Monthly Archives: April 2017

This Tree Is Not a Metaphor

I wish editing were as easy as gardening.

Wait…

*Does some actual yard work*

…scratch that.

I wish editing were like hiring someone to pluck unruly overgrowth from your plot.

WARNING: Mangling of Metaphors, Shameful Similes, and Tree Torture Ahead—Proceed with Caution!

*

I have, on occasion, taken a side-long look at my collected literary efforts and sighed–gusts monsoons would envy.  In those glances, I have seen the colossal effort it would take to shape them into something even vaguely resembling sense. Instead, each year I write a new, rambling incoherent piece like a prolific procrastinator of pandemic proportions. *

Do you remember my promise that I would provide the critique of my work following winning a review at last year’s writer’s conference?

*crickets chirping*

Well, you are all still waiting. Because the biggest take-away from that evaluation is that my story is starting in the wrong place. Book one of a three-books-at-least series, is mis-planted. It isn’t a weed, exactly, but it is a sprawling volunteer in my literary garden. It is like the tree in my backyard–it is a moss-encrusted mess!

Tree - 2 Weeps
Ask not for whom the tree weeps–it weeps for demolition!

It isn’t a bad tree. Yeah, sure, it has oozing cracks running down two sides, but it is lush and otherwise verdant. It’s just planted in the wrong place and threatens to split in several directions. And like my over-grown novel, it has got to go.

Tree - 3
Crude attempt at foreshadowing!

 

Faced with massive edits and rewrites, I say: “Bring on the shredder and let’s make some confetti!”

It would be so much easier to chuck my writing aspirations and plot a life without creative expectation. To slash and burn every word I’ve placed in a holding pattern, using up the data of an entire computer until I have to buy a new one to store version 15.2 of the same damn novel.  At least, that’s how it feels. It’s either that, or actually sit down and try and straighten out the mess I’ve created.**

Tree - 6
Taking a little off the top! Good thing they aren’t barbers.

 

Trees are unlike writing, as it turns out. They are actually pretty easy to dismantle. At least the guys from 1, 2, Tree made it look easy.

I watched them turn probably fifty-year’s worth of growth into so much mulch in less than three hours. I admired their editing talents greatly. ***

I did learn something from watching them. They didn’t start at the base of the trunk, trying to tackle it all in one go, but a piece at a time.

 

First a little here. Then a little there. And, before long, Cal, the stump man, was there grounding down what little remained.

There’s part of me that wants to do this. Instead of taking pruning shears to the 150,000-plus word opus, I’d chainsaw that forest of typographical nightmares and run-on story tangents and turn them into wordy wood chips!

Hacking Good Time
A metaphorical depiction of me grinding my words to digital dust.

 

But that isn’t what I want for my novel. I don’t really want to render its multi-syllabic magnificence into so much mulch. But, trim its excess maybe? To make sure it won’t crush my house in the next strong breeze to come through our neighborhood? Sure.

Reason to Worry
Because no matter how well you fill up the cracks, a story isn’t done until it’s one seamless effort!

Now all I need is a studly team of guys on standby who will cart away the bits that fall away as I work.

Dont Call Him Lambert
Don’t call him Lamont!

 

A big shout-out to Jacob, Jeremy, and Mick at 1, 2, Tree for very considerately not dropping anything on my head while I took pictures! I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I will also assault you with assonance.

**Looking at un-edited work without protection is like staring into the sun…while masturbating—you’ll go blind and you won’t have any fun while doing it.

***I so was NOT ogling them. I’m old enough to be their…well…aunt, at the very least. And an aunt does not ogle young men no matter how bulgy-their muscles are.

 

———————————–You Read This Far Poet-Tree Bonus—————————————-

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

*

I think that I shall never write fiction

That isn’t pruned of coherent diction.

—From “This Tree is Not a Metaphor” by Me

 

 

 

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Easy Baked Escapes

 

 

Prison - Chronophobia Image
Why do the schools do this to us?  Why? Photo courtesy of dogbrindlebarks.blogspot.com

 

Day 104 of Spring Break.

I think the guard is becoming suspicious…

*-*-*-*-*

Plans are in place. Only one more day before I am free.*

I’ve tried to hide my growing excitement. I still swear like a drunken sailor whenever I step on crayons in the yard.

I only hope I didn’t give it away earlier. Boss Baby was playing in the rec room. There’s this scene where the kid is grounded—his bedroom is his prison. When the kid’s talking, wizard alarm clock tries to grab a shank to make a break for it, I about died laughing!**

Man, if that isn’t a sign I need to get out of here, I don’t know what is.

It wasn’t always this way; I used to have a life.***

Okay, so maybe casing the Gem and Mineral show isn’t the act of a repentant criminal, but can you blame a gal for seeking any kind of distraction when serving a life sentence?

Rhinestones
Rhinestones $2.00? And they call me a thief!

 

 

All I want is a little clarity…cut, color, and carats! And what do they give me? False hope diamonds!

Strawberry and Yellow Obsidian - Manmade
How come the pink obsidian gets a cool name but the yellow is just plain yellow? Sounds like a little rocky discrimination going on.

 

Breaking rocks in the hot sun would be so much more pleasant if we were hunting out sparkly specimens that look like dragon droppings!

Rainbow Pyrite
Titanium Rainbow Quartz – If a stone is ‘enhanced’ by technology in a lab–it’s okay. If I enhance my product and sell it as real–it’s called larceny by fraud.

 

When I get out…I might even try my hand at a little fancy re-marketing. No longer will I be the chauffeur who slavishly drives the ‘Boss Baby’ wherever his heart desires.  No! I will be the wild, carefree road warrior women envy and men want. (Hey, if we’re going to fantasize…)

I will hit the interstate for places unknown. I will decide my fate. Or, at least, I won’t default to Highway 196 and exit 41 as the corrections officer insists we take every time we do roadside clean up.

My parole hearing is coming up, so I baked the warden a mini devil’s food cake. I know…shameless pandering.

EasyBake Dreams
Go ahead and say it. You thought getting ‘Easy Baked’ in prison was a euphemism for something terrible that happens with a kitchen implement.

 

I even invited the corrections officer to supervise so he wouldn’t suspect anything.

Easy-Does-It
It only took us two tries to figure which was the correct end to put the pans. What genius!

 

I have to say, they didn’t turn out so bad–for prison food.

Two Cakes
They let us use the ‘good’ penitentiary china.

 

After slaving away for, like, forty minutes, we have a decent product, if I do say so myself.

The warden scarfs the thing down and I ask him, “So, wasn’t that fun?”

You wanna know what he said?

“No!”

There’s no respect in this joint. No loyalty. None.

That’s why I’m oughtta here tomorrow. I’m gonna Easy-Bake my way into my own ‘early release.’

This time, I won’t forget to put the file into the cake.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*…to have a nervous breakdown.

**True. This happens. In a movie about a baby there is a reference to a shank. And I did laugh loud enough to be rolling on a floor except movie theater floors prohibit that kind of enthusiasm.

***Okay, that’s a stretch. Only Webster’s would call what I do on a daily basis, ‘having a life.’

__________You’ve read this far bonus:_____________

In case you wondered how it is I–an adult with a boy-child–have an Easy Bake Oven, here’s the story behind the best Christmas present I ever got.

This is a blog post I wrote before I ever became a blogger. Posted on The Green Study–who is to blame for giving me my first taste of fame and is responsible for my continued life of blogging crime:

It’s A Wonderful Easy-Baked Christmas

Kiri Cake
Justice never tasted so sweet!

 

 

The Return of the Puzzle Prince and Possibly the Magic Box

 

Part II of a fairytale nightmare follows the harrowing saga of promise and betrayal in the health insurance industry. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to catch up here. For everyone else, join us now as our intrepid heroine embarks on a battle royal…searching for a deserving backside to stick something sharp and pointy into.

*

A widowed mother and her son enjoy a Wish Come True in the form of a very expensive magic box that talks. They scamper to the Free Bed of Mary for training.

The speech therapy Wizard warns them:

“This device is written in a new kind of language—it is not just pictographic but also location based. Terms are organized so that the mind will find them by remembering the pathways of communication.”

“Huhn?” Says the widowed mother.

“You have to learn how the box talks before you can use it. Start with simple words and repeat finding their location. Core words will never move.” The wizard points out the many wonderful features.

“What does this button do?” The widowed mother points to a square on the programming page.

The wizard looks for a long second at the screen.

“That one erases the system.” The wizard says at last.

“Why would anyone put a button like that on the board? Why?” The widowed mother cries, shaking her head.

“Let’s just lock the prince out of that part, shall we?” Says the wizard.

The widowed mother and her puzzle prince go home dragging the heavy magic box with them.

*

Slowly the words come. Many requests are heard:

“I want balloons…” The magic box demands.

“What’s the magic word?” The widowed mother prompts.

The puzzle prince deftly plunks on the keys and the magic box answers…

“Please.”

And so life continues, until the fateful, blustery day in March a drone from the Print-Me Promise magic box factory phones. Unfortunately, the widowed mother was steering the royal blue coach on a busy highway when the call came in.

The widowed mother fumbles for her phone:

“Hi, uh, I’m driving. Can I call you back in about ten?” She says.

“It’s the Print-Me Promise hive calling,” says a drone on the other end. “The WoodNorth Elves are denying your claim.”

SCREeeeeEECH!

*blue coach narrowly avoids merging traffic to take an exit*

The widowed mother uses some inappropriate language before saying,

“Hang on. I’m pulling off the road.”

The widowed mother scrambles to take notes on the back of an envelope while the drone, named *Jin,* rattles off information as if in a race to get to the end of a sentence.

“According to the WoodNorth elves, your son’s policy was retro-terminated November 30, 2016 back to February 29, 2016 and a new policy was made effective March 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.”

Jin stops to take a breath and the widowed mother seizes her opportunity:

“I’m sorry, Retro-whatted?”

“Retro-terminated.” Replies the busily buzzing drone.

“What does that even mean?” The widowed mother scribbles indecipherable notes.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen that language before myself!” Admits Jin-the-long-suffering-drone.

“Sounds like an attempt to weasel out of paying for the speech device.” The widowed mother says.

Meanwhile, the puzzle prince, aggravated by the loss of his promised car ride, gets cranky.

“Kerride! Kerride! 3232!” Shouts the puzzle prince.*

Jin the Drone is undeterred.

“According to our records, we have a ‘single-case agreement’ and a ‘binding contract’ approving the speech device.” Jin asserts—no doubt with a decided chin nod. “I think they are stating that, at the time the requests for the device were made, a new group number was in place and the benefits had changed.”

“Kerride! Ball Ons! 3232.” The puzzle prince is getting louder by the second.

“Let me call you back.” Says the widowed mother. “I have to stop and buy a kingdom’s worth of bribes.”

*

20 balloons later…the widowed mother calls the hive back and learns that her son’s magic box may not be so string-free as believed.

Jin scrolls back in time to review notes—hunting for the elusive insurance snipe to explain what went wrong where and when. After several minutes she concludes:

“…We resubmitted the request for payment on March 21, 2016. The insurance company indicates that the plan your son is currently under requires that you meet the maximum out-of-pocket before pay-out. You owe $843.00.”

“Hang on.” The widowed mother interrupts. “We had met our deductible last year. The magic box should be covered 100%!”

Before the widowed mother can totally lose it, Jin the drone hurries on. “Let me see if I can talk to the head elf over at WoodNorth and call you back!” Jin rings off.

*crickets chirping interlude music*

As the story is flagging, a plot twist must be introduced. This seems a good time for the Puzzle Prince to fall ill with plague…so he does. The puzzle prince hits the floor with a thud and stops moving. Surprisingly, the widowed mother notices.

“Come on honey. Let’s get you to a med center.” Croons the widowed mother, nudging the mound of blankets with her toe.

The Fairy God-Doctor’s office does not have any openings, but they recommend another fairy practice in a neighboring village.

“The Wye Moaning office has openings at their branch!” Chirps the Fairy God-Doctor’s staff. “Will that be okay?”

“Yeah. That’ll do.” The widowed mother grabs her key and drags cajoles her collapsed child to the coach.

It is at the counter of the clinic that the widowed mother discovers that she has five difference insurance cards in her wallet. Apparently the insurance company had sent updated cards at some point!

“Well, well, well…” The widowed mother finally hears the retro-proactive shoe that dropped, somewhere in February, or May, or possibly November of 2016. “I guess they did change the plan…and never told me.”

“Ack. Hack. Cough.” The puzzle prince curls in a ball and mimes dying.

A Fairy God-Doctor in a long white robe is summoned. Samples are taken. A $30-dollar co-pay later and the results of the spit test are in.

“He has a virus.” Says the white-coated one.

“A mutant super-virus that has turned him into a sputum-spitting scourge?” Asks the widowed mother with a fearful glance at her green-faced child.

The Fairy God-Doctor restrains an eye roll.

“Give him Benadryl if he gets wheezy.”

The Fairy God-Doctor backs out hastily as the coughing prince attempts to leave a phlegmy gratuity on the doc’s shoes.

*

Several mucous-filled days pass. The puzzle prince recovers just enough to demand constant attention. Life is getting back to as close to normal as it ever does when the widowed mother decides she’d better attack the growing problem of the magic box head on! If she had known how vigorously she was going to be charging the beast, though, she surely would have peed first.**

Donning her battle armor and carrying only her cell phone and clipboard to defend her, the widowed mother tackles the WoodNorth elves first.

Confronting the Elf2

Dialing with digital precision, the widowed mother marches symbolically up to the red tape factory and pounds on the iron-studded door.

An elf appears carrying a particularly fat scroll. She doesn’t even look up from scratching notes to say ‘Hi.’ Instead, she busily scrawls a note and barks,

“Yeah? Whatcha need?”

So accustomed to angry callers, the elf doesn’t even flinch with the spittle starts to fly.

“My son’s magic box claim was denied even though we had authorization! The Printme Promise hive, who makes the speech device, says that, because his insurance policy was retro-terminated, I owe hard-earned gold for re-application in 2017 when the magic device was already authorized in 2016 when the out-of-pocket had been met.” Seethes the widowed mother.

The elf holds up a hand when the widowed mother pauses to take a breath. Spinning the scroll of paper and humming under her breath, the elf asks for the policy number.

“Ah ha. Yes. I see. Mmm Hmm.” The elf mutters.

The spinning of the scroll is hypnotic; its magic is intended to lull the unsuspecting attacker into a catatonic state. The widowed mother recognizes the magical tactic and cracks the seal on a diet cherry Coke to keep her wits about her. She’s mid-swallow when the elf stops the wheel of paper.

The elf pokes a spot on the page and a Gordian knot of red tape springs from the roll. Flapping segments slither out and form a corona of hissing serpents which coil around the elf’s perky green hat. The elf now looks like a red-headed Medusa on a particularly bad hair day.

“I can see the denial and the two account numbers you mentioned. The WoodNorth Elves Union 484 thank you for your patience as we untie the red tape binding your documents! But everything you’ve said does appear to be what happened.”

“Dishonor! Calumny! Malfeasance! And…and…uh…poppycock!” The widowed mother tries to hiss fire, but all she can manage is heavy breathing into her phone.

The widowed mother sums her outrage up in three words: “I demand justice!”

“Okay.” The elf is all agreeableness. Glancing up from the never-ending scroll, she asks, “Whatcha want me to do?”

“Um.” The widowed mother is nonplussed; she hadn’t expected cooperation. “Could you send me copies of the paperwork?”

“What’s your fax number?”

Tucking an errant snake of red tape behind her ear, the elf taps a few places along the scroll before looking up and saying. “Done!”

Reams of paper whiz out from behind the elf. Unspooling cataracts of incomprehensible insurance bibble babble disgorge in a surging mound in front of the bewildered, widowed mother.

The elf quickly backs away, dragging her scroll and the red-tape snakes toward the factory door.

“Uh, thanks for your…help?” The widowed mother shouts to the retreating figure now mostly hidden by the mountain of paperwork.

The elf offers a sly grin that seems to say “Be careful what you wish for!” before ducking into the factory and slamming the door.

Hanging up. The widowed mother is daunted but not discouraged by the task before her. With a sigh, she raises her pen and clipboard and wades in to tackle the massive amounts of data.

She slashes at facts that try to take a bite out of her ankles. Stomping down the irrelevant notes from the speech language wizard’s epic spellwork, she climbs until her arms are tired and she is cross-eyed from reading acronyms and codes in microscopic print.

“It would take an army to wade through this mess!” Sighs the widowed mother.

Hey.  There’s an idea! She thinks

“Not an army…but a hive!” The widowed mother crows triumphantly.

She dials the drones at Printme Promise. Cutting to the chase, the widowed mother makes the same request of the undersecretary to the Queen Bee.

“Paperwork?” The buzz from the other end of the line hums in interest. “Heck yeah. We’ve got paperwork.”

Shortly thereafter, a buzzing squadron of bees descend from a cloud dropping sheets of wasp-wing-thin, honey-gold paper. Before long, gossamer layers wrap the very top of the mound until a point forms. Alternately stabbing with her pen and carving away with her clipboard, the widowed mother makes it to the top of the pile.

Attack the Hive 1

The uppermost crust of the now-hive-shaped structure peels off in her hands. Neatly scratched into the sheaf is a line-by-line detail of what happened and when in easy-to-read annotation.

The widowed mother shouts up to the buzzing horde who constructed the data for her.

“Oh, thank you sooo much! This makes so much more sense! I could just kiss you!”

The bee closest to her stutters mid-wing and nearly drops out of the flight pattern.

“Uh, no thanks are necessary. Especially not that! We’re allergic to humans!”

With a dip of their wings, the drones return to the hive post-haste.

Fortified by data, the widowed mother is much rejuvenated. Now she will be able to confront the Blue Insurance Fairy!

But first…a royal privy break!

After a refreshing pit stop, the widowed mother tightens her armor and dials the enchanted castle. BIF picks up on the third ring.

“Hello, welcome to the Blue Insurance Fairy call center. How can we make your dreams…?”

“I want to speak to the fairy in charge of appeals and grievances.”

The widowed mother cuts off BIF mid-enchantment. Hah! The widowed mother thinks. That’s showing ‘em who’s boss!

“In order to fulfill your dreams we will have to review your dream policy and check your dream out-of-pocket and that requires a boring recitation of every dream call you’ve made in the history of your dream policy! Hold please while I bring up your account!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” The widowed mother cries, but she is too late.

She bangs her head on the nearest hard surface to the beat of the Muzak now belting in her ears.

♫“… When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio

He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information

Supposed to fire my imagination

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey

That’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction

‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try

I can’t get no, I can’t get no”♬

After weeks of trying to understand what happened, calling and badgering to little avail, the widowed mother snaps.

“That does it!”

The widowed mother storms the Blue Insurance Fairy’s castle, shaking her cell phone at the gates, shouting,

“I am not getting off this phone until I get some satisfaction!”***

Suddenly, BIF appears along the crenellated battlement. She is now wearing the battle helm of a grievance fairy—it’s extra pointy. BIF faces the widowed mother who brandishes a clipboard shield in one hand and her pen poised to stab in the other.

BIF wings fiercely along the ramparts as she explains the mysteries of insurance. After a long conversation which repeats much of what the widowed mother already knew, BIF concludes by pointing at the base of the turret—there a green beast snores, its snout whistling, curls of smoke waft with every exhale.

“Blame the Market Place Dragon. They changed your policy.” BIF hisses in a stage whisper—as if she too is afraid of waking the sleeping giant.

“So the dragon changed my son’s policy and didn’t tell me. The application that went in under the wrong policy number somehow got approved…and the error isn’t discovered until March of this year?” It’s enough to make a widowed mother cry. “Is there anything I can do?”

“You could wake the dragon.” BIF says with a doubtful look at the enormous reptile. “Or you could wait until the second claim goes through and we can file an appeal after it is denied or approved and payment is requested.”

The widowed mother doesn’t think twice. She waves her cell phone at the fairy—a pink flag of surrender.

“Talk to you again in a few months.”

And so our adventure ends on an anti-climax. For now. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is certain. The magic box may be theirs free and clear–or like many fairytale promises–it may come with a hidden price to pay. All we know for sure is, there will be many more car rides before our heroes see an end to this tale. And balloons. Lots and lots of balloons

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*The puzzle prince is not allowed the magic box while in the coach. It weighs over three pounds and is framed by reinforced steel—the box, not the coach. It may be indestructible, but the widowed mother’s head isn’t.

**I’m about to boil down approximately nine hours of phone conversation into a semi-coherent and as-entertaining-as-possible-without-pharmaceutical-aids metaphorical journey. You might want to take a potty break too.

***She might have been singing that last bit.