Let’s Be Friends, Bitches

Best Friends

I’ve been watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Actually, on Saturday I binge watched a lot of episodes. On Saturday I was sick depressed. Anyway, I couldn’t bring myself to do much besides read and watch television. I’m also writing a lot and suffering a lot of angst. The two go hand-in-hand, ask any tortured artist you know.

The show is funny. It’s supposed to be a snarky comedy, rom-com, dark comedy. A mix of all sorts of genres. I like mixed genres, because I mostly write a mix of genres. It has hilarious songs that make fun of everything from Spanx to relationships. But it also can be real. In fact, in watching the show the main character reminds me a lot myself. Not to say I’m crazy, um, maybe I am. Who knows? But boy, I did some crazy things in my past that I would like to forget. Unfortunately, the past has a way of haunting the present.

One thing I love about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is its sarcastic way of dealing with real life. I love how Valencia has never had a group of girl friends and how they deal with that aspect of female life. Let me tell you—females can be vicious, catty, and petty. It’s time we taught our girls to be nice to one another, and not let jealousy get in the way. My husband said to me the other day, “You don’t even like girls.” That’s not exactly true–what I don’t like is bitches.

I made my best girl friends when I was in elementary and high school. I’m still friends with them. As an adult, I’ve had ups and downs. I had a great friend in college who sort of treated me like shit. Whenever I said something she would say, “I don’t care.” Well, not whenever, but a lot. I mostly chalked this up to the fact that she was from New Jersey. The thing is, it was easy to walk away from that friendship, because she didn’t give me what I needed and I didn’t give her what she needed. Plus, I had loads of college friends waiting in the background (Tiffany, Angie, even Jandy—that’s Janet and Andy for all you who didn’t know me in college). In my adulthood, I’ve had good friends who have come and gone. I had a best friend, and we were there for each other when we needed it, and then we moved on. Looking back on that friendship, I’m pretty sure I was going through a mid-life crisis (yes in my early 30s–I’m pretty sure life crisis happen every 10 years or so–hold onto your horses). I’ve always known when a friendship is ready to be over, because they’re easy to walk away from. If there’s angst about walking away from a friendship, then there’s probably some unresolved baggage and you need to get in there and work it out no matter how hard that shit is.

But girls are complicated. And I’m complicated. (Guys are complicated too even though they’d have you believe they’re not.) I’m apparently needy and have a lot of expectations of people. I’m aware of these faults and how they contribute to crazy-making. As I’m watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend and laughing at all the crazy bullshit going on with the main character, Rebecca, I’m also seeing echoes of my life when I was younger (and much less wise than I am today ;-)).

I think as people we tend to blame others for the downfalls in our relationships and our friendships instead of taking a long, hard look at ourselves. It’s much easier to pit the blame on other people, because then you don’t have to own up to the fact that you’re human and you likely make mistakes. For one, I’m super bad at communicating. I hate talking on the phone. I say things like, “Um, yeah, okay. Well I have to go.” Also, there are long extended, uncomfortable periods of silence, which are easy to sustain when you’re looking in someone’s face but harder for me on the phone. I would much rather meet in person for margaritas and Mexican food than talk to them on the phone, but that’s impossible with my long distance friends. I think about my long distance friends a lot (like Tiffany, Julie, Nabi, Kristin, Marianne). I’m just not so good at actually reaching out and communicating with them. I fall back on text a lot (who doesn’t), but I don’t think that’s an acceptable alternative to actually talking communicating.

I think the thing about girls is we let all the emotions get in the way. When we don’t hear from a friend, we think, “Oh God, that girl doesn’t like me anymore. Let me analyze this for twelve hours, eat a tub of ice cream, drink a six pack of beer, then shoot off some text to our used-to-be-best-friend saying: Why don’t you like me anymore? What did I ever do to you? Are you in love with my husband? Are we fighting over the same guy? WHAT DID I DO? Although, usually, in these types of situations I brood and never tell my friend I’m having all these thoughts (see–bad communicator).

Girls also do this thing where they let guy relationships get in the way of their friendships.

Let’s say Holly is best friends with Jemma. Holly meets Daniel. Holly and Daniel start going out. And to Holly it’s like Jemma never existed. Or maybe Holly thinks that their friendship is so solid that Jemma will understand and she doesn’t have to make time for Jemma. Um, not true.

Jemma says, “Hey Holly, want to get a taco and margaritas tonight?” (I’m obviously in the mood for Mexican food today, but then again, when am I not?)

Holly says, “I can’t. I’m going to watch Daniel and his best friends play Madden for four hours, while simultaneously clinging to his arm and acting like a cool girlfriend.”

I mean, girls, why do we do this? We give up who we are a little bit to be with a man. Men don’t do this. They still have their “bros.” Bros before hos, dudes. They make time to game, to talk, to drink loads of beer. But women love to say they’re too busy with their boyfriend, husband, or their kids to maintain and nurture friendships. Man, that’s stupid and has to stop.

I know I’m an offender of this—in the past and today. I use my family as an excuse a lot to blow off my friends. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my good girl friends (like Cecilia, Stacy, and Andrea) can’t be replaced. They are people who I will always be there for no matter what. Even if we don’t talk and fall back on texting, when these people float back into my life and we get back together it’s like nothing has changed. And that’s what real friendship is. And it’s worth fighting for.


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The Dark Half

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. The Challenge was to pick one of Stephen King’s titles and write a completely different story. I’ve never read The Dark Half by Stephen King, but the title spoke to me.

The Dark Half — 1,151 words

P-E-R-F-E-C-T. There’s no such thing. At least that’s what Carmen’s teachers always said. Nobody’s perfect. But Carmen knew better.

“Anything less than perfection is not acceptable.” Her father’s words reverberated in her head. As such, Carmen’s life was ruled by these words.

First an ivy league school, then an 80-hour-a-week job. Then the perfect husband,  then 2 perfect kids, and a golden retriever, living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect town to complete her perfect life. Who could ask for anything more? And still she didn’t feel like she had her father’s approval. It was enough to drive anyone crazy.

On December 6, she woke up in a clapboard house on a mattress shoved up against a graffiti covered wall. A tattooed man slept next to her. His chest rose and fell as she shielded her eyes from the brightness of the sun streaming through the slats covering the windows.

Carmen had no idea how she had ended up in this halfway house or whatever the hell kinda place it was. And she had no idea who the man beside her could be. She pulled the sheet down and much to her surprise realized she was naked. But worse than that, he was naked too. She gasped in horror. And apparently this gasp was louder than the drum beat going on next door or upstairs or wherever the hell it was going on, because it woke up Tattoo man.

“Hey baby,” he said, moving his naked-as-a-mole-rat body toward her.

She scooted to the far edge of the mattress and pulled the sheet all the way up to her chin, trying to cover up and retain at least a little bit of her decency.

“Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean, who the hell am I?”

Tattoo Man sat up and scooted closer to her, pulling the sheet down as he did. Carmen tried to scoot further from him and almost fell off the mattress onto the dirty black and white tile floor.

“I have no idea how I got here.”

He scoffed. Then he stood up and walked across the room, completely naked, with everything hanging out. Carmen averted her eyes.

He grabbed a cigarette and lit it.

“You want one?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“The hell you don’t.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and shook his head.

“I have to go.”

Carmen stood up, trying to shield her naked body from his wandering eyes. She didn’t succeed. She threw on the dress, one of her favorites, a blue button-down Ann Taylor dress. At least her clothes hadn’t changed. She slipped on her heels. Tattoo Man watched the whole scene with a look of amusement on his face.

She headed toward the door.

“See you tonight, Love,” he said and reached toward her. She avoided his outstretched arms and skirted out the door.

How the hell did she get there? She looked down at her watch. Christ, it was 8 AM.  Tom would be wondering where she was. Breakfast wouldn’t be made. The kids wouldn’t be driven to school. Tom would be late for work. She would be late for work.

Her car sat badly parallel parked in between two overflowing trashcans. She noted with alarm that she was in East Marlboro, an undesirable area, over the bridge and railroad track from Marlboro. She sped up, hitting 90 after merging onto the Interstate. She couldn’t imagine what Tom was thinking.

She pulled into her driveway. She stared at her beautifully manicured half acre yard. She took in the row of beautifully blooming pink azaleas. She looked at the windows with their perfect symmetry and the front porch, complete with a porch swing. She had worked so hard for the perfect life. She sighed a breath of relief.

She ran into the house, listening to the beep of the alarm on the backdoor as she strode into the kitchen. Tom sat at the table, reading the newspaper.

He looked up at Carmen with surprise.

“God, you scared me. Your conference is already over?”

“What? Why are you home? It’s 8:45.”

“I just dropped the kids off. I’m going into the office later. You’re supposed to be gone another two days.”

“Oh, I, um. I just forgot something.”

“So you came all the way back?”

“From where?”

“Buffalo.” He looked at her like she had two heads.

“Buffalo?”

Why the hell would I be at a conference in Buffalo, Carmen thought. She sat down at the table next to Tom and glanced at the newspaper in his hand. December 8th. Pearl Harbor Day. She had lost two days somehow. How was that even possible? She knew with certainty it was December 6th. And Buffalo? Why would she tell Tom she was at a conference in Buffalo. Her head spun, a tension headache rising up on the back of her neck and making her feel hot. She fanned herself off and stared at Tom with her sickly sweet, perfect wife, mother, employee smile planted on her face.

“I just forgot the presentation.”

“I could have emailed that to you.”

“Yeah, but….Listen—I’m going to get it and drive back to Buffalo. I’ll see you on the—” She realized she had no idea when she was supposed to come back home.

“Tenth.”

“Yes of course.”

Carmen headed toward the door.

“Carmen, aren’t you forgetting the presentation…again?” Tom asked, looking up from the paper.

“Oh yeah.”

Carmen took the steps two at a time like she used to do as a kid. She walked into their perfect Master bedroom, with the perfect shade of gray on the wall, and the perfect comforter—not too warm for the summer months. She rummaged around in the drawers, pretending for Tom’s sake, to look for the presentation. She found a jump drive in the back of her underwear drawer. What the hell is this?

She drove back to the slums of East Marlboro. She took the steps two-at-a-time to apartment 208. Tattoo Man opened the door.

“Back already?”

“You have a computer?”

“Laptop. It’s a Chromebook. We bought it together, Carmen.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where is it?”

He pointed her to the table. She squeezed her temples trying to recall the last few days of her life. Carmen plugged the jump drive into the Chromebook’s USB port and a file labeled The Dark Half popped up.

She clicked it and several newspaper articles came up with the dates: January 4, 2017, February 26, 2017, April 10, 2017, April 14, 2017, July 8, 2017, September 26, 2017, October 3, 2017. She scanned the headlines on the articles. Grand Theft Auto. Bank Robbery. Attempted Murder.

One title in particular caught her eye: Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Continue to Elude Cops.

She felt breath on her neck. She turned her head and looked into Tattoo Man’s eyes.

“You made a file,” Tattoo Man said, nodding affirmation.

“Are you Clyde?”

“Yeah. And you’re Bonnie.”


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A New Life

Hello lovely readers. Today, I wrote a blog for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge this week was to write something with the prompt new life. 

A New Life — 650 Words

When Star turned thirty-one she wished for a new life. She even wished for a new name. The commitments of everyday life seemed too much, and like her name sake, she almost wished she could fizzle out or be sucked up into the nothingness of a black hole.

On a Thursday, she went to her job at Thomason’s Bolts. She sat at the front desk, staring at the wood-paneled walls, waiting for a customer to call or come in. The clock on the wall ticked away, reminding her of how little time she had left to really make a difference.

Mr. Thomason, who had a red mustache despite his head full of black hair, walked in, threw a file on her desk and said, “What the hell happened with the Parker contract?”

Star took a deep breath and stared at him. For years she had been waiting for this moment. She stood up, put her faux Michael Kors purse on her shoulder, and walked out much to the gaping Mr. Thomason’s surprise. She had felt like cussing him out, but instead she walked out with her pride still intact. A silent revolution of sorts.

Star had always trusted her intuition. She trusted it when she met Bobby Dixon at a night club five years back. She trusted it when she walked down the aisle with him two years earlier. She trusted it when she followed him to a Motel 6 on the edge of town three weeks before, and saw him walk into Room 504 with a bleached-blonde tramp wearing hooker heels. She even trusted it as she packed up the boxes in the two story end unit townhome they owned together and walked away from Bobby. Their relationship had grown stagnant, and she knew his transgression was as much her fault as it was his. At night, they had started to politely ignore one another. And she realized their life together had become boring, monotonous even, and who could fathom living out the next 50 or so years that way. Not her.

On Friday, Star sat in the airport. She had turned off her phone after approximately 52 phone calls and about 150 text messages from Bobby. Mr. Thomason had only called her once and left this message, “So I take it you quit?”

Star bought a one-way ticket to Peru. She had been there before. She had been a teenager, on the brink of adulthood, when her parents had dragged her to the rainforest. They had taken her to small villages tucked along the Amazon where they provided medical services for people in need. Her parents had been upset by the poverty of the people. Star had been entranced by the happiness they found in their simple life.

Star couldn’t explain it, but when she stepped off the plane and shook Señor Arizmendi’s hand, she told him not to call her Star, but to call her Zora.  Señor Arizmendi complied, despite the contradictory evidence of her passport.

They took a bus then a boat to the small village. When Señor Arizmendi stepped off the boat, all the children gathered around him, asking for candy and staring with their big brown eyes at Zora. She smiled and patted their heads, and she handed out the candy Señor Arizmendi had given to her in preparation for this moment. The children flashed toothless grins at Zora, and one small boy, who couldn’t have been older than four, placed his pudgy hand in hers and led her toward the one room school house.

Zora sighed in relief as she found her way in this new life. Zora found new meaning in this simple way of life. She found a way to relax and be happy with just being, surviving, teaching, and letting the children help her grown into the person she knew she had always been capable of being.

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Just Be Nice

Just Be Nice

I slacked on keeping my series on race going. I finished Waking Up White about a month ago. I read it slowly, really absorbing the material. Also, I made screenshots of a lot of quotes and the questions at the end of the chapters that spoke to me.

One such quote (and I’m sorry I read this on a Kindle, so I don’t know what page it was on—Kindle folks: location 3061 of 4136) is “Though I never feared for my safety, or that I’d lose status or friends, I did spend most of my life thinking I had to make a choice between being either a polite person or an angry activist.”

This quote spoke to me. How many times as a child was I told, “Just be nice.” How many times do I tell my kids to “Just be nice?” Niceness is nice, right? But niceness also can take away the voice and the power of some people. Is being polite swallowing your words in the face of blatant racism? It shouldn’t be. Is being polite nodding along while people spout of views you don’t agree with? It shouldn’t be. Is being polite going along with an administration that espouses racist views and seeks to divide our country? It shouldn’t be.

Did you ever watch The Real World? Boy, I just loved Puck and the guy who thought he was Garth Brooks. On the beginning credits of the show they had a one-liner: It’s Time to Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real.

For a long time, I spent my life being polite. When I moved back to Montgomery, I left my voice in D.C. I nodded along with people made derogatory comments. I nodded along when people made fun of Liberals (I am a liberal!). I didn’t realize how much I was a people-pleaser, until I moved back to a place that thought everyone with white skin thought the same way they did.

I didn’t stop being polite until after Trump became president. Then I felt like I had to do something. My mother and I became activists, fighting for what we think is right for all people. Stop being nice and start being your true self.

What does it look like to stop being polite and start being real, you may ask. It’s simple:

  • Don’t Be Complicit to Racism and Discrimination: When someone makes a derogatory comment about a person with a different gender, a different skin color, or a different sexuality tell them you disagree with them. Open your mouth and say, “I don’t believe that.” They may give you a stunned look and walk away, or you may be able to state your point of view. But the important thing is, you’re standing up for what’s right, not being complicit to continued prejudices.
  • Learn: I’ve read a lot about how our nation has perpetuated racism. Before I started on this journey, I knew racism existed. I didn’t know to what extent our system had kept it going. It saddened me to read Just Mercy and see how our justice system treats African Americans so differently than anyone else. It saddened me to hear the GI Bill didn’t serve African Americans the same way it served white Americans. It saddens me to see how our schools continued to be segregated, reinforcing the cycle of poverty that African Americans are so desperately trying to claw their way out of. Having educated myself about several of the issues, I feel more readily able to discuss them, not only with my white friends, but also to get perspective from my black friends. And that brings me to my next point:
  • Discuss: Talk about racism to your black friends. Talk about how they are discriminated against. I can tell you, these discussions may be uncomfortable for you, but they will probably make your black friends feel like you are one of the good ones and you’re at least trying to understand how your actions could be making them feel uncomfortable. Realize, as a white person you have privilege, and acknowledge that.
  • Make Space: If your child attends a school with a PTA, invite your black friends to become presidents, secretaries, etc. Many of them feel as if their voices are not being heard, even at schools. Show them they are welcome and that their voices are needed so we can make our schools more successful for every child.
  • Teach Your Children: About racism and how to combat racism. Let them know the history of racism and how they can support policies that seek to remove racism from our society. Talk to them about the Slavery, The Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Ida B. Wells. Let them know the important contributions African Americans make and continue to make in our society. Let them know race is man-made, and they have the power and the ability in the future to disable the systemic racism our country was built on.
  • Find a cause and support it. Use your voice. Use your activism. Don’t be quiet.

Books to Read:

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

At The Dark End of The Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L. McGuire

Just to name a few.

Recently my husband and I visited Memphis on a getaway. We went to the Civil Rights Museum there that’s located inside the Lorraine Motel where MLK, Jr. was killed. Below are a couple of pictures from that visit. Visual reminders why we need to keep fighting for equity, equality, and for the right thing. America should be a place where everyone can achieve their dream.

view-from-the-balcony-mlk-jr2.jpg

View from Inside the Lorraine Motel to the balcony where MLK, Jr. was shot April 4, 1968

Room MLK Jr stayed in at the Lorraine Motel

MLK Jr’s Motel Room Inside The Lorraine Motel

Freedom Riders Bus

A replica of the Greyhound bus that was firebombed in Anniston, AL in 1961 — Freedom Riders

For More Blog Posts in this series, click the links below:

Stereotypes and Preconceived Notions About Race

Family Values and Principles

You’ve Got Class

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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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The Frozen Rat’s Foot

So, this morning, I went for a run. And I was listening to David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. When I listened to it, I had this story idea pop into my head. Well, it wasn’t exactly this story but it started with Major Tom showing up on Halloween, and this teenage girl not knowing how to handle it. I checked Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge and picked a title randomly, and the rest of the story just fell together. Haunting, not for the feint of heart, and probably a little eerie, but I had a great time writing it! Enjoy.

Major Tom had popped into their lives on Halloween. Delores remembered it, because in the weeks prior to his existence, she’d been listening to David Bowie on repeat. Delores thought it could only be a coincidence—his name. Delores’ mother didn’t believe in coincidences though. She said everything happened for a reason.

Jack and Sunny had been trick-or-treating, and Delores sat by the front door giving out candy. Too old to partake in the annual candy-haul, Delores resigned herself to the fact that getting older stunk. The kids groaned when she handed out Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie pops, the cheap candy, making her life even harder.

Major Tom, she didn’t know his name at first, knocked on the door. He had his arm draped casually over a fairy princess and threw a killer smile Delores’ way.

“Howdy,” he said with a wink.

“Hi,” the timid word barely escaped her mouth.

Major Tom had a way of making his presence known.

Delores could feel her mother behind her and smell her Obsession perfume. Momma bit her lip, stuck her hips out, and tried to look coy. Her flirty red hair that come from a box bounced as she sashayed all the way to the door, leaned down toward the Fairy Princess, and deposited a tootsie roll into her bag. Major Tom caught an eyeful of cleavage from Momma’s low-cut Gap shirt.

“I’m Hilda.” My mom hated her name. She put out a hand showing off bright red nails.

“People call me Major Tom,” he said, extending his hand toward her.

The Fairy Princess and I stared at each other, unaware our lives were about to change forever.

Major Tom and The Fairy Princess aka Candace aka Candy-for-short moved in with us two days before Christmas. Snow filled every crevice of the world, and the heat had been out for a week. Momma had bought food but couldn’t pay the heating bill. Major Tom would be our savior, she said. Only he wasn’t.

When they moved in Major Tom insisted on giving Candy-for-short her own room. Delores could not believe it.

“That’s not fair. I’m the oldest,” she said rolling her eyes all the way to heaven.

“You’ll do what he says. It’s about time we had a man to take charge in this house,” Momma said.

Delores stomped up the stairs. She kicked the bed frame, but only managed to hurt her foot. Hot tears streamed down her acne-pocked face. She wiped them away. Stupid Major Tom and Candy-for-short came in and had ruined everything in her life. Delores threw a shoe at her boom box. She turned the tape over—the one her father had given her before he died. She played Ashes to Ashes, “My mother said, to get things done you’d better not mess with Major Tom.” She wanted to barf or scream or both.

Instead she whispered so low that only the dust bunnies could hear, “I hate you, Major Tom. Something evil lurks behind those twinkling eyes.”

She threw her clothes in a box, gingerly untapped the David Bowie posters from the wall, unmade the bed and walked across the room to Sunny’s room. Sunny’s room had bright yellow walls. My Little Ponies littered the floor. When Delores walked in, Sunny bounced up to her.

“Want to play Barbies?”

“I’m much too old for Barbies, Sunny. Go away.”

Sunny hung her head and dejectedly continued to play.

Candy-for-short was given everything she ever asked for. Sunny and Delores often felt overlooked. Jack lived at the neighbors’ house and sometimes Delores didn’t think their mother even noticed he was missing. Major Tom’s eyes began to look eviler and eviler as dark circles formed underneath them. Momma started sleeping in every day. Major Tom and Momma fought and screamed at one another. Sunny and Delores barricaded themselves in their room, and Delores would play the David Bowie album Scary Monsters on repeat. She wondered how a scary monster had showed up in her house so suddenly and changed everything with such ease.

Soon it became apparent Major Tom had lost his job. He sat at home in the green easy chair, staring at the fuzz on the T.V., or he and Momma locked themselves up in their room for days doing God-knows-what. Food became scarce. Delores tiptoed around the house, afraid to make the hardwoods creak. Major Tom’s wrath had reached new proportions. Jack never came home. Delores wondered if the neighbors had secretly adopted him.

It all came to a head on Fat Tuesday.

Candy-for-short and Sunny sat at the kitchen table doing their homework. Their sallow skin seemed to sink into the darkness of the room. Their gaunt cheekbones haunted Delores. What they all needed was a good meal. Major Tom and Momma had locked the door to their room, and no one had heard a peep from them for at least a day.

“Go upstairs and play,” Delores directed the little girls.

Candy-for-short had been slinking around in the last week. Major Tom had been less and less present in all their lives.

“I just wish he would hug me still,” she had confided to Delores the day before. Delores had been secretly relieved when Major Tom grew quiet. His yelling had terrified her. Delores’ dad had been quiet, soft-spoken, and kind. Meek as a mouse her Momma said. Major Tom was the opposite: loud, boisterous, and down-right scary a lot of the time. Plus, he had taken away Delores’ mother, her ally in the house. Even though Delores knew her mother was less-than-perfect beforehand, Major Tom had transformed her into a nightmarish entity who Delores didn’t think she really knew.

Delores opened up the freezer. She didn’t know how it had gotten in there. She pulled it out and set it on the counter. She drummed her fingers on the counter trying to figure out the best way to cook it. Roasted, no? Boiled, ooh gross—all she could think about were her Momma’s boiled Brussels sprouts that made her gag. Fried. She settled on fried. Everything tasted good fried.

She pulled out the deep fryer and got to work, seasoning it, and breading it so it could be fried. She found a jar of green beans and nuked them in the microwave and made some white rice with a pat of butter to go with it. The smell of food cooking brought everyone to the kitchen. Momma and Major Tom stepped out of the bedroom, eyes blood-shot and faces white as ghosts. The girls bounded down the stairs, and even Jack showed up at the back door, eager to take his role as part of the family if it entailed a home cooked meal.

Delores had cut it up and served it on the rosebud plates her grandmother had passed down to them. She put a little scoop of rice, a serving of green beans, and the fried meat on the plate, arranging it with care for everyone at the table, the way her old-Momma used to do. Everyone dug in, eating like they had never eaten before.

Suddenly Major Tom crunched down on something hard.

He pulled it out of his mouth and studied it. His bloodshot eyes took on a quizzical look. Delores had only eaten her green beans and rice. She’d left the meat untouched. She stared at him.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“A frozen rat’s foot,” Delores said.

Forks clattered against the plates. Her family’s faces took on a look for simultaneous horror. Jack made a retching noise, and Momma ran to the bathroom.

Delores chuckled, shoveled her remaining food in her mouth, then walked out the front door intent on never going back.

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The Rambler

Welcome back. Oh wait, I mean, you’ve been here so I am really just welcoming myself back. Life happened, and I realized this AM I had not blogged in a month. The strange thing is, I’ve been writing–well, at least a little bit. I have been working on my novel again. Mainly, I need to finish and then edit. This is what I’m very bad at doing. Editing seems like the dregs to me, and where is the time? It takes me a good three hours to be invested in editing my work, and there are no three-hour time slots open any where in my life.

But life is good, mostly. Good but stressful. I’ve made some great friends lately, and I’ve put myself out there. This is good, because I was having a near constant desire to sit in the blue easy chair, drink a Truly or two or three, and watch Netflix. I find leaving the house is the hardest before you actually do it. Like, it takes a lot of motivation to get off my butt and actually go out and be with people, but once I do it I love it.

I wanted to write about the Parkland shooting, because it’s never too soon to talk about common sense gun control. Last week, I blogged about it in my head. But then I thought, this is never going to change anything. My goal is to become involved in Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This, I know, is the right thing to do. I have three kids, and I don’t want their right to life to be trumped by someone else’s right to own an AR-15. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I think the high school students speaking up for themselves, staging walk-outs and protests, is truly amazing. Folks, this is how democracy works.

And mental health? Why can’t it be both? I want our country to take mental health issues more seriously. It’s hard to get adequate care in this country. But so many people need it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve paid out of pocket to see therapists in my lifetime. And you know what–it helped me! And there’s nothing shameful about that. Get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. That would be a nice place to start. Our boys (because those are usually the perpetrators of these crimes) need to learn self-control and self-regulation. I don’t think every violent crime is done by someone with mental health problems. I think ANGER is a huge issue in our society. Anger leads to domestic violence situations, mass shootings, as well as homicides. I think our boys have a lot of anger because they’ve been taught their whole lives to swallow their feelings. Well, that’s not doing anyone any good. Anger management needed, yes! Therapy or someone to talk to needed, yes. Let’s change society for the better. What’s wrong with doing that?

I promise, I’ll blog more. I have finished Waking Up White and need to blog about some of the ideas from reading and pondering over that book. I also am planning on writing a flash fiction piece and getting it posted. Here’s to more words more often.

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Party Over

This is another Flash Fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds. The theme of this story is, “Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”

Party Over (997 words)

ping pong

Solo cups littered the ping pong table. Spilt beer stained the green ping pong court. A ball sat still in a puddle of Bud Lite or worse, PBR. Bodies littered the floor, some of them snoring, cuddled together as if they had just dropped down where they had been standing. Holly sat with her back against the wall. Her eyes wanted to roll up into her head. She had won, or was it lost, at Beer Pong. Either way, a lot of cheap beer had gone down her throat and now the room moved beneath her feet.

Dan stumbled into the room. He slid down the wall next to Holly, his shirt catching halfway up and revealing his left hip bone and ab muscles. He tugged at the shirt, trying to pull it down, as he sat down next to her. Holly felt electricity filter through her body and a longing to put her hands all over Dan’s body. But Dan was just a friend. Just a friend, she reminded herself. Hands off.

Dan leaned into Holly and nestled his head on her shoulder. She leaned into him, feeling her heart beat faster. She wanted to grab his hand and squeeze it.

“I drank too much.” Dan slurred all the words.

“Is there any beer left?”

“It’s 2 in the morning.”

She looked at Dan. Brown wavy hair had fallen forward in front of his eyes. He struggled to keep them open. She knew he would pass out if she didn’t talk to him.

“Maybe I should go.”

“Don’t go,” Dan muttered, pushing his body closer to hers.

“The party’s over.”

“Nooooo.” He drew the “o” out so long then crumpled into a laugh.

“Where have you been?”

Dan pulled his head off of her and sat up straight against the white wall behind him. His green eyes opened widely as if he were suddenly the soberest person on earth. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an empty Trojan wrapper. He placed it in Holly’s hand. A grin grew on his face and then he laughed again, as if this were a personal joke between the two of them.

Holly slumped further down on the wall. She felt a lump in her throat liked she swallowed a tortilla chip the wrong way. She wanted to tell Dan how she felt. She’d wanted for so long to say, “Why don’t you see me? I’m right here waiting for you.” But she couldn’t. It was never the right time.

She thought she would tell him tonight. She thought she would come to this party, have a few drinks, then sit down with him and say, “Look. I’m in love with you.”

But it didn’t happen. First, her best friend Lindsey showed up. They had a beer, then two, then a glass of wine. Lindsey dragged her to the middle of the party to meet some guy who had acne scars on his face. What’s his face? Michael? Or Bill? Something like that. Holly couldn’t remember, yet she spent at least an hour talking to him about his trip to Borneo last spring and all the intricate details of his life. When Dan showed up, Holly had her head close to Michael/Bill, with one hand on his bicep. She saw Dan flit his eyes at her and then walk away. Why should she care anyway? They were just friends.

And so when beer pong started up, Dan joined her and they joked and kidded around for awhile, but the next thing she knew it was 2 AM and she was drunk as hell. And she hadn’t said a damn thing to Dan. Well no fucking wonder. He was off screwing another chick this whole time. She fucking hated him for that. And now she felt like she could cry.

Holly tried to stand up.

“Wait, where are you going?” Except Dan’s drunken words made it sound like, “Late, where you glowing?”

“I need to go.”

Dan reached his arm up and tried to pull Holly back down onto the floor with him.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Holly now stood in a crouch against the wall as if she were in an exercise class working on her hamstrings. The room seemed to spin around her, the ping pong table askew. She felt bile rise in the back of her throat and felt like she might throw up.

“What are you sorry about?”

“Getting drunk.”

“It was a party. That’s what people do.”

“I’m sorry, Holly,” only it sounded like, “I’m slorry, Horry.”

Dan’s slurs were getting worse, and Holly simultaneously wanted to run away and throw her arms around him. Instead, she sat back down on the floor with him.

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Holly said.

She laid her head on his shoulder this time. He reached up and ran his hands through her golden-blonde hair.

I love you, Dan. The voice inside her head tried to goad her into saying it, but she pushed the words aside. They had both been partying and were drunk beyond all belief. He wouldn’t even remember it if she told him how she felt now.

How many more hours or days could she live this lie? Holly didn’t know. At the beginning of the night, she had felt so much promise. It would be like a romantic movie. She’d tell him, he’d throw his arms around her, and profess his undying love too. But life never played out that way. She’d wanted to tell him for the last year that she was sick of being his friend. She wanted more for their relationship, but there was something, some little part of her holding her back and she didn’t know why.

She closed her eyes, and she wished for the party to be over. The room spun out of control in the blackness of her mind. She leaned over and green colored vomit gushed from her mouth all over the hardwood floors. She wiped her mouth and knew tomorrow would be exactly the same as today.

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What is Writing Without Readers?

I’ve been having a mini-crisis regarding my writing. And yes, this post is mostly to whine about the fact that I don’t have an audience. And I know some of that is my fault–probably most of it–I’m good at taking blame.

Sometimes I go back and look at old blog posts and flash fiction stories that seemed to get a lot of response and I wonder what appealed to the reader in this story? How can I recreate it? What do I do to get a bigger audience? Oh how wonderful it would be if the life of the writer was just to write.

When I was a kid I wrote because I loved it. Then I had a crisis of sorts, when I realized writing couldn’t pave my way to material success. I stopped writing altogether for a long time. But I knew something was missing. When I started writing again, I felt truly alive. But when I write and no one reads it’s like some sick desperation surges up inside of me. Like when you post something on Facebook hoping for 100 likes and only get 2. And it makes me wonder, do I write for attention? Is writing a form of self vindication for me? Am I really that self-absorbed that I expect people to be interested in the inner thoughts of my brain that come out in the form of stories? Or am I writing to share wisdom? Am I writing to share a story?

I’m reminded of John Kennedy Toole who killed himself when his novel A Confederacy of Dunces kept being rejected. Posthumously his book became published, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. How did he feel when he was constantly rejected? He knew he had a great piece of literature, but without an audience he felt worthless. Why do people only care about what authors write after they’ve died?

This industry is the suck. It’s all for the people living in New York who know someone or another or who can get in with an agent somehow. Or who hit the jackpot somehow getting pulled out of the heap. But then even when they hit the jackpot, they have to continue to write, sometimes in the same genre even if they don’t want to. But at least they had this one moment of wonder where someone saw something in their writing and made it happen for them. We can’t all be Stephen King or James Patterson.

There are so many parts of writing I find exhausting. Mostly they have nothing to do with the actual writing part. Marketing tops the list. And we all know marketing is a huge part of writing these days. Without it you’d be lucky to sell a book (if you ever finish one again). I think writers work harder than so many people for such little payout. I mean, look at the freelancing gigs available–$15 for an article? Who can make a working wage off of that? When did we decide writing was a side job and novels could be read for free or $1.99 on Kindle. You can check mine out here by the way. I get about $0.30 off each sale. And I know, I should have had it professionally edited. Sorry for the typos. If I want to get serious about this writing thing, I should probably pull that off Amazon and cut my losses. But I’m not that kind of person. Plus, there’s a lot worse crap out on Amazon that sells anyway. More effort does equal a better chance of success. I should have realized that back in 2015, but I’ve had three years and I’m still learning from my mistakes.

So here we go again. In order to be a successful writer you have to have wealth or money. The ability to have your novel professionally edited, then you have to jackpot land an agent, and hopefully that agent is with the Big Five (do 5 even actually exist anymore) and not a hybrid company that will close down and your book will disappear from existence. And then, even if you do get picked up by the Big Five you still have to market the hell out of your piece by driving your friends and family nuts on social media. Posting blog posts that you try to make look original and creative when really you’re just pulling at straws to get a few words down so you’ve met your quota for the month. And then you pray like heck your book sells so you can go through the creation and the pain all over again. This is, of course, after your book has been rejected approximately 1,753,289 times.

Or you go the self-pub route and make $0.30 off each book. There is a breakeven point. It’s somewhere close to Pluto.

Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a day job or if I felt like people really wanted to read what I write. Or if I felt like anyone actually wanted to read at all anyway. I mean, I have a few little people in my household and they’re only enamored with technology. My kids only read for school. When did people cease to find reading fun, relaxing, entertaining?

And even fewer people are interested in literary fiction these days and then dark literary fiction to top it off. I mean, I’d rather write about vampires and step-brother lust too, but that’s just not what comes out of me when I squeeze my creative juices. For some reason I have no control over what I actually write. It’s like it travels through my brain and onto the paper, and sometimes I say, “Shit, that’s actually good,” and sometimes I say, “Crap. this is just crap.” And it’s usually the crap that people want to read–Lord knows why.

Who the hell knows? I’d like to have more readers, but I guess I’ll just keep writing for my audience of one. Because despite all the heartache involved with writing, I love it. And I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t a writer.

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In Control

Today’s blog post is a Flash Fiction piece for Terrible Minds again. The assignment is to pick lyrics from one of your favorite songs and use those words as your theme. The song is In Control by Greensky Bluegrass, and the video is after the story. Enjoy!

The Theme:

Though I am not without weakness I will define what lies ahead; I’m not out of control    -Greensky Bluegrass from their song In Control

In Control — 1123 words

What are you going to do when you get out?

His words echoed in my head. Not this, I wanted to respond to his ghost. I didn’t know how much I’d miss Peter. I hadn’t thought the ache would drive me to the needle. I closed my eyes as the liquid seeped into my veins. I could see Peter’s face, his delicate eyelashes that looked too feminine against his scarred face. His bright blue eyes beacons of light which seemed to beckon me back to him.

What are you doing?

I could hear his words, as if he were speaking to me, echoing in my head before the sudden blackness hit me. Too much or not enough, my last thought.

When I woke up I wondered if sheer blackness was what we had to look forward to when we died. I still had a faint hope in God, but why would he give me so much pain? I tried to move but realized my arms were restrained. They took it as a suicide attempt instead of just falling off the wagon.

I opened my eyes and looked to my left.

Peter, my rock, sat in the sunshine next to the window. My eyes struggled against the too bright light to make sense of him there. I had not seen him in months. He looked good, his scar faded slightly, his eyes twinkled, as he leaned forward setting his elbows on his knees. His face emanated kindness and concern.

“Astrid.”

“I’m sorry.” I mouthed the words. My throat felt dry as if I had walked through the desert.

Peter stood up. He looked larger than life. He pushed a button over my bed. A nurse came in wearing a white cap.

“Water.” She nodded at Peter and left.

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The children’s song went through my mind as I gazed at my wise man, the rock, piedra, Peter.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

I couldn’t talk. My throat felt like sandpaper. The nurse returned with the water. Peter propped a pillow behind my back and grabbed my elbow, helping me up. He held the cup to my lips and I swallowed the water in one gulp.

“Don’t gulp it down. You’re already weak. You don’t want to throw up.”

“I don’t remember anything.” My voice was scratchy but there.

“Your mom found you. Called me here. It was touch and go at first. But they pulled you through. You were lucky. She let herself in two minutes or so after you overdosed.”

“I guess she’s sending me back.”

“You know it’s a voluntary program. Next time, you get the desire to use will you call me?”

I nodded.

“You know, you’re in control of your life. You’re the one who says whether you live another day clean. Whether you decide to use again. It’s hard. Trust me, I know. I make that decision every day.”

Peter brought his hand up to his face, touching the scar etched against his skin—a constant reminder of his weakness.

“Tell me the story.”

Peter grimaced. “I’ve told this story hundreds of time—to all of my sponsors—but it never gets easier. It’s a reminder to me that weakness has the power to destroy, but can be overcome. Your weakness does not define you. Through my tragedy, I took control of my life. I defined the way I wanted to live.”

He sighed releasing the pain into the story.

“It was Matthew’s eighth birthday. You know, the name Matthew means ‘gift of God,’ and he was. My wife and I couldn’t have kids. Or at least we didn’t think we could. We tried and tried, and when we gave up, Matthew came along. He didn’t seem like other children. He came into this world with his eyes open so wide. He always seemed precocious, like he knew something we didn’t. That day, I had to drive him to Chuck-E-Cheese for his birthday party. I wanted one hit. One hit before I left. I’d done it before, taken him places while I was high. It wasn’t like I was drunk. I felt like I had control when I did meth. Felt like nothing could go wrong. ”

He sighed again. He sat on the edge of my bed, smoothing down the wrinkles on the white hospital sheets and looking over my head.

“But of course, that was just the drug. It made me feel happy–invincible. Or I thought it did. And then we were in a wreck. And Matthew, Matthew who was only eight but acted older, Matthew was gone.” Tears sat in Peter’s eyes.

“I went to jail for 18 months for manslaughter. Driving under the influence. But the worst punishment was losing Matthew. Meg left me. I’d hit rock bottom. And then in prison, I met my sponsor. He took me under his wings. He taught me to forgive myself and to take control of my life again. He taught me to fight against my weakness, my addiction, every day. He told me nothing could bring Matthew back, but that I, like everyone else, deserved a second chance. This scar—” Peter touched his face, “reminds me of Matthew every day, but it also reminds me of the decision I made to change my life and take control. And I know, Astrid, this is only a minor setback for you. I know you can do it. If I can do it after losing everything, you can do it too.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” I said, finishing his story for him.

“You have the power inside you to change and to take control. It will be hard to conquer your addiction, but if I can do it anyone can.” Peter said.

He took my hand in his, warmth against cold stone, and squeezed it. In that moment, I felt my blood start pumping again. I felt alive, like I hadn’t felt in months. I felt willingness and control seep back into my veins, passed from Peter to me. Strength, like no other.

I knew he was right. I had to try and believe in myself, to take control of my life, and to conquer the evil that had invaded my life and tried to wrestle control away from me. I had to take it back. I had to become a rock like Peter.

2 Timothy 1:7 <em>For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.</em>

 

 

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