Monday, October 27, 2014

After the three nightmares I had last night, I deserved the rom-com dream I had this morning.

            I stood in a parking lot with four friends.  We were waiting on a van to take us to a wedding.  One of the four of us was a six-foot-tall Viking goddess with flowing blond hair and piercing blue eyes.  I was short in this dream, about five two. She towered over me.  While we waited, a guy who looked like a male version of her drove up, parked, got out of his car, and started talking to her.  She told us she was going out with the guy.  The other two women began arguing with her, saying they would much rather go out with this hunk than go to a wedding.  I didn’t bother giving them my opinion, as it was obvious my tall goddess friend belonged with this guy.
            The wedding was over, and we were filing into a ballroom for a sit-down dinner. The friend who looked like Elaine from Seinfeld (and whom we called Elaine in the dream) was already hammered.  She passed out, and the other friend and I laid her out under one of the many white Christmas trees that were used as part of the reception decorations. (I guess it was around Christmas. The trees were scrappy and tacky.)
            A guy stood up and started giving a toast to the bride and groom.  I wasn’t paying attention to him.  There was a chef nearby who was carefully arranging food on plates before the staff delivered them to various guests, and I was fascinated by how serious he looked arranging the food.  Then my not drunk friend said, “Oh my God, [name of the guy giving the speech], you and [my name in the dream] are like the only two people on earth who read that book!”  I looked up and the guy was staring at me like he couldn’t believe it either. 
After his speech, he came over to our table and introduced himself.  He was the brother of the bride, which surprised me since she and I had been friends since college and I had spent some time during the summers at their river house.  He said he would have remembered me, so I must have come during the times he was off visiting his friends.
“Yes, I must have been," he repeated.  "I would remember you.”
“Oh no.”  I waved the thought away.  “You’d remember our other friend though.  Tall, blond, gorgeous.”
“Sure, I’d remember that, but I think you’d stick with me.  I mean, nobody has read that book but me, until you.”  (And it was something stupid, like a tell-all by Regis and Kathy Lee.)  He was giving me the cutest smile and tickling the back of my hand with his fingers.  “So, why didn’t your friend come?”
“She got a date.  Guy pulls up to the curb in front of the four of us and just asks her.”
“He didn’t ask you?”
I blinked at him.  “Well, no.  Why would he ask me when he could ask her, and she said yes?”
He shook his head and sat back so my meal could be served.  As I cut into my steak, he said, “What do you have planned after this?”
I furrowed my brow and laughed at him.  “Nothing.  Why do you ask?”
“I’d like to see you.”  Someone from the wedding party hailed him, and he had to go.  “Here.”  He took a pen from his pocket and flipped over my place card.  “Give me your number, will you?”  When I did, he slipped the pen and the card back in his pocket, stared at me for a few more seconds and then went back to the wedding party table.
“I think that guy just hit on me,” I said to my friend.
“No shit,” she said.  “When you’re done eating, we should drag Elaine’s ass home.”

We ate and drank some wine, had a little cake.  Then, I left, feeling fulfilled.     

Sunday, October 26, 2014


He considered himself no different from any other animal that finds joy in toying with its prey before delivering it unto Death. He used only the weapons nature gave him, and he didn’t always eat what he killed. He considered most of it practice, a honing of skills and body.  
He watched an episode of Blue Planet that showed a pod of killer whales stalking a blue whale and its pup, taunting the mother, nipping at the babe. When the pup was exhausted, they toyed with the mother until she could no longer defend her offspring. The orcas circled and jabbed, like a pack of boxers, and when they finally separated mother and child, they killed the pup but ate only its cheek meat – the choicest cut, so to speak. After the orcas left, the mother whale swam around the pup for hours, nudging it.  
The unspoken questions were obvious. Were the orcas evil? Did the blue whale love her pup?  He knew that such questions had no meaning in nature. He wondered where humans got off thinking they were evil or just or loving. Just because they believed they had souls, because they thought themselves civilized with advanced language skills, they were somehow better and accountable to someone’s notion of moral standards. Ants were civilized, and they sure as hell didn’t have ethics. Mounds often went to war with one another. Yes, he knew it was bullshit.  
When he killed, it was because it was in his nature because he was of nature and not bound by a fabricated sense of right and wrong. When he killed his own kind, it was no different than the male dolphin, orangutan, or lion that slaughtered his competitors’ offspring and mated with as many females as possible to increase the odds of leaving a significant genetic footprint amongst the species.  What he did was normal, and those who said differently were kidding themselves. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Bride

Picture her, a mixture of Vivian Leigh and Lynda Carter, with skin like cream, large, thickly lashed eyes, and full lips.  Sculpted into a spiraling and curling work of art, her hair rivals the most intricate of powdered wigs, but it is dark, the color of richly brewed coffee.  In the dream, I am living inside her skin.
Her gown is white, tier upon tier of antique lace, which rises high, encircling her delicate throat.  At the center, she has pinned a cameo featuring the three muses.  The sleeves, bodice, and skirt overlay are a pale blue silk with a faint sheen, and it all drapes over a hoop skirt and tulle petticoats.  Under all the fabric, her body is bare.  She wears three-inch, black button-closed boots. 
She sweats in the Caribbean summer heat, irritated that her fiancĂ© wanted to have a Victorian themed wedding in a tropical setting.  The ceremony and reception are over, and she waits in the shade of a building awning, waving a lace fan at her painted face, and praying her new husband hurries so they can adjourn to the honeymoon suite.  She glances down at her ring, a fat hunk of emerald that matches her eyes.  She likes the ring, diamonds being overrated and over-priced.  The groom arrives, but she pays him little mind other than to take his offered arm.
She looks out across the lagoon.  There stands the collection of bamboo and grass huts that make up the honeymoon suite.  To get to it from the shore, she must cross a plank and rope bridge.  Her feet hurt.  Tired and hot, all she can think is to get in the shade and cool of the hut and get out of the dress. 
When her husband turns back to speak with straggling well-wishers, she releases him and starts across the bridge.  She makes it halfway.  A strong wind sweeps across the lagoon, and she stumbles.  Her ankle twists, and she falls against the rope railing.  In a comical way, she flips feet-over-head over the railing and takes a nosedive into the lagoon.
Here, the lagoon is already twenty or so feet deep.  She stares up at the surface of the water as she sinks.  She tugs at the dress, tries to wrench off the boots, but still sinks until she finally touches the bottom.  The bottom is smooth, almost like a concrete swimming pool but made of sugar-white sand.  She tries to push off the bottom and digs her fingers into the water as if it could be used as a rope to pull herself to the surface, to blessed air.
When her lungs fail and her blinding vision of the surface above goes dim, I pop out of her body and shoot into the sky.  My spirit spreads until I am the sky.  I am the clouds, the birds, the very sun.  I watch as the people scream, and the young husband, realizing what has happened, dives into the water.  I smile down at them, happy to be free of the dress.     


Round 2

I'm starting the second round of edits on Wild Rosegarten. It's getting closer, y'all. I"m hoping the book will be out just after the first of the year.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quickie: Stir Constantly

            She sang, “‘Get back, honky cat.  Better get back to the woods.  Well, I quit those days, and my redneck ways, and I—’”
            “What are you singing?” he asked, coming into the kitchen and refilling his glass at the tap.
            “Honky Cat by Elton John.”
            “Never heard it.”
            Her jaw dropped, then remembering she had a custard on medium-high, she returned her attention to the pot.  “Well, I think you’re deprived if you don’t know 70’s Elton John.”  She swirled the whisk around the pot to prevent the mixture from sticking.
            Standing behind her now, he looked over her shoulder.  “What are you making?”
            “Chocolate pudding.”
            “You’re making pudding.  It’s not from a box?”
            “Deprived I tell you,” she murmured.  “Not from a box, and it tastes much better.”  He slid his arms around her waist and kissed the back of her neck through her hair.  “Quit it, you.  I have to stir this constantly until it boils, or it’ll burn.”
            “I can smell it, but you smell better,” he said into her ear and then nipped the lobe before running the tip of his nose down the side of her neck. 
            “I’m not kidding,” she warned and tried to shrug him away from her shoulder. 
            “Me either.”  One hand skimmed under her shirt and under her bra while the other wiggled down the front of her jeans.  Slow, teasing revolutions, perfect tempo, perfect combo.
            Her breath hitched, her legs tensed.  She could feel him, as aroused as she was and pressing against her lower back.  She traded her grip on the handle of the pot for a grip on the back of his neck.  Drawing him forward as she twisted her head to the side, she took his mouth with hers.  Rough, devouring kisses left her panting as she let her head fall back to rest on his shoulder while he drove her with his fingers. 
            She heard the cat meowing, its claws clicking on the floor as he followed the scent of butter and chocolate into the kitchen.  “Shut up, kitty,” she growled. 
            He laughed in her ear, and at the sound, her body broke out in chill bumps.  She arched, tilting her head back even further until their lips could meet again.  He feasted on her – on her heat, her wetness, her moans, the way her body vibrated and pumped, the way it responded to him.  What more could a man want from a mate?  She could make pudding, not from a box, and so he smiled just before his tongue parted her lips. 
            She came hard, with what started as a low guttural cry and ended as a shriek.  “Did you see the cat?” he asked.  “He took one look at us and scampered away.”
            Breathless and dizzy, she opened her eyes.  “No.  I didn’t see him.”  So lost in the sense of touch, she had seen nothing, not even the burgundy of her own closed eyelids.
            He kissed the side of her head.  “I think the pudding is ruined.”
            “Forget the pudding.” 
            She snapped off the burner, set aside the pot, and turned to him.  Grabbing the front of his jeans, she jerked open the button and pushed him backward into the sink.  “Now, it’s your turn.”   


Thursday, October 9, 2014


The Laptop

            Jerrick scrubbed his hands over his slick scalp then over his face.  He looked at the glowing screen of the laptop, the spreadsheet with its neat rows and columns.  Numbers.  Jerrick knew numbers.  Numbers were his livelihood and his love, but if he didn’t fix this…this huge screw-up, they wouldn’t be for much longer.
This is what he got for buying a second-hand laptop.  This is what he got for thinking for one second he was smarter than a djinn.  Tricky bastard, he thought. 
Now, he understood the look in that girl’s eye, that skinny white girl who came charging into Happy Pawn, babbling about a microwave and wriggling anchovies.  He’d eavesdropped on that conversation enough to decide the girl was half out of her mind.  He knew better now, just like he knew that if he went back and complained to the old man that there was something not right with his laptop, the old man would give him the same speech.  Besides, he’d taken his chances on other purchases that had turned out to be not so great, although a different kind of not so great.  The old man stuck to his policies: no returns, no refunds.  You buy it; it’s yours.
The calculator was his first purchase.  The plus sign was broken.  Jerrick didn’t have the skills to repair it, and it would’ve been almost cheaper to just buy a new one rather than pay someone to fix it.  He worked around it by subtracting negatives.  Annoying, but it worked.
The laptop…that was a completely other type of broken.
Ctrl+Shift+G. A simple typo was all it was.  Jerrick intended to use his shortcut for inserting the clip art of the company logo, but hit “G” instead of “F.”  He couldn’t even remember what he’d been working on when the smoke spewed from the innards of the laptop.  He remembered thinking the thing was melting itself and all his data, and then suddenly he was pushing up from his desk chair, staggering back as the smoke coalesced into a heavily muscled, bluish man with small golden horns and a long black ponytail.  The man stretched out his arms and tipped his head to Jerrick.
“How may I be of service?”
A simple question really, and one that Jerrick had answered in various ways.  The first was to ask for infinite wishes.  The djinn had reassured Jerrick that there was no need for this wish.  “As long as you hold the vessel,” the djinn pointed at the laptop, “I am yours to command.”
Jerrick scrolled down on the spreadsheet, seeing red, red, red.  He fallen into the trap, hadn’t he?  He watched those damn Wishmaster movies.  He’d read “The Monkey’s Paw.”  He knew there would be a catch, but he also assumed he could be smarter.  He could be careful.
Now, his superior’s secretary was dead, and he owed his accounting firm 2.6 million dollars.  He’d considered going to the CEO, trying to explain where the money went and promising to pay it back, but Jerrick knew he could work overtime every day for the rest of his life and not pay off that debt.  Not at his salary. 
It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d realized where the money came from before he’d spent so much of it.  He hadn’t expected the djinn to be able to transfer money from one bank account to another.  What had he been expecting?  That some long-lost rich relative would die and leave him a boatload of money?  Sort of.  Okay, yes.  But that didn’t happen.  And then there was Leisha.
All Jerrick wanted was for her to notice him, to notice him as a woman notices a man and not just someone she saw every day at the office and spoke to because it was polite and expected.  What she’d become…Jerrick blinked back tears as he remembered those first few nights together.  Those nights turned into weekends, and then suddenly Leisha wouldn’t leave.  She didn’t want Jerrick to leave, not even to go to work.  He had taken a few vacation days, a sort of dating honeymoon, and by the end of it, his entire body hurt from bites, bruises, and overuse.
Jerrick wiped away the tear that slipped down his cheek.  Until he made his stupid wish, she had been a lovely woman.  Now, she was six feet under, after having thrown herself off the top of his condo building.    
Jerrick knew better than to try to fix dead.  He couldn’t take back what happened to Leisha, and he would bear that mark on his soul for the rest of his life.  Which wouldn’t be much longer if he didn’t figure out what to do about the missing money.  He couldn’t hide that much longer, and he didn’t think he’d survive long in a federal penitentiary.
He’d already tried bargaining with the djinn.  “Put the money back!”  He screamed that sentence again and again, but what was spent could not be unspent.  Besides, didn’t his mother love her new house?  She deserved it, after raising five kids on her own.  Even so, Jerrick had proven, once again, that you can’t get something for nothing. 
He ran his damp fingers over the keys of the laptop.  With a deep frown on his face, he typed Ctrl+Shift+G.  The scent of the inferno filled his nostrils.  The smoke stung his eyes for a moment before it swirled into a column and produced the djinn.
“How may I be of service?” it asked.
“I don’t know.”  Jerrick looked into its strange black-on-black eyes.  “How do I fix this?”  He gestured at the screen then spread his arms wide.
“It is not my place to advise, only to grant what your heart desires.”
“Yeah, and how many lives have you ruined granting wishes?”
The djinn tilted its head in consideration.  “None.  No life is beyond repair.” 
Jerrick laughed bitterly at that.  “Right.  I brought all this on myself.  I suppose you’re going to tell me that you have no control over how the wishes are granted.  Like there’s some sick, twisted god in control of it all, and you’re just the messenger.”  When the djinn gave no reply, Jerrick squared his shoulders.  “Well, you can tell whoever is in charge that my heart’s desire if for someone to fix this!  Fix the money.  Fix Leisha!”  Jerrick’s face crumpled, and he pressed his hands to his eyes.  “She didn’t have to die.”
“No, she didn’t,” the djinn said.  “Very well.”
            Jerrick jerked.  The movement dragged his steering wheel sharply to the left and sent his car swerving into oncoming traffic.  Belching curses, he yanked hard the other direction, overcorrecting, but managing to get the car going straight and in the proper lane.
How…what?  He couldn’t think.  Hadn’t he just been in his empty living room, arguing with a djinn?  He wasn’t anymore.  From the looks of things, he was on the expressway, somewhere between the exit for work and the exit for home.
He let out a breath, eased back into the seat.  Something dark in the passenger seat caught his attention, and he glanced that way.  Then, he took a longer look.  There it was: the laptop.  It sat there, the receipt taped to the case.  But that meant…that meant it was August, three months before he’d been sitting in his condo and demanding the djinn make things right.
Well, things are right now, Jerrick thought.  I can’t return it, but I won’t use it.  I won’t even turn it on.  “Yeah,” he said aloud.  He nodded in agreement with himself.  He took the exit for home with a renewed sense of hope.  He drove past the corner gas station, the old falling down houses.  Sure, he’d be back in his crappy apartment in one of the worst parts of town, but he would have his old life back.  “Yeah, you sneaky sonofabitch.  Won’t get me this time.”  He grinned down at the laptop, and the laptop was the last thing he saw.
When the cops interviewed Muriel Shipp, she told them it was the oddest thing.  She hadn’t heard a whistle blow.  The lights hadn’t flashed, and the guardrails hadn’t come down.  But sure as there was wreckage all over her lawn, the train had blown through and smashed that poor man and his car to nothing.
Long after everyone – police, media, nosy neighbors – had gone, Muriel went out into the yard.  There was debris everywhere, and she wondered who she was going to get to come clean up the mess.  Couldn’t count on her no-good grandkids to do it.  Well, she was old, but she could do a few things.  She went around with a garbage bag, praying to God that she didn’t find any parts of the man.  She was pretty sure the police had gotten all they could of him.  What a way to go. 
Muriel was at the edge of the yard when her foot rapped against something.  Begrudging her hip, she bent down and picked up a flat, black object.  She lifted a pair of half-moon readers to peer at it.  Why, it was one of those computer things.  Muriel knew this one must have come from the man’s car, but there wasn’t a scratch on it.  She had no use for it, but the things were worth a pretty penny. 
Muriel made her way back inside her house and slipped the laptop into a plastic grocery bag.  She’d take the bus into the city tomorrow.  She knew just the place to take it to get the best price with no questions asked.         


Sunday, October 5, 2014


            Sitting on the concrete bench in front of the building, I smoked between classes.  I liked the spot, a kind of perch atop the wide stairs that overlooked sidewalks, flowerbeds, oaks planted after the campus burned during the Civil War, and the crosswalk.  Despite a flashing neon yellow sign that read, “Stop for pedestrians,” someone got hit there every semester.  Stupid kids, driving like stupid kids, and hitting other stupid kids like they were squirrels.
            I hogged the bench.  I had my feet up, my knees tucked up to my chest.  I liked sitting that way – the way they made us hunker during tornado drills or actual tornados when I was in elementary school.  With my right arm wrapped around my knees, I clasped my left arm just above the elbow.  With methodical timing, I bent my elbow, took a drag, and straightened my arm.  Then, I watched as the smoke wafted out of my gaping mouth or streamed from my nostrils.  I’m a dragon, I thought childishly and smiled at myself.
            “Hey,” someone called to me. 
            Like a Viewmaster, I blinked to switch from what I thought to the real world.  I looked two steps down to find the guy-in-the-Pantera-T-shirt.  He always wore one with faded, black jeans, black Chuck Taylor’s, and three wallet chains.  This day, he wasn’t wearing his dog collar bracelet or armor ring.
            “What’s up?” I asked. 
            He tossed his backpack at the base of the bench and took out his pack of cigarettes.  Since he meant to sit, and I felt polite, I swiveled, letting my feet drop, and sat on the bench normally.  He patted himself, and knowing what he sought, I offered him my lighter, keeping my hand out as a reminder for him to return it.  He did and sat beside me.
            “How’re you doing in this class?”  He waved his cigarette at the building.
            Simultaneously, we turned our heads and blew smoke over the azaleas instead of in each other’s faces while never breaking eye contact.  I rubbed my cigarette under the bench to put it out, not minding when bits of hot tobacco stung my hand, and set the butt on the bench between us. 
            “Good,” I said in answer to his question.
            “I thought so.  Could you maybe help me?  I mean, I can pay you, some.”
            “Yeah, I’m real busy.”  After a glance at my watch, I knew I had time for one more, so I bent sideways to fish out a smoke from the front pocket of my backpack.  Pantera bumped my arm and offered me one of his.
            When I took it, he said, “Yeah, I figured, but look, I’m serious.  I have to pass this class.”
            I lit the cigarette and took a drag, exhaled and took another, making him stew just a bit.  “How about Saturday?  There isn’t a game.”          
            He winced.  “I can’t do it then.  My friends and I…we build rockets.” 
            My eyebrows darted up at that.  “Really?  Like fifth grade science class?”
            “Well, not dinky ones.”
            “You build rockets,” I mused and thought of the little engines that looked like rolls of coins with tampon strings.  “Do they have parachutes?”    
            He laughed and looked off into the bushes.  “Yeah, and one weekend, a buddy of mine had his dad down and he helped us make napalm.”
            I choked.  “That’s just…not normal.”  Then, I laughed because anyone who spoke to me for more than five minutes knew I wasn’t normal.  “Yeah, okay Pantera-Napalm-Guy.  When are you free?”
            We made plans to meet at the library on Thursday afternoon, and when he finished his smoke, I said I’d meet him in class.  I sat a bit longer, wondering how much money the University spent on grounds upkeep.  The azaleas were quite beautiful, cotton candy pink.
            When I stood, my bottom was numb from sitting for so long on that hard, concrete bench.  Nintendo butt, my brother called it, like Nintendo thumb.  Except now, there was Sega thumb, X-Box thumb, and Playstation thumb.  I wondered if anyone had ever used a Playstation dual-shock controller as a vibrator. 
            I pinched my cigarette just above the filter and rolled it between my fingers.  When the hot rock fell out, I scrubbed it across the concrete with my boot and flicked the unburned tobacco free.  I always left that little bit because I hated the taste of burnt filter. 

            After buying a coffee from the street vendor, I pitched my butts into the trash and headed back in the building to class.