We all have our ways of blowing off steam and mine’s in the writing, particularly in the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival going on at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here are a few of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down.
It’s been a while since I flashed you. So here are a few of my contributions from Friday’s Word-a-Palooza and barn-raising also known as 2MinutesGo at JD Mader’s blog. As usual, only lightly edited for your protection. ‘Cause that’s the way we roll. If you’re in a writing mood, maybe you’ll come by next week and play. Or at least read the awesome, awesome writing going on there.
Baby, it’s cold outside. But we’re having fun with freewriting day at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination blog. Here are a few pieces I put up today. I hope you’ll come by and check out the great writing folks are throwing down. We’re still open for business, no matter how cold it gets. As always, lightly edited for your protection.
Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom! And yes, I’m not the venerable JD Mader, but he has been airlifted to an undisclosed location, and until he can get out of his duct tape and shackles (or until we collect enough to post bail), he has graciously allowed me to play host. Just kidding. I blackmailed him into allowing me to do this.
Write whatever you want in the comments section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.
So, as is tradition – or at least in Mader-land, here’s my first:
You wonder what his country is like, now that the king has died. If you had gone to live with him and be his love, as he asked in a fevered, Aramis-flavored clench on the floor of a disco a thousand years ago, you wonder if you would now be paying homage by his side, clustered with the other shrouded women while the men decided the fate of the land. Or if long ago you would have been arrested for doing the things that came naturally to you: driving a car, baring your arms, stepping outside in your favorite tiny nylon running shorts for a five-mile jog. “No, no, you can’t do that at my father’s house,” he said one day, as the question hanging between us squeezed a little tighter. In the end it was not the potential limitations of your freedoms that made you turn him down; you were just too young and American to believe he was actually serious.
Thanks for stopping by! Let the writing commence!
The intrepid souls gather from across the globe to write for a couple minutes and toss their innards on the virtual walls…or just play around for a while. Because it’s fun, right? And fun is good. Until someone loses an eye. If you’d like to read some great spontaneous flash, check out JD Mader’s website and maybe next Friday you’ll come by and help us break the blog. Here are a few of my pieces from this week. As always, lightly edited for your protection. Continue reading
Among the many things I love about the holidays are the stories we all bring to the table. In that spirit, I’m happy that when my friend and bestselling author Martin Crosbie asked for victims volunteers to contribute a Christmas-themed blog for a 12 Blogs of Christmas event, I stuck my little hand in the air. And boy, there will be some terrific writers in this lineup. Starting tomorrow and going until Christmas, I’ll be posting a bit about each author and their holiday stories. I hope you enjoy the contributions of the following authors and check out their websites (I’m gathering links as fast as I can!) so you can learn more about them.
- December 14: RJ Crayton
- December 15: Jamie Lee Scott
- December 16: Heather Haley
- December 17: Jennifer Ellis
- December 18: Helga Zeiner
- December 19: (me!)
- December 20: M.L. Gardner
- December 21: Roberta Kagan
- December 22: Sarah Lane
- December 23: Dianne Greenlay
- December 24: Wendy McClelland
- December 25: Martin Crosbie
To whet your appetite, here’s a very short Christmas story I wrote this week during JD Mader’s #2minutesgo flash fiction fiesta and sewing circle. Loads of fine, fine authors contributing to this weekly writing party, too.
He pinged onto her GPS screen; she put the hot toddies on the burner to warm and made herself comfortable in the recliner by the window to wait for him. She’d been thinking. She’d been thinking for months. Every year, he went out a little less enthusiastically. Every year, he returned more broken than ever. Grateful, yes, for what he’d been charged with, but she could see the toll it had taken. The stoop in his back, the lines around his eyes that were oh-so-merry, the color drained from the lips that were red as a cherry. When she heard the distant tinkle of sleigh bells, she eased out of the chair and filled two mugs, grinding nutmeg atop her secret potion that each year proved less effective at restoring his strength—even though secretly she’d been upping the dosage since that Kardashian woman tried to get her claws into him. Finally, the door opened. His shoulders drooped; his lovely suit was smeared with chimney ash, and the round, rosy cheeks had faded to a dull, pinkish-gray. With a deep breath, she brought the beverages into the living room and said, “Honey, it’s time. I want to move to Florida.”
The first one’s free. That’s the ticket. Then you’re hooked like a trout on JD Mader’s line. He’s a catch-and-release kinda guy, so you come back again for the tasty bait. And again. And again. Each two-minute (more or less) flash fiction freewrite you share on his Friday Unemployed Imagination blog feeds your hunger to try another. Maybe next week you’ll come by, test the waters, and settle in to see what swims by. Check out the alchemy a ton of awesome writers created this week on 2 Minutes. Go! Here are a few of my entries, lightly edited for your ingestion.
The cigar smoke stings your eyes and makes you want to puke, so you lie and tell your grandfather that you need to go to the bathroom. Of course he does not protest or go with you, and with his steel-sharp focus trained on the field of horses, he waves you off with a wrinkled hand. You remember your polite-young-lady lessons, smooth your dress, and excuse yourself into the aisle, counting the rows so you can find your way back through the women with hats and mothball-reeking men in plaid shirts, puffing away and yelling to each other in Yiddish. You pick out a few words, and they are not nice ones. As you’re looking for the little drawing of the stick figure in a skirt, a froggish-looking man with a piece of paper clamped in one hand cocks his head and gives you a smirk. “Hey, little girl,” he says. “What’s your favorite horsie?” You blink at him. The horses are pretty, and you liked the sound of their names, like music, as the announcer called them off. You remember Bluebird, because you once saw a bluebird on your window, and it reminded you of Disney movies and happiness. Because that’s what people say about bluebirds, and you want to be happy and not have to smell cigar smoke and mothballs anymore. You tell him. His smile crooks at one corner, and he scribbles something on his sheet of paper and hands you a piece of hard candy wrapped in cellophane. Polite-young-lady lessons demand a thank-you, and you do not disappoint him. But the candy wrapper is slick with sweat and also stinks of cigar. In the bathroom you flush it down the toilet, watching it swirl and wishing you could also disappear that easily.
Bad enough that the wind, roaring for three days straight, fuzzled up her thinking. But now she had to make the list. She dreaded it, put it off until the last minute, until the supermarket crowds were so thick and intimidating she contemplated calling the whole thing done and ordering takeout for Thanksgiving. Yet onward she trudged, feeling the weight of guilt from generations of women before her, from her late husband’s family, from miscellaneous siblings, cousins, great aunts and such who depended on coming to her house for dinner. She hadn’t yet found the strength to tell them no more, that someone else would have to take the mantle next year. She sighed, made more coffee, and sat down to scratch through the items she would need. Butter, because there was never enough. Canned cranberries, for that one cousin’s boyfriend who refused to eat sauce he couldn’t slice. Brussels sprouts. She stared at the two words, feeling her eyes burn and a catch in her throat. He was the only one who ate them, yet she couldn’t bear not making them or even writing them on the list. With a long, deep sigh, she called the task complete and grabbed her purse and coat.
Halfway to her car, the wind kicked up harder, and before she realized it, the list slipped from her fingers and skated off on the breeze. No, she thought, starting after it. “No!” As if her voice alone could stop nature. But up it floated, lodging between the branches of a tree. And she stared, feeling helpless, feeling the bite of the cold air against the open collar of her coat. She would never remember everything. She’d forget the flour, the butter, the canned cranberry sauce…the Brussels sprouts.
“Can I help with something?” a man’s voice said. A small yip confirmed that this was the man who’d moved in down the block a few months ago and often passed by her house with his handsome spaniel, the two carrying on a private conversation.
She gestured with a gloved hand as if that could explain it all, from the effort it had taken to write everything out to the phone calls coordinating who was bringing what to the emptiness of the house she’d shared with one man for seventeen years.
“Brussels sprouts,” she said on a sigh, unable to tear her gaze from the bare branches that held fast to her slip of pink notepaper.
“Oh, you’re out?” he said. “You should come by our house. My sister makes enough of those for an army. I’m sure she could spare a few dozen.”
She turned then, and smiled at him. “I might just do that.” She thought of the throng of people who would be ringing her doorbell in a few days. And realized that no, definitely no, she did not want them there. She’d have to suck down some pride, but that would be better than putting up with the memories.
“Hey,” he said, as the spaniel brushed against her leg. “Are you all right?”
She shook her head at the same time she attempted to force a smile, and his eyes were so kind. “Apparently not.”
He seemed to take her in for a long moment before he said, “Tell you what? Grab hold of Daisy’s leash for a sec, and I’ll see about getting that thing out of those branches.”
“Thanks, but no. The tree can keep it.”
Even from across the field she can see that the dog is happier now, with land to roam and children to herd. There’s a jaunt to his step, joy radiating from ear to tail, and she smiles, but she can still feel the ache in the pit of her stomach for the reason she had to let him go. She couldn’t give him the life he deserved, and she was too selfish and broken to realize that at the time. To think she expected him to save her from loneliness and a man who did not love her. That’s simply too much pressure to heap on an Australian shepherd, even a hardy one. The woman who owns the farm whistles and calls him by his new name, one that suits him better, and he comes running. He pulls up short in front of her. Sniffing at the legs of her jeans, her battered sneakers. He looks up. A sweet whimper escapes his throat, eyes so big and brown as he presses his body against her calf. Like he remembers her. Like he remembers that it was not her fault and feels badly that despite the chunk he attempted to take out of the man’s leg, he was not enough to run him off. “Can I visit for a while?” she asks the woman as she kneels to scratch behind his left ear. And the woman pats his head and tells her to take all the time she wants.