Archive for October, 2013

Sit Your Ass In A Chair and Write

Posted in Uncategorized, writing with tags , , on October 28, 2013 by cueball

Since participating in April’s Camp NANOWRIMO I’ve learned a lot about writing.  Not just the mechanics of writing and my personal style and process.  I’ve figured out how I write (I’m an intuitive writer who can’t follow an outline.  I let my story and characters lead me to an extent.)  I also want to write in the style and manner of the Dirty Realists (I want to write about real everyday people with real every day issues.  Not the people you normally read about in high literature.)  As pretentious sounding as those ideas are, they still are very important to have in your mind as you develop as a writer, but they are not the most important things I’ve learned.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is to be a writer you have to write every day.  It seems simple, but it is in fact the most important thing to learn.  Each day you have to sit down with pen and paper, at a typewriter, or in front of a computer and put words down in a manner that makes some logical sense.

If you are reading this, which would shock me, you might be saying to yourself, “This guy is an idiot.  It is obvious you have to write to be a writer.”  That is true, but this is where this gets into more what I’ve learned about myself and not just what I’ve learned about writing.

I’ve never been to a 12-step recovery program meeting, but I have read a lot about the 12-steps.  There are two things that I take away from the program as important.  One is to me mindful of what you are doing at all times.  You have to be conscious of your decisions every minute of every day or you could slip back into your old destructive habits.  If you make this mindfulness part of your life over time it becomes a habit.  You don’t have to remind yourself to stop and think before you do something.  I have also gleaned this from my reading of Buddhist philosophy.

Number two in the things I’ve gathered from studying 12-step programs and Buddhism is to concentrate on the now.  Yesterday is past and tomorrow is not guaranteed.  You can only effect about what is happening right now today.  For me (and this goes back to my inability to follow an outline) I cannot write to a deadline very well.  Not that I do not use deadlines and still meet them, but I can abstract them into meaninglessness.  A better way to put it is that I can see a deadline as this amorphous thing that is out there and not concentrate on the writing to meet it until it is almost too late.

Instead, the way I’ve begun to think about deadlines is to keep the date out there, but break it down into days.  What do I have to complete today in order to be finished on time?  I think about the daily grind and not the big plan.  That to me was the great thing about NANOWRIMO.  I had my word goal, but I broke it down into words per day.

I got up, sat my ass in a chair and typed until I hit my daily goal.  Every day for a month I thought and typed and typed and thought until I had my 50,000 words.  I decided every day that this was I was going to write 1600-1700 words.

That is why I love writing.  It is thing that allows me to learn about myself more than anything else in the world.  It is my one thing.  Everyone has their one thing.  The thing that allows them to be the most real self they can.  This is starting to sound like self-helpy claptrap so I’ll end here.

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First Draft Theatre – Dead Mouse

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , on October 21, 2013 by cueball

When he saw the dead body, Leo almost dropped the pizza.  He had just walked in from work after stopping at the pizza place next to his job.  He shook his head and looked around for something to get it up with so he could dump it in the woods behind the house.  He thought the mice were supposed to eat the poison and walk back to their nest and then die.  They weren’t supposed to die in the house much less in the middle of the floor.  The gray little furry body lay spread eagle against the cream colored floor with the pastel blue and pink flowers.

He looked for something strong enough to carry the little critter in all the cardboard boxes and paper he had sitting in the corner.  He finally decided to go downstairs and just get a shovel.  He didn’t have a lot of time to waste worrying about this dead mouse.

He was down and back up pretty quickly.  His neighbor seemed curious as to why he was taking a shovel into his house.  She watched as she walked her dog but didn’t say anything.  She was still out there when he came back down with the mouse and walked to the woods.  He took the shovel back to the basement and she still said nothing even as he waved on his way back into the house.

He looked around at the kitchen floor.  He did not see any signs of the dead mouse, but he decided he still needed to clean the floor to be safe.  Still in a hurry to get out to Sheila’s place he vacuumed and then sprayed the floor with a cleaner/disinfectant.

Once all that was finally done, he grabbed a couple of slices of pizza before putting the rest in the fridge and chomped through one piece on the way back out to his car.  Hopefully Sheila and Jack were still at her new place.  Actually it was their place, he just hated admitting it.

He pulled into a little convenience store parking lot a couple blocks away and backed into the space so he could see the house.  Sheila’s care was in front of the house.  They must have taken Jack’s car and went somewhere.  He rushed inside the convenience store and paid for a soda and some gum.  He would wait.

Sheila left him a year and a half ago and the divorce has been final for about 6 months.  He was still paying the asshole lawyer for losing.  Leo didn’t know what winning would have been, but he knew it wasn’t this.  She started dating Jack just after the divorce was final.

They had all gone to high school together here in Emerson.  She dated Jack before she dated Leo.  He always thought she was having an affair while they were married, and when she started dating Jack, he knew it.  She denied it and his crappy lawyer could not prove it, but Leo knew it was true.

The street lights started to flicker to life.  Leo could see the clerk glancing out at him every few minutes wondering what Leo was doing in his car.  Then Jack’s car came around the corner.  Leo recognized it immediately from an old apartment complex parking sticker on the back left corner of the back windshield.  He watched them park and go into the house.  When they were inside, Leo started his car and drove over to the little ranch house.

He parked on the street in front and walked across the yard to the front door.  He knocked and waited.  He could hear steps coming towards the door.  The steps stopped and he guessed whoever it was looked out the peep hole to see who was there.  A few more seconds passed and heard another set of footsteps going towards the back of the house.  Then the door opened.  “Leo.  What can I do for you tonight?”

“You could stop fucking my wife.”

“She ain’t your wife.  She left you a while ago.  You need to move on, man.”

“How long you been fucking here?  Two years?  Three years?”  Then yelling into the house, “How long you been sucking his dick?  Since high school?”

“Look, if all you are going to do is sit and yell dumb shit, go home.  Go find a girl friend or hooker or go jerk off, but quit coming around here.  I know you been following us the last couple of months.  You need to stop that shit.”

“I ain’t done nothing to you.  We just keep popping up in the same places is all.  If you weren’t fucking my wife, we would probably never see each other.”

Sheila appeared in the kitchen behind Jack.  “We are not married, Leo.  Would you just move on from it?  I don’t love you like I did when we go married.”

“Go back in the kitchen, Sheila, Leo’s leaving.”

“What do you mean you don’t love me like you did?”  Leo stepped forward into the room and towards Jack.

“I didn’t say you could come in.”  Jack blocks Leo and pushes him slightly.

“Get your fucking hands off me.  I’m talking to my wife.”  Leo is trying to push past Jack and they start pushing each other until they are finally grabbing and wrestling each other in the door way.  They fall into the hedges to the right of the door as Sheila runs back into the kitchen and gets the telephone and calls the police.

There were not too many dramatic punches thrown by either man.  It was mostly just panting and grabbing and rolling around in the hedges and in the grass.  Finally, Jack managed to roll over and get on top of Leo and punched a couple of times before getting off of him and going back inside the house.  The sounds of sirens approached and an Emerson police cruiser pulled up to the house.

Leo was still lying in the yard.  Jack’s punches had not really hurt him.  He just wanted to lay there in the cool air with the grass on his back.

He could hear the officer ordering him over on his back.  It was like a coach calling out instructions on the other side of the field.  He complied.  He could hear Jack telling the officer what happened and Sheila giving her version of what happened.  Leo watched it like a movie going in slow motion with the sound not working.

“Mr. Harris?  Mr. Harris?”  Leo had dozed off or drifted into a day dream when the officer started speaking to him.  “Mr. Harris can you hear me.”

“Yeah, yeah.  I just drifted off for a second.”

“Mr. Harris, your ex-wife and her boyfriend are saying they won’t press charges if you agree to stop following him and quit watching the house.  If you agree to that, I’ll put you back in your car and follow you home to make sure you get there safe.  But, if you do start harassing them again they are going to press charges and you will go to jail.  Do you understand me, sir?

“Yeah.  Yeah.”

“I am going to uncuff you and walk you over to your car.  Then I’m going to follow you to your house.  Are we clear?”

“Yeah.”  Leo rubbed his wrists as he walked back to his car.  The world had a gauzy look around its edges.  It made it feel like the drive back to his house was a dream.  As he got out of the car and walked to his door, he could hear the officer talking to him and nodding in agreement to whatever he was saying.

He walked into his house and closed the door.  He heard the police cruiser pull out of the driveway and leave.  He was alone in a dark house.  He turned on the lights and looked around the house.  It was just as it was when she left.  Just with more stuff strewn around.  Magazines and mail lay on the coffee table.  Empty beer and liquor bottles sat on the bar and the dining table.  A faint sheen of dust covered it all.

He grabbed a box from the corner and started putting all the mail, magazines, receipts, etc. in the box.  When that was filled he grabbed another and put all the bottles in this one.  When that was filled he took them all out to his car and loaded them in the trunk.  He came back into the house and sat on his couch and finally started thinking about tomorrow.

First Draft Theater – Moment of Grace

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by cueball

“Everybody has moments of grace.”  His mama told him that once.  He was ten or maybe twelve.  Dwayne could not remember why she felt the need to tell him that.  Maybe it was one Sunday or something and he had one of those questions little kids ask when they start to comprehend the world is a bigger scarier place then they thought.  Regardless, his five years as a cop taught him that little bit of mother wisdom was probably false.  Not everyone had moments of grace.  Most will do well if they have more moments of honesty then deceit.

Tonight was no different.  It was Saturday night, his shift was barely four hours old and he already saw three people try to get in cars and drive when they could barely stand.  All he was doing was sitting across the highway from one of the bars in town.  He pulled over one and called in the other two so Kenny and Connie could get their collars for the night.

Now, another one was coming out of the bar weaving across the parking lot trying real hard not to look drunk.  If had been able to get his keys in his door to unlock it with one hand he might have gotten away with it.  The young woman, young being a loose term Dwayne used to be respectful, who followed him out was in almost as bad a shape as the guy fighting his keys.

Dwayne watched them get into the car, get it started and barely miss two parked cars as they pulled out of the parking lot.  They pulled onto the highway and pointed the late model Taurus towards the Days Inn about a mile down the highway.

He would have radioed up ahead to Kenny who was sitting between him and the Days Inn, but the moron was weaving too badly to let drive.  Dwayne pulled out onto the highway and hit the lights and siren.  There was a moment when it looked like he was going to rabbit on Dwayne, but Kenny hit his lights just up ahead and the Taurus pulled to the side of the road.

“Patrol 45 to Patrol 42, thank you for the assist.  This is a suspected driving while impaired.  Requesting assistance in a field sobriety test.  There is a male driver and one female passenger.  Over.”

“On my way Patrol 45.  Central, show Patrol 42 and Patrol 45 on a field sobriety test.”

Dwayne waited until Kenny pulled around to box the dark Taurus with Texas plates in between them before getting out and approaching the driver side.

The driver’s door opened and the driver poked his head out and squinted into the headlights of Dewayne’s cruiser.  “Hey, Dwayne, it’s me man.  Wassup?”

“Sir, please stay in your vehicle.”  Dwayne and Kenny both had their hands on their sidearms ready to pull and fire if the driver made the wrong move.

“Shit, Dewayne.  It’s me Scott.  Calm down, calm down, it’s cool.”

“Dammit, Scott.  Keep your hands where we can see them.  Kenny, meet my cousin Scott.  I got him.  You get the lady on the passenger side.”

“Wassup, man.  I ain’t seen you since grand mama’s funeral.  You was in the Army then.  You a cop now?”

“That was seven years ago, I was in the Navy, and yeah, I’m a cop and I’m going to ask you if you have been drinking tonight.”

“Shit, yeah I’ve been drinking.  I got back in town about a week ago.”

“I need you to take a field sobriety test.”

“What?  Man, how’s your mama doing?”

Scott smelled like he bathed in a keg of beer even from five feet away.  “She’s fine.  I need you to here and walk on this white line towards my cruiser.  When I say stop and turn, you are going to turn on your right heel and walk back towards me.”

“What?  Man, I was just out trying to burn off some steam tonight.  You know daddy got lung cancer.  He ain’t going to live out the month, probably.  I been at the…I been at the hospital the last week.  I just needed to drink a little and fuck a little.”

“I heard about your daddy.  I’m sorry for that.  I didn’t know it was that bad.  I haven’t talked to him since Aunt Cissy divorced him.  But I need you to take this test now.”

“What you going do if I don’t take it?  Arrest me?  You going to arrest me once I take it cause I’m drunk as shit.”

Dwayne looked over to Kenny who was standing next to the woman Scott was driving to the hotel.  Clichés become clichés because they are true.  She was a bottle blonde with dark roots.  Her face and body looked like a high school cheerleader with 25 years of bad marriage, kids, beer, and disappointment hanging over her like the smell of stale cigarette smoke.

Kenny was the senior officer on the scene and started to take some control of the situation.  “Dwayne, let’s just take these two the station.  He admitted he was drunk we can arrest him and book.  We’ll put him in the drunk tank until Monday morning.  I’ll get Connie to come drive this one home.  What is your name and where do you live ma’am?”

“Who you calling ma’am?  You would be luck to ever get to fuck this.”

Kenny shook his head and started speaking into his radio.  “Patrol 42 to Patrol 46, I need assistance with a female passenger.  We are just east of the Days Inn on 74.  Please respond.”

“Patrol 46 to Patrol 42, I am on my way.”

“Ma’am, Deputy Banks is coming towards us right now and she will take you home.  You are not under arrest at the moment.  I suggest you keep a civil tongue in your head to keep it that way.”

Connie pulled up just as Kenny was finishing his statement and passed the lady on so that she could get home to pass out.  Just as they were putting her in the car she turned and vomited just missing both the deputies.

Scott thought this was the funniest thing he had seen and started laughing hysterically.  Connie got a towel out of her trunk and helped the lady wipe off her face and the front of her clothes now stained with regurgitated beer and wings. After finally getting her in the car, they drove off with all the windows down.

“Deputy Anderson is going to arrest you since he isn’t related to you.  Your mama or somebody can come to the courthouse Monday morning and bail you out after the magistrate sets bail.  If it is a first time offense the bail won’t be much but you will probably have to surrender your license.”

“How the fuck am I supposed to get around without a fucking license.  You stuck up fucker.  Ya’ll always did look down on us.  You ain’t even got the balls enough to arrest me yourself.  Fuck you.”  He tried to punch Dwayne but only managed to fall onto the grass.  He stayed sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him.  Kenny moved towards them, but Dwayne motioned for him to hold off for a second.  “He beat the shit out of me for 10 years and I’m still sad he is going to die.”  Scott seemed past crying.  He just sat in the wet grass looking around like a dog wanting to take a nap and searching for the perfect spot of grass.  Finally he lay his body over and curled up with his knees to his chest.

“Scott, you gotta get up.  Deputy Anderson and I will take you in and you can sleep all night.  I’ll call your mama on the way to let her know what’s going to happen next.”   Scott was already snoring before Dwayne finished.  He and Kenny woke Scott up enough to get cuffs on him and put him in the back of Kenny’s cruiser.  As he Dwayne walked back to his car Kenny pulled off and headed towards the station.  Dwayne watched the tail lights of Kenny’s cruiser pull away and listened as he called in what was happening on the radio.

He remembered where the moment of grace came from now.  Harvey, Scott’s father, had given his best sermon that day.  He shook the rafters of that old church.  On the way home, his mother had marveled at how moving the sermon was and how it had filled the church with the Holy Spirit.  Just as they were pulling into their car port she said, “No matter how bad a man is, God grants everyone one moment of grace in their lives.”

She was right.  Everyone had at least one moment like that in them.  His question now was, what did it matter to the people around you if you only had one?

First Draft Theater – Hospital Rooms

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , on October 9, 2013 by cueball

All the hospital rooms began to bleed together in Lee’s mind.  They all the same aggressively beige color scheme with the pale blue, green, and pink accents.  The all smelled of medicine, bodily fluids, and disinfectant.  Donna lay to his right sleeping, occasionally muttering to herself.

How many times have I seen her sleep?

He kept his eyes on the vitals monitor on the other side of the bed.  Lee had little idea what much if any of the numbers and little squiggles meant.  It still comforted him somehow.  As long as the monitor was active it was not over yet.

Another in a line of nurses came in to check Donnas IV and monitors.  She hovered for a few minutes checking, adjusting, and tweaking only acknowledging Lee with a nod just before leaving the room.  He wanted her or her eyes to tell him something, be it good or bad.

It was the waiting, the certainty of the uncertain that wore on him. They all knew the end was coming.  The doctors couldn’t tell him when and the nurses wouldn’t even if they could.  All that was left was the waiting.  They watched it come towards them, but they didn’t know how fast it approached.

He needed to call her kids.  Lee needed to tell them how close the time was now.  Jaime and Carl both lived a couple of hours drive away and would be here as soon as possible.  Donna actually talked to them last week.  Lee watched and listened to the conversations from her side.  She avoided telling them exactly what the doctor had said the day before.

“What did you want me to tell them?  They already know enough to guess.  Believe me, when you call them, it won’t be a shock to either.”

Lee didn’t know how long he had been asleep, but the monitors were screeching and nurses and doctors were rushing in to the room.  He stood from his chair and was shuffled out to the hall.  He watched them work for a few minutes before wandering down the hall.  He drifted past the nurse’s station and found the stairwell.  He turned to look back and could see the urgency at Donna’s door had quieted.  He opened the stairwell door and stepped inside where the faint smell of stale cigarettes and compressed moist air greeted him.

The only direction he could go was down and he took every step deliberately keeping his cell phone in his left hand and his right hand on the railing.  He lost track of the floors.  He just stopped at one to get some fresher air.  He came out of the stairwell and looked around.  It was like a version of hell.  The floor looked exactly the same as the one he left.  He quickly went back into the stairwell and looked up and down to be sure he had come from somewhere.

He continued his decent until he reached the lobby floor.  He walked out into the small lobby of the hospital.  The lobby desk was unmanned and it was dark outside.  Lee realized he didn’t know what day it was. The window in Donna’s room looked out onto another building blocking the sun.  The front door was locked.  If you were in, you were in until the morning shift started.  He looked around and saw the little garden area off to the left of the lobby and the chapel on the right.  He headed left and found himself standing outside under mercury lamps.  He looked up and strained his eyes trying to see the stars through the glare.

His right hand ached.  He was still squeezing his cell phone.  He turned it on and found Jaime’s number.  He would call her first.

First Draft Theater – Ronald’s Church

Posted in Fiction with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by cueball

Ronald was at church.  On the Sunday after Thanksgiving he always worshipped at the altar of the antler, as he called it.  His ex-wife hated that.  She said it was disrespectful.  Once, he countered with, “It’s more disrespectful to sit in church when you don’t believe and you don’t want to be there.  I’m just being honest about it and not showing up.”

He figured, him and God had their own thing and he would pay up sooner or later.  Maybe even before he died.

Ronald sat in the tree stand watching the ridgeline and listening for any movement around him.  He’s been sitting for a couple of hours and the only thing he has seen are some squirrels who thought about getting too friendly.

He had the rest of the week off just so he could do this.  He always came alone because it wasn’t always about killing something.  This is why he called it church.  All he really wanted to do.  Sit and watch nature move about as if he was not here.  His ex-wife thought he did not believe in God, but he did.  He saw his work every year sitting in these trees watching as it moved around him.  Watching as life continued as it had before he was born and probably after he died.

He and his brother-in-law Carl go squirrel hunting.  Ronald does that just to get his eye back and warm up for deer season.  One time Carl asked him, “Why you go deer hunting?  You just sitting up there in that tree stand by yourself.  Ain’t you worried about one of them drunk-ass white boys by ‘mistake’ thinking you a deer or something?”  Ronald ignored him as he pulled the trigger on a squirrel about 60 yards away.  He hit him just below his head.  He would taste good in the stew they planned on making for Thanksgiving.

Carl was always asking him stuff like that.  He was always talking about those “drunk-ass white boys” or those “cracker-ass boys” he worked with.  It was like Carl hadn’t met any normal white people in his life.  All the white people he met were suspects.

Just then he caught a little flash of white off to the left just to the outside of the tree line.  Ronald waited for the antlers before sighting the deer down.  He turned with his snout in the ground looking for grass to nibble on or trying to find the scent of a doe.  He gave his side to Ronald and lifted his head.  He wasn’t too big.  Maybe 3 years old.  He would grow into a big one if he managed to survive this season.

Ronald watched him for about 10 minutes just nosing about and grazing on whatever grass and tree leaves he could find.  His path corkscrewed towards Ronald’s tree.  Ronald had probably 10 chances to get a good shot off, but he didn’t take it.  He just watched the young deer go about his life.  Ronald imagined he was trying to find food and thinking about finding some doe to fuck.

Ronald’s mind drifted back to his weekends in college and how they were much different than that.  That was a long time and a divorce ago.  Now his weekends were filled with hoping his son wanted to see him and hoping the football games were worth waking up for on Sunday afternoon.  Maybe he would go to IHOP for breakfast to see that waitress.  She was a black haired Costa Rican woman named Sonya.  She had a fourteen year old son and a deadbeat ex-husband he went back to Costa Rica to avoid paying child support.

When his attention came back to the buck he had made his way to about 40 yards away to his right.  Ronald thought for a moment and decided it was time to do something.  He brought his Browning up to his eyes and sighted the buck.  He waited for him to give him another flank.  The raised his head and looked about exposing his left side to Ronald.

Ronald took in a breath, let it out and moved his finger over the trigger.

The deer never saw him.  Maybe he caught Ronald’s scent.  Maybe a rutting doe happened by on the other side of the ridge.  Maybe that’s why he bolted before Ronald could complete ritual.  Whatever happened, the deer was gone.

Ronald wasn’t sad about it.  He lowered his rifle and relaxed a little and looked out over the land as a couple of squirrels dug around looking for the last of the acorns of the year.  He was alone with himself and God again.  That was enough.