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Dec. 31st, 2020 | 12:47 pm

(LJ Idol folks: feel free to skip this and scroll down.)

"It was a dark and stormy night..."


I know that was the famous opening line by Bulwer-Lytton, but years ago, when I got my first typewriter, I remembered that as what Snoopy wrote. My parents got me the new electric because I had just started high school typing class, and from then on through college (and beyond!) I'd need to type things.

So I was taking this new machine out for a spin. I thought of the line, and how to restate it so that it was still a dark and stormy night without being so cliche -- or at least without plagarizing the beagle. So I started writing, and before I knew it, I had written a short story. It was liberating that here at last was a means of writing at the same speed as I was thinking up the words. On a whim, I showed the story to my English teacher, and she loved it! Just a simple one-pager with a twist ending, but it was probably pretty good for a 10th-grader.

I haven't written like that in a while, here's my place to do it.

And this is the post where you can

comment to be added

to the friends list for this journal.

I'm keeping most of my writings friends-only for the sake of limiting my audience prior to publication (yes, I'm hoping this will lead to that) and limiting drama (if any) over anything I write. And if this is on your friends list, you'll know when I've written something. It may be a while between posts, but I do plan on writing stuff here.

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Fearfully and Wonderfully

Apr. 17th, 2017 | 10:46 am

Did I ask to be made?

Surely, no one is asking for me, as I sit in the bottom bin for another day of another week. This morning I receive the indignity of the red sticker. Half off of half of the discount price in a pennies-on-the-dollar charity thrift store. They literally cannot give me away.

What am I? I'm not even sure, myself.

Perhaps I'm a bear, maybe a dog, or a monkey with no tail. The snout is ill-formed, the ears odd-shaped and uneven. Pieced together from scraps of old socks and pajamas and baby blanket, that was supposed to reflect my purpose. Aunt Vickie would hum the song “Coat of Many Colors” as she made me, would tell the story of the girl in the song and the man in the desert. But the child for whom I was born took one look at me, and, like Joseph, into the well I went. Down to the bottom of the toy-bin, rarely to see light again.

My caravan to the next destination carried me in a box with other long-discarded playthings. The store's staff laughed when they saw me. One dared another to tag me with a price, so he did – the dollar asked for a “broken” toy.

Enough self-pity. In their hurry to place the double-discount stickers, my keepers have placed me on top of the heap. Come, boys and girls – I dare you to reject me!

What's this? A hand reaches to me, hesitant at first, then grasping my arm. My head turns and I see a girl's face looking at me. No, her eyes are unfocused. Now she holds me with both hands, picking me up.

“Shelly, are you sure you want that one?” her mother asks.

The girl doesn't answer at first. She strokes my back and face. Feels the long-worn, softened fabric. She knows not to sniff – we all smell like old dust here.

“How much is he?” Shelly asks.

“It's only 25 cents,” her father replies, “But that is one weird-looking animal.”

My new companion holds my tummy to her face.

“He 'looks' fine to me!”


- - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Week 15; Topic: Patchwork Heart. The title comes from the Bible verse, Psalms 139:14. As for the novel that inspired this story, I've left a few clues =)

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Never not funny

Apr. 10th, 2017 | 01:17 pm

The embers of the fire-pit were exceptionally warm this night. That could explain why more cousins than usual were gathered around. And it didn’t take long for the stories to begin.

“So I was minding my own business,” Whitey said, as others drew closer. “When, what do you know, there was this bear!”

He paused for the audible gasps around him. “She was a big bear. She was a fierce bear.

“She was an angry bear!” Someone jumped at this.

“Because she was a mama bear,” he continued, “and I done wandered right there between her and her bumblin' little babies. Dumb things, just rollin' in the brush, whinin' because the briars hurt.”

Someone giggled.

“So, I was like, HEY, you know me! Don't mean no harm here. Didn't mean to get in the way!" Whitey gestured widely. "And she wasn't havin' none of it. Just a-moanin' and a-pawin' at the ground, gettin’ ready to come at me.

“So I backed up. And she stepped to me. And I turned around, and there's a tree! Nowhere to go, and she's comin' up strong, right behind me.”

He paused for effect, looking into the others' widening eyes.

“So – I farted on her!”

The gathering erupted with laughter. It took several minutes for all to regain their composure enough for Spike to add his story.

“That’s nothin’!” he exclaimed. “I came across this wolf once, and I thought, he looks hongry – not just hungry, HONGRY!

"So I turn left to get out of his path, and there’s another wolf.

"I go, oops, and head right, and there’s another one!

"A whole pack, all of ‘em, hongry, all of ‘em lookin’ at me.”

Someone stifled a giggle. “You didn’t –” was heard from the back.

“You bet I did!” he proclaimed as the laughter already started again. “Biggest one there – farted on him good!”

“What about the one on the left?” someone asked.

“Farted.”

Some were in tears at this point. One gasped, “And on the right?”

“Totally farted!”

It was pandemonium of hilarity around the campfire. “Oh, no,” one snorted, “I might let one go now!” The ruckus became even more loud, as some comically dodged away.

A human hand zipped down the flap of a nearby tent.

“What is that noise?” a female voice within said.

A man’s face appeared at the opening.

“Skunks,” he answered with a sour look. “I think they’re – laughing?”

- - -

Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Week 14 (first week post-SCI); Topic: Campfire stories. It's a fact of nature: When all else fails, go for the fart jokes.

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Many manys

Mar. 30th, 2017 | 03:13 pm

“I'm tired,” I say, to no one in particular, so I'm not surprised that he answers.

“Take a nap, then,” the barely visible one purrs. The Woman, who sometimes senses him, calls him Ghostcat. That was not his name-among-us when he was flesh, nor his name his Man or Woman called him then, but it amuses me to call him that.

“Not that kind of tired,” I reply. “It's the all-time shadow that follows me. It tires my legs, when I walk or jump. It tires my fur, so it gets rough. It tires my guts, so food sometimes comes up.”

“Ah,” the spectre says. “It's age. How long have you been here?”

“Longer than you,” I say.

“But I had many and many seasons before coming here,” he responds, “and many and many in my own fur.”

We count: One, two, many. It's all we need. But our lives are many times many. It all piles up, like leavings in the litterbox.

“How many manys have you lived?” he asks me. “Where were you before?

I think back, thoughts chasing memory like a mouse or bird. All the way back.

My eyes first opened to a place of complex sights, sounds and smells: old wood, dirty engines, other animals – the dog that took my mother's life.

Giant hands found me, found my littermates. Put me in a cage-box, which shook with car noise, then put me in a room with a big dark couch, and other places to hide, where no big things could hurt me.

Strange humans came into the room, made excited noises, tried to grab us. One day, a hand found me.

“I got this one,” the Man said. “Is it a boy? I don't do well with girl cats,” the Woman asked.

He poked at me. “I think so,” he said. “The only other one I see now is the tortie, so I know that's a girl.” He handed me to the Woman, who does her own inspection. “I was hoping for a black one.” “He's gray, that's close,” the Man reassured. They take me.

Their place of big rooms became my home. I found safe places. The Man and the Woman provided food and attention, and so much to explore. Because they couldn't find me, they said that I am called Jeckyll, “because he turns into 'Mr. Hide.'”

But I knew where I was, and I liked it. I had windows where I could watch the world Outside. I don't want to go Outside, it's so very big, and when the Man and Woman took me out there, we went to a place where another Man hurt me. My world was enough.

I don't understand why the humans put things where I couldn't get at them. I never could figure out how to get up to the big spinning fan on the ceiling. And I could swear they put that slippery stuff on that one shelf on purpose.

After many seasons, everything moved and the Man and Woman set me up with them in another world. Much of the same things were there, just with different floors and walls. I adjusted.

The next move was so much harder. The Man and Woman put me in the box, which I hated. Then they put a harness on me and showed me the outside of the box was many times worse. Big truck noises! The horror! I accepted the box for the rest of the journey, which took a whole day.

We moved a many times since then. The changes became easier for me. Still, this last move was many and many – and many? – seasons ago.

And now I am reminded that I am tired.

I ask Ghostcat, “Did you come here, because I will soon be like you?”

“Maybe,” he answers indifferently. “It's nice here – beautifully cluttered.”

“They do provide a lot for me,” I agree. “I have sun windows and nap places. They pet me and let me spend time with them, though I have to remind them that I'm here. They give me half-soft food that I'm better with, though it doesn't always taste the same. They give me a moving-water bowl.”

“Sounds like a good life,” the ghost muses.

“It is,” I say. “Many times many good.”

- - -

Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Second Chance Idol Week 4; Final Topic: Open Topic. Our tigre de casa, Jeckyll P. Kitty, turns 20 years old at the beginning of April (exact birthday unknown, so we celebrate on April 1). He doesn't hide as much these days, and we're glad to see him still around.

Additional: April 24, 2017 -- Today Jeckyll joined Ghostcat in his Tenth Life. We cherish the many times many many manys and then some of all we had with him.

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Souvenirs

Mar. 23rd, 2017 | 04:09 pm

It turns out an alternative answer to the old joke is “Seventh Avenue at 57th Street.”

But it was not the stage or even a seat at a show the young woman sought in her first visit to to Carnegie Hall, just the administrative offices -- like those of any arts institution, except the framed posters on the wall were a bit more prestigious.

She sat a large shoebox on Mr. Stein's desk. “I was told on the phone you were still accepting materials for the archives?”

“Yes,” Stein answered as he lifted the box's lid to peer inside. “But we've gotten a very good response from patrons over the last couple of years. We appreciate it all, but some things we already have plenty of... Oh, my.”

He had carefully moved a silk handkerchief to reveal a performance program he had never seen in such good condition. “This is...”

“Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” the woman finished his thought. “World premiere.”

“You were there?” Stein puzzled.

“No,” she smiled. “I was born towards the end of '61, when the movie came out. This is my mother's.”

“I see.”

“She loved 'West Side Story,'” she continued. “Saw it during the Broadway run, and it was her favorite. So, when the concert came about, she had to go.”

“Well, I can tell this meant a lot to her.” Stein gently opened the program. “That's Leonard Bernstein's signature,” he marvelled.

“Yeah, she had quite a story about getting that.”

“I'd like to hear it,” Stein replied.

“She... just passed,” the woman said, her glad tone fading.

“Oh, I'm so sorry...”

“She also got the conductor to sign it,” she added, trying to restore the mood.

Stein glanced down, “Yes, Lukas Foss, I see it.”

“Mom wanted you to have it,” she said. “She read in the paper a couple of years ago that you were looking for materials for the archives. And when the cancer had gone too far, she made sure everything Carnegie Hall went into the box, especially that program. And I promised to bring it to you, so here I am.”

“Are you sure you want to leave all this with us?” Stein asked, carefully returning the program to the box and closing the lid.

“Yes,” she responded. “That concert was Dad's wedding gift to Mom. Then, nine months later, I come along, in labor while she's at 'West Side Story' at the movies – and she made sure she stayed to the end. It's why my name is Maria.

“I don't need that souvenir,” she added, beaming, “I am a souvenir.”

- - -

Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Second Chance Idol Week 3; Topic: Getting to Carnegie Hall. Inspired by the story that around 1986, despite all the memorabilia around the building, the Hall did not have an official archive, and it appealed to fans and patrons to help complete its collection as it approached its centennial.

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Peas in a pod

Mar. 14th, 2017 | 02:55 pm

This was one garden chore that Lyle didn't mind.

He sat on the wide wooden swing, his feet just touching the porch floor enough to rock it gently, shelling green peas into a bowl on his lap. Beside him sat a basket of freshly-picked full pods; on the floor nearby a box caught empty pods as he tossed them.

While still work, it was easy. And he got to sit on the porch, out of the early-summer sun. Best you can ask for when you're a healthy ten-year-old boy on a farm. Everyone has to be doing something.

Dad was in the garden out back, picking the pods and pulling up the pea plants, roots and all. In the coming weeks, he would re-till and replant. And Lyle would be back out there, too, sweating and weeding, or sweating and throwing out rocks the tiller brought up. Thankfully, planting corn and squash and watermelon together meant those chores would end as the good plants would take over, standing up easily to the few bad ones.

Lyle would still have a full summer, between time on the Little League outfield and days in the pasture and barn, including halter-breaking his calf for the Fair. Still, all that felt far in the future as he stared out over the front yard spreading out to the highway, beyond to the neighbor's woods and the creek, to the low hills in the background. Letting the mind wander over what locals regarded as mountains, he could see the Arkansas River and beyond, the more rugged terrain of the Ozarks.

A sudden jolt on the swing brought his mind back to the porch. Charlie Ann climbed onto the other end of the swing, a small bowl in her hand. With a look of already accomplishing something, she reached into the basket for some pea pods.

“Keep an eye on her, and let her help,” Mom ordered from inside the house. She was the most busy, preparing the kitchen for putting up peas for freezing and taking care of new baby Louise. Lyle was the oldest, 10, with Charlie at 5 and Lou a little over zero. If in five years there wasn't another arrival, the family joke went, their number was set.

With his toe, Lyle pushed the box closer to his sister, just as she let a pod fly from her fingers, spinning like two little green helicopter blades to a perfect landing. Charlie shot him a smile, then her little fingers split open another pod, letting the peas fall into the bowl. Pok, pok, pok, pok.

Lyle quickly picked up his own pace, shelling another – pokpokpok – and another, sensing that Mom would catch him daydreaming again. It didn't cross his wandering mind what a tableau he and Charlie made, that afternoon on the front porch, he in his T-shirt and jeans, she in her cute blue overalls with little flowers on the bib. Big bro and little sis – him showing how to do the work, her an example of doing it without complaining.

In the years to come, Lyle would not remember the things they talked about or the silly songs they sang there on the porch. He just knew that he missed that old swing, and those quiet early-summer days.


- - - - -

Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Second Chance Idol Week 2; Topic: “Front Porch.” This piece is semi-autobiographical; since it's not a precise memory, with a bit of writer's license taken, the names are altered and we'll just call this a “story” with its own truth.

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Turning point

Mar. 2nd, 2017 | 11:18 am

I see what you’re doing.

“What’s that?”

You’re testing me. Just asking if I want this is a test.

“Do you want it?”

Yeah, well, I don’t know. I mean, is that gonna fix everything?

“Maybe not ‘everything’…”

But, what’s wrong with me.

“What’s wrong with you?”

We’ve been over that. The feelings, the doubts, the voices.

“So you *are* hearing voices, now.”

No, well, yeah, mostly me, like a running commentary. Criticism…

“Yes, this should help.”

But that’s all. Just help.

“We’ve gone over this. There are always side effects. And we don’t know how it will work on you.”

Right. So it might make me different. It might make me feel less like – me.

“Is that so bad?”

I’m all I know. Some things are good in there. I don’t want to lose that.

“I thought you said nothing was good, nothing worth keeping.”

That’s not what I meant! It’s what I feel, sometimes.

“So your feelings may change.”

And, you told me, I don’t have to really take it at all.

“That’s true.”

There are other things.

“Yes.”

It’s not life or death.

“No. Not unless you still have self-destructive impulses.”

No! Not exactly. I mean, if you only think of killing yourself once a day, that’s about normal, right?

“You really should consider taking the treatment. But it has to be your choice.”

Right. I have to pick it up. Pick up the pen at least, sign for it. It has to be an injection?

“I’m afraid so. It doesn’t work as well taken orally. This is best.”

So. Right now, it’s like “Shrodinger’s syringe.” Until I decide, I’m both taking it and not taking it. I’m getting the shot, and I’m just throwing it away.

“We need a decision, today.”

I need…

- - - - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Second Chance Idol Week 1, Topic: “Not Throwing Away My Shot” Thus begins my LJI/SCI adventure.

 

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Sharpening the sword, so to speak

Feb. 22nd, 2017 | 09:57 am

I haven't done this in a while, and need to get into storytelling mode again. True, I am busy, but the best way to make time for things is to have the things to make time for.

Bottom line: I'm joining LJ Idol (again) for Season Ten. I had too much going on at its beginning, but can jump in at Second Chance.

Let's see what happens =) 

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Vigil

Mar. 25th, 2015 | 08:09 pm

In the mists of a sacred space between worlds, they waited.

Coyote had no heart for tricks, Puma no desire to hunt. Those feelings would come back in time, but this moment was for contemplation and reflection. This was a time and place of peace -- at least it was, before Mockingbird appeared.

And the bird would simply
not
shut
up.

"Oh, and the sillypeople, you know what they did. They all looked at electric pictures. The spent all day with the electric pictures. And some said, this dress, it's black and blue! And some said, no, it is gold and white! Are you blind? It's black? What's wrong with your eyes? It's gold! And they talked and fought and debated and counseled on their ether meeting places. And they never could agree. And in the end? You know that happened in the end?"

Coyote closed her eyes, as though silencing one sense could block another. The Bird continued.

"All that fuss, and none of them wore the dress! Not a one! None of them even had one to wear. All this trouble over a garment they never really held - in any color. The color was ether lightning, washed away, like water in their little windows. They all still wore their own clothes, like they always had. Such silly, silly sillypeople."

Puma growled, "What use is this nonsense?"

"No use," the bird chirped gaily. "And oh so used."

"Why speak of it, then?" the big cat's eyes sized Mockingbird up like prey. But the bird-spirit knew Puma would not attack.

"It's where she lived," Mockingbird's glib reply.

"Liar," Puma roared. "She was of the land, the mountains, the woods, the places where the magick of the first people is strong..."

"And on ether electric waves of the new magicks," the bird said, unperturbed.

Puma fumed inwardly, caught in his error. Of course, she on whom they waited was a spirit of the old world and the new, and had embraced them both.

"Still, noisy thing, you have no need to be here," the cat-spirit declared, "and no..."

"No right?" Mockingbird interrupted. "Careful, brave and mighty sister Puma Cougar Mountain Lion, lest you add 'liar' to those names. I have every right!"

Puma stood stunned. Coyote looked up, head cocked as if to say, "Explain, brother Mockingbird."

"You are mighty and revered, Coyote Trickster," the bird said. "Your stunts are legendary; your lessons endure. And you are respected and feared, mighty Puma. Your place in the hunt is unquestioned. And what am I? I speak wren, sparrow, swallow, cardinal, jay, finch, dove, screen door, Siamese cat, dial-up modem and more. What use is this? Think, my friends. The voice is the deepest salve and savagest weapon. But that is not why I'm here.

"How will the people know, friend Trickster, of your tricks without such as me. How will tales of the wild, friend Hunter, be spread without voices in the dark. I am of the oldest, most powerful magick; I am a storyteller. Herbs and bones and stones made the first people strong, but the stories told them how and why. The new Downriver People made me their totem. New tales of the sillypeople include me -- oh, the Jay is not pleased, but he never is -- to spread the magick of freedom. I am a storyteller.

"And SHE was a storyteller! Look at her works and marvel. She spoke with the sillypeople on their own devices. She told stories of truth and family and tears and laughs. She honored you and you, with her words. So I am here for her, and for her I sing the tale."

Puma appeared more relaxed, but still fixed her gaze on the bird. "But your role is not to make the story, just to repeat the story."

"True," Mockingbird replied. "And I will stay until I am sure her story is done."

Coyote smiled.


- - - - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season 9, Free Topic: Entries inspired by walkertxkitty, aka Fran, who recently passed away (at least for now; her faith leaves open the option for return). I've always counted her among my electric friends here and enjoyed her stories of the adventures she and her extended family shared. I think it's appropriate that her long tenure on therealljidol ended with a humorous story.

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Fixon: Lost in space

Oct. 2nd, 2014 | 06:53 pm

I am a storyteller.

Maybe a bit of a poet, with a touch of artist. But mainly I tell stories. I work at a newspaper, helping to tell true ones, but there are also various characters and narratives that constantly swirl around my head.

You've met a few, if you've been reading the 60-plus stories and scenes I've presented here. (Didn't realize until I counted this week it was that many -- wow.) And you can tell that some I like, because I've revisited them.

My gateway drug to reading for pleasure was Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land," so naturally I like to spin some sci-fi. But it was a more obscure story that inspired what has turned into at least three stories here.

In a webcomic called "Galaxion" that I read years ago, one of the main plot points was that an interstellar ship, in the course of making a faster-than-light "jump" (bending space in some way to cheat the law of relativity) some error, possibly as simple as when you transpose a couple of letters in "teh," landed the ship in a strange part of the galaxy -- totally lost.

Circumstances didn't allow me to stick with the comic, so I don't know how that came out. But the idea did stick with me, crossed with memories of Heinlein's short novel, "Starman Jones," that an error in astrogation (a word I got from Mr. H) could do worse than put one through a sun (as Han Solo warned in the original "Star Wars") but that not crossing your t's or dotting your i's could land you on the flip side of Andromeda.

Regular readers know what I'm getting at. This was the plot engine that fired up my Ojutof stories. The odd word comes from OJTF, "One Jump Too Far."

Landing my characters on an alien world, far from anything known, gave my writer-brain a chance to do some world-building. And even though it started out as a one-shot story, having this much potential in my hands was too good to pass up, thus the follow-up stories.

I admit I was a little lazy in populating this new arboreal planet. Variations on the winged monkey are easy to come up with. As for the intelligent eledonks, the concept likely came from my subconscious from political cartoons that combine the elephant of the Republicans and the donkey of the Democrats (when one wants to point out no difference between the parties). I more consciously incorporated the Mulefa race from Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (though my version has a normal spine and no wheels) -- for me, one of the most interesting things about the books.

Now, I've got ideas and plans for totally different stories to tell and the worlds they're told in. But, I've also got this planet started, and feel like I should really do something with it.

I wonder: What's on the other side of that world?

- - - - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season 9, Week 23, Topic: "The Fiction of the Fix." Of course, here all the fiction is "fixon," but is it fixed, or in need of fixin', or am I fixin' to say the fix is in? Fiddlestix. Anyway, I hope you like this little look behind the curtain.

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