A Mad Dash To The End

It is November 22, I still have 17k words to go and my mother is coming to visit on the 28th and will stay until the 30th.  I really need to hustle and get this finished, at least word-count-wise before that time.  Three days ago I was pecking out one word at a time, chewing my nails off and actively avoiding NaNoWriMo by playing countless games of Bejeweled Blitz while my mind struggled over plot issues and the fact that I had nothing scheduled for this blog.   I like to keep to a schedule as much as possible and when I am not able to do that I tend to get agitated and my thinking can break down.  I was definitely floundering.

My wife peers at my computer screen and asks how things are going?  She can see I’m playing Bejeweled.  I state my plot problems and the impending doom of my word count while I spin pretty, colored gems and try to get Blazing Speed going, and she says… “Why don’t you just write the ending?”

Why didn’t I think of that?

So here I am, tearing along again with a pot of coffee at hand and Bejeweled open on a tab in the back instead of the front.  My carefully thought out characters are dying one by one, the way I intended and I’m feeling like a vengeful God about it.  I have to admit, there are some twists I hadn’t actually meant to have but now that they are there I am rather impressed by them.  Hopefully the finished product will be as smooth as I want it to be.  Once I get to 50k, finished or not I will post a few more excerpts for everyone.

Cheers Wrimos and happy writing!

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Smashing Pumpkins – Carl

(An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project.  I have reached the 20k mark.  As others have already stated, there is really no time to spend on crafting a single paragraph to near perfection (in my mind) if I intend to reach the 50k goal by the end of the month.  It is very unnatural for me to write without editing as I go and I’m suffering a bit of over-thinking.  I keep telling myself I can clean it up later, just get the words into the file right now.)

A slender, middle aged woman, wearing a stylish, brown, knit hat and a long, tan, wool coat made her way out of the door with a small boy in tow.  The boy looked to be five or six years old but it was difficult to tell through his outer wear.  His thin blue hoody was zipped all the way up, the hood pulled over his head which was also covered with a knit hat.  A grubby, white scarf wrapped tightly around his face completed the ensemble.  The only thing Carl could see for sure were the eyes, two dark orbs staring blankly out at the street.  With all the autism awareness these days he was prepared to make a snap judgement on the child when the woman snatched his shoulder and proceeded to push him before her into the street, obviously aiming for the bus stop he currently occupied.  The bearing of the woman and directness of her path gave Carl the crazy impression that she was coming specifically to talk to him about the boy.  His mind threw up a panicked scenario.

“Hey mister, you want to buy a boy?  He doesn’t eat much.   He can eat even less if you just don’t give it to him, he’s used to not having much.  Are you interested?  What do you say?  You could have your very own boy!”  

Feeling genuine alarm Carl made himself as still as he could.  Bug instincts, JC would have said.  When people knew something was wrong they tended to get very still, some ancient instinct making them believe if they could avoid detection then whatever the problem was, it would go away.  Hunching forward slightly he lowered his head and stared at the sidewalk as the woman and her boy entered the shelter.  The woman pressed the boy against the Plexiglas wall near the end of the bench.

“Stand there,” she said in a voice that swirled from her mouth like smoke.  Carefully tucking her long coat around her legs she sat down on the opposite end of the bench from Carl.

Continuing to stare downward Carl felt his nerves tightening with every passing second, the adult sized space between him and the woman feeling much too small.  He wanted to tap his toe or bounce his knee.  From the edge of his vision he could see the boy’s sneakers, a pair of off brand shoes that were too worn to have been bought new at his age.  By shoving his eyes far to the sides of their sockets and tilting his chin just a hair he could see the blue hoody was in similar shape.  Compared to the woman and her nice, wool, coat the boy looked like he had been bought on clearance from the local Goodwill.  Carl tightened his jaw and prayed the bus would come soon.

Smashing Pumpkins – Neisha

(A single chapter from somewhere in the beginning of my NaNoWriMo project.   I’ve been pounding on the keyboard, trying to get all my ideas down so I haven’t really put anything in order yet.  For those who are interested, the foreign words are Korean and the definitions can be found here.)

Neisha couldn’t stop  watching the big, round, black and white clock, glancing up from her math paper every few seconds to mark the smallest amount of time that had passed and inhaling so deeply that her nostrils pinched together before bowing her head over the problems again.  At this rate two-thirty was never going to get here.  Pausing in her calculations she slipped a hand into her straight, black hair just behind her left ear and absently separated a strand which she began to twirl around her fingers.  She had made a private vow to stop twisting her hair just that morning as she had noticed it was much thinner on the left now than the right.  She wasn’t just twisting it, she was breaking it off.  The idea of pulling out her own hair was offensive to her.  The problem was, she wasn’t always aware of when she was twisting it.

“Neisha?  Can I assist you with something?”  Mrs. Kanger’s voice, harsh and a bit too deep for a woman caught her by surprise.  

“Huh?”  Blankly Neisha stared at her teacher.

“Don’t you mean, what?”  Mrs. Kanger’s thick, over-penciled eyebrows rose high into her forehead, nearly touching the slightly curved and well bleached widows peak.   

Pulling the strand of hair tightly across her upper lip Neisha tipped her head to one side and forced her eyes to sparkle and dance.  “Huh?”  

Chuck Simmons, who sat to her right, snickered softly into his own math paper.  Neisha didn’t spare him a glance, preferring to not encourage the chunky redhead to take her side, ever. 

“You are not amusing, Neisha.”   Mrs. Kanger’s eyes sharpened to points.   “Finish your math before the bell rings or you will miss your bus and be forced to call your mother for a ride.”

It was an empty threat and Neisha knew it.  Mrs. Kanger would rather lay in a box of spiders than have Nema Kwon come to pick her up because of an unfinished math paper.  Still, she felt it wouldn’t be wise to push things much father.  Mrs. Kanger might be afraid of her mother but there were many ways the jot bab could get back at her.  Releasing her strand of twisted hair she lowered her eyes to her paper and moved her hand like she was going to write something down, at the same time she pressed out a small fart that popped against the metal of her seat like a Fourth of July banger.  She looked up in feigned surprise to see Mrs. Kanger glowering at her.

“Excuse me,” Neisha said politely and bent to her paper.  To her right Chuck snorted laughter onto his stomach and she couldn’t quite stop the corners of her mouth from twitching with a smile.

After the small volley of attitudes, the clock seemed to kick into high speed and suddenly Neisha found herself jamming her books into her bag and getting ready to leave.  The math paper was finished and laying on the top of her desk, each answer correct.  As the final bell of the day rang out Mrs. Kanger stood up from her own desk holding a stack of papers and called for attention.

“Before you leave I need most of you to come get your JOC page.  It’s that time of year again and these papers need to be delivered to your parents as soon as you get home.”  Tapping the stack on its side to square them Mrs. Kanger stepped to the front of her desk.  “As I call your name please come forward.”  Starting with Charles Albright, a.k.a Chuck the snorter, she moved quickly down the list.  Each student rose when their name was called and took the paper from Mrs. Kanger’s hand before heading out the classroom door.  Neisha ignored her teacher and headed for the door, her mind filling with ideas for food and advancing her progress on her current video game.

“Neisha Kwon.”  

Neisha’s head snapped toward the front of the room, her eyes popping in their sockets.  “What?”  

Mrs. Kanger shook a sheet of paper at her.

“But I’m thirteen,” she said.  Her arms felt weak, like french fries after the starch had been soaked out of them.  Her classmates stood stock still, their faces blank with surprise.  Some of them had celebrated her birthday with her and knew she was now, officially, beyond the age requirement of the JOC.  A few of them looked scared.  “I don’t have to enter.”  Mrs. Kanger met her eyes and Neisha got the impression that, despite their earlier clash, her teacher wasn’t any happier about giving her the paper than she was to receive it.  Mrs. Kanger never said a single word about the JOC but her required participation was openly minimal and her instructions to her students was exactly what they needed to be and nothing more.  Her legs moved of their own accord and Neisha found herself reaching for the paper.  “My birthday was in March,” she said softly.  Mrs. Kanger nodded her acknowledgement.

“Go straight home today and give that directly to your mother.”  Mrs. Kanger looked firmly into her eyes.  “Don’t waste time, Neisha.”  The implication was clear.  Neisha nodded and ran for the door.

The combination for her locker skittered from her mind for a minute and she spun the black dial around several times, her eyes vacant, staring emptily at the air slats in the metal door.  Why?  How was it possible?  She was too old now!  Her fingers and eyes moved together in muscle memory and the locker opened without her realizing she had dialed in the correct numbers.  She still couldn’t recall what they were.  Dropping her books onto the bottom shelf Neisha snatcher her blue fleece from its hook and  slammed the door closed.  

The buses were already lined up outside, uncharacteristically prompt on this auspicious day.  Not bothering with farewells she  made her way out the main door and down the short set of steps, not thinking to count them as she went.  There were exactly thirteen of them, the top one being a bit thinner than the others but not really noticeable unless you looked carefully.  Neisha had a rhyme that she liked to hum as she moved up or down the stairs, a rhythmic poem she chanted silently to herself that fit perfectly into the activity of thirteen steps.

Snap the neck, crack a bone, peel the skin, run for home.

This was not something Neisha ever said out loud, knowing instinctively that her peers would not understand and the adults would all make notes.  Nema had warned her repeatedly to keep her inner thoughts and ideas safely in her head.  Never write anything down or confide in anyone.  What you do can be judged by anyone who sees you.  What you think can only be judged by you.  Neisha took this advice to heart and the stepping poem lived only in her mind.

Children poured from the building, the younger students bolting from the doors of the elementary wing and racing for the bus line.  Sixty-three B was her bus number.  Spotting it down the row she made for it quickly.  

Lining up behind the other students that lived on her route she noticed the small, curly haired boy from the apartment complex next to hers.  He was smiling and holding his own copy of the JOC paper in his fist.  She watched him struggle to make his short legs bridge the gap between the sidewalk and the first step onto the bus, her mind shifted into attack mode.  Neisha watched him enter the bus and grin like a little Ddorang at the bus driver, Mrs. Karr, then take a seat close to the front.  Thinking that his pudgy, white, cheeks looked like dough that needed to be punched down before the yeast ran away with it Neisha slid into the seat behind him.  Her day couldn’t get any worse now, she might as well indulge herself a bit.  Settling into her seat she looked up to see Mrs. Karr watching her in the wide rear view mirror, her dark eyes narrowed and suspicious.  Neisha assumed a blank expression and turned her head to stare out the window,  frustration tearing at her stomach.  Softly, in the back of her throat she began humming her poem.

More children loaded onto the bus and fanned out into the seats.  Neisha noted Chuck’s light red head jogging past her window to get to his own bus which went down by the canal.  He was always talking about fishing with his dad and giving graphic descriptions of what cleaning fish was like.  The first time she had asked him if they ate the eyes he had looked at her like she had sprouted a second head.

“Who eats the eyes?  They’re tiny.  Nothing there to fry.”

“Get enough of them and you can have pudding.  See?”  Neisha had laughed and raised her lunchtime cup of tapioca for his inspection.  Chuck glowered at her.

“That’s just tapioca,” he said.  “Those aren’t fish eyes.”

Neisha shrugged and spooned some onto her tongue, giving him a clear view of the mess as she slurped it down her throat.

The bus doors swung closed and Mrs. Karr gave a last look into her rearview before putting the big engine into gear.  Neisha remained still, her head turned away, her eyes focused on the scene outside.  As the bus pulled away from the curb she shifted ever so slightly toward the front of her seat, looking intently at nothing out the window, pretending to keep it in view as they drove away.  By the time the bus turned onto the main road she was sitting right at the edge of her seat, her hand on the tall back of the seat in front of her.

“Do you know what gwishin are?” Neisha whispered to the little boy.  When he didn’t respond she continued as if he had.  “Gwishin are ghosts, spirits of the people who have died.  Sometimes a gwishin doesn’t leave as it should, it hangs around trying to be known to the people it left behind.”  She was talking through the thin crack between the seat and the wall of the bus, her voice measured and quiet.  With her hand on the back of the seat she could feel the boy move as she talked, shifting toward crack.  His voice whispered back to her.

“Do gwishin know they are dead?”

“Sometimes.  And sometimes they think they are still alive and try to do the same things they have always done.”  Neisha smiled as she spoke, feeling her prey within her grasp.  “You can hear them, moaning and whistling around the corners of buildings every time the wind blows.  They are looking for a way in.”  The boy inhaled audibly, his sudden tension as much a sensation to her as if she were touching him.

“Jeffrey, don’t you listen to a thing that girl tells you.”  

Mrs. Karr’s voice cut off further communication but Neisha didn’t mind.  She sat back in her seat smiling.  She had a name to go with the doughy face.

NaNoWriMo – Synopsis

Here’s the one thing that I keep getting asked for, a synopsis of the novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo.  I started out listing this as Thriller/Suspense but have since changed it to Horror.  I have to say, this project is like no other that I’ve undertaken.  The month has barely started and I’m smashing keys like I have never done before.  Forced to be at my job during the official start of November I managed to tap out about about a thousand words on my phone throughout the night.  Thank you Google Docs. 🙂

Out of curiosity, what program do you write with?  I am seeing things in the NaNoWriMo forums that I didn’t know existed so my interest is piqued.  Is anyone writing with something specific and if so, why?  I use Office Libre and Google Docs.

And now, the synopsis.

Orphaned by a bus accident and being raised by his maternal grandmother Jeffrey has reached the age of five and is now required by law to participate in the annual North American Jack-o-lantern contest.  Having raised her own daughter to productive adulthood Caroline is certain she can do the same with her grandson but her heart really isn’t it.  

Neisha is thirteen already but, through a clerical error has been directed to enter a jack-o-lantern in this years contest.  Her mother, Nema, is racing the clock to try and get the error fixed before Devil’s Night arrives.

Samson has to file appropriate reports on the children he teaches in his first grade class.  The reports go directly to the JOC and play a part in the committee’s decisions about which jack-o-lanterns to officially smash each year.  Knowledge is definitely power but can he do what he knows he has to?  Can he file the report that may get a child’s pumpkin smashed?

Carl has no children of his own but he doesn’t let that stop him from participating in the contest in his own way.  According to the rules, if a jack-o-lantern is smashed the child it represents will be disposed.  It doesn’t matter if the JOC does the actual smashing or not.  Having lost his two older brothers to the JOC Carl knows there really are no exceptions.

With the JOC breathing down everyone’s neck for the next forty-five days tensions and motives run high for a cast of characters who all have their reasons for what they do.  Who’s pumpkin will still be smiling after midnight on October 31st?

 

New Dealer Standing Still

Each bite was nearly unnoticeable, only a feeling of anxiety and building frustration marked the exit of a piece of his soul. Shane cleared his hands and rubbed a sleeve across his face, mopping away the nervous sweat that poured from him. He could smell himself.

“Seven OUT!” The dealer on stick yelled. “Clean ’em up, pay behind.” Shane stood still, staring at the layout before him.

“Seven out,” the Boxman said. “Are you listening?” Shane nodded and began picking up the chips in front of him. “Get the line!” Shane froze again, his eyes wide but not seeing anything.

“Right, the line.” He looked at the Passline then back at the Boxman. “What rolled?”

“Oh for Christ’s sake. It’s a seven out! Take the Line! Pay the Don’ts!” The Stickman rapped the curved end of the stick sharply on the table several times. “Clean it up!”

Shane felt his head drop in confused failure and began picking up all the losing bets. Why had he thought learning to deal dice was a good idea? He could swear he was losing himself faster now than he had before. Even the Stickman was taking a share of him. How can other dealers do that? His hands fumbled the chips as he struggled to pick them up quickly. Nothing was easy here. Everything he tried to do seemed to be a magic trick that he didn’t know. The Stickman had hands that seemed to move independently of each other, the fingers turning all directions at once as they plucked chips from the layout and stacked them neatly to either side of him. Shane stacked his chips in front of him then watched as the stack of red, five dollar chips over-balanced and spilled across the layout toward the Boxman. The Stickman’s laugh felt terrible in conjunction with the nasty glower from his Boxman.

“Hey Karl! Where did you get this one from, the kitchen?” An elderly player tucked in next to the other base dealer leaned out, one crusty-looking hand held outward like a question mark turned into a water basin. The Boxman chuckled.

“Nah, we got him from the training class. It’s his first night Gel, try to be nice.” Karl gave Shane a small grin. “He’ll learn.” The words would have been encouraging if Shane hadn’t seen the tiny gleam in Karl’s eye as he spoke. Anxiety crawled down his spine.

New Things For A New Year

The Porch Stories turns 1 year old this month.  It took me a few months to get myself moving in the direction I had originally intended but I managed it.  Now it’s time to expand.  Along with my weekly short stories which that I post on Wednesdays I am adding Saturday Scene Day into the line up.  I know we all have those moments where a perfectly good scene flies into our mind but the rest of the story fails to follow.  I feel badly for these little orphans so I’m going to gather them here and hope I will eventually find a use for them.  Suggestions for their future are always welcome.

Also, I have added a Twitter account to my list of things to worry about.  If you wish to follow me please use the link on the left… is it on the left?  Yeah, there it is, right there on the left… the little orange bird.  Yup, that’s it.

I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo and I’m really nervous about that.  My chosen novel is actually based on my last post Smashing Pumpkins.  I wasn’t going to get officially involved this year but the Word Sprints sucked me in.  Having spotted a reference to them on Twitter my curiosity got the better of me and I jumped into the site with both feet.  I will be posting my progress along with excerpts as I go.  If anyone else is participating and would like to join me as a Buddy on the NaNoWriMo site feel free to look me up under the name Ian Nox.  My schedule is a bit off since I work my day job at night (3rd shift) but I would welcome the company.  Naturally this may effect my weekly blog schedule as far as the short stories go but I will do the best I can to keep things coming.

I wish you all a very productive month.  See you on the other side!