And see if it works…..
And see if it works…..
And see if it works…..
Trying this blogging thing again.
I have no goal.
I have no plan.
I just want to try something new for a while and see if I like how it feels.
Mell suggested I take an online painting session. She knows The Group Of Seven inspire me and she knows Tom Thompson is my absolute favourite. I love the colours.
For the first part, I listened hard and chastised myself for not getting it exactly right. Liesel Scheppat (look her up) is amazing, though, and the more she talked and coached us through it and stepped away from the technical and took us into the inspirational, I realized why Mell pointed me towards this.
She knows I love creating things. And she knows me better than I do.
So, I’m going to trying this again.
Stumbled upon this awesome, solo role playing game concept. I like solo role playing games only because I miss group roll playing sessions. I fiddle about with the simpler ones because it’s easy to slip in an out.
I found a really cool one here that actually helps design a story. And seeing as how I cut my writing time down to the wire (I’m actually 15 minutes late) I figured this was a good time to try it out. I honestly like the results. I could be accused of it being a little too Kill Bill but I’m okay with that. What you see below are the cards I drew and how it helped form the story.
Present and call to action
Future and conflicts
The older I get the more music effects me. I wish I listened more closely when I was younger. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me as long to appreciate it.
A song came over the radio on my way home and I had to change the channel immediately.
“I’m not ready for that right now,” was the first thing I thought. I knew it would bring about too many feelings. So, instead I decided to write about it.
I caught the phone on the third ring.
“Hey,” he said. “What are you doing?”
Eli? In Windsor? Holy shit. Keep it together.
“Uh, watching The Jungle Book,” I said, telling the truth. “What are you doing?”
I should have been studying, reading, doing something relating to school, but I couldn’t muster the motivation. Instead, I went for an old standard. The other VHS tape handy was “Monty Python And The Holy Grail” but that would only make me want to go home even more. I always watched that with Dad.
“Happened to be in the neighborhood,” he explained. “Thought I would drop by.”
I find that hard to believe.
“Well, good to hear from you,” I said.
Before I could hang up he blurted, “Coffee.”
“Yeah, did you want to go for a coffee?”
“Sure,” I said. “Is it with you?”
“I figure, you know, as long as I was in the neighbourhood.”
I could hear that maddening, shit-eating grin through the phone. God help me, I loved that smile.
“There’s a coffee shop in town,” I said. “It’s called The Eclectic, but we all call it The Epileptic.”
“Sounds like your kind of place.”
“Give me a minute to get changed. I’ll be right down.”
“Really?” He asked. “No need to get all dressed up for me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m still in my pyjamas.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Pump your brakes, Turbo. You still driving that piece of shit Monte Carlo?”
So very tired. Up since five thirty and didn’t get home from work until after eight tonight. Good news is that only two more days and then on vacation until after labour day.
I’m holding off until the last minute but I will be signing up for the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Competition tomorrow. I like leaving it to the last minute. For some reason, my mind prefers keeping my options open in case something comes up. I’m better at getting things done than I’ve ever been but procrastination is part of my process.
I considered not posting today. I had an excuse in being tired. I knew I had to do something. One day would become two and that would turn into me neglecting this for another six months before being struck with inspiration and start all over again.
Admittedly, I’m rewriting an old story. I still remember it as a great idea but my execution was terrible. I think what I’ve done here is better. I’m learning that less really is more. I’m also learning that 2,500 words is a lot of words when you get rid of the needless ones.
“How’s that one taste?” Linda asked, wiping the wide expanse of the polished black bar around Linus. She wore a short, black skirt with a white work shirt a size too small, high heels and kept her thick auburn hair in a bun.
“You know what, Linda?” Linus asked in turn, spearing an olive from his martini glass. “It tasted like another.”
Before he could chomp down on the three bitter olives from his last drink, she had mixed him up another. He watched diners file in, in pairs and groups, lining up at the stir fry buffet then returning to their tables to slurp down their food. He had thought about it – ordering some food – but he knew he would just pick away, leave it to get cold.
“Thanks, Linda. What do I owe you?”
She looked at him with a hand on her hip, then nodded to the other side of the bar.
“Uh,” he said. “The martinis. What do I owe you for the martinis?”
She shook her head. He noticed her heavy eye shadow and thick eyelashes and liked the way it looked when she closed her eyes and shook her head.
“Nope. No charge. Someone’s already taken care of your tab for the entire night.”
“Bullshit,” he said.
“That guy over there,” she said, nodding in his direction again.
“A guy is paying my tab?”
“You got a problem with that? Half priced martinis around here are still eight bucks each.”
“Where’s that guy again?”
Linda nodded her head in the man’s direction a third time and took care to watch Linus closely as he took his leather sportcoat from his barstool and lumbered over to say thanks. The glassed in restaurant framed the two against the outside, headlights reflecting off polished cars, tail lights shining screams into windshields.
“Thank you, sir,” Linus said.
“My way of saying thanks. Please. Sit down.”
“Thank you, sir,” Linus repeated.
”It’s amazing how you did that tonight,” the man said. “It really is. I saw it and I still don’t quite believe it.”
“It’s amazing how they do that.” Linus pointed to the stir fry chefs on the front line wearing smudged white hats and protected by greasy aprons, wielding spatulas and squirt bottles. “Ever watch them?”
“To make sure they wash their hands?”
“No,no,” Linus said, then took a long drink. “Watch carefull. They don’t forget a thing and never complain. And do it all with a smile. And all his boss gives a shit about is how many meals he turned over every minute for the past month.”
The man shrugged. “So what?”
“What if that’s his only job? What if that’s his third job? What if this isn’t even what he wants to do for a living? He comes here every night and cooks, some customers he’ll see more often than he sees his own grandmother.”
Before the man could speak, Linus called out to Linda. “Could I get a glass of ice water? With a lemon?”
She smiled, let her bar towel fall gently on the bar and prepared his water.
“He’s sweating like a pig,” the man said.
“Yup. I bet he’s hasn’t even had a smoke break.”
Linda brought over a tall, blue plastic ice chip choked glass of water, single wedge of lemon trapped within, red and white straw stabbed through to the bottom. He chugged his last martini, then drew a long draught of water though the straw.
“Gives me hope for the future, you know?” Linus said.
“A fry cook? You seriously think what you did today comes anywhere close to what this guy is schlepping across that grill?”
“I think it’s the same thing.”
“You ever hear of a guy called Willie Hunt?” Linus asked.
“Willie Hunt. Tightroped across Niagara Falls in the 1800s. Guy would do somersaults on the tightrope, right over The Falls.”
Linus nodded. “I read about him. Even went to the Guinness Museum, to see real pictures up close, you know. Guy worked with P.T. Barnum.”
“Never heard of him.”
Linus continued. “He didn’t call himself Willie Hunt, though. How could he?”
He sat straight and held out his hand for the man to shake. “Hello. Yes, my name is William Hunt and I was wondering if you would let me do a fucking somersault over Niagara Falls.”
“Why are we talking about Willie Hunt?”
“Not Willie Hunt. The Great Farini. What I’m telling you is that he changed his name. He had to. I bet he figured if he sounded Italian that people would think he really took tightrope walking seriously. This is a guy who did tightrope somersaults and flips and all kinds of shit.”
“You said that already.”
“Did I tell you that the Prince of Wales came to see him once?
“No, you didn’t.”
“To see ole Willie Hunt come to walk across Niagara Falls. But I don’t believe it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“No one watches someone walk a tightrope. They watch to see someone fall off a tightrope. But The Great Farini never fell. The more people thought he would fall, the more people came to watch. Right up to the King of England.”
“You said the Prince of Wales.”
“Whatever. But that’s why I think he stopped.”
“Why do you think he stopped?”
“He got bored.”
“You want to know why I think he got bored and went on to cross the Sahara desert on his own two feet?”
“He walked across the Sahara?”
Linus closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it. “Yes, yes. Just another kind of tightrope for him. When you cross the Sahara it’s like crossing the Niagara. You’re still working without a net. You know why I think he got bored?”
“You were getting to that.”
“One time, he brought a metal wash tub out on his tightrope, lowered the tub into the water, brought it back up and washed twelve handkerchiefs. That’s why I think he quit. The whole thing became a chore for him. Nothing special. Nothing different than anyone else washing our dirty underwear.”
Linus waved it all away and downed the last of his water. He smacked his lips and rubbed his eyes, then stood up from his stool and extended his hand.
“You driving?” the man asked.
Linus looked at him. “I’d better. Too fucked up to walk.”
The man just stared and Linus laughed.
“Linda knows to order me a cab once I order my glass of water. I’m off. You know what, though?”
“What?” The maraschino cherries in the man’s whiskey sour had turned into blurry photographs at the bottom of his glass.
“Couldn’t tell you if The Great Farini had any kids. Hmmph. I’ll have to check that.”
The man shook his head. “Why?”
“Why what?” Linus asked, clumsily failing to shuck on his leather sportcoat.
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because they told me I had to do what they said. And I told them I preferred not to. Then I left.”
He walked around the bar, eyes to the ground, smiling, and put one hand to his mouth and rubbed his chin, touching his stubble like considering a shave. Linda rushed out to help with his coat. From behind, she kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear while he grinned and adjusted the lapels of his sport coat.
The man watched Linus leave through the double glass doors and get into the passenger side rear of the cab. Linus patted the hand that held the doorframe before getting in. After closing the door twice did the cabbie pass around the front of the car to get in and take Linus home.
I’m cheating by posting an edited version of an older story instead of writing something completely new. But I am keeping my promise by using the title of the story for the title of the post.
We woke in a dark, subterranean room with only my phone’s flashlight to see by. Elbert glanced at it bit wisely chose not to complain about me not letting him own his own.
“We’re fucking stupid,” he said instead. “We were tricked into taking off our masks.”
“Language!” I warned. “Doctor Brown says you have Asperger’s, not Tourette’s.”
“It’s in context, Dad,” he continued. “And it doesn’t make me wrong.”
“Where’s your sister?” I asked, holding my head.
I welcomed his focus, because at that moment, I couldn’t concentrate. The last thing I remembered was laughing myself silly and thinking of Skrillex.
“Bertha didn’t come down with us,” Elbert reminded me and took my phone to examine the cramped, cold and clammy basement room of the Sheepwash County’s Quiescent Cavern and Mineral Museum. “You didn’t have to, either.”
It took a long time after the divorce for me to find a suitable two-bedroom apartment so I could have my weekends with the two of them. I thought a celebratory road-trip to check out my sister’s food truck would be an exciting adventure, but my Hyundai Accent was awfully quiet on the three-hour drive north to Sheepwash County. Their mother didn’t mind – she took the opportunity to spend the weekend camping with her new boyfriend (she hated going camping when we were married).
Once we arrived, Bertha leapt at the chance to hang out and help at her Auntie Louise’s Vegan Caravan and I lost Elbert to an eager tour guide.
Louise, with her new pixie cut of amethyst hair and short, stocky build of a biker queen, saw Elbert escape and pulled me aside.
“Go with him,” she whispered. “I’ll keep Bertha busy.”
I remembered following Elbert and his teenaged, Hawaiian shirted, cargo pants wearing, bespectacled, face masked, tour guide down narrow, rickety stairs lined with shelves of rodent skulls and ancient, fossilized teeth under glass, to a basement room, looking for an opportunity to connect with one of my kids.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” I asked Elbert.
“I remember everything.”
“Then remembering the last thing should be easy.”
“Wint-O-Green Life Savers. Elijah showed how they glowed in the dark when you bit down.”
That’s when Elijah suggested we remove our masks to see it better.
“Then he went behind that plexi-glass,” Elbert said. He walked to the back of the small room, my phone’s LED reflecting back a searing white light off the nearly floor length pane of thick, scratched plexi-glass.
Elbert wanted to imitate how our tour guide shined different wavelengths of ultraviolet light to cause the rocks on the shelves behind the glass to fluoresce different colours, but the flashlights were gone. He did find a waist high cylinder with a knob that looked like it came from a backyard water tap. He turned it on then off.
“What are you doing?!”
“Did you hear that hissing? I’m pretty sure that’s gas. Dad, you said you giggled?”
The glowing rocks reminded me of raves, which now explained why I thought of Skrillex.
“He showed us how using acid differentiates calcite and quartz. Remember?”
I recalled how one of the two white crystalline chunks smoked when he dropped liquid from an eyedropper onto them.
“I admit, it’s a stretch, but he may have extracted diethyl ether from sulphuric acid. This place could buy in bulk and not raise any suspicions. He took a huge risk using it in such a small space.”
“Ether. Laughing gas.”
That’s why I giggled. “But why?”
“Who knows? I’m only piecing together how I would have done it.”
“So, you’re a sociopath now?”
He ignored me and asked to shine my light at the tank. Our captor had run clear tubing anchored with flimsy hooks pressed into the flaking stone walls from behind the plexi-glass enclosure to middle of the low ceiling. The dark room made the setup invisible. Elbert started to unravel it.
I tucked my phone in my front pocket and stopped him from trying to lift the heavy cylinder.
“What are you doing?”
“Acting fast. If it were me, I’d monitor us with night vision cameras and motion sensors. If we woke up too soon, there wouldn’t be time to come in here to turn the gas back on. He might have a backup plan.”
“And you plan to knock him out with this?”
“I need the cylinder closer. Direct the gas at the door hinges. If we compressed the end of the tube with two rocks from the shelf, we could maybe freeze them and knock the door down.”
“You know MacGyver’s not real, right?”
“You have any better ideas?”
I held the phone in my mouth and pointed the LED down to avoid blinding myself as I tilted the cylinder to roll it into position on its edge until the tube reached close enough for us to spray the hinge.
“Elbert, don’t pull.”
Just as he did, the tube came free of the cylinder nozzle. I fell backward, my phone crashing on the stone floor as the door opened outward and Elbert fell through it and into the open, ample and tattooed arms of my younger sister.
“Annie Lou!” He shouted, calling her by the name he used as a kid and hugged her hard.
She’d stopped the kid from hiding the Hyundai under a pile of brush and made short work of “convincing” him to confess. The museum owners who hired him didn’t question his enthusiasm and were thrilled with his knowledge – there weren’t many teenagers prospecting for tour guide jobs in the small mining town of Sheepwash County – and didn’t figure on him being a budding serial killer. She’d tied him up and used her food truck as a paddy wagon while we waited for the OPP.
“You picked a helluva way to bond with your son,” Lou observed. “and you shoulda worn your mask.”
“Yeah, we were fucking stupid.”
“Dad!” The kids barked. “Language!”
I’m comfortable with titling my stories. I’m not comfortable with titling blog posts. I don’t know why this is. If I were to take a shot in the dark, I would say it’s because I’m self conscious about my blog posts but I am completely comfortable writing fiction despite one being no less revealing than the other.
Going forward, I’m titling my blog posts by the name of the story (or story fragment) I’m writing. Not today, though. Because this blog post title speaks for itself. The story below (not a fragment – actually a whole story) is called The Burning Bush. That’s because, messages from God are supposed to come in the form of a booming voice from the sky or a burning bush. And my character received a message from God and she didn’t need a burning bush to add any meaning to it.
I remember locking myself in the dark bathroom and racing to the toilet. At breakfast, I’d dreamed of pancakes on Sunday. As I held my hair back and vomited Friday night’s hotdog dinner, those visions felt thousands of years old.
Dad pounded on the bathroom door, each thunderous hit making light from the hall pulse through the doorcrack.
“I want Mom!”
I heard slow, soft steps and imagined her standing behind him, letting him have his way.
“I don’t care what she says,” he said, his voice low and threatening through the dust falling from the now loosened hinges. “You’re going to church. You’re getting confirmed.”
He stormed to his bathroom to sulk and smoke under its wheezing fan.
“You know, your father built that church, Cricket.”
Cricket. Even then, lying on the floor, I resorted to rubbing my calves together, like I did as child.
“I was baptized in that church, Mom.”
My father saw value in baptism when he became a catholic church contractor. So, every Sunday for a year, we attended mass in a high-school gymnasium during its construction.
“In Grade One, all my friends talked about first communion. They thought I was weird I’d just been baptized.”
“You’re Dad is proud of his work. This really upsets him.”
Because people would think something’s wrong, I thought as I lay steadfastedly refusing to leave the comforting pitch-black room, fearing when Dad’s assault would resume.
“Mom, why didn’t Uncle Virgil say hello at church?”
I heard a single, sharp inhale followed by a pause.
Uncle Virgil had been Dad’s sponsor when he was baptized along with me. Last Sunday, he refused my help up the church steps as he struggled on his crutches.
“Is that why you don’t want this?”
Just that week, I’d interrupted Mom and Dad as they sat at the kitchen table, secretively scraping the insides of shoes, boots and secret boxes, for five hundred dollars to pay some guy that “did some work for them”. The thin walls of the small townhouse we moved to after going bankrupt when the family business folded made sleeping difficult when they fought. Asking to help only kicked off another tirade from Dad that drove me to tears and back to my room.
“That’s not it,” I said.
I leaned against the door, feeling the cheap plywood against my hand as I tried to sense Mom’s presence through it. “Does going to church make it so what you do is right?”
“No.” She paused. “That takes time and learning from your mistakes.”
“I don’t need God for that. Do I?”
Mom said it was okay to come out and I did.
Since then I’ve supported Mom, brought two children into the world, married a husband I love, pay a mortgage I loathe, refused to talk to Dad on his deathbed and have not attended a single mass.
I’m a slow learner but I don’t need a burning bush to get a message.
It’s not the writing that matters most to me. It’s the creating. I like that best. And when I’ve created something I like, I want other people to like it, too.
Writing every day is practise – finding ways to use as few words as possible without changing my idea and hope people get it. To try and get them to see what I see. If only for a little while.
This latest excerpt is the 2nd part of an almost complete re-write of an old story and I really like it.
“She’s not wearing a mask,” Decker pointed out. “And neither are your buddies.”
“We’re at a table,” he said. “Together. You’re alone. At the bar. Put on your fucking mask.”
“What are you? A cop?”
“Yeah, like I’m the fuckin’ sheriff and these are my deputies.”
Decker nodded, looked down at his glass of iced tonic water with a wedge of lime.
“What’s your name, sheriff?”
“What’s that matter?”
Decker sipped his drink and said, “Because my first thought was you guys had the makings of a good band – Three deputies, a sheriff and a whore.”
Two burly, black clothed bouncers burst from the shadows to stop bicep-boy from reacting to the insult.
“C’mon, Decker,” Jimmy said. “You promised.”
“I didn’t do no different than him. Just speaking my mind.”
Decker held up a hand. One bouncer held back bicep-boy with ease while the other went to speak with Decker.
“Let the guy and his friend stay. Jimmy? I’ll be out in the bus shelter having a smoke. Send a round of drinks over. On me.”
The bouncers escorted the man back to his table of friends at the same time Jimmy brought over a tray of drinks and some appetizers. The “deputies” drank in silence while the girlfriend pretended like nothing happened. The bicep-boy didn’t take his eyes off the door Decker went through to grab his smoke.
“Baby,” he said to his girlfriend, kissing her on the forehead before leaving. “I’ll be back in a bit, okay?”
She waited until he was gone to get up. The deputies all got to their feet, coming to attention like a cadre of soldiers. One of them – they all looked alike to her and couldn’t remember their names. asked where she was going.
Is he Eric? She thought. Or is he Bobby?
A site guest visit to an old post compelled me to re-read it. Painful is the only way to describe it. The bad news is the ideas were all over the place. The good news is that the story I posted along with it had a little bit of merit to it. So, instead of writing new fiction, I tried to whittle down an old story.
Originally, it clocked in at over 6,000 words. I trimmed it down to 1,700. The ideas are still insane – I’ve no problem with crazy ideas – but the story is there. It’s an absurd story to be sure, but I’m okay with that, too. Let’s call it “The Promise” for now.
“I promised not to kill anyone today,” Decker said. “and I don’t intend to break it.”
He stood, hands palms down on the polished, black marble bar, staring at his reflection in the mirrored wall of glass shelves stocked with assorted, multi-coloured bottles of booze.
“I could give a shit,” the muscled man behind him said, biceps bulging in his short sleeved Henley shirt. “Put on your fucking mask.”
The bartender couldn’t back away fast enough.
“Where you going, Jimmy?”
Jimmy pulled back his mask slightly so his low voice could be heard.
“It’s the law, Decker,” Jimmy said, slinking back.
“Pardon me?” Decker said.
“You heard the man. It’s the fucking law.”
He watched the man in the mirror as he looked to his friends for support, each of one as bicep-bulging as the other, all of them dressed like they came to a style decision on a conference call before going out. Sitting among them was a blonde hair, blue eyed girl with smoky mascara, long fake eyelashes, lips like a cut fig above a midriff baring tee shirt and a denim mini skirt, heels of her pink accented, tanned leather cowboy boots hooked on the rung of her barstool.
Absurdly, he took note of deep tan – trying to puzzle out the design behind the coloured ink of the tattoo that curled around her hip.
Looks like a wing.
She sipped away absently at some neon pink concoction that Decker thought looked like liquid bubble gum.
“She’s not wearing a mask,” Decker pointed out. “And neither are your buddies.”
“We’re at a table,” he said. “Together. You’re alone. At the bar. Put on your fucking mask.”
chris j cluff
Daydreaming and then, maybe, writing a poem about it. And that's my life.
Canada’s national youth publication
"I have nothing to say and I am saying it."