Friday, December 3, 2010

The Crystal Chamber

This story was published Wednesday in Luna Station Quarterly's "Drabble" issue and was selected as one of their stories of the week. 

The second survey crew landed near the object embedded in the southern hemisphere of a dead world. They’d lost contact with the first team months ago.

The artifact resembled an enormous crystalline worm buried in the earth. A nearby cave led them down into a chamber filled with alien devices. Numerous bones lay scattered all around.

What they thought was the artifact blocked the passageway on the opposite side.

A portal was set into the construct, lined with spikes that sparkled like icicles.

They understood too late as the chamber began broadcasting black noise.

The worm was ready to feed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Homework Excuse Ever

November 18, 2010 marks the 25th Anniversary of the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes." Enjoy.

I was sitting under the tree in our backyard with a notepad and pen, writing my book report which was due in the morning. 
The sky was beginning to darken. 
Suddenly, a very bright light stabbed through the branches overhead, shimmering oddly. 
A spaceship landed in front of me. 
I jumped up, startled. A scream caught in my throat.
Then, the aliens emerged: five little green men. One ran up and snatched the notebook from my hands. Scurrying back to his brethren, he began tearing paper out, handing the torn pages to each of them. 
I guess they were hungry.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Pendulum Swings On and On

I  stand on gray museum marble, watching the pendulum’s parachronistic swing.
A strange desire fills me. I dismiss it as madness. 
Sensing movement, I turn. A familiar gaze, like looking at an old mirror, cracked and gray, meets mine. "I’ll see you in twenty years," he says. 
He jumps, gracefully arcing, mounting the oscillating arm like a fireman's pole. Our mental connection surprises me, then he winks and I understand. 
My vardoger fades out of existence.
I replay the scene in my mind over and over, so that when the time comes, I’ll be able to execute it perfectly again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The New Book on the Shelf

The new book was placed on the bookcase between Lady Chatterly’s Lover and The Kama Sutra.

Since one can endure only so much of anything, the stunned little paperback crept sheepishly away from those two naughty tomes and jumped to the shelf below.

There, it nestled comfortably between Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.

Within minutes, the people on the cover began ducking, shaking their fists as arrows and bullets whizzed past their heads, dangerously close.

The book catapulted to the shelf underneath, sighing with fatigue. It squeezed between Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

And then all hell broke loose.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Girl With Brains

This weekend I'm celebrating my first ever premiere and book signing event. Yay! I have a story appearing in a local anthology "Zombie Nation: St. Pete." You can read more about it here, and also about a contest I'm thinking of having to give away any extra copies of the book that I pick up. Also appearing in this book is Jeff Strand, who is sort of the Stephen King of Tampa Bay. He's that good. So, please visit this blog post titled: Creepy Things, Zombie Nation and a contest..., and leave a comment on how you would best enjoy participating in this contest. In honor of the release of "Zombie Nation: St. Pete," this weeks #fridayflash is a "resurrected" zombie drabble. Deanna Schrayer inspired me to use it with our "mushy love" tweets this week. I'm still going to write another "mushy love" story for you, Deanna. ;)

"Men!" Barbara shouted indignantly, to no one in particular. "They're so thickheaded. They only love my body and not my brains." Barbara's latest failed relationship had left her feeling somewhat jaded.

She pondered the absolute pointlessness of her love life. She'd had many lovers recently and none of them had understood or really satisfied her. But they were smart, and she’d learned something new from each one of them.

"After all," she sighed, "I loved them for their brains."

She lifted the oozing skull of her latest lover to her lips and, making loud slurping noises, sucked the brainpan clean.

Creepy Things, Zombie Nation and a contest...

Well, lets get to the good stuff first.

I'm considering having a contest on my "Risky Fiction" blog for writers, in particular my #fridayflash friends. You will have a chance to win copies of the anthology "Zombie Nation: St. Pete." This is an anthology of local zombie fiction that will be released at a premiere party at the St. Petersburg Pier this Saturday. I get to go sign books and hobnob with great writers such as Jeff Strand and pretend I'm an author, too. My story "The Lust, the Flesh" is among the other great stories that local writers have put together for this really big event in my hometown. I'd like you, my friends, to help me celebrate...bust out the virtual champagne, all that.

Here is the book you'd receive if you are one of the winners:

There may be another prize in the offing as well for the very best (grand prize) of whatever contest I decide to do.

I need your help with this. Please leave a comment on this post about what you'd like to see happen with a contest. The idea I have so far from Jim Bronyaur involves me posting an excerpt of my story and then giving you all a story starter for another zombie story and having you write the story. People could then go to the Risky Fiction site and vote on their favorite stories. The top vote getters win. How does this sound? If you have other suggestions, please include them in your comments.

Those of you living in New York, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles have further reason to want to check this book out. Future "Zombie Nation" projects are scheduled for these areas. In fact, the submission deadline for "Zombie Nation: New York" is December 31st, 2010. Go here to learn more.

Now for other news:

I've received my copies of "Creepy Things," the anthology by "Static Movement" that published my former #fridayflash story "World Wide Web." This anthology is now available to purchase on Amazon.

Below is a picture of me holding the book at the mini-cafe on campus at St. Petersburg College, where I'm currently a full-time student.

I thank my friend in my Algebra class for taking this photo.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Concerning Prehistory Beasts: Arctodus

Arctodus simus. The Giant Short-Faced Bear. Prehistoric predator...seriously bad news to whatever crosses its path. This is the reason we have primal fear...our cave-dwelling ancestors faced this beast. And look below how it compared in size. Now, imagine if one could speak. What do you think it would say? In Burr, they speak. They are not very intelligent but they are just as deadly as they seem here. Stupid, but deadly.

Arctodus, like most of the prehistory beasts of Burr, were created by the Mages. Why? Guardians, Gate-keepers, and sometimes hired thugs. Could you imagine anyone trying to get past one of these creatures guarding the home of a Mage? Really only a dragon, or a T-Rex could do it. But the Mages have other protections against these...

My first literary encounter with Arctodus was in "Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dragon," a short story that takes place in Burr, but in a different time period as my novel "The Mages of Morrow." This particular Arctodus was typical of the species...big, dumb and dangerous. He'd been sent on a mission of thuggery by his master, the Mage Y'ansick. 

I enjoyed writing the character of the Arctodus in "Tiny Dragon," so it's for sure that I'll feature at least one Arctodus in book 1 of the Mages series: "The Mages of Morrow."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In print...finally...

Yesterday I went to the mailbox and was delighted to find that my copy of "Oh, the Horror!" by Static Movement had arrived.

This anthology of short horror tales is the first printed book where my work appears that is sold by distributors (Pill Hill Press for now, eventually Amazon).

I can't begin to express in words how giddy I was when I opened the book and saw my two flash stories, "Out of the Box," and "Telescope Moment" listed on the Table of Contents page as being on pages 78 and 82 respectively.

Then I went to those pages in the book and stared at them for a good, long while, trying to fathom my feelings about seeing my work in a book.

Don't anybody pinch me.

I might wake up.

Concerning Prehistory Beasts: Pteradons

In the alternate realm of Burr, Pterandons (also called Pteri) were biologically created both to harass the dragons of enemy Mages in battle (since they are quicker on the wing) and as messengers (because they can endure flying long journeys). They are highly intelligent, but shrewd and they are incredibly loyal to their Mages. They are fond of ribald jokes.
They are deadly, especially to dragons. Their sharp beaks aren't hindered by tough dragon scales. They keep pecking until they find a weak spot in the dragon's armor. They fight in flocks. A dragon who has to deal with three or four Pteri is in grave danger, but they can usually hold their own against just one. Dragons will outright murder any lone Pteri they happen to encounter. 
Pteri maintain an uneasy truce with dragons and the other prehistoric beasts created by the same Mage that created them. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Suicide Slush

It was the middle of summer: sticky-humid, with no hint of a breeze to cool us. I was visiting my cousins, who lived outside Xenia, Ohio. 

We were outside doing what children do best—getting into things we shouldn’t. Aunt Leona called us inside and gave us money to go to the ice cream stand. Jubilation! 

My cousin decided we’d take the short-cut, through a field of summer-ripe corn. The smell of it tickled my nose. We wove our way through tall cornstalks, trying to avoid bothersome patches of nettles and stinkweed. 

Finally, we exited the field, the ice cream stand just across the street. I asked my cousin what he’s getting. 

‘What’s a suicide slush?’ I asked. I wrinkled my nose in horror at his reply. Then, the ultimate childhood call-out. He dared me to get one, too. Of course I had to, although my heart was set on a vanilla cone. 

With growing trepidation I watched as the vendor concocted our slushes, sliding the cups under each flavor and pumping a precisely timed icy squirt from each. The resulting mixture was disgusting greenish-brown. My cousin lowered his lips to the straw and slurped a third of it down at once, proclaiming it ‘The best Suicide ever!” There was nothing for it. I sipped. 

My mouth sang in tones of orange/cherry/lemon-lime/blueberry/cola. We raced home, heads tingling with brain-freeze, hearts pounding with sugar rush, and finished our Suicides on the back porch. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A post about upcoming posts...

It's been awhile since I posted any news on my blogs.

It's not that juicy news hasn't been happening, it's just that I've been buried up to my eyeballs in schoolwork and this is a scenario that is not likely to change anytime soon.

I have a couple of items I want to post about concerning upcoming stories of mine that are being published (think zombies, ghosts and a meteor strike).

The biggest news is my story 'The Lust, The Flesh' has been accepted for publication in the upcoming local anthology 'Zombie Nation: St. Pete.' I am working on a post with various news items and links about this project that could be a big step forward in my writing career.

I have other publication news to share also in that upcoming post. I'm working furiously between school studies trying to put together this post and another one, about a special memorial service that my husband's family had for him in Massachusetts last month.

About my college career. I attended an orientation meeting Monday afternoon for the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. I signed up to be a new member. Looking forward to the academic benefits of being a member of that organization.

These last couple days has been all about me joining organizations. Last Thursday, I became a two-year member of the Florida Writers Association, another group that is sure to benefit me greatly.

The future is looking very bright.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Old Man Carver Opens A Can Of Whoop Ass

This story was entered in Michael J. Solender's micro-flash 101 word contest "Dog Days of Summer" in which the words "summer" and "heat" had to appear in the story. Michael has published an e-Chapbook over at his website: "NOT from here, are you?" I am thrilled that my story made the cut, and appears in Michael's book. Many of the #fridayflash community participated in this fun contest, including the winner: Sam Adamson. Go give them all a read. It's only 101 words. You can read them by clicking on the links above.

The TV was loud. A Miami Heat game. Old Man Carver, asleep in his recliner, sparse grey hair flying in the summer breeze through the open window, didn’t hear the intruder enter the decrepit farmhouse. 
Boots (the cat) heard and saw; hissing from atop the parlor table, fur rising. 
“Who that?” Carver shook himself awake, then looking up, saw who. 
“The hell with you! I 'aint goin’!” 
The intruder said nothing. 
Carver stood, brandishing fists. “Try me, you bastard!” 
Minutes later, the black-hooded figure limped up the lane, fiddling with a PDA. 
“I was so sure it was today,” Death whimpered. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

What do you think about PTK?

Just yesterday I opened a letter from the new president at St. Petersburg College, Mr. William Law, or as some refer to him “Mr. Bow-Tie Guy.” The letter was to inform me that I’ve been invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, an academic organization. I am stunned by this news, as I consider myself no scholar and have had to work extremely hard to maintain my grades. Included was another letter from the advisor of the campus chapter—Eta Nu. Yes, the name on the letters and envelope is mine, so it must be real! 
They are having two information sessions for new invitees on September 20th, and I’m sure I’ll attend one of them. Some friends are encouraging me to accept the invitation, and I don’t see how I can refuse it. The benefits include scholarship chances, help getting into graduate school and letters of recommendation for schools and potential employers. And that’s only a few of the perks. 

I have to say I'm stunned by this. My self-esteem has not been very high lately, so I keep wondering if this is some kind of mistake. I'm afraid of what it may signify, and trying to process that fear. Am I more afraid of success? Or failure? 

I'm at a loss on how to approach this. 
I would appreciate it very much if any of my friends who’ve had experience with PTK, please leave a comment on about what you thought of it. Also, if you were in PTK, what is expected? What do I need to do for this invitee meeting? 

Thanks, friends. Your opinions mean a lot to me. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Way Home

Michelle sat under the crumbling gray eaves of the old house and waited. 

She supposed she was waiting for the woman to come back. But the woman, her 'mother,' had been gone a long, long while now. The house had been white when the woman last left it, and there had been doors which opened, and stairs and floors. Now, if there were doors at all, the hinges were rusted shut and they were impossible to open. The stairs had long since rotted away and the second story had collapsed and was now just piles of decayed rubble in the rooms of the first floor. None of this troubled Michelle.

The house was an empty shell without a middle. Michelle thought this was just fine, because she was an empty middle without a shell. In this way, she and the house complimented each other. She had no great love for the house, however.

She came to the house in the morning, and returned to her place down by the creek at dusk. She spent all of her moments from dawn to dusk at the old house, waiting.

She was also searching.

She sat on the sagging porch, or went inside the house and drifted like a pale shadow from room-to-room and dug a deep well in what passed for her memory, each day trying to dig a little deeper. 

Sometimes she found objects in the house that triggered memories. Like the poker by the fireplace, for instance. And the old blood stain on the kitchen floor. 

But the precise memory she was looking for had no attachment to the house, or her time spent here. She was trying to go back to the time before. Before coming to the house. Before the outbursts of an ill-tempered woman. Before the violence of fists and pokers. 

She was digging deep in the well today, tracing time backwards (there was only backwards-time now, no more going forward for her). She was in a car. Crying. Playing with a dirt-smudged dolly. It was raining. The woman was shouting at her. "SHUT UP" screamed in time with the thudding windshield wipers. A stinging slap. The first of countless other blows. 

Before that...dimly...another woman, and a man. She tried to dig deep enough to see their faces. It was all silver mists and shadows. She tried to see in her mind's eye the house...the other one...the one she'd been in before the woman had picked her up at school. 

"I'm your Aunt Sally. No, you've never met me before now. I just got into town. C'mon, I'm here to take you home," she'd said. 

Of course, they hadn't gone home. They'd come here. 


Michelle was sixteen years old when it happened. 

By that time a part of her had come to believe the woman really was her mother. But another part of her rebelled at the idea...a vision of a red-brick townhouse swirling in the mists of memory, something of pink hydrangea and a foggy image of a blond-haired man and woman. Hair as blond as hers. 

When the argument escalated (Michelle had wanted to go on her first date with Bobby Allen, but her 'mother', always overly protective, said 'no.') the mists cleared for a moment and she'd voiced her suspicion.

"You can't tell me what to do! You're not my real mother! You're not even my Aunt Sally!" She'd stomped angrily off to her room. She'd crossed the line, she knew it, and she waited fearfully for the woman's footfalls on the stairs. The reprisal. It didn't come that night. 

In the morning, she went downstairs to a quiet house and entered the kitchen in search of breakfast. 

She caught a split-second glimpse of the swinging poker in the corner of her eye, a dull CRACK! and she saw no more. 


She woke up on the creek bank. She could hear the woman somewhere nearby.  

Michelle stood up and when she turned around, saw herself lying on the ground. 

"I'm dead," was all she could think. 

The woman was digging her grave. 

She did not stay to watch her burial. Instead, she strolled along the creek bank, watched autumn leaves floating in the current and marveled at the way the sunlight made everything it touched look like liquid amber, and wondered why she never noticed these things when she'd been living. 


She returned to the house the next morning, consumed with rage. She devoted all her ghostly energy into tormenting the woman. Her favorite was walking through her, causing her sudden chills. She rapped on doors and windows and made loud noises at night, keeping the woman awake and terrified. This made Michelle very happy, to see her former tormenter propped up in bed, lights on, teeth chattering with fear, with the pouchy gray bags of sleeplessness under her eyes. Finally, the woman moved out, leaving Michelle alone. Other people lived in the house over the years, but they never stayed long. It was devoid of living dwellers for over fifty years now, left to fall into its current state of disrepair.


It's the memory of that car trip she most longs to recover from her deep well. But she'd spent most of it crying. She has snippets, though...hydrangea bushes...a turnpike...a long bridge over a wide river...but then the vision grows hazy and the mist closes in. She keeps trying, though. Every day she glides through peeling walls and digs desperately for each new vision along the road...and when she finally has it...the mists will part and there she will see it...

Like a signpost...pointing the way home. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Mages of Morrow: The basic plot of my NaNoWriMo novel...

Sixteen-year-old Mercy Danville, like Alice, has fallen down a hole. Sucked into the singularity of a rare Earth black hole, she is plunged into world of Burr. Burr is riddled with planetary black holes that can take you to other alternate Worlds or to other locations in Burr.

A cold war is about to turn hot on Burr. Mages (scientist magicians) have biologically created many creatures, some are hold overs from old wars among themselves: sentient dragons and prehistory beasts they used as weapons. Now they are at odds with the Sages (scholar magicians—they call themselves 'true' magicians) who are in charge of the political side of things on Burr. They mistrust the Mages and their science, which incidentally caused all of the black holes, in a past with technology long forgotten.

Mercy is thrust into this scene, into her own personal hell. She lands on the doorstep of a brothel tavern in the town of Crope. The madam of the brothel intends to force Mercy into prostitution once she reaches the legal sexual age of seventeen. She has promised Mercy's virginity to a brute and callous thief named Clem. Mercy prays desperately to meet a Gypsy (wandering folk who may have magic Sage-like powers) who will take her through a black hole and home.

Enter Tom Stranger...a shadowy man who is more than he appears to be...a man caught up in prophesies...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On the Air

This is my latest published poem, "On the Air."

the Breath of the World is not
stoppered in a jar,
or produced with a machine.
the Wind whispers on its way
from Here to Somewhere Else:
it is Nature’s greatest contradiction.
it is neither close nor far.
it is invisible, 
and is as unknowable
as the hour of one’s Death.
it is as fleeting and as constant
and as precious as Life.
it moves---and lives:
with everything,
through everything,
in Everything.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Muse and Anti-Muse (Melencolia)

I know I'm a bit late wrapping up Shakespeare Week, but better late than never. The following is the sonnet I wrote for my Western Humanities I Final Project on the Renaissance. I had to display a Powerpoint on the Shakespearean sonnet, write and recite my own sonnet. 

My sonnet is inspired by the 1514 metal engraving "Melencolia 1" by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer. (see below)

In the happy course of composing plots, 
full of daring deeds and mortal affairs.
A sudden chaos, then my mind is fraught:
Calliope! She leaves me unawares!
Imagination now an empty room;
the door therein stands frightfully ajar.
Souls who pursue the arts know well this gloom;
with Mind and Melencolia at war.
Melencolia violates the space,
that dearest Calliope once did fill;
And stirs me not with her Stygian face.
All inspiration she’s designed to kill.
    O Anti-Muse! turn yourself ‘round again,
    Leave by that door, and let my Muse back in!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dreams—Shakespeare Week, Day 6

The Tempest—Act 4, Scene 1

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Existence—Shakespeare Week, Day 5

Hamlet—Act 3, Scene 1

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death—Shakespeare Week, Day 4

Macbeth—Act 5, Scene 5

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What real love means—Shakespeare Week, Day 3

Sonnet #116 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vengeance—Shakespeare Week, Day 2

The Merchant of Venice—Act 3, Scene 1


If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brevity—Shakespeare Week, Day 1

Hamlet, Act 2—Scene 2

My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
What day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. . . .

One week to honor The Bard

I am going to deliver a presentation tomorrow night in front of my entire Western Humanities I class. My final Renaissance project is on the Shakespearean sonnet. My assignment for the project was to write a sonnet in the style of Shakespeare and recite it to the class. I have put together a Powerpoint (via Keynote, because I'm a Mac girl) detailing the history of the sonnet and highlighting some of the other famous sonnet poets.

My poem is called "Muse and Anti-Muse (Melencolia)" and was inspired both by Shakespeare's 38th sonnet (an ode to his "Tenth Muse") and a 1514 metal engraving by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer, titled 'Melencolia I.' (see below)

I think I've written a damn fine sonnet. I may try and get it published at a literary magazine.

To celebrate The Bard, and the end of the term, I am going to post a new Shakespeare quote here everyday. Or try to. It is finals week and I'm up to my eyeballs in studying.

Here's to the Bard. Master of the sonnet. Master of Classic Literature. Period.

Shakespeare is my Homeboy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blogger Random Question: What's the Best Time You've Ever Had Licking Stamps?

The best time I've ever had licking stamps was the set I bought with the tropical frogs on them. But afterwards, the faces of the frogs on the stamps began to frighten me, so I tore the envelopes up and burned them with some kerosene in a tin bucket out in my garage. I mean, they were staring at me, man! So...maybe that might NOT have been the best time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Only Silence Remains

This poem of mine was published last month on "Soft Whispers." 

I am here...right here...
just a step or two away
with only the distance
of the aisle to separate us.
You are looking at cans of tuna fish,
I am contemplating vegetable soup.
You turn and look in my direction and I smile
but your eyes are blank and unfocused;
seeing right through me,
not seeing me at all,
as if I have become Invisible.
Again and again I observe this 
tragic ritual 
in American marketplaces
and city streets, where a
smile and a “Hello” are rare commodities
and sometimes more precious than gold.
We are a nation of Invisible People:
frightened of any confrontation
beyond our computer and cell phone screens.
How will we re-learn the Art
of spoken Communication 
once it is forever lost?
Will our public voices continue
to dwindle into nothingness
...until only silence remains?
(dedicated to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, who envisioned this long before I did, and wrote about it in “The Sound of Silence.” Poetry can be prophesy.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Six Minutes

UPDATE: I have entered this story in a Birthday-themed writing contest at Deanna Schrayer's website. Here is the link: The Other Side of Deanna. I'd also like to thank my aunt, Leona Adkins, for providing me with the pictures for this post. 

I started to write this piece for #fridayflash for Mother's Day, but I was overcome with emotion in the middle of writing it and couldn't finish. I decided to start writing a new version to post for my birthday. 

There are sacred traditions that exist between mothers and daughters. Traditions which bind them together like thread on a loom.

I am my mother's first born, the first daughter of her womb, and we had such traditions. 

One of our rituals, repeated every year on July 3rd (by telephone, when we were living long distances from one another) was in the form of staged conversations that occurred during the years following my move to Florida. My mother left her home in Ohio when I was in my teens, escaping a marriage marred by perpetual violence. I left the Buckeye State and flew south to live with her when I was twenty. These dialogues began shortly after we were reunited. 


Mom said, "Do you know what I was doing on this night in 1965?"

Me, straight-faced: "I don't remember, actually." 

"Smart ass," she said. "I was trying to push a baby out of my belly. It hurt like hell!" She laughed then, a dry-sounding laugh that bordered on coughing. She was always very sickly. Doctors tested every year for TB. Her father died from the rare kind that attacks the bone, before she was old enough to say her first word. 

"I'm sorry," I said. 

"I'm not," she replied. On the occasions when we were together, this would prompt a warm hug. 

So that the situation would not turn too mushy, I broke away with a light jest. "11:54 p.m. Why couldn't you wait six more minutes so that I would've been a firecracker baby?" 

My mother exploded in a burst of mock anger. "ME! It was YOU that couldn't wait."

"That's right. I wanted to get out and start partying!"

This was our cue to collapse into laughter. 

"You're still a firecracker," my mother said. 

We would then proceed to get uproariously drunk and argue about whichever Stephen King book we happened to be reading at the moment. These arguments would follow with my mother admonishing me for not writing stories like I used to when I was younger. 

"I'll pick it up again, someday," I promised.

"You better or I'll kick your ass."

Every year, no matter where each of us happened to be, my mother would either visit me or call for my 'birthday' ritual, although the words would vary somewhat from year-to-year. This tradition carried on through a relocation to Texas (hers), a wedding (mine), a battle with kidney disease (hers), and the illness of a spouse (mine). 

Until 1999, when the ritual came to an end. Her veins shut down and she could no longer receive the dialysis treatments. The howling misery of it all was that I could not be with her as she departed from this life. She was in Texas; I was in Florida. My husband had just come home from his second hospital stay, and we were broke. 

I can't begin to describe the pain that exists in not being able to say a final goodbye to someone you love. Especially to your mother. There are no words that cut deep or raw enough for that kind of pain. That kind of void.

My mom was my best friend, confidante, drinking buddy, and number one resource for most of the dirty jokes of my adulthood. Plus, she was my mother. There is no way to fill such a void. Ever. 

I continue the ritual alone now.

On July 3rd, at 11:54 p.m., I lift my face to the heavens and say, "Why couldn't you wait six minutes?" 


This story is for my mother, Georgia (Georgie) Juanita Adkins. I love you and I miss you, mom. 

P.S. I'm writing again.