Category Archives: Writing

The Haggard Henchman and a Recipe to Die For

[While Kirizar is gallivanting in the back of beyond reveling in freedom…enjoy this rare glimpse of short fiction written for a contest that never wrote back to offer praise or accolades. The bastards.]

*

 

I was supposed to write it down. She told me to write it down…

“I’ve got it,” I protest. “Eggs, half and half and ham. I can remember three items.”

“There are four items! You forgot the shredded cheese. Cheddar…not American. So write it down or you’ll forget.”

She repeats the list while I scribble on the back of the junk mail I’d grabbed. I have half an eye on the Greenbay game while she’s nattering about the block association meeting.

“I’ve promised to bring quiche tomorrow. We have got to do something about the insect infestation…and who knows what kind of toxic spill cause the red fungus…”

Suddenly, she’s snapping her fingers in front of my eyes.

“Hurry, Fritz, or I won’t have time to make them tonight. Go!”

And then she’s shoving me out the door.

I’m halfway to my car when I glance down and see what I added beneath the word ‘Ham’:

‘Be Warned. It is coming. Prepare for midnight.’  Cats Paw

The foreteller signed it with a cat’s paw. I don’t know why. Maybe the cats dictate to her? Why she can’t be bothered to get a cell phone like normal people…

But then, she isn’t normal people.

These thoughts chase me all the way to her bungalow on the fringe of a suburb suffering urban blight.

I climb out of my Ford Fiesta, which looks like a drunken frat party held a kegger in it, and march up the steps to the door with a gargoyle knocker. I nearly trip on the ubiquitous cats; the striped tom stares at me out of his one good eye and growls a warning. I repress the urge to snarl back.

The door opens.

“Hurry.”

I don’t even have a chance to speak before my mistress yanks me in. I have just enough time to scoot through before she slams the door shut in the tom cat’s face. And then she’s barking instructions while I’m still scrambling for a quill and parchment.

“Get the moss from a dead oak and circle the graveyard twice before returning.” She shakes a finger at me. “And don’t forget the toadstools. The prophylactic potion of the apocalypse is quite specific. You don’t want the world to end because you forgot!”

Prophylactic…what?”

“Just go!”

I am half-bit by bugs when I finally leave the swamp. The graveyard is not far from the Stop-n-Go. The augured apocalypse isn’t for three more hours; I can spare fifteen minutes to run in. No problem!

After delivering the spell supplies, I race home to watch the post-game highlights. I’m just getting comfortable when I hear the shriek from the kitchen and a loud thump.

What now? I know I got everything on the list!

It’s only when I find my wife collapsed beside a pile of entrails that I realize my mistake.

Oh well…maybe there’s such a thing as a quiche of the apocalypse?

 

 

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Down For The Count

Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.

*

Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:

“A Low Blow”

 

Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*

[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*

[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]

Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”

[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]

Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”

Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”

Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”

Kiri-Czar: “NO!”

LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”

[Bell Rings *DING*]

Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”

LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”

[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]

LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”

Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”

[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]

Canoe 1
One hour into a 4 1/2 hour Canoe Trip. Still had energy to lift cell phone to take a picture.

 

LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”

[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]

LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”

Kiri-Czar: (slips behind Announcer) “Oh yeah!? Watch me!”

LIFE: “I’ll find you in the end. You should just give up now.”

Kiri-Czar: “Screw that.”

LIFE: “Oh, I plan to!”

[LIFE doubles back, pushing the announcer aside, and advances on the Czarina. Czarina grabs a tent and camp stove—holding them in front of her.]

Camping Tent
Before The End Came

 

LIFE: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Kiri-Czar: “Camping. What does it look like?”

LIFE: (rears, one arm back) “Hah. I don’t think so…”

[SWOOSH. SMACK. THUD.]

Announcer: (Counting) “One Mississippi…”

[Czarina lies on floor, dazed, babbling about recent events.]

Kiri-Czar: “All I wanted to do was take him camping… he likes camping… ”

Announcer: (Counting) “Two Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: “Two nights, we made it two nights…and then…BAM! We are off to the emergency room at midnight.”

Pooped at the Hospital
Turns out he was just badly…uh…compacted. Took 3 hours and x-rays to confirm the problem. Sigh.

 

Announcer: (Counting) “Two-and-a-half Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”

Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”

Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”

Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”

Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”

Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”

Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”

LIFE: (charges) “ROAAAARRRRRR!”

[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]

LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”

Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”

Boxing Bananas
Found in Google search of ‘boxing puns’. Stolen from long-ass webpage link.

 

LIFE: “PUN THIS!”

[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]

Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***

LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”

[SMACK, SMACK, KA-POW! THUD.]

[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]

LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”

Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”

LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”

Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”

LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”

Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”

[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]

Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”

LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”

[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]

Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”

LIFE: “You want a break?”

Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”

LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”

Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”

[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]

LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”

[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]

 

*time passes*

Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”

Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”

Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”

Tree on Roof
My poor house and formerly new roof.

 

Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”

Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”

Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”

Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”

Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”

Pinecone FInger
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

 

Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”

Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”

Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”

[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]

LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a play on words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”

Kiri-Czar: “Ugh.”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”

**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.

***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.


You’ve read the whole thing bonus:

I will be selling Roof Killer Pinecones at a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.

And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn.  Burn baby, burn!

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

 

 

 

Passé, Blasé, Just Plain Manqué!

Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.

<>

Cake on Fire CLip art kid
Flaming Cake courtesy of Photobucket.com (wherein the word ‘courtesy’ means ‘stolen.’)

Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*

In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?

“…Blogs are so passé…”**

*Ouch*

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.

Critique Not-so Enchanté

My writing is passé,

Or so you say!

Perhaps you are no devoteé?

Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?

I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!

(Parquet?)

Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***

My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!

But always, I churn the brain frappé

To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.

A luscious, literary canapé!

No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!

But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!

Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?

But as for me, I am très désolé.

So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)

Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?

Actual Birthday Cake
Nothing snarky here, just showing you my actual birthday cake baked by my mom.

 

Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”

Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo  Stéphane Mallarme :

Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.

(Translation)

I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)

                                                                                                      Stéphane Mallarmé

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)

**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”

***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!

Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:

having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.

 

___________________________🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂___________________________

You’ve read this far bonus:

For those of you who missed it before, here’s the CARROT CAKE RECIPE for the cake my mom makes.

Voyeuristic Adventures – Ending With A Twist

green-pepper-smorgasboard
Bell Pepper Orgy

 

The oily sheen is what gets me. Just within reach, prodigious produce entices vices. I’m checking out at check-out; I ogle the goods less taken. Griping the cart handle with sweaty hands, I think, “Oh man, I wish I’d picked up a green pepper to call my own.” If only I were brave enough to snatch it when nobody is looking. My fingers itch. In my heart of hearts, I’m already legging it to my car with the shouts of “Stop that woman—she’s got my pepper!” ringing in my ears.*

*

I’m standing in line one day, loading my groceries onto the black sander belt that drags them to their plastic-bagged doom, when I find myself looking at what the schlub behind me has selected.

“Hmm, they have just as much produce as me. But, look, they have a collection of processed snacks made with asbestos and nuclear orange, cheese powder. I win!”

I’m awash with self-satisfaction, when, suddenly, it strikes me, I am a grocery conveyer voyeur. I feel superior to the guy with the Lipitor prescription and deep-fried pork rinds. Are those Twinkies? Outrage! There is no Twinkie defense! If you buy canned soup, be prepared to be judged! What does it say about my nature that I have to compare my worth in such a way? Am I alone in this? Am I a solitary, smug-worthy opportunist or is everybody guilty of shopper’s gloat?**

I decide I need to find out. I make a Facebook announcement to my friends and family requesting images and receipts. The idea I have is to see if, given a task to shop and knowing it will be posted online, would people change what they buy? What I discover is random journalism is really hard to organize and people are even harder to define. And sometimes, you find out something shocking.

[To maintain everyone’s dignity privacy, I am using cutesy nicknames to identify each respondent.]

After getting the receipts and photos, I asked each participant this multiple-choice question:

If you take a banal activity like shopping and turn it into an assignment, would this effect the activity and make it:
A. More exciting?
B. More of a chore?
C. Influence what you bought in any way?
D. I forgot about it until I was at checkout!

I wasn’t sure what I would find. But I definitely got more than I expected.

I wait a week to get enough responses. I receive some photos texted to me along with a few receipts from various states. In answer to my multiple-choice question, I get varied answers.  My Philly Friend is the first to respond; she also is the only participant to answer “D”—meaning she forgot about it until she reached the cashier. She sends me a text of the items and her receipt. I’m looking at a motherlode of snacks; I have to ask the question:

Me: “If you had remembered this was going public, would you have shopped differently?”
Philly Friend: “If I’d seen it earlier I might have made different choices – although I really was planning on getting the crackers, nuts and raisins – might have skipped the Cheetos. LOL”
Me: “Hah! Is that a Cheeto-in-Chief concern or just the utter lack of nutritive value embarrassment?”
Philly Friend: “Heehee! total junk food, no the DVD was a total last minute addition, too – on sale for less than $4! Wooooo!!

We chat a bit longer, but mostly about the merits of the DVD she purchased. We agree that Cloud Atlas was fantastic—if Tom Hanks was a bit hard to understand at times.

Me: “I think the only disconnect was when Tom Hanks spoke with the odd, futurist dialect and it was so hard to understand him.”
Philly Friend: “Yeah really! Took a bit to understand all that, but that’s why I often use subtitles nowadays. I’m OLD.”

We are the same age, but I suspect the fact that I have both bi-focals and a hip replacement clinched my geriatric status years ago. I am in no position to argue that fifty is the new thirty. (Hah!) I will feel slightly superior about not letting Cheetos touch my lips in nearly twenty years, though.

donnas-groceries
Obviously the idea of letting the world know she’s a junk food junkie bothers Philly Friend not at all.

The California returns are a little slower in coming. One respondent in sunny San Diego provides a mostly-honest consumer profile.  She remarks that her haul is a ‘light’ shopping expedition. Sunny D spent approximately $87.00 on thirty-four things. I smile when I realize the most expensive item is $12.99 for whey protein beating out the price for actual steak. Also, it turns out a fresh Del Monte pineapple in California is more expensive than it is here, in Michigan. My father would have been pleased to point this out—and then he would have bought ten of them to increase his savings.

christines-groceries
The hamburger buns do look lonely without beer beside them.

I ask her whether the assignment affected her attitude:

 

Me: So, how would you answer the multiple-choice question?
Sunny D: “C definitely C but just a tiny bit, I told [husband] he could not fill the cart with beer! And I had a coupon for the Kleenex and then the store had a buy 6 and save sale so I had to stock up 🙂 ”***

I speak with another California participant. I’ve dubbed her LaLaLand—although she lives outside of Hollywood proper—she’s just a bullet’s ricochet away from the famed city. Her multiple-choice answer is ‘A’; she feels that shopping with a mission is more exciting. She sends the prettiest picture and, since we’ve been roommates in the past, I am not surprised by her haul.

laura-salazar-groceries
LaLaLand must be an artist – look at that yummy palatte!

Me: “Did you shop for anything differently?”
LaLaLand: “Well, I kind of thought, ‘Would Kiri like this?’ I was shopping for you.”
Me: *blush* “Aww, gee. Thanks.”

 

I don’t let her attempts at flattery stop me from asking the hard-hitting questions:

Me: “Was this because you didn’t want people to know what you typically shop for?”
LaLaLand: *laughs* “No. My life is an open cart.”
Me: “That would make a great book title.”

LaLaLand makes a few non-committal remarks before blurting a small confession:

LaLaLand: “Sometimes I look at people’s stuff in line and think, ‘Somebody is going to have a party!’ based on what they’ve got there.”

I suspect she isn’t referring to an excess of cake and balloons.  We exchange laughs at our shared voyeurism and then she says something more serious:

LaLaLand: “No, mostly when I’m shopping, I am thinking how much is this gonna cost me and can I afford it?”

Our conversation swerves to the topic of finding low-priced food in a state as expensive as California. LaLaLand is originally from Michigan, so I am surprised to find she is daunted by having to drive to get her groceries to save money. She does have her standards, however. While there is a nearer Walmart, she pooh-poohs that idea outright.

LaLaLand: “I don’t like to shop for groceries there.”

Her opinion is final and immovable in the face of economic need versus personal preference.  Apparently, it is worth going a little further afield to avoid Wally-World. My next interview brings the issue of economic necessity to a head with a whiplash-inducing, 180-degree veer off the conversational cliff.

It’s Monday, I’m compiling the scraps of my data seeking a theme for the post. Comparing the lists and wishing I had a few more participants, I check Facebook for inspiration and send a private message to one of the people who’d said they were interested in taking part. Periwinkle is a fellow parent in the autism community and, though I do not know her well, all autism families share a pool of similar experiences that makes for an immediate bond.

I try for the breezy-but-I’m-not-needy approach:

Me: “Periwinkle – Hey, just checking to see if you had the chance to get to the store and take a picture of your groceries.  No worries if you didn’t. K”

After a few minutes, I get a reply. It’s short and it knocks me on my metaphorical butt.

Periwinkle: “I didn’t forget – I thought I was going to get some money to be able to buy food but am unable to buy food for my family currently.”

If instant messages came with crickets—fields would be chirping to fill the void of my initial lack of response. The crickets continue to chirp while my mind races to process what I just read.

“…can’t buy groceries…?”

I’m ashamed to admit, my first thought was, “How am I going to write a humorous article knowing that?” The answer is, I can’t. There is absolutely nothing funny about people struggling to get by. The only way we can function in real life is we don’t actively know someone is in need unless we ask. Well, I’d asked.

Over the next hour, we exchange instant messages that are frank and, on her side, a mixture of embarrassment and fear. Her typing is awkward and a little hard to read. She  injured her wrist recently and it is difficult to do everything with one hand. I can just imagine trying to cook this way! Periwinkle’s husband needs surgery and is seeing a doctor on the seventeenth of this month.   You wouldn’t think you could read emotional distress in a typed message, but it comes through in staccato phrases. Periwinkle admits it near the end of our discussion–she’s reached a point of despair.

Me: “I know my questions are intrusive, so if this is hard to talk about, I can respect that.”
Periwinkle: “Sorry I just unloaded on you – I’m very frustrated.”
Me: “I would be beyond frustrated. I would be scared and worried.”
Periwinkle: “….I don’t mind. I feel like I’m drowning so it’s nice to share a little…. I am scared and worried and honestly quite done with existing.”

I may not know much, but I recognize a cry for help. I’ve had that kind of moment myself, not for the same reasons, but that empty sense that the world is going on merrily around you–unaware that you are drowning.

We exchange a rapid-fire series of messages identifying ways to get food in the local community. I suggest she set up a Go-fund Me page for the current financial stress and need for groceries. I check my cupboards and admit to myself my impulse shopping in bulk might have finally paid off.  I have groceries to spare.

I promise to bring a few bags by after I’ve taken my boy to his oh-so-reluctant music lesson. As we leave the center where he has therapy, the snow, which had been gracefully wafting as we went in, is now swirling madly as if dancing to a demented waltz.

Driving is dizzying and the roads are slick. At one point, I see a car make a sharp left at a corner and drive straight into a building. Fortunately, the driver had been crawling through the intersection, but it forced me to reroute from our destination. I’ve never been so grateful to make it to someone’s house.

Periwinkle waves her uninjured arm from the door, but sends her older son to grab some of the stuff. I admit when I hand mine off to her, “If I hadn’t already promised to come, I would have saved this for tomorrow.” I indicated the near-blizzard swirling around us. She thanks me, but we are both a little awkward and make quick goodbyes to get in out of the freezing cold.

I have no great end to this bizarre, journalistic turn of events. I began this article with lighthearted intentions—before I spoke with Periwinkle. I have no illusions about my acumen as a reporter; I just know that there are some things I can’t ignore. I prefer to write about laughter and whimsy—it is my cure for the dark that tends to lurk. But, I can’t stand by when someone else is drowning. Can you?

*

If you want to help Periwinkle, here is a link to her GoFundMe

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
* I’m the covetous bad girl at the Lane 6 register.
**Feeling superior because of other people’s poor food choices, would the German for this be ‘Schaden-Foodie?’
***Sunny D lives in California where, apparently, emoticons are used instead of punctuation marks.
____________________________________________
You’ve read this far bonus:

green-pepper2
“Come to me, you naughty, naughty veggie!”

 

 

The Lure of Vegetation
By  A. Voyeur

Glistening skin
Polish shining like wet frogs
Deep green, tightly stretched and crunchy.
Bulbous stem jutting up,
Curling a beckoning finger.
Call me Peter Piper sans the pickle
GREEN PEPPER!

Just so you are all aware. It is possible to write 50,000+ words in a month.

What remains to be seen is whether any of those words are worth the imaginary

digital page they are written on. Now crawling to bed.

Good night.

blog-image-pillows2

If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be buried under this pile of pillows

How Do I Love Thee Nano?

Allow me to count the ways I love NaNoWriMo:

One – I wrote 5,000 words yesterday; I am still riding the high. There is a effervescence of spirit that comes from writing.  Words arrive in a pell-mell rush which my brain regurgitates onto a screen.  (Hopefully in a shape that vaguely resembles what I see and hear behind my eyes.) This is the honeymoon period after the storm of words and before the tempest that is self-doubt and editing—the halcyon days of loving your creation.*

Two – Yesterday I sent my heroine on an adventure. There was a horse, of course. And plastic fruit and a tragedy for the hydrangeas—though now I am thinking petunias might be a funnier flower.

Three – I brought frenemies together and then forced them to climb deadwood to safety—only to fall like tumbling blocks—spelling out embarrassment and trouble in their awkward landing.

Four – I have yet to release the monkey—but I am cackling in anticipation.

Five – Today I rest while Officer Dettweiler removes the thorns—one prick at a time.

Six – And I haven’t decided who is getting the spring-loaded trap the heroine left for her anonymous hero. Perhaps the busybody Mrs. Bridewell is going to get her just desserts at the Fudge Festival after all?

Seven – I have no regrets, except that this pace can only be maintained for so long. Sooner or later, something is going to explode—most likely the laundry room.**

laundry
A picture of my actual laundry room!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*At least, I think this is caused by the writing. It could be the lack of sleep and caffeine talking, now that I think of it.

**I plan on blaming the monkey.

 

The World Wrote Me a Poem Today

The world wrote me a poem today.
It spelled it out in leaves.
I’ll try to tell you what it said,
But sometimes words fail me.

fall-flowers

All things change, child.

Someday will bring rebirth.

The newly-minted leaves of spring burst forth—

Escaping winter’s grip.

The ice that seems forever set, cracks,

Creating meltwaters in frozen spirits.

And growing things will make the dried ground a newly-turned earth again.

But today is a different celebration.

Today we bid farewell to a season that refuses to go out.

The November sun yet burns—

a fiery match against unprotected skin—

Warding off winter’s dark heart.

*

As I walk, I listen. With my heart, I hear.
The world speaks in technicolor and surround-sound splendor.
Maple, Bay, and Beech leaves waver from green to gold to bronze—
laughing, courting the heat curling up from warm grasses.
And though they are crunching nuisances to chase with a rake,
The scraping, dragging, bagging annoyances adults curse,
Also make a playground for children to romp through with rubber-soled glee.
the-informant
The tree at the corner whispers revelations—it is my informant.
Its leaves with their crinkle-cut, potato chip edges, blacken, yet stubbornly cling to gnarled branches.
It’s crooked trunk in naked winter, points out mistakes in a grey sky with crooked-fingered impatience.
Yes, a bleak season is coming.
But for now, a sinuous black cat laps at a pool in the inky tarmac.
It darts a reproachful look before—poof—it dashes into shadows and is gone.
A current whisks red-brown-yellow paintbrush splashes in vortexes along the sidewalk.
And squirrels have no time to pander for gawking admiration.
The world speaks through wind chimes…
And invisible gusts…
And silence.
 The pathway is now a variegated landscape
Where up is down
And only in snow globes
Can worlds come apart and reform
In such a whirlwind, patchwork topography.
I am dizzy. Overcome by verse parsed in semaphore signals
Through sunlit trees the Earth speaks.

*

“The fallow season is upon us and yet the roses cling, sharp-thorned objections to change.
Milkweeds tuck their mouse ears up and listen to fall’s farewell.
Podsopen mouthedspitting seeds.
Silken tufts will find their way to window boxes
Where dead chrysanthemums mourn with heavy heads.
The time for spring will come, child, the time to rise will come.
But, for now, it is time to sleep.”

*

The world wrote me a poem today.
It spelled it out in leaves.
I’ll try to tell you what it said,
But sometimes the world fails me.

 

The Diarrhea Diaries

*Warning, graphic and disgusting content follows.*

 

Dear Diarrhea:

You are ruining everything! I was supposed to be having fun, staying up late, writing a novel for NaNoWriMo.  Instead, I’m seeing how fast I can go through a mega pack of toilet paper and finding out exactly how dehydrated one has to get before you have nothing left to give.

I hope you are happy.*

Sure! You let me have a Halloween party, but then you show up and knock me on my ass!

For days I was too tired to even whine. Did you read that? TOO TIRED TO WHINE!*

I threw away CUPCAKES because of you. I, who may or may not have eaten cake which had been left out for days in my past, threw away perfectly good—well, let’s be honest, my kid ate all the candy pumpkins off the top and it looked like tiny orange homicides occurred in the remaining frosting—cupcakes. They were tossed–much like cookies.*

I have only managed to eat the Jello brains leftover from the party and chicken soup. Four days of chicken soup. Bkwawk. I suspect I have started to cluck.*

My son has run amok in my absence. I actually had to chase him once when he escaped the house. You of course followed me and made my life hell.

You can imagine that phone call to the police department:

Dispatcher: “9.1.1, what is your emergency?”

Me: “My son has eaten a truckload of candy and is running amok. He’s dressed as Robin Hood and breaking into people’s homes. I’m in danger of shit running down my leg any second. I’m dressed as Dolores Umbrage—you’ll find me squatting in the nearest bushes.”

Dispatcher: “Ewwww.”*

No thanks to you, I found him before they had to be involved…and I was arrested for indecency and polluting a public place.

The house is a mess. My son is officially out of clean clothes. And the basement…I don’t even want to describe what he has done to the basement. Suffice it to say, there will be Lysol in the old house tonight.

I’m sorry. But we have to break up. And let me be frank. It isn’t me—it’s you! I just can’t put up with your shit anymore.*

Asterisks Not So Bedazzled:

*A graphic representation of how frequently I have been interrupted while writing this post. You can only imagine why.

___________________________________________

And because I suspect you think I’m making this up…here’s photographic proof. 

OF MY COSTUME!  What? You think I’m posting pictures of my toilet???

What kind of person do you think I…? Oh…right.

img_3669-2
Before the curse of Salazar Slytherin struck.

img_3613 

Alone he walks,

His cape a tattered wave of blue,

To meet the sunlight and the shadow as equals

Laughing as leaves fall, making spirals in their descent,

Through elegies of air.

 

best

So still he moves,

Leaning into a soundless void.

Planets in their orbits spin

And yet no shift in his equilibrium shows

That he is out of synch with a world

Built for words.

img_3640

______________

Images from a recent walk with my son, I was inspired by the drape of his blue blanket to wax poetic. Happy Halloween everybody. Nanowrimo begins tomorrow. Do not expect great things from me until December.