Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are glimmer, passion and wish.
I decided to try another Cinquain.

Bodies entwined,
Secret wishes whispered,
Inhibitions, lust give way to…

Exploring writing forms: The Cinquain

A Cinquain is a five-line poem. A Crapsey Cinquain (for Adelaide Crapsey) has a construction with a syllable count of two-four-six-eight-two. Several writers who contribute to Three Word Wednesday turned me onto exploring it.

White shirt,
spotless garment,
shield for polite culture,
perfect camouflage for hiding

More fun with the American Sentence

You're thinking, "Hey, a sentence is all I get? A 17-syllable one at that?"
It's not as easy as it looks.
It is the American Sentence.

“Buried in warm sheets, he stares at ceiling swirls hoping for clarity.”

Sunday Scribblings: I Believe

My first attempt at an American Sentence, created by Allen Ginsberg. It’s a sentence of haiku length, 17 syllables total:

"I believe; that kernel of faith which drives my being forward, onward."

Non-Fiction in 58

It's a good exercise, fiction or not....

Childhood bed, he’d waited until his parents’ king-size became his. The old sleeping bag - mom froze in time in a zippered plastic tote - smells of comfort.
Fingers run across spines of books; he dares himself to peek at his eighth grade graduation photos.
Secret hiding places still hold treasure, tarnished coins, trinkets.
His home, now a museum visit.

Memories of the Low-Priced Leader

My dad wanted to get in some exercise, which means wandering the Wal-Marts.
I took this picture out in the parking lot, then played "What person belongs to this car?" while inside.

There were plenty of contestants.
(And my opinions of the Wal-Marts remain unswayed.)

A poem for SoDak, winter

I did not write this, but wish that I did. It was penned by former Argus Leader reporter Joumay Steen.

People always ask why I moved to SoDak, where winter stretches brutal for months. It's not that bad.
Besides, we're good at making fun of ourselves:

It's winter in South Dakota,
And the gentle breezes blow,
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.

Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow's up to your butt,
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I'll hang around,
I could never leave South Dakota,
'Cause I'm frozen to the ground.

Bringing back the hat

It’s not far-fetched for me to make a fashion statement.
I mean, I routinely wear a rabbit-fur bomber hat around SoDak. I wear a cowboy hat.
I have titanium earrings, for chirssakes.
But I’m really hoping Barack Obama steps it up on Jan. 20.
I want him to wear a hat to the inauguration.
Bring back a new are of hat-wearing.
A fedora, hopefully.
(But not a Homburg.)
(And probably not a Porkpie.)
If President-elect Kennedy is regarded as “The Man Who Killed the Hat” in American Society (he didn’t wear a hat to his inauguration and men everywhere soon followed), then President-elect Obama is to only person to reverse that.
And he could do it in a big way.

I mean, I’d look great in a fedora.
(Not so much in a Homburg; a Porkpie, maybe.)
I just don’t want to go first.

Merry Christmas, everyone

So many traditions, spread out across the globe.
It's gotten to be a bit different around our house, even as we've all migrated back to the Midwest. Without mom, things are not always as they were - they are as they will be. They are what we make of them.
And that's what it is in other households, I imagine.
Traditions are wonderful things.
Making new ones, even better.

In this season of giving, don't forget your fellow man, who may be a bit down on his luck. Make a donation to a food bank, sign up to mentor - pay for someone else's meal now and again.
Pay this good feeling forward.
We'll all be better off.

Merry Christmas.

And if you'd read this far, a treat - David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "Little Drummer Boy:"

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are faith, miracle and whisper. Good words for this time of year.

The Gift

A sheet covers the window, colored push pins driven into the peeling wood; the sheet the color of limes that have turned.
Curled as he was in bed, the light he tried to hinder continued to reach out for him; it whispered hurtful things that demoralized his spirit.
“Faith,” he whispers back, through wavering eyes slick with old, sticky tears.
She perched on the barstool like a coil, nails blacked by Sharpie, her face a Kabuki mask of white powder. Straight shots of whiskey lined up, each glass knocked back she’s overturned.
“It’s a miracle you’re not dead,” the bartender says, slings a wet bar towel over a meaty shoulder.
“Fucking miraculous,” she whispers, willing the tears to evaporate, less they mess out her carefully applied lacquer.
He stares at the black handset of his telephone, disgusted at the ring of earwax buildup around the depressed holes of the speaker; bile rises within his throat and he fights off vomiting into his metal trashcan. He’s whipped himself into a rage only he can comprehend, see. Two squirts from the industrial-sized hand sanitizer on the pristine desk, he works the antiseptic like lather.
“Peace,” he whispers, tears evaporate as he swipes each perfect cuticle of each perfect finger across his red-rimed eyes.
Whispers are murmurs on the wind; pleading, pondering, puncturing the stratosphere with the desperation of human frailty.
For those who can listen to the silence, pick up the peace, they are the ones rewarded with the gift:
Nourished souls.

Simple childhood memories

New snow is magic snow.
It's quite tasty, too.
I used to do it as a kid, pack a cup with freshly-fallen snow and then fill the cup with Kool-Aid that was mixed like syrup.
Instant slushie.
Monday night, the snow fell with a fluffiness that was beautiful to watch come down in the orange haze of the sodium vapor lights near my townhouse.
After walking The Girls (who love a good snow, too), I filled a big cup with freshly-fallen snow from the growing drift on my patio.
To that, I added limeade I had in the fridge, dug into the frozen concoction with glee.
Nothing has tasted so sweet.
The memories, they were pretty sweet, too.

58 words, made into a story - a Fiction in 58

The doctor’s diagnosis was seasonal affective disorder and he told her to sit in front of a lightbox for a half-hour every day.
The vitamin D was great an all, but what she really wanted was a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Recital maybe, Zoloft, or that classic standby, Prozac.
“The darkness isn’t in your head.”
She begged to differ.

Sunday Scribblings: Late

A little something for an interesting Sunday Scribblings prompt, in 100 words. Yep, that’s a Drabble.

The word hung in his head, stayed on the lips, a bitter bile.
Collar up against the wind, it echoed in his ears.
Over pizza - she’d let him pick the toppings - and a cold bottle of Chardonnay (which she mysteriously declined), she’d said it.
“I’m late.”
(And in saying so bit her lower lip until it turned pale white.)
Confused, he said something about the pizza delivery.
“Late, Donny. I’m pregnant.”
A coolness spread within him; he’d (luckily) declined to ask her if it was his. He downed the wine, got his coat, went for the door.
“I need air.”

Mad Bomber hat on three heads

My dogs are awful when it comes to taking pictures.
I wish it wasn't so.
They look like I beat them to get these shots.
(Treats were handed out like government bail-out loans.)
Fun with photography when you get up way too early, don't have a reliable four-wheel-drive and there's a blizzard out.
Anyway, here's tribute to my Mad Bomber hat:

58 words, connected together into a tight package

The exercise is called Fiction in 58. It's not as easy as it sounds. And sometimes, it has people wishing for more...imagination is the key to these.


The snow on the rail platform had reached the consistency of paste, runny brown, salty; one hesitant step and sludge spatters across expensive wingtips.
Shoulders hunched, a briefcase dangles precariously off fingertips; a walking contradiction in Armani.
No meetings to attend, reports to read; aimless, he wanders.
Former coworkers rush to evade him; this specter of healthier times.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are hesitate, jealous and neglect.

Sucker-Punch Advancement
Through the tears, the wobbly haze – like a wavering horizon in the heat – she reappeared.
Long tan overcoat, hose, heels. And outfit not meant for him.
Bystanders put hands under armpits, tried to put him back on his feet, but he waved them off, too weakly he thought, too hesitant, and used a hand as a signal that he needed time to collect himself.
He drew a fist across his face, came away with a smear of blood; seeing it, he now could taste its coppery tang in his mouth.
She’d dressed that way, he now knew, to spark a jealous outrage. He knew that underneath the London Fog, she was bare, save for the black stockings. She cried softly. Bystanders restrained the man, who yelled veiled threats, hurtful innuendo.
The conversation, the sucker punch, it all begin to filter back in.
She’d lived with the neglect, the philandering. But no more. She was ready, willing to fight. She’d told him so, over champagne. In their living room.
Where he’d been grabbed by the arm, steered into a corner, asked advice from a worried husband. Uncomfortable, he sought escape, or at very least, something stronger to drink.
He was a pawn in a lover’s spat for which he knew the basic parameters. He had tried to steer clear of them both in the office lobby.
She’d touched his arm as they reached the elevator.
He caught him with a roundhouse right.
Lights out.
It was all coming back, through the tears, the wobbly haze. The pain. The resolve. A plan.
The cop asked twice before getting a response.
“Misunderstanding,” he said. “My fault, really.”
Being decked by one’s boss could have its advantages, if you knew how to play the game.

Ho, Ho, Ho Baby Jesus

Inspired by a real display in my neighborhood:

Happy Christmas, Baby Jesus
History has a way of bouncing, rolling, depending on who is in power.
The powerful, he knew, got to re-write history.
But he stood there in the snowfall, spindrift swirling around his stopped frame, and contemplated the scene.
He was positive that penguins in jolly hats and scarves were not present at the birth of Christ.
He was pretty sure the Wise Men did not include lit snowmen – twin Frosty’s, one in mid-wave. That the manger wasn’t lit by blinking candy canes and Rudolph’s red nose, but by a star that called shepherds near and far.
And speaking of shepherds, he was sure Santa wasn’t one of them even if he was there too, sitting on a haybale, windblown as he was, looking like he’s swallowed a couple of vodka tonics. Red nose, indeed.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph” he thought, as the Baby was swaddled only in a blanket of snow.
He took out his mobile, took picture after picture, capturing the scene as it blinked and flashed, a faint hum from the compressors that kept one Frosty and Rudolph inflated, thus upright.
He took several of himself, the whole scene a backdrop.
Uploaded the photos at home, scanned them, chose the best, happiest shot. Wrote a holiday note that started with, “Happy Christmas, Baby Jesus, from all of us at the trailer park…”
But at the last minute, he chickened out.
Most of his friends were as sarcastic as he, hard-hardened by life, and would have gotten the joke.
But Grammy, she was another matter.

Flash fiction: "My Hometown"

This little thought has been in a notebook for far too long. I got up to pen something, and it ended up a Fiction in 58.

My Hometown

Streetlight tints the snow that falls as I walk the streets of my hometown.
We’d joke, before we all left, that the sidewalks got rolled up at night. Not so much rolled up, just deserted.
Too cold to be out anyway.
The air smells of smoked ham, must be Thursday.
Tuesdays, it smells like shit.
A metaphor there.

Sunday Scribblings: "I knew instantly..."

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “I knew instantly…” which was prompted by writers who told Meg and Laini, “Seeing the prompt, I knew instantly what to write.”
That never happens to me. Huh. This is the stuff that comes to me, when I get a chance to think about it:

Mad Men
When Ryerson’s heart stopped, I figured this fucked-up exercise in “team building” was going to get us all shit-canned, like pronto.
Tenth-floor shenanigans, yeah. Damn creatives with their idea to mix the Kool-Aid and have us all take a sip.
And we sipped.
Like dipshits.
The conference table was one of those neo-modernist things, sweeping and hulking, made of extruded aluminum, chairs too. Chairs where your ass went to sleep five minutes into any meeting, even as you tried to shift your weight cheek-to-cheek.
On the table where 21 identical white boxes, mystery cubes no one was allowed to touch until we were all gathered.
And the conference doors were locked from the outside.
Inside each box was a tab of blotter acid, a dozen buttons of mescaline, three tablets of X, a small vile of cocaine, six airline bottles of booze, a notepad and a pencil.
The lights were turned down low, a laptop fired up, shifting scenes of some National Geographic special on the screen behind us. Some low, ambient techno-beat pumped low from the overhead speakers.
“The exercise is to free your mind,” Andreeson said. “We’ve got two hours to come up with a concept that sells the living shit out of this.”
He tossed the cellophane-wrapped package, which spun corkscrews across the polished aluminum.
Stupid is as stupid does. I chewed the buttons down, all of them, chased the bitter taste with a mini bottle of vodka, waited for the mescaline to course through my veins, the visions to explode across my eyelids.
Ryerson was the recording secretary. He kept tapping on the laptop, the ideas that were now being shouted over the music, the sway of us all in various stages of undress, intoxication.
What we created was real. It came alive at some point. And it consumed Ryerson, ate him up, spit him out.
In the end, his head rolling listless on my thigh, all he could do was blow weak spit bubbles through bluish lips as the rest raced to stash the boxes in cabinets, trash cans.
In his fist, death-gripped, was the product.
And in that instant I knew it, knew the whole concept as it flashed across my addled consciousness.

The campaign begins next week, and everyone’s buzzing that it’s our freshest, edgiest to date.
Ryerson’s recuperating nicely in a villa in Costa Rica. I sent flowers, a box of chocolates.
Five creatives let go, their silence bought with sealed subpoenas locked away in a safe deposit box.
Corner office territory now, in charge of the complete campaign.
One of the white boxes, still filled, on the glass case behind my head.
My insurance policy, should anyone start asking questions again.

Giving back in a time of crisis

Seth was prepared.
He had already picked out two Christmas books that I would read to him.
"You can go first - and I think this one."
It was "Olive, the Other Reindeer" by Vivian Walsh.
Damn if I didn't keep getting choked up.
Big blubberhead.
So we're discussing all things Christmas and he's telling me that he didn't know what he was getting, since he had asked for so much, "I kinda forgot what I asked for. Besides, my mom said not to ask for so much. She's on a budget."
Times will probably be tough at Seth's house.
It's tough all over.
I was asked to work on a story about nonprofits and if they're seeing any drop-off in donations this year. I talked to national researchers, who said not as much as people might think. People tend to give if they can. When they can. They see that others are huring even worse.
The charitable leaders in SoDak confirmed it.
Except the local Salvation Army Toy Drive was having trouble getting new, unwrapped toys. The Major said there might not be enough to go around when baskets are delivered next week.
And not getting a gift at Christmas sucks.
It takes a lot for me to darken the doors at Wal-Mart.
That's why I'm late in posting.
I was in Wal-Mart.
I spent $100 buying all sorts of cool stuff. Barbi dolls and Hot Wheels sets; games - Chutes & Ladders, Battleship, Connect 4, Yatzee, Sorry - stuffed animals; Play-Doh; Fisher Price stuff; Nerf footballs, little doll set thingies.
A C-note goes a tremendously long way at the Low-Priced Leader.
I don't have much, but I have more than most. Some of you do as well.
I actually had fun, pushing my way through the aisles, just dumping toys into a shopping cart while people watched.
I didn't do it for recognition.
I just did it, because it felt right.
Because I've seen tough times.
A child shouldn't.
Shit, now I'm all choked up again.
Feels great.

My mind screams stories in slight bits

This maybe didn't intend to be a Fiction in 58. The interesting thing was to write what I had thought about in the dark, see if I could whittle it down.

Warm air swirls in his flat, smells of fryer grease, stale sweat. He’s in stained boxers, socks where the elastic quit, disgruntled.
There’s a table, cluttered with paper, typewriter, jelly jar of gin. The clack of keys never stops.
A knock at the door, the Korean grocery downstairs, delivers dinner.
Rumor to legend; he’s left alone. To stew.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at enemy, shatter and vague. Let’s try for a Drabble, 100 words and out. And no firearms for Miss Peachy-Plums. Sheesh.


She was a cold dish, distant, back-ally frigid.
Her heart, yeah, her heart glowed.
Mist clung to her hair, dripped off scarred earlobes as vague thoughts, redemption, cluttered her resolve. She brought her brown eyes into focus, re-channeled the rage, chilled.
Lives shatter for less.
Pick up the pieces.
Get even.
He wasn’t just the enemy. He was everything she’d grown to hate. The rehab. The looks at the puckered skin, the hasty stitched grafts.
She was a cold dish. Learned all she needed efficiently, wrote nothing down. Flash pots, simple switches.
He’d burn.
He wouldn’t die.
Backatcha, bastard.

Words to count on: Fiction in 58

It’s a little exercise called Fiction in 58; tell a story in 58 words, no more, not less.

Birdman of East 26th Ave.
He’s crouched on the roof peak, ass on ankles like an old Asian woman, balanced precariously, weaves slightly - a bird on a wire.
From the vantage point, he shades piercing blue eyes, scouts trouble.
He’s the Birdman, protector of the neighborhood, a vigilante in Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
The neighbors, alas, have called the fire department - again.

Crows playing 'what's next' in the sun

I watched crows, several of them, cavort in the wind on a sun-filled Sunday afternoon.
They turned circles in a cold breeze, the wind canting their black wings to produce a rocking sensation.
They’d act like they’d land on the top-most branches of winter-bare trees, pumping their wings at the last minute to turn another circle.
I opened the sliding-glass door, heard the pierce of their calls as they circled; I watched their black shadows cross sinister over a snow-covered rooftop from my vantage on the second-floor patio.
Their calls punctured a lazy afternoon; their circles grew tighter, more focused.
Those circles, those penetrating calls, are still with me. Haunting.
Turning circles.
Calling out to the wind.
Waiting for what’s next.

Sunday Scribblings: Tradition

The these over at Sunday Scribblings is “Tradition.” This popped into my head and I decided to explore what it would be like for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps, even if it was very, very wrong.

Like Father, Like Son

“Reality is a complete pisser.”
Dad said that, most often when he was pissed himself, unsteady in stocking feet, jingling a tumbler of bourbon and ice, tie loosened, starched white shirt undone at the collar. And most often it was late, his rogue figure backlit by the giant stone fireplace he kept stoked all winter.
A ring of piss slowly dried in my black wool slacks, an uncomfortable wetness, a sour smell that turned my stomach.
“Boy, reality is a fucking pisser,” he said, pointing a finger at me, the others clutching the glass.
Like him, I was dressed is a starched white shirt, black jacket, black pants, black wingtips three sizes too big. Hell, our ties were black too, slim outdated. The Fedoras? Black as coal.
He was a merchant of death, a malicious whirlygig who moved through shadows. But instead of a child’s nightmare, he scared the bejeebuz out of men who crossed other, more powerful men.
The marks were delivered in red envelopes, wrapped in plastic wrap.
Today was Take Your Son To Work Day.
He threw himself into his overstuffed leather chair, leaned back, reclined. He studied the tears that had dried to my face, the load of snot still bubbling from my nostrils.
“That’s the franchise,” he said, barely above a whisper. “Take it, or leave it. It’s what we do, like my father before me.”
I took the .45 from the shoulder holster – the one he’d presented me in its cherrywood box hours ago - cocked a round into the chamber, pointed it at his face.
“Reality dad? Reality is death.”
“Ain’t that a pisser?” he asked, laughing. “Grab yourself a drink, let’s have a toast. Father and son, incorporated.”
I re-holstered the .45, went to the bar, poured my bourbon neat and turned back to him.
“We really need to talk about new uniforms – something a little less retro.”

How a Happy Meal can make a difference

It was a cheeseburger Happy Meal.
You’d a thought I brought a New York strip with all the trimmings, or lobster thermador, maybe
A McDonalds cheeseburger, fries, milk – a Shrek holiday toy.
“I love fries, when they’re hot – and these are hot,” my mentee said. “I don’t even mind that you got me a cheeseburger, I love McDonalds.”
I was sick when I promised to bring Seth something for lunch before Thanksgiving. He said a Happy Meal, hamburger, no pickles.
I owed him.
He’d forgotten by Thursday.
He saw the sacks, put a hand on his head, smiled.
“Did I mention that I really like McDonalds?” he said, ketchup smeared across his face as he tried to read a book to me.
“You did, bud. That’s why we’re dong it this week.”
“Wow, these fries are really hot. Hot fries are just good.”
Of course, I had a Happy Meal, too. Seth has a 6-year-old brother. And now, he’s got a Shrek toy, too.
“I’ll help him put it together,” Seth said.
“I promise.”
The lunch cost me $6.42.
Watching him devour the meal was priceless.

(There are children all over the country – the world – that need a little attention, a little care. Check here for opportunities in your community.)

Holiday greetings from South Dakota

I'm anal-retentive enough to be deeply concerned.
I've not sent out Christmas cards yet.
Hell, I haven't even bought any.
Usually, I do the picture card. Pick the best shot from a year of doing crazy shite and throw it up on a card and call it good (even if the people "get it" or not).
Trouble is,I didn't really take a lot of pictures. I didn't really have a vacation this year, unless you count taking down one house, loading it in a truck, hoping in your truck with your dogs and driving 1,800 miles to the Midwest and unloading it all in a new space and build a new life where you know almost no one.
(And I don't.)
Besides, any picture from California wouldn't be an honest representation of my life now.
It's a dilemma.
And then there's the whole idea of sending out the dreaded "Dear friends" letter. My closest circle knows the reasons for the move, but go out a bit further and people will get a Christmas card from me in SoDak and be scratching their heads in wonderment.
I need to explain a few things for a few people.
And time's a wasting.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are balance, dictate and wander. Time dictates a Fiction in 58.

Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present

She wept, soft sobs balancing twin streams of tears that streaked elaborate makeup.
The box was wrapped in delicate tissue, a satin ribbon of robin’s egg blue. She dictated no gifts; this was left without a note, fanfare; found only after her guests had made farewells.
Lost in sorrow, thoughts wandered to that night.
Inside the box, handcuffs.

I scribbled a Six in the dark on a notepad

Lots of bits and pieces made the notebook overnight. Including an entire Six Sentence contribution that too rough to submit to Rob. I don't mind sharing it here:

Halfway House
Blinking neon flashes a desperate slideshow across cracked plaster; wet heat spills from a hissing radiator.
The squelch, the flickered light, is a dagger that slips slowly into my brainpan, slowly killing me.
Nights are the worst, you know, for the formally institutionalized – those guests of the national court system.
It’s not like I can’t get up, walk a half-block, sit in the smoky stir of a broke-down bar and sip slowly on a brew and relax.
If this were a movie, that scene would be called a “flashback.”
Dude should have minded his own fucking business – DA said I was lucky, aggravated manslaughter is only a five-year hitch, two years probation.

It's in the cards, apparently

My friend Q is convinced that Sioux Falls isn’t my final stop on a mangled journey that pretty much started when my mother died three years ago.

“I will stick by my reading, was about you changing, moving to a different place in life in many ways.”

My question was, “Where am I going in my career?” Here’s what she sent:

Okay; three cards, basis/near future/outcome:

first card was a major one...woot! hanged man, whom I like.... he's not hanging, I look at the old way, and see him tethered. he's prudence, which shows in the basis of your question. you've got a set job, steady, gaining a name for yourself, why fuck with a good thing, right? there is wisdom and sacrifice in the card, and it's saying, "um, excuse me? dreams leaving in a few...might want to remember decisions and consequences!" it's about a way of thinking values, values, your life.... its a fear of being arrested for cruelty to animals..aka, beating a dead horse in the job area. even in love life, things are not what you want, so, you back off knowing there is more, but, not sure where. even work seems of little value.


do not fear, grasshopper!! another major card is here, the high priestess is in the near future position... another major card, I can hardly breathe for the excitement... she's light and goodness and about waiting and learning, but, also about putting aside emotional attachments for a bit... you need to focus on a dream. it's time to make a decision (school) and focus on goals (school) that is where it all points (school)


your last card, the outcome is


wait, I passed out I was so happy. death. DEATH!!! change, sweetpea, change. three BIGass major cards. death is ending and beginning in careers, life, partnership is looming...whhhoooohoooooo!!!! new conditions, new lifestyle (school), new everything... new plans (school), new way of life in every way. within 3-6 days or weeks or months, all is over as is, and begins anew, like the phoenix, only without the fire and smell of burning flesh.

We'll see.