A matter of trust

Where is your comfort level?
I’ve reached out across the great Internets to seek help in finding a place to live in South Dakota. People have responded.
With long emails telling me they’d be happy to do whatever they can to help out.
Then they tell me about themselves and they include email addresses of friends who live in the area. And tell me to email and make friends, contacts.
Then they offer a little more. Personal details of their life in South Dakota, likes, dislikes, what's cool to do (for them) in the Midwest.
It is all at once heartening and (honestly) a little creepy. Especially the people who have jumped in full-force and are sending me like three emails a day with rental leads and various "things you need to check out when you get here" ideas.
I find myself questioning these people’s motives. For no good reason.
Is that where our society has gotten us conditioned to? To absolutely question the motives of people who generally want to help another soul out?

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are blurred, illegal and match. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, but am going to give it a go.

A Spiral Down
How did the lines gets so blurred?
Stringy hair hung across his eyes, a cast-off army jacket covered his withered chest. He crouched on the corner like an old Mama-san, gripped his bit of cardboard – a billboard plea.
He thought they were a perfect match. She a little wild, he a young urban professional looking for something other than his Ivy League education, trust-fund friends.
A time ago. Before she introduced him to it.
“This is illegal,” he’d said and she laughed as the pipe glowed in the lighter’s flame.

A Fiction in 58 for you fine folks

Moving has this cathartic way of telling you that you've got too much shit - and what a wonderful opportunity to simplify. You do so, you downsize and then you say, "Never again." But then consumerism takes over. It always does. This Fiction in 58 grew from that.

(Never again, I vow. I just want that new fixie bike to commute to work and that's it, I promise.)

He runs through the suburban night, air tacky with the heat of the day.
Past drape-drawn windows, where the gray-blue glow of television throbs.
Where timed sprinklers slake cut carpets of manicured green.
He hears it, footfalls like boots on wet sand. The advance, progress - $4 lattes, SUVs, stuff.
He runs, thinks he can stay well ahead.

Author showcase: David S. Grant

Disaffected tourists idle through the streets and bars of Paris and Dublin. Office workers suspect each other of stealing cocaine at the Christmas party. Human Resource officers interview the stripper they frequent for a position in the firm (or at least they think it’s that stripper). Pickpockets get pick-pocketed. Nobodies stage emergencies to save the day. Mediocre porn stars murder their co-stars to increase DVD rentals. Executives drop Ecstasy during the board meeting and realize their affection for the touch of their supervisor’s shirt. Comics drop ‘shrooms in the restaurant’s sauce to get laughs from even the toughest of Monday night crowds. “Jerk offs, ex-cons, new cons, pranksters, one hit wonders, and homeless entrepreneurs are the ‘Emotionless Souls” that populate the 20 stories in this collection by David S. Grant (author of 'Corporate Porn' and 'The Last Breakfast').”

Done well, short fiction has a depth and breath that can leave a reader wanting more. Of course, there isn’t any more; the story – a beginning, middle, end – is short. Words are at a premium. The story moves on emotion and it moves on reaction.
New York-based author David S. Grant writes like that. Short fiction – some would call transgression fiction – that takes and unflinching look at the human condition.

His new book of short stories, “Emotionless Souls,” has recently been published by Brown Paper Publishing.

And he was good enough to stop by The Tension recently on his virtual book tour to answer a few questions. More on that later.

“Emotionless Souls” is a collection that will likely catch a breath in your chest. The tightly-written stories are often surreal and dark. But the plot twists and endings help to keep bringing back the reader for more.

Grant’s works could be classified as transgression fiction; a genre that usually focuses on characters who feel disinfected by normal expectations of society. Taboos are shattered; the writing is tight, simplistic. It can be frightening. It also can be beautiful.

“Emotionless Souls” hits on all cylinders. All 20 stories with either leave you scratching your head, shaking it or raising it to the ceiling in a laugh.

This is Grant’s first collection of stories, after publishing three novels.

Surface Tension: What sets “Emotionless Souls” apart from your novels?

David S. Grant: Given the length of the tales, there is a more definitive edge to the writing as I get right to the point. “White Christmas” is a story of a man who believes a co-worker has stolen his cocaine and the piece details his walk across the room to confront the accused. Because this was a short the story needs to keep the focus of what is happening despite the distractions that are incurred as he makes it across the room. Similar to “White Christmas,” the story “Boardroom Romance” answers the age old question of what happens when you mistake Ecstasy for Aspirin and it hits you while in a boardroom meeting.

Surface Tension: Explain your style, your devotion, to transgression fiction.

Grant: I enjoy telling my stories as I see them. You can categorize them as transgression fiction, shock value with a dash of humor, or satirical. I really don’t set out to write in one genre, it’s what I enjoy. Getting inside the “other side” of human nature inspires me, knowing, as we all do deep inside, the grey area of our minds and actions.

Surface Tension: Do you find it difficult to come up with ideas? Are the stories in "Emotionless Souls" careful observations or simply the license of literary fiction?

Grant: The ideas are always around us. The question is whether it’s a worthy story for the reader. In “Emotionless Souls,” you have twenty different stories with 20 different scenarios we can all relate to in some degree. Trying to do a good job at the office, realize our dreams. Exact revenge on someone who stole our cocaine. In “Money Shot,” you have someone trying to realize their dreams. Granted, it may be unconventional in that he is a porn star, but still in the end he realizes what he wants, even if it is pulling a gun out of the most unpredictable of places. “Open Mic Night” details a struggling comedian looking for laughs, “White Christmas” is a classic story of who done it, with the office party (someone stole my drugs twist), and “Slam Dunk” tells the tale of doing whatever it takes to be the one to make that dreadful presentation we all dread.

Surface Tension: Who do you read? Who inspires you?

Grant: Bret Easton Ellis for his numbness of characters; F. Scott Fitzgerald for his romance with an edge; Hunter S. Thompson for his dialogue; Chuck Palahniuk for his chock with social commentary.

Grant said his next published work will be the double novel “Bleach/Blackout; two novels about drugs, sex, revenge, the corporate crunch, and the inevitable unpleasantness of life and death. But mainly about life.

Certainly, “Emotionless Souls” is a good entry point for Grant’s style and dedication to craft. Not everyone will find Grant’s work uplifting, but they will find he has a voice that sticks with you.

Order a copy of “Emotionless Souls” at Brown Paper Publishing or at Amazon.

Worked up with Zippy's for nothing

Woke up with a bit of Zippy’s disease.
Zippy’s is a state of restlessness; and that restlessness will lead to anxiety and feelings of worthlessness for not getting a single damn thing done.
I don’t have a place to live in South Dakota.
And this weighs heavy on my brainpan.
It does not help that it is a holiday weekend.
I put out a ton of emails to property management places, scanned Craigslist, the newspaper listings.
Then my dad called.
He’s going up for my nephew’s wedding; he and second sister are going to spend a couple of days looking for a place for me and the girls.
“I can spend an extra day if I have to,” he said. “We’ll find you something that you’ll be happy with.”
And then the sun broke through the clouds.
And I smiled, for the first time on a relaxed holiday Monday.

Sunday Scribblings: Quitting

The writing prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “Quitting:” Have you ever quit something? A job, a sport, a school play, a relationship? How did it feel? Were you guilty? Flooded with relief and a powerful feeling of freedom? Do you maybe quit things too easily? Or do you never quit, even when you should? What does it mean to be a "quitter"?

No fiction today, just reality.
Interestingly enough, I resigned from my job on Friday. I will no longer – well, after June 6 – be working for a newspaper in Northern California.
And in a few short weeks, I’ll pack up everything I own and my dogs – Trinity and Scully – and travel 1,700 miles east to South Dakota. A new city. A new newspaper.
This is not a joke; people look, laugh and say, “Yeah, right.”
I say I’m off; then they ask, “Aren’t you scared?”
Not in the least.
This was meant to happen; a logical progression in my life and in my career. A chance to continue to evolve.
Sure, I hang a heavy head when I think of the life I’ve created for myself in Cali. The friends and loved ones who support and nurture me. But my friends will always be my friends.
And my new town is within a four-hour drive of all my family.
It was time.
I could no longer write for my current paper. It had lost all of its charm, its beauty. There is a difference in philosophy on how best to cover the news, how best to serve the readers. My philosophy differs.
And we part ways.
I’m going to a larger newspaper to cover environmental/outdoor issues. More news, a little less features. They want me to nurture their younger reporters as a writing coach (something I’ve always wanted to do).
Biggest thing is, they want me in their newsroom. They are excited for what I bring.
Respect from your superiors goes a long way.
Still, I feel for the community I am leaving. I’ve tried to serve them to the best of my ability for 11 years. I feel like I am letting them down.
And then I think about what we’ve done across 11 years. Not just the awards, but the comments from people at gas pumps and grocery stores, restaurants and beer joints. People thanking me for writing – something I need to do, just like breathing.
I love this community; I love the area. But I just couldn’t continue at the newspaper (and the one other lead didn’t pan out – lack of vision – but that’s OK too, since things happen for a reason).
And that maybe fate has a hand in things.
To return to the Midwest, my roots, to do what I do best.

A rainy Saturday haiku

Haiku writing is very Zen.
There is a calmness in counting syllables.
And here's what I came up with over coffee and the soundtrack of my iTunes on party shuffle:

Don’t look back
New day rises clear,
A great weight, like iron, tumbles
An eager smile dawns

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are delayed, edge and focus. And since I’m on edge and lack focus, here’s a delayed haiku for your reading pleasure.


An embrace, delayed
Dreamy focus in her eyes
Lovers edge closer

Emotional roller-coster

What is the “right move?”
What is “best?”
What would make one “happy?”

Practitioners of the Jedi Mind Fuck will recognize these questions – and several others. The thoughts that keep one up at night, keep one pre-occupied in the car, in the grocery line, at work.
The questions that scream from the fibers of your subconscious.
And all anyone has to go on is their heart and their gut. And I appreciate that.
Still, I’m having some difficulties seeing “The Big Picture.” I’ve huddled with allies, listened to confidants, crunched numbers, held silent vigils, lit candles, agonized and it all comes down to pressing forward with the best decision I can make with the information I have.
It’s only my future.

A moment of clarity

Simple Lucidity
“Hold out your hand.”
“Close my eyes?”
“Only if you want to.”
And she drops a marble into his palm.
“It’s a clarity marble.”
The marble is clear glass and it is scarred from the abuse inflicted on it being carried in purses and in the bottom of pockets. Its once smooth surface is pitted, rough.
He looks through it and the light takes on a greenish glow, like the flesh of a honeydew melon. It is a tiny crystal ball, and he gazes through it between his thumb and forefinger.
“It’s always helped me.”
And he begins to carry it in the coin pocket of his jeans. During those moments of stress, he takes it out and looks through it.
It does not speak to him. He doesn’t tell her that he cannot hear its wisdom.
A sweltering night and not even a cool shower and fans bring comfort. He’s up when most everyone is not, his mind heavy. He clutches the clarity marble in his fist.
The marble is as warm as her skin. He rolls the glass around in his fingers. He squeezes, tight. And wills its secrets. He prays for clarity.
He rolls the marble across his forehead, feels the warmth. Her warmth, his. He closes his eyes and thinks of her.
And in that comfort, he finds clarity.

Life at the speed of Tension

Did I say two weeks? Didn't I have two weeks to ponder my fate, my future?

I've got two days.

It's all good.

The mind is a terrible thing (to waste)

My mind is full.
I mean, I have, over the course of the last several days, just to lie down and think. Of story ideas, of poetry prompts – of my future – and everything has taken on this filmy grayness. Distracted? Hell, yeah.
But good, too.
I came back to Cali knowing I wasn’t trapped. That I had options, even if it meant moving thousands of miles away from what I’ve grown to know and love. That there are challenges to face. That there is always life to live.
And you might as well live it to your full advantage.
The next two weeks will unfold as it was meant to and I will be given the opportunity to make decisions that will affect my life for the foreseeable future.
And while the gray shrink-wrap still makes a film across some of my more creative thoughts, I do feel like I’ve got the clarity to make choices that will be best for me.
I guess I’m saying that The Tension might not be the most exciting place in a literary sense, but come on along if you want to continue to glimpse a thought process – a moving forward – in this guy’s life.

Sunday Scribblings: Soar (or Sore)

Over at Sunday Scribblings, the word prompts are soar or sore. I chose the latter.

And Baby Make Three

He gauged her mood by the timbre of the pencil eraser as it beat against the folded Sunday Times. She beat out a hot, a jungle rhythm; a Morse code of mean.
He slid his coffee between hands on the counter, measuring a response that would diffuse her mood.
He read it as sore.
She wasn’t pained, but she was tender. She was angry and she was irritated.
By what he had said. What he had asked.
About her womb. The emptiness of if.

The cinema of the moment

Overheard at Blockbuster:

Guy (shaved head, goatee): "Where the hell are the new releases? I don't want anything I've already seen."

Girl (talking on cell): "Right here."

Guy: "What? No I've seen all these."

Girl (sighs, drops the cell form her mouth): "Maybe I'm not a fucking expert, but 'New Releases' usually means things that are just out."

Guy: "OK, smartass, how does Sweeney Todd sound? I haven't seen this yet."

A movie about a murderous couple. Perfect.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are average, neck and scratch.
I wrote this on the flight back to Cali. Wedged into a “Freedom seat” on United, which means I shared sticky bodily contact with both my seatmates for three tedious hours. Air travel sucks ass. And this might as well.

The Life You Save May be Your Own

Despair coursed through his chest like tendrils of a virus; his breaths came in halting gulps, like he was drowning in bubbly phlegm, and his neck bulged and tightened, despite the silent prayers he chanted.
The house was dark, save for the red-light blinks of a cheap answering machine. He was crumpled beneath it, beneath the breakfast bar and wedged between the wrought iron barstools she found at a rummage sale and had re-cushioned and spray painted in faux textures that resembled rust.
He bumped his head against the wall, rhythmic; he fingered a fresh scratch across his left knuckles absently, finger-painting the pin-pricks of tacky blood into textured circles. His right leg, which was tucked under him, prickled creepy with bloodless sleep; his left leg was cocked to the side, wide, unnatural and seeming uncomfortable.
Each feeling, save for despair, was driven further into the background, each time he reached a finger up and hit rewind then play on the machine.
Reverse squeal, stop, play.
Her voice flat on the digital recording.
“There’s no real way to completely explain myself in 30 seconds,” she began. “Other than to say I just can’t take it anymore. A life just so average.
“So, this is goodbye.”
He’d been there, like that, for hours. The house emptied of everything, except the answering machine, the heavy iron stools.
And a tiny mound of confetti in his lap. The carefully torn pieces of the acceptance letter to medical school.
The secret he’d kept from her for months. The surprise he planned to spring over chilled glasses of the Chardonnay she adored - and he detested.
He’d miss her in Rome. For a time.

Midwest impressions

Coat most anything with batter and deep fry it, salt it, serve it molten-hot with ranch and/or blue cheese dressing and you’ve got an intoxicating foodstuff.
“Hey, you have to try the Foul Balls,” the guy at the Canaries baseball game said. “Deep-fried turkey testicles.”
Hot, they were delicious with the blue cheese. $3 a heaping serving.
“You don’t want to eat them cold,” he said.
No, you don’t.
Impressions, observations of Sioux Falls:
The Carnegie Library still stands here; built in 1902, the city council meets there.
It has a real downtown, with real businesses and a trail that follows the Big Sioux River. Bike trails connect every park in town.
The newsroom is professional, relaxed, modern. Mac-based computers.
Everyone I called for my story called me back – one – all the rest answered my questions by picking up the phone themselves.
Everyone says hi and/or waves.
Reporters took me to lunch. We went to the Washington Pavilion, an old high school turned museum/restaurant/concert hall/IMAX theater/art gallery. One reporter wanted me to see the great hall. The doors were locked. He asked a custodian vacuuming the floor if he could let us in. He couldn’t, but called someone who could.
“My friend here is thinking of moving to Sioux Falls, but I think seeing the great hall will really make up his mind. Can we go in?”
“Oh, sure, yeah,” the woman said in her South Dakota accent.
The hall was simply amazing; designed like an old opera hall, the acoustics are amazing.
I got invited to the home opener for the Canaries. We drank beer, ate dogs. Watched minor league talent. The night cost me $12 (the guys splurged for the testicles).
There are 25 reporters in the newsroom. They’re looking to add more. That right there is refreshing.
We talked about craft and enterprise and use of talent. Editors genuine about reporters writing good stories. Reporters who are listened to – and are given time to work, should the need arise.
“If a story can benefit from another day of reporting, we do it,” the editor said.

Lots to think about.

Travelers in anguish

A bit of Fiction in 58.

Airport Lounge
They sit at a back table, impossibly small and round so as the over-priced drinks clink. They’re slung on uncomfortable chairs and their body language speaks of torment. Her eyes are red from tears; he anxiously flips open his mobile.
The gold bands are shiny, new.
The bartender says a silent prayer. But he’s seen this before.

Where's ThomG?

It now can be revealed: I’m just about to board an aircraft for Sioux Falls, S.D.; the largest city in South Dakota, “The Best Little City in America” where the motto is “The Heart of America.”
Yeah, by choice.
It’s a job interview.
I’ll be in the Midwest until Thursday.
And I’ll be Midwest blogging. Hopefully. Maybe.

Here’s some interesting factoids about Sioux Falls:

The city is the regional center of urban and rural interaction.
Cow tipping is not a sport here.
The city is centered on the falls of the Big Sioux River
The first documented visit by an American (of European descent) was by Philander Prescott, an explorer, trader, and trapper who camped overnight at the falls in December 1832.
The John Morrell meat packing plant opened in Sioux Falls in 1909.
In the November 2007 issue of Men's Health Magazine, Sioux Falls was ranked No. 2 on the list of cities with the least debt, finishing just behind Billings, Mont. (how about that TheRobRogers?).
Sioux Falls is hot and humid in the summer and freezing-assed cold in the winter.
The city has a vibrant arts and literary scene.
One of the few replicas of Michaelangelo's David is near the downtown.
The city is home to four minor league sports teams – baseball, hockey, arena football and basketball.
Second sister lives there.

Sunday Scribblings: Telephone

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is phone. I got to thinking about loneliness and how the telephone allows us to be slightly disconnected from the risks of talking face-to-face. This is a retread, a reworking of an old post that needed refreshment.

Sorry, wrong number
The telephone calls go one-way, always one-way.
They are collect and filled with anguish. Humiliation.
He accepts the charges, always.
And they always come in the middle of the night.
“He’s a dom, so it is nice when I know he's hurting,” she said. “It’s the only time he lets me in, lets me in close, when I get to do things like choke him, you know, erotic asphyxiation.”
The bile rises in his throat. Tears well in his eyes. He bites his lip until it bleeds.
Yet he is excited. There is anticipation. Shameful eagerness.
Her next call.

Sustainability in uneasy times

Want a fright? Watch the news networks for an hour.
War. Students in high schools staging fights for YouTube. The rising price of oil. The rising price of food. Myanmar.

It’s enough to cause gastric distress.

I can’t do much about a lot of things in this world, other than to offer prayers and hope for better leadership.
Gas prices? Ride my bike more, travel less.
Food prices?
Sustainability. Slow Food.
Eat what is locally produced – buy at the local farmer’s market – and harvest naturally.
It’s simple, really. Bake your own bread. Eat only what isn’t flown or trucked thousands of miles (grapes from Chile? No, strawberries from the local grower); fish for your protein. Look for people who raise chickens and sell eggs.
Eat wisely. Eat better, more healthy.
That is my mission.
This day forward.

How to advance science, stupidity

For your entertainment (or your horror), I give you the NyQuil Martini:

OK, yeah, it's got that bitter NyQuil taste, but it's also very "tangy."
Not something I'd order at a bar, but at home, not so bad. Especially given my current state of congestion, sneezing, stuffy head, achy bones, general malaise.

(And if I don't post something by 6 a.m. Friday, call the president.)

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are cautious, human and maybe. I’ve come down with another cold – thank you stress! – so we’re going to roll with a Fiction in 58 on this one. Kinda came out like a literary poem, huh?

In Us, We Trust
Human. Being.
The words rolled around his head, which rested on pillows piled on an aged tweed sofa. Daylight faded and candles sent signals from rooms within the flat.
Maybe it’s time, he thought.
Being human.
He listened to his thumping heart, his breaths, shallow. He squeezed his eyes shut. Tight.
Trust, blindly. Faith.
Why be so cautious?

Poetry for weary souls

He stands alone,
on unstable banks,
unsure of his footing,
unable to go forward.

Fields of green,
sun-swept glory,
stretch on infinite.

Trust blindly,
he’s been told,
make the leap,
don’t look back.

Pretzel-Boy and Bendy-Girl

“Now guys, reach out with your right hand as far as you can and grab your toes or your ankles or anything you can get a hold of and go ahead and put your left hand on her back and lean her into her stretch. Good, now while helping elongate her spine, massage her back.”
I’ve got my right leg out, left leg in, Indian-style, and I’m leaned over Suzy. She’s in the same position, opposite of me, doing the same exact thing. The room is warm and our skin takes on a slick glow; there’s the hint on incense in the air.
There are 25 couples in the room.
We’re all doing couple’s yoga.
“You’ll try it with me?” she asked a few weeks back.
“Sounds fun.”
We’re on a purple yoga mat and help each other bend, stretch. We touch; we look into each other’s eyes and smile; we touch some more.
“Guys, walk your leg forward and giver her foot a good massage,” Nancy, the instructor, says in a whisper. “For the next five minutes.”
And the class laughs.
Suzy’s put on lotion before the class and this makes her a little slippery. We joke, we laugh and I promise not to drop her.
The class goes on for an hour-and-a-half. It ends with each couple spooning, breathing in tandem, eyes closed. Relaxed.
“You guys want to go two hours next time?” Nancy asks as people put on shoes, roll up mats.
And not one couple says no.
“You’ll do it again?” she asks.
I am not stupid.
An hour-and-a-half of touching, breathing, stretching – looking into the eyes of someone special?
Sign me up.

Nancy’s House of Yoga and Wellness will host its next couple’s yoga class in June. It’s $15 per couple. For more information, go here.

Sunday Scribblings: Family

For chris n., something "not so dark."

My mother liked to say that she didn’t know exactly how I made it through childhood intact.
And alive.
We were children of the 60s and 70s, the five of us children born to Ed and Marcia. There where the studious girls, the rambunctious boys. Good kids who lived life as if it was going to be taken away with the dawn.
My brother, six years my senior, and I were hard cases when it came to innocent fun. The brothers who stories were passed around the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The lighter-fluid flame races in the basement; the bottle rocket fights with neighbor kids; wholesale destruction of anything – glass bottles of warm, shook-up soda water explode fabulously when hit with a BB gun – with guns, flames illegal fireworks and homemade explosives.
We carried on with fearless abandon. We plotted and planned. We never lied. We simply never told the entire truth.
(Whether by design or indifference, my parents wouldn’t ask the proper questions: My mother would ask where I was until 3 a.m. in high school and I’d say work; this was true, I was on the roof of Wendy’s drinking Blatz beer and throwing rotten tomatoes at passing semi trucks.)

One of our best gags occurred at my aunt’s farmhouse at Christmas. My mother’s whole side of the family would gather for Christmas dinner. I was in college. My brother already part of the working world.
There was a pool table in the basement. A whole passel of younger nieces and nephews where banished to the dungeon to not be seen or heard. My brother and I joined them, not looking for mischief, but not turning anything down – should the opportunity arise.
It did.
A couple of the kids brought down pieces of my grandmother’s fudge and left them on the pool table rail. My brother looked at my aunt’s litter box for her gigantic farm cat, Bear, and smiled.
With two pieces of fudge, my brother and I fashioned a rather authentic looking cat turd. The plan was to stick it in the box and try to get one of the kids to eat it.
We pointed. We cajoled. We dared. The kids said “eeeewww” and “gross” and then one of my nephews finally said, “You eat it.”
And I picked it up, bit into it and showed them my chocolate-covered, toothy smile.
You never saw six little kids run up creaky wooden steps so fast – screaming a garbled wake that startled the women gathered around the old farmhouse table in the kitchen drinking coffee.
Then, silence.
And then, my mother called down the stairs:
“What are you two up to?”
The kids had confessed that I ate cat shit.
We huddled, my brother and I, laughing until tears ran.
“Both of you, up here – NOW.”
“You,” she said, “you’re in college. And you – you ought to know better.”
And she gave a sly smile and a wink.
Not the last she would ever give me.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The prompt words over at 3WW are empty, highway and ignored. Great words, huh?


Her lipstick, something red and trashy she’d picked up just for this evening, was smeared across her chin, her teeth. Her mascara had run – it was supposed to be smear-proof, live and learn – and in the headlights of oncoming cars, she looked like a wild, bloodied animal.
The dyed black hair, the little black dress, the red bra straps, the heels – the left broken so she hobbled rather than walked - drivers didn’t even give her the grace of a long horn honk. On this stretch of highway, at this time of night, they simply ignored her.
The tears came again, her breaths came in halting, hiccupy sips and she crumbled to the asphalt, opened holes at the knees of the expensive thigh-high stockings he preferred. Pebbles dug into her thighs and at that moment, she felt empty, a vessel used and discarded.
She’d seen the email on his laptop, asking that she meet him at the motel on Route 32. Take a taxi, he said. He’d be waiting. Room 126. Wear the little black dress, the matching red bra and lace panties, the makeup just so – heavy, but not slutty.
The sheer black stockings, don’t forget the stockings, he pleaded.
The kids fussed for her mother – she’d complete her transformation without a lot of questions after mom cleared out – and the taxi was late. She fretted. She kept having to adjust the frilly panties that he seemed to ask for less and less.
She tipped the driver, walked awkwardly across the gravel-strewn parking lot of the low-slung motel with its bright, inviting neon.
She tapped lightly on the metal fire door. Again. And again, louder.
He threw it open in an annoyed arc, froze, cursed.
And she saw the younger version of herself on the bed, thigh-highs, red panties still intact.
And recognized her from his office picnic. The one from accounting.