Welcome

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my experiment.

I don’t consider myself an on-purpose writer. It’s something I’ve stumbled my way into. That’s not to say I’ve never written, just that I never took any pride in it, never thought I had anything to offer. It took my oldest son giving me permission to write badly before I found the courage to intentionally take on a blank page without the threat of an empty slot in a gradebook.

The trouble is, I’m an old lady trying to make sense of something I’ve previously made no effort to understand. So in other words, I’m not here to try to tell what I know, but to collect whatever I can that could be helpful for anyone trying to improve their writing, myself included.

 

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New Direction

The walk-light started counting down as Hank stepped into the street. The rush hour traffic crept closer to the intersection, infringing upon the crosswalk, anticipating the light change. Hank shuffled along between the wide lines. He had nowhere to be now that they’d fired him.

The light changed before he’d made it across and the guy in the Beamer honked and revved his engine. Hank had the urge to offer a one-finger salute, but he let it go; the gesture would take more energy than the guy was worth. It was jerks like him who put Hank out of his job. Wise-ass jerks who played both sides and then tried to hide the evidence when the company’s moral fire-alarm went off. He could have followed suit and cleaned his hard drive, saved the company and himself, but he figured the guys responsible for the glitch deserved what the Feds had for them. He just hadn’t guessed they’d make him the scapegoat. They’d made it clear from the get-go he was only on the project as an office boy.

He watched the reflections of the traffic ripple across the windows as he drifted down First Street, wondering where his feet were taking him. It wasn’t until he saw the blue sign with the “H” that it occurred to him.

Making his way to the hospital’s administrative office, the plan began to take shape in his mind. He needed a job, at least until the Feds got around to arresting him.

A few blocks later, he strolled into the medical clinic.

“I’d like to talk to someone in your IT department,” he said to the receptionist. “I think I might be able to solve a problem you guys are about to have.”

close up photography of program codes

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Sunset

sunset

“You sure you don’t want me to help you in before I leave?” Kelly asked.

“Samantha is quite capable. I want to watch the sunset.” Patricia answered, running her fingers through her companion’s soft fur.

“Your phone’s in the cup holder so call if you need anything, and don’t forget it when you go in.”

“I won’t.” Patricia listened to her daughter’s footfalls fade. An engine started and drifted away.

Alone at last, she could tell from the change in the sounds that night was creeping into town. The last hints of barbeque gave way to smells of grass and flowers. The last warming ray of sunlight slid from her skin and the breeze rustled the trees. The voices of neighbors, talking and laughing, rose and fell under the compulsive chirping of crickets. A scuttling behind her turned her head, she listened, imagining a squirrel finishing its chores to settle in for the night. A loud flutter turned her head again as a bird rushed home. A commotion of sandpipers erupted, perhaps a cat had come too close to their nest. She could feel the day’s heat dissipating as the sounds of her neighbor’s voices trailed off, going in for the night no doubt.

When the multi-pitched horn of the night train signaled its arrival on the edge of town, Patricia carefully stood, her fingers tracing a path along Samantha’s harness to the handle. “Time to go in Samantha,” she said once she was certain she had a good grip.

The dog did not move.

“What’s wrong?”

The wet nose nudged her free hand and Samantha whined.

“Right, my phone. What would I do without you?”

Her Knees

grayscale photo of woman holding sand

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Afraid of heights

Afraid of bees

Afraid of nights

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of falling

Afraid in seas

Afraid she’s calling

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of failing

Afraid to tease

Afraid of telling

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of snakes

Afraid of ease

Afraid she quakes

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of fires

Afraid to freeze

Afraid of liars

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of flying

Afraid on skis

Afraid of dying

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid of dreams

Afraid in trees

Afraid of schemes

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid alone

Afraid to sneeze

Afraid at home

Oh, but look at her knees

Afraid exposed

Afraid to squeeze

Afraid opposed

Oh, but look at her knees

Battered

Bent

Shattered

Spent

Bloodied

Bruised

Muddied

Used

No more kneeling

Standing in darkness

Tired of feeling

Seeking apartness

Fears fall away

She’ll make her own light

Tears dry today

Her wild dreams take flight

Afraid of none

Aloud she sings

Dying undone

Oh, but look at her wings

New Year Poem

019

Merry Christmas is now

put into old boxes.

Away from the chimney

Are the neat red soxes.

The trash is overflowed

With bows and with wrapping.

On couches and armchairs

The people are napping.

All of the great presents

Are tucked into crannies.

Back to their warm houses

Have gone all the grannies.

A new year has started.

The old year has ended.

Breathe deep the fresh season.

Let old hurts be mended.

Your Application Has Been Processed

The heavy, unpainted metal door grated and squealed when I pried it open as if ages had passed since it’s last use. Unmarked, set back in shadows, and facing the alley it was the only one that corresponded with the address on the document I’d received. Inside, I made my way along a winding hallway, lit by a single flickering bulb. I stumbled on the broken concrete and pondered the splotchy red paint. Finding, at the end of the hallway, a reception room where a life-size animatronic Barbie Doll smiled at me over the counter, my decision to personally resolve the damn discrepancies in my application wavered.

application blur business close up

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A cheery voice issued from the doll. “Please state the reason for your visit, and your concern will be addressed in the order it was received.”

I glanced around the otherwise empty room. “Isn’t there a real person here I can talk to?”

There was a mechanical hum and click as the Doll’s head tilted and the eyelids opened and closed. “This office has employed forty-two processing agents for over a century. Your application will be processed in two to four weeks. Thank you for your patience.”

“That’s great, but can I talk to a processing agent?” I asked, noting a shadowy movement through the translucent glass of the door behind the doll.

“Your query does not meet requirements. You may submit questions with a Q-ninety form, which can be obtained online.” It blinked again.

I’d come to clear things up not argue with a machine. Sizing up the animatronic, I decided: if it could move from where it stood, it wouldn’t move fast. A quick jump and lunge later, I stood staring at the bizarre sight behind the door. Papers, applications, floated from one empty desk to another. Stamps and pens at each desk moved in rhythm.

Before I could fully comprehend the ghostly scene, the animatronic caught hold of me and hauled me out of the building. It blinked at me from the doorway and in a deep voice said, “You have violated protocol S-fifteen. Your application has been denied.” Then the cheery voice returned. “Have a nice day,” it said, just before slamming the door in my face.

Standing there, staring at the old door, I realized my father was right:  trying to fund my paranormal research through this agency was a dead end.

Who is Going to Dinner?

“Hey guys, dinners on me.” Ted thrust an arm in the direction of a local bar and grill on the corner. The three, dressed to the nines for the big meeting, entered the establishment where a gray-haired, waitress, her attitude sagging just like her skin, led them to a booth.

blur bread bun burger

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Jack stood back and motioned for Jill to slide in ahead of him. “I’ll have a daiquiri.”

“The same for me.” Ted rubbed his head. “On second thought make it a whiskey.”

“I’ll just have Perrier. My doctor said I should stop drinking, on account of my bad liver.” Jill’s face scrunched with the conveyance of the information.

The waitress dropped some menus on the table and left to get their drinks.

“I really don’t know why I bother going to doctors though. All they do is take my money.” Jill began perusing the menu.

The waitress returned with their drinks.

“We’ll all take the house special.” Ted snatched the menus from his coworkers and handed them back to the waitress. “We’re celebrating a successful hostile takeover.

“Merger, Ted.” Jack pounded his fist on the table. “For the last time, it was a merger.”

“If it hadn’t been for my quick thinking it would have been a hostile takeover.” Jill sipped her Perrier. “Did you see the way their overstuffed CEO deflated when I started explaining things? Too bad my doctor can’t be so enlightened.”

“Ask not what your doctor can do for you, ask what you can do for your doctor.”

“Can it Jack, don’t you ever think about anybody but yourself? I pay my doctor a fortune to tell me I’d have more fun if I were dead. So, I don’t need a stupid lecture from you.” Jill wagged her finger in Jack’s face.

“Hey guys, no need for any of that, I think you’re both swell.”

The waitress moseyed up to the table with two plates in one hand and a third in the other. Each plate topped with a greasy burger and a pile of fries. Ted shoved a couple of fries in his mouth.

“I don’t have a doctor. I can take care of myself. In fact, I removed my own spleen last week. True story.”

“You can’t remove your own spleen. The person to remove the spleen is the doctor.” Jack lifted a bun off his burger and studied the innards.

“I am a doctor.”

“You’re no doctor; You’re an accountant.”

“Who even cares, the two of you are giving me a throbbing headache and, I think, the air in here is polluted. You know I can’t be brilliant if I’m polluted.” Jill took a bite of her burger, spit it out, and dropped the whole thing back on her plate. “I can’t eat this. I’m leaving.” Jill stood to leave, but Jack was still examining his burger.

“You can’t leave yet.” Ted swung the arm he was holding the burger in, and ketchup flew from it and splattered Jack across the face.

“The true measure of a restaurant is in fulfilling its promise of better food served to its customers.” Jack wiped the ketchup from his face and stood.  “This, Ted, is not better food.”

“Guys you can’t leave now. B.B. King is going to come on stage any minute.”

Jack and Jill ignored the plea and sauntered out of the establishment.

“He probably just wants us to pay.” Jill clutched her purse.

Jack held the door open. “You and I have cast our caps out of this dive, and now we have no choice but to follow them.”

Burning Day

Flames licked the edges of the wood piled around Patricia’s feet. It wasn’t the idea of burning alive that bothered her. It was the way she’d gotten here and the one who’d lead the mob to her door.

In her line of work, a good burning was one of the few perks. But she preferred it on her terms, not at the mercy of a fool who she’d protected and provided for. His profits had more than doubled since he brought her on, and no one had touched him or his property, not even once. She knew better than to expect it to go on forever, but a nod of professional courtesy would have been nice.

The mob continued its pointless chanting. She wondered who’d come up with that nonsense. Likely they read it in some book on the occult. Silly things like that always had a way of cropping up.

The smell of burning rubber stung her nose. It was a pity to burn these shoes.  Leather didn’t stink nearly as much. If she’d had a few minutes warning she’d have had time to change into the leather ones.

Time to change.

She laughed.

Within the mob, heads tilted and faces drooped in confusion. Their chanting tapered off and died.

Oh, but the smell. She scrunched up her face, trying to block it and tested the ropes around her wrists. A splinter from the stake stabbed the side of her hand. This was a good knot. She’d not get her hands free until the flames gnawed down the ropes. She sighed. They always had to use a wooden stake—so cliché.

Her slacks caught, and the delicious sting started at her ankles. The man-made fibers melted in the flames, sticking to her skin. She let her head rest against the stake and embraced the pain. It validated the pain on the inside. No one understands the pain on the inside, not until you have a mark they can see on the outside.

The flames climbed.

The mob stared. Jaws were dropping. She scanned from one side of the group to the other. There were many faces, yet all one face, all with the same expressions, all with the same thoughts behind their judgmental eyes.

Why isn’t she screaming?

abstract blaze burn burning

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She loved the moment they collectively realized her strength. That moment when judgment and fear lost its power and higher reasoning started to trickle in.

You can’t kill what you don’t understand. You can hate it, fear it, judge it, but you can’t kill it.

Her flesh burned. There was an all over agony. It never got worse than this. Once it spreads over the midsection, the pain level stabilizes. A mind can only process so much.

The flames would soon catch her hair. It always made for a terrible smell. This meant it was time to turn inward, to leave the flames and the confused faces of the onlookers. Her thoughts convened on the point of inner light. The fire within burned bright and white. This was her true fire, her true form. Everything external, the pain, the mob, the stench, these all faded. Power coursed through her even as her body sizzled and died.

The incredible heat from inside her burst forth in a sudden flash the consumed it all. The woman, the stake and the mob’s fire. The stunned mob stared at the pile of ash they believed they had created.

“See there,” an old woman said. “God has judged her.”

With head nods and shoulder shrugs, the crowd agreed and dispersed. Murmurings of disappointment trickled among the young.

“I thought there’d be more screaming,” said one.

“She could have at least chanted or something, like a proper witch,” said another.

Patricia listened from among the ashes, letting her new form take shape.  It would be a while yet till she could form wings, but when she did, she would burst forth from the ashes and rise on the currents of the wind.

“You cannot kill what you don’t understand,” she thought with great satisfaction. These people would not know her when they saw her again. They would all still be the same, but she would be new.