Ironing board chess games

In a spurt of domesticity, I spent much of Tuesday night ironing.
Jebus, but do I have too many things that need ironing.
But it does feel good to have a practically new wardrobe that some people might never have seen.
I think I killed my iron.
In the end, it was beeping and put some pretty good burn marks in the ironing board cover.
Surprisingly, you can think and iron at the same time (some would call this the Jedi Mind Fuck). I kept thinking up quotes that would be pertinent to my life at present. Something to seize the moment, inspire.
Then I decided that a quote wasn’t going to solve things. Nor would a mission statement, manifesto or motto.
I need to do for myself.
Appointments have been scheduled, confidants have been pestered, research completed.
Forward motion.
But if you’d like a quote, there’s this one, from Jerry Maguire:

“You are hanging on by a very thin thread and I dig that about you!”

This felt forced, don't you think?

It's a Fiction in 58, since I got a lot of stuff brewing. Uhg.

Office Politics

It’s that sense of destruction he wants to feel, especially at work. Yeah, he’s bored and decides to experiment - see if you really can pass out from too much caffeine and sugar.
Kisses from accounting; coffee from production, a mini-mart trip for energy drinks.
He sits in his cubicle, sweaty, shaking. He still can’t get the feeling.

Don't bare your soul to strangers

A little piece of fiction for your Monday.

Street Therapy

“When I see someone in a neck brace, I want to scream, ‘Hey you!’ so they turn their head and I get to see the pain in their eyes.”
“When I was little, I set fire to the neighbor’s puppy. I can’t look at dogs at all now.”
“When I talk to my mom, I’m OK, but if I text her, I get a raging erection. That’s not one of those Oedipus things, do you think?”
“If you don’t stop, I’m calling a cop,” the woman on the bus-stop bench hisses. “Leave me alone, you freak.”
I get up and walk away satisfied and alive; I can usually get people to listen to my shit for a good five minutes before invading their comfortable sensibilities and leave swiftly before entanglements with the authorities arise.
And it beats the $250 an hour my therapist charges uptown.

Sunday Scribblings: Future Earth

Per Meg and Lani at Sunday Scribblings:

"The future of the planet. Is there hope, do you think? Or not so much? Maybe you're impatiently awaiting the Rapture; maybe you think we've already doomed the Earth and the human race to a wasting death; maybe you think everything will be just fine. What is the future of the planet?"

The Future has been Desiccated

He watched the couple’s slow progression through the sand and scrub; no use scoping the yardage – the pair was well within the kill distance of his M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle.
The question prattling around in his head was if this pair was worth two rounds of an ever-shrinking supply of Browning BMG rounds.
He sucked on his saliva rock, a pebble the size of a dime, first worn round by the forces of water and time, now worn down by the forces of human spittle.
He still had most of his a.m. ration, the remnants of a tepid quart held in the plastic vessel of what he remembered as a popular sports drink of the time. Orange-capped, he fingered the bottle, heard the splash and turned back to the pair coming through the barren wasteland that once was downtown Omaha’s Heartland of America Park.
He scoped them just in case - and decided definitely that they were not worthy of the ammunition.
They wouldn’t make it anywhere near the oasis he was sentried to protect. The last known opening of the Ogallala Aquifer.
The last known water between himself and the hyper-salinated Pacific. Not in this heat, no sir, which was nothing for a February day. He checked the thermometer pinned to his grubby T-shirt where his name, rank and water allocation number was stenciled. An even 120 degrees in the shade of the sentry post.
They’d be dead by nightfall.
He watched as they fell to their knees and wept.
Surrounded by the hubris of shopping carts, broken concrete, bleached skeletons of streamside cottonwoods and charred metal heaped in what used to be the longest river in America.
The wind had taken care of the last clues that water had flowed between its banks.
That there ever had been a Missouri River.
He took a slight sip of water to wet his mouth, covered the scope and put the couple out of his mind.

Even more Fiction in 58

Sorry I’m late. I was out covering my very favorite mountain bike race, the 10th time I’ve done so. Another bittersweet moment in a series of moments as forces seem to propel me toward new opportunities in the Midwest.
Anyway, let’s keep this string of Fiction in 58 going, shall we? Something sweet to contradict the bitterness of certain situations seemingly out of my immediate control.

Heart/Heat
She stirs, stretches and rubs his course chest hair with her palms.
“I’ve got to go,” she whispers.
He sighs in protest, but she’s already slipped from beneath the covers. He walks her to the door. There, they embrace.
The bed is cool upon his return. Slipping between the sheets, he smiles.
There is heat in his heart.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

Life necessitates that I keep this week’s 3WW short (and hopefully, sweet or bitersweet). Just 58 words. And the three Bone staked me are: picture, reflected and stop.

Images

His stride is a glide and he walks covered in the darkness of the city after the rains washed the sins of humanity down drains. Oil-slicked puddles offer strobe light pictures and he is reflected in each as he passes. He strides to a particularly large puddle and dares a look.
“Stop.”
But the visage remains tortured, anguished.

A dose of Fiction in 58

First off, I’ve got another six up at Six Sentences, so go check it out, and a host of other great writers who say things really quickly.

And in that vein, here’s a little Fiction in 58:

Contradictions

He was wound way too tight; everyone said it – only after he passed their cubicles with that jaw of his permanently clenched.
She never spoke first; she actually avoided conversation whenever possible.
Yet there they were, middle of the breakroom, heads nearly touching, frantic whispers over vending machine coffees and a large bag of yogurt-covered raisins.

The Adventures of Red Six

Daydreams are wonderful things.

Little Dreamer

Stuck as he was in the left-hand turn lane, late for dinner and simmering in traffic made worse when the cross arms at the railroad crossing came down and he saw that the train was a five-engine load and was doing 20 mph tops; he eased the gear shift to park and relaxed his grip of the faux-leather steering wheel to wait it out.
Overweight but not obese, he was either a candidate for entry into the Hair Club for Men, an unfortunate comb-over waiting to happen or just a clipper cut away from hip baldness; weak ankles and an even weaker chin; thick-framed glasses, thicker lenses that went dark with the sun. Skin puckered and cool like plastic-wrapped chicken, only his was the color of Wonderbread; eyes the color of muddy, turgid water, like the Colorado, or the Amazon in springtime.
Tufts of stiff hair grew from his knuckles south, five Fuller brushes if you counted the thumb, which he sometimes grew conspicuous of and at his desk at work took blue-handled scissors and knocked it down to chaff.
He sat trapped in his dirty-seawater-green minivan and stared at the hairy tufts on his fingers until they went all out-of-focus.
And the soft rock favorites for home or at the office on the car stereo faded to the sounds in his head, a pitched battle between futuristic aircraft above a desolate planet.
“Red Six, take us in, everyone form up on Six!”
“Roger that team leader, we’re going in” he says well above a whisper.
The blare of a horn from behind released him from this particular steep dive.

I've heard this knocking before

With a telephone call, I have set into motion an opportunity that has the ability to take me several places: out of the area, out of my comfort level, out of my doldrums.
The opportunity does come with a price, and that would be leaving what I have come to know for the past 11 years; friendships, a sense of community and a pride in one’s work that makes a difference.
And that continues to be bittersweet.
Because I believe I have found my voice in Northern California and would love nothing more than to explore it further. Alas, that might not get to happen. Nothing lasts forever I guess, but sometimes the known – the favorite flannel shirt – gets so comfortable that one tends to forget that opportunity is growth and an advanced degree in life.
I still have those feelings. Like the petulant child; “I was here first and why can’t everyone just clear out of my goddamn way and let me do my thing?”
And I have to remember that I’m not dealing with people who care for things in the same way that I care for things; that their sense in “right” and “wrong” and “what to do” does not mesh with my own thoughts and feelings on the matter and that neither side is right or is wrong.
It just is; a situation – a stalemate – where personal and professional happiness does not walk arm-in-arm like new lovers.
The desire to be wanted – courted – in the professional arena is rather heady. And I look forward to exploring this opportunity – and a couple of others – to do what is right for me as a professional, but as a person.
I will let my heart and my gut lead the way. I will seek out guidance from those I trust.
But I still can’t help to look back and wonder:
About one company that doesn’t fully realize what they will lose when I walk out the door for the very last time.
And about the one company that knows exactly what they would get the instant I walked through their doors – but can’t quite make that same leap of faith I am prepared to make.
And so forward motion takes me elsewhere.
And it is scary.
And it feels good.

The minds of men and of women

As a man, I am still not impervious to making bone-headed comments to women; a form of argument, one would suppose, but more than likely a pathetic excuse or explanation to try and stave off trouble for doing something truly stupid.
The male of the species just can’t help it. We’re accused, and our brain synapses turn into thick molasses and we’re reduced to blithering idiots who will reach for excuses like low-hanging fruit and when called on it are left with clever retorts like, “Oh, yeah?” and Yeah, well…”
I worked an aid station during a 50-kilometer race Saturday. That’s a race of 31 miles for our non-metric friends. I was at the only station that runners came through twice, once at about 14 miles and again at 21 miles.
A kid drove into the dusty parking area on a motocross bike; the woman runner followed about five minutes later.
“Matt, do you have my backpack?”
“Dad locked the car.”
“OH, YOUR DAD.”
My station was fully stocked with snacks, essentials and fluids; salted peanuts, trail mix, almond bars, three kinds of cookies, Starburst jelly beans, Hershey’s candy-covered kisses, water, electrolyte-replacement drink, electrolyte pills, boiled, salted potatoes, energy gel packets (in a flavor my buddies call “Dutch hooker”), bananas, Kleenex, paper towels, four kinds of soda, Pringles and cheddar-filled pretzels.
“I’ve probably got what you need.”
She looked at me and huffed.
“You have a tampon?”
I confessed that I did not.
“OH, MATT, YOUR DAD.”
I have never experienced a menstrual “incident;” I do however, have many, many close, personal woman friends (and three sisters). I have gleaned enough knowledge to know that running 31 miles in a such a womanly condition would be bad.
(And by bad I mean ick.)
She drank another cup of water, had a fistful of chips and started up the trail.
“Matt, you’re sure you checked all the doors?”
“Locked.”
“OH, YOUR DAD.”
Matt got himself a cup of water.
“I think your dad is in trouble.”
Matt blew a long breath over his teeth and slowly shook his head in the affirmative.
I thought that maybe once the last runner had past my station that I could make it to the finish and casually overhear the inevitable argument that was to ensue.
Just to see the guy try and explain why he locked the car in the middle of an U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area that was populated only with about 50 ultramarathoners. On foot.
“Oh yeah,” he’d say. “Yeah, well...”

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The words over at 3WW are touching, visible and stage.

Bionic Woman

She’d picked up the little metal lunchbox in a second-hand thrift off the strip, five bucks because the box was missing the decorated plastic Thermos. It was a Bionic Woman lunchbox and showed Jamie Sommers jumping from a speeding car and Oscar Goldman tied up and two crooks hiding behind some rocks. The show had aired before she was born, but her mother was fond of it and she thought the heavy metal clasp and the overall solid metal construction would serve her well.
She danced six on, two off at a dimly lit strip club where the manager (for once) wasn’t always taking free feels of any girl that had merited his attentions. Jarek was from the Ukraine, shaved head, black suits, dark glasses; supposedly he as connected to the Ukrainian mob, but she wasn’t stupid and this place certainly wasn’t the Spearmint Rhino was it?
The stage was built like the barbs or a trident, one long main boardwalk ending in a round dance floor and requisite brass pole; two smaller boardwalks took off left and right, where girls who were just off the main stage had to dance for four more songs.
Two songs a turn, six in all, and she’d be done on stage for a couple of hours. Work the VIP area, maybe find the naughty businessman loose off the strip with no conscious for the little woman and his adorable kids back home, where on a vinyl sofa he’d be embolden enough with his tie loosened and the watered-down Scotch and start touching her ass inappropriately for a $20.
She was petite, skin like fat-free milk, translucent. Shoulder-length hair that was once the color of bran flakes, but she’d dyed it a rusty red, along with her eyebrows. Certainly, she was not endowed, a solid B-cup, but she liked to work the crowds that way.
The Bionic Woman lunchbox was all part of an overall image she worked to her advantage.
Red hair braided into pigtails, white cotton blouse tied at the waist, green plaid schoolgirl skirt with pleats, white socks to her knees. She never saw the need to wear a bra – too hard to get out of and some perv was always walking away with it even if she dropped it at her feet on stage. She used a dark rouge on her nipples, which made them conspicuously visible under the white blouse and the glowing stage lights.
She wore white cotton bikini undies, which she bought five to a pack at the Wal-Mart. Oh, she’d tried the thongs, the G-strings and the sequins, but once she hit upon the schoolgirl thing, all she had to do was walk once down the boardwalk, twirl so the skirt rose and the lights made the panties glow and she’d stop, raise the front of her skirt with her pinky and stick the fingers of her other hand under the elastic waistband – shockingly brazen – and the singles went back in pockets and the guys were reaching for fives. Just for the chance to raise that elastic themselves.
The lunchbox was another prop, a handy one, as it contained her lip gloss, a bottle of knock-off perfume (that knocked down the smell of sweat, cigar smoke, bad aftershave, spilt beer) and her tips. She’d bought a pink Hello Kitty pencil case at the Wal-Mart, and she’d sit on stage, naked except for the white stockings and the ridiculous black stripper heels with her back to the brass pole, legs drawn up Indian-style and counted out the tips while the guys around the stage shook their heads and slapped buddies on their backs. She’d be slow, methodical, meticulous; she’d put the cash into the vinyl case, drop it into her Bionic Woman lunchbox, close the clasp, close her eyes and throw her legs forward, slide down the pole and spread eagle, slowly raising the lunchbox for one last leering view of her.
She’d managed, in six months, to avoid the booze, the drugs the offers – the sweaty $20s if “You’d just be good enough to come back to my rental and take care of me, you’re so hot” – and was nearly ready for her escape.
Because duct-taped to the lid of the Bionic Woman lunchbox was a manila envelope with her bus ticket back to Salina; back to the little home his parents left him when they died; back before his deployment was up in Afghanistan; back with the entire stake they’d need to buy the diner.
The lunchbox would totally fit the retro d├ęcor they’d planned and plotted in long letters from their various fronts.

Quick fiction for weary souls

A sweeter Fiction in 58:

Spooning

The pressure, her weight, is perfect in balance; she fits across the rise of his ribcage, across his hip, her bare feet cupping his bare feet.
Crickets chirp in the darkness; her head rests in the crook of his neck and he smells her sun-drenched hair, inhales in the warm breath she exhales.
“Are you OK?”
“Never better.”

The Church of Logical Thought

Every once and again, I go pray at the Church of Logical Thought.
Just so I can fuck myself up even more than normal (and/or humanly possible).
I know, I know, I am a silly boy.
What does logical thought have to do with anything along the lines of the detritus of your life at present?
Scholars will be discussing that for years to come.
Anyway, my life hangs in a very serious ying/yang sort of way; balanced, I suppose, so my head doesn’t explode with pure joy.
There is very much good in my life (wink).
There is very much bad in my life.
Stepping out from below the clouds of despair is sometimes problematic.
I blame logical thought.
I mean, what would you do if you were posed this question: “What would make you happy; what would make this all fun again?”
I answered. Logically (I thought); I proposed a logical plan as to make everyone all smiley and joyous.
“That’s not going to happen,” was the response.
“Then why did you ask?” I said, defiant.
They looked at me, incredulous.
And I’m the one with the attitude problem.

Does this ever happen to you?

A Fiction in 58:

Questions & Answers
The votive was lemongrass-scented and was nestled in a chipped China teacup; the flame etched shadows into the textured ceiling.
A shifting gloom he stared at through tear-welled eyes. His hands were pressed tight, palms together, thumbs piercing his chest. He said silent prayers; sought answers to questions he found critical.
And feared the silence in his heart.

Overheard in frozen foods

OK, this is kind of a rip-off of a Pink Hollyhock post, but I did overhear this last week at the grocery and was going to use it somehow.

White-trash male (holding frozen dinner): "The fuck Smokey Robinson know about red beans and rice?"

White-trash woman: "Smokey Robinson makes TV dinners?"

White-trash male: "That's what I'm saying!"

Overheard Everywhere

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are funny, remember and theatre. Bone's dad got to come home from the hospital on Sunday, and for that, I am glad. Not probably my best, but it's a start:

D.I.Y. Ethics
They sat in the darkened theatre, near stage right, she sitting Indian-style and slowly rocked as she talked; he lay on his left hip, chin propped up with his left hand that was beginning to turn tingly and numb.
Her simple black dress was set off with a single princess-cut sapphire in a gold setting that rode in the swell of her breasts; sitting Indian-style gave him a great deal of leg to watch, but his eyes went no further than the elastic lace of her black thigh-high stockings. The black pumps, well, she’d simply kicked them off.
He was in his tropical wool Dunhill tuxedo, black shirt, gray silk tie that shined silver; the full Windsor knot loose at his throat. His patent-leather Johnson & Murphy shoes were piled on top of hers.
The evening was a benefit performance. The kind of production where people plunk down cash for something shocking and avant-garde. Tonight, it was an instrumental evening of music by The Clash, performed by with a full orchestra backing the electric guitars, bass and drum kit.
“Do you remember the night we met?” she asks, twirling a spare lock of hair that’s fallen from the elaborate French twist that held her blond hair, the color of fresh straw, in check.
“Funny, I was just going to ask you the same question,” he says, raking his dark curls that were beginning to turn silver at the temples. “I do remember holding your hair out of your face while you barfed against that dumpster.”
“Such a gentleman,” she says, laughing. “I kept telling you I was quite fine.”
“I missed Televison’s entire first set because of you.”
“And I think I made that up to you in the cab ride home.”
Both had come with dates who tried not to look overly bored. They’d passed one another in the lobby at intermission, and with a touch, fled to the balcony to wait everyone out.

A Fiction in 58 for you fine folks

Missing Raymond
Brandy-for-breakfast seemed like a good idea when sleep would not come. A little nightcap, she’d suppose, would club her body into submission.
Half a bottle gone, she was awake and piss-drunk. She sat in the dew-covered Adirondack, wrapped in the down comforter she drug off the bed.
The flannel shirt was his, from a time before the cancer.

Trying order amid chaos

For a time now, I’ve gotten up without an alarm, ate when I was hungry, exercised when I felt like it and went to bed when I was tired.
It’s been interesting.
But maybe not what I need.
So I decided to try a more rigid schedule for my life. Nothing weird and totally OCD, but something intended to add a bit more structure into my life.
Today was the starting point.
I can’t say that it’s gone according to plan.
Woke up with the alarm, early, with a sore throat and a splitting headache. I hope it’s a reaction from all the yellowish-green pollen that coats everything (took a 6-mile hike on Sunday and everything is in bloom).
I popped a couple of Sudafed, laid back down and realized that I promised a couple of work contacts that I would stop by and talk. They’re in the office early, so I’ve been running around trying to get the house in order to leave. I’m now running late – and I still need to get the bike on the rack, so I can ride after work (another promise I intend to keep).
Maybe this free-form thing is more me?

Sunday Scribblings: Photograph

Wild At Heart
There’s a photograph of my father in his bedroom junk drawer. Black-and-white, faded, the glossy paper is cracked; it shows him near a stick hut, surrounded by natives. His pale skin is a direct opposite of the men who surround him. They are all naked – including my stick-thin father - except for the koteka, a penis sheath made out of gourd. The men around him all smile, but their arms are crossed, stern. My father’s face is different.
He wears the look of a man who has found serenity, true peace.

I walked a mile in her shoes

There you go. Proof-positive visual evidence that I wore high heels for charity.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was a fundraiser for the Shasta Women's Refuge. Many men within the community - high-profile names and just regular Joes - came together in someone's Sunday finest and wobbled 5,280 feet to make a statement.
And make some cash for the refuge.
Come on, you say it.
I've got great legs.

Thursday's 3 Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at 3WW are parallel, mysterious and bounce. Bone’s dad had some heart surgery, so we wish he and his dad well.
It’s been an interesting time around The Tension. This piece in no way speaks to anything in my own life, it is fiction, but certain stress and pressures have made the words hard to come by recently. And I hate that.

Eunuch

Life doesn’t bounce, it rolls.
He’s written this, in ink, down the left side of a legal pad – going on for several pages - during a meeting he wasn’t invited to, but stumbled upon anyway. And then felt too insecure to get up and leave.
No bounce, roll.
He’s tried to roll with things, but he’s having trouble seeing the Big Picture. That’s what his supervisor says, anyway.
“You’re unfocused.”
“Right.”
“Let’s see if we can’t get on the ball, here. What we do here isn’t all that mysterious. It’s numbers, period.”
“Right, you’re right. Thanks for the pep talk, just what I needed.”
All the while, he’s clenched his hands tight enough to open sliver-moon incisions into his palms.
During his 45-minute lunch – he’s paranoid enough to set his Tag Heuer Mictotimer watch so he’s not late – he walks the broken sidewalks with a bag of street vendor popcorn he won’t eat. He braves a few thoughts of a life without so much bauble, clutter, complications.
And that’s when he notices the guy across the street.
They walk in parallel strides, same speed, cadence of steps.
Where he’s dressed in a Vanetti four-button suit in sandstone completed with Kenneth Cole slip-ons, the guy across the street is in jeans and a Ramones T-shirt and red Converse Chuck Taylor hightops. His hair is longish and unkempt, and tumbles across his face from time to time to be brushed aside. A soft-side guitar case is slung across his back. He smiles, talks to everyone he comes across.
Our man in Vanetti has not a hair out of place; thick pomade secures every lock of hair to his head like a helmet. He makes it a practice to look at what he’s carrying, so as to avoid eye contact and thus any casual conversations.
Same speed, same cadence, they walk down opposite sides of the street.
Opposite sides of life.
They make eye contact. For a half-block, they eye one another, one suspicious, the other happily curious.
Near the graffiti-tagged bus stop, our man in Vanetti raises a manicured right hand, palm up, in salute. The other laughs, turns and jaywalks through midtown traffic to meet.
Our man in Vanetti is at once terrified - and terrifically excited.

Everything is not always as it seems

Have a Nice Day!
Every day at 7 a.m., he’s dropped at the corner West Madison and Whacker Drive, propped up on the reddish stone of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange building.
Twisted fingers brush past the stubbled face, his body locked in the embrace of cerebral palsy. A tin cup rests on the pad they’ve given him.
“Have a nice day!” he says to the comers and goers of The Merc, the tourists drawn to the chaos of pork belly futures traded in the pit.
Pity helps fill the cup, which is mysteriously emptied throughout the day. He’s picked up and gone by 6 p.m.
I’ve watched for a week now.
“Have a nice day!” and people have to step over withered legs turn away from the constant ropy saliva that hangs from his chin.
An older Town and Country station wagon pulls up and an older man and woman hurry to the crumpled body. The woman wipes a loving hand over his curly brown hair, puts a red-and-black stocking cap on his hear.
I confront them.
“How could you?” I scream. “He’s just a kid.”
“He’s 21 and makes more than $200 a day,” the woman says, wiping spit from her boy’s face. “He’s all there, knows everything there is to know about math and such. Knows everything about The Merc, wants to be a trader, but he’s locked away in that body…
“He’s saving for a wheelchair that will give him his freedom, let him speak by computer.”
The power chair he’s got his eye on is $28,000.
“He’s got maybe a month of this left,” she says. “He insists on paying his own way and everything he’s got is tied up in a money market account, earning interest daily.”
“Have a nice day!” and he smiles.
I dig into my charcoal wool slacks, fish out my money clip. There’s $328. I fold the bills, slip them into his shirt pocket, turn and walk up Whacker.
I’m having a fabulous day, thank you.

Hey, some poetry came burbling out

Unbroken plains
He stands in barren fields,
waits for life to bloom.
Fallow fields checkered with chaff,
unbroken earth, unspoken fertility.

Sow, she said, cast your seed,
let it catch on the wind, spread.
What gains purchase will astound,
a carpet of opportunity, renewed hope.

Trepidation fills his heart, his soul,
casting seed difficult to comprehend.
He heeds her words, throws off doubt,
Plants the first kernels of a new tomorrow.