roger, but…” She walked down the hallway to the foyer pausing to take a look around at their “home.”

“If you leave, we’ll have to sell this place.” Roger thought for a moment. What would be so bad about that?

“We can talk about the details later, babe.”

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know right now. I’ll be in touch.” The door closed behind her and Roger found himself in their barn of a house. Its decorative touches, the vaulted ceiling, the giant fireplace they never used, the wallpaper frieze of undulating patterns that had once so enchanted Jasmine all seemed like silly adornment on a world that didn’t need adornment, a world that had a green flash.

Part 1: Allergic to Life

Part 2: Something about Cake

Part 3: Connectivity Issues

Part 4: Crowd Control

Part 5: THAT Sentence

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/undulate/

THAT Sentence

Jasmine got up from the bed. In a way, Roger was right. She never did want to do anything. She wondered when life had become so B-O-R-I-N-G. She tried calling him again. There was the ring. What was he doing? Hanging out in the front yard? What a weirdo!

She looked at herself in the mirror. “I still have it going on,” she thought. “What am I doing? Maybe mother was right.” She sat down at her dressing table and brushed out her long, black hair.

“Mixed race marriage? Big problem. Live with first.”

“Oh mother,” she’d said. “You’re ideas are old-fashioned.”

“You come different worlds. How you communicate?”

“I came from San Francisco. He came from San Jose. How are those ‘different worlds’?”

“I come from China. You raised Chinese way.”

“Oh Mother.” Why did she talk like that? She had a PhD from Stanford, for the love of God. She was a brilliant woman. Why had she never learned proper English?

Jasmine was tired of being “different.” The truth was, she was neither Chinese nor American. She was some Amy Tan creation. “Joy-Luck Club my ass,” she thought when that book had been assigned in some college English class. “I’ll tell you about the Joy-Luck Club.”

She got the suitcase down from the top shelf of the closet and flopped it on the bed. She began pulling outfits from the closet and putting them into the suitcase. She couldn’t take everything, but enough to get away somewhere and think things over.

Could her mother be right? Was it some cultural thing that lurked behind everything, or did she really just find Roger boring as hell?

She tried calling again. This time he picked up.

“What the fuck have been doing in the front yard for the past two hours?” were the first words out of her mouth.

“I lost my phone,” he said, coming in the front door. “We need to talk.”

Part 1: Allergic to Life

Part 2: Something about Cake

Part 3: Connectivity Issues

Part 4: Crowd Control

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/brilliant/

Crowd Control

“Dude, are you doing better? You looked so forlorn when you came by here a little while ago. Want some Fosters?” The oil-drum homeless guy reached out to Roger with a paper bag, top turned down around a large can of beer.

“Are you kidding?”

“No, dude. It’s decent beer. I was in Australia once. Shoulda’ stayed. Had a woman and everything. You hoping to see the Green flash?”

“Yeah.”

“Perfect conditions for it. Clear sky, bright sun, I dunno, we might get lucky. You wanna’ buy some shrooms?”

“No, I don’t want to buy some shrooms.”

“Just thought I’d ask.”

Roger shuddered, and decided to head further down the beach without taking his eyes off the horizon. He found a place to sit on the sand and looked toward the west. To his right a small group of dread-locked nouveau hippies was dancing in a circle around a drummer. Marijuana smoke wafted toward him.

“I wonder what happened to my god-damned phone?” he muttered, more loudly than he realized.

“Material things are ties. They anchor us to desire,” said a young man in a saffron robe passing by. His head was shaved, his feet were bare. He stood in front of Roger, blocking his view of the sun.

“Could you get out of the way? I want to see the green flash?”

“Oh, sorry dude,” said the young man. “Namaste!”

“No privacy anywhere any more,” said Roger.

“It’s a public beach, dude, what do you expect?” The kid with the skateboard and pit bull sat down beside him. “You trying to see the green flash?” The dog licked Roger’s ear.

***

About the Green Flash

Part 1: Allergic to Life

Part 2: Something about Cake

Part 3: Connectivity Issues

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/forlorn/