Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer. http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-are-enough/

Here is my entry. Take a read. Does this make you want to write. Please comment. Be brutally honest.


YOU ARE ENOUGH

You might be sitting and facing a blank screen on an expensive laptop or tablet. You might be on a park bench with a blank notebook staring back and being of no help whatsoever. Every published writer has at some time felt mocked by the white space they so desperately wanted to fill with ideas that burned with brilliance, until they tried to spin those ideas into sentences and paragraphs. That first leap across the abyss from the mind to a finished article, story, or book can seem daunting. Then your muse sidles into the room, and the words began to tumble out into a first draft. There's a feeling of euphoria that might lead to you buying drinks around the bar or at least dancing around the room.  
Then you go back and read what you've written, and OMG who wrote this tripe? You look  around for the next leap across Rewrite Canyon. That’s when you realize this won’t be a leap. You gear up and plunge down into the gorge, cross the rocks, and climb up the other side.
Sounds like work doesn’t it? It is work. Writing is hard, but if you want to take up the challenge, you have it in you. The very fact that you have the desire to get your words out there means you have it in your core self to go after your dream. You do not have to be that person who thinks someday you are going to write that book, or if your dreams are smaller, that pamphlet. Everything you’ve experienced, every drop of love, every shed tear, has been leading up to this moment when you’re ready to start.
Don’t be afraid of where to start. Beginnings can be tough. Write the middle or the end. Remember your muse may be stuck in traffic or extending her vacation in the Canary Islands. Don’t wait for her. Start typing, or using a fountain pen, or speaking into a recording device. She’ll show up. She has to. It’s her job description. She knows you are worth it.
Start writing. Keep writing. Don’t give up. You have something to share with the world. Don’t hold back. Here’s to you and what you’re about to accomplish!

 

Monday, September 24, 2018


 

The Hound from Hell

 
It seemed like the perfect gig, working the weekend at Casey’s Upscale Suites for the Discerning Canine.
“Please Scott.” Casey with the big green eyes, was also braless. Not that I had a prayer at anything but friendship, what with her being a Master Wizard and me being – well – me. A Magic Studies drop-out. Still, I could use the cash. There were those pesky gambling debts I owed to Big Barry Short Fuse.
     I said yes. What could go wrong?
 
     On Friday night I walked into a Boston Blue Blood decorating scheme, complete with Perrier in the drinking bowls and a tuxedo for me. Casey changed the Upscale Suites d├ęcor often. Her customers probably thought their exorbitant contributions did this. Wrong! It was Casey’s wizardry.
 “No vacancies,” Casey said. “But there’s an Ambrose Jenkins yet to arrive.”
She left on a cloud of Zanzibar perfume and shortly after, the doorbell chimed.  A large gentleman, Yorkie in arms, stood next to a thin, greying man with hooded eyes and – oh my Zeus – a three headed hound?
“We’re full,” I said. “Unless one of you is Mr. Jenkins.”
     “I am.” The portly man pushed inside.
     The hound owner followed. “I’m Darius Mortimer. You will take my dog.” His voice echoed like we were in an underground cavern.
     Jenkins lifted his triple chins. “I have a reservation.”
     “I decided to take a holiday. That trumps your reservation.” Mortimer blasted fetid breath in every direction.
Jenkins stepped back. His face paled. “My niece can watch my dog.”
     Mortimer’s smile was grim. “How fortuitous.”
     Jenkins’ exiting speed was impressive in one so large. Fearing I’d lost Casey a regular customer, I asked Mortimer the strange dog’s name and whether it required three bowls?”
     “It’s Cerberus, and that would be wise. You won’t want the heads fighting each other.”
     I led the hound toward its suite. He smelled like he’d rolled in dead horse and encountered a bonfire. That seemed odd, but not as strange as the other dogs’ behavior. Instead of lying on their comfy beds, each animal was pressed close to the furthest wall of its enclosure. Poor things, I thought. Those sensitive noses.
     I settled in to play Video Poker.
     Around 9PM I heard a commotion outside and looked out.  A small crowd milled about on both sides of the street.  Strange. The kennel wasn’t in the entertainment district. Some were shuffling, and a few were naked. I slammed the door and locked it. Whatever was happening out there, the police could handle things.
     Then Cerberus set up a howl. It sounded like 5000 lost souls from hell and soon every other dog joined in.
     “Shut up,” I yelled. That bought me five seconds before the din resumed.
     My cell rang. It was Casey. To escape the barking, I took it outside. The sidewalk had grown more packed. Three people grabbed my arm and started yelling:
“Where am I?”
“Who are you?”
“Is this Detroit?”
     Casey’s voice was louder. “Scott, our neighborhood’s on the news. What’s happening over there?”
     “I don’t know!” Ducking back inside, I triple locked the door. The dogs still howled in concert, but that was less disturbing than whatever was going on outside.
     “Biscuits,” Casey yelled. “Bottom drawer.”
I found a small box under a huge flashlight which I took out and laid on the desk. The box was tiny. How could there be more than a couple inside? But as I upended it, biscuits rained down. Ah! Casey’s magic. I grabbed a handful, began tossing them into the suites. One by one, each dog collapsed in a snoring heap. It took three biscuits per head before Cerberus went down.
     As I got back to the desk, the lights went out. Grabbing the flashlight, I flicked the switch but instead of lighting up the place, it started singing “When you walk through a storm……”
     That’s when I heard banging on the door and Casey yelling “Let me in.” I felt my way over and undid the locks.
     “Why’s it dark in here?” Casey demanded. “And what’s that stupid music?” She grabbed the useless flashlight and shook it. “Stop that!”
     The flashlight quieted. A white glow lit up the room and shimmered at the edges until Casey told it to dial down. She grabbed the check-in sheet. There’s no phone number here for Death.”
     “What?”
     “Cerberus’ owner.”
     “That was death?” My breath caught. “I thought he was just some guy with a weird dog. How do you know about Cerberus anyway?”
     “Everybody who’s anybody knows by now. That dog is supposed to be guarding the gates of Hades, not letting the dead out to come back topside like what’s happening out there.”
     I waved my arms. “Those are dead people? Dead people are coming back everywhere?”
     “No. Just Detroit. We think they followed Death and his hound.” She frowned. “He’s in big trouble. But where’d he go?”
     “Mortimer? He said something about taking a holiday.”
     “The movie!” She snapped her fingers. “Of course. Such a perverted sense of humor.”
     “What movie?” I was lost.
     “1934,” said the flashlight. “Romantic drama.”
     Casey tightened her grip. “And where did Death go?” 
     “Italy,” whimpered the flashlight. “And stop squeezing me.”
     “He wouldn’t leave Cerberus here and go all the way to Italy. He’s somewhere close. Think, everyone.”
     “Little Italy?” I ventured. “In Windsor?”
     “That’s it. He’s crazy for Tiramisu.” 

     She found him by getting the astral plane involved, which caused a fracas since it was supposed to be down for a weekend upgrade. An hour later, Mortimer, or Death, or whatever you want to call him slunk back and roused his sleeping dog.
     “You’d better get that crowd back to Hades,” Casey told him. “You’re lucky they didn’t try and cross the river. What if Customs had gotten involved?”    

     I was awarded a bonus. The next day I paid my gambling debts and re-enrolled in Intro to Magic like Casey told me to. You don’t say no to a hot babe like Casey.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


One Long Regret
 

            I love the aquarium at night. Gone the shrieking schoolchildren herded by frazzled teachers, the dreamy-eyed lovers, the lonely singles At night it’s just me. Until Michael comes, that is. It’s our anniversary or what would have been our anniversary had our wedding happened.

I slip into my mermaid costume. It’s easier since the accident. My limbs are more flexible, my joints fluid. Without a ripple, I become one with the water. I dive into the blue depths. A group of clown fish, dart into the waving fronds of their anemone home.  How the fish recognize my presence I’ve never understood. Dogs do too. They whine. Cats hiss. People? Completely unaware.

I stare out through the glass. The viewing room is dim. Over there is the spot Michael and I met, two new employees on orientation day. And there is the little amphitheater where we fell in love, after hours, one winter’s night. And here, right in front of this saltwater micro-world, is where we planned to stand in gown and tux, to take our vows until death do us part.

It’s been three years since the unthinkable happened. I close my eyes, remembering Joe’s car skidding on that icy road. One minute we were in the front seat of his Camaro, jamming to some band, the next we were screaming and flying out windows. I stayed conscious long enough to hear Joe’s moans. I suffered no physical pain and only briefly endured the agonizing knowledge it was just supposed to be a last fling with rich, handsome Joe before I settled into forever with Michael. That night wasn’t supposed to end with Joe in a coma and me on a morgue slab.

Michael appears in the doorway. He looks so good. A bottle of champagne rests in the crook of his arm. A carry-out bag from Delfino’s, our favorite restaurant, dangles from his hand. Three years and still he remembers! I feel like crying, but I can’t shed tears. This body, invisible to all but me, puts out nothing, although it remembers being flesh and blood. Sometimes those sensations drive me almost mad. Like right now. If only I could hug away the pain in Michael’s expression.

Why did I ever give in to Joe’s pursuit of me? I adored Michael but let myself be talked into a promise of one night of guilty pleasure. It got me nothing but death and the man I loved coming here year after year to honor me in the best way he knows how.

Michael sets down his cargo. He removes his backpack, takes out a white tablecloth and two wine flutes and places them on the table. He adds a single yellow rose to a bud vase he sets in the middle of the tablecloth. He’s reenacting our first date. I frown. The rose should be red. Maybe he couldn’t find one. The important thing is, even after three anniversaries without me, I’m still in his thoughts. I feel sad, yet comforted. Without Michael’s devotion, I fear I might disappear forever.

He approaches the tank, looks me full in the face. I swear he can see me though I know he can’t. I press my mouth to the glass. I miss his lips on mine.

“You were beautiful.” He says. “I remember your mermaid’s tail flashing while you did acrobatics for the crowds.”

Then he abruptly steps back. His mouth flattens to a hard line. I know that expression. He rarely directed it toward me, but many times I saw it when someone else displeased him. Why is he angry now?

Smell, taste, and most of touch are lost to me, but sight and hearing are still mine. I watch Michael’s mouth open, then close. He turns away, then back again.

He shakes his head.  “Dammit, I loved you, Desiree. You were my world.”

Startled, I hold my hands out, aching to touch something even if it’s only the glass separating us. What’s wrong with him? I loved you too, Michael.

He shakes his head. “I stuck up for you. It looked bad, you being out with Joe. I convinced myself he was only giving you a ride on a stormy night.”

Yes. Believe that.

“But Joe woke up a few weeks ago.”

Wait – what?

“Joe remembers. He remembers it all, Desiree. His body is broken, but there’s nothing wrong with his memory. How could you cheat on me with him?”

Nothing happened. Just one car ride. That’s not completely true. Something was going to happen. We were headed for a secluded inn. You were out of town, Michael. You were never to find out. 

“Joe’s telling everyone, Desiree. He’s crying that you’re dead. Crying over my girl.”

I can’t bear how Michael’s backing away. It can’t end like this. I still need him.

“I’m done,” he’s saying. “I’ve mourned you long enough. It’s time I stopped living in a past that wasn’t as perfect as I thought it was. Look at me, talking to a dead woman.”

The door opens again, revealing a girl. She’s pretty. Lots of black curly hair. Michael beckons her to the table, and they sit. I think it’s a first date. They don’t touch. They fumble with words. Still, there’s something in the air between them, a spark as alive as I am dead.

The tableau continues unfolding. She smells the rose. He uncorks the champagne. It’s all familiar. She’s taking my place. It’s so unfair to be dead, yet able to experience such grief. I instinctively place my hands over my mouth, but I needn’t bother. My scream feels violent, but it comes out silent. A nearby fish darts away in a different direction. Michael and the girl do not notice. They’re looking at each other.

I’m becoming translucent. Floating with the current, I fade a little more with each ticking minute. All the “I could haves” spread out before me like petals on a rose, like bubbles in champagne. I am gone.