Thursday, November 30, 2006

I finished!

I did it! This picture is totally worth 50,000 words. More fiction snippets when I stop being burned out from work.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Truth: I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year.

So this fiction blog is on hiatus until further notice.

Some possible first lines:

Because I had never fainted before, the startling sensation of waking up after unconsciousness was entirely new to me.

She was always worried about her appendix, but terrorism didn't faze her in the slightest.

When the morning starts with a jumper, it's never a good morning for anyone.

She sucked the coffee down defiantly, though it burned her throat and made bile churn in her stomach.

You were the one I'd hoped for.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

this is it

I woke up this morning and didn't have to go to work anymore. Simple as that, a million ideas were careening through my head at breakneck speed, for all the projects that I want to start and all the extreme sports I want to try, and all the wines I have to drink and all the music I have to make and all the mountains I have to climb just so I can see what's at the top before I die. But first, I thought, I'd heat up the old arthritic knee and maybe get some breakfast in me. Breakfast turned into lunch, and into dinner, and early to bed, of course, the better to get a jump on the next day's dreams.

Friday, October 06, 2006

i'm almost certain that we both lied

This morning's metro ride was supposed to be the sort of affair where I get on the train, I find a seat, and then I proceed to sit in that seat and listen to my iPod for twenty minutes after a semi-sleepless, hungover night. All was going according to plan: after my miserable walk through puddles and merciless roadspray, I found a seat on the train, right at the edge of the seat bank (my favorite seat). A black woman of a certain age was sitting next to me, and she made her presence known by saying, "Good morning." I'm sure I mumbled something moderately pleasant back to her while an old Cardigans song blasted in my earbuds.

The ride was like any other, the calming influence of familiar music punctuated by the screeching of the brakes and the periodic stops. But right after we had passed the first stop, I saw the woman next to me take a pink pamphlet out of her bag and rest it on top of her still-folded copy of the Post Express. She held it up for a while, as though she expected me to get a good look at the cover before she opened it. It was called Happiness Digest. Like Readers' Digest, only for the Bible. As the train crept through the district, she made a big show of opening the pamphlet and folding it over to read it.

It was the kind of booklet that my grandmother always kept around her house, piled in neat stacks on her coffee table. They were basically portable sermons, replete with quotations from Scripture and affirmations of God's love through Jesus Christ. The woman, whose smooth face belied her age, was visibly checking on me, to make sure that I was reading over her shoulder. I was not.

Fiona Apple was crooning about sin in my ears. The woman knew that I would be getting off the train soon, as I was buttoning my coat and unbuttoning my umbrella, so she turned to me and spoke in a slow, frail voice. "I like to give away this pink book on my birthday," she said. "Will you take it?", what would an angel say?
the devil wants to know...

"I already have one." The words slipped out before I was even sure what I wanted to say.


I was in it, now. "Yes."

"Take it anyway, and share it," she said, thrusting the book into my hands as I stood to leave the train. "It makes me happy."

"Ok, thanks," I answered, the words tumbling out of my mouth in a curious hurry. "Happy birthday."

"Oh!" she laughed, sounding a bit startled. "Thank you."

I hadn't noticed her perfume until that moment, cloying and heavy like old people and incense, but the scent stayed with me all the way to the office.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

he licks the spoon, he throws it away

He licked the spoon from his yogurt like a well-behaved little boy taking his cough medicine. A man of thirty, he knew, of course, that yogurt would help his internal colonies of healthy bacteria repopulate during his current course of antibiotics, so he consumed the last from the plastic cup as meticulously as he could. His pitted and mottled patches of skin were suddenly visible in contrast to the serious pink tongue that darted out from between heavily whiskered lips, painting the whole picture of this almost lascivious licking with a broad-brushed grotesquerie.

When he appeared to be done with the yogurt, he paused for a moment to consider the spoon. It was plastic, black, and probably covered with inactive forms of whatever it was that had made him require antibiotics in the first place. "I like to wash these things," he said, "and reuse them." But he knew that wouldn't be the safe, clean thing to do. So he chucked it into the garbage can like so many nickels into a tollbooth receptacle. Gone and good. I wondered about him, sometimes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

life is a junior mint

Peppermint ice cream makes me exist fully in the moment. No flashbacks to long summer days of running barefoot in the tall grass. No memories of mom's homemade stuff: she didn't even start making her own ice cream until we kids moved out. There is absolutely no emotional baggage to stand between me and the perfectly cold pink dream that is currently performing a miracle of slow, sweet melt on my tongue.

Unfortunately, my next spoonful was somehow tainted with this month's extra-chocolate specialty: the clerk must have used a scoop that wasn't entirely clean. While I am in the clear as far as peppermint is concerned, the bittersweet of chocolate recalls a series of events in my life that I would otherwise rather forget.

Friday, September 29, 2006

open your gift

It's not my birthday. It's entirely too warm out to be Christmas, and it certainly isn't any kind of normal holiday, considering the fact that I went to work and it was drudgery as usual. There's no card, no tag. Just a nicely-wrapped gift box sitting on the floor of my apartment. In fact, I almost tripped over the damn thing as I stumbled through the front door, laden with all the trappings of a long commute (lunch bag, jacket, commuter bag, purse, keys). I'm not sure how it even got in here, though I suppose the management has keys and can put your newspapers inside if you leave them out there for too long.

It had been forever since I'd gotten a strange gift, and I wasn't quite sure what to think. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"? But I didn't know who gave this to me, or even, for that matter, if it was actually intended for me. It was merely a gift bearing gifts, and it might have been delivered to me by accident. I wouldn't know unless I opened it, right?

So I took it to the couch and set it down on the coffee table. The box itself glowed almost supernaturally, as though it absorbed all the light in the room and reflected that warmth and life back through its mother of pearl wrapping paper and iridescent white ribbons. It looked like the sort of painstaking gift wrap job that I would do, all smooth and self-sufficiently pleasing to the eye, to the fingertips. Absentmindedly, I had been stroking the box, presumably trying to find the seams: I wouldn't want to just shred a wrapping job like that, so I'd have to open it where it had been taped. It was too lovely not to.

But I had run my fingers all over the box, and there were no seams at all. I picked up the box and studied it. The underside? Like pearly glass. The place where the ribbons were? Nothing. I couldn't even tell how the ribbons were attached. It was like someone had wrapped the box in a thin sheet of clay, and rubbed out all the lines of the folds.

I was willing to accept that someone would give me a random gift. It was within reason to believe that it could have valid reasons for appearing inside my locked apartment. But I drew the line at this, the perfect, seamless wrapping paper. The aura of the box, the glow that I had immediately found appealing, seemed to take on a ghoulish cast. I made up my mind to call the landlord tomorrow, to ask him about the box. Then I went to the kitchen to heat up some leftovers for dinner.

When I was in the kitchen, a knot of unease tightened in my abdomen, compelling me to go back and look in the living room, to make sure that the box was there. When I saw it, I felt better, and could go back and tend the microwave. Heating the leftovers took twice as long because I had to keep taking breaks to check on the box. But it made me nervous, being around it but being unable to see it. Why did I feel the need to keep looking at it? Was I afraid of its contents? Or was it something else?

I didn't want it in my house while I slept. It had to go outside and wait in the hallway until I could call the landlord about it. But that's silly! Of course I was overreacting! It's a gift, it's lovely, and it would be rude to the giver if he or she ever found out that I made it sit in the hallway all night, wouldn't it? But he or she would probably not find out, I reasoned, as I opened the door and deposited the gift onto my welcome mat. And it would be fine out here. My neighbors would all be asleep in a couple of hours, and I would too. I could deal with it in the morning.

Morning came, and I rolled out of bed, groggily downing a glass of water and putting in my contacts. Ah, Saturday! The one day of the week when it's acceptable to putter around for a while, with asinine cartoons as background noise while the coffee percolates! I ambled into the living room and tripped, falling flat on my face. When I hauled myself up off the floor, I saw what I had tripped over. It was the gift. It was back in the apartment, even farther in than it had been the first time. But something about it was different. There were seams in the wrapping, now, places for me to slide my fingers under the paper and pull the taped flaps up from the package. So tempting...but so wrong! I ran to the phone to call the landlord.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

if you can't dance to this...

There was a small video crew setting up yesterday before my broadway/jazz class. I mean, this is a class for young adults, for people who want to dance for fun and exercise, so I was pretty sure that it wasn't a talent scout or anything like that. So I duck into a changing room and strip down to my dance clothes...leotard, tights, little athletic shorts. Nothing matches, of course, and I quickly pray that this video crew is just for someone's resume tape or something. They make us sign waivers before we walk into the studio. MTV. So much for my dance outfit's obscurity.

The music starts. Seemingly for dramatic effect, it's 42nd Street, and as I'm just starting to sing along in my head, I notice this one awkward little boy in the front, right in the center of the studio. He's jiggling around a little, presumably loosening up. But it must be hard for him to "loosen up" when the video cameras seem to be trained directly on him. Sure enough, their unforgiving lenses are pointing straight at him, and I realize that he's not jiggling at all: he's trembling, and trying (unsuccessfully) to hide it.

He's probably fifteen or sixteen, but he looks about ten...towheaded and bespectacled, skinny and short, kind of how I always pictured Owen Meany in that book, you know? A very well-groomed man with an MTV t-shirt is crouching in front of him, with his back to the mirror, giving him the thumbs up and telling him sotto voce that he'll do great, just watch the teacher and do what she does, etc. I figure it out...he's on that show Made and he's taking this dance class to get graceful, or to be a better football player (poor tiny thing!), or to gear up for the prom.

But nobody I know watches Made for the inspiring endings. We all watch out of sheer schadenfreude: "Thank God I'm not a klutz like that!" or "Can you believe that people like this haven't been naturally selected out yet??" We watch because we like to see ordinary people humiliate themselves on cable. You know it, I know it, and the producers of the show know it. Why else would they put this newbie high school kid into an adult dance class and follow his every awkward step with two cameras?

"Come and meet...those dancing feet..." I felt a little sorry for him, but it was all I could do to concentrate on my own steps, to make sure that I wouldn't be the one tripping over my own feet in front of the cameras. My friends and family wouldn't be watching him in this scene anyway.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the fires of autumn

Today I find myself in a dying sunshine, with its falling leaves and the specific blue of its sky. The office girls on the street are little open flowers, hurrying to drink in the warmth by getting the last wears out of their peep-toe pumps, cap sleeves and peasant skirts before the cold comes. The boys just loosen their ties as they always do. The weather is perfect, and I am walking apace toward my certain failure.

You see, I have a meeting in about half an hour. A big meeting, with my bosses, my bosses' bosses, and the biggest-name potential clients that we have ever had. And I have nothing to show them but my smart little suit (why did I bother?), this beautiful autumn day, and a leather portfolio full of blank paper. Why did I think that I could do this? I am not cut out for the long hours of a magazine advertising maven. I don't have the print background, and I've been out of fresh ideas since my junior year of college. But they hired me anyway, probably thinking that I would suddenly rediscover whatever talent I once displayed with gusto on student-group posters and flashy websites.

I should turn around. I should turn around right now and go sit in the park. In fact, I should get used to the park, because that's where I will be living in a few short months if I don't get another job after I lose this one. Rents here are not cheap!

"Not cheap." Hmm. Not bad. I knelt on the sidewalk, ripping my pantyhose to shreds while I opened the portfolio and took out a pen. I started writing and sketching. "Not cheap, by design." "Not cheap, but you get what you pay for." An expensive-looking apartment, with one of these things sitting on the coffee table. A car with an all-leather interior and a GPS system, with one of these on the hardwood dash. Not bad. Twenty minutes left. Maybe I won't have to live in the park after all.

miscommunicated spanikopita

The words have been few and far between in our apartment, lately. I hear him running the dishwasher, and sometimes he hears me slam the door by accident when my hands are full of the laundry basket or the mail. So when he asked if he could pick anything up for me while he was out, I remembered how to say, "No, thank you," and he was gone, the door clicking quietly behind him. But when he returned, he had a bag full of aromatic takeout from the Greek place. "I brought you a spinach pie," he said. I couldn't eat it right then because there were too many other variables at play, but I knew what he meant. I was glad that he had done it, but I couldn't figure out how to tell him. Later, I heard him put some music on his stereo, and I put my empty water glass in the sink. I think we are ok.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the dooryard

"You have to see this place to believe it," she whispered fervently, grabbing my hand and practically dragging me out of the car. "It's unlike's...unlike...anything."

When Madeira got so worked up that she was at a loss for words, I knew that she was about to show me something amazing. "You won't believe it," she whispered. I love Maddy when she gets like this, cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling, dark shiny hair flowing in every excited direction. I love her. We stumbled up the side of a small mountain, kicking up dirt, moss, and small sticks in our haste.

"How did you find this, again?" I asked her in a low voice. I wasn't sure why we had been whispering in the first place.


Apparently this place, whatever it is, demands a respectful silence. We reached the top after another five minutes or so of scrambling, and I immediately felt that we were at a different elevation. The air seemed a little bit thinner, and I was getting lightheaded. Or maybe that was just hunger, as I tend to get a little peckish if someone drags me out of bed just before dawn and pulls me up the side of a mountain. But it's Maddy, so I stay quiet and ignore the mild sense of dizziness. "Do you see it?" she whispered.

I followed her luminous arm with my eyes, down into the ravine where she was pointing. That tricky predawn light obscured my vision, but after staring for a few seconds, I was beginning to make out shapes. It wasn't just a ravine. It was a rectangle set into the top of a deep, wide ravine. A solid, flat rectangle. With...what was that...? A doorknob?

"I call it 'The Dooryard,'" she whispered. "Go ahead. Open it."

She had to be insane. I can't just open some random door in the ground, especially in this light, where I can't even really see what might be coming out of the door to eat the pair of us. And no guy wants to go without telling the woman he loves how he feels, or knowing that she died too and he couldn't save her. ""

"I'll do it!" she snapped. "I did it before." She dropped to her knees and gingerly twisted the doorknob. The door opened outward, and she pulled it all the way open, letting the knob rest on the soft earth near where I was standing. Inside, I thought I saw another door.

"Is that...?" This door was made of metal, with a handle instead of a knob, and when she turned it, it inexplicably opened inward. But there was another door right there. I couldn't explain the physics of it. It just worked.

"I needed you to come," she said. "In case something bad happened."

My night with Maddy just got much, much longer.

smoke and mirrors

Silently, mouth open, I watched the first triumphant steps of the Wacky-Wall-Walker as it made its unsteady way down the face of the mirror wall in the dining room. I was trying to not look at the back of my hand, so I focused on the blue goo-rubber spider, the cereal box toy that had an appeal that my mother just couldn't see. Out of the corner of my eye, I could still see the temporary tattoo (also from a cereal box) on the back of my hand and I hated it. It was Batman's eye, or something, rendered in a comic-book-style blue and yellow, and all I wanted was for that awful bruise to stop staring at me.

These, of course, are the thoughts you have when your heart is pounding and your head is spinning and different aromas of flavored tobaccos are filling your nostrils like a thousand ball-peen hammers slowly pounding your brain out to the rhythm of the newest Kama Sutra soundtrack. Or at least, this is what I was thinking about after I'd had three vodka cocktails and some strawberry-mint shisha in the hookah bar.

Eventually, I cried about the tattoo and Mom scrubbed it off with some rubbing alcohol (the cool burn of freedom!). A cool, sweet burn like the ice water that the veil-clad waitress brought to chase my vices.

Monday, September 25, 2006

political intrigue

I remember laughing about some government agency, some Senatorial hopeful who had done something stupid again, all while slowly sipping a glass of Cliquot in a back room of the restaurant and wondering who might have overheard. When was the last time that so-called important elections hadn't ended up as freakshows? When had it not been expected that one candidate would make an ass of himself on television and someone else would dig up dirt on the other guy to make him look just as bad? At least the government employees still get paid every other Thursday no matter who wins the race. So just like that, life in the metro area of the White City goes on over expensive drinks in dark restaurants: smart people laugh in hushed tones over their beautiful food.

how to be a girl

They looked like pink sugar, glitter seeming to dance in and out of the pores of their faces. Whipped glosses on their lips, body butter, perfume, long strands of beads falling from their earlobes. They all looked delicious, like sugar-crusted lollipops, sweet and sparkling and candy-smooth. Except for when the fatigue crept into the masks of their makeup, folding little lines of liquor-dehydration and "tired of smiling for the cameras" into their faces. They slouched, they sighed, they resigned themselves to silent cell phones and chewing gum, shining into their G&Ts, into the night.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

welcome to the no "no-spin" zone

I read somewhere that in today's world, everything has a "mission statement." Even your ordinary preschooler has "tasks," makes "content," and has a "target audience." We are all so wrapped up in the business plans of our lives, that we are too busy reading memos to slow down and read a little poetry. To open our eyes and just open our mouths and just say.

For me, it's that I've been "too busy" to think like I used to. Too busy to use the words that I filled my head with for all those years, and too busy to say what I would have liked to say. I need to fix that, for my mental well-being. So I offer, for the blogosphere, some daily words, strung together like so many faceted crystal beads: weighty, shiny, wonderous, and frivolous, all in a time of casual brutality against aesthetics.

I don't need you to believe anything that you will read here, and if you are anything like me, you will find that to be the most freeing thing that you have ever read on the Internet.