Ever So Friend-ly (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(I may be taking a break due to National Novel Writing Month, but I can’t shrug off the pull of The Weekly Writing Challenge.  This week, we’re supposed to talk about, “I wish I were”.  Sorry it’s not much of an anecdote, but it’s what I’m supposed to write today.)

**********

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month,
Or even your year…”  –Friends theme song

I do my best to live a fairly introverted life.  Over the forty-eight hour weekend I spent about three of those interacting with fellow church-goers.  The rest I devoted to my couch and my cat.  There were Halloween parties, there were lectures; the world was wide open to me.  However I like my free time to be occupied with a quiet that my living room and my furry sidekick create.  Not surprisingly, friends still find a way to sneak their way into my heart.

Somehow I seem to have gotten a free pass in the ways of the world.  I don’t have any serious problems.  Everything that’s wrong with my life merely rates as a hiccup.  My life, in a nutshell, is ninety-five percent perfect with a high contentment rating.  I don’t have the exact existence that I pictured for myself, but it’s pretty darn nice.  The cat is alive, the jobs pay the bills, and those around me let me have my wacky moments.

It seems that everybody else has things harder than I do.  I’m on the West and the East is living with a storm barreling towards them.  I go for a morning jog and dry my socks over an electric fan while I warm up.  Only blocks away, homeless people shiver in doorways and constantly wage an unending battle to stay comfortable and fed.  Friends around me are undergoing stresses in the relationship, sometimes taking up completely opposite stances on the exact same issue.  I don’t think my friends are suicidal, but we all struggle to be happy now and then.  As I sit on my comfortable chair in a peaceful area, I don’t always see those quick and convenient roads to a better tomorrow for my pals.  They share their frustration and all that appears before them are roadblocks that stand much higher than any of my pithy speed bumps.

I wish I were able to help my friends wtih all their woes and worries.  I wish I were wise enough to give each of them the advice they needed to make the choice that was right for them.  I wish I were in control of each situation that seemed to be tormenting them.  Guess what?  I’m not.

As I come across people that I care about with their own sets of struggles, I’ve only found one trick that works with a darn.  I do my best to shut up and listen. 

Sometimes I can do more.  There are occasions where I can buy a hungry individual a meal.  I’m pretty quick to hand out hugs or rides here or there.  I’d like to think that the loved ones know that I’m praying for them and that I have their back.  But usually I just try to be the one person that won’t judge and won’t shove my solutions on them.  I wish I were the friend that others need me to be.  Hopefully, more often than not, I am.

The Universe’s Largest Messy Room

Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, “A house guest,” you’re wrong because I have just described my kids.” -Erma Bombeck

**********

“Ralphie, get in here right now!  You are in big trouble mister!”

Almost against reason, Ralphie walked up the stairs and stood in his bedroom doorway.  Seeing the look on his mother’s face, he decided not to venture inside.  He remained where he was, half in the hallway and half at the scene of the crime.

“What did you do?”

“I cleaned my room”, Ralphie replied as he looked to the carpet.

“No, I don’t think you did.”

“Well, there’s no stuff on the floor anymore.  And there’re no toys around.”

“Yes”, Susan admitted.  “But there are also no toys neatly put away on the shelves and no clothes folded up in your dresser.”

“There’s no stuff on the floor”, Ralphie repeated.

“Ralphie, tell the truth.  Did you use your tesseract dimensional storage unit to hide all your things?”

Ralphie only looked at the floor, wondering if some sort of escape hatch might open and help him escape his mom’s question.

“Ralphie?”

“Maybe”, he said quietly.

“Now you know what your father said.”  Susan was exasperated with her son.  She thought that this matter had been taken care of before, but apparently it was time for her youngster to get a refresher.  “When your father invented a portal to fourth dimensional space so that we could access an infinitely sized realm, he gave you instructions, didn’t he?”

“He uses it all the time”, Ralphie argued.

“Yes and he’s an adult.  Adults get to make decisions that young people don’t.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is”, Ralphie said as he finally looked his mom in the eye.  “Dad stores his tools in there.  You told him he couldn’t keep his table saw in the garage anymore so he put in it the tesseract with that old clunker car and the extra dining room furniture.”

“Does he toss his clothes in there?”

“No…  He never said I couldn’t though.”

(Click to see the tesseract model.)

Susan sighed.  “I think you knew that you shouldn’t.  When your father places things into that endless realm of size and proportions, he makes sure to attach a special tracking device and a long cord to them.  Plus, he always puts on a pressurized suit in case the entrance’s walls buckle and gravity and oxygen are compromised.  Did you take those precautions?”

“I had Mr. Fluffin watch the door!”  Ralphie pointed to his stuffed bunny with the top hat.  Clearly, he believed there was no more responsible act than having his treasured toy act as his second in command.

“I told your father you weren’t ready for this.  I told him that you weren’t grown up enough.  If that doorway collapses, then we’re going to have an area that mimics the absence of space trying to merge with your bedroom.  Do you know what sort of calamity that could cause?”

“That depends”, Ralphie replied.

“Depends on what?”

“What’s a calm nighty?”

“A calamity is when everything goes terribly wrong.  Like in those comic books you read?  Every time a bad scientist gets careless, they get changed into a monster, right?”

Ralphie nodded, the images of scaly faces and claws for hands filling his head.

“Those accidents are calamities.  You don’t want to be the reason something like that happens, do you?”

Ralphie worriedly shook his head back and forth.

“And what about Rodney the Righteous Turtle?  Remember how he got lost in the tesseract?  How your dad had to send in a robot probe to bring it back?”

His eyes went wide as Ralphie remembered the turmoil that his favorite action figure had gone through.  Its shell-launching action still wasn’t the same.

“I’m going to talk to your dad.  We’ll see if he can get the probe to launch some sort of net over your things.  Hopefully they haven’t floated too far away from your portal.  If, if we can get all your stuff back, I expect you to take care of it.  Understood?”

Ralphie nodded again.

“That means you need to keep it organized and clean in this room.  You can’t just throw it into a boundless dominion with no shelves or physical constraints and expect it to be okay.  You need to take care of things here, in this room.  Got it?”

“Yeah”, Ralphie responded.  “Only…”

“What?”

“Do we have to bring back the itchy sweater too?”

Song Struck

A girl often has a man eating out of her hand by keeping him at arm’s length” -Unknown

**********

Anna stood in the darkness while Tony shone in the bright spotlight.  She had been scurrying around backstage all night.  Her job as stage manager demanded that she be everyplace at once while keeping tabs on all activities at once.  However, there was one moment each night when she allowed herself to stop and really watch the show.  It, not coincidentally, happened every time that Tony sang his solo.

Anna was a powerhouse of a woman.  She was young.  Her five foot height and dark, shoulder-length straight hair allowed her to blend into the background quite well when others were taking up the limelight.  But when Anna wanted to be heard, all eyes turned on her.  The actors’ stage presence came from their wild gestures or disarming good looks.  Anna’s ability to command attention of everyone around her came through sheer confidence and intelligence.  When Anna gathered people around her and began to talk, there was no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing and what others should be accomplishing.  She had interned at the theatre in college and had quickly risen through the ranks.  Now, five short years later, everyone that graced that wooden pedestal respected and adored her.

The allure of being an actress had never appealed to Anna.  She didn’t like too much attention.  She appreciated when people would listen and consider the ideas that she put forth, but she wasn’t about to step out on stage and flash a winning smile to a crowd.  She was there to make others look good.  Anna wanted each show went off without a hitch; that was all

Over the course of the twenty or so plays that Anna had been in charge, she had observed plenty of drama taking place on-, but mostly off-stage.  The actors couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other.  He would date her, she would date him; and so it went.  Anna did her best to subtly remark that certain “shenanigans” shouldn’t be indulged at a professional theatre.  Yet, every so often, she would come across unmentionables.  Had she found them in dressing rooms then that would have been one matter.  She could almost pretend that those were props that had been left behind.  But she also found loose garments lingering around the sound booth, the catwalks, and in the audience when they hadn’t had any patrons.  It seemed that the actors loved only one thing more than struggling with their lines; struggling with their scene partners afterwards.

Anna rolled her eyes at the performers.  She was far too busy to let these men woo her or romance her.  As much as she liked her line-reciting compatriots, she had a certain opinion about them.  Actors, in Anna’s mind, enjoyed having the focus on them.  And only them.  In the social interactions that she had had with them after plays or late at night, they always seemed to lead the conversations back to themselves.  As a woman with actor friends, Anna was okay with that.  At the same time, she knew that it would never work as a romantic pairing.  Anna liked to have food cooked for her and her feet rubbed.  With the men that she spent her time bossing around, she expected to have her lunch absconded from the lounge and her toes stepped on in the darkness of backstage.

Still, as Tony stopped fighting with his fellow actress on stage, Anna couldn’t help but stare.  His short curly hair was adorable.  It wasn’t at all the type of hair that she pictured on a tall man with nice arms and a distinguished nose.  Somehow though, it worked for him.  He had the confidence that his fellow thespians did; he couldn’t have held his own on stage without it.  Yet, whenever she saw Tony, he always had a respectful way about him.  He actually stopped and looked her in the eye when he asked, “How’s it goin’?”  Most others, even Anna’s close friends, said such phrases in passing.  They never actually paused in going from point A to point B to get a response.  Tony not only stopped, he paid attention.

Anna, assuming her history with dating would maintain its tragic track record, told herself that Tony was gay.  It made sense.  He dressed well, he sang well, and he could dance.  He was nice to everyone and hugged anyone that needed it.  Anna told herself that he was not into women; he was just a perfectly nice person.  But that thought had been formed before the backrub of three weeks ago.

It had been an excruciatingly crummy day.  The lighting chief had been called out of town on a family emergency, ticket sales were lousy, and the next show was set to open soon.  Spirits were low and folks were grumbling as Anna tried to get everyone’s attention.  The director wouldn’t get off the phone and the lead actor refused to put down his latte and circle around with everyone else.

Tony, in all his charming brilliance, had done what any rational actor in the situation would have done.  He pretended that his butt was on fire.  He ran around the theater, patted his butt and screamed in comedic agony.  Anna found herself laughing along with all those assembled and caught her attention drifting to the supposed scene of the inferno.  She felt her eyebrows raise in satisfaction as her head bobbed along in agreement.  She was shaken from her physical critique as two strong hands came up behind her.

“Now that I have your full attention”, Tony’s strong voice boomed.  “I believe that the lovely Anna was trying to say something?  Anna, the floor is all yours.”

Anna had coughed in embarrassment, thanked Tony for the amusing introduction, and run down the clipboard of notes in front of her.  It hadn’t been the greatest meeting.  There had been some back-talk.  But the softening of the mood had clearly helped morale.

As the actors started to take their place on stage, Anna found herself sitting on her leather chair.  There were few sacred spots left in the tiny backstage area, but every person that walked around behind the curtain knew that the aged brown chair was off limits.  No one knew where it had come from.  Most assumed it was some prop pulled from The Man Who Came to Dinner, or some similar production.  Those that had tried it before its status as Anna’s seat had found the chair to be too small.  For the tiny stage manager though, the scratched, haggard, beaten up chair fit her just right.

As her petite figure collapsed onto the chair and her trusty clipboard fell onto her lap, Anna let her head fall back onto the top of the chair.  She closed her eyes, avoiding the sight of the numerous lights above that needed to be fixed.  It was then that the two strong hands returned to her shoulders.  The thumbs rubbed and dug their way into her tense shoulders as the palms pulled at the cluster of knots that had begun a summit on her upper back.  She felt the stress of the job lessen as her body went limp.  She moaned in contented pleasure.  “Ohhhh… that’s… yeah….”

“I’m glad you approve”, a familiar voice said.

“Tony”, she said without opening her eyes.  “Is that you?”

“It is unless you wanted somebody else to do this.  I’ve been told I can be a little too strong.”

“Mmmmm.  No”, she said, unable to wipe the smile off her face.  “You’re absolutely perfect.”

“I’ll remember that when I ask you out to dinner one day”, Tony replied with a laugh.

Anna’s constantly working brain shut down.  She didn’t think and she didn’t organize or plan; she let go.  The veins her forehead loosened.  The groups of knots and nerves released.  She felt herself falling asleep in the chaotic environment.  Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so at peace at theatre.

“Oops, I gotta go”, Tony apologized as he stopped.  “They’re calling me for my death scene.”

Anna was almost unconscious and only managed to reply with a, “mmm-hmm”.  And then, as she was about to mentally clock out entirely, she felt something press against her lips.  This was no quick peck or gesture of friendship.  She could have sworn that the sensual touch had lasted a good ten seconds.

Anna fought to wake up.  No was standing near her.  Blinking her tired eyes, she saw Tony on stage in the middle of a scene.  She had obviously been out of it for a few minutes.  She started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.  Tony probably hadn’t kissed her. The stress of the day had thrown her for a loop.  The backrub had played tricks on her weary brain.  Anna knew that she had imagined that kiss.  That was the only answer that made sense.  Or was it?

Three weeks later and Anna couldn’t take her eyes off of Tony.  She wondered if he knew just how sexy he looked when he was singing to a full house.  She smiled at his voice, his smile and that cute head of hair.  She looked in awe at the way he kept the entire audience’s attention.  Anna knew she should pinch herself and get back to work.  She didn’t want to.  It wasn’t helping that Tony was singing one of her favorite songs.  She swooned each time she heard, “Just the way you look… tonight.”

There was one performance oddity that Tony had.  At first, like the kiss, Anna doubted if it was real or not.  Yet, it happened with insane regularity.   Every time that Tony sang his solo, without fail, he would glance off stage to Anna.  It didn’t matter where she stood, he somehow found her.  For one, fleeting moment, he would look right at Anna and wink.  Then he went right back to performing his tune to the audience with no one the wiser.  Anna tried to convince herself she was wrong, but she had been doubtful of that reasoning for a while.

She mockingly winked in return, half encouraging and half teasing the strapping man.  With Bambi-eyes and a cheerleader’s look on her face, Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood on tiptoes, and exaggeratingly mouthed, “I love you!” in as obnoxious of a face as she could manage.  The first time she had heckled him, Tony had almost lost his concentration.  Like a pro, he took his surprise and turned it into a laugh, making the patrons love him even more.

Anna was afraid to admit it, but she was getting rather smitten with Tony.  She was going to have to confront him one of these days.  He actually listened to her.  He was undeniably attractive.  And the two clearly had similar interests; one doesn’t enter the theatre life for casual jollies.  Anna let her head rest on a breaker panel.  She had no desire to take her eyes off of Tony.  His song was almost over and she wanted to enjoy him glowing perfectly on stage for as long as possible.  Her cheeks started to flush.  Anna grabbed her handy clipboard and covered her face with it.  She couldn’t believe she was blushing.  Biting her lower lip nervously, Anna knew she’d have to corner Tony at the after-party.  She’d find some out of the way spot for them both to talk.  If nothing else, she was going to kiss that man with all her gusto.  Of all the performances being given tonight, Anna was determined that hers was the one that Tony would remember.

Too Young to Patronize (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Oh Weekly Writing Challenge; how you often save me from falling into a writing rut.  This week, we’re asked to take a side on whether or not children are welcome out in public.)

Babies love theater.  Bring them, no matter how young.  It is perfectly acceptable to give birth in the car on the way over and then bring in the baby, still dripping, into the theater.  Babies love theater. “–Eric D. Snider (More comments on theater behavior can be found here)

**********

Pic from here

As the neon marquee sign glowed overhead and the street lights did their best to bring visibility to the outdoors, patrons hurried into the warm theater.  A group of seven males high-fived each other, careful not to jostle their buddies’ thick glasses or bump into their vintage t-shirts.  The thinner, cooler males pulled their girlfriends close and made fun of the nerdier set.  Then, coming out of some darkened corner that only births Greek tragedies, came The Woman.

It wasn’t The Woman herself that terrified all that she came into contact with, it was her small child.  She pushed the high-end stroller in front of her.  Other moviegoers sneered and shuddered at the presence of the wheeled contraption.  Like the Bubonic Plague or an Obama sticker at a GOP gathering, the monstrosity was to be avoided at all costs.  To the people around it, there could be no greater sin in the practice of watching a new movie than to bring an infant with you.

The Woman was either unaware of the criticism being shot her way by eye-daggers and mental threats of throwing popcorn, or she didn’t care.  She was on a mission.  She strutted through the crowds, giving no heed to those around her, and made her way straight to the ticket-taker.

“I ordered my tickets online.  They should be waiting for me.”

“Okay then.  Just head over to that kiosk behind you there and it will print them up for you”, the usher replied.

“Ucccck.  You mean I have to walk all the way over there?”

“It really isn’t that far.  See those restrooms about twenty feet away?  There’s a computer right there that can take your credit card and pull up your reservation.”

“I know you’re not gonna make me walk my stroller all the way there and all the way back?”

“Well miss, there are an awful lot of people here and it is impeding their path.”

“I’ll lose my place in line!”

“Actually, I think those folks right there were first”, the staff person gestured.  “Also, there are no strollers allowed inside the theater.”

“No strollers?”  The Woman’s face lit fury.  Her expression showed that not only had an ice cube been dropped down her shirt, but the ice truck driver had run over her foot as it drove off.  “Why can’t I take my stroller inside?”

“It is our policy that strollers be parked outside the theater.  The fire code demands that all walkways be clear, so we can’t have them inside.”

“What about wheelchair spots?  Don’t you have those?”  The Woman’s demanding tone showed no sign of backing down.

Meeting The Woman’s determined mindset, the usher replied with a tone that showed their long history of answering such questions.  “Yes, ma’am”, they said, purposefully upgrading The Woman from a pleasant “miss” to a troublesome and irritating, “ma’am”.  “However, as you yourself have just pointed out, those are for wheelchairs.”

“Why can’t I use one of those?  What if there’s room?”

“Ma’am, this movie has been advertised for months.  It has been talked about for years.  This may very well be the biggest picture of the summer.  There will not be room for your stroller.  Even if there was, as I explained to you, we can’t have them inside.”

“That’s preposterous”, The Woman exclaimed.  “What am I supposed to do, put this kid on my lap?”

“If you didn’t buy ‘this kid’ a ticket; then yes.  That is what we would ask you to do.”  Other employees had noticed the line behind The Woman growing.  They moved in to help, but the senior staff person sent them away with one quick look.  The usher had started this fight, and they were determined that they were going to settle it without any help.”

“What are you, ageist?”

And this pic’s from here

“No, ma’am.  In the right settings I think kids are adorable.  However, I personally feel that when you bring a child whose hearing isn’t fully developed into a three hour movie full of loud explosions, then there is a health concerned involved.  Additionally, I would question your child’s ability to maintain their composure and not cry or scream during all the darkness and loud noises.”

“That’s only your opinion.”

“Five bucks says it isn’t”, the usher offered.

“Come again?”

“Let’s take a vote.  If you can find three people in this line of, what, forty folks all waiting to see this movie?  Looks about right.  Yeah, if you can get three of these people to say they’d rather see a new film, on opening night, at midnight, with your child than without?  Then I’ll give you five bucks.  Shoot, I’ll make it twenty.  However, I’m willing to wager that everyone here just wants you to take your kid home and come back when it’s a more age appropriate movie and time.  You know, a kids movie.  What do you bet?”

The Woman’s face turned a deep shade of red.  She pulled her stroller close to her.  The Woman looked at the crowd behind her.  On their faces she could see them all smirking and daring her to take the bet.  Her teeth clenched as she pushed her stroller away from the usher. 

“Of all the… I never…”

“Well now you have”, one of the nerds said as he puffed out his large chest and even larger belly.  The logo on his shirt was made prominent by the new posture, and also by the swooping cape that fell behind his round shoulders.

The Woman took her child and returned to her double-parked car.  After a few minutes of bustling and fumbling with the car seat, she returned home.  There, without disturbing anyone else, she let her child fuss and squirm as she watched a movie on her television.

Intermission- Postaday vs. NaNoWriMo

Well, my book is written–let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn’t be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can’t ever be said.” -Mark Twain

**********

Howdy,

This is your heads up that I won’t be Postadaying in November.  I’ll be too busy staring at my computer screen, cursing myself for having writer’s block, and generally wishing that the whole process came easier.

Yes, once again National Novel Writing Month is coming.  For those of you that haven’t tried it?  You should.  It may very well kill you, but what a way to go!  Who wouldn’t want to spend a gray and dreary month of bitter cold hunched over their computer typing 50,000 words in thrity days?

It sounds more fun than I make it out to be.  Honest.

NaNoWriMo
Just WRITE, darnit.

I’ve “won” three times.  The first was a story about a teenager getting an unexpected superpower and an arch-nemesis that came with it.  Two years ago it was a girl who came across a virtual reality machine and quickly became addicted to it.  Last year I wrote about a boring old night-stocker at a grocery store, and how his life changed when this mysterious woman entered his life.

I’ve gone from seventy-three page stories to one hundred and twenty-six page stories.  (Ya gotta love dialog.  It fills up space like nothing else.)  Each year it gets a little bit easier.  And after all, that was the whole point of me posting six times a week; practice for when the next novella wants to fall out of me.

I have my plot (A jerk wins the lottery.  He’ll be Scrooge-loveable, honest), I have a computer bought specifically for writing, and I think I have the time.  But that means I’ll be shunning WordPress.  I’m sorry, there’s just no way I can write a novella and twenty-five short stories in one month.  It just ain’t gonna happen.  Besides, I could use the time to think of more ideas.

Go back and read some old stories.  They’ll tide you over.

and about 150 other stories you haven’t read yet.  C’mon, already!

I’ll try to still stop in.  I tend to complete my novellas early.  Hopefully I’ll go back to being a daily writer after NaNoWriMo, but we’ll see.  In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to enjoy not having to scour Google for clip art and delight in writing more than four thousand words a day.  And of course, I highly encourage you folks to tackle the same challenge as I.  😀

The Hollow Failure of the Musical Cup

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

**********

Clyde couldn’t believe how difficult the task before him was proving to be.  He thought he’d have his challenge licked in fifteen minutes.  He sat at his desk with a computer monitor glowing on his reddened face.  Drops of beer lay in random specks around the surface.  And there, in the middle, was a blue plastic beer-cup turned upside down.

Try it, you’ll like it!
(Pic from Free Stock Photos)

Once more, Clyde rewound the video.  He cursed the actress for her talent.  She sang along with a lovely voice, though a hint of showbiz boredom appeared to be looking out from her beautiful eyes.  Clearly, she had practiced this feat hundreds of times.  There, poised to entertain in a formal dress, sat the woman.  She took the plastic cup that had been handed to her by the host.  She was obviously taking a moment to focus and prepare.  Soon, clapping along, the woman performed a simple tune complete with acoustic accompaniment from the plastic cup.  Clyde wanted to hate this woman for her skill, but the act was simply too enchanting.  He had to be able to repeat it.

I really wish she wouldn’t go so frickin’ fast, Clyde thought to himself.  She even says that she should be doing it slower.  How am I supposed to keep track of her movements?  Clyde watched as her long and graceful arms moved and swooped around each other.  He felt his fist thud against the desktop.  He couldn’t tell when she was passing the cup in an arc up into the air from hand to hand and when she was actually tapping it.  Slower, woman!  Why can’t you just move slower?

The hard part for Clyde was replicating the rhythm.  He believed that once he could mentally lock-in each tap on the cup, both hand-offs, and the mid-air thumps, then he would be able to sing along with his mini bongo-drum.  The easy part was getting confused, missing a beat entirely, or watching as the cup slid along the surface.  The libations that lubricated the wood were only making Clyde’s failures faster in coming and more disastrous.  The blue cup slipped, fell over, and often times skittered to the edge.  The drunken man started to wonder if the cup wanted to jump to the safety of the beige carpet below where it would no longer be repeatedly beaten or struck.

After an hour, Clyde felt like he might have a handle on the moves.  All he had to do was clap clap, tap tap tap, clap, and then stomp.  That was followed by more clapping, a hand over with a thump…   That was where the confusion set in.  Clyde tapped along as best as he could.  He got the impression that he was close.  His confidence rising, Clyde tried to sing along.

“You, er, I gotta a thicket; er, ticket for the lawn; long way around.  Son of a mother.”  If Clyde’s motor skills had warmed up at all, his hand-eye-song skills were still quite lacking.  He clicked off the screen in irritation.  He clapped and tapped to his own beat.  Soon, a drum solo was in full session.  He slapped his denim jeans, thumped on the cup, and clicked the plastic container against his watch. 

The “music” that came forth was about as majestic as Clyde’s beer-enhanced breath.  He stood up, danced around his living room, and tapped on the cup with his fingernails.  Feeling his oats, and the effects of the alcohol, he belted out his own little tune.  “La la ha!  Ha ha la la!  Boom!  Boom!  Boomity la-ha!”  For his grand finish, Clyde took a deep breath, focused on his stomach muscles, and belched.  The impressive, yet rather disturbing burping sound, echoed across the sparsely decorated room for a solid seventeen seconds. 

Thrusting his hands in the air, Clyde beamed in his victory.  “Take that, you stuck-up actress!”  His bitter retort was met and unanswered by the still-blackened monitor.  Clyde was done trying to repeat someone else’s song.  I’m an original, I’m a dadgum artist, he reasoned as he loosened his belt two notches.  Cups were made or drinking, not playing.  With that, Clyde swooped up his blue plastic cup and made his way back to the kitchen, stumbling more than he chose to acknowledge.  He was determined to find appreciation for his musical genius from the icy-cold companions that waited for him in the fridge.

**********

(If you haven’t seen Pitch Perfect, you must.  You really must.  Also, if you watch the video in slow motion, Dave sounds quite drunk.  Appropriate, no?)  😉

A Labor of Love

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

**********

I sit at a desk, typing this at my job.  The clock reads 7:11 on the bottom right hand corner of my screen next to two computers hanging out with a red “x” near them and two orange icons.  I look up to the timepiece on the opposite wall and it confirms what their brother has already stated.  I was off work at seven.

Being the diligent employee that I was, I came in about fifteen minutes early to acquire my projects for the day, enjoy a little quiet time, and generally prepare myself for any visitors that might stop by.  An eight hour shift is reasonable.  My job is one that does not require a lunch break.  I rule over all; the lone employee, deciding how I should spend my day.

I read articles on my favorite websites.  I play a move against my mother in Scrabble.  I file.  I play another move.  I read.  I eat lunch.  I play a word, wishing that I had room for the word “talents” on the crowded board.  More reading and filing occurs as I chat with customers about their selections and the newest episode of their favorite television show.

And that is how I find myself still sitting in front of this computer with the lights on.  I have a stack sitting next to me that begs to be finished.  I shall probably spend at least an hour attacking that quest.

What’s that?  You pity me in this little snapshot of my life?  Oh, posh.  Today I manned the comic book shop.  I could have left quite a while ago; I’m not getting paid anymore.  However, I’m sitting in a room full of four-color fun and I refuse to leave until I’m all caught up. 

Batwoman is teaming up with Wonder Woman to find a killer in an underwater maze.  Animal Man is joining Swamp Thing to keep the darker side of the world from taking over the plant and creature aspects.  There’s a brand new Iron Man series that’s started.  Words and images combine for entertaining stories that literally (ha!) have the fate of the world in the balance.  Every week a new tales are told about good struggling to overcome evil.  Heroes attempt to save those in need and art shines through as powerfully as Superman’s punches.  How could I leave all this fun behind?  Why would I stop having all this fun? 

Those that write stories should be those that devour them as well.  I know I do.

A Shoe-In Plan from the Tall Tales Tavern

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss

**********

To any visitor unfamiliar to The Briar Patch, an old man and a woman in a corner booth with sketches and pictures in front of them would be the least abnormal thing in sight.  The left over hairs from the Jabberwocky’s last that lay loosely from the rafters made strangers stare with wonder.  The rabbit bartender usually raised a few eyebrows to the uninitiated crowd.  Those curiosities were in addition to the standard assembly of trolls, the ageless nymphs, and the talking farm animals.  Yes, The Briar Patch was always a place of wonders, so it’s no wonder that these two normal looking elderly people didn’t draw much attention.

The old oak table that the two occupied was still loose from the last time Calamity Jane decided to kick off her cowgirl boots and dance on the make-do stage.  An assortment of pages ripped out of fashion magazines were placed in the middle of the wood surface.  Closer to the two people were pictures of the nearby woods and architectural sketches.  As they sipped their hot tea and cold ale, the two talked excitedly about the woman’s plans.

“I keep telling you Myrtle”, the man exclaimed.  “You could get what you want for much cheaper.  I’m no slouch at such crafting matters, but it’s going to take me years.”

“What’s time?  We both have plenty of time left and you darn well know it, Horace”, the woman replied.  “I want it done to my specifications and I think you’re the right one to do it.  Even if Cinderella says otherwise.”

“Wait, Cinderella?  Is she still telling that same old story?”  Horace pulled at the hairs in his head.  He had been going bald for the last three hundred years.  Happily, whenever he pulled a few wispy strands out, he found that they grew back the next morning.  It was handy being an immortal creature of fairy tales.

Pic from Wikipedia

“She says that no matter how many times she took her shoes back to you, they kept breaking.  She said you should have offered her a higher-quality product.”

“It’s glass!”  Horace shoved the papers away from him and grumbled into his ale.  “I told her every time that she came back to me with those impractical things that they were going to keep breaking.  If you wear glass shoes on a rock path, the glass is going to break.  If your prince steps on your feet while dancing, his boots are going to crack the shoes and possibly cut your skin with the shards.  And no, wearing glass slippers up close to a raging fireplace is probably not the best idea.”  Horace sighed.

“I don’t know what kind of enchantment her godmother claimed she put on them, but it has apparently worn off.  Those shoes will never last.  I tried to get her little feet into a sensible pair of wooden clogs.  But no, she wouldn’t have it.  Cinderella decided that she was living the royal life now and needed the attire to go with it.  Silly, fashion-hungry, nutjob.”

“Now, she really is a perfectly nice girl”, Myrtle offered.

“Nice, sure”, Horace admitted.  “But the girl is still a child.  Her prince found her when she was, what, seventeen?  They were married a month later.  Why, my Estelle was a good deal older than that when we tied the knot.  She must have been at least nineteen or twenty.”

“Truly, those three years imbued her with boundless founts of knowledge”, Myrtle said sarcastically.

“Look, I think she’s delightful to be around, so long as you don’t get her started on fashion.  She’s impractical.  And Myrtle, you’re being impractical too.  I talked the idea over with Estelle.  It’s not just me.  You should give up on this whole idea.”

“No.”

“Tell me again why you won’t go to a giant?  You could buy anything you wanted off them from all the money you’ve made off of tourists.”

“Have you ever been around a giant for any extended amount of time?”  Myrtle shivered at the thought.  “They claim that they can only get clean in a waterfall, so whenever we see them in the towns or in the densest forests they smell like you wouldn’t believe.  Now imagine what sort of unholy stench must emanate from their shoes.  I don’t want to even think about it, let alone live inside one of those.  Besides, I have high standards.”

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

Horace laughed.  “The old woman who has lived in a shoe all these years has demands?  Your sense of style has really grown that much since your children moved out?”

Myrtle watched her tea bag as she dipped it slowly and methodically into the cup.  The water rose and fell with each dipping motion.  The lighting in the dim establishment was just bright enough that the old woman could see her wrinkled face in the reflection of the drink as little waves of liquid came and went.

“Do you know how many years we have left, Horace?  I don’t.  I doubt that know-it-all wife of yours does either.  I say, if we’re going to stick around until all stories come to an end, then we might as well enjoy ourselves.  I’ve spent centuries in that tattered boot.  No more.  I want a nice one-story, fashionable dress shoe as my retirement home.”

Her hand stretched to the other end of the table and brought the pictures back between her and Horace.  Page after page depicted the newest fashions, the hottest trends, and the longest lasting footwear that money could buy.

“I want a nice pair of sensible flats”, Myrtle described.  “Give me something that will let the sun in when I lounge about by the heel.  Also, I want the home to have high sides to keep the rain out when it starts to flood.  If I could have some sort of garden in the toe area; maybe some sort of open point at the end?  Come now Horace, I know you have more help up your sleeves than you let on.”

“What exactly are you getting at, Myrtle?”

“Those elves of yours.  I’ve seen them about town.  Offer to buy them a few honey-glazed cookies and they’ll give away all your secrets.  I think you should take advantage of them.”

“How so?”

“I want a house the size of a giant shoe.  You have a crew that can work wonders overnight.  Imagine what sort of productivity they could manage if you put them into different shifts working around the clock.  You’d be rich and I’d have a nice new home for my retirement.  A woman can’t climb up stairs forever, Horace.”

“Myrtle my friend”, Horace said as he paused to take a sip from his ale.  The drink was starting to go flat and the old man knew he’d probably need a fresh serving to get through the conversation.  He held up his cup for the bartender to see as he continued.

“Have you ever seen the contracts involved in elf employment?  Once I figured out those guys weren’t going anywhere, I tried to branch out into shoeing horses.  With all the carts and animals around it seemed like a guaranteed get-rich plan.  To shorten my tale of woe, I’ll only assure you that Elf Unions know exactly how to get what they feel is due to them.  Your shoe-home would cost a fortune.”

By this time the bartender had hopped over to their table.  He held out his paw expectantly.  Horace placed his empty container at the edge of the surface.  Br’er Rabbit shook his head.  Horace nudged the cup closer to the brim.  The vest-wearing critter only shook his head again.  Horace tried once more, watching as the vessel almost teetered over onto the floor.  Br’er Rabbit took his mighty right foot and tapped it impatiently on the dusty floor.  A low booming sound echoed with each tap of his paw and a small cloud of debris was gathering under the tabletop.

Seeing the bartender’s arms folded in defiance, Horace capitulated and placed five gold coins on the table.  Br’er Rabbit’s eyes lit up and his front two teeth showed.  He eagerly snatched the payment, put it in his breast pocket, and grabbed the cup from the table.  Whistling a merry tune, the bartender jumped and bounded back to the bar.

“As I was saying”, Horace persisted as he rubbed his temples.  “This house of yours is going to be a pain for us and will cost you a fortune.  Even if we don’t use the elves, I’m going to have to hire some outside help.”

“That’s fine by me”, Myrtle said, unrelenting.  “Hire those birds and squirrels that helped Sleeping Beauty.  I don’t care.  I want my house made to my specifications and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

“Wait”, Horace said as a notion in his head started to take shape.  “Those children of yours; I can’t even recall how many you have.  It’s at least a dozen, isn’t it?  How old are they?”

“Oh Horace, how old are any of us.  We’ve stopped keeping track.  No one really knows.”

“No, no.  I meant by normal standards.  What’s their perceived age?”

“Ah”, Myrtle replied as she thought back to the last time she had seen her offspring.  “I imagine they’re probably all in the twenty-five to thirty-five range.”

“Perfect”, Horace replied.  “I was hoping you’d say that.  How long has it been since they gave you a Mother’s Day gift?”

“What, that silly trend people are trying to push?  They’ve never subscribed to that, the little ingrates.”

“Maybe”, Horace said as some of the weight started to fall off of his shoulders, “just maybe they can be convinced to do their sainted mother this one favor for all she’s done for them.”

“And if I convince them?”

Horace grinned with joy.  “Then, Myrtle my friend, your labor worries are over.  We could have that shoe-house built for you in no time at all.”

The Chair Not Taken

After all these years, he’s nothing to me but an empty seat.” –Spider-Man 2

**********

Audrey looked up from her plate.  She glanced at the chair at the other end of the table, knowing full well that she wouldn’t like what she saw.  Sure enough, the chair sat unattended.

Back in her high school days Audrey had been quite the stage performer.  Her roles were the envy of all in the drama department.  It didn’t matter if she was cast as the librarian in The Music Man or if she used her uncanny grasp of Shakespeare to wow the crowd with her portrayal of Juliet.  The shows that featured her as a lead were sure to sell out.  But to this day, Audrey still remembered the night when her mom had forgotten the play and worked late.  Audrey had had hundreds of lines to recite, there were dozens of other actors around her, and the spotlights shone on her with blinding ferocity the entire time.  Yet all she had seen was that one empty seat staring back at her.  It fought to command her attention throughout the show.

Audrey knew that her husband had reasons for being away, just as her mother had.  Theirs was a happy enough existence when they were around each other.  However, as with all things, there was a catch.

Darren was an excellent salesman.  He knew the ins and outs of each product he was asked about.  Unbelievably, he wouldn’t try to sell an item if he didn’t think the customer needed it.  At first this caused some strife with his bosses when they found out.  The accolades and praise-filled letters about Darren that flooded their mailboxes soon changed their mind.

Darren was sent out to all four corners of the world and returned successfully each time.   He was such an expert at having a genuine approach and being entirely likable that his employer had him visit different markets and coach the other salesman.  That meant easy times around the Bruckner house, but only in the financial sense.  Audrey tried to be supportive, but she wanted her husband in the dining room chair, not sitting in some cramped airplane seat.

Pic from WP Clip Art

She looked across to the blue chair.  Audrey had never really like the furniture piece in the first place.  It had been Darren’s call to buy it.  He thought it seemed tremendously comfy and rather unique.  Audrey could only nod along, especially to the latter part of his reasoning.  She told herself that if it made him so happy, she could live with an ugly chair.

Now she sat and mulled over how great that piece would look if only Darren were sitting in it.  Four days had passed since she had last seen her husband.  Even then, he had only been home for two days to do his laundry after an eight-day trip.

The desolate chair spoke of the history it shared with its on-again/off-again resident.  There was the nacho cheese stain on the right armrest.  The back of the chair had a thin layer of fabric that was starting to fray from the many times her husband had turned and brushed the back against the table’s edge.  Audrey wanted the chair to feel complete so that she could say the same.  The longer the chair went unused, the harder it was to sleep at night.

What if Darren doesn’t really need me?  What if he’s staying away because it’s so much easier to be on the road than be home?  Concerns refused to leave Audrey’s head.  She had heard her friends complain before about not being able to have time with their spouses, but she never considered that it was more than just a sob story.  She had never thought to listen to their laments and log them away as precautionary tales.  Now all she pondered were plausible signs that she worried she’d missed the first time around.

Suddenly, a light shone on the blue seat.  A white beam came through the living room window and lit up the chair before moving sideways along the wall and disappearing.  Audrey turned at the familiar sound.  She recognized the path that the headlights had taken and she knew the putter of that car engine.

Before she could react, the door burst open and Darren appeared in the doorway.  His normally chubby features were heightened by a grin that showed all of his teeth, even the molars with gold crowns on them.  The king of the castle hid his richly decorated pearly whites as he ran to his wife and kissed her on the head.

“Hey, guess what?”

“You’re… you’re home early”, Audrey managed to stutter.

“Yep.  The conference was cancelled.  I put forth a proposal and my bosses loved it.  Video-conferencing.”

“What?”

“Yeah, they’ll save thousands of dollars shipping me around.  I might even be able to do it from home.”

“What about your sales calls?”

“Oh, I told them I wanted to stick with our local clients.  Sort of, reinforce our commitment to those folks.  They bought it”, Darren said as he leaned over and put his head on her shoulder.  “But the truth is, I just couldn’t stay away any longer.”

Audrey beamed.  She tried to keep her excitement tucked away quietly, but knew that she was failing miserably.  “Maybe you just wanted a piece of this chocolate cake.”

“Well, that certainly is one more incentive to come home”, he said as he sat across from her.

Seeing her husband sitting at home, where he belonged, Audrey felt a peace she hadn’t known in far too long.  Without her having to say anything, Darren had made it all better.  There was hope for the happy couple once again.  The chair suited Darren well.  Audrey could almost see the seat cushion’s corners bend up in a contented smile.

Deathly Pale (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Monday means a much needed Weekly Writing Challenge.  And seeing as how The Walking Dead came back on T.V. last night… well, you get the idea.)

I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.” George A. Romero

**********

Outside, the thick layer of gray clouds was not to be permeated.  Only a month ago, an early morning setting of bright blue skies joined by puffy white clouds would have offered up a promise of hope.  However, in the thirty days since September had waved good-bye and exited off stage, things had changed dramatically.  Gone were the picturesque sunsets.  There would no longer be beautiful sunrises flooding one’s windows with orange and pink hues that danced and melted into each other.  The mountains that looked so majestic and daring off in the distance were covered by an intrusive layer of dismal color.  The grayness was so absolute and so all-encompassing that it even began showing on the denizens of the world.

Rick, trying his best to keep warm, looked at his roommate.  Earlier in the year, Robert had been the picture of health.  He had spent his summers working at the beach.  His bronze tan had served as proof of the countless hours that the golden sun had shone down on his muscular skin.  Running around in only swim trunks, Robert had portrayed an image of perfect health.  The men had envied him, the woman had smiled his way; Robert had looked as majestic as the sandy beaches and the clear blue ocean that he stood watch over.  It seemed ironic to Rick that a man who had spent so much time being a lifeguard now personified the cold visage of decay.

Once again, Rick found himself standing back in horror.  The normally bright green eyes of his friend had gone dim.  A low, “nnnnngh” sound was coming out of Robert’s slack jaw.  Weirdly enough, Robert’s teeth were still as white as ever.  His tongue even retained its purple-red color, like a plum that had been left out in the afternoon heat.  Clearly, some rich blue plasma must still be pumping through the man’s veins.

Pic from WP Clip Art

The pallid skin tone, however, told another story.  The formerly tanned face was now ashen.  Deep lines masked any freckles or smiles that had once decorated Robert’s face.  It wasn’t enough to describe Robert as pasty.  His face now seemed the very absence of life or spirit.  Robert was at the halfway point between lively human and stagnant corpse.  Even his brown hair had joined in with his face and had gone completely dark.  Robert was not entirely lost to the world of the living, but he certainly had packed his bags for the trip.

Rick tried to look away, but couldn’t.  The newly added creases under Robert’s eyes haunted Rick.  They sagged and drooped under the depressed state that Robert had sunk into.  The man’s eyes, no longer charged with glimmering or shining, had taken on a vacancy that was horrifying.  Rick couldn’t take it.  There needed to be some color added to Robert’s morbid features.  With a dab, he drew a long line running from the blackened lip and traced it down to the chin.  Rick stood back and looked at the trail of blood.  He gasped.  The contrast of the deep, dark-red streak only showed just how desolate Robert really looked.

“Dude”, Rick finally said.  “That is messed up.”

“Really?  The makeup works?”

Rick nodded as he stared at his work of art.  “The face is frickin’ perfect.  We just gotta get you some tattered clothes.”

Robert clapped his hands.  “First prize, here I come!  No more losing to guys dressed like TeleTubbies.”

Avoiding Neverland

A teacher's reflections on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Life is a series of challenges ~Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

Because let's face it, reality sucks most of the time.

guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

The Land of 10,000 Things

Charles Soule - writer.

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Blog

This blog, swallow you whole

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

s1ngal

S1NGLE living H1GH thinking

Listful Thinking

Listless: Lacking zest or vivacity

Kim Kircher

Strength from the Top of the Mountain

The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

The One Year Challenge

A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

Beth Amsbary

Workshop Leader, Storyteller, Grantwriter,