Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category


On being a river.

September 17, 2018

I could see, even from far off, she has water for skin. At first glance it looks placid, still. But then I notice the movement. As though a noiseless train was passing by, the light flickering across her body. In this often dark world, she is a source of light, though it isn’t so much light as absence of darkness.
There is a way water can trick one into thinking it’s safe, when it hides depths that would drown you, keep you there with it, without a second thought.

I want to drown in her. To lose myself in her fathomless eyes. To understand what sort of creature she is, even if it means I’ll be unable to share that revelation with anyone but the picked clean bones of those who had sank before me, been absorbed, lost. And perhaps found?
There is nothing about her that threatens. There is no need to be warned. It just is.
I think of every myth surrounding sirens and selkies, mermaids and manatees – I consider that on some level it’s possible my knowledge of tides and the deeps might ultimately save my life, wretched and small as it is, but I know that is folly. I am but a speck. It’s not even that I’m unworthy of consideration, it’s more that she is so vast.

She lay waiting, her body rippling with shoals under a bright moon. I long to skim her surface, to feel the gentle sucking of her tide. It wouldn’t take much to commit myself fully to her depths. All my life I’ve wanted to be part of something greater, grander than myself. Here is my opportunity, so why do I hesitate?
I’ve grown accustomed to the surface, the shallow places where thoughts can meander in eddies that serve to reinforce a narrative that suggests progress, even when there is little. I give little consideration to what is happening below as I traverse my world. Nothing holds my attention for long, I carry only the mildest of awareness of anything beyond what I can readily see. I say that I want to know more, it is most certainly these thoughts that have drawn me to her. She will beckon, encourage, her song familiar, but I must find my own way, and I find myself afraid of what might be lost.

I sense more than see, the shifting, as though sun from behind clouds that move too quickly to track. A mottling of sorts, her flesh suggests impatience, though her features are serene. I am past the point of no return, even as I wind my way home. My journey at an end and simultaneously a beginning, I open my mouth, and breath in the sea.


‘most creative keyword research project I’ve seen in a while’

September 6, 2018

“Tell me again how this works?”

The steady clickity sounds emanating from the laptop paused, followed by a telltale squeak of chair, as she twisted to face me. She tilted her head to the side, as though she was listening for something, or perhaps accessing files in some internal server.

“To be honest, I’m not sure that it does work, or rather, will work. This is all very experimental. But basically it’s this. I ask for writing prompts from friends. Some are writers, some not, some know each other, some not. There are certainly some interpersonal connections that might skew the experiment a bit, but since I’ve established no real control, no base line beyond limited parameters of wordcount and subject matter, there is a good possibility we could end up anywhere.”

“Right, I know what it is you’re doing. What I don’t understand is what you hope to achieve with the exercise.”

“The exercise is enough, of itself. I was stuck. I’d not written anything for over a month and was starting to go batty. It happens subtly. It’s likely no one would notice because I don’t spend enough time with anyone on a regular basis for them to notice the twitches, the ticks, the irrational thoughts and behaviour. And sitting myself down and having a talk with myself, you’re going to write blah blah every day for the next week, does nothing because those same people I’m not spending time with aren’t around to keep me honest. And I will make any excuse to get out of the work, and know that I’ll buy it because I struggle with holding myself accountable, and my self knows that!”

“But if you involve other people…”

“Then I’m accountable! It’s the same principle where someone might go out of their way to help others, but struggle with asking for help themselves. I tend not to put myself in the same category of worthiness as I do my friends and loved ones. Which is insane because the very fact that people who are amazing call me friend should be enough justification to consider myself worthy of their, and by extension, my, affection.”

“Okay, that’s all fine. So you weren’t writing, and that makes you a bit batty. So where does the exercise finish and the experiment begin?”

“That’s rather tenuous as I’m not really sure there is an experiment per se. I’ve discovered I do rather well with some semblance of structure. When given a prompt, I’m always curious to see where I’ll go with it. For instance, when prompted to write about deceit, I ended up writing a poem about trickster gods and the benefits of deception. I didn’t see it coming and it was awesome! Okay, here’s something. Say I decide I want to write about x. It’s totally reasonable to imagine the places that original writing might take me, the further writings it might inspire. If I get random prompts from all different people, I have no idea where my inspiration will not only come from, but where it will go next! It’s terribly exciting.”

“And so what is your hypothesis of what might happen as a result of the exercise? Beyond perpetuating a daily dalliance with the muse, to keep yourself from going batty?”

“Well, I’m thinking there is a possibility that if I keep getting prompts from friends and loved ones and perhaps even beyond my cozy and beloved social circle, eventually I’ll discover I’ve randomly solved the mystery!”

“What mystery?”

“If I knew that, it wouldn’t need solving, would it?”

“Ooookay. And what makes you think a) the mystery exists, b) that it wants to be solved and, c) that stumbling across the answer randomly is how you’ll do it?”

“A) there are all kinds of mysteries we know about and haven’t been able to solve. Imagine how many there are we don’t know about because we’re so concerned with looking directly at them. B) That’s like asking whether or not a puzzle wants to be put together. Obviously it does. Why else would it be in so many pieces? And c) it seemed to work for Dirk Gently.”

“Dirk Gently.”

“Yes, do you know him?”

“If you mean the fictional character created by Douglas Adams who ran a holistic detective agency, yes. Yes, I do. You’ve based your theory of random mystery solving through writing prompts on a character from a work of fiction.”

“He solved the mystery every time, regardless of the fact that he was a fictional character. That’s more competent than many people who consider themselves to be “based in reality”. I don’t see the issue.”

“Alright. Cool. Um… what’s the next one then?” She turned back to the laptop and peered at it, scrolling a bit before lifting her head.

“Ooh! It’s ‘on being a river’, diary entries from a waterway! I’m excited about this one. I wonder which waterway it will be. Perhaps the river from the wind in the willows! I bet that one has lots of good stories.”

“Right. Well, I’ll leave you to it then. I’ll say this, it is the most creative keyword research project I’ve seen in a while.”


Sugar, 1000 words, YA fiction

September 5, 2018

His kisses taste bittersweet.

I watch him pour the white crystals onto the spoon hovering over the coffee, his technique such that none might escape their fate. Three heaping spoonfuls in every cup. I tease him sometimes about his future career as a diabetic, and he smiles, that toothy grin that makes me want to reach over, brush away the hair that had flopped in front of his eyes, and kiss him every time.
I can taste an undercurrent of tobacco and overtones of fruit along with a slightly burnt sweetened coffee echo of the hours we’d sat here, waiting out the rain accompanied by bottomless refills. Not that we have anywhere to be. Our town doesn’t have much to offer young people who aren’t interested in sports, we’ve already seen the movie that will be showing until next thursday, and since neither of us have a car to go and park like proper teenagers, the truck stop on the edge of town is where we inevitably end up.

I could almost feel the force of the indignation Iris gifts our arrival with, likely dismayed that we’ll not order much more than coffee and fries, and definitely not leave enough of a tip to justify our presence in her world.

It seems her world is one of people passing through. Truckers and transporters jovial and blatant in their harmless flirtation. Tourist families that sit close together in a booth at the back, grateful to be free of the car for a brief instant because it means the backseat bickering will abate for the duration of their meal. I wondered sometimes if Iris had a family of her own. Tried to imagine the wrong shade of pink thin lipped smile she never showed us bestowed on a husband, children.

I was in the middle of picturing a scene where she steps up to the dinner table to take her family’s order when he collapses in a gangly tangle of limbs and rainsoaked cotton next to me. He pushes the hood away from his face, his fingers carrying the acrid scent of the cigarette he’d just smoked through his soft blue black hair.

I tried to dye mine to match, but the blue black just turned it a dark mildew. He tried to be supportive, telling me how punk rock it looked, but he is a terrible liar. My mom shrieked her dismay in more or less the same tone and pitch she shrieks her excitement whenever my sister brings home yet another A. She’s learned to be satisfied with my C+ average, knowing that my plan is to drop out and run off to New York City to be an artist on my 18th birthday anyhow. She stopped sneakily stashing university pamphlets in my room when I was 13, after I started using them to make origami and leaving them in her purse. My sister says she’ll be sad when I’m gone, but I know that she doesn’t really care, it’s just what she’s supposed to say.

He pulls his phone from his pocket, laying it face down on the table before shrugging off his hoodie, using his teeth on the frayed cuffs to more easily slide his arms free. Hanging it to dry on the chair across from him, he throws a glancing smile at me, but it feels obligatory, and doesn’t reach his eyes.
I look at his phone, an unspoken question heavy in my mouth, reminding me of the time he poured an entire packet of sugar on my tongue and my tastebuds felt burned by the sweetness. Then, as now, I find it difficult to swallow, the sugar dissolving at a rate that made spitting it out unreasonable. If I say nothing, will the suspicion dissolve over time? Or will it stay in my guts, fed by insecurity, growing impossibly larger until eventually I choke on it?

I turned and look out the window, but there are no answers in the thick gray sky beyond the glass. I thought it funny how the bleakness of the rain soaked world somehow makes everything brighter by juxtaposition. A little girl’s shiny yellow slicker, the blue of a passing car, the red of the hawthorn berries growing in the abandoned lot across the highway.
I seem to recall hawthorn berries being bitter, but perfect for jam. Perhaps that’s just the way of the world. For every moment of happiness, there needs to crowd in a sense of despair to make sure that everything stays balanced.
I wonder what the weather is like in New York right now.

His phone starts to buzz, moving across the table anxiously until he grabs it and glances at the screen. He’s tilting it at an angle that makes it impossible for me to see who is calling without leaning over awkwardly. He jumps up and is heading out the door without his sweater, into the rain, finger swiping acceptance. The furrow between his eyes alarms me.

Iris sidles over to the table, refills our cups, the black liquid swirling dangerously close to overfull, her practiced hand tilting at the last moment. She stands there, until I look up at her.

“You’re nearly 18? Due to graduate this year?”

I don’t bother to explain my plan to leave before that happens, nodding instead. It seems simpler.

“My daughter would be 18 this year too. She was a joyful little thing. You remind me of her, when you smile. Every time you walk in here, it hurts my heart just a little bit. I’m glad you’re seeing it through, so many people opt out. Your mother must be proud.”

She turns away, her orthopaedic shoes squeaking on the linoleum. Before I have a chance to fully register her words, he comes back in and drops heavily onto the chair beside me, phone clutched tight in his hand, face pale. I’m wondering if he overheard what she said, but no.

“That was my doctor. I have diabetes.”


20+ texts, gaining intensity, written as haikus

September 4, 2018

I hope you don’t mind
I felt compelled to write you
Your words moved me so.

What a compliment
I find your voice beautiful
So much more than mine.

Oh honey. You’re just ..
It’s like you speak directly ..
You make my soul ache.

That recognition?
When two souls meet, and just know?
I’d given up hope.

Hope is for suckers.
I’ve been telling myself that
For so so long now.

Ha! Me too. The same.
I’ve become so embittered.
Tastes better than pain

You bleed beautifully.
The way your words soak the page,
I could drown, smiling.

Oh, you flatter me.
You write so exquisitely
Even here, in haiku.

Because I’m inspired.
Oh love, you really don’t know?
Before you, nonsense.

And now? Violence.
As though my bones cracked open
To make space for love.

That’s exactly it
As though everything brightened
I couldn’t go back

But what can we do?
Is forward an option here?
I mean, together.

We don’t get to choose.
Who we love, is who we love.
How we react, well…

It’s been far too long
Since I’ve felt scared of something,
Something I wanted

We’ve hidden ourselves
In plain sight, in normalcy
Passionless, afraid

So, let’s say we do
I wouldn’t know where to start
There are no breadcrumbs

I think it’s begun
Here, in this space between us
We’ll forge a new trail

But what will they say?
How will we explain ourselves
To husbands, children

If you love someone
You want them to be happy
They will understand

I hope that you’re right
If we decide to do this
There’s no going back

It’s going to be hard
But it feels like the right thing
Or is it just me?

No. It’s really not
It’s as though I’ve been asleep
Except you’re the dream

Well, perhaps it’s time
To stop sleepwalking through life
And wake the fuck up.

Is it so easy?
We just decide, and then act?
Is it so simple?

That’s love. On one side,
it really is that easy.
But it’s messy too.

Good thing we’re poets
Without messy emotions
What would inspire us?

Then let’s make a mess.
I can’t imagine saying
Anything but yes

My yes is tangled
Caught in a throat too long closed
But I need you. Yes. 


“The worst castles” – 500-1000 words in the style of Raymond Carver

August 30, 2018

The wind whipped across the dunes, as though it knew there were better places to be. It brushed sand up against the clapboard houses, mostly silent now, summer having been bundled up and tucked into a back closet until next year.
The woman clutched at her skirt, holding it tight against legs that had made men whistle low and long, a more menacing wind than the one that currently buffeted. She used the other hand to shade the late September sun, peering at the small figure down the beach. He was like an ant, both in size because of the distance, and his industrious movements. She knew just what he was doing. It was the same as he’d done nearly every day since they fled the city, the rattling grey Studebaker an overstuffed fish swimming against the tide of vacationers fleeing the advancing line of Autumn.

The day they’d arrived, he’d said nothing, so she filled the air with busyness to distract from the ghosts that had made themselves at home in eyes too ancient for a seven year old. She put away groceries and chattered about how kind the landlady was, to reopen this cottage for them, and wouldn’t it be fun to be on vacation when all the other children had to be in school? At this he turned and said, “It’s okay, mama.” She bit into her bottom lip to keep from crying at that, red lipstick staining straight white teeth. It reminded him of how she’d looked before they’d left, and he ran to her, wrapping his arms around her hips. It felt as though he was trying to hold her on the earth, terrified if he let go she might drift away. She rested her hands on his head and then he was gone, screen door slamming against the wall, the thunder of his footsteps swallowed by sand. She didn’t bother to call. The wind would have none of it.

Every morning when the boy woke up, the ocean had disappeared. It was a marvel how something so massive could just not be there anymore. It would come back. No matter how far away something seemed to go, it would always come back. He had learned that. He had learned that it was important to enjoy the times inbetween. The times when it was quiet and she smiled easily, and nothing was broken. And so every morning, he got up and washed his face, rubbing it clean of sleep and nightmares. He took an apple from the bowl on the table and tucked it in the pocket of his jacket. Then he poured a glass of milk, drank it as fast as the breathlessness of youth would allow, and set the glass in the sink so his mama would know he was up. He opened the door quietly, letting it close completely before reaching to pick up the small pail sitting next to the porch stairs.
He walked toward the ocean, wondering as he did every day, how long it might take to reach it. He wondered if, once he did, if he would be faster than the tide, racing that edge as it crept back up the beach until it was suddenly within a stone’s throw of the cottage where they would stay until she forgot.

Before he got to where there was still standing water, he dropped to his knees, the pail resting beside him.

He had tried to build castles at the top of the beach, where the sand was slippery and drifted like dust. They might stay, safe from the tide, but they were the worst castles.
And so he built them here, where he knew that the sea would wash them away. But for that moment, while they stood, they were glorious.


Demon eyes, rabbits and whiskey – 150 words in the style of Poe.

August 30, 2018

As I ponder where I should begin
Propped up by whiskey, or is it gin
I considered all the words that came before.

Inspired by darkness, dreaded, foul
Stories that called forth a howl,
A scream for mercy I would oft ignore.

I delighted in the midnight things,
Of demon eyes, the sound of wings,
Of monsters that would chill you to the core.

I brazenly fulfilled the need,
Nefarious thoughts that seemed to breed
Like rabbits, seemingly with no end in store.

Celebrated, I became
The whole world knew my lauded name
No equal could be found to match my lore.

And then one night the words weren’t there
My muse had gone, I know not where
I was cast adrift, upon a barren shore.

So when the devil came a-calling
You might think my choice appalling
That I should sell my soul, become a whore.

Quoth the raven….


Festival season

July 13, 2018

We live at the bottom of the mountain. With the spring sun comes the winter runoff, and this prepares us, to some extent, for the deluge of summer. I don’t know how many more years we can do this though, I’m terrified that we’re running out of room. And once the mountain is full, I honestly don’t know what will happen next.

Some years ago, two men arrived at the bottom of the mountain, red car rag top dust trailing behind. Their shiny shoes matched their shiny glasses, showing only that which looked at them, not what they saw. Their smiles were broad and insincere, half hidden by well kept whiskers, and the crisp white cards they carried promised usury. We were suspicious, tried to steer them elsewhere, but old Mr. Ellis, whose family had owned the top of the mountain since way back, he was always a sucker for feeling important. Being the youngest of nine, he’d lived a lifetime of being passed over, until time gave him what he’d always considered his birthright, putting his siblings in the ground and him in charge. And those shiny men, they cottoned to that right away. It was only a matter of time before he gave them exactly what they wanted. Access.

Since then, every year they return, bringing a whole swath of folks with them. I remember reading somewhere, ‘after three, the multitude,’ as though something magical can be kept quiet until enough know about it, and then there’s no stopping it. And not everyone knows how to react to things that are magical. People are just as likely inclined to stamp it out, destroy it, as to cherish and respect it. Perhaps more so.

Sometimes I think those men were devils and when Mr. Ellis shook their hands, made a deal, that was the three they needed, and it invited a torrent of people looking for somewhere to be. Most people seem to live for escaping their lives, they work and they toil and they stress, and for short amounts of time, they escape that drudgery, they vacate. I’m not sure they think about the people who live in the places they’re vacationing to. They don’t think about the work they create, the mess they leave behind. They come with their shiny shoes and their shiny blacked out eyes and tell us of the economic growth they’re burdening us with. Oh, excuse me, benefitting us with.

Mama says I shouldn’t complain. It is how it is, and there is no reason to grumble over what is. All that does is make one frustrated and that helps no one. I try to be like her and not to worry so much, but she’s not been down into the mines and seen what goes on there after the summer folk leave. I wish I could tell her, but so far it’s just me and young Jack who know about it….

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