Snippet #19

One hundred and twenty seconds on the timer.  It would be fast.

    Outside my window I could see the neighbor’s kids drawing pictures on the sidewalk with pink and yellow chalk.  The pictures were always the same, ugly flowers with awkward centers.  A concrete garden that only got better when you watered it and washed it away.

    Starting the timer, I stood there and watched the numbers roll down.  Two, short, quick minutes.

The Hot Pocket was wonderful. 

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Reflections – Part One of Two

“Mr. Jones?”

The man’s shoulders were slumped and rolled forward, his neck appearing bowed under the heavy weight of his own head.  His brown, linen jacket seemed worn and overdue for a wash while his denim jeans looked comfortable, loose enough in the waist at least for him to bend fully forward without stress on his stomach.  Brown work boots covered his feet, the thin, black soles heavily scarred from wear.  

Master thought if he were passing this man sitting like this at a bus stop, he would have judged him to be in his mid fifties.  The streaks of gray through his stylishly cut, light brown hair looked to be the result of age, not stress.  There was a difference.

Looking up, the man’s pale, blue eyes skimmed nervously across Master’s dark brown ones and he nodded.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

Not moving from the sofa, the man looked back at the floor and tightened his hands, the laced fingers clinging together almost like he was resisting an invisible force trying to pull them apart.  

Master held himself motionless. The information form on the clipboard stated that Mr. Jones was thirty-three.  Was it possible?  Could he really be that young, or had he simply made a mistake when he was writing?  Shifting his vision ever so slightly, he was not surprised to see a murky, brown aura surrounding him.  

“Would you like to come with me, Mr. Jones?”  Breathing out slowly, Master used his stomach muscles to fill his lungs.  The surface of his skin tingled with anticipation.  

Slowly pulling his hands apart like they were sticky, Mr. Jones placed his palms on the sofa on either side of his thighs and pressed down, his breath whistling through his sinuses as he strained to stand upright.  His right hand came forward in the air, an attempt to balance himself as his legs and feet became burdened with the weight of his torso.  For a single heartbeat he was frozen in time, every muscle in his body taut with the stress of being between positions.  Then his weight slowly settled forward.  His spine relaxed as his feet found their place.

Letting his breath out again Master pressed one hand flat against the frame of the door behind him.  He hadn’t realized he had been holding his air.  Taking a half-step to the left, he made room for Mr. Jones to slowly pass him by.  The man’s presence felt heavy as it brushed against his own.

“Go ahead and have a seat on the table, Mr. Jones.”  It was a standard request.  

There was a short, mobile step on the floor positioned to assist with the ascent.  Moving slowly toward the step, the arch of his neck deepening as the brown, diagonal pattern of the carpet flowed beneath his feet, Mr. Jones made his way to the step.

“Is the lighting too bright for you, sir?  I see you are squinting.”

“Um, no, it’s not the light, thank you.  The mirrors…”  Pausing at the step, Mr. Jones turned his head away from the row of low hung reflectors strung across the three, frosted window panes.  His face scrunched uncomfortably.

“The discs?”  The back of Master’s neck prickled a warning, his small hairs rising.

“Yes.  They hurt my eyes.”

Each octagonal disc was tied securely to an eyelet screwed into the wooden frame of  the window.  Master could easily snip the strings and remove them, but the rehanging would a project.  Every string was measured to a specific length and tied with a unique knot different from its mates.  In combination, the strings, knots and reflective surfaces worked together to provide a specific form of protection for the work room.

“If you are pleased with our progress today and wish to return, I can make arrangements to cover them for you in the future.”

Sighing deeply, Mr. Jones seemed to wilt inside his clothing like a discouraged flower realizing its water had completely run out.

“No bother,” he muttered and placed a hand on the table while he carefully lifted his right foot onto the step, using his free hand to help by pulling on his pants.  “I get used to things faster than most, I guess.”  A groan pushed between his lips as he leaned onto the step.  His left foot rose a mere inch off the floor before settling back down.

Watching the man move with all the starts and stops of someone twice the age of what was listed on his form, Master stepped a bit closer and held out his muscular forearm for assistance.

Eyes widening slightly at the offer, Mr. Jones stared at Master for a second, his watery eyes searching into the clear, sharp brown ones.  Then he nodded and moved his hand from the table, laying it firmly on Master’s forearm.

Surprise blossomed in Master’s chest at the strength in Mr. Jones’ grip.  The narrow hand wrapped all the way around his radius and ulna, the fingers overlapping as they came together on the other side.  At five feet and eleven inches, Master knew he wasn’t as large as they came, but he wasn’t small and he worked regularly at developing the strength in his forearms and wrists.  Squeezing him tightly, Mr. Jones again leaned onto the step, pushing down hard on his arm as the weight of his body rose onto his right foot.

Stiffening his neck, back and abdominal muscles Master pushed back, forcing his arm upward beneath the choking hand.  Mr. Jones’ left foot came off the floor and settled on the step beside his right.  The weight on Master’s arm remained the same.

“Yes, you are a strong one.”  Giving a powerful squeeze, Mr. Jones released his hold and braced himself against the table with both hands, turning slowly around on the small step.  “Quite strong enough,” he breathed.

The impression on his forearm looked deep enough to bruise.  Master watched his blood rush to fill the dents while his spine rippled in alarm.

Monologue #21

I wrote this piece while I was at work last night.  Evidently my sleep deprived brain thought that was close enough.  When I got home, I ate, watched an episode of Criminal Minds and went to sleep without scheduling the post.

My goal of getting my chapters in order by the end of June did not get met.  From the look of things, I may not be finished until the end of July, maybe the middle of August.  I’m not real torn up about it.  I’ve made huge progress and learned a lot about how to do this.  My largest lesson has been about organization.

When I started this last November during NaNoWriMo I was really in the dark about how to go about things.  I had index cards scattered across my coffee table and multiple files on my computer about all my characters.  My brain refused to cooperate with the idea of structure so I was just typing out every possible scene for each character as fast as I could.  Now that I’m about halfway through piecing my chapters together in a form that makes sense, I can see that I needed to structure myself a lot sooner.

Last week I bought a little program called NewNovelist that cost me about $30.  I was eyeing Scrivener too, which was only $10 more and seems to be the favorite of authors everywhere.  This late in the game I was really interested in getting myself more organized than giving myself a learning headache, so I went with NewNovelist.  It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it.  Once I got my notes, characters, places and chapters ported over from Google Docs, I was pretty pleased with myself.  Everything is now right at my fingertips.  Some of the information the program gives me is nothing but gibberish to my eyes but the ability to have all my resources just a mouse click away without having to open multiple browser windows is really nice.  I may have another look at Scrivener for the next book though.  It offers some customization that I currently don’t have.

The other big lesson I learned this month is about timelines.  Flying by the seat of my pants with that has not been effective.  As it turns out, my lead character is moving along much slower than everyone else.  I need to go back and bring him up to speed in order to get all my events flowing smoothly and in the correct order.  Had I bothered with an outline (something I hate) I probably would have spotted that problem right away and corrected it.  This doesn’t mean I’ll be outlining in the future but I will definitely be paying closer attention to the timeline.

Happy, productive writing everyone.  I wish you all the best!

Snippet #18

The sun was already reaching its zenith for the day.  In a couple more hours, dusk would creep in, spreading a soft, Autumn glow over the canal.  Sunset was always his favorite time of day down here.  

Sitting on the pale, recycled, resin bench, legs spread wide and arms thrown open across the back rest to discourage people from trying to sit with him, Carl watched the fat boy with his too long, red hair struggle with his catch.  He had managed to land fourteen fish in a little over an hour.  That had to be some sort of record.  As many times as he and JC had fished this area when they were boys, neither of them could boast of having caught fourteen in such a short time.  It looked like catching them was only half the battle though.  This kid was really working to get those fish home without losing anything.

Half-filled with water and bullheads, the blue bucket was too heavy.  Alternating between dragging it a few inches, then trying to lift it while not losing the fishing pole clenched under his arm or the small gray tackle box balanced on the lid just under the handle, he battled his way along the path toward home.

Spotting the uniformed officer walking leisurely toward the him from the opposite direction, he thought this might be a battle the kid was going to lose.  Shifting slightly to ease the growing numbness in his butt, he crossed one leg over a knee and waited.  From his vantage point on the other side of the canal, he would have a clear view.

Your Destination Is On Your Right

“Turn left onto Oakfield Burns Avenue and continue for four miles.”

The distinctly female voice seemed almost snarky to Jim as he flipped on his turn signal and slowed for the light.  Oakfield Burns Avenue looked like a country road to nowhere.  Even in the fading evening light, he could see the spot up ahead where the asphalt stopped and it was just a dirt and gravel road after that.  After making the turn, he pulled onto the shoulder and shifted into park.

“Maybe I typed the wrong address,” he muttered, picking up his phone and expanding the map screen with his thumb and forefinger.  The streets zoomed up, names and places becoming clearer.  He stared at the map in confusion.  Oakfield Burns came to a dead end at Oakfield Cemetery.

“What the hell?”  

The location icon was on, he could see it at the top of phone’s screen.  What was wrong with the GPS?  He paged back through the screens to the starting point and retyped the address he wanted.  It only took a few seconds for the app to process his location and show him his route.  He pressed the navigate symbol and listened for the instruction.

“Continue on Oakfield Burns Avenue for four miles.”

Gripping the smartphone a little tighter he gritted his teeth as a sudden shiver went through his shoulders.

“This is crazy.”

“Continue on Oakfield Burns Avenue for four miles.  Your destination will be on your right.”

This time he was positive the voice sounded snarky.  Who programmed these things anyway?  He tossed the phone on the passenger seat and pressed on the brake pedal as he shifted into drive.  There was a gas station back about a quarter mile.  Maybe he could buy an actual map?

“Continue on Oakfield Burns Avenue for four miles.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”  He executed a perfect u-turn into the next lane and accelerated.

“Make a u-turn onto Oakfield Burns Avenue west and continue for four miles.”

“Oh Christ, that’s enough from you!”

Slamming on the brake, he grabbed the phone and exited out of the useless GPS app.  Once the screen was dark, he tossed it back onto the passenger seat, face down.  Grabbing the steering wheel with both hands he let go of the brake and pressed the accelerator again.

“Make a u-turn onto Oakfield Burns Avenue west and continue for four miles, Jim.”  Bitter, demanding and louder than was reasonably possible, the electronic, female voice filled the car.

His foot stamped on the brake pedal in shock as a flurry of goosebumps spread down his arms.  From the corner of his eye he could see the phone still on the seat, face down, just as he had placed it.

“Turn around, Jim.”

Another shivered rolled through him, this time along his spine.  Pressing his lips tightly together he made the u-turn and accelerated along the road, wincing slightly as his back tires skidded coming off the asphalt onto hard packed dirt.

“Continue on Oakfield Burns Avenue for four miles.”

“I know!”

“Your destination will be on your right.”

Holding the steering wheel with both hands as the car rocketed along, spinning gravel and rocks from beneath the tires, he refused to look at his phone the entire four miles.  Cresting a small rise, he saw the Oakfield Cemetery fan out below, the main entry gate directly across the road.

“Your destination is on your right.”

Slowing for the gate, he looked to the right.  A large, broken piece of statuary guarded the entrance.  It looked to be what was left of a once, white, angelic being heralding the way to eternal rest.  He stopped the car, his front bumper barely crossing the invisible threshold.

Pressing the button to roll down the passenger window, he grabbed the phone and hurled it at the statue.  A nasty smile spread over his face as heard the screen break.

“You have arrived at your destination,” he screamed!

Shoving the car into reverse he blasted away from the cemetery.

Monologue #20

This week has been one I would like to forget.  A few days ago my entire department descended into chaos and still hasn’t straightened itself out.  The company hired a new Big Guy who has been making changes that a lot of us are not comfortable with.  I’m sure most people like to believe they have a certain value within the company they work for, and to find out that value exists only in their heads can be ground shaking.  Well, that’s where I’m at.  My ground has been shook.  Once the dust settles, I hope to find myself in a slightly improved position with my day to day functions, but it has been an experience I do not wish to repeat.  The value I believed I had has been shown to be zero, a non-number with a value only as a place holder.  I am a body in a spot.  A different body can be put in my spot.  Eight years of service along with my twenty-three years of experience means nothing.

My dad had the ability to walk away from things without looking back.  I’m pretty sure he developed this ability after multiple encounters with disappointment.  Self-loathing is a terrible feeling.  To hang onto something or someone so fiercely that you compromise your own values simply because change is terrible, leaves you with questions about yourself you might not want to know the answers to.  I may not be as skilled as my dad was at saving my soul and walking away, but I certainly understand why it is necessary for me, as a person to cultivate this skill.

A job is a job.  Unfortunately I can’t replace this one with one of equal or greater financial value without ripping apart the life I have built.  I can only walk away so far.  When the dust truly settles I will be on a new shift working with people I barely remember.  This not a bad thing, it’s just different from what I’m used to.  It’s change.

Have a good week everyone.  Make like trees and bend in the storms.

I Know Your Face!

The sign on the door read: Laundry Thief!  5’ 4”, brown hair, hiding under the stairs.  I know your face!

Um, okay.  The stairs leading to the basement of my apartment building, a.k.a the laundry room, are actually quite open and non-threatening.  Aside from knowing there are twenty-nine of them, I’m not too bothered by the climb.  The picture below is not the actual stairs, but it gives you a good idea of how a saw them.   See all the light?

safeStairs

 Thanks to that sign, written in brown marker, and taped to the inside of the main entry door, I now have to go to the laundromat.  

notSafe