Evanovich-Like Description

Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae (5076304681)

 

 

A plethora of greens tumbled down the mountainous hill. Evergreens and bushes scattered amongst other assorted outcroppings. Additional amber, auburn, oranges and browns – sprinkles of brush –  dotted the clay drizzled hills. She knew that she should marvel at its beauty, that deep thoughts should come to her. But for some reason it reminded her of a mint chocolate chip ice cream sundae drizzled with carmel syrup. If it had been a cloudy day she would have counted it for whipped cream and put a cherry on top.

A Writer’s Bubble

Shiny new apple

By Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, United States (shiny new apple Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A vinyl kitchen chair, circa 1972, peers across the cluttered table.  Uneven piles of books and skewed papers cascade toward the edge of the tabletop.  A laptop is anchored on a place mat opposite the spying chair, it’s screen open and blazing word shadows on the writer’s glasses.  A once rolled newspaper sits atop a down-facing open book, which straddles an off-kilter stack of other books – all of it off-center on a mismatched chair.

The bulletin board by the light switch dangles its captives: a book of stamps, several bills, business hours for the local library and a restaurant 20 miles away, and a visitor’s pass.  A phone sits below, on the floor – inches from the wall jack as the snaking cord attests. Its red battery charge light glares defiantly, as if daring any corner table that might one day arrive on a white horse.  In the corner, three rolls of Christmas wrapping paper are leaning like a tent over a forgotten roll of scotch tape.

The tick-tick-ticking of the gas heater, shutting off as it meets the thermostat’s goal, keeps time with the car engines tutting by outside.  The headspace crunching of crackers being chewed interrupts the otherwise pseudo-silence in the room.

She types all this sporadically, pausing only to slurp coffee or scratch, her left knee bouncing from time to time.  The other three quarters of the room are behind her, but she doesn’t turn around.  She doesn’t look or study what is not in her fan of head swivel.  She types; she reaches for her cell phone and checks the time; she types.

Her eyes fall from the screen to her hands and she continues pushing the words to the screen.  She notices the muscle memory of her fingers and thumbs and how they work in unison, almost separately from the rest of her body.  She doesn’t hold a favorable opinion of these pudgy extensions of her arms in the day to day.  But she notices their shape when positioned like this – doing this.  The right corner of her mouth lifts.  Her hands are sexy when she writes.


 

This piece was inspired by a writing exercise called “No Ideas, But in Things” in Brian Kiteley’s book The 3 A.M. Epiphany.  I highly recommend it to those of you who have a day job that rattles around in your head when you’re finally home and trying to write.

Opening Lines

Rain Drops

By Bodhitukun (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Rain on a metal roof seems urgent or forceful. When you hear it, you’re either inwardly frantic (while intelligently self-talking yourself into casual unconcern) or outwardly sleepy and willing to be drummed into Neverland. Either way, your first instinct when you hear the pummeling of nature upon your hard earned home is not to grab your keys and go bolting out into it. Yet that is exactly what Kevin Abernathy did on that afternoon on the first of May, 1992. Twenty minutes later the sun came out; brilliant rays radiated the leaves that overhung the gravel driveway, their slippery burdens dripping off and falling to the ground. But Mr. Abernathy wasn’t there to see it.  He would not be seen or heard from for another twenty years.

Unreliable Third

Blood stain
It was late.  Kinsey was irritable and frankly, downright angry.  Here it was, close to seven o’clock when she wanted to be watching the season finale of Runway, and she was at Target.  Her two best friends hadn’t done their part for the science fair project they’d been assigned.  “Why do I always have to be the reliable one?”  She directed this question to a rather large shopper who was blocking the isle, his cart full of cereal boxes and gasoline.  “What the hell is he doing?” she thought, as she maneuvered around his pockmarked and ridiculous expression.  She ignored his attempt to tell her a knock-knock joke and hurried past the hypodermic needle display.

A cold sweat broke on Kinsey’s forehead and traveled down her chest and back.  Her arms became weak and shaky and she pushed her cart to one side to take stock of her situation.  Tinsey and Cheryl had reluctantly turned over the list of supplies when she’d exploded about the impending deadline, pointing out the ten page paper she’d finished – her end of the deal.  She had become impatient, waiting for them to mess with their makeup, and finally left them at the house.

She slid her purse around her shoulder and propped it in the child’s seat of the cart.  Reaching for the zipper, she noticed a large clump of hair and grime that had converged where her wrist met the back of her hand, the sweat of her body carrying it all there, as if to a faucet.  In a single exasperated motion, she flung it at the fat man as he emerged from the isle she’d just left.  Dodging the monstrosity (that had now grown teeth), the man shook his head and continued around to the next isle.

Alone again, Kinsey focused on remaining calm.  “Runway will just be finishing when I get home,” she thought, “I’ll be able to start the DVR and skip the commercials.”  Now, back to the task at hand.  Opening her purse, she felt the hair on the back of her neck come to life.  Was the fat man back, demanding a “Who’s there?”  She glanced quickly around, surveying the ends of each isle.  No.  She was alone.  Still, she felt the undeniable sensation of someone watching her. “Cameras,” she thought, and reached into the purse for the list.

Swirling her hand around like she was mixing a salad, she grazed her checkbook, the calculator, and some keys.  A grinding noise, very low and steady, began tickling her ears.  “Someone got a bad cart,” she supposed, “with a wheel that needs fixing.”  She pulled out her cell phone without a glance, and tucked it into her jeans pocket.  She knew there would be messages from her friends, wondering where she was, but she refused to pay heed.  They had disrespected her time with their lack of follow-through.  They could make an appointment to apologize as far as she was concerned.

The grinding sound had intensified, only now it had a different quality.  She could swear it was repeating words, or rather, a familiar phrase of non-words she recognized from her childhood, “Wacka ferantun, butos santin, oorat dirty perkin shertafata bunkin philaportin, perkaluma bertin dirtin, burstin agin enata …”  It sounded like a robot, with a much lower voice, cursing like her favorite cartoon character – Yosemite Sam.  Only it wasn’t changing its tone; it just forced the sounds out like a mantra, the curse becoming louder and louder.  Was it possible, she wondered, that a busted wheel could make such sounds?

She hurriedly dove back into her bag, striving for the feel of a piece of paper that may have drifted to the bottom.  Using her forearm to widen the opening as her hand still explored, she positioned the purse to get more light, and looked into the gaping hole.  A shrill scream left her before her optical nerve cooperated with the full story.

A row of jagged, greasy teeth had her arm in a vice-grip.  Insane eyes peered at her from the sides of the beast that was once her purse.  Emblazoned with a self-righteous fury, they pierced her with looks of hatred and disgust.  Her arm a bloody mess with bone starting to show, Kinsey panicked and began waving her arm, monster attached, in wide arcs away from the shopping cart.

Contents of the monster’s stomach began flying.  In the store around her, she noticed a crowd of strange creatures, half human – half shopping card, moving toward her.  Surrounded and outnumbered, she charged past the smallest of the pack, desperate for escape.  The central isle opened in front of her and she searched for the best place to hide.  Her wild antics had sent the purse monster, teeth still clamped on her arm and hand, sailing in another direction.

What remained of her arm now hung from her shoulder, limp and immobile.  She stared in awkward fascination at the hemorrhaging stump, and thought how lucky she was to catch a break.  The blood flowing from the wound soaked into her clothes and painted the pristine white surroundings as she tucked herself onto a lower shelf next to the flower pots.  She was certain she blended into the color scheme of the store now; this would help her camouflage.

“Kinsey!  Hey, Kinsey!  It’s okay.  Calm down; it’s okay.”  She knew that voice.  “Don’t be afraid.  We’re here; we found you.  We’re going to get you help.”

“Cheryl?  Cheryl – be quiet or they’ll find us.  Quick – get in here.  I’ll make room!”  Kinsey’s whisper was laced with fear and frustration.  Her friend was going to get her killed.

“Kinsey – it’s not real.  You’re okay.  You took some of those LSD stickers.  You – it’s not real, honey.  I’m sorry.  We went to get batteries for the camera and you were gone.  I’m so glad we found you.”  Cheryl knelt in front of Kinsey and looked over her shoulder at what looked like Tinsey next to a blue blob with shiny, silver spots.  “It was our science project for school, officer.  We just wanted to do something different.  We didn’t think it would be like this.”

The blob spoke in Mandarin, Kinsey could not make out what it was saying.  But Tinsey and Cheryl seemed to comprehend.  Kinsey withdrew further into her hiding place.  Her body had begun to shake and she was suddenly very thirsty.

“Cheryl?” Tinsey’s voice traced the ledge of shock and fear, “Where … is all that blood coming from?”

Reaching for her best friend, Cheryl was slow and deliberate, stroking her friend’s hair with one hand and reaching for her hand with the other.  “C’mon girl.  Let’s get you to a hospital.”  She froze.  “Oh my God!  You guys, her arm … she’s missing …” Cheryl fell backward as instinct jerked her hands back.  She braced herself, leaving a bloody hand print on the tile, as she slid herself as far away as she could get.  Her eyes glazed over in shock; she whispered, “She’s missing half her arm.”


This piece is inspired by the exercise called “Unreliable Third,” in Brian Kiteley’s book The 3 A.M. Epiphany.  I highly recommend it to aspiring writers with day jobs.

Inperitive Eyes

Dark manticora eyes
The damn toaster is set at two.  That won’t do.  Turn it to three at least.  Not five – unless burnt toast is the goal for starting the day?  Some day it will be, either way.  Coffee’s done.

It snowed just twelve miles away yesterday.  Snowed.  In April.  Nearly May.  Probably need to wear a thin layer under a button down again today.  Leave the window blind up; the sunshine is looking mighty nice right now.  Remember to get creamer at the store on the way in.  They’ll be closed by the time you get off.  Um – toast should basically be a boat for butter; keep going.  There’s some Apricot marmalade in the fridge – use that too.

Take the empty egg cartons to the farm people today.  May not need more eggs, but they look messy piled up there on top of the fridge.  Floor could really use a good mop in here too.  Not now.  Only two hours before the first meeting.  Better get busy scarfing that toast and coffee down.  Take the eye vitamins and immune system supplements after you finish the first piece.

No, there’s no time to read that chapter.  It’s an eat and run morning.  Should have thought about that last night when sleep wasn’t intriguing enough to cajole.  A little effort wouldn’t hurt on those nights.  Four hours rest isn’t what those degenerate eyes need.  And a ten o’clock wake-up (in order to get them an hour and a half more) lacks style.  Really.  Could have hit the 4000 word count with a decent night’s sleep this morning.

Leave the heat down.  Save on the power bill.  Speaking of bills – open that one from yesterday and text the amount to M so she can pay it.  After that NSF from the local bank last week, it might be a good idea to close that account today or tomorrow.  Lady tried to say the online transaction records are updated daily.  So not true.  Best close it and just work with cash for the small amount every month.  And check both post offices on the way too.  Otherwise that Walmart package will get sent back.

Hit the shower.  Use the shower cap.  Hair looks serviceable (smells fine too).  No point in wasting time messing with that plain-Jane cut.  Tomorrow’s the bigger meeting, so save those pants for that.  Wear the greenerish-brown pair.  Otherwise it’s the same black pair worn yesterday.  Bad enough only three or four pairs fit, but do try and keep an appearance of variety.  Thank goodness for all these shirts.  They need to be rearranged again to hang in ROYGBV order.  Too much hurry whenever coming or going.  There are probably still clothes in the dryer crowding wrinkles into each other.

Just a hint of blush.  No age spots to cover up yet – small blessings.  Wow! What was that dream last night?!  Someone with makeup done sparkly?  And a hubbub of argument about “being out of uniform?”  How fun to still be at work during the scant hours of sleep managed.  Seriously.

Leave the books.  No time to read them at work anyway.  Lunch consists of a can of fruit at the overflowing desk or while standing in the front office.  Stop kidding yourself.  They’ll still be here when the day is done.  You have time.  Belt.  Don’t forget the belt.  Brown one would work with this.  Maybe ice the eyes before leaving.  The cold would feel good, and it wouldn’t hurt the bags under them either.  Stop worrying.  “could be twenty or thirty years,” he said.  There’s time.


 

This piece is the result of following Brian Kiteley’s second writing exercise in his book, The 3 A.M. Epiphany.  If you can get past the introduction, I highly recommend this to any writer with a day job.

 

Neighborhood Watch (series) 9

9

Grady had always known me, even though she hadn’t known all the things I’d done. She knew my heart better than I did, as cliche at that sounds. It was Grady that taught me that we aren’t the sum of our actions, or even the sum of our intentions. “We are greater than what we wish we are, and less than what we think we are.” When she said it, I must have made a face. She walked up to me so fast and deliberate, I braced for the inevitable slap to the face I anticipated. Instead, she grabbed me so intensely and kissed me with a passion I’d never felt from her before. “We’ll never fully understand or define God’s love in this lifetime, honey. Don’t knock it. Miracles can’t be explained. He gave me you. He forgives and heals all things. He pumps your heart and breaths life into you every second. Put that in your brain and mull it over until you go crazy. Then give in and let go, my darling.”

I had accepted that Grady was a ferocious Christian about five minutes into our first meeting. It surprised and confused me that such a gorgeous package of anomalies, walking around on two sexy legs and taking an interest in a friendship with me, could exist in the world … could survive in Fingerbone. I would come to understand that she defined the place. Opinionated, self-reliant, bad-asses lived in Fingerbone. Sure, there were a handful of socialite-wannabes, crotchety old coots, rednecks, and a few even fit the description “dregs of society.” But for the most part, townsfolk had two things you could always count on: curiosity and friendliness. Pretty harmless features, attractive even, if you have nothing to hide.

It wasn’t until Grady leaned into me one day at the river, whispered the punchline to a joke she was telling me, and then caressed the laugh-lines she’d created with her hands that I realized. I didn’t have to hide from her. She was one of only two in town that had managed to make me laugh since I’d been there. I enjoyed her company, her smell, her mannerisms, her eyes. But I believed her interest in me strictly sisterly, and had self-talked myself batty not to screw up this great friendship by scaring her. I tried to tame my attraction to her and made no inappropriate advances. So when her adoring fingers silenced my giggle, and her lips traveled to my fading smile, my confusion and cautiousness departed, and I fell.

I fell first in love, and then literally into the river. If you know my past, neither makes any sense. I’m not usually at a loss for grace and balance. It was a huge part of my profession at one point. As for love, you have to understand. What I used to do … it would have been like a librarian who couldn’t read, or a mechanic allergic to grease. But Grady and I, we were clumsy like two new colts loping about on spindly legs. She opened the door to all we could have, and we suddenly figured out we had brought a teacup to a well the size of the ocean. That splash helped connect us for eternity though. Eternity minus a bullet.

Later in her living room, as we were warming up next to her wood burning stove, I asked her what she was thinking when she kissed me. I expected her to say, “I wasn’t,” or something that meant there was still some pondering happening. Instead, she’d reminded me of our first conversation.

“I was thinking about what you said when we first met. ‘People aren’t always what they seem, Ma’am.’ Poetic and ironic. I was looking at the scars on your neck after you asked me about Fred Tanner. When you said that, I looked into your eyes and those words stirred my heart more about you than Fred. I wanted to know what made you tick.”

“I thought you just wanted to preach to me.” This made her laugh and give me a little shove.

“I wanted you to know what make me tick.”

You know the rest. The warmth, the light flickering in her eyes, the words and how they purred softly into my emotional wounds … we didn’t make love that night. We held each other, snuggled while fully clothed, and felt the power we had to heal and protect one another, even in our sleep.

 

<<Read previous episodes HERE.

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Lost: Cape

It’s a bird’s eye view I get – on the drive to and from work. I hit play on my iPod and listen to the latest book I’m into; then maybe two or three minutes in, I’m off on a tangent. Could have been a word that tripped my trigger. Could have been a concept, like “calling a friend,” or “a tsunami in Malaysia,” and I’m outside the car window, traipsing through the tundra with light bulbs and peppermints.

I know all the twists and curves by now. I seem to leave the mechanical part of my body, muscle-memory activated, at the wheel when I go on these side trips. Sometimes I don’t know how I manage not to get a speeding ticket, or how I avoid hitting a cow standing in the road. But when I drift into the cockpit, the speedometer is always right at 50. I don’t have cruise control. My foot just knows by now, I guess.

A delicious word spoken by the narrator and I’m off on another errand of make-believe. I eventually got wise, and nowadays I cue my phone’s voice recorder before I pull out onto the road. I never remember it all the right way later. It’s a bird’s eye view I get, on those winding roads, into my storytelling superpower.

Now, if I could just find my damn cape.

Wentville Wind Chimes

Stacheldraht 05.jpgThe sound an old rusted chain makes when the cheap plastic seat, baked by the sun, has succumbed to one too many cracks and fallen off … and the chain hits the swing-set pole when the wind catches it. The sound of farm land metal (resurrected from a dirt grave where the orange-brown pipe has corroded for years) when it takes a dive into a burn barrel of the same color. That’s the sound wind chimes in Wentville make. They fit right into the landscape of yard trampolines and trailers, old tires and dead grass cradling yard trash.


Photo: “Stacheldraht 05” by WaugsbergOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Alter-me

Open bags of chocolate mock my gurgling stomach.  The heater, a cheap little job that the landlord anchored right next to an uninsulated glass patio door, does its best to keep it’s little corner warm while the warped plastic blinds usher the cold toward its thermostat.  Another cheap addition to this little rent house, the blinds provide privacy for approximately one square foot  in this room.  Otherwise, they sprinkle the cold tile floor with light during the day, and reveal murky shadows and distant headlights at night.

I turn off the Margaret Atwood collection I’m listening to as I surf the net.  I think I have an idea of her style now, but still not sure I like it.  The one about the duchess poem is interesting but somehow, unfulfilling.  What a letdown this day has been.  In an hour I’ll need to start packing, but of course, I won’t.  Instead, I’ll be up most the night doing laundry I should have done earlier, reading things I can’t put down, and drumming up story ideas in my mind that I’ll fail to write, and eventually forget.  I suppose a story idea is like a fish of keeping-size to a writer, and should never be let off the hook.  I’m not sure if I’m lazy or just resigned to the futility I feel about it all.

I’m not completely fatalistic.  I have been taking steps, you know.  I’m reading “in bulk” now.  Restricted myself to only two nights a week with my old pal, Netflix.  Took an online course on “Advanced Fiction Writing,” and actually learned a few things.  Learned a few tricks, more like.  And I have experienced the satisfaction of another “final exam” victory.  Didn’t think I’d have that fun ever again.  Today I actually signed up for another class – “The Craft of Magazine Writing.”  It hasn’t even started and I learned that I can write an article  about something without being an expert on it.  Funny how I knew that already from reading articles, but didn’t spell it out in my head until I read it in the course introduction.

So what’s the big damn deal?  It’s this nagging alter-ego – “alter-me” I call it, that keeps whimpering around my shoulders that I’m already getting old.  “Note the frequent heartburn and faster pacing to the bathroom.” it taunts, “You can’t even remember ‘its’ versus ‘it’s’ without checking every other week.”  I wish this menace were corporeal so I could just reach around and strangle it.  But alas, it’s a fragment of me.  Only not me.  I’m going to make this writing lifestyle work.  I have skills; I’m brilliant; and I have a partner who reminds me of this (in different words) all the time.  I’m at a time and place, in my life and geographically, that appears to be primed to make this happen.

So why am I letting this bitch – “self-doubt” get to me?  It’s just a matter of time.  And it suddenly becomes clear.  There’s the rub.  It IS just a matter of time.  I’ve never been good with time.  Waiting for it frustrates me and missing it depresses me.  “The moment” is not my forte.  I write best in present tense, but I sure don’t live it well.  My transformation from a workaholic in the youth work world to a freelance writer with a novel in my back pocket isn’t scheduled to happen until January 2015 at the earliest … March 2015 at the latest.  All efforts to make progress toward being published, even just “token” published, are slow-going.  I don’t like slow.  Visions of cancer, or heart issues, or some other crazy thing popping up and preventing this dream, niggle at my subconscious.  In turn, my alter-me is generated and promotes the negativity campaign on a regular basis.

I feed it chocolate and keep writing.

New Series – Characters

This series will occasionally introduce characters as they are born.  Some will be basic walk-ons and others will be underdeveloped protagonists or antagonists.   First up is Chung Najera.

 

Chung Najera is a careful young man.  As a boy he saved his allowance money weekly until he had enough for the bicycle he had wanted for two years.  When the store manager confirmed that the model was no longer made Chung was coerced into buying what the scrawny, pock-faced man said was the upgraded version.  The end result of this transaction was a broken bike (by Chung’s own disgusted hand) and a permanent adherence to a fiscal code that was to stay with him into manhood.  Chung never set his heart or mind on anything he didn’t already have the money to own.

IMG_1581

It can probably be said that the deep impression this left on his development poured also into his spirit in other, non-fiscal matters.  A prime example is his response to his fiance’s remark that they should not worry about the change their union would bring to their respective lives, or the upset it might cause their feuding families.  The unknowns, she had said, were just that.  No amount of planning or waiting would give clarity about what might be in five, ten, or twenty years – all that mattered was their love.  Chung quickly ended the wedding with a solitary statement to his forlorn darling.  It sounded too much like buying on credit and without a warranty.  Chung very rarely invested without insurance.  And he never bought on credit.

 

Perspective

blank pages

Nothing more depressing than a blank page.  Nothing more bothersome than a quiet room with no story or voices in my head.  Darkness pours in through the patio door window and I am too lazy to get up and go close the blinds.  It was a sunny day today.

One would think my description would be that of, “glimmering rays of warmth embracing my arms and neck … soothing away the recent snowfall debacle, and ushering me into a few spare moments of joy before the real winter hits.”  Not so.  Instead, my inner self forced the following into my head, as I scanned the scenery and looked for another angle that would push my story along:

The fickle sun’s rays teased me into seeing what the world had turned into these past few days.  I had not been tempted at all to open the curtains or draw the blinds. What point was there to watch, as shadows covered the land and temperatures made it clear – nature was pushing us to fear what she could do if our technology failed and our manufactured heat disappeared.  But now I could tell that, if spring and summer never came (a very real possibility in my depressed state), our paths would be muddy and austere; sparse plains of nothingness would engulf us and smother us in severity.  No love, no joy, no amount of pleasantries could make this landscape seem hopeful.  My eyes glazed into thought as the sunlight danced upon my heart’s grave.  “Come out,” it taunted me, “hurry before the story ends and I hokey-pokey myself around.”

“Fuck-You,” I said to the sun.  I shut the blinds and poured myself a drink.

I searched and searched for words I could feel good about writing in the continuation of this damn mystery story I’m into.  And these are all I could find.  Somewhere in the story, I’ll have Malone break into this little diatribe.  Meanwhile, what will motivate the reader to like the characters enough to care?  Who murdered the family and why?  What will happen to the little boy, and what is his name?  I wish I were invested more in this story and these characters.  If I shovel out the required words, I’ll have a book, but I wouldn’t want to read people with whom their writer doesn’t even find an affinity.  Perhaps I’ll use this initial “novel” to test the self-publishing waters, learn the systems with a piece I’m not concerned about breaking or sharing.

If you are an aspiring writer like me, and want to watch the gory details of a book, either being born or dying before it’s time – stay tuned, Dear Reader.  I can’t, in good conscience, commit to finishing this novel.  But I will continue to bore, complain, whine, splatter more parts of the storyline, and (in general) fight to keep this dream alive, after long dark days of other important work and a tired soul.

Neighborhood Watch (series) 4

4

My Sony digital recorder“You understand, I have to clear you before I can tell you anything more.  So Tom here will take you into one of the rooms and a couple of us will be in shortly to ask you some questions.”

There was no point in objecting.  He was absolutely right.  Jack knew I had nothing to do with this besides rushing to the child after the assault, and then flagging his vehicle down for help.   But he and his small staff, viewed by other departments as country bumpkins, would have their methods scrutinized more than others.  If he wanted to solve this case and see justice done, he’d have to do everything by-the-book.

I followed the officer into an interrogation room that looked nothing like the television renditions.  A heavy wooden desk, reminiscent of my elementary school days, sat in the middle of the small office setting.  There were empty shelves to the right, and I shuffled sideways between them and edge of the desk to sit in the chair facing the door.  The wall opposite the shelves was covered, from corner to corner, with file cabinets and an even smaller space to squeeze through.  As I sat in the squeaky roller chair, I took a deep breath to chase away the nagging sense of claustrophobia I was feeling.  Across from me, on the “business” side of the desk, a faux leather chair faced me.  Tom brought in a second chair, smaller but of similar style, and placed it next to the other.  He smiled and excused himself.

Ten minutes later, Jack and a detective I didn’t recognize entered and sat down.  I leaned forward, my chair squeaking as I  scooted it back a bit, and planted my forearms on the desk. I noticed their chairs were completely silent as they made themselves comfortable.

The detective placed a tape recorder on the table.  His finger poised on the record button as if preparing to pull a trigger, he focused on me and asked, “You’re familiar with this, yes?  I understand you are a detective.  I’m going to hit record now if you’re cool with that?”  His tone was less about seeking my permission and more about an established protocol.  I nodded and the red light glowed on the little machine.  He stated the date and he and Jack’s name, title, and badge number – never taking his eyes off me.  “Please state slowly and clearly into the recorder your full name, date of birth, address for your home of record, and a phone number where you most commonly be reached.”

“Legal name Molly Malone. Born June 23, 1984.  I live at 271 W 3rd Street, Fingerbone, Idaho.  Cell Phone number 409-435-3242.”  The detective wrote down the information as I spoke, even though he was recording it.  It was a common interrogation practice.  I knew he would start by asking some questions I’d be certain of the answers, and that anyone would be comfortable answering regardless of their guilt or innocence.    They would then observe the subject’s body language and demeanor, the speed of their answer, the direction they looked … and would use these as a baseline for gauging a person’s truthfulness later on in the interview.  If the interrogator was really good, they could identify micro expressions commonly associated with dishonesty, fear, or other aspects that could help answer questions left unspoken.

The detective continued.  “Are you married?”  Interesting.  Not even one minute into my interview and I was already enjoying some observations of my own.  I could tell by the way Jack tensed his jaw for a millisecond that the question made him uncomfortable.  I assumed he was nervous about what the detective’s reaction would be when he got around to what Jack perceived as “outing” me.

“No.”

“Have you ever been married?”

“No.”

“Do you have children?”

“No.”

“Are your parents still alive?”

“Yes.”

“Where do they live?”  He was keeping the introduction to this process simple, asking only one question at a time to give me a false sense of comfort or security.  When he started in on the important questions, he would turn up the heat and throw them at me two or more at a time.  Cranking up the intensity as the interview progressed was classic methodology and this guy wasn’t impressing me with anything innovative.

We progressed through the ages of my folks, the state of our relationship, and to Jack’s pleasant surprise (I’m sure), this guy never asked me about my orientation or whether I’d ever killed anyone.  This guy was not the sharpest tool in the shed.   If I had any part of this thing, I’m certain he would have missed it.  He then followed protocol and had me dictate a timeline of my whereabouts for the past two days up to the present.  He discovered that I didn’t know my neighbors, not by name anyway.  The extent of our “relationship” had been me waving and smiling, according to standard social norms for that region, and getting the cold shoulder from “Ma and Pa Kettle.”

Of course, I didn’t tell him what I thought of their ridiculous front yard, it’s remnants of “Hee Haw” days gone-by.  Carcasses of sun faded, plastic “Big Wheels,” and long defunct “Sit-n-Spins,” cluttered the scene … along with old tires, cinder blocks, and the quintessential yard-car adorned with blue tarp.  I didn’t mention the various camouflaged clothing items (skivvies included) that were habitually hung on the clothesline for weeks because none of them could cart their lazy asses back out to take them down.

Eventually he hit on what he thought to be the key elements of his interview.  “Can you think of anyone that would want to see them gone or that would want to harm them in any way?”

“As I’ve said, I didn’t know them at all.  I don’t know any of my neighbors except for the people with the game processing business on the corner.  And even with them, I don’t spend time or talk with them much.”

And that was that.  He concluded that I was not a suspect and thanked me for my time.  Asked me to contact them if I have anything further that might help them with the investigation.  Walking out with Jack, I waited until we were out of the earshot of any of the regulars at this station.  “Jack, please tell me he’s not going to do the rest of your interviews in this case.”

“I’ll be handling the case personally; I just couldn’t question you myself after spreading the rumor that you’re helping us with the case and that I called you in.”

“Yeah, about that.  What do you see as the next move?”

“Malone, I only said that to keep you out of danger.  I can’t have someone outside the department messing with this.  Hen and the boys and I will get this thing done.  We’re not the “Barney Fife‘s” some people make us out to be.”

“I know that, Jack.  I don’t think that.  But you need my help.  There’s too few of you and you don’t want to bring these people down here in, if you can help it.  There’d be too many chiefs and the search would go south fast.  You know me; you trust me.  And though you don’t want to admit it, you need someone who can easily skirt the red tape.  You need that kind of speed on this case.  Jack – listen to me dammit.  I can’t tell you what went through my brain when I realized what that dirtbag did to this kid.  I won’t walk away from this, can’t walk away from this, even if you order me to.  I just have to DO something to make it all make sense … to put things back in order in the cosmos or something.”

He started shaking his head halfway through my protestations, as if the act would negate what was spewing at him.  He gripped his jaw, now scraggly with the long day’s growth (we’d been off the hill since the late morning and it was now nearly seven in the evening).  “I’ll think about it.”

“It’s not uncommon for private investigators to consult with police departments from time to time, Jack.  I think – ”

“I said I’ll think about it.  I will.  Now let’s go grab a few pizzas for the team and head back.  I got a long night still ahead.”

“Great.  You can finally fill me in on everything Hen found so far on the way back up.  Don’t look at me like that.  You’re thinking about it – I get it.  In the meantime it can’t hurt for you all to add my perspective on everything … until you are finished thinking about it, that is.”

“Sometimes I wonder what my sister ever saw in you.”

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Neighborhood Watch (series) 3

3

Intravenous IIt felt like someone was pushing ice water through my veins.  In fact, it was pretty close to that.  When I woke I was laid out on a gurney in a hallway.  A saline pack above my head was half empty, its tube draped over my shoulder and running parallel to my arm.  They must have stuck poorly the first time because the back of my hand was sore and I could see the small bruise that had formed when the needle nicked the vein, causing blood to form just under the skin.  The taped gauze where the saline drip entered my arm didn’t cover it entirely.  I knew from my lab tech days in the Army, they’d probably had to poke around to get it set up right.  I was irritated at the prospect of having my hand look like I’d lost track of a hammer while nailing a board for the next few days.

I could see through the double doors to the reception desk.  Jack was talking to a woman with one of those nose piercings that look like a diamond.  I could never understand how people with those things kept from sneezing all the time.  She was nodding and folding a piece of paper he’d handed her.  He turned around to point down the hall and noticed I was awake.  I saw his lips change course to form an “Oh, look,” and he waved and smiled.  His wave morphed into a “number one” as he mouthed “Just one minute,” and I nodded my understanding, then reassessed my hand.

I reached up and tightened the clamp, shutting off the drip.  Placing the tube between my teeth and making sure there was no slack in the tube leading to my hand, I gently tugged at one side of the tape.  Peeling it upwards, I anchored a finger just below where the needle ended under my skin.  I pressed down and pulled my hand away from the tube, then pushed the gauze back over the buise and taped it down again.  Getting off the stretcher was a bit more difficult, since someone had failed to lock the wheels when they’d parked me there.  Thankfully, I was able to stay perpendicular to the floor and roll my shirt sleeve back down as I approached the doors.

“… until we figure this case out, just to make sure he stays safe.  And I want a phone call immediately if anyone asks about him or comes to visit, okay?  Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?  I said we’d be with you in a minute; what’s the hurry?”

“I know,” I said, “but I feel better and I know a thing or two about phlebotomy.  No sense wasting a nurse or tech’s time to do all that when I can do it myself.”

Jack shook his head in disgust but decided to concede the battle.  “This is Sue Polanski from social services.  She’s going to make sure the boy is cared for and stays protected while we work the case.  Sue, this is Malone; she is the private detective I’ve asked to help that I was telling you about.”  As Sue shifted her focus from Jack to me and extended her hand, his eyes fluttered quickly to mine.  His head bobbed an inconspicuous nod as his eyes narrowed and spoke an urgent message of caution.  It was not necessary.  I had already taken his lead as he spoke the deception, and smiled at Sue with my no-nonsense professional look of confidence.

Sue smiled.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you Malone.  I’m sorry to hear about your little accident, but so glad to see you’re just fine now.”  Texas?  Maybe Oklahoma … I wasn’t sure.  I’m a sucker for Southern accents.  I made a mental note to quell my curiosity another time (perhaps over dinner) about why on earth she would leave warmer climates for the daunting winters up in these parts.

“Thanks.  I hadn’t eaten yet when Jack called and, in the rush, I think I just got a little light headed.  I appreciate the concern.”

With that, Jack grabbed a nurse and lead Sue to where the boy was being treated (the Intensive Care Unit, I assumed).  I signed myself out at the desk and grabbed a bag of chips and a soda from the vending machines.  I had devoured the chips by the time Jack returned and we headed to the station to file paperwork.

“Thanks for playing along back there.  I don’t know if the guy you saw is paying attention or not.  If he thinks there’s a witness, it could put you in trouble.”

“What makes you think he wouldn’t just run faster and get the hell out of Dodge?” I asked.  Kicking a kid like this scum had, it was certainly evil.  But it wasn’t the same kind of crime as taking out your enemies, one-by-one.  It didn’t seem to fit – Jack thinking this guy was that organized.

“Hen called while you were out.  She had to go get a couple of guys to help her process the inside of the trailer.  There’s no one alive inside.”  I studied his face as he turned the ignition.  My neurons still hadn’t pieced together his words when he turned and looked directly at me.  “Share what I’m telling you with NO ONE.  What I’m saying is …” he studied me as he spoke, “… there were three dead bodies inside.”

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I Do

Amor de Palabra Word Love

You touch me like none other.  You share the deepest secrets and engage me – draw me in and wrap around me.  I am swallowed and willingly, I submit.  You make me strive for a stronger, wiser me and, as you speak luxurious language into my soul, I want to kiss you.  I touch your pages with my lips, and swirl my tongue in your cavernous complexities.  You sip my insecurities and I am fool enough to trust your power.  My eyes trace your outlines as your stories tickle my mind.  Laughter.  My skin tingles.  You whisper mysteries down my spine.  Together we probe the meaning of life and love.  Our shared experiences laid bare, you crack me open more fully and pull mysteries from that place I never knew existed.    I let you reach that question inside of me; we dive into the unknown and surface over and over again.  When all is said and done, you betray me.

Those opening lines, our first paragraphs and pages as an item, we held so much promise.  I was attentive; I was there for you.  But you grew more tame and the passionate point and direction, while still there, is now mottled and muffled.  You changed and became something different from my original intent.  I try, with a word here and a sentence there, to revive the initial lofty image.  You grabbed me, sweet concept, and you tousled my hair with your  worthy story craft.  Then you left me altogether and sent your doppelgänger to finish me off.  But there is something you did not consider, dear words on the page.

As our affair grew hazy I fell out of love with you.  And the delicate pages that resulted, a labor of love finished (albeit less lofty than intended), have now charmed me into matrimony.
—————–

This flash fiction was inspired by a wonderful work on writing by Annie Dillard.

“The page is jealous and tyrannical.  The page is made of time and matter.  The page always wins.”  Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life

Time to Write

To open my mac now, with the sounds of playing children and laughing families mingling with the smells of barbecue and wood burning stoves … all of it wafting through my window, well it feels so weird.  “Time to write” – what a foreign concept.

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