On music and musings.

This morning, I realized that I am going have make some tough decisions soon.  I hope I have the strength and wisdom to do so.

I did a favor for my cousin to release some positive energy into the universe.  I had to drive her to her car at her work in Manahawkin.  We got to the exit and she realized she left the keys to the car at home, so I took her back to her house and then took her back to Manahawkin.

After that, I didn’t do a damned thing but fix my iTunes music library.

As a prompt would be decidedly uninspired as I am feeling to anxious to be creative, I am going to postpone the prompt until tomorrow.

Please don’t be mad.

On sharks in suits.

I really, really enjoy “True Blood.”  I have yet to read the book series upon which the television show is based.

That’s all; enjoy the prompt. 🙂

 

PROMPT: A young man works his way into an apprenticeship with a slick salesman.

PIECE: Alex looked back at his reflection staring back out at him in the glossy elevator doors.  He exhaled his breath and straightened his tie, which had been a gift from his girlfriend.  His mind drifted back to earlier that morning, when Mallory had stood before him on her bare tip toes.  She had kissed his cheek and buttoned the top button of his expensive shirt.  She had flipped the collar up and roped the tie around his neck.  Alex had made some off-color remark about the fabric feeling more like a noose than a tie.  Mallory had displayed an exaggerated expression of shock and dismay, and had swatted Alex playfully on the shoulder.  “Remember what I told you,” she said.  “If it gets too intense, or if it isn’t absolutely everything that you’ve wanted, cut and run.  No harm, no foul; you deserve to be happy.”  At that sentiment, Alex had cupped Mallory’s perfect face in his undeserving hands and kissed her long and good – mostly, he did this so she would stop talking.  It was unmanly to cry, and he had to be serious for his first day of work with Edgar Steenson.

Edgar Steenson was the man every other guy in a suit wanted to be, and who every woman wanted to have on her arm when she stepped out into public view.  He was the smoothest talker Alex had ever heard; Edgar was the kind of guy who could convince Ryan Seacrest that he needed public speaking lessons, and rumor had it that the movie “Inception” was in fact Edgar’s idea, and that he had come up with it while taking a particularly long shit in Christopher Nolan’s toilet.  Steenson was the stuff of legend, the Gordon Gecko of his time.  Lucky for Alex, he had been chosen to be Edgar’s assistance.  Of course, Alex had jumped at the chance to watch the master in action.  If Alex played his cards right, he could be made partner and never have to really work another blessed day in his life.  He could afford to give Mallory the kind of life she deserved.

Right now though, all the glory seemed incredibly far away and all Alex could focus on was that he suddenly felt as if his stomach were going to drop straight out of his anus.  He kept breathing in deep and exhaling slowly, trying to calm himself and keep himself from imagining the million and one things that could go horribly, terribly wrong.  What if he threw up on Edgar upon meeting him?  What if he broke the copier, or the fax machine?  What if he confused some numbers and ruined the quarter, and sent some very important people to jail?  Every movie he had ever seen depicting these particular kinds of suited sharks in expensive looking glass tanks with leggy secretaries ran through his mind.

Then the elevator doors slid open and outside them, just a step or two beyond the threshold, lay Alex’s future.  Another deep breath and he stepped forward.

On Hollywood and the dying standard.

Tonight, I watched “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with my sister.  It’s a remarkably entertaining and creepy movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.  However, you don’t realize the movie got under your skin until you’re unprepared for it, like if you’re washing the dishes and letting your mind wander, and you have a sudden compulsion to shout, “But you are, Blanche! You are in the chair!”  Maybe that’s just me.

Either way, the film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two titans of old Hollywood.  According to Tinsel Town lore, Davis and Crawford DID NOT like each other.  After filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Crawford was FURIOUS, and took it upon herself to call all of the other nominees, offering to accept the award on their behalf if they won and could not be present for the award ceremony.  The other actresses agreed so when Anne Bancroft was announced as winner, Crawford made the long trek to the stage, making sure to pause just long enough to give Davis a dirty, dirty look.

 

 

 

 

 

Society changes and irrevocably, popular culture changes with it.  As a species, we must adapt or die.  That can be taken figuratively or literally – biological reasons aside, if one does not grow and evolve with society, one becomes an outcast and endures a social death which may proceed the physical one.  I get that – but I think it’s unfortunate when inevitable change alters the better aspects of society.  I’m too young to sound this old, but I miss when a lady was a lady.  It’s trendy now to be trashy; females would not recognize the pictures included about and would most likely recognize J-Woww or Snooki.  It’s unfair of me to become philosophical when really, all I’m saying is that I miss old-fashioned, bitchy Hollywood when glamour covered the more base qualities of human nature.

I promised to become totally honest with you, and I have done my best to do so in the following prompt.  Enjoy.

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

PIECE: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over,” I sobbed to Alyssa in the, thankfully, empty girl’s bathroom across the hall from the library.  I was taking in deep, shuddering breaths and releasing great, broken sobs.  Passing Steve a note and then throwing my arms carelessly around his neck when Kylie, his girlfriend, was only feet away had been a mistake.  What’s worse was that the whole lunchroom had seen the embrace, and that same audience witnessed the inevitable confrontation just a few days later.

All of my secret hopes, desires and scheming had been exposed via an online journal, which I was naïve enough to believe I kept secret.  Word got out that not only did I like Steve, but was trying to break him up with Kylie not so he would go out with me – no, that would be too obvious and logical for me – but so he could go out with my friend Tara.  There had been angry instant messages, brutal anonymous comments on the online journal entries and sordid e-mails.  I thought that was the worst of it and being so young, I believed I was invincible, that the slings and arrows would bounce off this armor I had crafted from misinformation and romantic wishes, and nothing more.

All that changed when I arrived at school.  The very atmosphere of the building had changed.  I could feel the eyes burning holes into my skin, wondering and judging and assuming.  I could hear the tongues wagging, condemning and poking fun at my fall from grace.  At the point, I was narcissistic enough to believe that yes, EVERYONE was talking about and that yes, EVERYONE did know what was going on and that yes, EVERYONE did care.  I was also young and dumb enough to believe that NO ONE understood what that was like.

So when I walked into the lunch room, it became immediately obvious that I could not sit across from Steve and Kylie as I had since September.  I relocated to the end of the same table, but figured the length was enough of a buffer.  Opting not to eat, I made awkward conversation with the acquaintances I had made out of necessity and emergency.  I tried to blend it and start over, put the social blunder behind me as if it had never even happened.  Kylie would not have it that way.

She marched down to my end of the table and screamed at me, leveling completely accurate accusations at me.  She called me names loud enough for all surrounding students to hear.  I didn’t rise to my feet; I only made dismissive facial gestures and loudly called out generic insults.  A few of my friends stood to my defense and it quieted down.  But the next day at lunch, Kylie recited my journal aloud, dramatically reading all of my feelings for Steve, and reading all about how unfair it was that he wasn’t with me.  I looked down the table at him, anxious for a reaction, but I got nothing.  He never, ever gave me anything.

It was all a mistake, and I should have known that right away.

P.S. – The above prompt is a memoir; it’s true, but I changed names and altered details to protect those involved, and absolve those whom I wronged.

 

 

On quotes and cocktails.

I was going through some old creative endeavors of mine, looking for a piece that could be salvaged, edited and then included in the second novel I am doing my best to construct.  I found very little to work with because this second novel is unlike anything I have ever written before, but that fact did not dishearten me.  If anything, it motivates and excites me because it challenges me; I have to be original and innovative.  I cannot rely on old tricks and gimmicks hidden within old, worn notebooks, with pages thinned and yellowed by time.  I have to be someone new and I love reinventing myself.  I believe I’ve admitted before that I hope to always be restless and that I hope to always feel unsettled.  I’m terrified that comfortability leads to complacency leads to laziness leads to waste.

“If you’re just killing time, you can be sure it’ll kill you right back.”

I made a list at the beginning of the summer, and I’ve been able to cross off two items; that’s it.  I’m failing myself – I know that, and I eat to fill the emotional void such knowledge creates.  I hide away in my bedroom, behind paper creations of a life filled with romance, drama, intrigue, connections; a life I wish for.  I can’t live, so I write about it … like those who can’t do, teach – I guess.  I think that’s pretty clever.

It’s weird; I feel like I’m being really, really honest with you (the reader or readers) right now, but I refrain from posting certain pieces because I’m horrified that my deepest desires will be exposed.  Writing is sharing, but I don’t want to share too much.  How much is too much?  Who’s to say?

So I say, eff it.  I’ll share everything.  Go big or go home, right?  But I’ll share lots … after tonight.  I don’t think I could handle it tonight.  I ate a lot of chocolate today and I am feeling particularly vulnerable.

That being said, enjoy the prompt.  I did. 🙂

PROMPT: A woman who’s constantly quoting classic novels meets a literature professor at a cocktail party.

PIECE:

I stepped out onto the back patio, extremely aware of how weak my ankles were when it came to walking in high heels, especially ones hanging on by a thin, thin strap.  The shoes were completely adorable, though – the shade was perfect and worthy of being the topic of any conversation, so I suffered through the awkward tumbling way of walking and the slight pain concentrated in the balls of my feet.  The pain was worth the beauty, and that lesson could be applied not only to life, but to fashion as well.  I think I read that in a book somewhere.

Truth be told, I probably did read it in a book.  All I do is read.  I find it much more comfortable between the pages of a novel than I do seated between other human beings.  Some assume it’s a lonely existence, but it’s not awful.  If you stop and think about it, it’s actually kind of awesome.  My friends are made of paper and ink, so they don’t talk back, they never disappoint and are always there when I need them.  They are not fallible like their flesh and blood and bone contemporaries, and there are no nasty surprises when someone you think you’ve known for years and years decides to be a douche bag seemingly overnight.

That’s not to say I’m a creepy recluse who avoids all human contact, like some Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird).  I talk to co-workers and make small chat when I’m ordering coffee or food.  After all, isn’t the point to only connect (Howard’s End)?  I believe it is, so I do talk.  Unfortunately, I have the habit of constantly quoting from classic literature.  Like that time at work when Brian left his sandwich in the fridge for a solid three months and the stench became unbearable, so I said, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” (Shakespeare).  No one got it, and that’s fine.  I did something similar at my family reunion, when we were trying to figure out who was sober enough to go with my uncle to the liquor store to resupply our alcohol stores, and I said to my sister, “Either thou, or I, or both must go with him!” (Shakespeare … again)  No one got it … again, but again, that’s fine.  I get that I alienate my audience with specific and sometimes obscure literary references, so I’ve been trying to curb the behavior.

I got invited to a cocktail party by Sara, a co-worker.  I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try and flex – or restrain, depending on how you look at it – my conversational muscle.  I bought the new shoes we’ve already discussed, and a matching dress.  I Googled YouTube videos to find out how to make my eyes look smoky and seductive and actually worked on my hair – I looked good.  Now to try and break into some conversation; I walked from small gathering to small gathering, listening in for a moment or two.  Either the topic was something I found terribly uninteresting, or something I knew nothing about.  I felt discouraged and was about to leave, run for the hills as they say, when I heard someone say, “You just have to keep on keepin’ on, right?  It’s like what Fitzgerald wrote; ‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.”

It was a somewhat older gentleman, fashionably dressed in a tweed jacket with elbow pads and heavy slacks.  He was quoting The Great Gatsby, arguably the greatest American novel of all time.  I couldn’t contain myself.  I walked up behind and said, “Doesn’t the end of the quote defeat your purpose, though?”

He turned to me, obviously surprised, but smiling.

I continued, “Fitzgerald says, ‘And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’  We never get where we’re going, but we keep going anyway.  That’s not as optimistic as what you were going for, I think.”  I held my breath at the end, worried that I’d offended him and come off as something as a know-it-all.

But he extended his hand and said, “Hi.  I’m Eric.”

On bowling … seriously?

When I woke up late this morning, my migraine was still present, but not as intense.  It returned full force when I ventured to the mailbox.  I had filed for unemployment insurance on the advice of my father and sister because I haven’t been working this summer and thought some extra money in the bank wouldn’t hurt if I relocate.  However, I did not realize that the Board of Education in Manchester has me on file for the remainder of the maternity leave, which runs through October.  I freaked out because I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to make a fraudulent claim or cheat the system or anything like that.  Truthfully, it was an oversight that I tried to rectify by calling the office but I was put on hold, transferred, put on hold again and was then informed it would take two hours for my call to be answered.  I just sent in the requested document and will try to call again tomorrow.  It stressed me out so much; the pain was in the back of my head, my neck and the small of my back.  My hands felt swollen and numb, and for the life of me, I could not breathe at a normal pace.  I thought I was going to make myself pass out.  My mom kept telling me to relax, to help myself and I couldn’t, and then I thought she was mad at me, so I started crying.  I went and retreated to my bed and resigned myself to just watching the ceiling fan revolving slowly, around and around.  I don’t know why I get so wrapped up in my own head and delude myself into think I am responsible for and thus have control over everything.  It’s kind of narcissistic – I’m so self-involved that it’s killing me; taking a substantial, physical toll on my body.  Or maybe it isn’t as bad as all that, and I’m romanticizing everything like I always do because the haunting reality is that me and my life are mediocre at best, and that scares me because more than anything else, I want to believe that I am unique and deserving of special recognition.

I’m doing it again, aren’t I?  I’m thinking too much and am about to trap myself in my own head, right?  Damnit; I’m a glutton for punishment, dude.

The picture to the right accurately illustrates what my migraines feel like.  Unfortunately, it does not accurately depict my features.  My teeth are far from straight and my eyes are a muddy kind of brown, a shade that would make a domestic goddess hurl if it were plastered against a new, white carpet (which is my subtle way of hinting that my eyes look like poop).

Tonight’s prompt is about bowling.  Now, I have nothing against the sport or the people who participate, but I do not play it.  I have no desire to bowl, really.  That’s somewhat amusing because the last two times I’ve gone bowling, I’ve done really, really well.  I defeated someone who was in a league and a boy who was trying to impress me.  Figures, right?

Enjoy it if you can, but I won’t blame you if you don’t.

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

VERSUS

PIECE: Bob was sitting at the end of the designated lane in a grotesquely-colored and wildly uncomfortable, plastic chair.  The chair was one half of a pair and sat before the dated computer monitor and accompanying keypad that allowed bowlers to enter their names and, if need be, adjust their scores.  The scoreboard had been expertly composed by Bob, who was not putting on the required bowling shoes, which always felt too large, smelled bad and looked clownish.  Despite the obvious drawbacks, Bob loved bowling.  He had recently gotten it into his head that he not only could but should become a pro bowler.  He had been getting closer and closer to bowling a perfect game during league nights, and was making quite the name for himself on the local circuit.  Enjoying a day off, he decided to bring little Melanie down to the lanes with him for some practice.  It’d be beneficial for the dream he was embarking on, and it would be nice to spend some time with his youngest daughter.  Melanie had trotted off to find a pink, perfectly-sized bowling ball and now she was returning, sweating and panting from the effort.  “It’s heavy,” she complained, cautiously stepping down the two steps.  Bob went rushing over.

“Mel, if it’s too heavy, you can’t bowl with it,” Bob said, smiling.

“But it’s the only pink one I could find, Dad! Please let me use it!  Please!”  Her brows were gathering at the center of her forehead and her bottom lip was slowly sticking out further and further.  Bob was no fool; he knew a storm was fast-approaching.

“Okay, okay, you can use it,” Bob soothed.

“Yay!” Melanie erupted, now beaming.  She dumped the ball onto the contraption in the middle of the lane and looked expectantly up at her father.

“You’re going to go first, okay kiddo?  We just have to wait for the bumpers.”  Bob looked around anxiously, searching for an attendant he could flag down.  Upon requesting and paying for the lane, he had mentioned that he needed the bumpers for his young daughter.  That had been some time ago, at least ten minutes, and there were no padded rubber bumpers on the lane.

“Why do we have to wait, Daddy?  I don’t need bumpers, and you definitely don’t need bumpers.”

Bob’s smile returned, wider than before.  “Are you sure you don’t need bumpers?  You liked playing with them last time.”

“I’m a big girl now, Daddy.  I don’t need them, I promise.”  Melanie was at her cutest when she was pleading and Bob understood it was dangerous.  It was okay now, when she was seven and Bob was the only man in her tiny universe, but one day, all that would change and he’d be in a world of trouble.

“Okay,” Bob acquiesced as he always did and probably always would.  “Go ahead then, little darling.  It’s your turn.”

Melanie stepped up to the start of the slick, wooden floor.  She held the pink bowling ball in both hands and though she was clearly struggling, she stuck out her bottom lip and attacked the line at something of a gallop, sliding to roll the ball down the lane after swinging it back between her legs for momentum.

The boll rolled dead center, crashed into the pins and knocked them down – every last one.

When all was said and done, Bob had scored an 80.  Melanie had scored a whopping 152.

Next week, Bob wasn’t at the league games.  Instead, he had stopped at a department store on the drive home from work, and purchased a chess set.  He thought maybe he could be the next Bobby Fisher.

On migraines.

Today, I went to Indian Hills High School in Oakland, New Jersey for an informal orientation.  I met two other new hires to the English department (one was also named Amanda, but luckily, I’m one of the few Amandas that go by Mandi) and was introduced to the curriculum.  I am in love with the curriculum; it has fluidity to it and the chosen novels are awesome.  The building is large, beautiful and technologically progressive.  The anxiety I’ve been feeling as late is now churning and turning into an emotion more akin to excitement.  There’s also a new kind of optimism; I’m not so worried anymore.  I feel ready to take on challenges.

Well, actually, I feel like shit (pardon my French).  I have the WORST migraine in the world (excuse the hyperbole).  I suffer from severe complicated, or complex, migraines.  According to Mayo Clinic, “With a ‘complex migraine’ symptoms can include weakness, loss of vision, or difficulty speaking in addition to a headache – often mimicking a stroke.”  My parents took me to the ER a couple of times because they were scared, as was I, when I couldn’t tell them my name or my birthday.  I went to the neurologist about a year ago, and she said these attacks were brought on by stress.  She emphasized how it was important for me to learn how to relax and how to stop worrying.  I have yet to learn how to do either of those things.  All I do is stress, worry, wonder and overthink.

Writing and listening to music helps me unwind and I promise I’m doing both … but I’m doing both while lounging.  No prompt tonight; a thousand pardons, ladies and gentlemen.

On the similarities in breaking through and breaking up.

I didn’t sleep last night.  In fact, my wearied head didn’t crash against the pillows until around 4:00AM.  Why such late hours?  What could have possibly been so enthralling, so engaging that it kept me up until dawn was but a few hours away?

I was writing.  I was writing the beginnings of a second novel, not just another prompt.  I haven’t done anything like that, or felt so excited by an idea, since I started writing Her Beautiful Monster, and that was years ago.

Whatever I decided to do professionally and no matter where I move – no matter where September finds me – I am ecstatic that I broke my dry spell and that I am truly back to doing what I love.

I hope what I wrote above doesn’t put too much pressure on tonight’s prompt.  Mainly, tonight’s piece was a hell of a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

PROMPT: A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIECE: Candi had only just escaped to the ladies’ restroom in the upscale restaurant that Carl had brought her to for dinner.  The napkins were made of soft linen, as were the tablecloths, and it made her nervous as hell to wipe her mouth because they were clearly so expensive and the trashiest thing in the world – the absolute trashiest thing – would be for Candi to leave a smeared trail of bright red lipstick on the napkin.  That’s what Candi was though – she was trash.  She was a prostitute and no matter how many times she insisted that “high-end” come before the profession, it didn’t change anything.  Night after night, she would tart herself up and exchange pleasantries – social niceties, can you believe it? – only to end up on her back with a stranger inside her.  What kind of life was that?  What was she doing, really?  Candi suddenly discovered she was having difficulty breathing in a smooth, even pattern.  If there was one thing Candi prided herself on, it was her ability to stay strong – she didn’t rattle.  She rushed to the nearest sink, her high heels clicking against the beautifully tiled floor, and turned the faucet on.  She used trembling hands to cup water and throw it on her face, using a sparing amount so that the makeup that had been so expertly applied would not run or be washed away.  After all, a naked prostitute was more vulnerable than sexy.  Candi needed all her engines firing and she needed to have all of her tools in her arsenal ready to go.  That was the thing about Carl; he was constantly catching her off guard.  While the change of pace excited her in a way she thought she’d long be numb to, it was also dangerous.  In her line of work, there could be no surprises.

What could she do though?  How was she to know that Carl was going to take her out once she had been dropped at the hotel?  She shouldn’t have gone, but Candi wasn’t as strong as she liked to believe when Carl flashed his pearly whites and asked something of her.  He had charmed her, sure, but things were going farther than that.  He had brought her here for dinner when they could have easily ordered room service and remained hidden and discreet.  Carl kept clearing his throat like he was nervous, and he kept fiddling with the silverware folded in the fancy napkins.  Why was he nervous?  Candi had a sinking suspicion that he was going to ask something impossible.  She feared that Carl was in love with her, and had hatched some insane scheme that involved him saving her, carrying her away from her life of sin and regret in strong, toned arms before a stunned crowd of seedy onlookers who applauded the effort, but slowly – very slowly.  She splashed more water against her face.

Candi was an idiot; she had nothing to worry about.  She was certainly not Julia Roberts and Carl was absolutely no Richard Gere (but when she told the story later on to friends, she’d make the analogy innocently and swear it was accurate).  This was not a movie and she was not about to be whisked away to anywhere besides a high-priced hotel room.  Patting her face dry with a cloth towel, she smoothed her dress (in an attempt to make it look longer and elegant, rather than short and scandalous) and returned to the table.

Carl was not in love with her, no way, no how.

Right?

On hate and the waste of it.

Yesterday, I wrote on the importance of love.  Following that train of thought, it is only logical to arrive at the conclusion that hate is unimportant, in the sense that it is senseless; there’s no point to it.  I’m not just talking about forgiving and forgetting those who wrong us, but also about the bigger issues, such as the prejudices and cruel assumptions that at times can plague society and thereby cripple the brotherhood of man.

Tonight, I watched the film “American History X,” starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and directed by Tony Kaye.  It tells the story of a reformed neo-Nazi who does his best to keep his younger brother from making his mistakes.  It is incredibly powerful and moving, and offers up an important lesson that at one point or another, we all lose sight of.  If it were up to me, everyone would see this film.  While the language is obscene and some scenes are clearly disturbing, it is never gratuitous or manufactured.  The film is genuine and authentic, and that is where the power lies.  The characters are identifiable and thoroughly developed so there is an emotional investment, regardless of an audience’s personal politics.  Released in 1998, I did not note any antiquated aspects.  The film most definitely holds up some fourteen years later and is still, in my opinion, incredibly poignant and relevant.  The film exhibits art at its best; beautiful and educational.  The cinematography is perfectly juxtaposed against the story, which is penned remarkably well so that a lesson is learned without anything being too preachy or pretentious.  This film is honestly one in a million and were it not rated R, I believe a solid until on tolerance would couple the film with readings of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Night by Elie Wiesel.  Honestly, if it were up to me, everyone would view this film at least once.  Love is the greatest gift we have and the strongest bond we can form amongst ourselves.  Anything that would belittle or try to destroy that compassion and companionship, such as hate, has no place in our lives.  I understand that sentiment is easier said than executed and may, unfortunately, be idealistic for the environment in which we live.  That does not mean that the sentiment is any less accurate and should not still be strived for daily.

PROMPT: A woman whose husband is killed during a tour of duty overseas decides to turn her home into a boarding house.

PIECE: Diane sat on the edge of her bed, breathing slowly.  She allowed her lungs to fill and she felt the expansion in her chest.  Then, she deflated her lungs and felt her whole body kind of relax and smooth.  Her high-heeled shoes rested firmly upon the wooden floor of the bedroom with strong ankles that did not cave one way or the other.  Her knees came together not only because she was wearing a dress, but because she was terribly knock-kneed.  Her hands, which had finally stopped shaking about a month ago, rested on her lap in a professional and detached kind of way, calmly folded.  Her back was ramrod straight and she was mindful to keep her shoulders lowered from her ears so that the vultures named anxiety and grief would have nowhere to perch; at least not for today.

Beside Diane was the expertly and lovingly folded American flag she had been handed at her husband’s funeral by a white gloved Marine.  She had been unable to without it since the funeral.  It had been a year since and as the flag became a near constant companion, the bedroom had become a stranger.  She had not slept in the bedroom since Nathan had left for Afghanistan and had abandoned it for good when she learned Nathan was never coming home.  Like a ghost, she had traversed the halls of the home silent and numb.  The house was quiet and empty in a way that was rather unsettling.  For three hundred and sixty five days, Diane ate a small breakfast and small dinner at the counter in the kitchen.  The time in between was filled with a blaring television that she looked through rather than watched, prostrated upon the couch.  It was no way to live, but she couldn’t bear to leave the last space Nathan had occupied.  His life insurance allowed her to keep the home and live comfortably, but her father was already discussing the time when the money would run out, which it would eventually because she hadn’t been to work in a year and she had no intentions of returning.

As comforting – or rather, as familiar as it was to wallow in her grief, Diane knew it could not be a permanent state of being.  Nathan wouldn’t be pleased and if she were allowed to keep on living, it had to be for a reason.  Her broken heart hadn’t killed her yet, and as long as the organ continued to beat, she had to continue on.  Thus, she came to the decision she would turn the home she had shared with Nathan into a boarding house.  The silence she despised would be filled by happy travelers and their families.  Life would bustle through the halls once more.  She would be able tp keep her mind occupied and her hands busy with the upkeep on the place, just as the necessary renovations to the home had done.  Diane also realized she could hang Nathan’s picture and his medals near the front door, prompting the patrons to ask questions and allowing Diane to contribute to keeping her husband’s memory alive.  Everything was prepared and today, she was set to recieve her very first customers.

There was just the matter of the flag.  She turned her sorrowful, but gradually lightening, eyes to it.  When Diane left the house, the flag traveled with her, in the passenger seat of her car.  She had spent a solid three months cradling it like an infant.  Her father-in-law had mentioned something about letting go and moving on and to appease him and all those worried about her, she stopped carrying it around.  But wherever she was, so it was.  But she couldn’t have that now, couldn’t be seen carrying it from one room to the other, clutching to it like a drowning victim would a life preserver.  People would find it sad and creepy, and no one would want to stay there.  Diane had decided it was time to deal with the flag.  She had debated buying a case and placing it beside Nathan’s picture near the entrance, but thought such a shrine might be a little too morbid and bring the war too close for comfort to her wearied travelers.  Besides, Diane wanted to feel its cloth beneath her fingers whenever she wanted, as it reminded her of the way it felt to smooth Nathan’s uniform before he left the house.  It had to be discreet yet easily accessible.

She was going to leave it in the closet of the master bedroom but as she couldn’t stand to be in the room and was thereby renting it out, such an option was not logical.  Diane was going to place it somewhere in her bedroom but she feared she’d never leave the room, that she’d be prone to slipping back into her fugue state, simply sitting and stroking the flag, doing no more than wasting away.  Diane liked the tactile features of having the flag in the home, but it was time to move on.

Today, before the first boarders arrived, she would drive the flag over to Nathan’s mother and father.

On renovations.

I plan on writing many, many blog entries and penning several successful novels.  But whatever I write, I want one theme to come through loud and clear.  Literary merit in my work may be debated, but I hope that the harshest of my critics will agree that throughout my writings, I emphasized the importance of love, of being loved and what a tremendous gift love is.  Last night, I was fortunate enough to visit at length with friends from high school in a small reunion of sorts.  In those brief hours mixed with conversation and wine, I felt so loved, so supported, so accepted and so appreciated.  It was a feeling I’d love to get back a hundred times over, and a feeling I’d love to offer to those who matter most to me a hundred times over.

Love is the most important thing; always.

PROMPT: A young couple embark upon their very first home-improvement project together.

PIECE: Toby was winded from lifting and slamming the sledgehammer against the wall and let the tool rest beside him with the mallet on the carpet. He used the handle as a cane and stepped back slightly to survey his handiwork. Jessica had convinced him it’d be best to knock down the wall between the master bedroom and the smaller, adjacent spare bedroom. While it eliminated the so-called “guest room,” it made the master bedroom larger and apparently, a ginormous bedroom was all Jessica had ever wanted … ever. Things had gotten hairy when Toby expressed concern about knocking down walls in such an old, worn house. The house had belonged to Jessica’s parents; it had been their “shore house” decades earlier, and had sat uninhabited and uncared for over a large span of time. They had given the house to the young couple, provided the couple would fix it up and make it livable, a task that proved harder than originally perceived.  Indeed, the couple had argued ferociously that morning, with Jessica screaming that every repair Toby had ever made to the house was sloppy and incorrect and that he only cared about shutting her up and never really cared about her wants, her needs, her desires, her dreams.  Toby had rolled his eyes instead of verbally professing the inaccuracies of the atrocities leveled against him, and that had only enraged Jessica further.

Toby was standing with his cotton respirator mask lying about his neck in disuse and the sledgehammer momentarily forgotten propped in the nearby corner.  His safety glasses were still over his eyes and in retrospect, he was thankful for that because Jessica had really let the spit fly.  She was red in the face, sweaty, screaming and wild.  While he mistakenly showed some annoyance, Toby did understand that renovations were stressful and knew it was best to let Jessica unleash her frustrations.  He’d handle the barrage of thoughtless insults and empty threats and later, when the atmosphere had considerably cooled, he would bring her a glass of blush wine in the bath and all would be forgiven.  He went over this plan in his head before hearing Jessica’s thin-soled sneakers trotting up the stairs.  He turned just as she entered through the doorway.  Jessica was still frowning, but she had lost some of the more manic aspects that had so recently composed her countenance.  “Who was on the phone?” Toby asked.

“It was just my mother; she wanted to know how things were going.”  She was not looking at Toby, kicking idly at the carpet (which, by the way, would have to be torn up and completely replaced because it was repulsive – both ugly and stained).

“Did you get a chance to vent?” Toby asked with a knowing smile.  The change in his tone caused Jessica to finally survey him.

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” Jessica said reluctantly, like she didn’t want to admit Toby was right about anything ever.

“Here,” Toby said as he handed Jessica the sledgehammer.  “Take a few swings and let out some frustrations.”

Jessica took the sledgehammer but looked at Toby as if she didn’t quite understand.  Smiling encouragingly, Toby nodded.  Shrugging, Jessica lifted the sledgehammer and brought it crashing against the side of Toby’s head.  He hit the floor, silent and still.

She decided she did feel less frustrated.

P.S. – The idea for this prompt was inspired by my mother and twin sister (they developed the story – they have never taken a sledgehammer to anyone. Well, as far as I know, anyway).

On stereotypes and skiing.

To be honest, I almost HATED this prompt.  It did not appeal to me by any sretch of the imagination.  I have never been skiing, have never left the continental United States, and therefore, I had no real basis for which to compose interesting, let alone entertaining, fiction.  Forgive me.  I have relied on stereotypes and have only laid a thin foundation of any character development.  There is not plot, either.  I’d advise you to enjoy the piece, but I’d feel like a sarcastic jerk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROMPT: Two skiers, one from America and one from France, get stuck together on a ski lift in the Swiss Alps.

PIECE: This was Bernadette’s first time leaving the United States.  She decided that after the messy divorce with Dan, but before what was to be a drawn out and ugly custody battle, she’d take a much deserved break.  Their only child, a beautiful boy named Nicholas, was with her mother and her father for the week, and would be with Dan the following week.  It was not an ideal situation – far from it, actually – but regardless of classification, Bernadette needed a break.  She was at the absolute limit of her mental and emotional abilities.  Nicholas needed someone stronger than that, so really, this vacation was a time to get her head straight and lace up her ass-kicking boots.  She would return home refreshed, renewed and ready for whatever was needed to be handled.

Bernadette closed her eyes and was quietly drifting in a manufactured kind of stillness, and did not notice the man seat himself beside her on the lift.  Jacques eyed the woman beside him from the sides of his dark eyes, from the intimate corners with an intrinsic and instinctual dislike and distaste.  Jacques had never seen the woman before, which meant she was new to the slopes and the surrounding area; she was a tourist. Therefore, she was an interloper, rudely infringing upon his much needed escape.  What with the global economy being what it was and having to watch his company – the one he created from the ground up – slowly but surely go under, he just needed a few days.  He knew he was going to have to leave his apartment in France as he could no longer afford the rent.  Things were going to be changing for Jacques in gross, major ways.  He just needed a few days of skiing to collect his breath and bearings.

Both Bernadette and Jacques just need a break.  They were not to get one.

The lift became stuck – technical error? Was it a man-made problem? – halfway up its trek to the top of the hill.  Voices rose and floated to Bernadette on a breeze, bubbling and gurgling with frustration and concern.  She opened her eyes, looked around, and asked the obvious question: “What’s wrong?  What’s happened?”

“The lift is stuck,” Jacques replied flatly.  Clearly, he was more annoyed than anything else.

“Does this happen from time to time?” Bernadette asked with timidity.  She was trying to rationalize her nerves away and put them far from her.  She was looking for compassion, for comfort from a more experienced skier with nerves of steel.

“What do you think?” was Jacques response.  He was not going to offer comfort.  He was too agitated to do anything other than sit and sulk.

“Are you French?” was Bernadette’s question.  The timid aspect to her tone of voice had dissipated and she had adjusted her seat so that she was facing Jacques head on.

“What do you think?” Jacques responded again.  Bernadette laughed humorlessly and turned to stare at the frozen tundra below.  Suddenly, she wished to be home and she thought how ironic of a sentiment that was, that she laughed again … once more, with feeling.