Saturday, September 29, 2007


All I can figure is the guy must have had tourettes syndrome. I mean why else would you stand on a street corner in a cold Seattle rain and yell obscenities at the mountains? It was raining for chrissake! You couldn't see them.

Nonetheless, there he stood. Hair matted to his skull, water in rivulets running around his nose, down his cheeks like tears. I noticed that under the ripped leaf bag he wore around his shoulders like a superman cape, his filthy green tee shirt was plastered to his scrawny frame. Water pooled around his feet--running from his jeans like he was a sculpture. His mouth opened whenever he noticed someone was near by and he stuttered out his cuss.

I glanced at my companion "Do you think it's Tourettes?" I asked. She was busy fiddling with her phone. "Yes?" She said "Yes, good. I'm calling about an obviously disturbed man..." Was she calling the cops? "Julie," I said "Not the cops! He's harmless". Julie mouthed 'wait' and gave whomever she was talking to our location. She flipped her phone shut with a snap and said "No, I didn't call the cops. I dialed 211- first call for help. That man is going to catch a hell of a cold and I don't want him to be sick."


I opened our umbrella and took her arm "Wait" she whispered and she took our umbrella and approached the man.

He saw her coming and began pointing and shouting in the direction of the mountain that guarded the city. The traffic was loud enough that while I could hear him, I couldn't make out what he was saying. He turned his ear toward Julie. She gave him some money from her purse.

"Julie!" I called out. She turned and started my way. Then she stopped turned back and handed the man my extra large black watch plaid golf umbrella. She ran towards me.

When she reached me she was soaked herself, but she was smiling slightly. She must have seen my puzzled look because as she took my arm she said "Sorry about your umbrella, Michael."

"Why did you give it to him?"

She stroked my arm gently and looked at me. Her eyes were deep with old hurt and new worries "His name is Jerry and he is my brother."

Important Calls

"Maybe there really are only 5 important calls in any one's life." she thought as she stood int he phone booth on 42nd Street, her quarter poised to drop. "Do I want to use this call now???"

Ugh. I pushed my bangs out of my eyes (note to self- I need a hair cut). This is crap! Why five? Why not two? What's the magic here?

5 calls. No more, no less. I let my brain run before my fingers on the keyboard. Five. Five members in my family. Five pets at one time. I've owned (or been owned by) five dogs - Lady, Boeuf, Doobie, Abu and Orie; and five cats - Mim, Puck, Griffen, Woodie, Pipen and Z - wait that's six....

How many important calls have I made?
1. To Mark - He's my therapist; the one who held me together when my life fell apart.
2. To my sister telling her to come home four days before Mom died.

Okay, those are the calls I've made. What about ones I've received?
1. The one from Rose telling me I had the curator job at the Governor's Mansion. I still remember that one although it's been 20 + years.

2. The call where Rose called in well - I can't come in because I feel too good - Because it was funny / not important in the scheme of things.

3. The one where Andie called about my first geek job....

Really though, I thought, most important things come by mail or in person.

I looked at the monitor. Crap, I thought, how was I going to get Juliet out of this phone booth? How was I going to rationalize...or rather how was SHE going to rationalize calling Dirk back? She had wanted to be on her own. Is she going back like a whipped puppy? Is she going back home? Is she joyful? Or is she calling to say neener neener I told you I'd be successful??

I didn't know. More importantly Juliet wasn't talking. She stood there in the phone booth - quarter poised at the slot. One hand holding the quarter and the other holding her purse, the phone receiver cradled between her shoulder and ear - nested in her wiry brown curls. She was wearing a brown suit with a tight pencil skirt. Brown. This whole thing felt ...... Brown.

Monday, September 24, 2007


For this piece we were given a situation and asked to write about it. Here's the situation:

Last week Jerry had been told to leave his mis-behaving kids at home. This week he headed out to the store, secretly glad that the kids were not with him. A bit later, though, he returned home with produce ground into his shoes, egg dripping from his hair, and a shirt covered with chocolate syrup. What happened?

Here's what I came up with:

Jerry pushed the cart through he crowded narrow aisles of the local general grocer. It was a small town grocer which had more goods than space and maneuvering with a cart was tricky on days when the store was empty. On a typical Saturday morning, when the place was packed, it was a nightmare.

Jerry was glad to have left his four year old twins - two boys who had gotten what Jerry called 'over exuberant' last Saturday - at home. Today he'd planned a quick trip in. The list, gripped tightly in his meaty fist read:
Ice cream (vanilla)
Chocolate syrup
white bread and peanut butter.

"Huh? oh, 'scuse me" he said as his cart nearly pushed over a boy of about nine. "heh heh, dint see ya there, kiddo." Jerry smiled at the boy. The boy shot his tongue out at Jerry and said "Shut up you fat ape."

"Huh?" Jerry reached across his cart and grabbed the boys ear lobe. "You need some manners, Sonny" he said.

The kid yelped and in a flash his dad? Uncle? Protector anyway - a man twice the size of Jerry - was there by the kids side.

The kid, the weasel, began stammering how he wasn't doin' nottin -- that Jerry hadn't even asked him to move, that Jerry had tried to hit him with his cart and how he'd just been mindin' his own business....

Jerry stood there, jaws agape as he realized that the bigger guy was the same manager who had chucked him and his boys out of the store last weekend.....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

For as long as she lived....

For as long as she lived, or maybe even longer, she would never forget his face as she climbed into her car and drove off. He looked at that moment like a lost little boy. She thought to herself for a moment "tell me to stay...." and then it was gone. For she knew he would never expose his emotions to her like that.

20 years married and it's come to this. She thought, "I'm expected to read his emotions and placate them before he knows he has them. She smiled thinly - almost a grimace - and realized that she had trained him to be that way. That expecting a change when you do something the same way for 20 years is a kind of self induced insanity.

The country side whizzed by and she settled in for the drive. Seven hours of road noise, setting sun, small towns and cornfields blown raw by the bitter March wind. Her special brand of intoxication rising through the cars floorboards.


No housework, no cooking, no cat boxes to clean. The project at work was over and she was, for the moment, unemployed. Her husband was behind her-left alone in the driveway and the open road poured in front of her.

His face, though, stuck with her. Years later it would be his face that she would see whenever she thought about the beginning of the end of their marriage. The sadness and sorrow at her excitement of leaving him behind.

Later she would be able to look at the memory of his face - frozen in that moment - and acknowledge that she, too, had had her share of sadness and sorrow about the end. Of course she would also realize that for her the end had actually begun 18 years before.....

While surfing the web....

While surfing the web I stumbled across Artie's blog. I wasn't really looking -- I mean I'd put my his name in the Google search bar and everything but I didn't expect to find anything.... Well, er, I'd hoped I would find something but I never thought it would be this type of a gold information. Anyway. I looked to see when he'd started his blog - 3 years ago!!!! Right while we were in the midst of our relationship!!!! And I didn't know??? I ASK YOU!!!


I once dreamed about riding an elevator to the 15th floor. At the eleventh floor, though, the elevator began to free-fall. Suddenly weightless, those of us in the elevator hovered near the floor in a panic. Except me. Stretching I pushed off of the floor and shot up to the ceiling. I was separate but still a part of the panic. And then I realized "Okay, this is it" and I was at peace with acceptance.


"Wait! That came out wrong!" He said as I gaped open mouthed at him. I didn't care what he had to say, I was done. He either wanted to be with me or he wanted to be with her.

He mistook my silence, my stillness, for forgiveness. he lowered his head and continued.

"Anyway, now she's pregnant and I don't know what to do."



I stared at him a moment longer. "Deal with the heart bit later" a voice inside me said. "You know what to do." Galvanized by that certainty I lowered my eyes so that my soul wouldn't destroy the image of coolness I was trying to maintain.

"Well, I know what to do."

I went to the hall closet and pulled down our largest suitcase.

"Pack" I said "Today you are moving out."

"That's not fair! You know it. C'mon. Let's talk this out...."

"Steven, we should have talked BEFORE you slept with her. Now you've made your choice. GET OUT." My voice sounded odd and cold - like I was at the bottom of a dark stone well - chilled to the bone. I could feel the coldness of his deceit griping my shattered heart.

"Please," he nearly begged "I've got no where to go."

HA, I thought and I turned my back. "I'm going out. Don't be here when I get back."

I headed out the door and started toward the shed. Tears blinded me but my feet knew the way.....

What would a man want in a 'guy' friend....

"What would a man want in a 'guy' friend?" I stared at the writing assignment on the white board. "Damn," I thought, "I'm clueless."

I breathe in deeply taking stock of my body - feet on the floor-check; head in the present-check; I glance at the white board again. "I need a feeling...."

I'm thirteen - maybe fourteen. Tym, the gender confused guy from across the street and I are sitting on the bank of the lake. His sparkly fingernail polish reminded me of the diamonds the water has when a light breeze lifts it before the sun.

"Waddayah wanna do?" I asked him.

"Let's fish" Tym said.

"No tackle" I say

He rolls his eyes and pulls from his pocket a paperclip and a long string.

"No bait" I point out helpfully.

"c'mon" he says getting to his feet as he fashioned the paper clip into a hook. "I know where we can get some cray fish."

We tumble across the road - him leading me tagging a long like a younger sister - although I was older by a month.

We squeeze through a hole in the fence entering the bird sanctuary that bordered the cemetery.

"In the marsh?" I ask

"naw, c'mon"

He leads us past the marsh skirting a pond to the wrought iron fence that surrounded the cemetery. He climbed a tree and jumped on to the fence-over it - and into the cemetery. He looked at me "c'mon".

Tom boy me. I climbed the tree and followed.

"I've never been in here before." I said.

"I have. I know my way around. Don't worry."

He starts down a hill toward a small lake. The grass - no marsh here - is meticulously cut. The bird sanctuary - a marvelously unkempt slice of wood, wet lands, and grass, looks brown through the fence. There are statues and large family stones that create a different kind of forest here. A silent forest. I breathe deeply and think of the bodies under my feet. A chill starts down my spine and I run after Tym.

He is squatting near the shore of the small lake. A statue of a winged baby angel looks over his shoulder as he lifts the muddy rocks at the shoreline.

"A HA!" he crowed as he lifted a cray fish. "Our first victim!"


Silence. That's what Mary likes about camping in the Mountains. It's early fall - too soon for deer and elk hunting, too late for summer travelers. She and Johnny have headed to the mountains for a last minute get away before his next job starts.

It's cold, though, at this time of year and they're almost at tree line. Mary snuggles back into her heavy sleeping bag trying to warm up either the flannel of her pajamas or the corners of the sleeping bag.

She glances in the direction of Johnny - snoring gently across the pop-up camper. It's dark and she can't see him but she imagines his warmth. He's on the opposite side of the camper because it's just the two of them - their girls, now adults, too busy with their lives to tear themselves away for a week with their parents.

Mary moves her wool covered feet. Her toes are numb. She listens to Johnny hrrremmmm, yrrremmmmm, ...... hrrrremmmm, yrreeeemmmmmm. His rhythmic breathing calls to her with a promise of warmth.

She climbs out of the sleeping bag taking care not to make too much noise. The table on her right brushes against her thigh as she feels her way across the camper. She climbs up on Johnny's bed and wedges herself up against him. Johnny is a big man - 6foot 3 and the size of a lumberjack north woods stories are written about. He always sleeps at a angle in the campers bed.

As Mary savors his warmth he moves in his sleep giving her room. Mary, while a neat five feet, is nearly as round as she is tall. She pulls Johnny's quilts over her and she melts into sleep.

Minnesotans are Horrible Drivers...

Minnesotans are horrible drivers because they only have winter snow covered rutty roads followed immediately by rutty roads blocked off by heavy equipment and orange signs. Orange season I call it, never mind that Minnesota is about as far from an Orange Grove as you can get.

I swore at the driver in front of me - "Oh yeah, like you didn't see the 'caution 1-lane traffic ahead' sign back there. "

Minnesotans horrible driving is made worse by the anonymity one assumes in a car - Minnesota nice - only a surface truth anyway - somehow evaporates like breath on wintry day once one is safe in the trappings of their car.

Many blocked people.....

"Many blocked people are actually powerful and creative", I wrote, and then thought - if I could only get this stick out of my ass I would be one of them --- the powerful and creative.

I know it's possible to go from blocked to creative but not today - not for me. Today I am stressed about the car. I just bought it, damn thing, and why is the check engine light on? Why are used car sales men such pricks? "It won't be covered by the warranty" - my ass. Do you, brainiac on the other end of the phone, know what's wrong with it? NO! Do you even know which extended warranty I have? NO! Shows to go ya you're an a-hole.....

Oh yeah, back to powerful and creative. If I were all powerful I would..... extract revenge on used car sales men. Wow! I am feeling a bit vindictive. How about if I try writing fiction instead of this mag piece I'm attempting on spec? My antagonist would be --a used car sales man!

Or, maybe, while I'm taking a break I'll watch the bit in True Lies where Ahnohld takes the used car sales man for a spin and imagines punching him in the face......

I get up, stretch, and walk away from the computer. My dog looks up hopefully. When I start down the stairs, he too, stretches, yawns and follows me down. About half way down he speeds up - knocking me sideways just in case there is a tasty morsel still in his bowl that I might snatch if I got there first.

I recover my balance and finish my descent. He greets me with a grin around the leash he's dragged over from the chair.

"Okay," I say, "I'm not working anyway."

And we head out the door into the afternoon sun.