Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are caustic, hunch and sacrifice.

Letters
The love letters began in the fall of 1975, when they both were 14 and thought they knew everything there was to know about young love.
He’d write her pages of material, done in a tight printed hand, since that summer he’d gotten the idea he wanted to be an architect and printed everything. He used college-lined paper, which he found exotic, and generally folded each note into 16ths, a tidy and convenient package for a girl to slip into the back pocket of her jeans.
She reciprocated with notes done on copier paper, mostly in colored inks, and dotted her i’s with hearts.
He smoothed his notes out and kept them in a manila file folder stolen from his mother’s office. Across the tab – he’d chosen one where the tab was centered – he printed CORRESPONDENCE and then hid the contents in a navy colored footlocker, along with his girlie magazines and BB pistol.
She kept hers folded, stuffed roughly by date received, in a cardboard shoebox.
The letters continued through high school and intermittently through college, since he was studying to be an engineer – still he printed everything like an architect but his signature – and she stayed home to help run the family business.
She thought the university had changed him somewhat, made him more pretentious that he really should have been. On a hunch, she wrote him a card, told him that her love would never die, and he responded with a single-page letter, typed coolly and somewhat caustic on his new word-processor. In it, he discussed the his New World View, the sacrifices he wasn’t prepared to make, given all that he needed to see and do. He said he loved her, too, but that all things change.
She responded, hurt and angry across handwritten words smeared with her tears. Her pain bled through the words, but in the end, she said she’d always love him no matter what.
The years progressed and he advanced his career in different cities, married twice. The marriages didn’t take, and he moved through the world looking for the next big thing.
She stayed home, of course, took over the business and dated sporadically. There had been one man she developed a strong like for, and wrote him about it. He sent a bouquet via Teleflorist, with a business-sized card he didn’t actually pen but dictated, wishing her the best. He was overseas at the time, overseeing a project with great purpose and potential.
Whole years went by without correspondence.
She slowly built her family’s business into a position of strength and became the Midwest hub of a great and growing empire. She remained friends with her suitor, but held out hope that one day, her love would come back to her.
She continued to send him cards throughout the years, never quite going as far as she once did, but signing off always with, “I Will Love You always” before signing her name.
He’d reached mid-life in crisis, having lost his job to those engineers both younger and less expensive and the slide continued through health problems that manifested into a serious case of depression. Medications were tried and failed.
She had switched her correspondence to email, and sent him encouraging electric bits of letters that encouraged him to be strong, that he was loved.
He crashed one weekend and in a haze of pills and booze, decided that his time had come to an end. He’d gotten out a yellow legal pad and tried to write a note that would explain all the hurt the pain. But instead, the words poured from him to her, 40 years of everything he’d swallowed in the name advancement. He wrote until he could not write any longer and drifted off into a sleep he hadn’t found in years.
When he awoke, he felt a calmness. He picked through the hand-scrawled pad, frightened by what he found. It was emotional, pure.
He sealed it in a large white envelope and mailed it to her.
She responded with a card that said simply, “Come Home.”
They sit on the porch of a great old house, laughing at the antics of the neighbor children and their new puppy. He slips a hand under hers, deposits into her palm a letter tightly folded into 16ths. In it, he tells her about his day, tells her how much he loves her.
She smiles and gets up, kisses him and slips inside to file this new note in the shoebox he keeps on the mantel.

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

The NaiSaiKu Challenge isn't a challenge at all. It's a poetry prompt that's fun.

warm breezes paint bare skin lustrous,
sunshine forces eyes to droop,
daydreams move like butterfly wings,
PLAYING HOOKIE
daydreams move like butterfly wings,
sunshine forces eyes to droop,
warm breezes paint skin lustrous

Fiction in 58

Here’s a little Fiction in 58:

Soul
If he tries really hard, he can almost feel the hole in his soul.
Always at the cusp of sleep, when he’s relaxed and motionless. He lets limbs grow heavy, empties his head of thought. Eyes shut, he breathes deep and determined.
When it’s there, just within reach, he raises a finger to touch.
But it flees.
Always.

OneWord, Runaway

OneWord is one of those prompts I find keeps the mind - and fingers - nimble. Click a button, get a word (runaway) and 60 seconds to write. And here's what comes out:

Runaway sobs build in his chest, wailing, snot-filled howls that reach a crescendo with a hiccup. Deep breath. Violent thrashing into the seat of his truck.
And it begins all over again. Staccato cries, a Doppler affect of sadness, despair.
He’s in the middle of a field, spring mug up to the axles, wondering how it all got away. The job, the house, the wife. His dog, for chrissake.
He’s trapped in a country and western song and realizes too late that he doesn’t have a gun to put a proper end to it.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are brazen, hunger and nuzzle.

Keepsake
The box rests on the floor, in the middle of a sunny, white-walled room with distressed wood floors.
It’s a plain hat box, wooden with a hinged lid and a brass closure. He'd plucked it from a trash heap, on a whim, before the trash man came and swept it away.
His initials are scratched into the wood, a custom job with a penknife when he was a brazen young man, the world filleted and laid out before him.
He hasn’t looked in the box in forever. Not since the hunger left him, left for good.
Or so he thought.
Old habits die hard and as much as he’d like to admit to being a changed man, there it was, burning as bright as ever in the pit of his stomach. A yearning, ropey-thick, hot.
He pads around the box in bare feet, the wood floor groaning with each small step.
And while the yearning is definitely there, there’s also slight regret, which tastes bitter on his tongue, like bile brought up after a night of debauchery.
He summons enough saliva to back it down, wash it away, but the taste lingers and it catches him as odd that he’s grown so shy as to actually be like the rest of humanity. Cattle, he used to call them, back when he hunted for sport.
There’s a flash of anger that brushes against the hairs on his arms at the thought and he plops into a sitting position and flips the brass tongue of the lock and opens the box.
The dry hinges scream a protest, but he’s not listening.
Frothy drool appears on his lips and the corners curve into a grin as his fingers plunge into the box.
His heart quickens and it all comes back to him. The desire, the burning itch as he touches this one memento he’s allowed himself.
For all the power that twitches in his muscles, he’s gentle as his hands retreat from the box, the prize teasing his fingers as he lifts.
It’s a scalp cape, the mane of a beautiful woman he once knew.
He nuzzles the strawberry-blond hair, sweeps it across his cheeks and buries his nose in those wonderful curls. he takes in the musty smell and catches, ever so briefly, a hint of Chanel No. 5 that first drew him to her all those many years ago.

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

It's poetry, but just for fun.

droplets, like tears, fall from awnings,
spring breezes blow warm,
green fights to succeed landscape browns,
RENEWAL
green fights to succeed landscape browns,
spring breezes blow warm,
droplets, like tears, fall from awnings

I'm back from the open road

Road tripping is a blast. Stop when you want, where you want. Pie and coffee in small Midwestern towns where people itch to know your business.
Just driving around? Like a vacation?
Yes.
No interstates, just a few miles spent on four-lane highways. Mostly two-lane blacktop, hills, straightaways.

Anyway, it was an eye-opener. Not really the road trip with no specific destination I've always talked about, but a sweeping loop to visit family and friends over a long birthday weekend (and I didn't pay for a single drink, bonus).

The experience brought up some short fiction ideas.
This isn't one of them. It was scribbled in a notebook before I left.

Hunger
There’s no sense denying what you’ve become.
What you are.
There’s a breeze and it’s strong enough to move scraps of garbage across the concrete. He feels it, makes a move to touch his head with hands stuffed into latex gloves, wrapped in baseball batting gloves. Everything is in place, as it should be. The watch cap is acrylic, and has been scrubbed. No sense in leaving fibers around.
Hairs, that’s far worse.
So he shaves his entire body before going out to hunt. It’s become part of the ritual, like the tight Lycra undergarments.
They’re expense, way too expense to burn in the apartment’s incinerator, but that’s what’ll happen.
Soon enough.
This makes the third day in a row she’s stopped for coffee at the same time, at the same place.
Way too easy, he thinks.
But he likes how she seems so happy, vibrant.

Road To Nowhere

It's my birthday weekend (I'm a spring baby), so I've decided on a whim (since I have two days of unpaid furlough hanging on me) to road trip.
That also means updating The Tension might be problematic.
Who knows where I'll end up.
I'm flipping coins for direction here.

So anyway, here's a little traveling music, courtesy of the Talking Heads.

"Road to Nowhere"

Alex Chilton, 10/28/50-3/17/10

Alex Chilton, rock guitarist and killer songwriter, died Wednesday in New Orleans of heart failure.
He sang with The Box Tops and later with Big Star.
A band that has figured largely into my musical, The Replacements, were heavily influenced by Chilton. They even wrote a song about him, which included the lyric, "If he died in Memphis, wouldn't that be cool?"
From The Mats, I became a fan.
59 is way too early to go.
Rest in peace, Alex.

"The Letter"


"Can't Seem to Make You Mine"


"Thirteen"




Westerberg, "Alex Chilton"

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are pulse, shard and weary.

After
I awake to the sounds of women, wailing.
There’s a gauzy sheet pulled over me, soft and ticklish on my cheeks as I rise.
The wailing is coming from the hallway. My father stands in front of the closed door, a handkerchief in his hand. His eyes are red from crying.
“You fucking kid,” he says, throwing a work boot into the solid wood that rattles the hinges.
You’d think someone died or something.
I turn and in my bed is a sheet-draped corpse; a soft outline in white.
At first, I laugh. Then I jab a couple fingers into my neck, feel for a pulse.
And watch as my brother walks out of the bathroom with a bloodied plastic grocery sack. Shards of glass have punctured the bag and he’s got the whole thing resting on one of my good towels.
“Dad, I’ve got things cleaned up pretty well in there,” he says. “I know mom’s going to make the final inspection. I’m going to need a bucket or something for all this glass.”
My dad nods slowly, but doesn’t move.
All of a sudden, I feel weary as hell. And notice the cold, which cuts to the bone.
There’s fear, too, as realization begins to paint hues across my missing memory.
Good God, what have I gone and done?

OneWord, Keychain

The OneWord prompt of the day is “keychain.”

He’s a casualty and he knows it.
The car rockets down lonely two-lane blacktop, faded yellow center lines blur in the straight-aways, as he puts pressure on the accelerator.
The car hums a satisfying tune. Most of the rumble is drowned out by the 80s classic rock and the scrape of his keychain when he banks the car into the curves.
One final straight-away and then the curve he knows all too well. It’s taken lives, her life, and soon his.
He unbuckles his seatbelt, turns up the music, The Kink’s “You Really Got Me” so he smiles – and pats the breast pocket of his jacket, where the letter rests that explains all this foolishness.

Sunday Flash Fiction

Just Friends
They’re waiting on dinner and she’s opened a bottle of red she knows he’s quite fond of and sits close to him on the couch.
She describes the menu, sitting on her feet and touching him as she talks. She’s excited and between touches, brushes her hair behind her ears and takes soft sips of her wine. She makes a point and leans forward, puts a hand on his chest and he watches her hair cascade forward, brush her cheekbones.
He leans in for a kiss – it would have been their first – and she’s taken aback.
“This isn’t that kind of relationship,” she says, slipping off the couch to turn down the Jazz playing on the stereo. “And I think you’d better leave.”
He’s stunned. For weeks they've bantered by phone and by e-mail; it’s a story of increasing comfort, intimacy. She's recently divorced and they talk openly about dating and relationships. Their shared wants and desires.
He’s been divorced, happily so, for years.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that, I guess I got my wires mixed up,” he says in a truncated apology of sorts. He’s hurt and confused and grasps at what to say next.
“I never meant anything other than the fact that I like you very much.”
She stands with hands crossed at her chest, holding the wine glass by the bulb in a tilt, her head cocked. There’s a slight, simmering irritation in her doe-brown eyes. She turns and walks into the kitchen.
He follows, after a time.
“Is everything OK between us?”
“As long as it’s just dinner – and friends,” she says, lifting a lid on the dahl she’s trying to re-create from the Indian place they frequent for lunch on weekends.
He stays behind the kitchen island, hands on the concrete counter and contemplates her still-charged words. He holds his hands up, palms forward, and nods.
“Just friends, I’m good with that.”
The evening ends after dinner and an old movie, a 40s romantic comedy she fancies and one he finds hokie and boring. He gets up to leave and he steps in, wraps her arms under his and grabs onto his shoulders. She rests her head in the crook of his neck and he takes in the warm richness of her hair. He wraps his arms around her, takes in her lithe figure, rests his palms on the small of her back. She closes the remaining distance by straddling his legs with hers.
“Thanks for coming over tonight,” she says.
He’s prepared to apologize again, for good measure, but the moment feels so right that all he wants is for it not to end.
“It was my pleasure,” he says.
She raises her head and looks into his eyes. There is heat in their embrace and he’s aroused and trying to hold it together for this moment, which he’s hoped would transpire for weeks.
But she releases him and gives him a playful shove with both hands.
“Can you get away tomorrow for a run?”
He smiles, reins in the crushing sadness that wells inside him, and simply nods.
He turns for the door, grips the handle and over a shoulder tells her to meet him at the trailhead at noon. She gives his ass a playful swat that propels him through the door.
She closes it behind him, shuts off the porch light. He seems not to be able to catch a breath. He stares at the stars as tears well in his eyes.
He balls his fists and begins forward motion. He still can smell her hair, feel her warmth.
“Just breathe,” he calls out to the night.

OneWord, Nuclear

The OneWord prompt is nuclear.
You know, the clock starts and, well…

She clutches tufts of chest hair in her delicate hands, but he’s more worried about the frenetic rise and fall of her hips against his. He’s thinking about every else than her warm skin, now covered in a sheen of sweat, that brazen nakedness, the animalistic grunts and cries that seem to come from deep within her chest.
But he feels it, feels her building and unclenches fistfuls of sheet and grips those magnificent hips.
Their bodies go into a thermonuclear reaction of heat and lust and for seconds there is but unadulterated bliss.

OneWord, Labor

OneWord is a great prompt to keep your head in the game.

He moves with ease through nighttime alleyways, gliding through a slipstream of silky blackness without labor. He’s an instrument, a straight razor, slicing the gloom, parting it.
It gives him no special comfort. He wears concern like a mask, eyes locked forward, not caring to blink. The hunger burned in his mouth, down his throat. He needed to feed.
And the first pinkish rays, he felt them as a tickle of the hairs on his neck, appeared on the eastern horizon.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at modify, obedient and veil. There are no bad dogs or bad children, just bad owners – and parents.

Behavior Modification
I’m a horrible child, if you want to know the whole truth of it.
My parents had no choice to ship me off to obedience training, not after the last time I set the sofa on fire. And I don’t blame them in the least.
(Matches, man, show me one of those folded packs of cardboard, with those happy little heads made out of sulfur and potassium chlorate and I lose it.)
Six weeks with a trainer/handler and I’m a different person, a Responsible Young Man. Of course, she modified my behavior with a steady diet of electro-shock therapy and a chloroform-soaked newspaper rolled tight into a baton, but whatever works, right?
I no longer wet the bed, chew up mom’s expensive pumps or charge the neighbor when playing in the front yard. Still having a little bit of trouble with the whole garbage can thing, but the vitamins are helping, I think.
I’m even allowed out in the evenings, free to roam the house sometimes without that stupid electric collar that sends a few volts through the system anytime I start screaming at the mailman or head toward the junk drawer where dad keeps that luscious box of kitchen safety matches.
How do I do it, you ask? How do I not turn on them?
Well, they do feed me and clothe me and hang a roof over my head. And don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful and all.
But this obedience thing is really just an act. A veil I wear across my face, making it a blank canvas of submission.
Biding my time. Biting my lip, until it bleeds if I have to, waiting, watching.
For the right time to torch this everlasting motherfucker, and everything in it.

OneWord, Found

OneWord is an interesting prompt. Here’s a word, here’s 60 seconds to write. Bing, times up. Edit and post.

“I was lost, but now I am found.”
It was a sermon he used quite often – the go-to lecture when she questioned life. And she was convinced God was intentionally ignoring her.
“God helps those who help themselves,” she said as she lit stray hair ends with a yellow disposable lighter.
He fell to his knees in silent prayer.
She rolled her eyes.

More Fiction in 58

She's Late
“Life is what you make of it,” she says, blowing steam from a Styrofoam cup filled with herbal tea.
“Then I’ve made a mess,” he says, sending a dented can skittering down the sidewalk with a kick.
They walk in silence until she reaches for his hand.
“I think we’ve created something wonderful,” she says, patting her stomach.

Sunday Scribblings, Fluent

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “fluent.”

“What are you fluent in? What interests you? Can you be fluent in anything other than a language? What is your take on fluency?”

Touched
She’s speaking in tongues, a mish-mash of gibberish that makes others who occupy the same stretch of sidewalk drop down off the curb to give her a wide enough berth.
The woman wears the weariness of middle-age. Her eyes are rolled up into the back of her head, her hands are curled into claws. Spit exits her mouth, as what sounds like nonsense escapes with the rise and fall of her chest, past ragged breaths. He lips twist and curl with the clucks and clicks of her tongue.
A child watches in silence from behind a lamppost, while her mother waits with a foot in the street, hailing a cab. The mother watches the street, watches the girl, aware of the rapid-fire sounds coming from the crazy lady in the tan housecoat and dirty sheepskin slippers.
“Mommy, why is that woman talking funny,” the child says, which comes out a faint whisper.
“She’s just fluent in crazy, that’s all. Come here, take mommy’s hand.”
But something’s happening to the child. Pink-cast nails begin to scrape along the metal post; her small chest begins to convulse, matching her now ragged breaths.
Tiny hands curl into claws. Like pulling a shade, her pale blue eyes go white as her irises roll back into her head.
Spittle forms on her lips as a language escapes her throat, guttural and ancient.
The woman in the housecoat breaks trance, swallows hard. Her eyes come back into focus on the little girl, golden pigtails resting on slim shoulders.
The woman licks her lips, smiles.
The mother screams.

A Fiction in 58

Haven’t done a Fiction in 58 in a few days…

Sunday

They wrestled over coffee, a tease of words, gestures.
He said man’s greatest achievement was the ability to make fire.
She laughed and said it was our ability to love, unconditional.
They played like that for hours, until he took her hand into his own warm embrace.
“Absolutely,” she said, not waiting for the spark of his question.

OneWord, Letter

OneWord isa writer's prompt I like to visit at least once a week, if just to nudge my creativity a bit. The prompt gives a word, and 60 seconds to write something.
That word is "letters."

The letters began to arrive three days past his funeral.
Hand-written on thick, creamy stock and in ink - with an elegant fountain pen, no less - each explained some mystery of him to friends and family. They were written in his forceful voice, but lacked his humility and his humor. Its as if the words were instructions for putting together a prefabricated coffee table.
Each began with “Friends,” and ended with a signature, his looping script, but just the initials of his name.
She’s so far not found the strength to share them with anyone.
She keeps them locked in a jewelry box.
And has taken to waiting for the postman.
Daily.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are amaze, frail and sacred. Somewhere, there's a better story in this than what came out.

Street Prophet

For all his craziness, he didn’t direct his gestured outbursts at those who passed on the street, but into a mobile smartphone.
Curious onlookers stole sideward glances. He wore the obvious cloak of homelessness: The scruff of a beard gone to wild seed, two pair of pants, a dirty coat, white plastic shopping sacks wrapped around cheap high-top basketball shoes.
A camouflaged backpack hung from frail, hollow shoulders. Its weight served to press him forever forward in an awkward hunch.
And the stench, it arrived well before he did - old beer sweat, urine, cigarette smoke - something else more sinister, like ripe cheese that’s filtered through an unseasonably hot day next to garbage cans.
He barked orders into the phone, to the amazement of those who parted, watching this wretched wreck use his left hand to drive home the points he was making into the phone.
He spoke in Aramaic, the sacred language of Christ and his Disciples. Not that those on the street knew it; to them it sounded old, foreign, guttural. A troubled man in troubled times.
He made a final plea into the handset, flicked a button with his thumb, hooked the mobile to a plastic holster on his belt.
He threw a cocked thumb into a nostril, blew a wad of snot onto the street and wiped his nose with his thumb and index finger. Moving toward the middle of a busy street corner, he fished for a torn cardboard sign from inside his jacket and unfolded it.
“Those Who Follow Are Saved” it read, scrawled in red crayon.
Those who passed gave him a wide berth, hurried the cadence of their steps.
The mobile rang and he smiled.
“I’ve got to take this,” he whispered to no one in particular.

Tuesday's NaiSaiKu Challenge

It’s Tuesday, time for a NaiSaiKu Challenge. It’s poetry, wit ha fun twist.

horizon glows orange,
another sunrise beckons us,
fresh ideas, new thoughts bustle,
IT’S DAWN ON A NEW DAY
fresh ideas, new thoughts bustle,
another sunrise beckons us,
horizon glows orange

OneWord, Idiot

OneWord is all about brevity. And creativity. One word, it’s idiot, and 60 seconds to write.

“You’re an idiot.”
She says it not as an insult, but as a tease.
He’s been sitting at the same table for a week now, reading Proust and idly stirring his tea with a plastic spoon.
She’s watched him every single day, from a spot on one of the overstuffed chairs, picking her way through the glossy magazine pages of Elle a wee bit jittery from the venti red-eye she orders, with an extra shot.
She’s in love with his face, the slight scar at the corner of his lip. It’s a love borne out of watching.
And when she finally speaks to him, she can’t hold back.