Sunday Scribblings: Somewhere

A poem.

Somewhere, Anywhere, Here

A hand unwinds from sleep
fingers waver like the stems of daisies
on wind-swept greens

She shudders against him
the sudden gap cools the skin of her back
leaves prickly gooseflesh

Together, they suck on their teeth
lick lips, prepare for the inevitable first kiss
in post-passion, rumpled sheets

Scattershooting

So what's the difference between a $11 haircut and at $20 haircut?
Peace of mind, my friends, peace of mind.
I finally found my place, after two abysmal haircuts.
The Chop Shoppe caters to men. There's a big screen. There's beer (a whole list to choose from; I had a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy). There's the haircut and the shampoo/conditioner wash with the head massage.
My hair looks great. Finally.

* * * * *
I got three letters this week, thanking me for switching to paperless billing.
Your very welcome, but an email would have been sufficient.

* * * * *
I'm thinking of breaking my lease and moving downtown into a loft.
I like my place, in a general way. I really like the neighborhood and the access to the bike trail.
But having had to park a block away from my place three times this week gets really old. There are seven units and 10 garages. I don't have one. It pisses me off.
(As do my downstairs neighbors, who have three people living in a two bedroom, with a dog. And they argue all the time and slam doors. Frustrating.)
Loft living would put me right on the bike trail. It also would have me like eight blocks from work. I wouldn't have to drive.

* * * * *
A note about work: I still love it.
A professional newsroom, goes a long way to soothe even the most base of frustrations.
It also helps to have editors who know what they are doing - and let you know what's going on.

* * * * *
So I'm pretty much decided that I'm going to try the Cutshall Meal Plan for one month.
Being a blob is not an excuse.

A lesson in innocence

The footfalls, a child's hurried pace, were ignored.
I was on the phone, the evening having reached the magic hour where my minutes were free - and it was late afternoon in Cali. There were conversations that needed updating.
The girls strained at the leads - Trinity in front, turning her head and meandering, Scully in a hurried pace, even for her - and their undulations made it hard to hold the phone and talk.
"Sir? Sir? Can my little girl pet your dogs?"
I excused my phone caller and pockted the mobile.
"Sure."
The girl was dressed in a blue gingham dress; her curly hair was the color of cornsilk; big blue eyes peered back at me. She had an index finger in her mouth, pensive now that she'd caught up and almost didn't know what to make of the experience.
Trin, of course, liked that the girl's face was within easy licking distance. She tugged at the lead, wanting the attention. The girl didn't know what to make of this spring-loaded dog that whined her happy talk and put a brushy tail in her face.
"Here, Scully is a much better dog to pet for little girls," I said, comanding Trin to sit and let Scully walk up to her.
"So soft!"
Scully sat as the girl hugged her head.
"She saw your dogs all the way at the park," the mom said. "Thanks for stopping."

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are desperate, lapse and traveled. Let’s keep the exercise to 100 words, shall we?

Lost
Lately, she’d come to have memory lapses.
Forgetting where she put her keys, her eyeglasses, stammering when the neighbor stopped – a face she couldn’t place – to comment on her wildflowers.
Later, she’d sit on the porch with a glass of tea, fingering the sweat beads. Her face would go blank, her body ridged, like stone.
Desperate, her husband quietly sought the advice of experts. They traveled, saw specialists. Gray-haired men in serious whites shook their heads.
She smiled a weary smile, put a hand on his.
“When it’s all said and done, promise that you’ll go on living.”

Buck up, lil' soldier

It feels like a gauze shroud.
With a weight more like lead.
It isn’t depression, per say, but it is melancholy.
There are days were I just can’t stop it, can’t shake it. When the world view through my brown eyes is of a glass that is half-full (and the water’s brackish).
It bothers me to no end.
Because my life right now should be about opportunity and trying new things and meeting new people and shaking off the rust of 11 years of familiarity. But you get home to a quiet house and the shadows have the ability to coat you like the film of oil.
Melancholy.
Funny, I was convinced that I was having a shitty day Monday. Then I talked with a couple people in the city. Just being myself, talking about environmental issues, sustainability. Over the course of the conversation, it was decided that I needed to meet some of their friends. Another guy who was a transplant to the Midwest, near my age.
“He’s well-read, like you, and I think you guys would hit it off.”
Late calls came in, invites to coffee.
A baseball playoff game with friends.
And so I wake up in the darkness before 4 a.m. and I can’t get back to sleep. Worry. Things out of my control, sure, but much of it of my own construct.
I hitched up the girls and walked my neighborhood.
I told myself that everything was OK.
And I believed myself.

It's in the air here

Woke up before the sun (always) and tugged off the covers and felt chilled air settle on my skin.
Threw on the running shoes and shorts, a T-shirt and grabbed the leads to take the girls for a walk. Barely a block into in, I'm wishing for my long track pants.
Fall is in the air. Another season coming to a close; a new one to begin.
Sort of like my life.
Seasons of change.
I'm hoping the colors of fall translate.

Sunday Scribblings: How I met my...

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “How I met my…”
Sort of lends itself to a journal entry. However, I like to use SS to push my fiction boundaries.
So here, you go, a Drabble, a piece of short fiction, in 100 words.

Adios, Amigos

The prognosis was tubes, lots of them, hooked to several parts of my person that I was assured would not lend itself to dignity or merriment.
Mention Stage 4 and I’ve seen the faces go ashen. It quickened my pulse.
I sold my shit, all of it. I gave the money to charity.
I traveled, ran up huge credit card bills, since I only go first class. I ate and I drank without fear of cholesterol or calories.
The day before this one, the day I will meet my death, I wrote a check.
It’s going to bounce. Sue me.

Another large Fella on a Bike

Strictly a hypothetical here, but if your life depended on it, could you eat the same thing every day – for a year?
Meet Scott Cutshall.
Thanksgiving 2005, Cutshall began the day with a bowl of vegetable soup. He was kicking off a new life.
He weighed 501 pounds.
The first day of his new life, he got on a bike and nearly made it 2 miles. He stopped often. Sweat a ton.
Today, Cutshall weighs 200 pounds.
My friend Stephen Regenold, The Gear Junkie, wrote about Cutshall last year. I ran the story at my former paper. And I then began to follow Cutshall’s life from afar on his blog, Large Fella on a Bike.
I’ve even emailed Cutshall a couple of times, seeking guidance, wisdom.
Since I’m enthralled with the dedication it took for this man to grab his sedentary life and became something he always wanted to be – healthy.
I’ve contemplated, seriously, to pick up the Cutshall Menu Plan:
  • Breakfast: one organic banana; one bowl of vegan soup (vegetable stock, dried herbs, rice noodles, pepper sauce, lime juice); one espresso - about 250 calories.
  • Lunch: Homemade hummus on pita wrap with pan-seared Portobello mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts and mustard; water to drink - about 400 calories.
  • Dinner: “The Mega Salad” (1 to 2 pounds of organic romaine lettuce, two organic tomatoes, one medium bunch of organic spring onions, organic garlic powder, pepper, Caesar croutons); Newman's Own "Lighten Up" Caesar dressing cut 50/50 with water; cup-and-a-half of pasta w/red sauce; one glass of wine -about 600 calories.
That, and of course getting my ass on my saddle every day.
Sure, I’m not 500 pounds. I’m not 200 pounds either.
I’m not happy with my weight, or my general fitness level.
But do I have what it takes to make changes that my life depends on?
I am fearful that I do not posses the verve to do so.

New author showcase, Part II

You're a writer and you've spent countless hours in character development. How cool would it be to actually sit down with a character, talk.

David S. Grant was given the opportunity to interview Chip, his character from "Bleach|Blackout," his new double novel from Offense Mechanism, an imprint of Silverthought Press. In order to get the interview David had to agree to buy drinks and dinner at Chip’s favorite Cantina on Sunset Boulevard and supply a joint:

[DSG] When I arrive Chip is already sitting at the bar sipping a Margarita. He acknowledges me and points to an open tab. Chip is wearing sunglasses. As soon as I sit down he excuses himself to go have a cigarette. After five minutes he returns. He asks me to wait five minutes while the bartender gets him another drink. I ask him if he wants to sit down and eat and he laughs. His Margarita arrives.
[DSG] Thank you for taking the time to do this, I know you are a busy guy.
[Chip] No worries, rock and roll dude.
[DSG] First off, I have to ask, where do you get your ideas? I mean the whole idea about a television reality show like The Bachelor where one of the girls is HIV positive, well, it’s quite shocking.
[Chip] I disagree with it being shocking. It’s just an idea, for the public to decide. I have interest, and am in negotiations with a few networks, casting could begin next year. It doesn’t have to be HIV, that is pretty dire, very HBO. We could use any type of STD to make it more Disney if needed.
[DSG] Chip finishes off his second Margarita, motions to the bartender for another one. We wait for it to arrive. OK, next question I have is about your sex addiction. Do you feel you have a problem here, or is this just the way you live?
[Chip] Actually, I’m in treatment for this. There was a time two months ago where I found myself in a hotel room holding an egg beater in one hand and dog bone in the other. I won’t go into details, but there were several girls involved and I after two days I found myself passed out in a Toys R Us store. I checked into treatment the next day.
[DSG] How is that going?
[Chip] It’s day to day. Day to day…
[DSG] Chip is eye balling a girl who just walked in wearing a hiked up green skirt and has a tattoo of Tom Hanks on her inner thigh. Tell me about Nic Cage, anything happening there?
[Chip] That’s a good question. We were all set, had a production company interested in our down and out detective movie, but than things went south. Maybe has something to do with him wearing an eye patch, I wrote that into the script. It’s needed and I’m sure he’ll come around. I’m expecting a call any day now.
[DSG] What about Stoner? You guys were close.
[Chip] Stoner was a kindred spirit. The best of friends. He is a true testament to living for the moment because you never know what is around the corner. I miss him. We all do.
[DSG] Where do you see yourself in ten years?
[Chip] Wow, that’s the best you got? Dude, you need to work on your skills. Anyway, I see myself definitely in the Hollywood business. I always feel like I’m one phone call away from making that happen. I’m patient, enjoying life in the meantime.
[DSG] Another Margarita for Chip. How about your other friends, Sharon? Jeremy? Are you still in touch?
[Chip] Jeremy went back to New York, but is flying in this weekend. He is living with Mary. They both like Thai food, so it works. Sharon is still running her business. I try to stay away these days, but like I said before dude…it’s day to day.
[DSG] Thank you for taking the time Chip. I motion for the tab from the bartender, Chip motions for one more Margarita before the tab is closed. By the time I pay the bill, he has finished his drink. I get up to leave and Chip grabs me, “Dude, you owe me…” I reach into my pocket and hand him a joint. He gets up and lights it before we walk outside.
[Chip] Rock and Roll.

New author showcase, Part I

David S. Grant is the author of "Corporate Porn," published by Silverthought Press in 2006. Grant's first novel "Bleach" and sequel titled "Blackout" are now available through Offense Mechanisms, and imprint of Silverthought Press in 2008. Also, newly published in 2008 the novel "The Last Breakfast" and short story collection "Emotionless Souls" through Brown Paper Publishing. Grant lives and works in New York City.

He's agreed to allow The Tension to excerpt a portion of "Bleach:"

Sometimes the heat in Vegas has nothing to do with the temperature.
There are seven of us in all and Stoner is already baked when we meet at the Bellagio. "Dude, it's my party." Chip doesn't have an excuse, already wobbling as he reaches the bar. It's three in the afternoon.
We drink boilermakers and play poker at Bellagio, then play craps at Caesar's until the complimentary shots of Jim Beam are out, smoke crack behind TI, walk through MGM in two minutes, walk back over to TI and drink frozen mixers while smoking Kool cigarettes and commenting on the length of the waitresses' cocktail dresses, rent two Ferraris and drive to Crazy Horse Too, where we drop two grand on strippers (would have dropped four, but we get thrown out when Stoner's friend Jekyll bites Jasmine's nipple), total one of the Ferraris on the way to Olympic Gardens, leave the Ferrari, go into OG's and drop two more grand, eat sliders with mustard at a restaurant called Lucky Burger, and then smoke crack next to the lone Ferrari hidden behind the Lucky Burger dumpster.
After sliders, we hop on a helicopter, take a loop around the city, finally landing near the Stratosphere, where we go to the top and drink Bacardi straight up with a slice of chocolate cake. Leave the chopper and walk to Stardust, drink red wine and smoke cigars and sing karaoke songs. Half an hour before midnight, we go to Circus Circus and take the elevator to the roof, where Chip has arranged for a Cambodian stripper to perform for Stoner. I walk over to the open bar, order a shot of dry gin, and then lean over the side of the roof and watch the city lights as midnight, the New Year, approaches. At midnight, the fireworks begin and I look over at Stoner and see that the Cambodian girl is now performing oral sex on him. Chip walks over and explains that she's only a stripper and that this is normal in her country. I turn back to the lights of the Vegas Strip as they shoot to the sky.
"I know a place just off the Strip that has the best Thai." Chip puts his pipe back into his pocket.
"Cool," someone says and we pile into the Ferrari and within minutes pull up to a two-star hotel and walk up to the second floor, where the Thai prostitutes are waiting for us and then after twenty minutes meet out in the hallway, where we all smoke Kool cigarettes and drink from a warm case of Miller that was left in the hallway by someone. Two guys decide to stay at the hotel with the girls and finish the case of Miller. "Ahaahaa, dude, that was fucking awesome," laughs Stoner as we pile back into the Ferrari and speed back over to the Strip and stop at the Paradise Club, where the strippers are doing a shower scene on stage and Chip works out a deal to get Stoner up on the stage, but he looks too stoned to remember and spends the whole time laughing hysterically. After the shower, the girls take Stoner backstage, where more laughter is heard, and a bill for one thousand dollars is handed to Chip. When Stoner comes out, he goes over to Chip and whispers something into his ear. Chip gets up and goes backstage, Stoner walks over to me and I'm high and I ask him if his soon-to-be bride knows what's going on tonight and he tells me that it doesn't matter because he's only marrying her for her trust fund and that when she finds out the wedding may be worse than Kill Bill. Chip returns with a smile on his face and says, "You're right, it was worth a thousand." At Perfect 10, I get lap dances from girls named Saw and Ginger, but my second dance is cut short when Chip interrupts and says we have to go because they are playing Kanye West music, which is just the same to me because Ginger isn't really into the dance, snorting cocaine while she's grinding on me.
In Bikinis, three rounds of Manhattans are consumed and conversations about both grass skirts and whether or not Mariah Carey is still considered crazy are had. A girl named Anne begins talking with Stoner, but he can't stop laughing so she leaves. The grass skirt conversation carries over when we arrive at Coyote Ugly and begin drinking Old Fashions, even though we ordered gin, and Stoner dances on the bar until we are asked to leave. A joint is smoked inside the House of Blues while waiting for our Sidecars, which we slam in under a minute, and then at Rain, another joint is smoked instead of attempting to get drinks at the overcrowded bar.
Ten minutes later in a club with "Aces" in the name we throw down double shots of dry gin and eat pretzels and then out of our minds all do the funky chicken on the dance floor. In the club we lose two of Stoner's friends and now we're down to three. Chip and I head to the blackjack tables and lose three hundred each and then drink more dry gin and Chip talks two porn stars into doing a show for Stoner, so we all go up to a room and watch the girls perform oral on each other for twenty minutes or so and then go to the Imperial Palace, where the owner knows Chip and lets us openly smoke hash in his lounge. We meet Nicolas Cage and Chip pitches his new reality show idea to him and Nic sounds interested as he sips a Heineken. They embrace and exchange contact information.
Outside of the casino, Chip falls on his face and while Stoner and I are laughing two squatters help him up and then Chip starts talking to them and it turns out they were actors at one point so Chip gives them his card and asks them where's a good place for breakfast and the squatters both point across the street where we see the sign for Denny's.
At some point after plates of sausage and bacon we hook up with a guy named Earl who is driving the Ferrari with Stoner riding shotgun, a girl named Rose on his lap, and Chip passed out with sunglasses on in the back seat. I ask Earl what time it is and he tells me 4:30 a.m. then pulls out his crack pipe and that's the last thing I remember until I wake up the next morning in Los Angeles with a gun barrel stuck in my mouth.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The prompt words over at Three Word Wednesday are bored, habit and settle. We’re having some problems launching this day – I’m flying to Rapid City for a story and I have dog (singular, the one who eats shit she shouldn't) behaving badly – so a short exercise, a Fiction in 58, is what you get.

Grand Theft Therapy

She had a habit, had it bad.
The itch, the glazed eyes, the kinetic energy that’s tiring to watch. Up, down, check the fridge, sit, stand, scratch, scratch. She was bored, habitually.
A reaction to this settle-down life she had chosen. Consistent, predictable.
Boosting the car seemed right. The two-lane blacktop, the middle of nowhere, felt even better.

Social good graces

Just a few months ago, I was sure society was going to eat itself.
A feeling, impending doom, a catastrophic event that would tear the human race to the bone.
Hey, the world isn’t a picnic where everyone is going to come together and sing “Kumbaya” (not yet, anyway), but the feeling of dread has given way to optimism uniform belief that we’ll muddle through.
Maybe leaving California did it.
Maybe watching children of the Great Plains play on tree-covered streets at dusk – enthusiastically asking if they can pet the dogs – did it.
Maybe it’s the work conditions, where everything isn’t perfect, but there’s respect and dialogue and a commitment to doing your best every time out.
Or, maybe it’s just part of growing up.
An education in-and-of-itself.

Waiting for an opening

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey.
-Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"

So I'm supposed to be writing an opening line. A Six Sentence exercise with another writer, Quin Brown. We'll alternate sentences. I'll start, I said. We'll sent it to Robert, for Six Sentences.
I've not written my opening line. Q has reminded me of this.

None of them knew the color of the sky.
- Stephen Crane, "Open Boat"

It's not like I'm slacking. I just want the first line to be good. It sets the tone, I think, for all that comes next.
Besides, I know Q will do a fine job with the next sentence.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
-Franz Kafka, "Metamorphosis"

I did pen a few things down. On paper, yes. As the twilight crept toward dark.
I'm mulling them over.
Figuring which opening sentence to sent Q's way.
When the 6S is complete and Robert puts it up, I'll post it here, too.

Sunday Scribblings: Observations

Observations
The locket is silver, about the size of a nickel and it rests on a cheap chain and she can’t help but keep fingering it.
Her thumb, unpainted and gnawed on, does delicate swirls on the locket’s smooth face. She looks out the window, sad eyes that are reflected back in the dirty reflection.
We’re on the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line, the one that goes to City College, Times Square, but it doesn’t look like she’ll get off at any of these. There are hunches; there are observations.
She was already on, meaning she originated in the Bronx, when I get on at Washington Heights. I’m headed to Penn Station; I think she’ll exit there, too.
She’s wearing an olive Army jacket, probably picked up at a surplus store and two sizes too big, which she compensates for by folding the cuffs over to her elbows.
Under the jacket is a T-shirt, black, and when she twists to fiddle with her iPod, I notice it’s an Arctic Monkeys concert T.
Her black jeans are faded; there’s spots where she’s tried to reintroduce color with a Sharpie, but that’s led to a blotchy, cancerous look. The leg ends are frayed, strands of cotton bloom like brush.
The sandals look almost like an afterthought; something you pick up at Coney Island for walking on the hot, filthy sand. Her toenails are painted black, chipped and are in serious need of a re-coat.
Her hair is dyed raven-black, the kind of sinister hue that seems to absorb all the light in the room. It’s shoulder-length, straight and she parts it down the middle. When she hangs her head – which she does often – the hair envelopes her eyes like theater curtains.
With her left hand – the one opposite of stroking the locket – she pushed the hair off her eyes, looks back out the window, sighs.
Her eyebrows are drawn on.
The same for the heavy-handed eyeliner under her eyes, which are deep brown, soulful. The eyes of cows in a slaughter line.
Her skin looks like what you’d get it you dipped tissue paper in milk. Which helps to accentuate her lips, full and pink like bubblegum. She licks them, but it doesn’t do anything to hydrate the cracks and bits of loose skin. I feel like giving her my tube of Chapstick, but that’s too forward. Too creepy.
She looks from the window to me, gives me a smile. Her cheeks go flush, and she goes back to looking out he window. Her thumb and index finger dance on the locket.
The unintelligible announcement, the squeal of metal and we’re stopped at Penn Station. She grabs the canvas messenger bag, throws it over the bulky jacket, takes a look back at me.
My cheeks go flush.
I hurry out the door, catch her before we hit the stairs.
“I’m sorry, I just need to know,” I say.
“Yeah?”
“The locket, it seems special. Is there a picture.”
I cringe, wait for either a slap to the face, or the tirade of expletives.
She laughs.
“It’s a lock of hair. Mine. In a half-hour, I get my first chemo treatment at Sloan-Kettering.”
I ask, absent-minded, if she wouldn't mind if I tagged along.

A spin around the town

When you’re on a bike, there is a point at which you can look at the ground and see where the pavement goes from solid to movement, like how still a stream gets still just before tumbling over submerged stones. It’s one of the great little secrets of riding. It’s like you can focus on the line - watch the blur - and all the thoughts and troubles fade away like the asphalt behind you.
I spent Saturday afternoon checking out the city’s bike trail, which loops the city and connects like a kajillion parks. I found that I can intercept the trail about a mile-and-a-half from the hacienda. The entire loop is 22 miles. I was messing around and it took me an hour-and-a-half.
I took the Bridgestone, which is fast becoming my favorite ride in the stable. Converting it to a singlespeed was the absolute right thing to do. It’s geared so you can still power on the downhills – and it climbs like a dream (yes, there are hills here).
(Funny, I think I’m kind of scared of the Trek.)
First stop was Falls Park, where the Big Sioux River tumbles over pink quartzite. Most of the old buildings downtown are made of milled quartzite. It’s really cool building material. From Falls Park, the city has an ambitious plan to redevelop the area all the way to downtown. Shops, housing, entertainment. Smart growth (that’s the skyline looking west from Falls Park).
So what did I see on my ride?
Cheetahs.The trail goes right past the Sioux Falls Zoo and these two were lip-smacking as I rode by. I gotta shed some pounds.
(Cheetahs know they are bad-asses.)
The trail is mostly paved and once you get south of the city you’re hop-scotching parks along the Big Sioux. Lots of tree-covered miles.
The trail, I think, could use a beer kiosk, or maybe a beer vending machine. That would be good.
Of course, the Gas 'N Sip near home carries everything a rider needs to stay properly hydrated before, during and after a ride (and where a cold sixer of Pabst Blue Ribbon is always $3.97).
Bonus, TALLBOY.

Something you need to know about me

I don't honestly remember what birthday it was - I was past the fifth grade, I know that, since I had escaped Catholic school and was a public school kid - but if I had to guess, it was sixth grade. Whatever age that is.
The school was downtown, somewhat of a distance from our house on the eastern edge of town. But I was getting a bike for my birthday, and not just any bike: A Schwinn Stingray, orange. Banana seat.
I knew it was coming. I was unrelenting. I pestered, prodded. My parents said I could ride it to school on my birthday.
(Which just happens to be the first day of spring.)
I wake up to a spring blizzard.
School is canceled. Snow day.
I spent a good portion of the morning being pissed that I couldn't ride my bike to school.
Instead of focusing on the fact that I was GIVEN A SNOW DAY ON MY BIRTHDAY.
I'm am a wanker.

Dwelling on the negatives has been with me for a very long time. Age has tempered that - a lot - but that's where the (angst?) torment comes from. It's MANUFACTURED and then lubed for my protection.
The positives of my life, as I stand here in the now, stretch a fair piece.
Knowing that and living that, are two separate things.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are intimate, river and waiting. Another Drabble? Yeah, 100 words, coming up:

Life Like a River

His discontent was a river, wide and deep.

His life flowed like driftwood on the current; on the surface, gone in turbid whitewater. Habitually stuck in the reeds waiting for the next nudge of current to get him back into slipstream.

Mostly, mostly, his days meandered in the placid flow. He woke before his alarm, brushed, flossed, ate sensibly, commuted. On his return, he ate sensibly, read books, dusted. A decent bedtime.

There, in the darkness, he’d hit the rapids. Heart-pounding angst. Tears, snot-filled gasps. His wish from the swirl of his life?

The chance encounter, a touch, intimate.

A Drabble for a Tuesday

This piece is 100 words. Some call it a Drabble. I'm preparing to send a few things toward Scrawlers. It was an exercise that was tougher than I thought.

Seeds of Discontent
As a boy, he was often mistaken for a girl; long brown hair that turned auburn in the summer sun, eyelashes thick, lips full, creamy skin and a delicate nose that wrinkled when he smiled.
Heat would flush his face when the ladies at the bank fawned over him, misguided.
The gnarled hand shook, yellow-stained nicotine blossoms between the fingers. Nails ragged, chewed quick. The anger that never abates.
Buzzers sound and he swings his legs off the cot and stands before the bars. Tendrils of hand-drawn tattoos run like vines across his skin.
All that innocent beauty, vanished

Flash fiction on a Monday

This one started to get away from me. I think I rescued it.

Pick me
The woman at the table to his left was talking about the Indians indigenous to Mexico’s Copper Canyon (the Tarahumaras, he recalls) and how they’re fierce and independent and they hate everyone – ever their own kind.
“They live in caves and far away from each other, too,” the woman prattles. “They just don’t get along with anyone.
“I asked the tour guide how in the devil did the boys and girls of different tribes get together to start a family.”
“Are you hearing this?”
“What?”
“Table to my left, older couple with the younger couple.”
“Uh-huh.”
“You are not. This is entertaining. Listen.”
“So he says, ‘There are gatherings, yes, where the tribes gets together and if a boy catches the eye of a girl, the girl picks up a rock and throws it at him.’ Throws is at him? And, and? ‘It is a done deal. She has chosen. They go off, they get married.’ Isn’t that just remarkable?”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“You have to admit, the process has merit.”
“The process doesn’t have merit, Dez. It’s a shitty way to pick a mate.”
“Why?”
“Because I know you, Dez. And I know who you’d like to toss a rock at you and I’m telling you, she’d kill you.”
He took a long draw from his pint. She was right of course. She’d kill him. In more ways than one.

Sunday Scribblings: Ask

  “Am I good enough?”
  “Did I make the right decision?”
  The concerns are twofold. There’s the professional aspect of my life, and there’s the personal.
  What I do now is completely different from what I did for 10 years. I back to “hard” news. Working the phones, working sources, writing tight for the front page in a deadline atmosphere where you’re on the phone with a spokesman in Canada and you tell him you’ve got 20 minutes before you have to file. And you’ll have to go with the like, “”such-and-so declined to comment.”
  Here, a story would never run with the line, “such-and-so did not return a telephone call.” Nor will a story run – even a small inside the A section story – without at least two sources.
  It’s professional journalism, the a big J.
  But, I am given the freedom to write the way I’ve always written – loose, colorful. I am allowed to be me in the features I craft, as well as the hard news pieces that call for clear, concise explanation.
  So why am I somewhat unhappy?
  (I take that back. I’m happy with my professional life and the opportunities it represents; in the quiet, the storm clouds of doubt build over why I’m sitting home alone reading a book as friends and readers from my previous life call, text and email how much they miss me. That weighs on me something fierce.)
  I opened a piece of short fiction once with “There is lonely and there is alone; one’s a choice, the other a condition.”
  There always will be doubt about the first question. It’s endemic to how I’m built.
  As for the second, I ask myself what I need to change to take control of the doubts in the quiet.
  “I totally admire you... it takes huge guts (or something!) to go from knowing everyone in town to knowing virtually no one,” a friend emailed recently.
  This leap of faith – something I know in my heart was the absolute right decision for my life – will take time to sort out. And in my heart lies the positive outcome of my actions.
  (I no longer get up and dry heave for 20 minutes; that says something right there.)
  The trick is to not listen to the demons of doubt; it’s time to step out from under the storm clouds for good.

Burn After Reading

OK, Dark Knight aside (the summer's best movie), this looks to be this year's Juno.

It's the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading:

South Dakota value meal

The locally-owned grocery chain has in its parking lots a little red barn they like to call the snack shack. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. (or when the food runs out), there's a worker who grills bratwurst and hamburgers on a grill. A hamburger or a brat is $2.
A meal deal is $3.
With the meal deal, you get a brat (or burger), a 24-ounce pop (had to revert back to calling it that, I said soda and they kinda look at you funny) and a big bag of Old Dutch chips (five flavors to choose from).
Go by at lunch at hte downtown store and you'll see lawyers in suits and ties, homeless guys - and on Monday, the parks department lawn crew, who parked their mowers in a line - all eating at wooden picnic tables together.
There's even daily specials.
Fridays are cheddar brat days.
That's a brat - these things are homemade in the meat department mind you - with chunks of cheddar in it.
(You have to let it cool before you bite into it, or else you run the risk of hitting a molten pocket of cheese that'll melt the skin on the roof of your mouth.)
"Let's go get a brat," a buddy said Friday. Others followed.
It was on the late side of lunch and they were out of burgers (not that they couldn't walk across the parking lot and replenish the cow, but we didn't ask) and they had a single cheddar brat left.
"I do have some prime rib slices grilling up, plenty of that if you want a sandwich," the griller said.
"How much is a prime rib sandwich?" we asked.
"Oh, three bucks."
"How much for a meal?"
"Oh, three bucks."
"That's what I'll have," my buddy said, grinning at me.
"Make it two," I said.
"I'll take the last brat," my other buddy said.
The guy filled a brat bun with a slab of prime rib, medium rare. Little steak sauce, some onions and tomato slices and we grabbed a table.
"This is amazing," my buddy said, dazed nearly into a meaty coma. "For three bucks."

Back at the office, I look up from my computer and my buddy has a strange little smile on his face. It's like 5 p.m.
"You know, I'm still riding that sandwich," he said.
I ended up not eating dinner.

A Fiction in 58

Middle-aged Superheroes
He buries his thumbs into his hips and flexes his shoulders in the darkness. The wood floor is cool on his feet.
The kinks take much longer to work out; the body isn’t what it used to be, he chuckles. He traces the scars with fingers that lost their feeling years ago.
Superman? Maybe after he’s had coffee.

Sunday Scribblings: Do I have to?

Do I have to?
Meals by candlelight, the fine china, the good silver;
Longs walks by moonlight’s silvery glow;
Giving her toenails a fresh coat of polish;
Running a bubble bath, complete with rose petals;
Listening, intently (and not uttering a word);
Brushing her hair with that favorite brush of hers;
Flowers, at work, delivered personally;
A fried egg sandwich, coffee the way she likes it, on Saturday morning;
Sunday morning paper in bed, she gets first pick at the sections;
Foot massages with the stuff that smells like peppermint;
Doing the laundry when her day didn’t go as planned;
Simply holding her in bed as she falls asleep.

You certainly don’t have to;
But the simple things can make all the difference.

It's a thing of beauty

Just got my old Bridgestone MB-2 back from Erik over at Prairie Cycles, my new SoDak bike shop. The BRidgestone will become my commute-around-town bike.
Erik put a new saddle on it, raised the handlebars, re-cabled the brakes and fixed a couple of dumbshit things I did to it in the conversion from mountain bike to singlespeed.
Ain't she sweet?
(Trin wanted to be in the shot, so she walked right into the frame.)
Maiden voyage to check out the bike/Sioux Falls bike trails is Sunday morning.
All this equipment makes for an interesting parking situation in the spare bedroom. I think I'm like three weeks away from getting a garage (finally).

Overheard

Overheard at Daylight Donuts Friday (where I treated myself to a caramel roll and milk):

Customer lady with child: "Uhm, I know this might be a dumb question, but are all donuts made with eggs?"
Asian donut maker: "Yes, all donuts are made with the eggs."
Customer lady (hugs child's shoulder): "Well, I don't think one will hurt. Give me a dozen assorted."