Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lights

(from a writing prompt of my friend Copper)
 " the lights glowed softly in the window..."

The lights glowed softly in the window like a Kincaid painting, or maybe a Norman Rockwell drawing, she mused.  Abigail was moseying home after a midnight candle service at church. She didn't come out  walking often enough to appreciate her small town at night.  It was special, this town, with its  soft gaslights and gleaming porch lights.  

At the moment her attention was caught by the gleaming lights of the small twenty four hour diner. It was situated across the street from the local college and just down the street from her own tiny two room apartment.  She had, really, rented the apartment for its ready access to the diner.  2 AM writing sessions felt much  more sacred and hallowed somehow when you sat curled up on the bench of a diner booth with a cup of steaming  hot coffee to hand and surrounded by fellow, similarly working, night owls.  In fact... tonight was a good night to write. She had that story installment due. She fished around in her over-sized purse until she came up with her notebook.  Yep. A good night to write.

Three minutes later she was lost to the glowing lights and the steaming coffee, curled up in a booth and wandering in her story world.

WNP: The Silent Room

WNP:  "a strange calmness came over him when he entered the silent room"



He had always been afraid of The Silent Room. Everybody was.  It was the horror hanging over your head throughout childhood. The monster worse than your worst nightmare.  The insidious fear of it pushing you on into adulthood doing only what was expected. Staying always within the lines to avoid the ultimate punishment of That Place. The room where your soul would be stolen away. Your body left as nothing but a vacant empty shell to be pushed around the endless corridors of the Institute.

But when he spoke a word too far, and his world fell apart, and it came time to actually step through Its doors, he found only that a strange calmness came over him.  After all, they had already stolen his life away in fear and silenced thoughts, silenced speech, silenced action. What did it matter then if they made it final?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Synchronicity: Mulling It Over

Synchronicity. That strange blend of coincidence and actually paying attention to the world going on around you and taking up the challenges it has on offer.

I've been working my way through the Artist Way book by Julia Cameron with several friends, so that particular word has been on my mind a lot lately.  The trying to pay attention to its presence anyway.  One of the things that has surprised me is the sheer volume of artists and writers going on about their process or how they look at their art- in books, on the tv, on the radio, in other people's entries on newspapers and blogs.  That kind of stuff, its very energizing for me. (Even if it is also a bit like an addiction where I can't get enough and am always craving more.)  Maybe because I'm just starting out in  the writing regularly business and am still trying ... desperately, intentionally... to figure out how to make the stories come out onto the page, well, like stories.  I've started to try to write them down when I notice them or hear them and to put down some of my thoughts on them as well. Not sure yet if that will change the actual writing much, but it surely does make them stick a little harder in the memory bank.

Here are two such quotes that have been kicking around my mind, like a pick up game of soccer, since I heard them.

Dunya Mikhail (exiled Iraqi poet)--  "I still feel that poetry is not medicine- it's an xray.  it helps you see the wound and understand it."

Joann Sfar (French graphic novelist)- "Reality is to an illustrator what exercise is to an athlete."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

WNP: Snap Shot

WNP: Jose sat down across from him....

Jose sat down across from him. The table between them littered with small piles of scrunched up paper covered in spidery lines of smudged black ink, a half dozen empty bottles of Ale-8 and IBC Root Beer, and the cracked remnants of a bag of blue corn chips. Reg refused to raise his head from where he was pounding it against the table. He had been here for two hours already and still nothing...

A hand grabbed a handful of his black curls and hauled his head upward until one dark brown eye could meet his blue gray ones. Jose managed a serious glare for all of about three seconds until he actually got a good look at Reg, then his face slowly broke with amusement until a few seconds later he had let go and was leaning back against the cracked vinyl of his own bench, howling with laughter.

"What, man?"  Reg straightened upright with a snap and disgruntled snarl.

"Sorry, sorry,"  Jose tried to speak through his  choking bursts of laughter, vaguely waving his pointer finger at Reg's head until he finally managed, "... your,  your face.... it's..." At which point he gave up and just laughed as tears began leaking out of the corners of his eyes. 

Reg launched out of the booth and toward the back of the diner where a thin strip of mirror ran along the top of a long counter, receiving several startled looks from other patrons as he whipped past.  Dropping his forearms down on the counter, he leaned forward and peered into the mirror.  A mass of jagged red and green lines ran across his forehead and down his left check, a few lines of words in smudged black ink overlying them.  With a groan he sank down onto a stool and buried his face in his arms. This day was going to be so bad. Sam was going to kill him.

Eventually he felt a tug on his arm, trying to haul him up and off the stool.

"Come on, Reg.  You can still be the winner in the ink war."  For which he got a fierce glare over his left shoulder.  "Come on. Up and at 'em. We have to be back home in like five minutes or mom is going to kill us. A little soap and water, and you'll be back to normal."

"Yeah, but I still don't have a letter or a picture for Sam." The last almost a long drawn out wail.

"Maybe you should just leave the ink then," Jose managed between renewed puffs of laughter. "She'll give you a grace period I'm sure."  Then he hauled him off the stool, slapped a wet paper towel into his hand, and began dragging him back toward the front door of the diner.  He snagged a heavy  bag off the bench of the booth as they walked by that Reg hadn't noticed before, and wait for a minute while Reg gathered his own pens and paper.

"What's with bag?" Reg grumbled as he slid into the front seat of Jose's beater. He swore he was going to fix it up, but..

"It's not a beater," Jose huffed as he walked around and slid in the driver's side door. He tossed his bag onto Reg's lap with a thump.

"I didn't say anything." Reg defended, unzipping the bag as he spoke.

"I can hear you thinking it."

Inside the bag was a homemade blank book whose cover had been collaged with what looked suspiciously like photos of him and Jose. He pulled it out to get a closer look.

To Sam From The Dynamic Duo was hand printed at the bottom. He gave Jose a sideways look before opening the book.  Inside, scraps of his crumpled up attempts at birthday poems and drawings for Sam from the past two weeks had been carefully smoothed out and glue-sticked to the right hand page. On the left side Jose had written his interpretation.  Next to a black heart he had written  "we miss you already"; for a scrap of bad poem about her hair and charm "we think your awesome and beautiful and top stuff"; for a blue mountains scene that had actually been for a school project "just think of all the peace and quiet without your two rowdy brothers".  He had wondered what had happened to it.

Reg flipped to the last page. It was the page he had been pounding his head against when Jose had found him ten minutes ago. The page was a mass of black words with every other one scribbled through, and several dark lines of red and green running down it where Reg had finally given up and attacked the page with some of his other color pens.  Next to it Jose had written "In fact, we love you so much, we can't even find enough words to tell you."  Underneath it he had put in a photo their mom had snapped earlier that summer of the three of them sprawled on a park bench after hiking through the Gorge for several hours in the heat. They were dirty and exhausted and smiling. Sam was sitting between the two of them. It was a good picture.

"You did this?"

"Bro?  Sam is thirteen as of today and bitter, bitter, bitter that you and I are going away to school in three days without her. You think I'm coming home from school at Thanksgiving to find out she's cut holes in all our t-shirts and painted hate messages in black nail polish on the bottoms of our skateboards?"

Reg just bumped his fist to Jose's, too emotional to reply with more than a soft, "Thank you." 

"I got your back, Bro. I got your back."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

WNP: Burnt Toast

WNP:  an awful smell arose from the toaster

T scraped the knife carefully over the top of her blackened toast, trying not to flinch at the sound or to dig too deeply. Or to waste the three minutes remaining of her five minute break. It had been deeply demoralizing to smell the burnt bread wafting through her kitchen door and into the bedroom where she had been parked re-writing a flawed paragraph in her final essay.  Finishing her attempt to reclaim her bit of bread, she pulled open fridge. Two cans of diet coke stared back it her.  She let out a groan. This was her last piece of bread without even any butter or jam left to fancy it up. She really needed to grocery shop.  Later. No time now.  She glanced at the clock again. One hour and forty minutes till she had to leave the house with the printed version of her final essay. Worth 30 percent of her grade.  The adrenaline shot cleared her head, and a moment later she was back at the computer screen revising frantically, toast forgotten.