photo_4228_20071127Baby, 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.


Making Do

Snow squeaks beneath her inadequate footwear as she trudges from store to store, and once again she questions her decision to stay. But she’s here and has made promises and doesn’t have much choice in the matter, so she sucks in a deep breath that makes her nostrils stick together and vows to at least try to become one of those cheerful, rosy-cheeked people who roll their eyes at the weather and Make Do. They stamp snow from their thick, warm boots and grin at the way the sudden entrance into a heated diner fogs their glasses. They slap you on the back and say things like, “Yeah, but it’s a dry cold,” and talk about how many inches they’re supposed to get, as if it were an offering dropped down the chimney by Santa. She keeps waiting for it to become fun, to be happy about building snowmen and drinking hot chocolate by the fire, but nearly all she’s been able to do lately is sit at the window watching the flakes swirl and fly sideways and pile up in the garden, thinking about springtime, counting the days, hours, and minutes until green things start shooting up through the snow. As she’s leaving the bookstore, she sees the sign on the next building and gets a thought. Maybe she can do this. Maybe all she needs is to duck in and get herself a pair of decent boots. At least it would be a start.


RIP, Valhalla, NY, February 3, 2015

He loved trains, ever since the first Christmas his dad ran a ring of baby track around the tree. It had tiny wooden cars on little wooden wheels, and he pushed it along, making chug-chug sounds as he crawled beside them. Later he graduated to real model ones from the hobby store, bits of metal track and liquid smoke and chalky green fake landscapes in the basement, his mother tsking at the mess and smell and why didn’t he go play outside, already? So he did, plopping his engineer’s cap on his small, sleek head, but that was never as much fun as playing conductor. He thought about that as he climbed the stairs into the Metro-North train, bound for home after a long day, and claimed a seat in the first car, so he had a better view of what lay ahead. It made him feel like he was young again, pushing those little trains around, playing at the God of Conductors. While the other passengers disappeared into their electronics or newspapers or conversations, he leaned against the window, sinking back into those early days, imagining the feel of one piece of track clicking into another, the drip-drop of the liquid smoke in to the engine and how it puffed white exhaust as it chugged along. And then he saw it. The lights up ahead. Was that….a car? Sitting on the track? Why…? He barely got his head around the question when the squeal of brakes split his head apart, his last thought of those tiny cars, the dancing lights of the Christmas tree, the engine rounding the corner, trailing smoke.


Life in the Key of NYC

She’s too impatient to ride the bus uptown and gets off at the next corner, where a man plays three-card monty on a folding table in front of the bodega, eyes ever shifting for a sign to collapse his enterprise and move on. He follows her with those quick glances, deciding if she’s a mark or a narc, calls out something about the appeal of her walkaway until she can no longer pick his voice out from the crowd. She snaps up the pace, checking the time on her phone, doing the mental intersection of coffee shop locales versus blocks to pound, decides on a straight shot to her next meeting, where they will probably offer java anyway; they always do. Some impossibly young woman offers a choice of beverages, finds a way to make her feel old and dowdy even though they are in the same demographic, the same universe, the same team. Faces blur as she navigates corners and magazine stands and tourists; the syncopation of cab horns and subway rumbles and multilingual conversation is the jazz soundtrack of her life, and she can’t imagine how anyone could live anywhere else.