Monthly Archives: March 2013

Administrivia – Category Changes

I’ve added two new categories, Short Story and Poetry.

This should disambiguate them from stuff about Writing, the writing process, the writing business, and my general travails about writing in general, which I had been categorizing those posts in.

 

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Tock Tick – A Poem

Let the shattered pieces drop
One by one
Making a bed
Choice by choice
Day by day
Now’s it’s almost too late
To heal the cuts
Because I’ve bled
And bled
And bled
And asked you to stop
And stop
You light another bowl
Drink another drink
In the silence of my shouting
In the roar of my closing despair
In the tranquility of my anger
Will you hear the last time I ask
Will you hear
Will you

I am close to empty
Except for tears that spill
From every puff
From every bottle
From every choice that shows me
What you value
Above me
I still beat for you
In gloaming sadness
Rent and cleaved and stung
Slower and slower
Turning to stone
Until I bleed no more
Pull my heart out
Stand again
Cast about
Make a plan
Move on
Try again

Here is the fear
Here
Come
Embrace it
Caress it
Learn from it
I will hold your hand
Hold you
Listen
Talk
Watch
Protect
Laugh
Laugh grayly with you
At silly shadows of the past
Your choice
You and me
Or us

Tock tick
Tock tick
Wind or walk
Wind or walk

Tock Tick
Your chocie

Tock
Your

Tick
Choice

Before it’s twice a day

Push Harder – A Short Story

“Heave to, you wretches! Heave!” Anthar cracked the whip for additional incentive. “Barnacales move faster than you lot!”

Barmom picked up his tempo on the drum. Oars creaked and men moaned. The sea silently swallowed the snow.

Captain Årnot watched from the stern while leaning into the tiller.

“Faster,” he told Barmom.

The booming, already fast, increased to almost match the cadence of the rolling thunder that made the boat tremble at times.

Anthar turned astern and stared at the captain. Captain Årnot nodded once to him, and he cracked his whip in response as he approached.

“Heave!” he roared as he walked the aisle, “Heave you dogs!”

Standing before his master he whispered, “Captain, they can’t go on like this much longer. They’re almost spent.”

Årnot fixed him with a blue, steely gaze. “If we don’t push them harder, we are all lost.”

Anthar grimaced before turning back to his task.

He cracked the whip again. “By Éthær’s Cloak, heave to if you ever want to stop! I’ll feed the first of you that falters to Øvaarg!”

It snowed harder.

Crash – A Short Story

A 1969 Pontiac Ventura station wagon with over 135,000 miles on the odometer, shot shocks, and shitty brakes really has no business on the road anymore, and I knew it. But I still pushed it.

I went faster and faster, feeling immortal as the balding tires hummed away, wearing away rubber as I floated along in butteryfly jerks between the asphalt ruts. Days and months went by like this in carefree juants.

I should have known the end was near. All the signs were there but I ignored them. At first it was an intermittent, inaudible, high-frequency throb that would last no longer than half a second. The steering wheel would briefly tremble in my suddenly white knuckled hands like a frightened child before returning to its normal languorous drift from side to side.

Once I thought I heard a clunk but I wasn’t sure if I had run over something, and I never heard the sound again, so the thought of it fell behind me like so many miles.

Later, it was the basso chafing sound for a few miles that stopped as abrubtly as it started.

But right before the crash, oh! I knew something was terribly wrong from the sound. It began as a metallic warble that matched pitch with my speed. Puzzled, I would slow down and speed up, oblivious to the end I was coming to. Just as I was ready to pull over and check, it stopped.

Unnerved, I still slowed down, but as the seconds turned to a quarter mile, then a half, then a mile, then two miles, I stupidly attributed it to a loose belt and brought the car back up to 80 MPH.

Right before the end, the warble returned, was replaced by a squeal, and then it was over.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 3

“This must be what BASE jumping is like,” I think to myself as we plunge down the karst carbonate throat of a former cenote, “without the parachute.”

The harrowing ride had begun innocuously enough in a flooded soccer field after the shuttle lifted away. The backwash from the turbines created a water depression around the ascending craft’s landing gear, which added even more humidity to the already saturated air and forced a wave of muddy water to lift the stacked luggage off its platform and briefly become surfing flotsam.

The sun beat down furiously and I began to think that I should never have left the air-conditioned shuttle and just returned to orbit.

Mauro wrangled the muddy bags onto the flatboat and the four of us climbed aboard. At least, Mauro called it a flatboat, but it was really just a giant banana palm leaf laid on a flexible gravipeller frame. It was roughly two meters wide, two and three quarters long, and had no seats or gunwales.

Nonetheless, I still grabbed an edge and rolled it into my hand, mostly out of instinct, even though I knew that there would always be a steady one G keeping my ass rooted to the leaf, no matter our orientation.

The other two passengers looked like traveling pharmaceutical saleswomen. They both wore the same bright yellow, crisply pressed skirt suit with white decolletage blouses, and totally useless footwear for this planet: matching three-inch yellow pumps. I shook my head at the absurdity of it and amused myself by imagining them with matching pom-poms these clearly former cheerleaders used to shake.

Mauro stroked petiole veins in front of where she was sitting, and we floated gently into the sky before accelerating rapidly. The wind whipped my face, and I turned to look at this world go by. Moving away from the landing field, we headed towards the local town. Glinting in the closing distance were its huddled masses of buildings encircling a towering mountain’s base. They looked like a child’s haphazardly stacked blocks holding back and separating the cascade of green foliage spilling down the flanks from the muddy brown shoulder of the the river.

The town came into view, and as we flew by I saw that the apartments had been built in clusters of five. Two on either side of a gated courtyard and three to the rear. Each cluster came with its own caged, zig-zagging stairway that led up or down to the next level’s courtyard, all made of metal grates welded to structural pipes that likely served double-duty for water and sewage. The top ranks had landing platforms while the lower levels had stairs that went down into the muck.

Each cluster was its own gated community, and I saw people scurrying up and down stairs while leaves, doors, plastic sheeting, carriages, and even canoes attached to gravipellers flitted in, out, up, down and around the platforms like a semi-orchestrated hurricane.

I was agog that we didn’t witness or participate in a mid-air collision.

Every apartment looked to be the same architecture; about three meters wide, eight meters deep, and two stories high, with anodized, rectangular aluminum window frames in a rainbow of colors holding transparent, semi-transparent and opaque panes of varying hues.

We accelerated to upwards of 200 klicks, and the effect of zipping past the buildings was a dizzying kaleidoscope of blocked color and reflected light that just about induced an epileptic seizure in me.

We followed the shoulder of the mountain into a dense, green valley until the town petered out behind us, leaving us to surf over and gaze at the canopy as it flew by. Mauro knew the local fauna well, for she would occasionally slow down somewhat and swerve to the side, flushing out flocks of parrots that were roosting and sending them skyward, or plunge down to clearings in the understory and stampede tapirs into denser cover. Me and the other two tourists recorded these encounters with our resmems.

I admired Mauro’s piloting skills. If she had grown up somewhere populated, she likely would have been able to get into the Academy on her skills alone and ended up skimming galaxies instead of treetops. Some of her moves alarmed the saleswomen, but I could see her in full flow mode, consciously and unconsciously dancing with what the world put before her and I felt reasonably safe.

Eventually, she settled into following the undulations of the trees. This fractal rhythm went on for about half an hour and I had been close to being lulled asleep, so I wasn’t paying very close attention to our surroundings when she suddenly pulled a huge loop-de-loop and disengaged the gravipeller at the vertex while simultaneously turning up the G field to what felt like three. This clamped us to the leaf and put us into a seemingly terminal, parabolic arc.

Your gut knows when you’re falling. Our brachiating heritage wired our brains to be very attentive to free fall. But our heritage is worth squat when two gravitational fields intersect somewhere around our knees, each pulling in different directions. The instinct is to reach down and grab hold, but when there are two downs, the brain short-circuits, leaving you paralyzed.

I helplessly watched us head towards a ridge of treetops that would be our end.

Screams erupted from behind me and I could sense movement behind me towards Mauro, but I knew it was useless.

In the time it took for me to realize and accept that I was going to die after plunging to the jungle floor in a tangled mass of branches, flesh, and leaves, and have my carcass consumed by scavengers with more legs than IQ points, I spied a black opening in the canopy that we seemed to be falling toward, and my predicted demise shifted to being cratered into the damp understory. But to my everlasting surprise, we ruffled the leaves fringing the dark hole, and then we plunged down into the gullet of the empty cenote.

Mauro’s wicked laughter was torn away by the wind buffeting us, so only her highest frequencies carried across the leaf. She sounded like the shrieking madwoman she was. The other passengers struggled against the G force but it was all they could do to gasp terrified breaths.

Despite myself, I laughed as well. While I didn’t agree with Mauro’s dangerous trick, I admired her skills and thought about how many other off-worlders she had scared with this little piloting trick. She caught my mirthful eye and winked as she touched the controls again, this time to re-engage the gravipeller and reduce the G field to about three-quarters.

This had the effect of dramatically slowing our descent and creating the disorientating feeling like we were now floating upwards. I glanced at the women, and they looked like they were going to be sick. I chuckled and wondered how the rest of their day was going to go. Hopefully they had some anti-nausea medicine in their bags.

The expected angry tirade began after they caught their breath and stomachs, and frankly, I didn’t blame them. One of these days, Mauro was going to be a bit off, and there’d be one less taxi in the fleet and reams of paperwork to do at multiple insurance offices. I decided to save my breath for a chat with the local recruiting office. We could use more pilots like her.

Goldfish – A Short Story

The fish rise to the surface and eagerly suck down the floating pellets with mouths agape, greedily inhaling food and air before disappearing with a splash.

I hate doing this. I’ve hated doing this for the three years I’ve been visiting the lake. But promises must be kept.

I visit for you, to keep your ghost at bay. You loved these fish. I can still hear your happy laugh from when you used to throw handfuls of food into the water and incite the school into a golden rush.

Soon I will stop coming. It’s been almost six months since you died and I’m finally almost out of fish food.

No more will I have to give my pocket change to Gary, the homeless former bus driver who sleeps in the bushes and bathes in the lake. No more nodding and smiling to Sheriff Donaldson, who occasionally teases me about needing a permit to feed the fish. No more kids begging and jostling me for a handful to throw. No more cold, expressionless faces leering at me and disappearing in a flash. No more you.

No more you — it’s hard to believe. We had so many happy days before the angry ones. Holding hands, making plans and sweet nothings.

Then our hands fell away and we didn’t want to touch each other. Then the plans came undone. And finally, in the end, there was nothing.

Then that nothing turned into something horrible. Neither one of us could let go, and we both choked our relationship with a death grip while trying to hang on for dear life. Then a life was suddenly gone. Yours.

I knew how much you loved these fish when you made me promise to help take care of them. You knew how much I didn’t like it, but you still asked.

“Together, or not at all,” I replied.

“It’s a deal!” you agreed.

I look around and spot a fisherman landing one of the carp. Thrashing in his net, he quickly dispatches it with a club before unhooking it and placing it in a bucket with others. It looked bronze out of the water.

So here I am. Almost done. Almost done with you.

I throw another handful into the melee, let the snot-nosed kids fling some in, tip my cap with a smile to Sheriff Donaldson on the way to my car, and calculate how much pocket change I have for Gary.

Oh! – A Photograph

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