Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That wooshing sound was my paycheck

Payday?  What payday?  It's gone.  Actually, totally, completely, GONE.

Sigh.

It's going to be challenging for awhile folks.  I've hit bottom and can't dig my way any deeper.  This of course puts me in a somewhat sour mood.  No Arizona Art Supply visit on Saturday for inks.

Okay.

Bright side:  I have a job.  I live in a metropolitain area and am walking distance close to almost everything I need.  The public library around here is awsome.  Books and DVDs for free and since you have to turn them back in... no clutter!  Bonus!  We have a computer with internet connection.  I have paper and plenty of pens in many forms.  I have my imagination.  I have my dog and a very weird cat.  I have a husband and a daughter and we love each other - most of the time, anyway.

Groceries will be tough.  Pancakes will be a staple.  Ramen noodles.  But we need to lose weight, so this may be good.  Walking and cutting down on our calories.  I just bought a big bottle of multi-vitamins and our prescriptions were just refilled, so we can go for a while on those.

This is do-able!  I'm originally from Minnesota and I was raised in a farming background where you learned to "make do" and be tough.  I have one last item to put on a credit card and the rest will have to wait.  Our washing machine broke down yesterday and the repairman is coming on Friday.  I am a great believer in fixing things until they just can't be fixed anymore.

All right then.  I'm feeling better.  Thanks for listening while I worked through this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random Words #5

Prompt #677:  (Courtesy of EasyStreet Prompts)

connivery . misjudged . unresigned prizefighter . perks . citronella effigy . wayfaring . integrated nuptials . floorboard . repaired . repellent . overpaid . alphabetical ego

Her connivery backfired when she misjudged the unresigned prizefighter. Perks became nothing more than a citronella effigy in a wayfaring world. Integrated nuptials aside, the floorboard was repaired. It was repellant how overpaid someone with an alphabetical ego could be.

(Sorry, folks.  It's been a tough day.  I really need to play the lottery.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Write about a premonition

Shannon looked up at the clear blue sky and blinked. It looked the same as it always did. The air around her smelled the same as it always did. She shut her eyes and listened. Nothing out of the ordinary there, either. Yet, something was wrong.

She shifted her weight around and uncurled her legs from the chair she sat in. The clock on the patio wall read almost 8 a.m. The day had barely begun and already she felt a heavy hand pressing on her chest.

Monday. She would normally at work by now, beginning a pointless staff meeting where she sat, listened to everyone else's upcoming week, and took the occasional note of a task someone would toss her way like a scrap to a cowering dog. Being only part-time she felt disconnected from the goings on and distant from the other employees. Her boss alternated micro-managing with complete dismissal to the point where Shannon hated to see him walk into the office.

Unable to face another dead meeting, Shannon emailed in sick. Well, she reasoned, I am sick of that job. I just can't face it today. So, out went an email with her regrets and the instant that email left the outbox, the heavy hand began clutching at her chest walls.

She admitted to herself that she doesn't do much of anything when she is at work. The bare minimum and no more. I'm a terrible employee. I don't stay a minute passed quitting time. I sneak out early every chance I get. I read the paper or the internet news when no one is there. I only work when someone is watching me.

I'm going to be fired. Today was the last straw.

Shannon took a sip of coffee and thought about getting fired. It's the rejection that hurts, she told herself. But that really happened soon after I was hired. Hell, I can get another job. I've worked retail before and I can learn waitressing. I can collect unemployment for a while, too. I couldn't do that if I'd quit.

She stood up and walked inside and turned on her computer. I'll look for another job. There will be something out there for me. I can do anything. I can.

The horizon blinked.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Write about a fragrance

Moods influence what I chose to surround myself with. One of my ex-bosses remarked that he could tell my attitude by the music I was listening to. He was so right on that.  I listen to classical when I'm nervous and unsure of myself, new age meditation instrumentals when I'm stressed out, heavy metal when I'm royally pissed off. (There's been a lot of metal playing lately, too.)

But fragrance is different. If you can get beyond the person who bathes in strong and obnoxious colognes that beat you over the head when they merely pass you by, smell is the most powerful sense we have to cue memories. Just today my friend mentioned that she could still smell the penicillin her father used on the farm during a particularly difficult year with their cattle. Pine-Sol reminds me of our basement when Mom got into one of her cleaning jags.

I like cinnamon and spice on winter evenings to feel cozy and calm. Lavender during the day makes me feel sophisticated and confident. Melon and cucumber on summer mornings make me feel bright and open.

Creosote bushes in the desert after a rain brings on the best emotions for me. The clean, slightly spiced scent lends the feeling of wide open skies, the immensity of the world and all its wonderful possibilities. I feel energized and centered. I feel the earth is alive. I feel like my spirit flies free.

I wish they could put that in a bottle. I'd buy a case.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Random Words #4

Prompt #673 - courtesy of EasyStreet Prompts
moderation . horsefeathers . self-righteous copyboy . itemize . subliminal bluff . concoct . delicate hoosegow . dispensation . evacuee . afoul . winnow . staccato artillery
_____________________________________________________________

"Moderation in all things, Ellie."

"Oh, horsefeathers! You are nothing but a self-righteous copyboy."

Nelson, put his hands on his hips and squinted at Ellie. "If you'd quit drinking all that coffee, perhaps you'd be less likely to spend half your working hours in the restroom. I won't even mention the constant trips to the vending machine or all the time you spend outside smoking."

"Leave it to you to itemize everyone's faults. Well, I don't have time to listen to your preaching. Go away and let me work in peace."

"I can't. We go to press in fifteen minutes and Larkin wants those stories pronto." Nelson started tapping his foot but stopped when he realized the carpet muffled the effort.

Ellie sat back in her leather task chair and stared over Nelson's head. She surmised that Nelson was too thick headed to try a subliminal bluff, so she tried to concoct another reason to get him out of her doorway. She shook her head and then gave up. Digging through a pile of papers that were perched haphazardly on the corner of her credenza, Ellie pulled out a sheet and waved it in Nelson's direction. "Here's one. By time you deliver it to Larkin and come back, I'll have the other one.

"Oh no. He told me not to come back until I had all three from you."

"Well, that puts you in a delicate hoosegow, doesn't it? You see, Nelson, I don't have them complete yet and I can't work with you standing there. If you leave, I can get them done. If you stay, well, there's no dispensation."

Nelson growled and turned on his heel. It took a great effort not to slam her office door, but he shut it with just a smart snap instead. He looked at his watch, then back at Ellie's office door. He leaned back against her wall, crossed his arms over his chest and slid down to sit on the marble floor to wait.

Ellie, relieved that the door had closed, called up her latest files on her laptop. There was the story about the evacuee who inadvertently ran afoul of the local law, and there was the other story she wrote about farmers trying to winnow their wheat while cringing to staccato artillery fire across the river from their fields. This story, as was the other, was essentially finished, but lacked her trademark smart ass concluding comments at the end. The jokes just weren't there anymore.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whew!

It's been "one of those weeks," dear readers. Too many business-related functions and duties kept me tied up in knots and unable to put a coherent sentence together. Friday has arrived and with a brandy by my side, I breathe in and let it all go until Monday.

I've had a cursory search of my home office space to locate my folder with all the handouts from a qui gong (derived from tai chi) class I attended several years ago. With the building pressures that life is shoveling my way lately, I feel I should step up the intensity of the search. I'm in need of something healthier than alcohol to deal with the stress.

AND I will be heading to the page a bit more often to work on those writing muscles. November is just around the corner and it is very important to me to cross that finish line this year. Why? Because it makes all that outside stress seem insignificant in light of my heart's true desire.

Publishing is not even on the table at this stage. I'm still an apprentice at this craft/art. It may come in time. I'll know it when I see it. For now, I just write.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is where I went wrong.

There was no moon to help guide me on this scarcely used gravel road that led to god only knew where. Because the road dipped and rose and curved unpredictability, the headlights could only give me immediate information. I stopped the car and turned to look again to see if they were following. Nothing. I turned off the engine, opened the door and leaned out. Again, nothing.

My heart slowed a fraction as I walked around the car to try get my bearings. The darkness whispered fearful images of wild animals and crazy men with hooks for hands. I shivered and slowly walked up the rise I had just driven down, my feet crunching and sliding on the loose stones.

Still nothing. They must have missed me when I turned off the county highway. I sighed in relief as I walked back to the front of my car in search of a space where I could turn around. The trees grew thick and from their size, I judged them to be old and gave no room to maneuver an about-face. I got back in the car, started the engine and crept forward keeping any eye to the sides of the road.

After roughly 15 minutes of this, I was thinking of just putting the car into reverse and backing my way out to the highway. Then, through the trees to the left, I saw a dim bluish light. A house? I drove on until I saw an even narrower opening to the left and the light became brighter. I turned the car toward it.

The gravel road became a pitted dirt farm trail. I bounced and jolted my way towards the light. Suddenly the trees stopped and I pulled into a clearing. The light came not from a house, but an undulating cloud of something that floated above a small unkempt graveyard. I stopped and got out of my car.

This is where I went wrong.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I hate Mondays

After 2 1/2 glasses of wine, I've finally mellowed out. It was not a good morning for me. Nonetheless, I'm counting my blessings here: I have a job. Half of my job is totally cool. The other half sucks dirty dishwater. So I will keep my focus on the good half. The sucky half will be done by the end of the year and while that puts my future in somewhat of a question, I am at this point not caring in the slightest.

The upshot of the sucky job is that it is pushing me to the page. This is mostly just to prove to myself that I do indeed exist and have value. Getting ignored, or worse, getting noticed only when a mistake is made, has been a good thing in that I have restarted this blog and my off work hours are being spent in more creative ways. Reading blogs instead of watching TV is one.

I just read a bit of a blog that mentioned a 365 Day Challenge. Take a photo of yourself everyday for 365 days and post them to the proper category on Flickr. Way cool. However, I'm not much on photographing myself. Just ask my family. So, what else I could do?

This blog, yeah. But when NaNoWriMo rolls around again, I may not be posting every day - unless it is posting my word count, etc. So. Think, think, think.

This is where YOU come in. Yes, YOU. I know who you are. I challenge you to come up with a 365 Day Challenge. If you do it, then I will. Let me know what you intend to do and I'll come up with one of my own. We start on January 1, 2010. That's enough time for us each to think of what we will do. Are you in?

For the record: post a comment.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Random Words #3

Prompt #413: random words and phrases (Courtesy of Easystreet Prompts)

hydrated . annuity . mythological multiplication . roadrunner . inconsiderate song . disorienting
estranged victim . fusion . deluded . lettered . beluga . impractical adoption

In an effort to stay hydrated in the dry air conditioned room, I sucked on the last few drops of bottled water. I was sitting in an uncomfortably hard chair waiting for my accountant to read the latest quarterly report on my annuity.

"I don't understand this," he said finally looking up at me, "this is nothing but mythological multiplication. A roadrunner in hell could do better."

Stunned, I stood up and walked to the window. The only sound came from the soft muzak system as it played an inconsiderate song. I hated the original and the muzak version only made it worse.

"Sidney, this is quite disorienting. I feel like an estranged victim," I said.

"I quite understand. This report is a fusion of deluded minds." He sat back in his leather chair and swiveled to see me better. "To think that this report, from a company that insists on hand lettered business cards and beluga caviar, can function with this impractical adoption of accounting is beyond me."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random Words #2

Prompt #669: random words and phrases (Courtesy of Easystreet Prompts)

unafraid . Spartacus . prominent retiree . bargaining . unmerciful Freemason . subtotal . atomic icebox . deepen . meritorious

Unafraid, Sparticus, prominent retiree of Pleasant Acres Trailer Park, began bargaining with the unmerciful Freemason landlord for a subtotal of six cases of ice cream sandwiches that were kept in the atomic icebox to deepen their frozen state, with the single hope of bringing meritorious results back to the residents of the Park.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the eve of the funeral.

I sat on the metal folding chair too long. My butt was numb and my hip started to send shooting pains down my thigh. I shifted and squirmed in an effort to ease the discomfort. But I didn't leave. The preacher was a contractor for the funeral home. He didn't know the guy in the casket. Neither did I but I lied and said he was my cousin. A few faked tears and they left me alone.

I am a ghost hunting junkie. I watched every episode of Ghost Whisperer and now I follow Ghost Hunters on TV. I read everything I can find on the internet, too. But I never saw a ghost in person. Or, rather, in the non-person. So there I sat. Waiting.

I'd read that a person sticks around for ten days after they die before they go into the light. This guy died on Tuesday. He had to show up sometime. I squinted in the low light. I didn't say anything aloud because I knew there were other people in the building. Once I almost asked the janitor if he ever saw anyone, but I was afraid he'd squeal on me and I'd get kicked out.

The low chime of the clock in the hallway let me know it was two in the morning. The mortician finally gave up trying to get me to leave. He had to stay, of course. State law. So about eleven, he brought me a cup of water and told me that he'd be in his office lying down should I need anything. I heard a door click shut a moment later and then nothing since. I'm guessing he doesn't snore.

Just when I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot for doing this and stood up, there was a flash of dark in the corner. Darker than the dark. Just like on TV. I looked again. Then I pulled out the digital voice recorder and said, "I'll do some EVP work now." The dark left. The overhead light snapped on and the mortician guy glared at me.

I walked out to my car feeling like a fool. Sliding behind the wheel, I adjusted my rear-view mirror. The dark shape sat in the back seat. It said, "I was wondering when the hell you'd finally leave. Let's get out of here."

(This is not one of my better pieces.  I was just not inspired to write tonight.  Sorry.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

What is something you do well?

Today's prompt is perfect for me. There are very few things I feel I'm "good" at doing. The first thing that comes to mind is, of course, what this blog is all about: daydreaming.

I walk to and from work. This walk takes me passed a few residential buildings but the lion's share is commercial property. All this is on a busy (read BUSY) road in a metropolitan environment. Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, is a major issue but the seemingly endless concrete and asphalt that is punctuated by postage stamp blocks of grass, decorative rock, and anemic trees and shrubbery is not my idea of inspirational views. My radio/cassette player (remember them?) recently bit the dust, so to make my walk home more entertaining, I daydream.

I won't reveal what those daydreams consist of; they are private and some of them, if revealed, would land me in a whole world of trouble and I don't need any more of that than what I have now.  However, I've always found it interesting that most people think daydreaming is something to be embarrassed about. To be ashamed of. Which is totally not so.

I had my revelation on daydreaming many years ago, when I was still in grade school. I read James Thurber's short story called "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." (It was also made into a movie starring Danny Kaye, but I've never seen it.) The main character is a daydreamer. James Thurber put my dirty little secret into a short story thereby informing me that other people did it, too. What a relief!

Not long after I read "Walter Mitty" I read a book - whose title escapes me at the moment - but the story was about a young girl who watched her neighbors, even spying on them, and then wrote everything down in her notebook. While this did not affect me for many years, eventually I connected the two stories and I picked up my pen and wrote down some of my daydreams. They were extremely silly once the ink had dried, but it freed something inside of me that had unknowingly been locked away.

So, now I daydream freely and I write. I feel a freedom of sorts when I do both. The writing could easily be denied me but no one can take away my daydreams. No one. That is so cool.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Random words and phrases

Prompt #665: random words and phrases (Courtesy of Easystreet Prompts)


Affirmation . vertebrae . localized drama . nonbelligerent . conventional haircut . stick . invisible trout . forget . necklace . cablegram . tactical . subdivided forefathers

I delivered my affirmation with a straightened set of vertebrae. There was localized drama in the audience, but for the most part it was nonbelligerent. My conventional haircut was overlooked when I held out the stick holding my invisible trout. (I forget. Was I wearing that necklace when the cablegram arrived?) Anyway, it might have been a tactical error because it reminded them of what had been made of our subdivided forefathers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When I Turned 50

When I turned 50, I took inventory:

When I turned 50, I gained what?
Weight, yes okay
Saggy boobs, yes okay
Creaks and groans, hell yes okay

When I turned 50 I gained freedom
Bible Bob’s unchristian words vaporized
I wear pants because he doesn’t wear robes
But he’s deaf to a woman in jeans

When I turned 50 I gained knowledge
I’m just fine without a college degree
I can read and write anyway
And it’s okay not to know

When I turned 50 I gained a life
Metal music does not lead to Satan or drugs
So that’s Metallica
Hello Ozzy!

When I turned 50, I gained a soul
I “got it” when I read a poem
The schoolroom could no longer suck it dry
The red wagon was just a red wagon

When I turned 50, I gained myself
I don’t have to wear makeup
I don’t have to wear heels
I can wear the skin I’m in now

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Route 19

The bus wheezes out of the early winter darkness and groans to a stop in front of my shivering frame. Gentle warmth slips out as the doors hiss open in greeting. I step into the light, slide my card through the reader, and look for a seat. Tossed down the aisle as the bus pulls back into traffic, I break the silence of the passengers as I excuse myself to squeeze between two men.

Scanning the faces, I look for the “regulars” in the mix. In the back Sleeping Guy is resting his head on the window; oblivious to the jolt and jangle of the bus. Across from me is Big Man With Tiny Backpack. Today he wears a too small jacket over his unvarying dark t-shirt and black athletic pants. Smiling Angry Man, whose smile never reaches his eyes, is by the rear exit. I am afraid of him. The Stop Requested bell pierces the stillness. Waitress gets off the bus and is replaced by Hospital Scrub Guy.

Cold air rushing in the open door pokes at my knees. The dim light in the front of the bus turns gold as the date and time scroll by marking this moment in my life. The houses and apartments slide by the windows. I take a slow, deep breath and close my eyes.

When I open my eyes I am blinded by the intense afternoon sun of summer shining through the lightly shaded windows. Blinking, I look down to see a young girl’s dirty flip-flop framing her polished toe nails. My nostrils sting with the smell of dried sweat that permeates the air.

I look up to see Prim Lady in her familiar small straw hat chatting with the driver. Professional Guy Who Never Sits adds a comment while Old Lady Who Dresses Like A Little Girl, her transfer ticket safely pinned to her collar like a name tag, sits on the edge of her seat straining to see around him.

The air conditioner struggles to calm the heat of our bodies as we make yet another stop to pick up more people to add to the boisterous mob and I wonder where they will fit in the overcrowded bus. Working its way through the afternoon rush hour traffic, the bus jerks and jostles the passengers who try in vain not to touch each other.

My street announced, I impatiently pull the Stop Requested cord and weave my way to the door. Outside, I pause for a moment to reposition my backpack and look back at the group slowly boarding the bus. Glad to be nearly home for the day, I walk away.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Office Haiku

Sit under false light
Pressing plastic keys quickly
Where is my tree now?

Walls of gentle fabric
Become a prison of sorts
My gatekeeper chimes

Emails bury me
Time savers suck up the time
Paradox sneezes

Note: Out of Office!
Taking a deep breath somewhere
Back when bills come due

Paper pushers unite!
Company has recycling
For employees as well

It’s all attitude
How you perceive changes
Company motto

Coffee pot contents
Become a source of control
Life should be better

Pen and inkwells gone
Typewriters are hard to find
Computers are here

Sunlight rests on desk
A bit of peace finds a home
Tepid coffee smiles

At last it’s payday
Rip open that envelope
It’s already gone

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A woman of a certain age…

Dedicated to the memory of
Bronwyn Stacey Reynolds Joplin (1961 - 2010)

We agreed to meet for happy hour at the neighborhood bar. My three-doors-down neighbor happens to be my best friend, which is quite convenient. It was Friday and she sat at our regular booth watching me walk in.

“Leave it at the office,” Trudy said when I slid in opposite her. Sally, the only waitress in the joint, placed my usual gin and tonic in front of me before I even settled my butt in the dented part of the bench.

“I did,” I replied and took a sip off the top. “I left it lying in the middle of the office floor in an ever-widening pool of his own blood.” I took a healthy swig, and sat back.

Trudy shook her head. “Where do we hide this body? Really, Marianne. What happened this time?”

You see, folks, I’ve changed in the last year. It seems that my faulty uterus was a plug that held my anger in. When it came out, so did the anger. And there was a lot of it. I’m a woman of a certain age. We are too young and not financially ready for retirement and we are too old to put up with the bullshit any longer.

“Another self-help book. The little Shit had a sticky note marking chapter two and it said, ‘Please read this section and I will, too. We’ll discuss it on Monday.’” I took a long draw on my drink. The cold bittersweet fluid started to hit my veins and I could feel my blood pressure drop. I looked up at Trudy. She was leaning back, arms crossed, and grinning.

“I’m surprised he tried that again. The last book stopped up the men’s room toilet. Did they ever replace the carpet in the hallway?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I guess I should be glad I didn’t have to pay the bill.” Trudy waited. “I was cool as a cucumber this time. I just took out the sticky and threw it away. I put the book on the bookshelf and closed up the office. Totally unsatisfying.”

Trudy shook her head again and drained her rum and coke. Sally replaced it before Trudy could put the empty glass down.

Sally’s of a certain age herself. She knows. Sally used to be in the same boat, actually. Sporting two masters’ degrees and a half-finished doctorate thesis, Sally chucked it all to wait tables in a bar. She tells people that she finally got smart.

Trudy, on the other hand, has always been smart. When her high school counselor was pushing college brochures at her, she was using them to light her joint. The next fall when most of our peers were jumping through another set of educational hoops, Trudy took her college savings and backpacked through Europe for six years. It kept her in writing material for the next thirty years and after fourteen novels and scores of short stories and poems, she finally ran out. It didn’t worry her, though. She’d picked up a camera and found a new outlet. Damned thing is that it was working. She is just one of those people who listen to their hearts. I guess that’s what I love about her.

“So when are you going to tell them all to stuff it?” she asked.

“I can’t Trudy. You know I won’t get another job. I’m an old lady who will always end up in entry-level positions if someone actually hired me over those little blonde bimbos with the perky boobs.” I looked down at my own sagging chest and sighed. “I’m holding on though. The Shit is working on a new line of financing that if it works will require him to hire more people. If that happens, I might get to slide over to work for one of them.”

“Better the devil you know, Marianne.”

“Yeah. We could cliché all night but it wouldn’t help. No, Trudy, I’m going to ride it out and see what happens. If he has the Board as fooled as I think he does…”

“Judging from that bonus you told me he got, I’d say that was a safe assumption.”

I nodded. “Yep, and that may mean that he’ll move on. And that puts Erica up a notch.” Erica, another woman of a certain age, also suffers under the Shit’s thumb. We both concluded that our mutual boss has issues with his mother.

We sat back and watched Sally put the bowl of pretzels down between us. She straightened and looked at us with a squint. “Pretzels ain’t going to cut it today, are they?”

We agreed. Sally picked up the pretzels and disappeared into the kitchen. Someone put a quarter in the jukebox and Grace Slick joined the conversation with “White Rabbit.” The jukebox jockey frowned at us when Trudy and I loudly joined in.

“Now there’s one lady who had a clue,” I said waving my glass at the jukebox when the song ended. “To Grace!”

Sally returned with a fresh basket of deep-fried zucchini and mushrooms. Chocolate works during the week but on Friday there’s nothing like hot fat and alcohol to ease tight mental muscles and calm the chakras into place.

“So. What are you going to do in the meantime?” Trudy dipped her mushroom in the Ranch dressing and watched it slide off again.

“Take it. What else is there?”

Trudy nodded. “I guess it is better than driving out to the desert to bury bodies.”

“Yeah,” I said, “You can’t lie to save your soul. You’d crack the minute a cop asks your name.”

“And you’d look so smug they’d know you were the perp immediately. So much for Thelma and Louise, eh?” she said.

Sally put another round of drinks in front of us, motioned for me to slide over and sat down with us. She’d brought a beer with her. “My shift is over.”

I looked at my watch. “It’s only 6:40.”

Sally pointed at a girl with a long blonde ponytail putting mugs of beer on a tray.  She was wearing a tight tank top and jean shorts that were so short her butt cheeks hung out. “I can’t compete with fresh tits and ass. Might as well call it a day.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Truck

The ’96 Ford Ranger XLT came fully loaded with an AM/FM cassette player, air conditioning, power steering, four voices and a ghost. Turned up loud, the radio almost drowns out the voices, but the ghost still rides shotgun.

The day before my father died, I sat on the edge of his bed while he sat in a chair looking at his dinner and picking at it. The tubes he wore were too numerous to count and the IV machine’s alarm kept going off giving a sense of urgency that I shoved to the back of my mind.

I gave Dad a flyer I had downloaded from a website that my husband, told me about. A procedure to help minor blood vessels take over from the damaged vessels at the heart. It was successful on one of my husband's co-workers, it would be with Dad. But he barely looked at the paper before folding it in half and tucking it inside his unread paperback novel.

He kept fidgeting. Finally, after some idle chat, he looked away and said, “You know, Joni, this isn’t going to last forever.”

“I know Dad,” I quickly responded and pushed those thoughts away again.

“Do you want the truck?”

“Sure. Unless Greg...”

Dad shook his head and murmured something about Greg not needing it. We resumed our trivial conversation. Neither of us could talk about what was staring at us in that room.

Dad died early the next morning.

Six months later, I drove away from my parents’ house with the truck. Dad sat there, turned slightly towards me, elbow resting on his raised knee, nodding. Greg’s grief-stricken mandate, “You will never sell that truck!” came in one ear, while Mom’s disgusted voice declared in the other ear, “Just like your father. If I had known, I would have bought you a car. Greg should have that truck.” Then Gary’s gentle voice said, “It was your father’s wish. You need to honor that.” Soon, I heard myself at the hospital with the sudden realization that Dad knew he was dying, “Dad wanted me to have the truck.”

I cried most of that two-hour drive home. Dad sat silently beside me, nodding.

They are still there. They wait for me to back out of the driveway before pecking away at me. I talk to Dad. The voices stop while I tell him how much I love that truck even though I fear the day when something will happen to it and Greg will find out. He nods.

Each jolt and jounce of the rough suspension brings me closer to the woman I want to be. Tough, independent, and confident. “I’m driving a truck, Dad. I’m not a wimp anymore.” He nods.

I tell him how even though we all must die, no one is ever ready to go or to let go. I tell him how much I miss him even though we argued about most everything. He nods.

Then the voices start in again. I turn up the radio and deliberately aim for the bumpy part of the road. We all drive on. Together.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aftershocks of the full moon

(See blog post March 10, 2008 “Moon Story”)

When the sun came up, Betsy put out the small campfire, scuffled out her tracks, and made her way down the crumbly narrow trail that led down off the mesa. She threw her canteen and empty satchel onto the passenger seat of her rusty '72 Ford pickup and climbed in behind the wheel. The drive out back to the road was slow and rough. Several times her forearms brushed the steering wheel causing renewed stinging sensations. She swore softly.

The road, a pot-holed gravel ribbon that led back to the house, was particularly dusty this morning. Grit filled Betsy's nose and she could feel it on her teeth. It hadn't rained in several months. The farm's well was low and her garden was barely hanging on. The chickens were even panting in the heat.

Grandmother's voice spoke again in her head, repeating the old stories. It was over five years since she died, but recently the stories became louder and more urgent.  The words Betsy chanted in the moon light were unknown to her yet they had come easily from her lips. It hadn't been Betsy's voice that spoke last night, but her Grandmother's. What seemed natural then now made her feel creeped out.  She hoped last night's ceremony would put Grandmother's spirit at rest. Time would tell.

A cloud of dust enveloped the truck when she stopped in front of her barn and hung in the air like a brown fog.  Her cat sat on an up-turned bucket and stared at her. The chickens huddled motionless in the shade. Betsy climbed out of the truck and stood still. It was quiet. Silent. Not even an insect buzzed. She looked up at the sky. It was a dead blue and the sun seemed bigger and menacing. Sweat dripped down her throat and pooled under her breasts. Her mouth went dry.

Betsy closed her eyes, shook her head and then waved her arms at the scene. "Stop it! Just stop it! This is getting ridiculous!" She stomped her foot and said, "I am going in the house to get a drink of water. When I come out again, things had better be back to normal because my fuse is really short. Do you hear me?'  She paused. "I said, DO YOU HEAR ME?"

It was as if the world winked. An almost imperceptible blink. A slight breeze ruffled the feathers of the brown hen. The cat jumped down, stretched and padded off into the barn. On the distant horizon a small but heavy white cloud began to grow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Write about a pair of shoes.

The new shoes of the year were always the start of school shoes. Late summer, the week before school started, Mom would take us to the shoe store. We'd sit on the chairs and the clerk would measure our feet. That would be one of the few people in my life that could touch my feet and not send me into crawly fits of ticklishness. (Is that a word?)


Summer vacation, all three long months of it, were spent in old hand-me-down tennis shoes, flip-flops (otherwise known as thongs), and barefoot. Freedom of the soul as well as freedom of the sole. Wiggle the toes in the grass. Wiggle the toes in the sand. Wiggle the toes in the mud, if we could find any. The shoe store clerk's measurements would show our tan and leather-like feet grew whole sizes or more over the summer.
Next came the choice. It wasn't too difficult in the 1960s as our small town stores didn't have the choices we see now. My goal was to have a pair that didn't tie. Buckles stayed put but laces would come undone even after Grandma's special double-knot. My sister would try guess what her friends would be wearing and then pick those. She was wrong every time.
The day after school closed for the summer, those shoes would be resting in the trash. I picture them now with smoke wisping up the broken down heels and goo leaking out of the holes in the toe box. We put miles and miles of running, jumping, line leadering, and kickball scuffing into those small containers. They did their duty and then some.
I just wish I'd kept some of the energy that used to fill those shoes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Write about a scar.

“Scar light, scar bright, first scar I see tonight.” She let loose a stream of swear words that would make a sailor blush.

“Aw, for pete's sake, Mona. Shut the hell up. It ain't like it never happened to no one else. Shit.”

Mona collapsed onto the sofa and pulled her knees up under her chin. “Well, hell and damnation, Freda. I gotta let go once in a while or I'll go outta my mind.”

Freda took a long drag on her cigarette and watched Mona through the smoke as she blew it out slow. Mona let herself fall sideways on the torn cushions.  Freda got up and took a couple beers out of the refrigerator. After taking the cap off one, she handed it to Mona and then sat back at the table with one for herself.

“Yeah, okay. I know what you mean. But, hell, Mona, we all get shit dumped on us. It's how you deal with it that matters, ya know? Take ol' Harry now. He works his ass off and what do them big assholes do but lay him off. It ain't like he was makin' CEO money. They said they were 'trimmin' the fat.'  Shit. Like gettin' rid of Harry will save the whole damned company. Shit.”  Mona nodded.  "But Harry?  He just takes that last piece of shit they call a paycheck with a smile.  Hell, he got himself another job right smack dab across the goddamned street."  Freda chuckled, "Lucy told me that Harry waves at ol' Prichard every morning.  Prichard has to take his own damned trash to the chute now."  She leaned back in her chair and lit another cigarette with the first.

“Freda, you know me. You know I wouldn't hurt no one.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You know I'd give my last nickel if someone needed it.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You know I more'n once helped a stranger.”

“Yep.”

“Then why, Freda? In all of heaven and hell, WHY?”

“I don't know. I just goddamned don't know. Shit.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fountain Pen Fascination

I am fascinated with fountain pens and have been ever since I read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg the first time. I've read that book a half-dozen times now, and it still manages to impart inspiration. The first chapter deals with the tools of the trade. Fast writing pens. In 1986, when the book was first published, that still meant fountain pens.

Now, I admit. There are two types of stores that I must visit only when I have lots of time so that I can wander up and down every blasted aisle. Hardware stores and office supply/stationery stores. Love 'em! Fountain pens were too expensive to be found around here - that is until one fateful day. Staples. Central and Osborne. Parker, for a too-short period of time, put out a CHEAP plastic fountain pen (the Reflex) that took easy to find ink cartridges. I bought three.

That started it all.

I now follow over a dozen blogs that feature fountain pens and ink in their posts. Reviews are eagerly devoured by yours truly. Then I started looking at buying and collecting. Big bucks that I don't have. Then I ran across the Hero pen from China. It seems China is still using fountain pens in a big way and Hero copies designs from other companies including the all-time classic Parker 51. I ordered three as they were all under five dollars each.

Next the ink. The hubby had an old bottle of India ink. Little did I know that this was WRONG to use. It has a shellac base that is for dip pens only. The ink dried in my poor little Heros and jammed them up. I found my answers online. (I don't know what I'd do without the internet.) After a trip to Arizona Art Supply, I was set with a nib cleaner as well as Pelikan Brilliant Black ink and Windsor & Newton Indian Red and Blue Black inks. While the Windsor & Newton colors are gorgeous, the Pelikan works the best for fine nib Hero pens in dry Arizona. Arizona Art Supply has a huge sale October 3rd at their new location. I'll be there looking at Pelikan inks for sure.

Next, I search for the “perfect” journal. Moleskine? Probably not. Romantic, but too expensive.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm Back!

It's been over a year since I stopped blogging. I can't tell you or myself why I did. Yeah, I made excuses. Mock reasons that sounded good at the time. Regardless, I've decided to write again.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming around again. I'm woefully out of practice. I didn't “finish” last year because I went in to it cold. This year, it has become vital for some reason that I cross that finish line so this is for practice as well as anything else.

Let me bring you up to speed on what's been going on in my life.

My hubby and I are in a holding pattern as far as our marriage. We are both trying somewhat. Neither of us is 100% sure of anything. And that encompasses the entire spectrum of our lives. We live with uncertainty as a constant. Oxymoron? Hell, yeah.

My big dog died on April 27, 2009. I'm still grieving. My little dog had a harder time. She wouldn't even go for walks until recently. What changed that is two things: Big dog's scent is gone and we had a cat move in with us. The cat has taken the edge off grief for the whole family. I think the Goddess sent the cat to us. It was way too perfect to be anything other than devine intervention.

My much-hated 1/2 time job may be ending by the end of the year. Please, everyone, cross your fingers and pray for me! It all hinges, believe it or not, on the Governor. Can't say any more than that. My much-loved 1/2 time job is going pretty well and I truly look forward to giving it the time it deserves - and needs. Even if I won't be a full-time employee, I will rejoice in the changes.

My fig tree situation is this: the shoots that came up from the burnt out stump have survived and thrived. I kept two to grow together. As you may recall, I hate perfection, especially in trees. Of the three "Sisters" only one remains. My well-intentioned brother-in-law came over to help the hubby on lawn maintenance and used a weed wacker with way too much enthusiasm. He didn't know that cutting the bark all around a tree was fatal. I gave the thriving replacement fig to a good friend who loves trees as much as I do. He found a good home for it. Now I have to decide what to do about the apricot tree that grew from its burnt stub. There were no blossoms this year. I have to make some sort of decision because it re-grew right smack dab next to the new fig tree. It's one or the other or I'll lose both.

I had a hysterectomy in March of this year. My doctor was fantastic. If you live in the Phoenix metro area and need a gynecologist recommendation, email me and I will tell you all about him. I won't be seeing him as my regular physician, however. I have a wonderful family physician that I spent way too many years trying to find to give her up. Because of previous bad experiences, I require a female doctor. (My gynecologist is a man only because I couldn't find a woman in this area. Go figure.)

The hubby has immersed himself in the local poetry scene. He is fantastically good. They all are. It amazes me that this has been existing in an almost parallel universe state and we didn't know about it. There are great poets in this town and I hope they don't remain in the shadows. The writing community is starting to bust out as well. Thanks especially to "Monsoon Voices" led by Traci and Patrick Moore. Google them if so inclined.

My daughter just started her 2nd year of college and in the second week was felled by the flu. Not swine, thank the Goddess, just regular. She's still coughing and congested but her high fever is gone. That was the scary part for me.

That about sums it up. Thanks for reading this far. Stand by for further posts.