On tattooed maps.

I firmly believe that every morning should be filled with chocolate chip oatmeal, and music by the Dresden Dolls.

It’s gray and rainy, but my spirits are high. I am excited for tonight, when I will be meeting up with some friends from college. I miss them and the memories we share. I know that the small reunion tonight won’t magically revert life to the way it was in college, which was remarkably carefree and filled with social activity, but it doesn’t hurt to be nostalgic now and again. This theme came through in today’s prompt, and I’m sure some will be able to relate.

Enjoy. 🙂

THE PROMPT: “St. Patrick’s Day Hangover”
You wake up the morning after St. Patrick’s Day and don’t remember much of the evening (thanks to too many green beers). You also notice some discomfort on your forearm. When you roll up your sleeve, you notice a tattoo of a map. Panic sets in as you realize that you now have a tattoo on your arm, but curiosity takes over as you wonder where the map leads.


Did you ever notice that after a night of some hard-drinking, you can never sleep in? At least, not the way you want to? I’m sure there’s some medical reasoning that explains why I always wake up at 6:45AM instead of 2:30PM, but I’m not as interested in the reasoning as in the cure. Waking up early after a night of drinking always ends badly. I either rush into the bathroom to upheave my insides into a certain porcelain bowl, or I just get up and leave because I cannot fall back to sleep due to an overwhelming sense of grossness that only a pot of coffee and shower can cure. I usually try avoid these situations because of my predilection to wake so early, but who says no to green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, especially when that someone is half Irish?

I was a textbook victim of peer pressure as friend after friend called to invite me to the Big Apple for March 17th. At first I politely declined and wished them safe and enjoyable travels, but they persisted. “It’s on a Saturday this year,” Brandi whined on the other end of the telephone. “That never happens! Dude, you won’t miss any work and won’t have to call out the next day!” She made some good points and she could tell I was relenting, so she added, “Everyone’s going. You’ll be the only one home, and then what will you do all day?” I paused for just a moment or two before I caved in. Brandi was happy, and immediately made my plans for me; I’d be at her house at 7:30PM on Friday night to sleepover and then bright and early the next morning  – after some Bloody Marys – we’d be on our way to the city, via the train.

The Bloody Marys are the last thing I clearly remember.

Sunday morning, I sat up lightning fast, like I’d been shocked by a cattle prod. I was afraid I’d have to puke, but my stomach felt okay. I pushed a knotted mass of hair up and away from my eyes, and looked around. I was back in Brandi’s living room, sitting on the floor. My back and bottom were stiff and sore, and I was kind of pissed that I slept on the floor, as there were two vacant couches to my left and right. I slapped my forehead to release some anger at my stupidity, and realized I was sore in two new places; my forehead and my forearm. Grimacing, I twisted my arm before my eyes this way and that. I could move it fine, but there was a kind of pulsing ache that enveloped it. I let it fall lazily into my lap and gingerly, I began rolling my sleeve back. My grimace turned into sheer horror when I began to see colored lines drawn onto my skin. I stopped being so delicate and nearly tore my sleeve clean off in my insane need to confirm what I already knew; I had gotten a tattoo. I was the jackass, the idiot who gets drunk and forgets she hates needles and cannot get a tattoo because it would be unprofessional as an educator of young, impressionable minds. Cursing silently, I crane my neck to try and see what the picture is of. For a moment, I was worried it’d be Robert Pattinson’s face, or Backsteet Boys’ lyrics I found particularly meaningful. But my brows furrowed into confusion because it didn’t make sense. They were cardinal directions and lines and arrows, and damn it. It was a map.

Why the hell was there a map on my arm?

I whipped my head from left to right, scanning the room for Brandi. She was beside me on the floor, snoring loudly with her mouth open. I shook her, called her name. She responded with something unintelligible. I tried to wake her up again, and she called me dirty word and rolled over. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize that my best friend would be no help. Sighing, I decided I needed to get a move on. Some coffee and a shower would clear my head, and then I could set about finding a tattoo removal service and carry on as if nothing had ever happened. Slowly, very slowly, I clamored to my feet and stood straight. I held my arms out to the side and waited for the world to spin, but it didn’t. I surprisingly felt pretty good, all things considered. I grabbed my purse and overnight bag from beside the door to the mud room – which I’m sure were placed there by the wonderfully kind and thankfully sober woman known as Brandi’s mom – and headed out. I thought about leaving a note, or waking Brandi up to say goodbye, but a text message would suffice.

As I slipped out the front door, icy March wind assaulted me, lifting my already matted hair up above my head, twisting it in ways that would be painful to untangle later. I tried to smooth it down, my ankles wobbly in the high heels that now, on a Sunday morning on a deserted residential street, seemed wildly inappropriate and out-of-place. Wobbling but not falling, I made it to my dilapidated truck and it roared to life so loudly that I was embarrassed, peering out of all the windows to see if neighbors were rushing out onto their front lawns to see what plane had just crashed in the front lawn. But no one stirred, no blinds twitched, and my cheeks cooled and I backed out of the long, gravel driveway onto the biggest effing hill I had ever seen in my life. The hill was the only drawback to visiting Brandi, as I was constantly rushing to the front window to see if my truck had indeed begun rolling backwards and created havoc. Luckily, I had made another trip unscathed; the tattoo on my arm notwithstanding.

The hill ended anti-climactically, with a pizzeria on the left and the largest lake in New Jersey dead ahead. One had to either turn left or right, and right would bring me back to the highway which would lead me home. I was in the middle of turning the wheel when I looked up at the street sign. Why I did this, I don’t know; I had made the trip a million and one times and never before had I cared to note the name of the streets. Hell, if pressed to recite Brandi’s address at gunpoint, I would fail. So I read the signs, discovered I was at the intersection of Iowa Avenue and Brady Road, and was prepared to continue on, to make the right and do nothing with the newly learned information. But the same something that made me look at the street sign made me look at my tattooed forearm, and there was the intersection, etched into my flesh very clearly.

There was also an arrow pointing to the left.

I had never been left down Brady Road – that brought you further into the quaint but very rural town, and I had never had any occasion to check things out, or any real desire to do so either. Now, though, things were decidedly different. Last night, I had clearly sat through some pain to obtain the skin map I was now reading. That undoubtedly meant that it was important, and that the map lead somewhere worth visiting. I bit my lower lip in thought for just a few moments, before turning to the left and following Brady Avenue farther from home and deeper into the unknown.

I rolled along slowly, constantly checking my arm and the street signs. Brady Road eventually turned into Prospect Point Road, which ended in a choice of either going left or right. I knew I had another choice, which was to turn around and head home and finally put an end to the insanity. What did it matter where the map led? I had been drunk – that was it. I checked the map on my arm, and it indicated that I turn right. I decided to continue the map because right was right – had it said left, I would have shook my head, laughed at my silliness, and turned around. But right was a good direction; its name had nothing but positive connotations. Turning right led me to Route 181 and I followed this barren, meandering country road until it met up with Route 15, a road that was more familiar to me as it could bring me home. If I were to call it a day and stop the treasure hunt, it would have to be if and when the map told me to turn off Route 15. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it all to end. I wasn’t sure what I would find at the end, or what I would regret if I just gave up and went home. But the uncertainty of it all, the not knowing, was the most excited I’d been in months. Being a teacher – well, just a substitute until the economy finally picked back up – was routine. While no class was ever the same, the schedule was, as were the faces and the expectations. Getting up early meant going to bed early, and my social life had tanked. The outing with Brandi for St. Patrick’s Day had been my first social activity in God knows how long. And even then, everything inside of me had told me to cancel – to be responsible with my time and money and just stay home. Everything inside of me told me to play it safe. It wasn’t a matter of self-preservation as much as it was cowardice. The largest part of me wanted to be comfortable and complacent.

There was a tiny part of me, though , that didn’t want that at all. It was that part that had me following a tattoo on my arm on a Sunday morning, miles from home. I wondered at the origin of this brazen voice, as it certainly couldn’t truly belong to me. This reverie ended when I came to a stop light, and had to slow down. I checked my arm, and was surprised to find that I was to turn in at the diner on the right, just a few feet ahead. My stomach grumbled in agreement and I thought what the hell? If nothing else, I could get some breakfast. The parking lot was empty, so I found a spot close to the entrance with ease. Once the engine was silenced, nervousness and nausea assaulted me in alternating waves. What if there was a masked gunman waiting inside, and I was his getaway driver? What if everyone inside was dead, because some virus had infiltrated the diner and though I had the antidote, I had been too late? Or worse, what if there was nothing at all inside? Disappointment scared me more than anything else, and I decided to take a moment to prioritize and get a grip. I flipped down the visor and did my best to make myself look presentable in the mirror. I pulled my hair up and back, aside for a few loose strands that hung casually about my face. I wiped dark eyeliner from beneath my eyes with my thumb, and did the same with the excess lipstick around my mouth.

I didn’t think I looked too bad, and smiled with a strange kind of confidence that felt out-of-place. Then again, nothing I did that morning was making any sense so hey – why not feel pretty? I climbed out of the truck, and the door slammed shut loudly behind me. No one else seemed to be moving about, and I pulled my coat tight around me, warding off the cold and the sinking suspicion that I was doomed to life of mediocrity and that even when I did something crazy, like get a tattoo, it was still mundane.

The bell above the door rang as I entered and I released a breath I had only been
vaguely aware of holding. There were a few people inside, none of whom were dead. Two old men in flannel coats at the counter turned to observe me, then turned back around, as if I was more of an irritating disturbance than I was interesting. A harried looking older woman came out from behind the hostess stand and asked me how many. My face fell. I was always just one and it was taking its toll. Even drunk in the Big Apple, I had been lonely. So many bodies packed crowded bar after crowded bar, and not one male had been intrigued to ask my name, or offer to buy me a drink. The confidence so recently enjoyed fled, and I opened my mouth to tell her I was still just one, when a masculine voice said, “There you are.”

Both the hostess and myself turned to the voice. A handsome young man was standing beside a booth. He had dark hair that was in danger of being too long, and dark eyes that shone in a peculiar, unexpected way. A small, coy smile played upon his thin lips, and his hands were shoved deep in the front pocket of his jeans. His flannel shirt hung off his thin but strong body. I smiled in spite of myself, and turned to look behind me, just in case the real object of his attention was somewhere else. When I turned back around, he was laughing and waving me over. I looked to the hostess for some help or clarification, and she offered none, but returned to her station, as if this was the most normal thing in the world. On ankles that were once again wobbly, I walked over to the booth and sat across from the young man. He sat, only after I was seated, and said, “I thought you weren’t going to show, and then I would have been heartbroken.”

I raised an eyebrow, and leaned forward to whisper, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are.”

He shook his head slowly from side to side, the smile fading ever so slightly, and he leaned back in the seat. “I’m Sam. We met last night, remember? We were both at McSorely’s.”

I covered my face with my hands. “I am so sorry, but I don’t remember anything from last night.”

“Then why are you here?”

I lowered my hands and looked at Sam. He wasn’t smiling anymore. The humor had left his expression entirely, and I was afraid he was insulted. Did he think I was lying? I laid the forearm with the tattoo on the table and lifted my sleeve. “I woke up, saw the tattoo and thought it might be important. I followed what my arm said, and it brought me here.”

Gently, he took my arm into his hands to better study it. The physical contact sent shivers along my body, and I wondered if he felt the tremors. If he had felt them, did he chalk it up to the cold, or did he suspect something else? He laid my arm back down on the table, and met my eyes. “I drew this on your arm last night. I was not with you when you decided to get it tattooed there, though.” It was obvious to me he was trying to hold back laughter, and my face grew hot. I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I was done being embarrassed, so over it. I snatched my arm back and rolled down the sleeve.

“Why did you draw on me?”

“So you would know where to meet for breakfast.” He paused a moment before asking, “Do you really not remember?”

“Why would I lie to make myself look like a jackass?”

Absent-mindedly, Sam rubbed his lips with his palm. He was deciding something and whatever he decided, it made him lean forward to talk in a serious tone. “Last night, or really early this morning, I saw you sitting at the bar. I thought you were beautiful, so I sat down next to you, and started some lame conversation about snakes in Ireland.” He paused again, watching my face closely for expression. He must not have been deterred or alarmed by what he saw because he continued, saying, “It worked, and we had the best conversation I have ever had in my entire life. I don’t know how long we would have sat there. You told me about your book, and how you wanted to move to Maine. You told me about how you were terrified of being boring, and that you wanted to stay young and reckless forever. I was going to ask you something else, but your friend came over and said you had to go.” Sam suddenly dropped his eyes. “I couldn’t let you leave without making plans to see you again, so I invited you to breakfast, because we had also discussed how we both can’t sleep in after drinking.” He leaned back in the booth, and still didn’t raise his eyes to mine. I thought he was finished, but he cleared his throat. “Your friend told me you couldn’t, because you didn’t live in the city and that the two of you were going back to her house, which you told me was in Jefferson. I just so happen to live in Jefferson, so I suggested the diner and you said yes.” Here, he raised his eyes to mine and said, “You said yes without hesitation.”

I was blushing. The heat ran from my neck all the way through the top of my head. I dropped my gaze and tried to breathe smoothly. Idly, I picked at the paper placemat and again, I waited for him to continue. Sam wasn’t saying anything though, and the silence was building and becoming uncomfortable, so I decided to break it. I said, “So you drew the map on my arm so I would know how to get here?”

Sam nodded.

I laughed. “Then I must have gotten it tattooed because I was afraid it would wash it off, and then I wouldn’t-“

“You wouldn’t remember,” Sam finished. He ran a hand through his hair and started to slide from the booth. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to – I just wanted – ugh, forget it.” He went leave, and I panicked. I didn’t know him from a hole in the wall. He could have been a serial rapist and murderer, but I didn’t want him to leave. I reached out across the table and grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Please don’t leave. I’m sorry I ended up being such a drunk, sloppy mess, but look – I got it etched on my skin with a needle because I wanted to make sure I made it here.” Sam looked at me. I didn’t know if he was waiting for something else, but I said, “Let’s have another great conversation, okay? Hell, it could be exactly the same if you wanted. You have a second chance to wow me.” I smiled lamely, knowing I sounded desperate and dumb. I slowly slid my hand from his arm, more than ready for his departure.

Instead, Sam surprised me. He slid back down the booth to seat himself across from me. He smiled genuinely and asked, “So what time did you get up this morning?”

On wondering where the good goes.

I would like to begin this entry with an apology; this time, for my absence. My computer broke Wednesday night – something about the power switch being worn down to nothing – and I could not get it to turn back on. I had tried to update this blog from my iPad, but was unsuccessful. I was so stressed and just sat on my bed and cried, and cried, and cried. It was silly, and most certainly foolish, but I felt so helpless and frustrated.

I updated the blog with a pity party; a post that just ranted about how sad I was, and how woeful I am, and so on and so forth. But that is not why I started this blog, and that is not who I want to be. There was nothing creative or entertaining about the post; it was only self-indulgent and annoying, so I deleted it. I realized that I hadn’t lost as much weight as I should have, that I wasn’t being a creative writer, and that I was being weak again. I was letting myself down, and it was time to knock it off. It was time to start fresh.

So, it’s a new day, and I’m typing away on a new computer. I also discovered a new set of prompts by Writer’s Digest that are perfectly tailored to a writer suffering from a creative slump. Let’s give this another shot, shall we?

THE PROMPT: “The Song that Changed Everything”
You walked into the emergency room. This simply couldn’t be happening. Just a few hours ago you were playing cards with your friend, listening to your favorite song on the radio – the song that defined your friendship. But now, as you make your way to the nurses’ station, that song was playing again. Only this time, it felt different.


Amanda’s hair flew out behind her as she ran through the parking lot. Her flip flops slapped haphazardly against the pavement and she knew she was one bad step from a bad spill, but it didn’t really matter – nothing did, except for Allison. Amanda had been in the classroom, idly checking her work e-mail while the students worked on their expository essays, when her cell phone had lit up beside the mouse. She had done her best to discreetly place her phone so that she could see it, but no one else could. Teachers weren’t allowed to have them because the students weren’t allowed to have them, and it was all about solidarity or some nonsense, but she had hers close anyway, just in case there was an emergency or something.

                And there was an emergency, wasn’t there? Amanda hadn’t answered her cell phone because one, it would be unprofessional and two, the call was coming from a number she didn’t recognize. She ignored the call and took a cursory glance at the students, all of whom were bent over their desks and writing furiously. Things were momentarily interrupted but were quickly on their way back to normal, until the phone in the classroom rang; the generic phone that hung beside the desk in every classroom. Twenty heads popped up, snapping their necks to the phone like an abnormally large pack of deer trying to cross a four-lane highway flooded by headlights. With a rueful smile, Amanda told them all to keep working and she answered the phone, never thinking that anything could be wrong. Or hell, if something was wrong, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be easily remedied. Amanda prided herself on being able to handle issues. Her classroom management was exemplary – the principle had even said so – and she did her best to never rattle. Other teachers came to her to vent because they knew Amanda would be blunt and put everything into perspective.

But Ms. Taylor, the secretary in the office with the short blond hair and lust for high heels, told Amanda that the hospital had called, and that the hospital said Amanda should hurry down there because something had happened to Allison; there had been an incident. Ms. Taylor mentioned something about a Hall Duty teacher reporting to the classroom, and about not worrying, about it being okay to leave, but Amanda was already gathering her purse with the keys – everything else could stay, could wait until the world righted itself. Some of the students called out to her, asked if everything was okay, but she barked at them to just keep working. What else could they do? What else could anyone do? What was she supposed to say? She was frazzled.

                Using the crazy energy coursing through her, Amanda didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but just ran – ran through the front doors of the school to the parking lot, ran through the parking lot to her Ford Explorer. She fumbled with the key s at the door, simultaneously struggling to calm her shaking hands and to regulate her haggard breathing. When she sat in the driver’s seat and slid behind the wheel, she shut the door behind her and it was silent. For a moment, Amanda thought she might cry. It was a tempting idea, to just sit there and cry, and just be totally consumed by the fear and the helplessness of the situation. Why not? What else was there to do? Would driving like a madwoman to the emergency room and demanding entry to Allison’s room help things any? It wouldn’t and crying in her car alone wouldn’t help either, but so what? If neither was beneficial, why couldn’t she choose how to spend her moment of weakness?

                Despite her cerebral struggle, Amanda’s body seemed to act accordingly; the keys were turned in the ignition, the gear was changed so she could back out of the parking space and before she could really understand what was happening, she was on the highway and speeding towards the hospital. She didn’t hit any red lights, and she gently touched the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror. It was like God knew that if Amanda stopped, even for just a minute or two, she would not be able to start again. When she parked in the crowded parking lot of the hospital, it was all she could do to keep one foot moving in front of the other. Her mind was racing, sprinting from worst case scenario to who she should call to who would probably already be there. She was taking in deep breaths, constantly smoothing her hair back away from her dampened eyes. Her movements had slowed, probably because her mind was using all her energy and she almost stumbled through the sliding doors and into the hospital.

                Everything was white, bright and smelled like disinfectant. Amanda instantly wanted to be somewhere else. Her stomach turned over unpleasantly and she shut her eyes against it for a moment, not wanting to be sick or cause a scene, but how could she help it? Her best friend was in the hospital, in a coma from an apparent overdose, and how do these things happen? Just last night, they had been at Allison’s house, playing Drug Dealer with a battered pack of cards, laughing loud and hard. The case of beer had been nearly gone, and it was getting late, but then “Where Does the Good Go?” by Tegan and Sara came on the iPod. Both women had screeched in delight and slammed their palms upon the table, demanding the song be turned up as loud as it could go, and promptly be started over from the beginning. Mike, who was always there with them, got up to do just what they had asked, and Amanda seized the moment to be nostalgic. She leaned closer to Allison and whispered, “Do you remember how we used to listen to that song over and over?”

                Smiling, Allison drank from the can of beer and wiped the corners of her pale lips before adding, “Absolutely! We did that one time, on the way to the wrestling match, because you were so obsessed with Billy!”

                Blushing slightly, she covered her face with her hands and collapsed onto the top of the table. It had been years since she thought of Billy and senior year. She popped her head up to see Allison looking victorious and particularly smug. Amanda couldn’t have that, so she said, “Wait a second; you were obsessed with Nick, so that makes us even Steven!”

                Allison burst out laughing, and both women doubled over in laughter. It wasn’t that hilarious – Billy and Nick had both been wrestlers, had both been attractive and had thereby been out of their league, so to speak. She supposed it was somewhat humorous that both girls had heard the song that night, on the way to the match, and had deemed it appropriate to relate to their unrequited love. Maybe the women laughed because they were embarrassed at how juvenile and foolish they had been just a few short years ago, and weren’t sure what else to do. It was silly, high school romance, and wasn’t meant to be picked apart and brutally scrutinized. But when the heart was running out of beats, and a friend was running out of time, everything was rehashed and analyzed, and relived.

                When Amanda came back to the present, Mike was there. He was always there and he was helping her to a chair, talking fast and low. She wanted him to start over, to speak louder and more clearly, but she couldn’t speak – she had just seen Allison last night! They had reminisced about the boys that filled their notebooks and adolescent daydreams and everything had been fine. They had been drinking and having a good time, making plans for the weekend. How could Allison be dying? How could things not look good? When she had left Allison’s house last night, Amanda hadn’t kissed Allison or hugged Allison; they weren’t particularly affectionate friends. But as she followed Mike through the front door, Amanda had turned to see Allison. Her long hair was hanging in her face, and she was still sitting at the table, staring at the can of beer that had to be close to empty. She wasn’t looking at it so much as through it, and Amanda felt as if she had to break her concentration. “Are you going to go to sleep soon?”

                Allison looked at her friend like she just remembered she was there. Allison shrugged, offered a half-smile and said, “I don’t know; maybe I’ll stay up and play some NHL.”

                Amanda smiled and said, “Alright; just text me later.”

                “Will do,” Allison promised with a tiny wave of her hand.

                Allison had never sent that text message, and Amanda hadn’t bothered to text or call, and now where were they? They were in a waiting room, waiting for what? Were they waiting for news, for death, for absolution, for recovery? Did she really have that kind of time?

                Mike was calling her name, getting loud, and so she turned to him. He was asking if she was okay, and if she had heard anything that he had said. She had every intention of answering Mike, of shaking her head slowly from side to side, but the song playing over the crappy, muted speakers was asking a question she had heard before, and desperately wanted answered now, before it was too late.

Where does the good go?


As always, please feel free to comment, to critique, and to share.

On falling mattresses.

I have been so out of it lately. Today, I tried to sleep in the faculty workroom at school. I was sitting where the other substitutes usually eat their lunches, my oversized purse placed strategically in front of me so that I was hidden from view. I had the latest edition of “Glimmer Train open in front of me, but everyone would know I was not really reading because my cheek was laying upon the page, and my mouth was wide open. Oh, and my eyes were closed. To be fair, I didn’t actually fall asleep, but I was able to find that incredibly blissful zone that comes just before sleep, when one’s mind is actually empty and one is just drifting.

When I came home, I did sleep. I did not exercise, I did not count my calories, I didn’t really clean my room and I just did nothing. I’m feeling down on myself because I’m sliding back into lazy, self-destructive habits and I’m worried I can’t stop, that my life will be successive series of starting and stopping, of trying and failing.

I feel that it is important to share my emotion and mindset with you so that when you read the pieces, you can put them in some kind of context (or if they completely suck and lack talent, I can refer you to the crappy day I had. Really, I’m just covering my ass – pardon my French).

THE PROMPT: “Falling Mattresses”

            They had been waiting, umbrellas up, for the falling mattresses.

            Sam reread the line, moving his lips soundlessly over the words. He clicked his pen and sat it down beside the yellow legal pad. Every other line was blank, besides the first, and had been blank for hours. Surrounding the pad were crumpled up sheets of yellow paper, discarded as trash and bad ideas, scattered amid empty cans of diet Coke. Aggravated, Sam sighed loudly and raked his face with his palms. No words seemed right, no hook was interesting enough and he was stuck.

            Sam heard the door open and close from behind him, and turned his head to see his sister walking inside. She was smiling, and held a tray of food in her hands. “Here you are,” she said. “Dinner’s been ready for a while. Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

            “I didn’t want to be disturbed,” Sam grumbled, turning back around.

            “You still need to eat,” his sister argued, rolling her eyes. His artistic temper tantrums made her want to scream. “It’s your favorite; spaghetti and meatballs.” She used the ends of the tray to clear the table of its paper litter, and set it before her brother, smack dab on top of the pad he had been writing on, or at least trying to. She then decided to pick up the empty cans, crushing them to make more room in her hands. The noise was irritating, as was her presence, and as was Sam’s writer block. He collapsed back against the couch and grunted. His sister straightened up and popped a hip, so that her poise was one of attitude. “What’s wrong?”

            “I can’t come up with anything.”

            “Oh,” she said. She smiled and sat beside her brother, momentarily forgetting the crumpled aluminum in her hands. “Maybe I can help. What do you have so far?”

            Sam raised an eyebrow. “Dude, I have been locked in here for days, trying to come up with a beautiful and meaningful song that will have a lasting effect not only on this generation, but on those that follow. I doubt you can help me finish these lyrics in a couple of minutes.”

            “At least let me try,” she said. “You never know, Sam. Something I say could trigger an explosion of creativity.”

            He studied her for a moment, and discovered how strange it was to be viewing what was essentially the female version of himself. Ever since they were little, everyone had commented on how much they not only looked alike, but acted alike. Growing up, they had adopted each other’s mannerisms, like how when they were nervous, they would pull on their eardrums so the blood would pool and pound there, rather than their panicked brains. They both chewed their nails, and bit their bottom lips when they were deep in thought but knew someone was looking. The two were close – they had always been close, but after Dad had died and they had both moved back home to help take care of Mom in her increasingly fragile mental state, they became friends, honest and genuine friends. Smiling softly, Sam shrugged. “What the hell; give it a shot.”

            “Okay – what do you have so far?”

            Sam lifted the tray of food so he could slide the legal pad from underneath it. Suddenly nervous, he licked his dry lips. As close as they were, he had never allowed his sister to read any of his work. He couldn’t exactly say what it was he was afraid of, because she would never ever say anything bad about it, but his stomach did squirm uneasily when he saw eye the writing. “All I have is the opening line: ‘They had been waiting, umbrellas up, for the falling mattresses.”

            It was silent for quite a few moments. Finally, she said, “I don’t get it.”

            “What do you mean?”

            She shrugged and said, “I don’t know where you want to go with this.”

            Sam laughed, running his palm across the back of his neck. “That is the problem I’ve been having.”

            “Then just change the line.”

            Sam was scandalized. “No way, I can’t change the line! This is a very intriguing image, and I need to work with it.”

            His sister held her hands up in front of her as if in self-defense. “Okay, sorry! I didn’t know you were married to the falling mattresses.” She did her best to stifle a laugh at her older brother’s expense. She reread the line soundlessly, just as Sam had, and then asked, “Why are the mattresses falling?”

            “You tell me.”

            Her eyes widened. “This is hard.”

            “You’re telling me.”

            There were another few moments of silence. “Well,” she said, “good luck with all that.” She rose to her feet, cradling the empty cans in her arms. “Make sure you eat before it gets cold.”

            “Thanks for all the help,” Sam said, shaking his head slowly.

            “Anytime,” she smiled, shutting the door behind her.

            He imagined a mattress falling from the sky and crushing his sister beneath its weight, her cheap and flimsy umbrella collapsing. He laughed and then froze.

            There was the idea; the rest of the song.

On stranger mothers and familiar daughters.

I was feeling really blue when I awoke this morning – completely suffering from a case of the Mondays. I was listless during work, and struggled to find motivation to do anything other than sleep.

I felt infinitely better this afternoon, when my friend Melanie and I walked the deserted boardwalks of Seaside Heights. Among the caged stores and waves crashing in the distance, we talked about everything and anything. Walking against the wind, with sand stinging our faces, we admitted our fears, bad habits, and desires. It was relaxing and rejuvinating.

I felt ready to tackle what I consider a very difficult and very personal prompt. This prompt unnerves me for two reasons, the first being it deals with my mother. I love my mother deeply, although I must admit that I do not know her. There are times when I was confident I had my mother figured out, but she continues to surprise me. I’ve considered her the stronger of my parents my entire life – that she was a little colder, refrained from showing emotion and told us kids “no” when she had to. But now that I’m older and wiser, and Mom feels like she can talk to me as an adult about adult worries, I realize that my mother is vulnerable, and that she has feelings that can be hurt. I think this realization was subconsciously playing at the back of my mind when I decided the route this prompt would take.

Also, it reminds me of myself when I was about five years old. I wouldn’t let my twin sister inside our room after I had retreated there, hurt and embarrassed because I had been yelled at by my mom. Tears streaming down my face, I had fled from the dining room table in hysterics. I wailed with each step and had no idea my twin sister was right behind me, step for step, worried and eager to make me smile and forget the whole thing. I closed and locked the door behind me, and for as long as I live, I will never forget the desperation in my twin sister’s voice as she begged me to open the door and let her in. I will never forget how she raised her tiny fists again and again against the door.

I will never forget how cold I was, how selfish I was, and how I did not open the door.

THE PROMPT: “Your Mom at Five”
Today’s exercise is courtesy of Leslie Pietrzyk, a novelist and short story writer who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Imagine you are your mother. You are five years old. What are you seeing / thinking / doing?


It was late, much too late for a five-year-old girl to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but Kelly Ann was just that. Her eyes were as wide and as bright as the moon, shining just as clearly. Her eyes were a wonderful shade of green that altered ever so slightly depending on her outfit. Her eyes were beautiful, but all of the character in her face came from her nose – a little too large with nostrils that were a smidge too wide, but shaped in a more attractive than abrasive manner. It was reminiscent of a pig – but the cute, small, pink kind and not the wild boar kind – and she would grow into it before the cruel teenage years.

            At this moment in her remarkably young life, Kelly Ann was not dwelling on her eyes or her nose or her mouth or her ears, and the only thought she gave to her less than clean, knotted hair was to push it back and out of the way because it had a troublesome habit of falling into her face, obscuring her view and tickling the tip of her nose. Kelly Ann didn’t have time for useless things like hair because she was in the middle of quite the captive conversation with Thumbelina and Pebbles. Kelly Ann was enthralling the ladies with her adventures from outside earlier in the day, when the sun had been high in the sky, and she had tried pedaling as fast as she could. Kelly Ann had been bicycling through the paved streets of the neighborhood with a kind of reckless abandon that only the very young – or the very foolish – could afford, sometimes lifting her hands from the handlebars and her feet from the pedals, so that her own momentum would take her places. She hadn’t been slowed by any of her nine brothers and sisters, or by her stressed and harried mother. Kelly Ann was free, speeding along hills, navigating curbs and weaving across the road as she saw fit. It had been a wonderful day, and she had been thankful for every breath in a small, genuine way – the only way a five-year-old could be thankful.

            She was just about to relate how Mean Mr. Polly had tried to squirt her with the water hose as he tended to his garden near the edge of his lawn when Kelly was interrupted by loud yelling. Kelly Ann had been so enveloped in relating her melodrama that she hadn’t heard the voice, which seemed to be coming from outside and which seemed to be growing steadily louder. Kelly Ann narrowed her eyes, annoyed at whoever was making such a ruckus. If Ma woke up and found her awake at this time of night, it would be catastrophic.

            But at that time enough, and with an imagination such as Kelly Ann’s, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Ma woke up, because what if the boogeyman was out there, yelling and making all sorts of noise to get all the children up and out of bed so he could gobble all of them up? Shivering slightly before going completely still, Kelly Ann inhaled sharply and let her beloved – albeit uncommonly dirty – dolls tumble to the uncommonly dirty, carpeted floor. Kelly Ann’s face fell as she decided what to do – wake up Ma? Should she maybe sprint to Ma’s bedroom and dive beneath the itchy blanket to curl beside Ma’s thin body, at least until the boogeyman left and the terrors passed? To do that, though, would mean admitting to Ma she had been awake and the wrath of that woman would be worse than that any boogeyman who made a scene on the front lawn.

            A new round of yelling was starting up, and Kelly Ann listened with all her might, closing her eyes tight to aid in the effort. Was it unintelligible growling, or were there English words? What kind of monster yelled out to be let inside? How scary could a monster be if he had to beg? The voice sounded like it was demanding, like it was telling and not asking, but it didn’t really sound dangerous. Kelly Ann opened her eyes, now more intrigued than ever. It wasn’t a monster at all, but someone she might know. She rose from her scabbed knees to stand on her bruised feet and then paused again to listen hard. Her nightgown, which was really some worn, smelly tee that one of her two older brothers had used for gym class, hung just below her knees. The fabric rustled gently against her thighs as she padded soundlessly to the bedroom window opposite the bedroom door. Breathless with excitement – and an ashamed twinge of fear – Kelly Ann stood on tip toes and gripped the windowsill in tiny, grimy hands. She pulled herself up as much as she could, and peered out of the window and down onto the lawn below.

            It was Daddy. Daddy was on the lawn, yelling for someone to come downstairs and let him in. Kelly Ann’s face broke into a radiant smile, and she released a breath she had been holding just in case it was a boogeyman down on the grass. Daddy’s face was red and looking up at her window. He must have seen the light, known that Kelly Ann was up, and was trying to get her attention. She raised one of her tiny, grimy hands to wave, and she saw Daddy smile big. He jumped into the air, waving both of his arms above his head, and called for Kelly Ann to come downstairs and let him in. Careful not to shout and wake Ma, Kelly Ann showed her Daddy the thumbs up sign and then disappeared from sight.

            Once again, she padded soundlessly across the room to light switch beside the bedroom door. Once again, she employed her tippy toes and stretched until she could stretch no more so she could flick of the bedroom light, lest Ma knew she was awake. Once she was safe among the shadows, Kelly Ann slowly, slowly, slowly opened her bedroom door, simultaneously biting down on her full, bottom lip as if that action would not only keep the door from creaking, but also keep Ma snoozing peacefully down the hall.

            With the door open, Kelly Ann peered up and down the hallway. She saw no one and released a tremulous breath. The only movement came from dust mites, gracefully floating in the random shafts of moonlight that reflected through the upstairs windows to light upon the floor. The only noise Kelly Ann could hear was her own breathing and the ticking of the big clock downstairs in the living room. As far as she could tell, the coast was clear. She crept along the hallway and tip toed down the stairs, making sure to lightly tread along the carpet running down the middle and to jump over the trick step that always seemed to squawk at the worst possible moments. Enthralled by her stealthy abilities, Kelly Ann began to imagine that she Agent 99 from that show “Get Smart” and that she was really rescuing her Daddy from a group of masked bandits that had gathered on the front lawn. He was depending on her, he needed her and Kelly Ann was going to save the day.

            Kelly Ann reached the bottom of the stairs and took only a few steps towards the back door, which was through the kitchen that was straight ahead before she stopped dead in her tracks, terrified and open-mouthed.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Ma sneered, standing just inside the kitchen doorway with her hands on her hips, and her shoulders so tensed that they were all the way up by her ears.

            Kelly Ann turned to her mother slowly, fighting an oncoming pout and averting her eyes. “I – I was just, I was just gonna let Daddy in.”

            “Don’t you dare,” Ma growled. “If he wants to go out drinking with his friends after work, and not come home to help a woman with ten children, then he can stay out, the bum!” The last part was more directed at Daddy than at Kelly Ann, and Ma turned her body more towards the door to prove it. She sneered at Daddy, and Daddy just looked back at Ma helplessly through the window.

            “Come on, Helen,” he pleaded. “It’s cold and dark out here, and it’s late. Let me in and we can talk.”

            “Not a chance in hell, Charlie!” she shouted. Ma was fighting mad.

            Daddy rolled his eyes in exasperation, and in doing so, landed them on Kelly Ann. He smiled brightly and waved. “Hey, Kelly Ann, come on over and open the door for Daddy!”

            Kelly Ann beamed back at her father and forgot that her mother was in the room at all. She took a few more steps forward before she felt Ma’s icy, iron grip around her arm. “Get upstairs and go to bed!” Ma ordered. Kelly Ann offered her father a small, sympathetic look before turning and bounding up the stairs.

            Kelly Ann was crying. She wasn’t scared anymore – well, she was a little scared of Ma and what she would do to Daddy, but she was very sad that she couldn’t save the day. Daddy had been depending on her, and she had fallen short of the mark.

As always, please comment to offer critiques, responses, and pieces of your own.


Today was most definitely a day I would classify as “weak,” meaning that I did not accomplish even half of what I had planned. My room is still a mess, I’m running out of clean clothes, I ate like a pig and got no exercise. I’m slipping back into selfish, lazy habits and I am ashamed and feeling incredibly weak. I would like nothing more than to admit defeat, crawl under some covers, and have a nice, healthy cry.

It is with this mindset that I offer you tonight’s prompt. As always, please comment and respond with advice, criticisms, pieces of your own, or just a friendly word.

Your character is an obsessive compulsive. Describe his or her morning. Do not use the words “obsessive compulsive.” (Show, don’t tell.)


Anna woke to the sound of four alarm clocks buzzing in union. The sudden fury of sound startled her to attention, and while Anna knew that one alarm clock would suffice, it did not change the fact that she needed four. Four alarm clocks ringing out in the still morning air made sure she would be awake. Four was sure- a certainty, and it did make her feel better. Anna went to sleep easier because she knew she would not oversleep in the morning, and would not miss anything. The day would start as it should, and all could be right with the world. Certainly it was not crazy to think that successfully starting the day was inextricably linked to successfully ending the day, right?


Her clean feet landed firmly on the wooden floor, and her toes wiggled for an even count of four. Anna felt it necessary to waken each part of her body because that way, she would not suffer any kind of physical mishaps that could send a perfectly ordinary day spiraling into a nightmare, like cramps or embolisms or aneurysms. She sat and rose, sat and rose, sat and rose, sat and rose, and then stood up straight and tall. She raised her right arm and lowered it, raised her right arm and lowered it, raised her right arm and lowered it, and raised her right arm and lowered it before completing the same exact exercise with her left arm. Anna could swear she felt the blood running more vibrantly through her veins, excited to be traveling to freshly woken limbs. She felt better, she really did.


She headed to the bathroom, crossing the threshold once … and then backing out to reenter three more times. One only had to be careful when entering the room because all the possibility lay in that moment, where as when one left a room, the damage (so to speak) was done. Anna reasoned that a similar logic applied when climbing into the shower, perhaps even more so because the danger was increased, what with the rushing water, sharp razor, and the vulnerability of being naked. So the right leg was lowered and raised, lowered and raised, lowered and raised, lowered and raised before resting on the bathmat, and before the left could rest as easily, it also needed to be lowered into and raised out of the tub four times. As a result, she did not cut herself while shaving, did not slip or even get shampoo in her eyes. A shower went a long way to make one feel human, particularly when said shower was successful and secure.


Towel wrapped tightly around, Anna crossed through the bedroom door, backed out and reentered for a total of four times before she headed toward the closet, smiling broadly and eager to select a sleek and professional looking pair of pants, and coupling it with an interesting, colorful top. She applied deodorant four times, brushed her hair four times, left and entered her bedroom four times before she went into the kitchen to begin breakfast. The green digital numbers on the stove read 4:30AM. Work did not begin until 9:00AM and she did not have to leave the house until 8:30AM, but she had to allow time for her rule of four.


The smile she had been wearing dimmed considerably when she was overwhelmed by exhaustion. She knew damn well that she did not have to be up and moving so early, that she was intelligent enough to realize that doing things four times did nothing to ease her mounting anxieties but she was too weak to do anything else. Ashamed and desperate to break, to crawl back into bed and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep, Anna wiped the tears from beneath her eyes – four times for each eye – and got the same mug she always used from the cabinet (but only after she opened and shut the door four times).

On giant golden Buddhas.

Let me begin this particular blog entry with an apology: I am sorry that I am a big, fat liar. I was supposed to being my year-long creativity challenge yesterday, but here I am, beginning today.

Better late than never, right?

The prompt and the resulting piece follow, and I sincerely hope you enjoy them. If not, feel free to tell me all about it! Comment with critiques, praise, or your own piece! Let’s share and see if we can’t make this better!

THE PROMPT: “Giant Golden Buddha”
In San Francisco there was a townhouse with a second story picture window – the living room, apparently – completely filled by a giant golden Buddha. This seated Buddha, which must have been at least six feet high, faced out, serenely overlooking the marina. The exercise is this: Robert has been invited for cocktails. He enters the living room from the hallway. From Robert’s point of view, this large statue blocks what must be a magnificent view. What does he think about that? Write the scene, and include some dialogue with the host and Robert’s unspoken thoughts.


Robert’s shiny shoes clicked loudly against the concrete sidewalk, and the echo sounded hollow and empty when it returned to him on the warm breeze. He was walking to Mr. Martin’s townhouse for some cocktails, or at least that’s what he had been told by his secretary, Allison. Friday afternoon, as he was calling it a day and leaving the office, she had excitedly stopped him and told him about the invitation from the head honcho, the big boss man. Allison also admitted, somewhat ashamedly, that she had already accepted the invitation on Robert’s behalf, and had copied down all the necessary information onto an index card. With her finely manicured nails, Allison made sure to point out the time and the date several times. She wanted to stress the importance of this seemingly innocent cocktail party, and the possibility it had to positively affect both of their futures at the public relations firm. Robert began to voice his concerns, his trepidations and some nerves, but Allison hurriedly cut him off and told Robert not to worry. She promised that Robert would be fine and make her proud, and instructed him to just be himself, but to not show up empty-handed. Allison had given Robert an encouraging pat on the back, and then returned to her desk.

            During Allison’s instructions, Robert had smiled and nodded, and done his best to seem eager and prepared. He wanted Allison to believe that he believed her when she said it was no big deal, and that he would be fine. Truth be told, though, Allison was full of shit. Being invited to your boss’s expensive townhouse after being with the firm for only a year was a very big deal. Maybe Robert would be fine and would handle himself well, but no one knew for sure and danger was just as much of a possibility as success was. He had been nervous and battling an upset stomach since receiving the invitation and here he was, headed to the townhouse almost a full twenty-four hours later, feeling no better. He wasn’t sure if he felt worse, or if that was even possible, but his palms were slick with sweat and his stomach flipped uneasily every now and again. He thought walking would help release some of the nervous energy, but it hadn’t made a noticeable difference. Robert had then tried to enjoy the weather, which was truly beautiful. The clear sky was slowly being filled with majestic hues of burning orange and romantic red as the sun made its habitual descent. The dying rays were powerful, and Robert had to squint against them and at times, look away to his shoes – his shiny shoes.

            Was he trying too hard? Robert wondered how he really looked. With his meticulously pressed pants and finely tailored button down shirt, he knew he looked professional, and he hoped his long, thin tie helped him retain his youth and optimism. His hair was short and neat, or at least it had been. Robert wasn’t entirely certain of its current appearance because he had nervously run slightly shaking fingers through it about a million and one times. Looking professional was helpful, but Robert knew it wouldn’t be enough to be memorable or impressive. He’d have to be smart, charming, witty but generic enough to blend in and not upstage the host, or any other guest. It was an incredibly fine line to navigate, and he was certainly feeling the pressure. When a smooth, warm breeze rolled lazily along the street, he welcomed it gladly. He closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and slowed to a halt.

            Mr. Martin’s townhouse was awesome. Open-mouthed, Robert craned his neck to take it all in; its Spanish roofing with terracotta coloring, its looming picture windows that had to offer incredible views, based on its proximity to the marina. So this is what it’s like to live high on the hog, Robert thought, allowing a small smile to play upon the corner of his lips. For a moment, he began to envision himself in such a residence and what the kind of life would be like, but he reminded himself where he was and snapped his mouth shut. Straightening his tie, he casually strolled – or at least tried to – the wide, stone steps to the front door. He rang the bell and focused on his breathing before the door opened before him to reveal Mr. Martin himself.

            “Hey there, Roger; I’m so glad you were able to make it!” Mr. Martin greeted Robert with a disarming smile and a loud, booming voice that grabbed the attention of anyone and everyone within ear shot. Robert offered a queasy smile.

            “Thank you for inviting me, sir. You have a lovely –“

            “What’s that you’ve got there?” Mr. Martin asked, indicating the bottle of scotch tucked beneath Robert’s arm. Robert had forgotten he had even had it, and now offered it to Mr. Martin.

            “I just thought it’d be nice to bring a little something, sir, so I stopped by the liquor store and asked the attendant-“

            “Is it single malt?” Mr. Martin asked. His smile had become strained as it transformed into scrutiny. He was studying the bottle and the label, and Robert’s throat had suddenly gone dry.

            “Well, sir, I don’t exactly know. I asked the attendant-“

            “Ah, well it’s no matter. Come on inside!” Mr. Martin clapped Robert on the back strongly. His strength wasn’t surprising to Robert – it was expected. He wasn’t massive in size, but he certainly was massive in personality. The man exuded confidence and effortlessly commanded respect. Dressed casually in a pair of tan slacks and a light yellow polo shirt, he pulled Robert inside the home and let the door shut behind them. His canvas boat shoes moved soundlessly through the short hallway that led to stairs that then led into the living room. The room was nearly filled with executive types, smoking cigars that probably cost more than anything Robert had ever smoked. The scent of cologne hung heavily in the air, mingling with the smoke, and both created a somewhat stifling atmosphere. Robert loosed his tie and turned to Mr. Martin, who was discreetly handing the bottle of scotch to a maid, whispering something. Robert tried to keep the heat of embarrassment from his face and tried to trap it within his chest. “So Roger, let me introduce you to the guests!” Mr. Martin once again clapped Robert on the back, and he felt his knees slightly buckle under that weight, and the weight of the pressure to be impressive.

            He was steered by Mr. Martin to the different groups that had assembled, and introduced to some of the most successful and well-known men in the community. Each was generically handsome, dressed in a fashion eerily similar to that of Mr. Martin, and each shook Robert’s hand in a professionally polite manner. Once all the introductions had been made, Mr. Martin left Robert to fend for himself. Unsure of what else to do with his sweaty, shaking hands, Robert shoved them deep inside his front pockets and took a few steps toward the nearest group of businessmen. He smiled brightly at those who noticed him – though none really did – and listened to the conversation for an opening. An older man with peppered, slicked back hair was saying, “I’m taking the wife and the kids toParisthis summer. We have a house inGreece, but we’ve been there so many times and, you’d be surprised, it’s a tiny island. We’re confident we’ve seen all there is to see.”

            A man beside him with a rotund belly and significantly less hair asked, “What’s there to do inParis?”

            The first man shrugged and rolled his eyes. “I know the wife wants to see theEifelTower, but the daughter was going on and on about seeing such and such with the ex-patriots or something.” He paused and let a small laugh escape him. “I didn’t know they had patriots inFrance.” Those around him laughed heartily. Well, all those except Robert.

            Robert cleared his throat and said, “I think she was talking about expatriates – people who temporarily reside in a country and partake in a culture other than their own upbringing.” The crowd fell silent and what felt like a hundred piercing eyes turned to Robert. Suddenly, he felt small and dumb. Casting his eyes downward, he continued, “Have you ever heard of Fitzgerald or Stein? I think Hemingway went, too.”

            Another man said, “Are they involved in PR?”

            Laughing, Robert shook his head slowly and looked up. He was the only one laughing. His face fell and he decided to explain himself. “No, they were American writers in the 1920s that went to Francebecause they found artistically inspiring and freeing.” Robert took his hands from his pockets and brought them in front of him. He wasn’t sure what else to do or say, but he still had the attention of the group. “Has anyone ever read The Great Gatsby? What about The Sun Also Rises?”

            The portly man laughed and said, “We don’t have time to read, Roger! We’re building an empire!” The other man laughed and the conversation returned to safe and familiar territory for the men – back to business. Robert’s face burned red and he excused himself from the group. His tail was between his legs and he was feeling defeated. Clearly, these captains of industry had nothing in common with him, and had failed to correctly remember his name.

            What’s worse is that it wasn’t their fault; Mr. Martin had been calling him Roger all night, and Robert had never corrected him. Was he too afraid to contradict him? Was he weak enough to suffer that kind of humiliation?

            What was he doing?

            Robert had inadvertently traveled into the adjacent room, which was blessedly empty. There wasn’t much room for guests as the space was filled with ornate furniture and expensive looking knick knacks that served no discernable purpose other than “completing the room.” Robert turned to his left slightly, and there before him was a massive, golden statue of Buddha. It nearly hit the ceiling, and was wide enough to block the majority of the picture window … a window that clearly looked out onto the marina and the setting sun. Behind the grotesque and gaudy statue was a breathtaking view of natural beauty, of something that the hands of men could never emulate, that was engineered by and worthy of something great. Robert scuttled from left to right, rose on tip toe and slightly squatted down, but all he could see was Buddha. He sighed in frustration and turned to see Mr. Martin standing in the doorway. “Roger! I’ve been looking for you! What are you doing in here?”

            Robert jerked his head back towards the statue. “What is that, sir?”

            Mr. Martin shrugged and puffed on his cigar. “I don’t know. Mrs. Martin picked it out. It set us back a fair amount, though. It’s made of solid gold, and there’s no other statue like it. It might have set a record for its size, too.” Pleased with the statue, but more so with his ability to acquire it, Mr. Martin grinned in a manner Robert suddenly found absurd and wiggled his eyebrows.

            “Sir, do you know who Buddha was, or was this statue symbolizes?”

            Mr. Martin’s face was void of the humor it had so recently displayed. He narrowed his eyes at Robert. “What are you getting at, Roger? Do you find this statue offensive in some way?”

            Robert threw his head back and laughed. “No, sir; Buddha symbolizes serenity and enlightenment. There’s very little offensive about that. What does offend me is that you have yet to get my name right.”

            “What do you mean?” Mr. Martin asked, although his face paled as if he knew the answer.

            “My name is Robert. I’ve been working for you for about a year, and my name is Robert.” Robert had clenched his fists and stood up taller and straighter. He had also raised his voice, and a few of the men from the other room had wandered over to see what was going on. Robert paid no mind to the other men, or the way his body was subconsciously and physically reacting to the evening. “I apologize that I brought the wrong bottle of scotch sir, and I am incredibly sorry that I will not be in the office on Monday. Or ever again, really.”

            Mr. Martin took the cigar from his mouth and pointed it at Robert. “What’s this all about, Rog-“

            “It’s Robert! And this entire night, all anyone has talked about is work and making money and that’s all well and good, but why should I be made to feel like I’m weird and insignificant?” Robert was exploding. More eyebrows were raised as more eyes crowded into the room and the narrow hallway beyond. Robert had never wanted to work in an office, had never wanted to work for money, meaning he had always wanted to do something he loved and was passionate about. He hadn’t been happy for months, but he’d been too much of a chicken shit to admit it or do anything about it. It took a comically large statue of Buddha to set him off, to finally make him realize he was becoming insignificant in his own life. “I like to read! I like fine art! Maybe I should write for an arts and leisure magazine! Maybe I should be a food critic! For the past year, I have kissed ass and toiled away for hours in a tiny speck of a cubicle and for what? For a golden statue to fill the picture window in the townhouse I can’t afford?” Robert turned to yell at Buddha now. “I don’t want that! I want to be happy, and I want to see what’s beyond money! I want to be happy, and loved and needed, and I want to come home from work not exhausted, but inspired and exhilarated!” It was a level five meltdown and Robert was going to end with a bang.

            Head held high, Robert walked over to the statue. “I’m sorry, because I do not think I am superior to you gentlemen. You are successful and admired, and I would never take that away from anyone. But I am different, and I’m sick of being a square peg in a round hole, and I am sick of this statue!” Suddenly, Robert threw his body against the statue. He used the entirety of his weight and the statue wobbled before crashing onto its side. The men scuttled back, gasping as the glass table beside the statue shattered beneath its awesome weight and the floor shook. “Look!” Robert exclaimed, pointing through the window. “Look at that sunset! Look at the water! That is what I aspire to!” Hair askew and breathless, Robert turned back to the men. They stared at him with wide mouths and vacant expressions, unsure of what to make of the man before them. Embarrassed, Robert cleared his throat and straightened his tie.

            “Robert,” Mr. Martin said gravely, “I think it’s time you left.”

            With a nod, Robert maneuvered through the crowd to the exit.


On being challenged.

I know that I NEED to write creatively every day, not only to hone my talent and become even more acquainted with the craft, but because I want to. A friend of mine, who is a musician and an artist, embarked on a year long art project in which she completed a project following different guidelines every day for a year.

My friend’s name is Melanie Wagner, and you should check out her art project – everything is posted on Facebook (talk about being inspired!).

Thus, I am going to start tomorrow, finding daily prompts and completing a piece every single day. I urge you to do the same, and to share your projects via the comments section, or Facebook, or e-mail.

Tonight, I’d like to leave you with this:

“Children and romantics are the most vulnerable among us.”

On being inspired.

I am very proud of myself for writing my novel, but I am also very eager to start working on a second novel. However, I am feeling particularly uninspired. When I was working on Her Beautiful Monster, I wrote every single day. I thought about it constantly, dreamed about it and dreaded when the project would eventually end. I was truly passionate and as of yet, I have not been as passionate about any possible plots or characters that have come to mind. In short, I NEED to be inspired.

Typically, I listen to music to stimulate both the brain cells and my creativity. The artists that double as my personal muses are Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, My Chemical Romance, and Elvis Presley. Truth be told, however, Her Beautiful Monster was inspired by another artist entirely; the novel was inspired by the music of Amanda Palmer. I don’t enjoy her music as often as the musicians I listed earlier (but I should, and you should too – she’s phenomenal), but I do listen to the Boss quite a bit; probably the most out of any other artist out there. I listen to him for at least an hour every day.

I love Bruce for a multitude of reasons. For starters, he is from New Jersey. I am also from New Jersey, and there is an inherent motivational feeling associated with observing someone from similar surroundings and background make it big. Springsteen was able to make it out of the Great Garden State and return a conquering hero. I would love to be able to do the same.

I love Bruce because he’s handsome, which hardly hurts and usually helps.

Most importantly, I love Bruce because his lyrics are prophetic and impossibly beautiful. His authenticity and genuine sentiments make him accessible to every American – he is able to creatively and concisely divulge the anxieties, the triumphs, the dreams, and the desperations of the American experience. He is a true poet, and he has his finger on the pulse of contemporary American society like no one else. I would argue that Springsteen is not only a poet, but a prophet. His words set to melodies can be anthems and a call to arms, can entertain and tell a story with rich characters and timeless themes, and can inspire. I am living proof of the latter, as the first thing that I ever consciously wrote for an audience that I was proud of was a short story titled Cover Me, inspired by the Springsteen song of the same name. The short story was published on-line in the Cynic On-line Magazine, and is still available to read if you are interested (HINT HINT).

Bono, the lead singer of U2, once said that Springsteen was both private and accessible, which in my humble opinion, is true and an incredibly romantic contradiction. Through not only his words and music, but through his very being, Springsteen represents the common man, but is able to do so in a personal way that invites individual listeners to sympathize and empathize on a very personal level, as if every song is for everyone and simultaneously tailored to suit anyone; that is a truly remarkable feat that I strive to emulate.

Springsteen’s song “I’m On Fire” played a HUGE role in creating Her Beautiful Monster, and I still find myself returning to its imagery of loneliness and longing as physical and emotional ailments. The lyrics are beautifully simply and blunt. I highly recommend that everyone reading this also listen to that song, especially if you plan on reading my novel.

In my search for inspiration, I have lately been listening to Springsteen’s “Jack Of All Trades,” from his newest album, “Wrecking Ball.” The song has definitely enchanted me, and I believe there is inspiration within but to be honest, I am having a hell of a time finding it.

I need help.

What inspires you? Is it music? Is it a person? When you want to be creative, how do you get in the zone? Please share. I hope I’ve been able to return the favor.

Also – I’ve included a link to the short story mentioned in this blog … if you’re interested. 🙂


On receiving good advice.

“It is better to pass up an opportunity than it is to miss one.” – A Good Friend

First and foremost, I hope everyone enjoyed their Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. I hope everyone remained safe and spent time with those most loved.

That being said, a good friend of mine – one of the best I have ever had, actually – recently said to me, “It is much better to pass up an opportunity than it is to miss one.” I was impressed by the wisdom inherent in the remark, and told her I was going to write it down and steal it; and so I have.

I could not agree with my friend more. I am most afraid of waste – wasted time, wasted talent, wasted money. People are at greatest risk for waste when they are so comfortable that they become complacent. I never want that to be, so I always hope to be restless and unsatisfied. To be forever searching is not the worst thing, because to search is to grow, or at least an attempt to grow. With growth comes wisdom, and I do not think one can ever have enough wisdom.

What are some words of wisdom you have received from a friend? What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

On the words of a complete stranger.

I totally meant to write earlier, but I had somewhat of a hectic day. I was a substitute teacher at the local high school today, and that put me in an abysmal mood for a number of reasons I don’t care to discuss right now, as doing so would only cause the mood to return. After school, I ran some errands, taught during home instruction, and ran some more errands. I was worried about when I would write, but I am so glad I waited.

It wasn’t until 8:30PM this night that I had anything worth writing about.

I called my oldest sister, Missy, while I was waiting for my younger brother to be let out of CCD – his Catechism class. Missy answered, and I told her about how our cousin, Danielle, wants Missy to make buffalo chicken dip for the family’s St. Patrick’s Day Party on Saturday, and that Danielle said someone would be at Danielle’s house every night this week if Missy wanted to pick up the bowl Missy left there after the family’s New Year’s Eve party … which was also the last time Missy made the buffalo chicken dip.

But I digress, and I apologize for doing so.

The main point of the conversation between Missy and myself, was that I mentioned moving to Virginia with them in September. I just started entertaining this idea earlier today when I was feeling particularly hopeless and discouraged, but the more I think about it, the more excited I become. In a good-hearted manner, Missy asked me where I planned on living in Virginia. Clearly she knew I planned on staying with her – until I found a place of my own – but I was feeling humorous and said, “I don’t know, but I’ll hook if I have to.”

I should mention that it was an unseasonably warm night, so I had both of the front windows rolled down in my truck. I should also mention that I was sitting in a church parking lot, talking about becoming a hooker, while waiting for my little brother. I didn’t realize that the older man in the car beside mine also had his windows down, and when I hung up, he called out, “You won’t have to hook, sweetie. Things will get better.”

What awesome advice. We laughed together, made a few more jokes and then fell silent. Truth be told, I was totally embarrassed.

Before he left, the man called out to me again and said, “Remember what I said.”

This older man, this complete stranger, saved my entire day. He made me laugh, helped me to lighten up and not be so … blah, for lack of a better term.

Laughter is as soothing as this warm weather – it heats the blood as it pumps through restless hearts and wearied veins, which makes one feel infinite and optimistic to a fault.

What a great night.