Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are apology, consider and distant. It’s the 75th prompt for 3WW’s creator, Bone, and I just want to thank him for helping people across the world create, rather than destroy.

Ménage à trios, unintentional

As a form of apology, she nailed a huge cardboard sign of love and affection on what was left of that big valley oak stump on Route 97, where the highway skirts the city to the south and it drops to two lanes between a subdivision and a cattle ranch.
It was that oak that went down in last year’s winter storms, the one that blocked traffic for two hours until the county crews hacked it up the best they could and brought out a Cat D8 bulldozer to push the carcass onto the shoulder and firewood vultures hacked on it for weeks until the county brought out the jail inmates on work detail to haul off the rest.
Anyway, the cardboard sign was painted with red spray paint, so he would see it on his way home to her doublewide near that seedy nine-hole public golf course, the one filled with elderly golfers and tattooed kids hacking at brownish grass and drinking beer.
Problem was, she miscalculated like most everyone does when writing with spray can, and the sign came out pretty wonky. Why she didn’t start over, I don’t know; maybe she couldn’t find anymore clean cardboard.
“I Love Jake Wilson” was what it was supposed to say, but she ran out of room on Wilson and she began to scrunch letters together and then started to curve the whole word up the right corner of the sign and it ended up looking like someone’s small intestine. Especially in red paint.
I asked her why she didn’t consider taking the sign down and start fresh, but by this time she was pretty pissed at Jake and had lost that loving feeling during the sign’s creation that had been replaced by a ton of resentment.
She huddled on the barstool and played with her plastic lighter – it was pink – and clicked her nails on the bar’s varnished surface until I asked her to stop. Then she started to drum those nails – when you’re a nail tech, you make sure that you’ve got the classiest claws in the shop – on her beer glass.
Jake’s my best friend, but he can be an ass. Most of the time he’s distant. Most of the time he’s dark and brooding. He gets away with it solely on looks; blue eyes the color of glacier ice, thick curly dark hair that spills down his neck, the nose that was broken as a kid and now gave him an air of cautious mystery, full lips that he was always coating with a layer of Chapstick.
I was the sidekick, Jake’s wingman; the plain one that most girls forgot about the minute we’d walk away, looking for a dance and maybe the chance to buy them a drink and take them home later, or at least get a number on a soggy bar napkin.
And I slept with her, Jake’s main squeeze Dawn, the nail tech. The maker of signs.
“You could always try again,” I said.
“Another sign? No way.
“And you breathe a word of this and I’ll tell Jake and he’ll kill you.”
I drained my beer, dropped a $10 on the bar and leaned into her ear:
“Tell you what, I’ll be around, the next time you feel another apology coming on.”

Fiction in 58 (Nighttime Jitters)

Don't read anything into this. Just a scrap of an idea that was scribbled into the notebook. First go-round, it was 89 words. The economy of editing was troublesome.

Nighttime Jitters
The cigar ember lights a half-circle of darkness; he exhales smoke like truck exhaust through clenched teeth.
The dining room table is oak, ancient. He leans; the chair groans in response.
He fingers the glass, jingles the ice, pulls on the cigar.
On the table is a bottle of Scotch.
It’s either half-full or half-empty, depending on perspective.

A question of faith

Faith in Gulps
After services, Father clasps a hand on my shoulder as he grabs my outstretched hand and pumps it vigorously.
“How is everything with you?”
On the verge of tears, I treat the question as an invitation to begin an open-air confessional in the midst of parishioners streaming through the exits.
“I’ve done a lot of praying, I’ll tell you that,” I say as an end.
“Know that God hears all, but you can’t pray for a thing, or an outcome, you must pray that your heart is open for direction.”
“That’s exactly what my prayers have been, Father. My heart is open – Lord knows I need the direction – and they’ve so far gone unanswered. I’m really confused.”
“Ahh, well, God be with you,” and uses the hand on my shoulder to nudge me toward the doors, the other to pat me gently on the back.
Dizzy confusion swells around me, my skin grows clammy and my mouth fills with saliva, like I’m about to be sick.
The outside air is damp and cool and I gulp it in fervently and things come back to relative normalcy.
Still lost, yes, but still breathing.

In the dream, this was much richer

OK, not my best. Started as a dream, but kind of got away from me.

Dad’s Still Driving

My father has an ancient four-door Ford LTD the color of baby poop – as if that baby has had nothing to eat but bananas. We still refer to is as the "Poopmobile," but never to his face.
Since I’m the last sibling to live at home, if falls to me to accompany my father on his many and varied errands, my mother having refused these rides now for a respectable six years (she insists on driving to church on Sundays in her patriot-blue Chrysler PT Cruiser that she bought with her own Social Security checks).
Driving makes my father happy.
It makes the rest of us, well, nervous.
Dad turns into our circular driveway and instead of braking, be guns the big V8, catches the wet grass and goes into a spin.
I feel like one of those crash-test dummies, the ones you see in films during drivers’ education to let you experience a crash in real time. Bits of detritus from inside the car gain weightlessness and begin to float. I’m struck by one of dad’s crappy Antonio y Cleopatra cigars that has sprung itself from the box he keeps in the backseat.
My stomach is in my throat as I watch dad wrestle with the wheel of the big Ford.
Dad lays off the gas and the rear wheels find purchase and we end up half-in/half out of hydrangea bushes. Mother’s ceramic Saint Francis of Assisi statute has been spun in the crash – unbroken - and it looks now if he’s giving a very private and personal blessing to mom’s Viking Queen heirloom roses.
Dad unclasps his seat belt, flicks me on the shoulder with his extended right arm and laughs.
“Bring in the groceries, will ya?”
And bounds up the porch steps, yelling for my mom.
“Honey, the damn dog got loose again,” he says, tossing his keys into the drawer in the divider. “I just missed him this time.”
We don’t own a dog.

Sunday Scribblings: Passion

The Touch of Oneness
He approaches from behind as the candle-shadows paint her features soft and orange;
pale skin, naked and freckled, she shivers as his hip aligns with her own.

Rough hands settle on her waist, wander over the rise of her pelvis and settle across her navel;
he leans in close to her ear, sighs, blows hot breath and her skin goes prickly with flush gooseflesh.

Fingers kneed her narrow ribcage and hands gently cup her breasts in tandem, his lips caress the nape of her neck;
breath, hot, steamy, as the lovers swoon and begin to grind in a dance themed with the song of passion.

Both excited they shudder, she turns into him and her dainty hands claw rough across his chest, fingers encircle his nipples and he groans;
lips find a mate in the other, legs intertwine, hands left to caress warm skin gone musky with desire.

The moment arrives, two becomes one;
sounds of desire rise staccato, erotic.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are punch, T-shirt and unravel.

Barfly

Punchy, punch-drunk, punched out.
He sits at the end of the wooden bar, in the darkest corner of the dive and well past the tarnished brass bars where a lone waitress orders drinks for the few tables scattered around a forlorn two-quarter-a-game pool table.
He sits in a haze of tobacco smoke like a mirage, his hair gone the sickly silver color of a oil slick on a black asphalt puddle. A few days stubble cover his cheeks, loose skin hangs with the weight of gravity, the weight of the world.
His overall features are hard to discern in the harsh upward light from the back-bar, the lights that advertise dusty bottles of Hot Shot Schnapps and other sweet and fancy liqueurs that no one here ever orders.
He lifts his head and in that instant his face takes on a demonic glow, light and shadow, like a child who holds a flashlight under his chin at midnight in a musty canvas pup tent in the backyard while telling chilling tales of hooks and campers and blood.
Smoke from the hand-rolled cigarette leaks from the corners of his mouth; the upturned face is a signal to the bartender that this soldier had died, and what the hell, there’s a $20 on the bar and let’s have a ‘nother longneck compliments of the suited benefactor at the café who paid cash for his Denver omelet and coffee – and made the mistake of going to the bathroom before the waitress picked up on it.
Hey, you snooze, you lose and it was already 7 a.m. and the shakes were getting bad, man. Seventy-five cents for the coffee, a $20 in the pocket – and the safety of this dimly-lit corner with his Drum, his papers and a fresh beer on a new, bright-white square of napkin.
His dirty Pogues concert T-shirt showed the remnants of his last café meal, a bowl of oatmeal loaded with sugar and doused with cream from the little silver service pitchers on every table within reach, along with the all-you-can eat soda crackers (as long as the waitresses weren’t looking) from the little wicker baskets on each table. His jeans held clues to the last real job he’s had, a day labor gig in the suburbs installing links of white PVC pipe into a lattice of sprinkler coordinates across a sun-drenched expanse filtered through mature palm trees.
Absent-minded fingers roll up another butt, a tongue lubricated with suds flickers from patched lips and seals the deal. A flick of a Bic and we’re in business. A smoke and a beer and no one to bother you deep in the warm corduroy of shadows.
The last swallow of this current beer rolls down his throat, his Adam’s apple toggles against the dirty-snow-white skin of his neck an in an instant he realizes how far his life has unraveled. A moment of clarity drunks call it, where you get see clearly that all the seams are busted and you’re the Scarecrow and you’re heart’s just not into finding the Emerald Palace anymore because the darkness of the corner seat in a dive bar with money, smokes and suds seems just about heaven.
But in this instant, it isn’t heaven, but a rotating reality of the shakes, the sour aftertaste of vomit and dirty gray-and-blue striped mattresses without box springs or sheets and cockroaches and the funk of too many days without bathing proper and yellowed nicotine stains on fingers.
“It’s time to clean up, my friend,” he whispers as the smoke leaks from his lips, which the bartender notices and puts another cool, brown sweaty soldier on a new square of napkin and walks away.
“Right after this one.”

Suburban landscapes

Suburban Safari
Bare-chested against the sting of a winter rain, he crept, scissor-stepping his way down the driveway.
Fancy black leather slippers, filled with the finest 100 percent Australian sheepskin, covered his feet. The silk pajama bottoms, well, they were a Valentine’s Day gift after the baby was born in an effort to encourage him to stop running around the house naked.
In his hands was his Daisy Model 96 air rifle, with its Monte Carlo-styled real wood stock and its 700-shot capacity reservoir filled will real Daisy BBs.
He raised the gun to his cheek, checked the safety, and shot the Detwiller’s big mixed-breed mutt, Marley, squarely in the ass. Just as the dog squatted to befoul the lawn with his morning constitution.
The dog yelped and ran headlong into the periwinkle.
“Get in this house right now,” his wife hissed, hidden behind the screen door.
He strutted up the walk, slung the gun over his shoulder, opened the door, kissed his wife, took her coffee and gave her a playful pat on the hip.
“You have to admit, that was one helluva shot.”

A short piece about being ill

Under the Weather
When you’re out-of-your-head sick, darkened thoughts crash like waves on a breakwater barrier.
Between wet coughs and nasal blows that seem never to clear one nostril, you think to call your therapist, because you’re sure you’ve lost your grip on reality.
The chills come and you huddle like a fetus under rumpled blankets and drift away – finally - only to wake parched and sweaty, hair matted and damp and the depression makes you bite your lip so hard it bleeds.
Your back propped up on pillows so you can breathe, you wait for the next dose of over-the-counter medication to lead you back into a stupor and begin to believe every dark thought that floats through your head.
The little digital thermometer beeps and its over, thank God because you were starting to think you might heave again and the action – along with a 101-degree temperature – curl your hands into fists and grit your teeth so tight it changes the taste of your saliva.
You’re losing it, that last little grip and the doorbell rings and it’s the neighbor and she’s brought homemade chicken noodle soup and a cool 7Up and her son smiles at you from behind her aproned hip and tells you to feel better and the sigh that you breathe ushers away all that tension.

A short piece about sleep

Freelance
My mind works nights, freelancing for others.
Not every night mind you, just the nights when I don’t need it myself or often it is those nights when sleep will not come. Those insomnia-filled hours when my mind goes blank – not really, though, since it is working somewhere else – and I lay there, numb to the world.
Yeah, I’m OK with the arrangement. What else am I to do? A mind is a terrible thing to waste – ha ha – and, well, my mind has a mind of its own (OK, OK, I’ll stop; either that, or my mind has threatened a migraine).
I have no idea what my mind is up to at night. It doesn’t share, I don’t ask.
Something to do with nightmares, I assume.
Since I can always tell the nights my mind has been freelancing.
Glimmers - bits and pieces really – the horrors of others flicker faint across my waking brain.
And I feel, at long last, fully rested.

I really am too chicken to try this

Given my history with homeopathic/alcoholic medications while ill, I have to say the following intrigues/scares me. I thought it up very late (or very early) Thursday:

The NyQuil Martini
1 adult-recommended dose of Cherry flavored Nyquil
2 parts good vodka
1 jigger of lime juice (fresh-squeezed)
1 jigger of orange juice (fresh-squeezed)
1 sugar cube
Maraschino cherries to garnish
3 orange-flavored vitamin C chewable tablets

Grind vitamin C tablets in a grinder and put on a plate. Rub rim of a chilled Martini glass with lime wedge and coat the rim with vitamin C.
Place ice in a Martini shaker, followed by Nyquil, vodka, juices and sugar cube and shake. Strain into the Martini glass and garnish with the maraschino cherries.

I described the recipe to the Queen, who said it actually sounded good.
“Damn,” she said (wrote).
How many can you have?
Well, one…
Every six hours.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The prompt words over at Three Word Wednesday are girlfriend, imagined and slight.
Yes, my Nyquil-addled brain had a wee bit of trouble with the whole 3WW thing. I did manage to combine it with a Fiction in 58, a story of 58 words.

Peacekeeper
“Love is just a reflection in a mirror.”
His girlfriend liked to say this whenever she felt a slight, imagined or otherwise. It was always accompanied with a flourish of thick, blond hair, as she ran her fingers across her scalp.
He never quite understood what she meant, never asked. He just gave his stock answer:
“More wine?”

The Lost Wednesday Post

Words to Live By
Leviathan was a word he just could not wrap his mind around.
He knew the definition, of course, but not why it had come up in conversation. The doctor had said it double-tapping two fingers around the abdomen and really not talking to him at all.
“The growth is leviathan in nature.”
But were they not just cells?
The very ones in his pancreas that had rebelled, became cancerous.
And would kill him.
Monstrous. Now that’s a word he could get behind.

A cautionary tale

OK, here's what happens when you let all the stress in your life run you down: You get sick.
I've managed to fight off this wicked upper respiratory thing that's been going around. Most everyone I know had it.
Washed my hands, tried to get lots of rest, but it bloomed at about 2 a.m. Monday.
And while I'd love nothing than to recline in bed and write Nyquil-themed short stories and poems, work calls. Too much to do and no one else to do it.

I hope to have something better up later. When I can get back into sweats and bed. Cause last night, under the influence of over-the-counter meds, I dreamt of nunchucks.
Wicked.

Six Sentences

If you haven't, use the handy list 'o links and visit Six Sentences. It's all writers who have answered the challenge of, "What can you say in six sentences?"

Here's my answer:

Two for the Road
My dad takes me to work sometimes. He’s a traveling salesman and often takes the double-lane blacktop back roads since he says they’re more honest.
I’m 9 and every so often he lets me drive the big silver panel truck with its sliding doors, brushed metal floor and gear shift as long as my own leg.
When you’re the driver, you get to control the conversation and the radio.
Dad prefers country and likes to dish about mom, while I like talk radio and politics.
When it’s my turn to drive, dad likes to slide his door open and make airplane wings out of his cupped hand and outstretched arm.

Happy Snow Day

Other than being a fabulous musician, my buddy Mac also is an accomplished photographer, who is never without his camera.
On Sunday, we went up to try and snowshoe to Castle Lake, near Mount Shasta. Unfortunately, you can't always trust the Forest Service's snowplow information. They said the road was paved to one mile of the lake. It was a little more than four. We decided to wander a few ridgelines instead.

Sunday Scribblings: Fridge Space

Sorry for the delay; it was a gorgeous winter day and I took full advantage with a several-mile snowshoe hike. Anyway, here's your Sunday Scribblings:

Fridge Space

In the end, it wasn’t about winners or losers, lines of demarcation or any particular ideology one way or another – the carnage was just too great.
It was complete.
It was the eggs that fell first.
Taken to the back of the fridge, in the space under the Deli drawer, all confined, dark. The cardboard lid opened and each large AA cage-free brown egg was shot in the back of the shell, yoke and frothy whites and bits of shell fragment splattered on the carton’s nutritional information billboard. The carton was moved later to the wide open space on the middle shelf, like a head on a pike – a warning not heeded.
The eggs had pledged an alliance to dairy.
The meat – a cellophane-wrapped package of stew meat, butcher-paper wrapped pork chops, the turkey bacon and a frozen bag of chicken leg quarters (well-thawed) – began hostilities a little past midnight. The meat moved with the brutal efficiency of the German Blitzkrieg. And as was shown with the egg massacre, the meat had scant disregard for the rules of war.
Dairy had sought out alliances with the margarine, a container of orange juice, the fruits (the vegetables tried to remain neutral, but it wasn’t to be), two Tupperware containers of leftovers and a tube of “Big N’ Flaky” biscuits.
Skirmishes mostly, spillage, puddles, rings of bruised flesh into the protective plastic from where things were dropped from a series of aerial sorties. It was all the coalition could do to top meat’s march through the aquamarine-hued safety-glass shelves in the desiccated cool darkness of the Kenmore Pro 26 cubic foot side-by-side refrigerator (with its stainless profile and in-door crushed ice and water dispenser.
The coalition, near dawn on the third day of hostilities, managed to strike a blow to meat through several complex maneuvers and diversions to rip the plastic and paper wrap from the flesh; the dry air acted quick and merciless.
(Historical reference is missing from here.)
What is known is most horrific. Meat, shrunk and in the throws of spoilage – healthy red reduced to green-brown on the beef, slick speckles of white slime on the chicken and pork – unleashed the penicillium (the class of eurotiomycetes; the genus of ascomyceteous) thoughout the Kenmore.
Germ warfare; mold spoors.
Horror.
The penicillium proved most devastating to the coalition; it moved with an unblinking competence through the shelves. And then mutated.
Within hours, most every moist surface of the Kenmore was covered in a plush, cut-pile carpet of furry, green-gray mold.
It fell to the condiments in the door shelves – which maintained the right to sovereignty and neutrality throughout – to tell the story of war, the fight for fridge space.
The condiments: the ketchup, horseradish, capers, Dijon mustard, a large jar of Martini olives, all the salad dressings, both the kosher dill and sweet gherkin pickles, the bottle of Sriracha Thai chili sauce.
The very products protected by impervious screw lids and packed with preservatives; the last survivors in a senseless conflict between foodstuffs.

Get your ass in gear: a poem

Residual Self Image
The boy within the man wants out,
to climb dirt piles, shirtless and barefoot,
run his fingers over muddy creek bed stones,
face the day with fearless abandonment.

The man curls his bare feet under pillows,
immobile and pensive on a well-worn couch,
pondering the foibles, the mistakes of the past,
his face buried into palms, searching for a future.

The boy needs the nourishment of the sun,
heat that makes cheeks flush, muscles pliable, sinewy,
expanse of air and space, the freedom to daydream,
all life’s little nothings, all of its everythings.

The man rises slow, aches and pains a reminder,
that he no longer is the fearless boy of his past.

The boy of memory smiles delicious, devious,
and the man listens to the invite to follow.

Motion is momentum, there is freedom in movement,
and this is what the boy has come to teach the man.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The 3WW prompt words are bridge, disturbed and still; this bloomed from a conversation I had with a artist friend who confessed she sometimes had thoughts of death. I told her it was pretty natural - just don't follow through. Because that's just foolish.

Tortured Artist in Repose
She sat motionless and disgusted, naked prickly-heat thighs stuck to a plastic lawn chair on a bland high-rise balcony that overlooked delivery truck dispatch yard.
At least the concrete cubicle she called an apartment was near the bridge; there were days when a breeze would come up just right and she could (imagine) the smell of something wet and alive.
Was it late or was it early? Certainly not dawn, the night stretched like crushed velvet that had been oiled, all crinkly and slick; the air was still and its hot molecules – even at this hour – clung to her skin like being sprawled across baked bricks.
The urge came over her again, that curl of stomach muscles just before the moment you vomit, and beads of sweat appeared at her temples. She gripped the green plastic chair arms with a ferocity of fingernails bent into talons; an anchor to keep herself planted in the chair.
Another wave, the desire to fling herself from the balcony, sail quietly through the air and reach terminal velocity with the grimy street below.
“You’re disturbed,” she whispered.
But that’s what tortured artists on the verge of fame do, right?

The story emerged from smoky tendrils

I walked the dogs late Monday; the night was cool and I was impressed how the chill kept the drifting woodsmoke at one layer. Interesting where a brisk walk through the neighborhood will lead:

The News

Woodsmoke hangs heavy and drifts silent and wispy across the sepia glow of streetlights. A bitterly cold, clear moonless sky gives the kaleidoscope of stars a clarity of purpose.
Frost covers the ground; a muslin layer of ghostly white.
Footprints, like imprints in tide sand, cross the grass. His feet are bare and are worn raw, red with each step. It is late and nothing in the sub division stirs, not even the damn neighbor’s mix-breed mutt, the one that barks at every little noise.
He circles in place, slow and deliberate and scans the sidewalks, driveways, street.
There is no one to share his news.
He whispers it to the horizon.
A shooting star moves from northeast to southwest.
He hugs his bare torso and twirls in drunken circles.
He laughs, tears run cool down his cheeks.
The stars become oncoming headlights on a rainy night.

Some Monday poetry

Quiet is the night
Chestnut hair flows across the bare skin of his chest,
a warmth of smell, the sensation of tiny tickles,
busy streetlight noises bustle behind closed doors,
where he finds sanctuary as she slumbers, weightless,
across the expanse of his body, intertwined lovers,
her breath a quiet tempo against his neck, pleasant,
his breath yet bears the staccato rhythm of desire.

A question on writing (Fiction in 58, too)

I’m trying to figure out the best time to write – and then do it. Daily.
Used to be, I thought I wrote the best at the first light of day; but I get my inspiration in bed, just drifting off at night.
Let the ideas, the bits and pieces, percolate.
But sometimes I feel bad for not getting up and typing, because some of the ideas get a little foggy.

So, the question is – and I’m serious about some feedback here – when do you write?

Here’s a Fiction in 58 for your trouble:

His Lucky Day

Red leatherette vinyl well-worn with the indentations of sad-sack elbows rims a cigarette-burned bar.
“Shot and a beer, lite.”
“Top shelf?”
“Bar-back – bourbon.”
It’s 9:48 a.m. He thumps a wad of cash on the bar, a $10, three singles and 87 cents change.
In his back pocket, crinkled and forgotten, are tonight’s winning lottery numbers.