Aurora Borealis

A short story to break my writing block. Started this a while ago, and decided to finish it today. Now I’m working on some more substantial writing. I hope to set goals and be more active on my blog again too.

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“Daddy, tell me about the aurora borealis,” Hetty said.

I sighed, settled down on to her bed, tucked the blanket under her chin, and began the story for the hundredth time in my daughter’s short life.

When I wasn’t much more than a boy I trekked up to Alaska to do some fishing. In those days you could hitchhike just about anywhere. I didn’t have a lick of money, but some kind strangers gave me a ride. Nobody worried about murdering and all that. I stayed up there to fish King Salmon. Worked for a guy named Kallik. Name meant lightning, he told me. And boy was he lightning. He’d get so drunk that the guy on his bad side could never see his fist coming.

We lived in a log cabin. Free board, and made a little bit of money. Not much mind you. A bunch of drifter guys just trying to make a living someway somehow. I didn’t have what you have, a family who loved me. I just had myself. I wasn’t more than eighteen. Just a boy really, and a drifter.

One day, Kallik invited me to hike with him. I showed up and he told me I looked just like a typical white guy—unprepared for the situation at hand. He drapped a fur coat over my shoulders and said I would need it. We would climb the mountain, he said, and meet some of his friends and family to watch the aurora borealis. We would camp at the top of the mountain, eat meat off the spicket, some shit like that. I couldn’t even imagine—not like I’d been in Scouts as a kid.

We hiked for what seemed like days. Kallik gave me jerky to sustain me. He had energy like a battery—just kept on going. Not me. I felt out of place that day. As we went up in the mountain, the snow came. I was glad I’d bought a good pair of boots with my first paycheck. I was grateful for Kallik’s fur around my shoulder. We walked for four hours—must’ve been, and then I saw smoke rising on the horizon, as the sun had started to drift down behind the mountain.

“That’s camp,” Kallik said, when we arrived at the top.

People sat around the camp site by the fire, in tents, playing music, talking, cooking food. I felt like I wandered back into time. I felt like I was intruding on some private ritual where I didn’t belong.

“When the lights come out, my people say it’s the spirits coming out to play, Kallik told me as he sat down on a log and held his hands in front of the fire.”

“I sat down next to him. A woman with a long black braid came out of the tent. I couldn’t help staring at her. Her eyes shone with a light I’d never seen before as if she could see the past, present, and future all at once.

“Why’d you bring the white guy?” she immediately asked Kallik, as she took a seat next to me.

“Dan, this is Meri, Meri, Dan,” Kallik said.

We ate and sat in silence for a while. The lights came out to play, and we stared in awe. A silence fell upon camp like the quietness of falling snow enfolding the world.

“It looks supernatural,” I said. “I can see why people flock to see this phenomenon.”

“Just science. Magnetic poles and such,” Meri said, sounding bored but giving me a cockeyed smile and a wink.

Kallik wrapped furs around our shoulders to keep us warm in the bitter cold night, and we sat staring up at the sky unable to look away from the beauty of existence.

“Mary doesn’t sound like an Inuit name,” I said, turning to look at the woman next to me.

Meri wrapped her arms around me and leaned her head on my shoulders causing my heart to beat rapidly and something otherworldly arose in me like the green lights dancing across the sky drawing us together.

“It’s M-e-r-i. Short for Meriwa,” she said, as I wrapped my arms around her and leaned in.

“Yeah, know what it means?” Kallik asked.

I shook my head.

“Thorn,” he said, with a little laugh.

“And your mom has been a thorn in my side ever since,” I said, wrapping my arms around my daughter, brushing her long black hair out of her face, and kissing her goodnight.

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Journey of Words

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Yes, I’m a writer. I know, I know–I haven’t been writing as much. For awhile, I wasn’t writing at all. I’ve been thinking about ancient history a lot this week. You know, memories down the lane. I’ve been doing some soul-searching, but not in a nostalgic sad kind of way. More in a way that’s helping me come to terms with some of my decisions about the past. And of course, some of this is ending up in my writing, because you know that’s what writers do. For some reason, these thoughts and the books I’ve been reading: The Last Time We Met, Less, The Princess Diarist, heck even Born a Crime, made me think I needed to set my book in Buenos Aires.

And it’s strange. I feel like I’m traveling there again in my mind. I went to Buenos Aires in 1999. I had just turned 20. This was almost 20 years ago (I’m getting old, peeps). Their currency was still tied to the dollar. Everything was super expensive. I had a astrophysicist cabbie who couldn’t get a job because unemployment was through the roof. I walked by a Jewish synagogue frequently that had armed guards, because there’s so much antisemitism in Buenos Aires they were afraid the synagogue would be bombed. I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car, and then the driver get out and yell at him in Spanish for being in the way, while the pedestrian writhed in pain on the sidewalk by my feet. My friend P’s host family called their Doberman Pincher gay, because he was such a nice dog (I wasn’t appalled by their use of this word as derogatory then, as I surely would be now). He would sit on your lap whenever you came into the apartment, because he thought he was a lap dog. I would watch game shows and Spanish soap operas with English subtitles to learn more Spanish with my “sisters” Sol and Paz (the daughters of my host mother).

I saw a country in love with Evita Peron still. A country suffering but beautiful. The colors of La Boca. The market square. The pigeons. Luna Park and Jamiroquai. The mothers of the disaparecidos protesting in the street, still looking for their loved ones. A country where you could sit in the park and have yerba mate then risk your life at the hands of a cab driver (why do they make lanes anyway)? I saw how much family meant to Argentineans. Young women stayed home until they married. Even my crazy host family had their extended family over once a week. They laughed, drank, ate, and loved. A city that awoke no earlier than 10 and when to bed no earlier than midnight!

I think, now, experiences like these are wasted on the young. How I love to travel. How I wish to go back to Buenos Aires and see how it’s changed. Is there still a little cafe/bar on the corner of Manual Ugarte and Cabildo where I sat and talked to a boy I’d later fall hopelessly (emphasis on the hopeless) in love with until 2 AM? Where I sat with friends and tipped the waiters so big they looked forward to our arrival every evening? Is that place still there? What about the laundromat that would pick up and wash my clothes, fold them, and return them to me? I swore they were shrinking my clothes, but I was really just gaining about 30 pounds on empanadas, alfajores, and full fat milk.

Someone asked me over the weekend what type of books I wrote, and I didn’t know what to say. None. Half-finished books? Books about love and loss and unrequited love and abuse and family and women’s fiction and southern literature and maybe literary fiction. We love to categorize everything, but I feel like I get into my writing the most when I just do it without thinking about what it actually is. When is springs forth from some burning internal question I’m trying to answer.

Writing is a lot like traveling to me. I can go back to Buenos Aires. I can picture myself there. Transporting my characters to worlds I’ve been but also to places I’ve never been. An exercise in empathy. A way to answer unanswerable questions or at least get closer to explaining them to myself. But mostly just cathartic. A journey to a better understanding of the human existence, this universe we call home.

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Living With Harmony

Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.

Living With Harmony (1,025 words)

Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.

At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.

Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.

Their relationship grew and eventually they married.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He’s a fixer.”

“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.

“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.

But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.

Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life.  And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.

On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”

“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.

Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.

“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.

“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”

Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.

The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.

“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.

“Working on a tough project?”

“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”

Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.

“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”

He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.

“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”

“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.

“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”

“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.

That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”

As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.

The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.

“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”

“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”

“Well have you looked at it?”

“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”

“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”

“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”

With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.

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Identity and Genre in Writing

I recently read Rabbit Redux by John Updike. I read Rabbit, Run before, and I hadn’t been impressed. In fact, I hated Rabbit a little bit. The book stuck with me though. I’d think about it before I went to bed. I let some time pass (and my life settle down a bit), and I picked up Rabbit Redux and loved it. Updike is masterful at creating a flawed character. Rabbit seemed like he could live and breath as he learned the lessons that come with life.

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I read John Updike’s biography, because I was interested in this man who could create such a life-like character. I have been struggling to write lately, and I needed some motivation from one of the greats. I’ve been focusing on reading, because sometimes when I read a lot the writing falls into place. Updike was a prolific writer. He wrote a book a year. He also didn’t let himself be pigeon-holed into a genre. He wrote the Rabbit series spanning from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, character-based writing like mine, that explored topics such as social norms, race-relations, and sexuality. But he also wrote some sci-fi-like, magical realism, historical fiction, and even prose.

I’ve struggled to find my style. I think all too often these days, publishers are looking for genre-based books. I mean, how many vampire books can we have? Romance? Humans love to classify information. Oh, Lauren Greene, she writes women’s fiction. Or, oh, Lauren Greene, she writes Southern Literature (not even listed as a genre on Amazon.com—what’s up with that?). But why? I write because I love to write. I write to solve my problems, the world’s problems (not likely), and because there’s something inside of me that doesn’t feel fulfilled unless I’m writing. I think Updike got that. I didn’t know him personally (I wish I had met him). It seems to me that he wrote what he felt like writing and his audience followed him. I’d like to be that type of writer. The one who follows her creative whims. But in order to do that, I have to sit down and write again. I have got to make it a priority. I have to decide that as a writer, I write, I seek publication, and I do the hard shit like marketing. Because in the end, I kind of want to be like Updike. I want to lead my life doing what I love, and I want it to show in the beauty of my writing. I want to mold a character into someone who feels real. Someone who my reader can relate to or even hate. Someone who sticks with the reader long afterwards in a familiar, comfortable sort of way. Writers are supposed to make their readers feel. And if I can do that then I’ll feel like maybe I’m doing my job.

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5 Second Rule

I’m not one to read self help books. But every now and then I see something motivational, and I feel like it applies to me. Like, remember a long time ago, when everyone was reading The Purpose Driven Life. Then it was The Secret. And I’m sure about a billion others. I never read them. I do have respect for the people who wrote them and who make millions of dollars selling words about how to better live your life. Because that’s what everyone wants to do, right? Live their life better.

Yesterday, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, and I came across Mel Robbins. She wrote The 5 Second Rule. It’s the latest in self help books to take off. She makes a great point in this extremely long interview:

From the time you decide to do something, you have 5 seconds to launch it. I believe this is true. She is truly funny when she talks about how she goes from staying in bed to being successful. The interview is worth listening to even if you don’t believe in self-help garbage (I don’t really, but I do think there are some tricks and tidbits that people like Mel Robbins can teach us). Plus, for some reason I love writing about self help, even though I probably need it the most!

If your brain is like my brain, it’s brimming with ideas. You want to start something, but you lose motivation. You want to write a book, but you are risk adverse. Let me tell you something: being afraid of failure and success are probably my biggest weaknesses. The most successful people in this world aren’t afraid to fail. They know it takes failure to get things right. We are flawed humans, and we learn from our mistakes. Living by Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule helps with the initiation process. So say you’re thinking: I want to write a great novel, 5-4-3-2-1, pull the computer up. Don’t come up with all the reasons why you can’t write the novel, why nobody will ever read you, why you’ll never get published. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: DO IT! Sometimes, I need to take my own advice.

I’ve been trying to make little changes to my life to be a better person. I’m super messy, and honestly probably was never diagnosed with ADHD as a child. My lack of executive function skills is appalling. This weekend, I’m going to use the 5 second rule to stop procrastinating and to clean up. I’m going to use it to work on my novel that I keep putting on the back-burner. I’m going to use it to set goals of being more present with my kids. Basically, I’m going to trust my first instinct and let all the anxiety, risk-adverse thoughts, and bad behaviors fall by the wayside. I’m going to take the risk to live my dreams.

What changes do you want to make in your life? What goals do you have? How could you apply the 5 second rule to live a better life?

Initiate. Dream. Live. Risk.

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Discipline

Lately, the question I hate to hear is, “So how’s your writing going?” This question makes me cringe. This question reminds me that my writing is not going. Yes, I’ve started a hundred things. Like a monster, I leave my characters waiting to feel complete. Because that’s all we ever want, right? A feeling of completeness. But lately I’ve been feeling likeI lack the discipline to be a writer. I’ve been second guessing myself.

I randomly applied to a flash fiction contest for a magazine. I was rejected. I didn’t flinch. I didn’t cry. I thought, “Well, there’s always next time.” But I know there won’t be a next time if I don’t write. I need to find direction. I love writing shorts, but I don’t think I can tell a whole story in a short story. I love writing long, but the muddle in the middle bogs me down and makes me want to stop. I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I need to do it, because it makes me feel complete, fulfilled, and most of all happy and content. But sometimes I hate to do it, or I hate how much it haunts me when I’m not doing it.

When I was writing, really writing, my brain filled up with so many ideas I could barely keep up. Now I don’t even have blog ideas. I had people telling me how I inspired them. Getting up at 4 in the morning to write, then dealing with kids, coming to a full time job, having a kid on a gymnastics team. Where was the time? But if I’ve learned anything about myself it’s that I’m a better writer when I’m busy. I’m a better writer when I have to squeeze it in. I’m also a better writer when I’m a runner.

Lately, I’ve been training for another half marathon. Yeah, I think I said I’d never do one again, but I changed my mind. The truth is, running helps me keep the weight off, even if it doesn’t help me lose weight (Lord—I wish it did—I feel like I will never get rid of this extra 15 lbs). And running helps center me. I listen to music, but it’s really just a beat, and my mind sorts out problems. Ideas come and go, and they don’t stick, but it does something to my brain. It makes my brain more creative. All the problem solving that comes while my feet are hitting the pavement shows up in the form of writing.

And running is a form of discipline. There are times when I’m running and I feel like stopping. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I stop, and I turn around, and I walk to the house. Sometimes when I do that I feel defeated by myself. Mad at myself. Sometimes I feel okay, because I listened to my body. And there are times when I’m running where I push through. I slow down and then I speed up again, and I achieve my goal of completing the run. These are the times I think I can apply to writing. Pushing through the times where the story feels like it’s going nowhere by just writing some crap-words on paper and getting to the next good part. I need to learn how to apply the discipline I have in my running to my writing. Because we all know that without hard work, we don’t get anywhere. Without the hours of sweat and toil, and manuscripts tossed aside, I would never be published.

So for the next few months, I’m going to work on bringing discipline back to my life, not only with my running but with my writing. I started by joining a MOOC over at www.novoed.com called How Writer’s Write Fiction: Storied Women Writers. I’m hoping this will get me started again and allow me to finish something, then revise, then submit, and then hopefully, one day, publish again.

Going Ons

Hello Lovelies! I’ve been busy lately, and I’ve neglected my blog again. I’m sorry about that. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in my life.

I got a Fitbit HR Charge. It was a present to myself. I’ve been obsessively trying to beat a co-worker in steps each week. He’s short, so I think he must take about five or six strides to my one. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. The Fitbit has been motivating me to exercise more again, which is great because I had fallen off the wagon. Now, I’ve been doing Glide about three times during the week, and running about 2 times. I’m still running short distances and mostly running on the treadmill. I went out for a morning run the other day, and I had forgotten how much I liked the solitude and peace of the outdoors in the morning–not to mention the coolness, as opposed to 90+ degrees days.

My son found an Eastern Fence lizard in my parent’s yard, and he decided he had to have her as a pet. Her name’s Spikey.

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I spent about $100 getting this lizard set up in a cage with a thermometer, sand, water, a fake tree and a rock hiding place. I do hope she lives for a bit. We bought crickets to feed her, and we put them in a little critter keeper. They are the loudest things in the world. As I’m sitting here they are chirping and driving me nuts. At first, I felt bad that we were feeding the crickets to Spikey. But this morning, I woke up and went to get my coffee. I noticed the crickets were low on food, so I put some in their critter creeper. One of the crickets was cannibalizing the other. I had no idea they did that. Plus, the poor victim was still alive even though half his body had been eaten. Gross. I found this article about them, so I’m guessing these guys are really katydids and the lack of food in their cage led them to eat each other.

I’ve been writing again. Putting my energy into a story that is flowing better than anything I’ve written in awhile. Plus, reading. I read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff over the weekend. I highly recommend this book, and I’m going to write a review about it a little bit later this week.

And my oldest has middle school orientation this week. Where did the time go? I thought he was still just this little baby.

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But no. Here he is, a tween, and looking more and more grown up every day.

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Being a parent is so much about loving, teaching, and learning to let go. I hope I’m giving him the right tools to succeed in life. Parenting is the hardest, and every day I question myself. I used to have so much guilt in everything I did. I felt guilty for leaving him at daycare while I went to work. I felt guilty for disciplining him. I almost felt guilty for breathing. I was driving home from work the other day, and I realized that guilt is gone. Why? Because we, parents, are human and we’re doing the best we can. Because I know I am a good parent to him even on his hardest days. I know he’ll look back at his childhood and know he was loved. And that’s the most important thing, right? I also know, that he’ll blame me for a thousand wrongs. But that’s human nature. Boy–do I love this big kid more and more every day. It’s amazing to see him blossom into a young man, full of his own ideas, and to see him making his way in this amazing world of ours. Love you kiddo!

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The Weird Adventures of Dick and Jane

Here’s another piece of flash fiction from Terrible Minds. There are bad words in this short story. It is 1414 words, and a little bit looney! The prompt came from THEY FIGHT CRIME, which gives hilarious prompts apparently!

My prompt: He’s a Green-fingered advertising executive who believes he’s a wolf. She’s a mentally unstable astronaut with a magical ham sandwich in her pocket.

And the story:

Dick finished his nightly howl after checking in on his calla lilies. Of course they bloomed with the power of a thousand glories. After all, Dick had always had green-fingers as his  grandma liked to say. God rest her soul. He looked up to the sky to see the tiny dot, he thought was a star, traveling closer and closer. He didn’t think that was right. In fact, he’d drawn stars before. He was drawing stars right now for some pathetic ad he had to do for the Wright Agency. God, he hated the Wright Agency. They were always wrong in his opinion. He opened his mouth to howl again.

His neighbor threw open his window, “Shut the fuck up, Dick. You’re not a wolf. You’re just a goddamn asshole for waking everyone up with your incessant howling, every single goddamn night!”

Dick ignored his neighbor’s negative comments and asked, “How about those Braves?”

“Damn, your mother knew what she was doing when she named you Dick,” the neighbor said, closing the window.

Dick didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he focused on the dot. Now it looked entirely too close. And in fact, it wasn’t a dot anymore. It looked like a—s.

Close call, Dick thought, as he brushed himself off from where he’d thrown himself. The spacecraft landed on the other side of his fence sparing his morning-glories and forget-me-nots. The neighbor’s house had been saved too. Too bad. Dick didn’t think anyone could survive that kind of landing, but the spacecraft, the size of a mini-cooper, looked largely intact. His fur of his beard bristled up as he walked out the back gate and stood near the spaceship.

Dick sneaked up to the spacecraft on all fours. Smoke rose from one side. He knocked on it, hearing the hollow sound of metal ring out against the night. Other people looked on from their windows, but no one was as brave as Dick. He protected his territory with a canine ferocity and the machine had landed precariously close to his land.

The door opened and he jumped back, landing on his hands and feet. He barred his teeth and began growling as the astronaut stepped out of the spacecraft. She lifted the orange space helmet from her head, and shook out her long strawberry locks. Her eyes twinkled, illuminated by the moon, and to Dick it seemed as if she’d walked right out of a fairy tale to meet him. Dick barred his teeth and began sniffing as she walked closer to him. He stared at her orange spacesuit which looked a little too tight around her breast area.

“Where am I?”

He stood up and brushed the dirt off his arms and legs.

“Outside Atlanta. Name’s Dick. Top wolf, these parts. Somewhat of a Casanova, really.”

“Wolf?” Her brows knitted into a question mark above her head. “Tried to make it to Mars. Dammit. Failed again.”

Dick hung his head and whined.

“Wolf! The fuck you are!” the woman screamed.

Dick backed away from the woman, unsure why she was so angry. He wanted to go back into his house and work on his ad. He felt safe inside his den. He sat back on his haunches against the roughness of the asphalt as she came toward him. He thought she wanted to attack him, but instead she helped him up on to two legs then wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. She smelled. Not like perfume. Like meat. He stuck out his tongue and salivated, dripping salvia all over her orange spacesuit. He sniffed, leaning down toward her and she let him, amazingly. Most people hit him or attacked him with their purses when he started sniffing around them. He sniffed all the way down to her pocket. He could tell the smell came from there. He wanted to take a bite, but she gently pushed him away.

“Not that. Not here. Not now. Can we go somewhere private?”

He pointed to his backyard, and he opened the gate for her.

“The flowers.”

“Green-fingers,” Dick said, waving them in front of her face like jazz hands.

The garden brimmed with flowers of every imaginable kind. Dick could plant anything. Orchids sprang up from the mere thought of his touch. His backyard felt like paradise, unless you were allergic, then it would have been a nightmare.

Inside the house, the fire cackled.

“Fire in the summer?”

“I sleep on the hearth,” Dick said.

“Do you think you’re actually a wolf?”

Dick’s face took on a blank stare. “Tea?”

“I hate fucking tea,” she said. She picked up the closest thing she saw, a framed picture of Dick’s prized pumpkin from 1997, and threw it against the brick wall closest to her. Dick didn’t flinch. Instead, he went over to the fire and stoked it, ignoring the woman’s hostile glances. She broke into tears again, and Dick knew something was wrong with her. A mental illness. Depression maybe.

“Why do you have a sandwich in your pocket?” he asked.

“This?”

She pulled out a ham sandwich. Dick could smell it from all away across the room. Ham and cheese on ciabatta bread with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato. It looked like something you’d order from Panera or Subway. Dick loved meat. Any kind would do. Of course he normally ate it completely raw.

“That,” he started salivating again.

“This is a magical sandwich,” she said. Her eyes glowed as she gazed at it.

“Magical?”

“Magical. It can grant my wishes. What’s your one wish?”

“Like a genie in a bottle?” Dick felt his ears perk up the way they did when he was out on a hunt.

“Yes, I suppose like a genie,” she said. She cradled the sandwich as if it were a piece of crystal. The smell wafted toward Dick, and the hunger in the pit of his stomach doubled.

“To find a mate. To expand my brood. What is yours?”

“To make it to Mars.”

“What’s on Mars?”

She shrugged her shoulders as if the answer to that question was not the least bit important.

“What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

He plopped down in front of the fire and stretched out, rolling onto his back and exposing his belly. He then turned to his eyes and stared at her with his wolf eyes, calculating the right time to pounce. Instead, he asked a question, because after all he knew in the human world the way to a woman’s heart was through her mind. And Jane was no ordinary woman.

“If the sandwich is magical, then why hasn’t your wish come true?

“If you’re a wolf, then why don’t you have fur?”

“Touché.”

Dick could feel the crazy emanating from Jane. But, still, he wanted to get closer to her. He did what he knew attracted female wolves. He climbed onto the couch next to her and began rubbing his head against her neck. He flicked out her tongue to groom her, but she pulled away and rose her hand as if she were about to slap him.

“What are you doing?” she screeched.

She pulled at her hair in distress. Dick moved closer then stroked her again trying to calm her down. She put her hands down on the couch and pushed herself further away from him. He growled deeply then pounced.

She screamed as his teeth ripped into the sandwich, shoving the whole thing into his mouth, hardly chewing before he swallowed.

“The magic,” she sobbed.

 

* * *

“She’s stabilized.”

“Jane. You were out a long time. But Dr. Hartsell said the shock treatment might have worked. Isn’t that great news?

“You Dick!” she shouted.

She tried to sit up, straining against the restraints meant to keep her from attacking. Dick backed up and shook his head dejectedly at the doctor.

The man in the white coat paced the room as Jane raged. He made his way over to the medicine cabinet and opened the drawer. He pulled out a needle and a vial. From previous hospitalizations, Dick knew it always took awhile to stabilize her. He scratched behind his ear, making his left leg move up and down slightly, as he watched the doctor inject her. Her screams quieted and an ominous silence filled the room.

“What’s that smell?” Dr. Hartsell asked.

Dick reached into his pocket to find the remnants of a half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich.

“Funny. I thought I’d finished that.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

The Boy

I wrote this piece for a Chuck Wendig Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge.

 

The photo I used can be found here: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3003524

I’m trying to write more recently, and flash always gets me started so I can focus on longer works. I hope you enjoy.


The Boy

Found: Small boy. Won’t sit still. Speaks no English.

He bit my hand when we found him. Sitting on a school chair in the cave near the river where we fished. A baby really, but wild like an animal. I don’t know how long he’d been there and whether his behavior indicated he’d been raised by wolves or simply abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for him.

I’d read, in the old days, deformed babies or unwanted babies were left out in the elements to die. But he was neither. Blonde hair and blue eyes set in his head like a china doll. He was perfect looking but for the layer of dirt so thick it had turned his skin the color of a darkie. He squealed and clawed at my face when I tried to put him in the tub.  Jeffrey had to take over, and he seethed so much with anger I thought he’d drown the boy. When I pulled the baby out, his skin looked red and raw from being scrubbed so hard with the lye soap. The water in the tin tub looked as black as the soil on the land we farmed.

“Wild animal. Can’t live here,” Jeffrey said, as the boy ran around the room screeching and hollering.

He posted the signs around town. Went out on horseback and listed our address below the words. But no one wanted a castaway and so the boy stayed. For months. And the baby growing inside me began to make its presence known.

I tried to teach the boy English. I pointed to the bump on my stomach and said, “Baby.” I labeled all the objects in the cabin, pointed to the words and said the names.  He moved his mouth but only pathetic animal sounds erupted from his lips. In anger, he projected his small body onto the floor kicking up dust and dirt until I had to walk away.

“We have to get rid of him,” Jeffrey said.

But I shook my head. I did not agree.

Jeffrey and I lay under the quilt in the oak bed as the boy, or the animal as Jeffrey called him, slept on the pallet on the floor kicking and screaming in his sleep. Jeffrey reached over and rubbed my belly. The baby didn’t move for him.

“This is our child. That’s not,” he said pointing to the boy.

Weeks of arguments as the baby inside me grew. And the boy seemed to become more wild.

“Cannot be tamed,” Jeffrey said, sitting at the kitchen table wiping the sweat and the dirt from his brow.

And the whole time something grew inside me. Guilt, fear, and anger. On the inside I began to take on the feelings of the boy. A wild rage Jeffrey couldn’t understand swelled up like a hurricane within me. A wild rage threatened the humanity inside of me. And Jeffrey began to turn his back upon me. At night, the gulf between us grew. He’d touch the small of my back, and I pulled away from the roughness of his fingertips. And even as the chasm widened, I became closer to the boy. I felt he was a part of me. I felt I understood his pain. I felt he had given it to me to share. Something inside, deep down, told me not to give up on him.

The boy began to take my hand. He would roll his hand into a fist and push it against my open palm. His cries ceased, and he became silent. His silence permeated me, and I began to speak less and less. He put his grimy little hand against my belly, and the baby inside me squirmed and moved under the softness of his fingers.

In one breath, I let go of the rage, and Jeffrey inhaled it, filling up his whole body with a palpable anger. He shouted at me and the boy. He spent longer days in the field away from me. Away from the boy. When the shouts didn’t work he filled our house with an unthinkable void of sound. The silence sat at our dinner table like an uninvited guest.  The tension took on a personality filling our souls with hatred.

And then one morning, I awoke to find the boy gone. Jeffrey sat at the table with a pocket knife, sharpening a branch.

“Going fishing. Want to come?”

I shook my head but didn’t utter a word. I felt alone and abandoned stuck within myself, but Jeffrey’s terrible anger had fled with the boy.

Jeffrey had been gone a few hours when the contractions started. I knew from watching my mama give birth that labor wasn’t quick. But there were other plans for me. The boy clawed his way out of me as quickly as he could. The pain felt so intense that all the rage and loneliness of the last few months escaped through the bestial screams coming from my lips.

The baby stared up at me with blue eyes. He opened his mouth to cry, but instead the boy’s animal sounds spilled out of his throat. I held him to my nipples, and I whispered into his ears, “Now you’re mine forever. No one can take you away. I will never abandon you again.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available for the next three weeks. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

 

School Girl Crush

Yesterday, I wrote a scene for a work in progress about a childhood crush. In this yet-to-be-named novel I’m writing, the man had a childhood crush on a girl who spent the summers with him in Cape Cod. At a certain point, she never comes back. He spends his life tracking her down, and then stalking her until they meet again under strange circumstances on the METRO in Washington D.C. This scene had me thinking about my own crushes through my lifetime.

When I turned 12, which was a lifetime ago, my dad decided he wanted us to have family time by learning how to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Yes, I had a privileged youth. I remember the nights we spent in the pool, learning how to breathe underwater. I also remember the book I was handed to study up on SCUBA, because all SCUBA divers have to pass a written test, even the twelve year olds.

Lauren SCUBA

That book with its blue cover sat by my bedside as I simultaneously thought of boys and played with Barbies. I had entered that time in my life where my body was changing and I was going through puberty, but I still loved my dolls. I straddled the line between childhood and adulthood, not sure where I belonged yet. As an aside, I also wore a heck of a lot of Laura Ashley jumpers. Twelve year olds today do not dress the way we did in the early 1990’s that’s for sure.

When the test day came I stared at the problems, and they looked like gobbly-gook. In all truth, I think there was a whole lot of Algebra. Math wasn’t my forte, and I hadn’t even started Algebra yet. (Now they seem to start it in Kindergarten, but then they didn’t).

And so, Phil, a tall, buff, blonde dive-pro at the shop sat next to me and gave me hints. He knew I knew the rules and how to dive. He just needed to give me a little bit of encouragement, so I could pass. And pass I did, with his help.

I’m sure dive-pro Phil knew I was in love with him. I made it blatantly obvious. I followed him around like a puppy-dog. I asked for him to be my dive partner on numerous occasions. I thought, me, a twelve year old child had a chance with this grown-up twenty-five year old man.

And Phil, knowing I was a child, dealt with it in such a nice way. He was kind. He didn’t blow me off. He never belittled me or was condescending. I’ll never forget, on one of our dive trips—I can’t remember if this was in Florida or in the Cayman’s—my mom burst her eardrum. I wanted to go back out in the water, because I was looking for sand dollars. So Phil went out with me, and he dragged his knife through the sand so we could find our way back to the boat, and took me out to a whole colony of sand dollars. This meant so much to my twelve-year old heart. He dealt with my school-girl crush with such grace, but he also gave me no allusions that he reciprocated (thank God—I was just a child).

Now I’m a grown-up, and I know the crush on dive-pro Phil was an adolescent awakening to the world of love and romance for me. It’s funny thinking back on those days and remembering how young and naïve I was. I had many more crushes after that, and I’m sure people had crushes on me. That’s just the way it goes. But the thing that makes crushes feel so poignant is the impossibility involved that doesn’t exist in a loving relationship. A crush is just that, a crush, and if it never moves forward it wanes and dies and both parties move on with their lives.

I don’t remember how I felt when I heard dive-pro Phil was getting married. I remember thinking it was logical, because he was an adult. But being only twelve or thirteen years old, it didn’t hit me the same way as other crushes who rejected me, who went on to get married, who left me when I felt like I needed them the most, or who moved on when they should have for the benefit of us both.

The thing about crushes, as illustrated in this story, is that they can teach you about love. Dive-pro Phil looked at me as a child, someone he could help teach to dive. He mentored me, and taught me about kindness, which is such a huge aspect of love. And he did it in a way that was appropriate, even knowing that I had a school-girl crush on him. I’ve learned a lot from all the crushes I’ve had, because pain also brings insight. I moved on and I learned how to apply that knowledge to my relationships, and now to my marriage.

Interestingly enough, another Phil came along when I was in college, and I thought I loved him so much. I put him on a pedestal, and I didn’t walk away even when he hurt me. I didn’t walk away even when I started hurting him. He was my best friend, my confidante, but the truth is a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us because we didn’t know how to communicate our deepest feelings with one another. It made the time we had together thrilling and fun, but it also made it hurtful, confusing, and frustrating. It took me a long time to move on from Phil2, and my relationship with my now-husband suffered because of my grief associated with losing my friendship with Phil2 and the possibility of what could have been between us. Once I processed all those heavy emotions, my relationship with my husband grew.

Crushes crush. They’re intense, yes, but they’re meant to end. Relationships bring a whole new level of love to your life, one that grows and changes with time. A crush is fleeting and not meant to last forever, but a lesson for how to love in your true and meaningful relationships.

Who was your first crush?

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