Friday, May 1, 2009

FICTION: Invisible Children

Another quiet day at the office, another little piece of fiction. This is in response to Pictures, Poetry & Prose's Thursday challenge: There She Sat. The picture really spoke to me and reminded me of some of my own teenaged angst, so this one's a little personal.

As always, feedback/criticism/comments are always welcome. :)

Invisible Children

Cassie likes the playground because it is quiet.

Not all the time, obviously. During the day, it's crammed full of snot-nosed brats shoving each other off swings while their airbrushed mommies gossip about American Idol and so-and-so's latest tummy tuck. Disgusting.

But once the sun starts setting, it's different. Better. Silent. Sure, there are still people around: some ugly ten-year-old looming on the monkey bars like a ginger god, a suburban mom in a velour jogging suit texting furiously on a bench (totally oblivious to the fact that her daughter's eating sand), two older kids furtively exchanging money and weed by the fence. They're all off in their own little worlds, too self-involved to notice anything but their own lives.

This suits Cassie just fine. She doesn't want to be noticed. She wants to be invisible. She's gotten really good at it; she knows just how to duck her face behind her long, dark hair and disappear inside bland, oversized sweatshirts. The hunch of her shoulders is expert: don't bother me, don't look at me, don't acknowledge my own existence. She's just a shadow slumped on the end of the slide, a silhouette as muddied and murky as the pond on the other side of the fence.

Her parents are fighting again. They're always fighting. They act like they don't (oh, honey, you know I love your dad, nothing's going to happen, we're just fine), but Cassie knows better. She can feel the tension when she walks in the front door, can taste the alcohol in her mom's good night kisses. They try to hide it from her, restrict their arguments to behind-closed-doors, but the venomous strains of their voices waft into Cassie's room via the air conditioning vent, leaving her with hazy snippets of accusations.

… that office more than you love …

… raised a manipulative little bitch just like her mother …

… don't you touch me, I'll call the …

Don't get her wrong – she's not complaining. So her parents hate each other. No big deal. Nothing to get all worked up about (even though it hurts, oh, it really, truly hurts). Cassie knows kids with worse problems. One of her friends had an uncle who touched her when she was four. Another friend won't get changed in the gym locker room because of the bruises her step-dad leaves behind. And another friend—

Except they're not her friends. Not anymore. Not since they all started high school and decided that Cassie had the easiest life, the most reason to be happy. Her parents have money. They're still married (although Cassie's beginning to wonder how long that'll last). She's fashionably skinny and gets solos in the school choir recitals. She's on the honor roll.

Clearly, Cassie sucks.

So they turned on her. Her friends stopped calling. They sent texts behind her back about how her solos are always just a little flat, how she had "book smarts" but was too naïve. They even started a vicious rumor that Cassie was a lesbian, prompting all the kids at the bus stop to throw stones at her one day after school.

That was when Cassie decided to disappear.

That's all she wants, really. She just wants to vanish into thin air, where no one can make fun of her for things she knows aren't true (but what if they are?), where her parents can't touch her (even though they never do). She keeps her head down in class and turns in average work so that no one can say she's too smart anymore. She swathes her pretty body in baggy, neutral colors so no one will mistake her for being attractive. She smiles brightly at her parents and tries to give them all the right answers, hoping her false cheer will keep them from arguing about her. She asks for nothing. She makes no demands. She just wants to be invisible.

But even that's a lie. Cassie doesn't want to disappear. Cassie wants to scream. She wants to cry and rage and pound her fists against every wall she can find. She wants to howl her sorrow at the world, wants everyone to know that she's sad, she's miserable, she's falling apart at the seams.

And more than anything else, she wants someone to hear her. Someone who will put a hand on her shoulder and tell her it's okay, she's allowed to be upset, she has permission to be hurt. She wants someone to tell her that she's human, not a shadow or a scapegoat, and she has every right to feel like crap because everybody does.

But no one's there. The playground's almost empty now. The drug dealers have finished their trade; the cell phone addict has gone home to wash the sand out of her kid's mouth. Now it's just Cassie on the slide and that freckle-faced goober on the monkey bars.

Cassie stares at the kid for a moment. It's almost eight now. Where are his parents? Shouldn't someone have run up looking for their son, their precious baby, their beloved treasure? Doesn't anybody care about him? Doesn't anybody care at all?

Suddenly, the kid turns his head and looks back at her. They lock eyes for a moment, loner to loner, and Cassie reads the yearning in his eyes with ease. She knows that look well. She sees it every day in her mirror, but seeing it on someone else's face …

Cassie swallows and summons up her courage. "Hey," she calls to the little boy.

The boy frowns at her, already distrustful at such a tender age. "Yeah?"

"You want to play on the jungle gym?"

He thinks about it for a second and then breaks out into a grin. "Okay."

So they play for a while, just two kids on a jungle gym, laughing as the sun goes down behind them.

Nobody notices.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FICTION: Direction

It's fairly quiet at the office right now, so I took a little time and wrote. In response to Pictures, Poetry & Prose's challenge, The Square, here's this:


I stood in the square alone, but you already know this. After all, you were the one who left me there, your fingers slipping through my own, your mouth brushing softly against my ear. You left me with words, but the rain was too heavy and swept them away. I never heard you. I just felt the hot breath of your intentions. When I turned my head to ask you what, you were already gone.

I didn't understand then. You were right there. I could still smell you, aftershave and tobacco smoke, still curled around my being. You were there, and then you were gone. Like a ghost, a spirit, but you were real. I could have sworn that you were real.

But then my eyes opened, and I think it must have been for the first time, because I saw things in such clarity that it made you transparent in retrospect. Bright electric bulbs. Black puddles of hot spring water. And the people, oh, the people, surrounding me in a press of late-night bargaining, their voices rising and reverberating against the stone walls with a strength you never had. They were real that night, so real it actually hurt, because it made me realize that you were never there at all.

I didn't look for you. I knew there was no point. You were a fantasy, a figment of my wildness. You were something I fell in love with when the world was too big for me to comprehend. Even if I'd found you in the crowd that night, I don't think I would have followed. You wouldn't have wanted that, anyway.

So I opened my eyes. I breathed in, breathed out. I asked a man wearing an old trench coat where I was.

He smiled at me and it was shiny like gold. "Don't you know, sweetheart?"

And I did.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Busy, Crazy World

I know I've been a little quiet recently; work's been very crazy, very busy, and I spent most of my weekend helping my younger brother with his job hunt. But hopefully things are settling down a little, so I have time to write again. :)

I've also been following the swine flu news. First of all, stop panicking. The media feeding frenzy on this story is getting ridiculous. Yes, it's news. Yes, it's something to be concerned about, and certainly something worth monitoring. But there's no need to panic. It's still very early in the investigation, and the strain has proven to be responsive to common medicines like Tamiflu. The high schoolers in New York City didn't even need anti-viral medication. So please, don't overreact just yet. Monitor the news, keep abreast of the situation, wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. But don't break out the little masks just yet.

Instead, pick up a copy of John M. Barry's The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. It's an utterly fascinating read about the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 100 million people in less than two years. Barry's histories are always excellent (check out Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America - a very prescient work in light of what happened on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005), and this book is no different. It's a meticulously-researched story of medicine, war, and human nature, illuminating a chapter of history that many people aren't aware of. It's also a bit eerie in the sense that the 1918 flu targeted young, seemingly healthy individuals - the only real parallel I can find thus far between the 1918 outbreak and the current swine flu situation. Great book, great read, very informative and timely.

All in all, it's a pretty day and a good start to the week. So stay safe, and don't freak out. May's just around the corner, and here in Charleston, it already feels like summer.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FICTION: I Summon You

Well, this may not be any shorter/lighter than my earlier post about Columbine, but it's something. Written in response to Marc's Daily Writing Practice prompt from Thursday, April 16, 2009: Take the first two lines from a song, and use them as the first lines in your writing. I chose "I Summon You" by Spoon, because it was the first song that popped into my head. I hope you enjoy it.

Comments/criticism/feedback -- it's always welcome. :)

I Summon You

Spoon - I Summon You

Remember the weight of the world? It's a sound that we used to buy on cassette and 45, you and me driving aimlessly down highways at night, listening to songs written before we were born. My hand on the gearshift, your feet hanging out the open window. We smoked pilfered cigarettes and sang about fortunate sons, gold dust women, and answers blowing in some distant, unknown wind. We sang and smoked until our throats were raw, but we didn't care. We never cared.

We didn't care because we didn't know. How could we? We were just kids. We listened to Bob Dylan because no one else did. We screamed along with Johnny Rotten about anarchy, but we didn't get the concept. When airy pop music by Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys took over the radio, we turned to Britpop and shouted with Jarvis Cocker about how we were common people, never realizing how much money our parents actually made.

After all, it was just music. We liked it because it was pretty. We liked the delicacy of Neil Young's voice, the raging guitars of the Rolling Stones. We loved that great opening rift to The Doors' "Touch Me," you drumming your fists on the dashboard of my shitty old Celica as the song built to a crescendo. The first time you played me Joni Mitchell, I thought she wrote that song about you – you, so beautiful, so deeply ingrained into my heart that I thought you would always be as constant as a northern star. You would always be there, right beside me, and the world would always be just a set of lyrics we didn't need to understand.

And then we grew up.

Remember the weight of the world? It's more than just a sound now, and we can't drive away from it anymore. It's everywhere, blaring from television screens and radios, printed in bold ink on the front pages of newspapers. Terrorists reducing skyscrapers to rubble. Teenagers shooting up schools. Wars we can't win, enemies we can't fight, natural disasters sinking cities, economies falling to pieces, and I feel it all. I feel it all, and God, how I wish I didn't.

I still drive, you know. On those long, restless nights when the worries get to be too much (how will we pay the bills, how can we make ends meet, how can the world be so different than what we thought it was), I leave my wife alone in bed, get in my newer (but still shitty) car, and drive. I take the roads we used to take together, those long, winding highways, and I smoke the cigarettes we used to smoke together.

And I listen to our songs.

I get them now. Experience will do that for a person, I suppose. I think of my brother in rehab, and I know about the needle and the damage done. I know why Dylan used to rasp about war pigs, and I ache for the unfortunate sons who come back from foreign countries without arms or legs or faces. I hear the words and they rattle in my bones, tense and aching, and I wish I was just a kid again. I wish it was just music, like it used to be. I wish …

But oh, where are you tonight? Where is my northern star, my constant in the darkness? Why aren't you here with me, your bare feet catching breezes from the open window, your fingers curled around your cigarettes? Where is your laughter? Where is your voice? Don't you see that I need you? That it was you who made me feel so light? Can't you understand that it was you who kept the world from touching us?

I don't know. I don't know much of anything these days. I thought it was supposed to be different. I thought I'd have the answers by now. But the answers I have only make me hurt, and if this is what growing up is like, I'd rather just be with you again.

So come home. Come back to me. Make me feel young again. Make me who I used to be, before I understood too much, before the world crept in, before the music started killing me. There's still a place for you here, nestled into the passenger seat, stitched into my heart. I need you. I beg you. I've got the weight of the world now, and I summon you here with my love.

But you never come, and the music never stops.

Columbine: Myths, Mistakes, and the Enigma of Violence

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the brutal killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, wherein two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, went on one of the worst killing sprees in American history, turning their school into a slaughterhouse. The boys killed twelve of their classmates, one teacher, injured over two dozen, and then turned their guns on themselves.

I remember that day very well. I was a junior in high school, seventeen-years-old, about the same age as both the killers and their victims. I was shopping with my father at Circuit City when all the store employees turned all the television sets onto CNN. We watched in horror as the scene unfolded: bloodied, crying teenagers fleeing their school under flurries of snow; S.W.A.T. teams assembling on playing fields; distraught parents and police. We held our breath in fear as the now-infamous "boy in the window" dangled out of the second-story library and fell to safety below him - I even remember how the newscasters broke away at that point, worried that the boy wouldn't make it. (On a lighter note: I also remember that Columbine taught me to hate Larry King with a furious passion -- his blunt, careless questioning of child witnesses scorched me to the core. Jesus, Larry, they're kids. Stop barking insensitive questions at them like: "So how did it feel to watch your best friend die?" Lord.)

None of us understood it. How could two kids manage to turn an entire school into chaos? How could this happen in America? What did it mean for us as a society? Was there some way of preventing this? Could it happen again? Could it happen to us?

I think a lot of people underestimate the impact that the massacre at Columbine had on American high schoolers at that time. Yes, other disasters such as the 9/11 terror attacks or the Hurricane Katrina fiasco perhaps carried more national/global consequences, but if you went to public school during the Columbine disaster, then you were afraid. At least, I was afraid. It was all my friends and I talked about for weeks: what would we do if our school was suddenly taken over by shooters? Would we hide? Would we run? Would we try to stop them? And who among our peers could be capable of such violence? The kinda-shifty girl with the sword collection? The tubby kid we picked on who always wore camouflage and bragged about pouring deer blood on his face? The semi-goth kids who listened to the same music the Columbine shooters listened to?

And why, why, did this ever happen in the first place?

It was all anyone wondered. Media talking-heads and moral majority leaders pointed fingers at easy targets like Marilyn Manson, Natural Born Killers, and video games like Doom -- all while plastering the faces of Klebold and Harris on the front pages of national magazines and newspapers, turning killers into rock stars while never taking a look at themselves. Copycat shootings occurred, numerous bomb threats were called into schools across the nation, and yet somehow, no one in the media ever asked themselves, "In broadcasting their deeds in such explicit, obsessive detail, did we in fact reward them for their actions? Did we turn two mentally-disturbed teenagers into martyrs?"

No. Instead, rock music, video games, and movies bore the brunt of the blame - as did the general "apathy" of our generation. We were kids with nothing to live for, they said. We had no common cause to unite around, like the sixties generation with their righteous anger towards the Vietnam War, or the Greatest Generation's sacrifices during World War II. Our generation was a bunch of worthless, spoiled, malleable brats who could easily be shaped by fiction and rumors. Klebold and Harris were two "freaks" who'd been bullied by their Abercrombie & Fitch-loving peers, and their weak minds, so easily warped by violence on film and in games, crumbled and vowed revenge.

But that's not what really happened. Not by a long shot.

There's an excellent article on today: Debunking the myths of Columbine, 10 years later. The article goes into detail about some of the myths popularized after the events: that the boys were members of a "Trench-Coat Mafia," that they targeted minorities and people who had bullied them, that they killed a girl for believing in God. Many of the things we believed at the time about Columbine have proven to be untrue -- including the motives behind the attack.

The fact of the matter is this: the boys were sick. The journals they left behind are proof positive that these were not ordinary kids. They suffered from genuine mental illnesses, evidenced by the detached, circular logic of their writing. Harris was a bonafide sociopath, and Klebold suffered from major depression. They did not see their peers as "real people" -- not because they were brainwashed by video games, but because they were sick. In their minds, they were the only "real" people; everyone else was insubstantial, and therefore, killing them was nothing to feel guilty over. These boys were literally mentally ill, and there was nothing anyone could have done to rectify that. 

Could the shooting at Columbine have been prevented? Possibly. Maybe if the parents had seen more. Maybe if the teachers and guidance counselors at the school had taken a greater interest. Maybe if the media hadn't made such a fuss over previous school shooters. Maybe if guns had not been so readily available for these kids ... 

But ah, maybe. Maybe, maybe. We'll never know. Disaster is like that. We'll never know if 9/11 could have been prevented if there had been more interagency cooperation or attention from our nation's leaders. We'll never know if the Katrina disaster could have been averted if local, state, and federal officials had taken the storm more seriously prior to its landfall. We'll never know where our country might be if Al Gore had gotten his recount in 2000, or if we had never invaded Iraq, or if we'd gotten involved in World War II earlier, or if JFK or Martin Luther King hadn't been assassinated, or so on and so on into infinity.

We can't live in what-ifs and fantasy. This history is our reality, and we must come to terms with it as best we can. The massacre at Columbine happened, and will undoubtedly happen again. Just look at what happened at Virginia Tech: another clearly mentally-ill young man shoots up his school in the worst mass shooting in American history -- and has the foresight to send a tape of himself just before the shooting to NBC news.

But it's not the media that causes these tragedies. It's not rock music, or movies, or video games. It's sickness, the kind of sickness that has been a part of humanity for as long as we have existed on this earth, and I think that's what's so hard for so many people to grasp in these tragedies: that there are no simple answers, no smoking guns, no easy prevention.

The truth is this: we will never fully understand what happened in Colorado on April 20, 1999. The hard answers died with the perpetrators and their victims. We will never make sense it all, just as we will never understand how 19 men could hijack airplanes and topple towers, or why an entire nation has been essentially brainwashed by a dictator, or how millions of people could die in systematic genocides throughout history. Sometimes, terrible things just happen, and all we can do is pick up the pieces and continue on with our lives as best we can.

But we should never forget. We cannot forget. And on days like today, when the world stops to remember the victims, we should also remember the perpetrators: not as martyrs, not as heroes, not even as misguided, sick individuals, but as two young boys who will always remain a puzzle to us. Maybe if we remember that nothing comes with an easy explanation, we will be less likely to point fingers or grasp at straw-truths.

I don't know. When I set out to write this post, there was a lot I wanted to say, and I think I've said it -- but what sense have I been able to make of all this? Not very much, I don't think. And maybe that's the point of it all: that it's been ten years, and I still can't come to grips with what happened on a cold day in April.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Give my three hours to President Obama

I'd love to give a somewhat productive answer: give time to my community, take my dogs to the doggie park, finish my book. But honestly, today? I'd take those three hours and get some extra sleep. Another three hours in bed would be so nice today ... *sigh*

So because my hours would be spent so frivolously, here's my request: give my three hours to President Obama. He can use them however he wants: take some more time with the troubled economy, strengthen our international relationships, try to make some sense out of whatever the hell is going on in the Middle East, or just take three more hours out of his excruciatingly busy schedule and spend them with his wife, daughters and brand new puppy. Heck, just give him three extra hours of sleep a night. No matter where you stand on his policies, you've got to admit: that dude has one full plate on his desk, and my sympathies would go to whoever won the election.

So here, Mr. President -- take my three imaginary hours, and do with them what you like. But if I may suggest, don't spend those three extra hours on work. Take them for yourself. Romp with your darling new dog on the South Lawn. Play Nintendo Wii with Sasha and Malia. Curl up with Michelle and take a good, long nap. Read a book -- a fictional book. Watch a funny movie. Eat a slice of that famous White House apple pie. The next four years will be long, difficult, and full of criticism -- and God help you if you choose to run for reelection, because damn, American political campaigns are freaking brutal.

So even if these three hours are imaginary, Mr. President, take a couple of the precious twenty-four we do have to just appreciate life for what it is. Be our president, yes -- but also be a father, a husband, and most importantly, be a human being.

And pet that dog for me, because Bo is seriously freaking adorable.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh, to be in Hendersonville, NC

Mountains, lakes, fresh air, and refreshing people -- this was an awesome (and much-needed) retreat from reality.

I've always been a Lowcountry girl: oceans, marshes, rivers, flatlands. But I never get to see mountains, which is why I loved joining my mother on a church retreat in North Carolina. I'm not a religious girl by any means, but I adore the people at my mother's church. They're not judgmental, they didn't mind if I skipped the religious services to relax and read Alice Hoffman on the screened-in porch of our cabin, and they can party like there's no tomorrow (they don't call them Whiskepalians for nothin'). There was no wi-fi, no cell phone signals, no television. Just rest and relaxation in the mountains by a lake with some wonderful people, and it was perfect. I can't wait to go again next year.

Now, for my next "vacation:" a work-related trip to Washington, D.C. in May. I love D.C., and I can't wait to go back - not just to better hone my job skills (though I am, nerdily enough, anticipating the seminars), but also to just experience the sights and sounds of the nation's capital. Oh, Smithsonian, how I've missed thee! Plus, after spending over a hundred hours in Fallout 3, it'll be fun to see Washington without the hordes of roaming super mutants brandishing nailboards. ;-)

Return from Spring Break

Why can't grown-ups have nice, full, week-long Spring Breaks? Wait, our kids don't even get that anymore -- they divide up Spring Break into two half-weeks, which, IMO, is stupid and defeats the point of Spring Break. Anyway, none of us get real vacations anymore and that blows.

Time off is crucial. We all need it. Even adults need time here and there to just get away from the workplace and all its stresses, and just relax. We need to rest and recuperate, or else all our work crashes down on our heads and that's how people go on shooting rampages. Well, that and some serious mental health issues, but you know what I'm saying. In order to really appreciate one's job, sometimes one just has to get the fuck out of that place for a little while. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or at least makes you want to hurt people less. ;)

So, what did I do on my Spring Break? Nothing. I slept in late, watched guilty pleasure TV (anyone else here have a strange fascination with TLC's Toddlers & Tiaras? Anyone? Just me? You snobs), and read a semi-trashy historical romance novel, as I am wont to do with my vacation times. Last year, it was Phillippa Gregory's wickedly saucy Wideacre trilogy, which was so crammed full of incest and tragic love that it was like reading a V.C. Andrews novel set in feudal England. Needless to say, it was awesome. This year, I'm halfway through Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, and it's like Gone With the Wind set in the Restoration Era, except Scarlett has way more sex and there's abortions and gay subtext amidst the detailed descriptions of all of the fabulous gowns and decor. I'm unabashedly loving it, even if Lord Carlton is no Rhett Butler (oh, Clark Gable, I don't care what fellow Charlestonians say about your accent -- you were still my first crush, and you are still my Rhett).

And I did get some writing done, which is good, because there are suddenly a few more followers on this blog than there were the last time I checked it. Hello, new followers! I'm quite honored that y'all want to watch this blog, and am exceedingly flattered by the comments left on the last piece of short fiction I published. Feedback is so critical to writers, and every piece is beloved and appreciated.

Other than that, not much else to report. Back to work, irritated with Bret Michaels for choosing fake-eyebrows Taya as his latest Rock of Love (though admittedly, I've never forgiven him for eliminating Farrah and Ashley), and ready to get back to business: working, blogging, and writing.

In short: hello, world. Nice to see you again. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009


In case I am breaching internet writing prompt etiquette (and I hope I am not), I am going to disclaim this here and now: I only repost my own responses to prompts in my blog so that they can be collected in one central location. I won't hotlink images, or post responses that are not my own. I just like posting my stories on my blog because I like the idea that all of my writing can be found in one place, should anyone want to read my work.

If anyone managing these wonderful, inspirational prompt sites would rather I not repost my responses here, please let me know and I'll happily comply. :)

So, in response to Pictures, Poetry & Prose's challenge: She dreams of something more ...


The girls enter the diner giggling, young and pretty in too-short skirts that reveal too-perfect thighs. They sit down at the booth and order a mountain of food: pancakes, hash brown, bacon, biscuits with sausage gravy. When it arrives, steaming hot and glistening with grease, the girls dig in with gusto. Their bony fingers pick at sausage links, glossy lips sucking soda pop through straws as thin as their arms.

She watches them from behind the counter. She remembers fifteen. Fifteen, when she was so hungry for life she could eat an entire turkey and not gain a pound. Ambition and innocence burns everything it touches, even the most saturated of fats.

She wants to tell these girls, I was like you once, but she knows they wouldn't believe her. They would never believe she was once so stunning, so thin, so desirable that she walked runways for Dior, wore haute couture gowns made of nothing but swan feathers and silk, was made up like a geisha and photographed for Vogue. They'd laugh if she told them she had rock star lovers at sixteen or a closet full of $500 shoes before she turned twenty. They would take one look at her sagging breasts, her support hose, her swollen ankles, and they would howl like banshees until their full stomachs ached.

And maybe she doesn't want to tell them. Maybe it's best that way. Let them believe they'll always be a size zero and turn heads every time they cross the street. Let them think they'll never be anything less than radiant. She doesn't want to go over to them and tell them, I used to be a princess, and look at me now. She doesn't want to break their hearts. Time will do that eventually. It always does.

Instead, she just watches them eat their breakfasts, these pretty teenaged girls, until their plates are as clean as their toothpaste-ad smiles. She watches, and she dreams of fifteen, when she was something more.

A haiku about Quarantine

I absolutely loved this movie -- but I'm a sucker for these types of films. The darker, the better.

Strangers disappear

Beneath plastic, blood and lies.

The video lives.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FICTION: Potluck Girl

In response to Daily Writing Practice's prompt-of-the-day: potluck. Just a little drabble, but I like it, and I hope you do, too. 

Comments/feedback/criticism are always welcome. :)

Potluck Girl

She's a potluck girl, a stew of odds-and-ends deposited by the men she loved but never loved her in return. She watches Monday Night Football and still roots for the Steelers, just for Mike, who she hasn't seen in six years. Her iPod is a mishmash of genres: Richard's bluegrass, Danny's indie bands, Alex's gangster rap. She still wears kitten heels for Bobby, who always hated that she was taller than him and eventually left her for her more petite best friend.

"Get over them," her friends tell her. "Find yourself. You need to be you."

They make it sound so easy, but it's not, because they're all still inside her, churning and bubbling, their memories hot to the touch. It's too late to get rid of them; they've all melted together and are stuck to her bones.

And maybe her friends are wrong. Maybe these men make her who she is. She's Tommy's chambray work shirts, Beau's chai tea, Andrew's skinny jeans. What if all these men have made her who she is? What if that's the way it's supposed to be?

But deep down in the black, hot kettle of her heart, she knows better. She knows. Nobody should ever be just an amalgam of other people's leftovers, because when you take those chunks away, all that's left is a thin, weak broth that tastes of nothing, nothing at all -- and that thought terrifies her to the core.

So she keeps them all inside her: Jack's cheesy science fiction novels, Eric's appetite for Korean cuisine, Bart's dark fetish for handcuffs and stilettos. She lets the pot keep boiling because she can't ever forget them, even if they've already forgotten her -- and she's wise enough to know they have.

After all, who could possibly remember someone who can't even remember her own self?

There are no straight lines.

The map makes it look so simple, but it's not.

My sister and I have always had a strange relationship -- which makes sense, considering that she's twelve years older than me and I didn't even know she existed until I was ten years old. It's a very sad, very twisted, VERY long family drama I won't get into, but we entered each other's lives with heavy baggage we're only just beginning to let go of. We don't always talk often. We maybe only get to see each other once a year. We both feel guilty for breaks in our relationship that really aren't our fault.

But we're sisters, and no matter what circumstances have kept us apart in the past, the present and the future belong to us. So we keep talking. We keep trying. And we always will.

Maybe mileage isn't the only way to measure distance, after all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Working & Writing

So, I've been working on a short story inspired by WritingPrompt on Twitter (great source of prompts, btw) for the last couple of days, and it's kind of taken on a life of its own -- I'm up to 2500+ words, and I'm still not quite finished with it. 

This is a good thing. I've suffered from writer's block for, God, over a year already. It's not for lack of ideas: there are about six different stories swimming around in my head right now, some short stories, some novel-length ideas (including one "magnificent octopus" that I've been in love with for about two years). It's getting them onto paper that's the difficult part, mostly because I've lost a lot of confidence in my own writing.

I used to write a lot. Like, a lot. But somewhere along the line, personal shit flared up and I lost myself for a while. I'm trying to find myself again, and these little prompts fluttering through the Internet have really helped. I've got ideas, my imagination is churning, and I'm enjoying writing again. Last night, I sat down for three hours straight and just wrote, and it felt like heaven.

Unfortunately, finding the time to write? That's a little harder. Work has become more intense recently and my job responsibilities have been ramped up (which really means I shouldn't be taking the time to update my blog right now, but what the hell, it's my lunch break), and my living situation isn't exactly conducive to "ideal writing conditions." (Hey, you try living with two boys and three dogs and see how many words you can crank out in a day. It ain't easy.)

Still, I'm going to keep at it, because that's what writers do -- we can't help but write. It's just in us. Besides, one of the greatest pleasures of being a writer is watching where a story goes. I want to see how this little tale ends. And when I'm finished with it, yes, I will post it -- that's half the reason I created this blog, after all. :)

Until then, it's another cup of coffee, another phone call to answer, another letter to send, and in the downtime, a few hundred words entered into MS Word. Such is the life -- but it's a good life.

Except when the dogs eat my shoes. Seriously, Boris -- STOP EATING MY SHOES. I know you're cute and all, but so are my hot pink ballet flats. *sigh*

My mom is someone I admire

My mom
I admire absolutely everything about my mother. Her warmth, love, generosity, and caring towards everyone and everything has taught me how to be the person I am today. She works tirelessly on the behalf of others, and has a smile that's brighter than the sun. In a dark world, my mother has always been a bright light, and I hope I can one day shine the way she does. Mom, you're the best, and I owe you everything. You're an inspiration, not just to me, but to every life you touch. I can't tell you how proud I am to be your daughter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

If I grow up, I want to be a dreamer.

Business cards? Forget business cards. I will hand out scarves, beautiful scarves. They'll all be different colors and possess their own unique scents: key-lime green, peach pie orange, merlot red, mild apple pink. Wrap the scarf around your face, and with one breath, you'll be transported to a myriad of fantastical worlds full of dangerously headstrong women, beautifully damaged men, and romances fraught with brutal complications.

When I grow up, I want to be Alice Hoffman. I want to be Audrey Neffenegger. I want to be Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Edith Wharton. I want to be Colin Meloy. I want to be someone who makes magic happen with the touch of her fingers.

I want to be a writer.

Barring that, I'd just like a lot of scarves. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rock of Lame

You know, people make fun of Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels. And that's fair, because this show is the single most ridiculous, filthy, disgusting guilty pleasure on television right now -- and I love every sleazy second of it. Call me awful, call me a fool, but by God, this show is awesome on so many levels and those who scoff at it are missing out on some of the best free entertainment out there. I mean, this season alone ...
  • One girl gave Bret a rap read off the back of STD pamphlets
  • The same girl took a shot out of another girl's vagina -- on the same night!!!
  • Another girl lay drunk and sobbing on a speed bump
  • One chick gave Bret a piercing from somewhere on her body and told him that when he got to know her better, he could find out where that piercing belonged -- wow
  • A porn star stole everybody's dirty hockey socks after a challenge for no discernible reason
  • And Ashley and Farrah existed.
Oh, Ashley and Farrah. Between Farrah's deliciously addictive catchphrase: "What the french?" and her giant circus tits, she was a fountain of hilarity. And Ashley ... well, you just haven't lived until you've seen Ashley, plowed beyond belief, trying to cook a Lean Cuisine. It's such a simple thing, but by God, it's TV magic. Magic.

But now, all the skanky girls are gone. No more cellophane outfits. No more black censor bars. No more Ashley howling, "I WANT A CHEESEBURGER!" They're gone. And now the show is boring as shit, with the two blandest, most irritating bitches left, and I don't even care who wins anymore. Will it be Mindy, with her mood swings? Or will it be Taya, Penthouse pet (and suspected stripper), whose personality is as fake as her tits? I don't even care anymore. You hear me, VH1? I DON'T CARE.

But I'll watch the damn finale anyway, just because there's nothing better on Sunday nights. And I'm totally there for the reunion, because you KNOW someone always gets in a fight.

I swear, I enjoy more intellectual forms of entertainment. Really. I do. :)

Can't we just quietly help the earth?

Come and get me, Al Gore. I dare you to chase me down in your electric car.

Confession: I am so tired of "green living." It's become so ... so ... trendy. Like skinny jeans or indie flicks or hating Starbucks. (And why do we all have to hate Starbucks all of a sudden? I like frappuccinos. So there.)

Look, I care about the earth. I agree pumping chemicals into the atmosphere is a bad idea and will hurt our planet. I recycle -- uh, most of the time. I don't litter. I don't leave lights on after I leave a room. And even if I don't drive a hybrid car, I do drive a '99 Miata, which gets about 35-40 mpg in the city and is a lot more fun to drive than a Prius.

So for the love of God, can't we just reduce our impact on the environment without bragging about it? Because this is becoming tiresome. *sigh*

Commentary on Comments

Briefly, I want to say how much I dislike that Blogger won't let you reply to comments directly. Because I want to respond to comments. I like responding to comments. It's more interactive, there are things I want to tell people, yada yada yada. So, even though there's no threading on Blogger, if you leave me a comment -- I'm going to reply to it.

And if anyone has any suggestions on how to thread the comments in Blogger, PLEASE let me know because it's driving me crazy. I want to converse! Converse!!!

I also like Converse sneakers. I had pink ones, but my dogs ate them. I miss them. The sneakers, not the dogs. The dogs are still around. And they still eat my shoes. *sigh*

Sleepless Nights & Tweets

To quote Bart Simpson, "can't sleep; clown will eat me." Minus the clown, of course. Just can't sleep. So instead I expound upon the strange inanity of Twitter.

Twitter ... I just ... I don't know. My mixed feelings towards the popular social networking service started during CNN's coverage of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Now, I'm a hurricane junkie. Have been since Hugo came through Charleston in '89. I don't I slept a grand total of 8 hours during the entire week of the Katrina debacle, and so when another hurricane threatened New Orleans, I was glued to the television set ... which was when I first discovered the journalistic abomination that is Rick Sanchez.

Rick. Fucking. Sanchez. I hate this guy so much. I can't even adequately express why. He just seems so ... so ... dumb. Like the guy in the back of your class who can't stop asking the teacher the same damn question over and over because even though the teacher's already answered it six times this doucher can't get it through his thick skull, but still thinks he knows everything and that's why the aforementioned teacher goes home every night and considers eating a gun. That's how Rick Sanchez makes me feel every time I watch him attempt to conduct an interview. If Edward R. Murrow were still alive to see this assclown, I think he would just start weeping uncontrollably and ask to borrow that fictional teacher's gun.

Anyway, it was during that long, tense night before Gustav made landfall (and, thankfully, spared New Orleans from another inundation) that I first heard of Twitter -- because Rick was tweeting through his broadcast. And reading the asinine tweets of others. Like it was news. And it wasn't. There was nothing newsworthy about catluvr394's opinion on Bobby Jindal. We did not need to hear matt420's commentary on levee fortification, and we certainly did not need dittohead4mccain telling us that New Orleans shouldn't have been rebuilt in the first place (for three main reasons: 1) it hasn't been rebuilt yet; 2) that city is a historic treasure in spite of its precarious geographic location; and 3) this opinion wasn't fucking news).

Now, I know that it's got to be a struggle to fill airtime when you're waiting for a story to develop. But that was a very tense night for a lot of people, and the last thing anyone wanted to hear was the misspelled ramblings of a bunch of armchair anchormen. So my first impression of Twitter -- not so good.

Yet here I am tonight, tweeting. And I'm actually enjoying it. There's something so delicious about issuing those 140-word missives about my boring, inane life: what's for dinner, my reaction to watching Quarantine (which was an excellently scary movie), watching the North Korean missile drama unfold and mocking Kim Jong Il's crazy-ridiculous "biography" (dude claims he was born under rainbows and shooting stars -- that's amazing, even if it's totally inaccurate because he was probably born in a Siberian work camp) ... turns out tweeting is kind of fun and addictive.

So, yeah. I give in. I shall tweet, and follow the tweets of others. Hell, even as a news source, Twitter's proving to be pretty good -- there are a couple of breaking news feeds that have proven to be just as reliable as cable news (if not more so) and have broken stories faster, so that's a definite plus. And some of the celebrity tweets are pretty awesome -- I get to read Colin Meloy's thoughts on the declining quality of the New Yorker's paper, Jimmy Fallon's pizza woes, and Michael Ian Black's general acid humor. All in all, Twitter's turned out to be pretty cool.

But Rick Sanchez is still a massive tool. Even if I do start following him. *sigh* I am such a hypocrite.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Still Love Zack Morris

Oh, there are things I could be considered "famous" for, but let's not talk about those right now. Instead, let's go back. Back in time. Back the '90s ...

I can identify any episode of Saved by the Bell within five seconds -- usually by wardrobe. It's seriously frightening. Is Lisa wearing those big fruit earrings? Then it's the one with the glee club and nerdy Tori Spelling. Is Screech wearing a red beret? It's his lucky beret, also given to him by Violet (nerdy Tori Spelling again!) to beat the Valley Chess Club. And if Zack and Kelly are dressed up like Romeo and Juliet ... well, excuse me, but I have to go because I can't watch that episode for very emotional reasons. "How am I supposed to live without you ..."

Friday, April 3, 2009

These Songs Should Be Burned

I could probably name a thousand songs I wish I'd never heard -- that irritatingly saccharine Christian song about Christmas shoes still makes me want to vomit -- but here's three that recently have enraged me.

My Humps by Black-Eyed Peas

I'm no rabid feminist, but come on. Come on, now. Seriously.

All Star by Smash Mouth

I hate knowing that this song will be used in a thousand bad movie montages and played at a million sports games. It will never die. I bet that at this point, even the band probably hates this song, and I don't blame them.

Gives You Hell by All-American Rejects

Is this crap actually popular now? Really? I ... I don't know. I just don't get it.

Mark Sanford and the Big Bad Stimulus Bill

So, this happened today:

Basically, Sanford has agreed to accept most of the $8 billion set aside for South Carolina in the federal stimulus package -- the key words being most. Sanford has reserved the right to refuse $700 million, which were designated for public schools. Lowcountry schools stand to lose up to $18 million, with Charleston County possibly losing $9 million in funds.

This is frustrating on a number of levels. First of all, Charleston County School District (CCSD) has a long-standing reputation of being downright abysmal. I spent grades K-12 in the system, and it was terrible. My middle school had no windows. That's right -- no windows. It was designed as a hurricane shelter by an architect who later went on to design prisons. We were actually relieved when we had classes in the ancient trailers that lined the bus lot, just because we got to see daylight. There were never enough textbooks to go around, and the map in my sixth-grade geography class didn't include Alaska or Hawaii -- and this was in 1993. My high school wasn't much better: a gymnasium ceiling held up by duct tape and without air conditioning, embarrassingly outdated technology, and more of the ubiquitous trailers.

Things have changed since I graduated in 2000 -- there's a brand new high school with much nicer facilities, and the schools have been rearranged to "fit" their buildings. Still, the teachers are terribly underpaid (and the good ones are hard to keep), the schools are overcrowded, and resources are slim. Charleston County schools are still below-standard, and as long as they remain in such disrepair, our children suffer for it.

Yet there are those who call Governor Sanford a "maverick," a proud bastion of conservatism standing up to a "leftist" administration and a "socialist" bill. If you don't support the stimulus bill, fine. If it goes against your ideology, that's all right. But understand this -- Sanford is not saving you money by potentially refusing this $700 million. If he refuses it, the money will simply go to some other state. The same goes for any funds that are a part of the stimulus package -- if he had refused the $8 billion, then the funds would have gone somewhere else. Sanford is not saving you anything. The money is there, and it will be spent. It's up to Sanford to decide if South Carolina will benefit from it.

If anyone's out there and reading this, comments are always welcome. Also, hi. :)

The Beginning of the Beginning

Ah, blogging -- the last refuge of those of us who do not know how to keep our mouths shut. Good day to you, blogosphere (do people still call it that? who are these people? can we find them and forcibly flush the word from their vocabu--ohmygodi'moneofthem). Here's a mishmash of things that irritate, inspire, and amuse me.

Let's see where this goes.