Monday, May 31, 2010

Coming of Age: 11

The prompt for this upcoming week's [fiction friday] is "A coming of age tale."  Hoping to get an early start, I started writing early this morning.  The piece I'm working on is way too long for a simple fiction friday post, so I decided to post it day by day.  The story is titled Jenny and it's written in sections based on Jenny's age.  I'll post the first one here today and then continue until posting the thrust of the story on Friday as my fiction friday entry. Follow along if you like.  I would love any constructive criticism or comments.



The loud speaker blares across Jenny's quiet classroom, "Attention fifth grade teachers. Please send all fifth grade girls to the multipurpose room." Jenny looks up from the book she's reading, The Babysitter's Club #15: Little Miss Stonybrook . . . and Dawn, and wonders what could be waiting in the multipurpose room.  Filing into the room with all the other girls, Jenny sees that the projector is sitting in the center and the large screen is pulled down at the front of the room.  Mrs. Thatcher, the principle, quiets the girls and explains that they will be watching a short film. She hits the light switch and stands guard at the double doors.

The projector roars to life and the words “Your Changing Body” flash across the screen.  Jenny watches intently as cartoon drawings of intimate body parts are displayed.  Her face turns red at the technical terms for the parts of her body that, until now, have been known simply as “private.”  Jenny fights the urge to giggle and tries not to catch the eyes of the other girls.  The film concludes with detailed instructions on using maxi pads.  As the lights come back on, the girls begin to whisper and giggle.

“Alright girls, back to class,” Mrs. Thatcher says.

Walking back to her classroom, Jenny overhears Amber Penn boasting that her mom told her she would start soon. 

“I’m an early bloomer,” Amber says.

Jenny frowns and furrows her brow, eager to get back to the book she was reading.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"This is not pudding"

"This is not pudding" --The Grinch

In other words, this is not freewriting, or fiction, or a pillow book list. Rather, this entry is a response to the cathartic ending of LOST, which I finally managed to watch last night. Since my concussion last month, I've found many things that I love to do extremely difficult.  Staying awake while images flash on the screen like a siezure inducing cartoon is one of them.  With little nudges from my husband, I was able to watch the much anticipated finale and I'm so glad I did.

There has been much criticsm of The Finale Chapter just as there has been much criticism of the series.  I'm not surprised at this considering the show's popularity.  Despite the plethora of negative criticism, I've remained an avid fan since the day I stumbled upon the pilot and in shock asked myself, "Whaaaat? Is this a movie?" I enjoyed those first two hours, intrigued by the idea of a series that seemed to encompass action, drama, mystery, and sci-fi.

At the close of the pilot, I immediately hit the web, hungry for more. What I found was a posting board named The Fuselage.  Here, I spent roughly six months of my life, pausing only to eat, sleep a few hours, dote on my 4-year-old son, and of course watch LOST with my husband, my first lostie convert.  On this site, I made many friends, asked many questions, received very few answers, and learned of the magician/genius known as JJ Abrams.  I also gained a new obsession: Alias. At this point, Alias was about to start its  4th season, and one of my newfound lostie friends offered to send me the first 3 seaons on DVD.  I watched them with baited breath and was not dissapointed.  When I had seen each set at least 3 times I decided to reluctantly send them back home. To my surprise, my new friend, known only as "Rose," told me to just keep them: an amazing gift.

After six months, my husband and I both decided that I would have to quit The Fuselage cold turkey or lose all semblance of a normal life.  I did eventually get back to reality, with only my hour of LOST a week, I managed to function as a part of society again.  As Alias came to a close, I watched the finale with hopes not only for a satisfying closure to this beloved series, but also with the idea that if Abrams could pull this off, then there was real hope that an eventual LOST resolution was in sight.  Alias did it.  Now I thought surely LOST would be able to do the same.

I wasn't wrong. Spinning through the whirlwind that is LOST has been an amazing ride. I cherished every twist and turn, every hint at answers, and each reveal that left me with new questions.  In the finale season, the writer's gave our characters a chance to work out their frustrations and come to a resolution: to let go. Through the characters' cathartic moments, I was able to also let go. Bravo. The finale was a perfect mixture of just enough answers to satisfy my curiosity and just enough open-endedness to leave me feeling that the story will continue for these characters.  Just like a good novel or short story, I get the feeling that life goes on . . .

Friday, May 28, 2010

[Fiction Friday] Writer's Block

Writer’s Block

“Jason got up from his desk, walked to the edge of cubicle, and slowly peered around the edge. His mouth dropped open. This can’t be happening, he thought.” Tyler read the words on his screen aloud. 

“What can’t be happening?” Tyler said.
 “I have absolutely no idea,” he answered himself, “No. No. No. Not writer’s block again.” 

Tyler closed his laptop and started pacing between the kitchen bar and the bay window, which served as his temporary writer’s nook. Outside the small window over the sink, the birds had begun their morning songs in the early dawn. He started to run through his routine: the plumber he called it. He could imagine a plumber, wearing a sweat-stained tee and the standard tool belt that tugged down on his worn jeans, making his way through Tyler’s brain with a plunger and a rooter, clearing out the blockage like hair from a drain. Tyler paced for a few more minutes and then made his way to the fridge. He opened the door and pulled out a gallon of orange juice and the last of the leftover blackberry pie. Tyler poured a large glass of juice and started in on the pie. Both disappeared within just a few minutes. 

His appetite sated, Tyler walked down the basement stairs and fumbled for the light cord at the bottom. He turned the dial on the sauna to 30 minutes and peeled off his robe and pajama pants. He grabbed a towel from the shelf and stepped into the warming sauna. He poured a ladleful of water over the hot rocks and listened to the sizzle as the steam rose around him. “Come on Joe the plumber, surely this’ll get the gunk out,” He said. Tyler closed his eyes and waited for the timer to buzz.

At the sound of the timer, Tyler awoke with a start. He looked around and quickly remembered where he was. The heat had just cut off and the rocks were already beginning to cool. Tyler grabbed his towel and wrapped it around his waist. Sweat was forming little beads at his hairline, which slowly fell, carving tiny rivers that ran down his temple, over his jaw, and into the crevice at his neck. His blonde, curly hair was matted and drenched. Tyler stepped out of the sauna and started to wipe the sweat from his body. He pulled on his favorite pajama pants, the flannel ones speckled with Reese’s peanut butter cups. Hope this does it, he thought, Don’t make me break out the weights this time. He made his way back up the stairs, across the kitchen, and into his writing nook.   
Tyler opened the screen on his laptop and waited the few seconds it took to wake up. There was his page. It wasn’t entirely blank. There were a few lines of a story starting to form, but when he read down to that last line again, he still felt stuck.

“What on earth does Jason see around that corner?” Tyler said.

The computer made the little popping noise that meant an instant message was waiting.  Man, I’m working. Frustrated at the interruption, Tyler did what he always did when an IM popped up: He clicked the little box at the corner of his screen. 

“A man in a mask,” the message read. 

What? Tyler looked for the sender’s name. The letter “J” was the only identification in the little box.

Tyler typed back, “Who’s this?”
“J. a man in a mask. trust me,” the message read.

Tyler looked back up at his infant of a story and something clicked.  Yeah, a man in a mask.  That’s exactly what Jason saw around that corner. Tyler started typing away, describing the man in the mask: a spy sent to steal priceless computer files in the dead of night. Jason’s was a tale of corporate espionage. Click, click, click went the keys under Tyler’s fingers. He was on a role, falling into Jason’s character and developing the motivation behind the man in the mask. 

Pop. Another message came up on Tyler’s screen. It read, “Why is Jason at the office in the dead of night?”
“Good question.” Tyler typed back.

He hadn’t thought to include this little fact and now he knew it would make his story much richer. Tyler scrolled to the beginning of his story and added the necessary details. He kept typing well into the afternoon, pausing only to read the messages that kept popping up on his screen. Each message pointed out a hole in his story. J was like his own personal editor, peering over his shoulder as he worked. At first Tyler was a little wary, questioning the source of the messages. As he continued writing, though, he came to rely on J’s feedback and started enjoying the unique process.

Beginning to feel an ending coming on, Tyler looked up at his screen and read the last sentence he typed aloud, “Jason cleaned the blood from his knife, rolled the spy over and pulled up his mask.” Hmmmm, he thought. Just as he was questioning that last sentence, Tyler heard the familiar pop of an IM.

“The End,” the message read.
“The End,” Tyler automatically typed on the page. 

He clicked the save button and closed his laptop. He leaned back in his cracked leather chair, plopped his feet up on the desk, and looked through the big bay window. The birds had disappeared and the hot afternoon sun was beating down on the row of rose bushes that lined the fence in his backyard. He decided it was way past lunch time.     

With a feeling of satisfaction, Tyler crossed the kitchen and swung open the pantry doors.  He grabbed the first thing in sight: a bag of greasy potato chips, which he quickly emptied. Then he headed for the fridge, searching out that last bottle of Shiner he’d been saving. He took a big swig and let out an “ahhhhhh” worthy of a cheesy movie.  Finishing the beer in just two drinks, Tyler thought maybe he would take a shower.   

Give it a go @ Write Anything     

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Things That Scare Me

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.

Things That Scare Me

The idea that someone I love will die –too often, my mind goes to a dark place.  I’ll be driving over a bridge and suddenly a scene flashes:  the car swerving, skidding across the pavement, and hurtling over the edge.  When my husband is away from home and I think he should be back by now, my mind runs through a laundry list of all the horrible things that might have happened:  he was mugged outside the library, he stopped for a soda and got between a thief and his loot, his car broke down on the side of the interstate and an eighteen wheeler splattered him across all eight lanes of I-30.  I think of James, sleeping soundly in his bed at night and am afraid to go in to check on him.  What if he isn’t breathing? What if his little body has turned cold and his alabaster skin to a sickly shade of blue? I always manage to go in, though.  I pick my way through action figures and origami bunnies to the side of his bed, where I lean over and kiss his warm cheek.  Sometimes he mews like a kitten and others he rolls over and swings his arms in my direction. Once, his eyes popped open as if he hadn’t ever been asleep.

Creepy ghost stories – I know there are spirits among us: angels of the Lord and the demons cast from Heaven.  I know there are great battles, like the one described in the book of Daniel, happening in the places between what we see and what we know in our hearts.  I’m just not sure there are ghosts of people who have passed.  For now, I’ll imagine that there are and they’re sharing this earth, sometimes slipping between the veil of real and imagined.


Jacob pushes open the front door and comes barreling into our little apartment. Swinging his backpack around, and tossing it next to the laundry doors, he starts to shed his school uniform as he makes his way to his room.

“Mom, have you been playing with my action figures,” Jacob says as he stomps half-dressed into the living room.
“Oh, sure, you know how much I love to play guys while you’re at school.” I say.
“Mom.” Jacob’s frustration shows throughout his whole body.  He slumps his shoulders and hangs his arms down by his side. “They were all in the center of my room. I was in the middle of a great battle: Hulk and Skaar against Spider Man and all his friends.”
“Well, I didn’t touch them, Jacob. I’ve been working on these notebooks most of the afternoon and Dad’s been working on his research paper for Dr. Sommers.”
“Someone played with them.  They were all lined up ready to fight and now Hulk is all the way across the room.”
“Where is he?”
“I found him on my bed, tangled up in the covers.”
“Maybe it was Sam,” I say.
“Sam, who’s Sam?
“Our ghost, of course.”
“Ghost? Mom, what’re you talking about?”
“Come outside with me and I’ll tell you all about her.”

Jacob hurries to his room to throw on some play clothes, while I step out onto our balcony. I head straight for the blue folding chair: my spot. Jacob comes through the door and pulls it almost closed. The wind is picking up and leaves from the Magnolia tree flutter across the grass, some crashing to the ground and others landing in the pool. Jacob stands right in front of me and leans his back against the black railing.

“Okay, Mom, who’s this Sam?” Jacob says.
“Sam used to live here. She was a little girl about your age. Her name was Samantha, but everyone called her Sam. I’m pretty sure these apartments have been here for about 50 years.”
“Is that how long ago she lived here?”
“No, she lived here about 30 years ago. Right in this apartment and right in your room.”
“Really, Mom? How do you know?”
“I looked it up online,” I say. “When I started to notice some weird things happening around the apartment, I decided to see if anyone had ever died here.”

Jacob fidgeted with one of the Magnolia leaves and climbed up to sit on the thin, metal rail.

“Down,” I say.

He jumps down onto the concrete patio and sits in the other chair. Propping his elbow on the arm of the chair, he leans towards me with wide eyes and a questioning smile.

“Well . . .” Jacob says.
“Well . . . I found an old news story about this little girl named Samantha.  Funny.  Your room used to be filled with My Little Ponies and princess costumes. She had one of those fancy beds with the canopy hanging down around it. Like Sarah Grace had in Kansas City.”
“Oh yeah, that was cool.”
“One morning, her mom and dad went in to wake her up for school, and they found her dead. The canopy was wrapped around her neck. She had gotten tangled up in it in her sleep and been strangled.”
“Really. They had pictures and everything.  Her neck was bent sideways; her head was turned almost all the way around.  It was inhuman.”
“Ewe. Can I see?” Jacob said.
“No. It would be too scary.”
“Come on, Mom. I’m not scared of ghosts.”

I paused for a moment, letting it all sink in. The front door swung slowly open with a creak and Jacob jumped out of his chair. 

“What was that?” he said.
“That was probably Sam. She knows we’re talking about her. All those weird things that keep happening, I’m pretty sure she’s doing them. You know when the porch light flickers. That’s her.  And when the air conditioner starts to come on, but stalls, and then roars back to life. That’s her too.”

I get up and pull the front door all the way closed until it clicks. Jacob looks around the porch as if he’s trying really hard to see something that’s just beyond his field of vision.

“So she’s the one who moved Hulk across the room?”
“I think so. Sometimes I hear a thud in your room when you’re not here. I’ll go in to check it out and one of your toys will be tossed all haphazard against the wall or on your bed or on top of your tent. I don’t think she likes playing with all your boy toys.”
“Maybe I can get her an Elektra figure.” Jacob says.
“Do you think she’d like that?” I say.
“You’re a girl and you’d like one, right?”

Jacob puts his arms on top of the railing and looks out past the pool.  He sees his best friend, Paul, coming out of his apartment.  His eyes light up.

“Mom, can I go play with Paul?”
“Sure, you know the rules.”
“Don’t worry, Mom.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

[Fiction Friday] on Monday

I'm a little behind on my writing.  We had a very busy weekend.  Still,  I couldn't resist trying my hand at [fiction friday].  Friday's topic was:  A boy and his father awaken early to watch the sunrise from their mountain campsite, but they begin to panic when the sky remains dark long into the afternoon.  


Jack pulled back the sleeping bag and felt the rush of cold air on his face.  He reached over to silence his cell phone, which had been playing Matchbox 20’s “Three AM.”  It can’t be three already, Jack thought.  He focused his eyes on the small screen.  “5 o’clock,” he said aloud.  Jack remembered that he had changed the alarm time before falling asleep last night.  He usually woke at 3 to get to work each morning, but he knew that after a long day of hiking, he would need the extra rest.  Waking at 5 would give him time to rouse Micah and still make it to the top of the mountain before 6 AM rolled around. 

The light from his phone lit up the tent.  In the eerie glow, he could see the mound of sleeping bag that was his 10-year-old son, Micah.  Jack tried to stretch in the cramped tent and wondered how Micah could sleep so soundly.  Jack had tossed and turned all night, feeling every bump, stone, and roll in the earth beneath their campsite.  They had hiked the mountain all day before making camp a few hundred yards from the peak.  In the dusk, the view was limited so Jack was eager to get to the top and see the amazing view.    

“Wake up, sleepies,” Jack said.  

He reached over to nudge Micah’s back.  Micah’s response was a sort of mewing sound.  Jack loved to hear that sleepy sound.  It reminded him of the days when Micah was just a baby; a small thing that needed him constantly.  Now Micah was growing up and rarely asked for Daddy’s help.  Jack rubbed Micah’s back through the sleeping bag and Micah began to stir.   Micah rolled onto his back, stretched his arms up over his head and pointed his toes, making two hard dots at the end of the sleeping bag.  Micah’s fingers touched the tent wall and he suddenly realized where he was.  Micah popped up.

“Are we going fishing, Dad?” Micah said.
“Sure we are.” Jack said.
“Get dressed, Dad.  Come on, let’s go. Where’s my stuff?”
“Hold it, bud.  I’ve gotta have some coffee.”

Micah grabbed his backpack and started pulling his jeans up over his long johns.  Jack grabbed his pack, unzipped the tent, and crawled out into the windy pre-dawn. 

“It’s still pretty dark out here, Micah.  Grab the flashlight on your way out.” Jack said.

Jack fumbled through their camp searching for the glowing embers of last night’s fire.  Micah bounded out of the tent and tossed the flashlight in Jack’s direction.  It hit the ground and rolled. 

“Sorry, Dad,” Micah said.  He ran over to where the flashlight had landed. Picking it up, he quickly handed it to his Dad, “here you go.  I’ll get your coffee cup.”

Finding the remains of their fire, Jack carefully placed a few limbs on top of the embers and waited for the flames to start licking the dry wood.  Micah handed his dad the bag with their cooking supplies and then started flittering around the camp, eager to get going. 

After just a few minutes, the fire was ready, Jack was dressed, and coffee was on its way.  Micah ran up to Jack with his fishing pole in hand and his hat sitting sideways on his head.

“I’m ready, Dad,” Micah said.
“Just hold up,” Jack said, “We’re gonna go check out the summit first.”
“But, Dad, I’m ready to go fishin’.”
“We’ll get to it.  Last night all you could talk about was seeing the top of the mountain.  You’ll be stunned by the view, bud.”
“Okay,” Micah tossed his pole and hat next to the tent, “Let’s go then.” 

Jack poured the fragrant coffee into his travel mug and the two began the short hike to the summit.  The mountain air was chilly, and the early morning was alive with the sounds of waking birds.  They made their way up the steep mountainside, holding on to saplings whenever the gravely dirt started to slide. As they reached the top, Micah took off in a run. 

Calling back to his dad, Micah shouted, “I can’t see anything.  It’s too dark.”
“The sun’ll be up any minute,” Jack said. 
Jack took a swig of coffee and caught up to his son.  They made their way over boulders to the east side of the summit.  Jack found a nice flat rock to sit on, while Micah hopped from rock to rock in the dark dawn.  Jack squinted his eyes and tried to get a better look at the view.  Unsuccessful, he turned his attention to the myriad of stars above them.  Jack lay back on the massive stone and started picking out constellations. 

“Micah,” Jack called.
“Yep, Dad?” Micah was by his side in seconds. 
“Can you find the big dipper?”
“Sure.  Is that it?” Micah pointed.
“Yeah that’s it.  Count the stars:  one, two three in the handle and four make up the cup.”
“I see it.  I see it.”

Micah leaned back and put his hands under his head.  They stayed there, counting stars and listening to birdsongs for what seemed like a very long time. 

Micah, getting a little anxious, picked himself up from the rock and peered over the edge of the cliff. 
“Dad, when will the sun come up?” Micah said.
“6 o’clock.  That’s what the weather channel said.” 

Jack pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. The screen read 7:08.  Jack sat up and looked out into the darkness.  Jack brought up the weather channel app and checked the sunrise time again.  

“Huh, it says 6 AM.  That’s what I thought.”
“Where’s the sun, Dad?” Micah said.
“I don’t know.  Maybe it’s running late.” Jack let out a nervous laugh.  “Maybe it’s the time zone.”
“But, Dad, we’re in the same time zone.”
“I know, bud.  Let’s just give it a few more minutes.”

Jack scanned the horizon for any signs of light.  Nothing.  Gulping down the last of his coffee, he leaned back on the rock and tried to determine if any of the constellations had begun moving across the night sky.  It was too hard to tell. 

“Hey Dad?” Micah said.
“Are we gonna go fishing?”
“I said we were.  Just as soon as the sun comes up.”
“When’s the sun coming up?”
“Any time now.  Relax”
“Okay, Dad.”

Micah continued his game of leapfrog with the boulders.  Jack let his eyelids fall and took in a deep breath of the fresh mountain air.

“Dad . . . Dad?” Micah was kneeling behind his dad’s head, with his hands on Jack’s shoulders.  Shaking him just a little, Micah peered down into Jack’s upside down face.  Jack opened his eyes and started when he saw Micah’s face just inches from his own.

“Wake up, Dad,” Micah said.
“Okay, I’m up.”  Jack pulled himself up off the rock and felt the kinks in his back that came from sleeping on such a hard surface.
“What time is it, Dad?”
Jack looked at his phone again.

“9:20. What?  I was asleep for two hours?” Jack said. Micah nodded and looked out over the edge again.  He tried to make out the silhouettes in the distance, desperately trying to form them into shapes he could recognize.   It was still dark and it seemed like the night sky was frozen.  Jack could tell now that none of the stars had followed their path across the sky.  They seemed to be frozen in time.

“Dad, I’m hungry.” Micah said.
“Okay, bud, let’s hop back down to camp and I’ll make up our breakfast.”

They stumbled back down the summit, using the flashlight, but still stubbing a toe or missing a step here and there.  When they made it to camp, Jack stoked the fire and readied the eggs.  While he was waiting on the small iron skillet to heat, he pulled his star clock out of his pack.  Jack found the North Star and located the date, November 4th, on the dial.  He held the clock up at arm’s length, keeping today’s date at the top.  Jack closed one eye and gazed above the clock, directly at Polaris.  He lined up Polaris so it would pass through the center of the clock.  He carefully rotated the inner dial until the stars in the sky lined up with the stars on the chart.  Jack read the time:  22h.  22, which would be 10:00 PM, Jack thought, that can’t be right. Jack spun the dial in the center and decided to try again.  He followed all the steps and ended up with the same reading.

Micah bounced up to Jack.  “What’s that?” He said.
“Oh, it’s a star clock.”
“Cool, can I see?”

Jack handed Micah the star clock and started cracking eggs for their breakfast.  Micah spun the dials around wildly, held it up in the air, and then noticed the constellations drawn on the inner dial. 

“Look, Dad, it’s the big dipper.  Here it is on the clock and there it is in the sky.”  Micah said.
“How’s it work?”
“Well, you line it up and it tells you the time.”  Jack nudged the eggs with the spatula.
“Why do you need this one, Dad?” Micah said, “Doesn’t your phone say the time.”
“It does, but I thought maybe it was wrong.”
“What time does the star clock tell you?”
“10 o’clock.”
“Is that right?  I thought it was 9 when we were at the top,” said Micah, “Can I see your phone?”

Jack separated the eggs between their two plates and handed Micah his phone.

“This one says 9:24.  Guess the star clock is wrong.” Jack traded Micah the plate of eggs for his phone. 
“It’s not exact.  It can be off by 15 minutes or so.”
“It’s off by more than that, Dad.”
“Tell me about it,” Jack said.  Jack stuffed a fork loaded with scrambled eggs into his mouth.

“Hey Dad?” Micah said.
“Why’s it still so dark?”
“I don’t know, but the star clock reads 10 o’clock at night, not 10 in the morning.”

Micah set down his empty plate and looked up at the big dipper. 

“How can it be 10 at night?” Micah said.
“I’m trying to figure that out, myself.  We made camp at about 9 last night, ate a bite, and went straight to sleep.” 
“Then you woke me up real early, Dad.”
“Yeah.  My cell alarm went off at 5, just like I set it.  I wanted to catch the sunrise from the top of the mountain.  My Dad brought me up here when I was just a kid like you.  I wanted to see the look in your eyes when you saw the red light breaking across the horizon.  I wanted to hear the awe in your voice when the light turned the lake into a silvery mirror.”
“That sounds cool, Dad.  Can we go back up and watch it?”
“Well, I’m not sure it’s going to happen.” 
“What do you mean?  The sun always comes up, doesn’t it?”
“Every day of my life until now, buddy.  I’m a little worried, so let’s break camp and head down.  Maybe we’ll see some folks on the trail and they can tell us we’re not crazy.”
“But you are crazy, Dad.” Micah laughed.

Packs full and fire out, Jack made one more sweep around the campsite with the flashlight.  He wasn’t looking forward to making the hike back down in the dark.  In the last hour, the look on Micah’s face had turned from pure excitement to a questioned fear. 

“C’mon, Micah,” Jack said as he headed for the trail.

Micah came running up next to him.

“Hey Dad?” Micah said.
“Yeah, bud?”
“Are we gonna go fishin’?”       

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oxen Should Have Very Small Foreheads

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.

from The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon:

     "Oxen should have very small foreheads with white hair; their underbellies, the ends of their legs, and the tips of their tails should also be white.
     I like horses to be chestnut, piebald, dapple-grey, or black roan, with white patches near their shoulders and feet; I also like the horses with light chestnut coats and extremely white manes and tails - so white, indeed, that their hair looks like mulberry threads.
     I like a cat whose back is black and all the rest white."


Oxen should have very small foreheads I suppose.  I've never had occasion to see oxen, much less to require that they have any size forehead.  Someone might tell you that a very small forehead will make for a more productive oxen or perhaps it is just a matter of physical attraction.  The way women are drawn to a man with broad shoulders and a prominent brow.  Deep in the fabric of her prehistoric mind lies the vestige of needing a man who's wide shoulders are a sign of the ability to hunt, protect, and provide.  Just as the brow tells her he will dominate her other suitors, and secretly she thinks he will also dominate her.  His features are symmetrical. His eyes are set wide under bushy eyebrows, nose centered and slim, a grin that can turn to snarl, and a cleft in the center of his chin.  He has a beard or at the least a scratchy patch of stubble. From his shoulders stem hard biceps and a scarred forearm.  His hands are large and hairy, capable.

Toiling in her hut, she watches the sun fade as she waits for the hunting party to return.  A baby boy coos and stretches in the fabric tied around her chest.  Soon she will feed him and stoke the fire before cautiously letting her eyes fall.  She hears far off voices and hurries to the opening.  Unable to see in the misty dusk, she listens, shushing her baby with a practiced rub of the back.  Soon she hears voices, feet shuffling, deep grunts of satisfaction, the heavy breath of one who has not rested in a long while.  He breaks from the pack with slaps on his back and snorts of approval.  On towering legs he closes the distance between them. Her heartbeat speeds and the baby rouses at the quickened pace.  He captures her head between his hands and kisses her hard on the lips. She loses her breath and sways towards his chest.  He leans down and kisses the baby softly on the top of his head. Taking her hand, he pulls her inside.  The sun has completed its journey and finally gone to sleep.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

A Conversation

"How did you know?"

Tabitha raised her head off the couch and gave Holly, her therapist, a look of disdain.

"How did I know?" She said, "Really?  How does one know these things?"
"You tell me, Tabby."
"It's just a gut feeling.  A sinking in your belly."
"Right, well tell me what happened."
"It's too much.  We only have an hour."
"If you didn't want to talk about it, you wouldn't have started our session with a confession that you knew it was a mistake."

Tabitha took a deep breath and tried to relax on the stiff couch. I thought these things were supposed to make you feel comfortable, but I always end up feeling silly. Like a single panel cartoon, imagining the clever caption, Tabitha thought.

"Well?" Holly said.

Tabitha brought herself back to the moment and began the tried and true talk therapy.

"We were having lunch at that little cafe on 4th Avenue.  They have an amazing cranberry melon salad, not to mention the wine list, which is probably what got me in trouble.  We were sitting on the patio in the cool spring breeze, smoking, pleasantly sated, just watching the ants scurry back from their hurried work lunches.  It had to be the wine or the cool breeze or maybe the whole moment."

"Go on," Holly said.

Tabitha brushed her short hair from her face, blew a few strands from her eyes, and continued. "I just blurted it out.  'Let's move in.'  Then I started rambling on about how Sam and I had been together for 6 years now.  How we both pay top dollar for our own places.  Going on and on about how his location is closer to everything.  Mentioning how much I love to wake up and have my morning coffee in the breakfast nook overlooking Central Park. He let me spew excuses and explanations for a good ten minutes before giving me that look."
"What look?"
"Oh, you know.  The take a breath woman look.  I felt so silly and wished I could take the last ten minutes and just click delete. Then, the sun came out from behind a passing cloud and I put my hands up to shield my eyes from the glares off the shop windows across the street.  When I could feel the darkness of the clouds closing back in, I looked across the table to see Sam's reaction. Only Sam wasn't sitting across from me with martini in hand."
"Did he leave you right then and there?"
"That's the crazy part.  That's why I wish I had just kept my tipsy mouth shut. Maybe if I had a few drinks before our sessions, you wouldn't have to prod me so much." Tabby let out a nervous laugh.  "No, he didn't leave.  I looked around for a second and the next thing I know, he's on his knee next to the table.  I thought this isn't happening.  Oh but it was.  He pulls out a gorgeous blue velvet ring box and proceeds to propose to me right there in front of God and everyone.  People were staring and uttering little ahs of sickly sweet admiration.  I was mortified.  Sitting there in my new Chanel top, trying not to topple my wine glass or just pass out.  He had this whole thing planned.  Waiting for the perfect moment.  A beautiful day spent browsing the art galleries, walking through the park, and culminating in that patio lunch with the amazing salad and unadulterated people watching.  I guess it worked, because I fell right into his trap.  Romanticizing the spring afternoon and turning my thoughts to our future together."

"Let me see if I'm understanding you.  A gorgeous day spent together, fine wine and good food.  You obviously wanted to up the relationship.  A storybook proposal. Well, what was your response?"  Holly said.

Tabitha popped up from the couch. Spinning around, her hair taking a few moments to catch up with her momentum, she held out her left hand.  There sat a stunning 2 karat princess cut diamond atop a simple white gold band.

Tabitha smiled, "I knew it was a mistake the moment the words came out of my mouth."

Try your hand at [fiction friday]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blogging About Blogs

Congratulations to my husband, Mike Fox.  His blog Fox's Wandering's made The Divining Blog's list of top 50 blogs by divinity students..  Check out the entire list at The Divining Blog.  This blog looks like a resource for Divinity students.  In their own words:  ""The Divining Blog serves to bring the good news to all those interested in religion through superior blogging technology that is simply divine."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fiction Friday: A man aspiring to be a pro bowler loses to his young daughter.


Sara closed her eyes tight and crossed both fingers. Roll, roll, roll, roll . . . and strike. Sara uncrossed her fingers and brought her hands up to cover her eyes.  

"Open your eyes, Sara,"  Dad said.

Sara started to peek through her fingers, preparing herself for the inevitable count.  Her bowling attempts usually ended with her father's countdown:  "One, two, three, four, five pins left standing" he would say with disappointment.  Not today.  Today, Sara looked up to see not a single pin standing at the end of the long stretch of wood.  Amazed, Sara started to squeal with excitement, but stopped herself.

"I can't believe it," Dad said.
"Yeah, who knew?"
"Gotta be some birthday luck."
"Sure, Dad, birthday luck.  Your turn."

Sara's Dad, a lifelong bowler attempting to break into the pro circuit, picked up his custom ball, ran his cloth along the surface, and carefully slid his fingers inside the holes.  He stepped forward,  adjusting his stance, took three quick steps and performed his practiced throw.  The ball slid down the lane, curving just right as it cleared the middle.  As it neared the pins, the ball veered just right of center, tumbling only five of the ten pins.

"Piece of crap,"  Dad said under his breath.

Sara rolled her eyes and waited for Dad to get the spare, which he almost always did.  Dad waited impatiently for the ball to come rolling out of the chute.  When it finally did, he snatched it up quick and rushed into his "perfect" form, the ball rolling down the lane, curving to the right again, and missing three of the five left standing.

Dad said nothing.

Sara picked up her custom pink ball, a gift for her birthday, and waited for the pinsetter to right the fallen pins.  When it was ready, she held her breath, walked slowly up to the foul line, swung the ball far back behind her, and just let it fall towards the lane.

"No, no, no, Sara.  How many times have I told you about your form. If you want to make it pro one day, you've got to keep that form," Dad said.
"Whatever," Sara mumbled.

One, two, three . . . Sara started counting as the ball made its way down the lane.  Strike.

"What?" Dad said.
"What?  Sara said.

The weekly bowling session went on as such:  Sara strike. Dad spare. Sara strike.  Dad spare. Sara strike . . .

Happy Birthday Sara told herself, I'd rather be at the skating rink across the street.

Finally, when the points were tallied, it was Sara 300 and Dad 210.

"Well, happy 10th birthday little one.  At this rate you'll be on the circuit before I am,"  Dad said.
"Yeah, just what I always wanted," Sara said as she packed her new pink shoes and her new pink ball in her new pink bowling bag.  At least he got the color right.

The pair walked to the car in the bright April sun, Dad slumping a little more than usual, Sara looking longingly at the skating rink across the way.

Try your hand at Fiction Friday

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Writing, Editing, Submitting, and the Crossing of Fingers

I recently heard news of a summer writing contest via The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog . . . Ever  . I thought to myself Why not? What's the worst that can happen? Rejection . . .

First, I did a little research at the online journal, reading recent fiction, and getting a feel for the type of stories they publish. Then I had to dig way back into 2004, where I actually completed a few things and find something with a similar feel as the stories I had read. After much reading, editing, re-reading, and even more editing, I was at least somewhat satisfied with one of my pieces. With the hard work done, I jumped head first into submission.

It was easy. Just a click of the attach button and there it was:  my first submission for publication.  Now with heart racing and fingers crossed I'll wait impatiently for news from the writing powers that be.

If any of you brave writer souls are willing to hold your breath with me for the next month, you can enter here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Significant Objects

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.


Teddy - he's really a dog, but I insisted on calling him "Teddy."

The ballerina picture - it hung gracefully above my bed when I was a girl.

My point shoes - I was so excited and proud to make it to point class.

My wedding veil - made carefully by my Mother's capable hands.

The tiny baby outfit - my sister bought this for us the first time I was pregnant in 1997.  We named her Hope, even though she was never born.  She would have been 12.  A gorgeous, blossoming girl by now.


     Teddy.  Well, he wasn't actually a teddy bear. He was a dog.  He was a thinly-furred dog with a wind-up music box sewn into the back that plucked out "Jesus Loves Me." That's one of my favorite songs. I sing a lullaby to my son. Teddy was a Christmas gift from my Uncle Bill.  Uncle Bill is a missionary living in Germany now and not really my uncle - just a good friend of mom and dad.  Teddy is tan with orange-brown ears.  He is missing his little red felt nose and mom took the music box out and put it in a newer, bigger stuffed animal.  I didn't like the new plush dog.  He wasn't the same and all that smooth fur muffled the pluck pluck pluck of the music box.

     When we opened Teddy up, he wasn't filled with the soft cotton mom used to make Care Bears and pillows.  Instead he was stuffed with small squares of brown foam.  There's a long, thick seam running up Teddy's back, where the music used to be.  A scar, like the one running up Grandma's chest.  You have to be careful with Teddy now, and walk slowly so Grandma can keep up.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things That I'd Rather Be Doing

This Pillow Book entry is inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. Sei Shōnagon was a courtesan in 10th century Japan who kept a diary of the goings-on at court and concealed it in her wooden pillow. She made lists under various categories of specific, often quirky things.

Things That I'd Rather Be Doing:

Reading a good book. I'm currently waiting for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to arrive via Sleeping:  "to sleep perchance to dream." Talking to my husband and best friend. Playing Boosh - my husband and son like to make up their own words for things.

Boosh.  noun.  a game of wrestling and tossing around of each other on a very big bed with very soft covers.  The game continues until one or more persons can't stop laughing or pees themselves.  The sound one makes as one is tossing another onto the bed during a game of boosh.  verb. the act of playing boosh.  Ex. Later, I'm going to boosh you seriously.

Reading a story to my son and kissing him goodnight.  It takes quite a while because after we read Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book I have to kiss each toe good night.  And then each finger. And then his tummy, and eyes, and ears, and nose, and so on until he finally stops giggling enough to close his eyes.

Taking a walk in the gorgeous neighborhoods that surround our home in Fort Worth, TX.  Sidewalks are nice and safe.  Parks are close and many.  Our very favorite destination is a waterfall at Roaring Springs Park.  It is always an adventure for my son and an adventure for us to view the world anew through his blossoming eyes.