Taco Boy

Taco (5076902674) (2)
Yesterday at the Seattle ferry terminal I grabbed what will be the last good fast food/restaurant food I will have for at least another month – a couple of Tacos from Taco Del Mar.  Don’t judge.  Living in rural Idaho has given me a new appreciation for … convenience.

The ferry was running late and the terminal was packed.  Crowds are not our kind of scene, but we were fortunate to grab a table and chairs just in time.  Sitting there, eating my dripping taco, a tiny little head and face appeared to my left, just over the table edge.  A little boy was staring at me, or rather, my taco.  It was sort of akin to those times you eat at a friend’s house, and their pet starts to beg.  Awkward, and uncomfortable.

I swallowed my bite and just stared right back at him.  He smirked a little and I smiled back.  His father then revealed himself to be the man sitting at the table next to M, along with presumably his mother and an older sibling who were totally disinterested with the whole thing.  His father called to him, ordering him to leave us alone and come back to their table.  This boy couldn’t have been more than three or four.  He wasn’t helpless (obviously) and also wasn’t talking.  Whether he could speak at all, I do not know.  One thing was certain – he completely ignored his dad, and if I didn’t have ears, I would never have known he was being called just to look at the little brat.

I say “brat.”  It’s not that this child was being extremely annoying.  He wasn’t grabbing at things that were not his or tossing his animal crackers at anyone.  He wasn’t screaming at the top of his lungs or repeating anyone’s words over and over again.  He was just being, independent.  It was soon after our staring contest that he traipsed over to the table next to me and his father got up and grabbed … not his hand … but his leash.

The little dude was wearing a leash.  And not the bungee cord type that expands and contracts, but a bonfire leather, sturdy, on a metal swivel do-hickey – leash.  It attached to a body harness he was wearing over his clothes.  And his dad pulled him back to their table and spoke to him as the little tyke looked neither hurt, angry, or amused.  In fact, he looked elsewhere as his dad spoke and in adult terms, totally blew him off.

The boy attempted to part their company again shortly after his father’s diatribe.  His dad gave the leash a tug and he instinctively grabbed the leash out of his dad’s hand.  Strangely, dad let him have it, becoming to interested in something they were doing at the table.  So, with his leash in hand, the little boy proceeded to traipse around the tables and into the ferry terminal toward the door that lead to Seattle.  His father turned once and called to him, then turned around again.  It was so surreal.

I lost interest when his father got up and went after him at some point after.  I sometimes have to shift gears before what is in my head comes out in real life.

So I thought of a story that my better judgement declined before it hit the page.  It was about a child stealer who watches this whole scene, and easily whisks the boy away.  Later, when the boy is in a box with air holes in the back of a horse trailer headed for who knows where, the evil kidnapper says, “Bet you wish you’d listened to your pappy, huh!”  And the police take the family’s and the witness statements and call CPS.

My beta-reader told me recently I should be very cautious about killing a kid I have in my Malone story.  He said it would turn off any parent readers and make people angry.  I have to agree.  I feel the same way about this story.

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.

Castle (1999)

a simple complex sandcastle
with steady sturdy towers
walls glistening in the sun
with the moistness
and the magic
of brand new built.

many doors, mostly open
only one locked shut
only the castle itself in possession
of the key to free
what’s inside.

the sun smiles
on the beauty
the complex simpleness
what is now, and what will ever be
the land’s barrier,
the tide’s punching bag.
but for this time, this moment
she stands firm
on the sand of the beach that forms her.

A sand castle at Cannon Beach, Oregon.

By Curt Smith from Bellevue, WA, USA (Sand Castle at Cannon Beach) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine If I Were 18

Imagine if I were 18, or even 20 years old.  I could talk of the world as if I were over it, skeptical and sarcastic.  No one would even care; it would be, in fact, expected for my world view to include sardonic song lyrics that accused all white men of being part of a conspiracy or spat iconic insults at so-called leaders in the world for their failures and irresponsibility.  My somewhat disjointed outlook for my life and my future would be accepted as part of my place in the time-space continuum.

But I’m nearly 40 and that is not what is expected or allowed in proper journalism from one such as I – a “lady” no less – to espouse.  Instead I should know where I’ve been and where I’m going and have a particular view on politics and foreign relations.  It isn’t right.



She looked at her hands for what seemed like the first time in decades. What she saw shook her mental framework. She had been functioning in the same thought bubble and personality framed by her youth. It’s true that she had begun to notice that her fraction-of-a-second assessments of the before-and-after ramifications of a single reaching movement were not spot on anymore. The monthly visits to the massage therapist and chiropractor should have been one of a long line of clues she shouldn’t have missed. But her hands spoke loud rays of stinging images at this moment as she balked at their leathery creases; and for Heaven’s sake where did all the excess skin come from.

For a moment she imagined that some alien abduction had occurred and a foreign plastic surgeon had switched her hands with those of another abductee to observe how these earthlings used such strange appendages. She had to get her own hands back! How would she pull off this ”funny story” among friends? She’d always been careful to call attention immediately to her most despicable attributes in a social setting. Get them out of the way and strategically shut down any exterior comments about them by making fun of them herself. Once disposed of in this way, she was free to fake that wonderful confidence and cleverness that everyone seemed to believe she had.  These damn hands were going to be the social death of her! Bastard aliens!

xtray hands


Planet DiscoTank

Up.  Quick shower.  Coffee.  Brush my teeth.  Quick mirror check to prevent being paranoid about stares.  I wade in.

M drives me so its mostly just scenery as we drift to the car and leave.  No little plastic castles, just the latest birds chickadee-ing, or the occasional leaf settling.  The smell of bleach engulfs me for a few and I realize the landlord has been here cleaning the pavement in the parking lot.  Very particular his wife and he.  Meticulous on some things, not too bothered by others.  Best ones we’ve ever had.

M opens the door for me as we arrive and I shiver past a couple leaving.  The woman is smiling at her smartphone in one hand and she holds the jacket of the man she follows with the other.  He walks with purpose and doesn’t seem to notice us.  Reminiscent of the shark and eel.

We sit at the bar.  The chef displays his talents as he carves and shapes each plate with ease and efficiency.  We order several rolls and I order my usual hamachi sashimi.

They have a tank that looks like a disco.  Blue lit and full of dancing jellyfish, it entices and hypnotizes me.  I can’t believe the contents are real so I have to go investigate.  I swim past another couple at the bar and several tables.  The Saki drinker next to us appears too self-absorbed to notice me.  Several others glance or curve a little grin my way.  I try to avoid too much eye contact.  Heaven help me if anyone talks to me and I should have to reply.

But the sea of people disappears when I get closer to the tank.  Air bubbles serve to either keep the water aerated or to create movement in the otherwise stationary jellyfish, or maybe both.  I still can’t believe the little white marshmallows with scraggly hair are real.  They aren’t like fish, with eyes to gauge if they are alive, or muscular little bodies to watch for twitches or speedy turns.  They float and zoom at the whim of the little currents created by the bubbles.  They are luminescent under the light.  They are beautiful.

Even within their little disco-tank planet they do not escape cares and troubles.  A few have gotten caught under the filter intake and I don’t think they will make it.  One has been caught in a pocket of water unmoved by the bubbles since I have been watching.  Are they just for display, or is there something utilitarian about this tank for the chefs.  Have these creatures come to be natives, spending their lives in a dream-scape of liquid blue?  Or are they cattle in a holding tank for the next artistic display ordered?

I wander – what would my mind be like if I were able to spend an eight-hour work day meditating in an environment like this?