I Could Write

I could write for you until the ink turned to ash and
The page wept
Until sun-kissed clouds became ghosts and
The skies ebbed and flowed like tides
I could write for you until the stars chilled and
The kiss of lead to parchment ignited them all over again
Until the last song of dawn put the last dusk to bed
I could write for you until statues knew to kneel and
Numb began to feel and
When I ran out of words, I’d find some more to steal
I could write and write and write for you
Until my body surrendered arms and
My tongue picked up the attack
I would speak to you
I would regale you
You would never lack for stories
Stories of love, stories of lust
Stories of those who did what they must
I would speak with words of iron
To brace you when you bend and
I would speak with words of honey
To warm you from within and
As my voice grew hoarse and the last light dimmed
I could find the strength to lift the pen
I could write for you
Until
The
End

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Cars. Booze. Central Oregon. | RobertBrockway.net

Robert Brockway was (is? On a hiatus?) a columnist over at Cracked.com who made me laugh through hungover mornings on many an occasion. He was able to turn not just in ordinary experiences into comedy gold but every day problems and stresses. Brockway was a man, may, a writer with a beard and a glass of scotch (as is oft required of that¬† exemplary legion of depressives known as writers), and I related to, respected and was inspired by him. As his columns dropped off, I found myself missing his writing style and unique form of wit and wordsmith. Lucky for me, then, that I discovered his blog. At the link below is a short little tale he wrote for his friend’s ‘zine about youthful indiscretions. It made me nostalgic for the times I did stupid shit and didn’t have to worry about “responsibilities” and “adulthood” and “bills”.

http://www.robertbrockway.net/2014/09/03/cars-booze-central-oregon/

When you’re finished reading that, check out and buy his novel Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity.

Trixie: A Flatliners Story

So io9 ran a little creative prompt article here asking for people to – if they want to – write a short prompted by the artsy picture they posted. I thought I’d give it a shot. This may or may not be an excerpt from the Flatliners series I have planned down the line, and if it is, then Trixie’s name is something different. I just don’t have my notes on me at the moment:

image

‚ÄčThe scrapyard went a couple acres deep, long mounds of junked tech towering over the dirty little path that wound between them. Scroungers would pay the owner for the right to scale the twisted heaps of metal, signing a waiver that left her unresponsible for any injuries incurred by stepping in the wrong spot or accidentally gripping a jagged strip of something. A handful of deaths occurred each year, but it didn’t deter any back-alley engineers desperate for their missing piece.

The yard was closed to customers today. A new load of junk had been dropshipped in and the owner wanted first crack at it. She had her own projects going after all, and what was the point in anything the thing if she didn’t get the privilege to snake the good stuff for her own?

Cash didn’t mind the “Closed” sign, though, nor did he mind the security posted up beyond it. They recognized him and knew better than to try and stop him. In fact, they were nice enough to warn him that she wouldn’t be too happy to see him. He didn’t mind that much, either.

He walked the path while the sky above him turned from the yellow of morning into the lighter blues of day and the air around him warmed to reflect the same. He almost stopped to check out a portable electropump but reminded himself that he was here on business and continued on until he found the little green flag. It was planted on the left of the path, nestled in a gnarled and empty engine block of a vehicle that hadn’t seen production in twenty or thirty years. Cash went right.

He climbed up on the heap, watching his hands and feet and letting the strength implants in his shoulders, hips and knees pull him up with little effort. Once he reached the top, it was another thirty minutes until he got where he was trying to go. He recognised it immediately. He couldn’t not; there was only one place in the scrapyard like it.

A wide clearing opened up in the middle of the heaps. There was a small structure erected, open on three sides and with a slanted roof that covered a worn-out bed, miniature fridge and work bench. Speakers posted at the edges of the clearing would normally warn scavengers to turn back when they got too close. Turrets armed with stun rounds would fire on those who didn’t listen. All of those had been deactivated so the yard’s owner could work in peace.

Cash stepped carefully down the mound and into the clearing. There she was, hunched over what looked like a stripped skiff, though why she would want to take that out on any of the local brackish was beyond him.

She was dressed in shorts and a tank top with sweat across her shoulders from the hard work she’d been doing. Dark hair, shoulder length, and an attractiveness that distracted most men from her greatest strength: the chaos that was her mind.

This was a woman who appreciated beautiful things: flowers and butterflies and lightning. But she was analytical. Science and engineering fascinated her. The tech behind the flying contraptions of the past that influenced what went into creating speeders and secureships and gunners now. She could be ruthless, dragonesque in her talent for finding the most lucrative but devastating solutions to a score.

Her petite stature was a nonissue, as were her looks. The way she could work her way around a machine was impressive, but anyone who got past that smile of hers would stop there with their surprise. But it wasn’t that, either. Her cunning, her creative mind: that’s what brought him here. That’s what made her truly dangerous. It didn’t take her turning and pointing a gun at him to prove it, but she did that anyway.

“Trixie,” he said.

“Cash,” she replied. “I really want to shoot you right now.”

“I know. I’m here about a job.”

“You always are and it always comes back to bite me in the ass. Not you. Never you. What could you possibly say that would convince me?”

“It’ll be fun? And you’ll have plenty of opportunities to shoot me.”

Trixie thought about it for a long moment and then lowered her gun. “If you’ll help me get these propulsors plugged in, you can tell me more about it. Then we’ll see.”

You Know

And you know sometimes words aren’t enough
You know words sometimes run a little too deep
A little too cheap, a little too tough
You know sometimes words get caught up in the rough
And you know sometimes those memories are rich
You know memories get a little stale and
A little too different, hit a little like hail but
Sometimes memories are a necessary stitch
And you know sometimes you’re caught in the mirror
You know reflection can be the source of some fear
It’s a little too sharp and a little too hard because
You know the past gets a little too clear
So from whence we came to
Here we are
And you know these scars…
These scars have come far
And you know
Well, you know it’s a little too real
And you know I’m prone to feel
But these scars set the bar
For the scenes
The sloppy, imperfect, bastardized scenes
The scenes I’ve yet to steal

The Owl Part I: A Curious Shoppe

“Ah, the regal owl. Renowned for unquestionable wisdom, Tootsie Pop accounting, and mouse nightmares.”

“You would be wise to afford the owl with more respect. While the notion of the bird being wise goes back thousands of years, it is quite commonly regarded as something much more dire.”

“Oh? What’s that? Bland plumage?”

“What you consider bland is in actuality a highly effective camouflage, allowing the owl to blend in with its surroundings until it is able do to what it does best. You see, Mister Fontaine, this predator is no friendly fountain of parables or koans. The owl is a symbol of death.”

Elliott raised an eyebrow at the old Englishman standing beside him. The man did not look back but continued staring instead at the eight foot carving that took up the back center area of the antiquities shop. Somewhere behind them the rain Elliott had ducked inside to avoid continued unabated, a faint patterning beyond the glass storefront door.

Long moments had passed as Elliott stood in a puddle of his own creation before the owner had shuffled out of the back to greet him. His name was Percival, because of course it was, and he had immigrated over after the second World War, because of course he did.

Fascinated with the history of humanity and the stories that filled the centuries, Percival opened a shop and filled it with relics and talismans from the furthest reaches of the most foreign countries. He claimed that none were replicas, but Elliott found the claim dubious due to the pristine condition and low prices of most of the pieces.

“Mister Fontaine, my job is to educate before selling. Once a person is made fully aware of the rich backgrounds and culture significance of these items, they know to treat them with the dignity and care they deserve. The stories are passed on, the delicacy preserved. What do I need with thousands of dollars? What do I gain from keeping these legacies to myself?”

“You could sell them to a museum. Let them set up a display while you retire and, I don’t know, watch soap operas or the news or something. Beats coming into work every day, especially when the weather’s coming down like this.”

“Pah! I’m an old man and a lonely one, but I am not tired. I don’t want to stay by myself, wasting the days away with dreck when I can still meet new people. Not when I still have stories to tell.”

Elliott said nothing to that. The man had a point: too many people spent their days forgetting things, creating nothing. They didn’t travel anywhere, they didn’t speak with anyone. When the time came that they shuffled off into the blackness of eternal sleep, what spectre lingered past would soon fade into nothingness, remembered not at all.

He rubbed his eyes with two fingers. What the hell kinds of thoughts were those? The rain must have made him more moody than he realized.

Percival invited him to walk around the store while he warmed up. Elliott took him up on the offer and he navigated cluttered shelves of ancient knick-knacks and ritualistic thingamajigs while the Englishman told their tales. Eventually, they found themselves in front of the owl.

It was tall, broad, and intricately shaped, formed from a gray material that had to have been stone or marble due to the sheer size. Yet it felt almost like wood from the trunk of an impossibly massive tree, grainy but cool to the touch. Each feather was magnificently detailed. The talons were splayed out at the base; they looked sharp and terrible, like foot-long curved knives. The rounded eyes looked down on him with great scrutiny.

“This is a real piece of work, Percy.”

“It almost does the creature justice. The owl is a superb hunter, Mister Fontaine. Its ears are asymmetrical and feathers around them allow for the owl to pinpoint its prey with incredible accuracy. The wings are coated in a structure not unlike velvet, allowing it to swoop down in near silence, while the ability to turn its head almost completely around allows it to maximize its speed, stealth and awareness.”

“Is that why they always look so smug when I see them at the zoo?”

Percival regarded the younger man with a grim expression. “Placing such a beast in captivity is tempting dark fates.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“The Aztecs and the Mayans both feared the owl as a symbol of destruction and death. Most Native American tribes associate them with dark sorcery, ill omens, and punishers for great crimes committed. The same can be said for great stretches of regions in Africa and the Middle East.”

“And the Norse believe a celestial cow released gods by licking salty ice blocks, and onions can stave off vampires.”

“That’s garlic.”

“It’s nonsense, is what it is. Percival, you’ve got a great shop and great stories. You’re a nice guy and I’m really glad you like owls. I like turtles, myself. I think they’re neat. But do you really want to spend the last stretch of your life in fear of a bird whose primary form of communication makes it sound like they lost their battle with senility?”

“I do not fear owls, Mister Fontaine, nor do I fear death. I have simply grown to respect them.”

“Alright, well… I suppose that’s fair. Don’t look a gift tiger in the mouth either, right?” Eddie patted himself down. His clothes were still a bit damp and cooler than was comfortable, but despite the goosebumps patterning his skin, he had dried considerably. “Look, I’m going to get out of your hair. I appreciate the tour and the history lesson.”

“It was a delight to have some company. Let me grab one thing before you go.”

The Englishman tottered over to the front counter and bent over. A few seconds of rummaging later and he procured an umbrella. The fabric was black and unassuming, but the stick was carved from a wood so dark red it appeared almost purple. An ivory cap curved out from the bottom of it.

“Here you go, my boy. You run risk of a cold going out there again without it.”

“Ah, man. That’s a beautiful umbrella, Percival, but I couldn’t possibly afford it.”

“Afford it? I’m not selling it to you. I’m giving it to you.”

“I can’t-”

“Return it on a sunnier day, if it bothers you so much.”

Elliott hesitated but the memory of the freezing weight of wet clothes prompted him to reach out and grab the umbrella. He nodded his gratitude and walked back to the front door of the shop. He held his free hand against the glass, over his eyes, to peer out into the night. Two bright orange eyes met him with such ferocity as to drive him backwards with a loud gasp.

“Are you alright, Mister Fontaine?”

Elliott heaved a breath and looked back at the Englishman. Percival’s brow was furrowed in concern. Forcing a smile, Elliott nodded and turned back to the door. High above, the moon was a pale yellow.

Trick of the rain, he thought. He turned to wave at the shopkeeper and opened the door.

“On a sunnier day,” he said and stepped back out into the night.

Playing the Doldrums

I haven’t written anything in probably a week. I’ve been in sort of a slump. Could be the rainy, overcast weather springing from the still-settling corpse of summer. Could be the slow sales month. I went from two really solid months to being in the bottom two.

Hell, it could be nothing. I know how depression works. I just feel weary all the time, unmotivated, and irritable. I took a personal day Sunday of last week and to keep from getting a mark against my attendance, I worked one of my days off, leading to six days in a row. Normally, six days would be nothing. In the mood I’m in, it felt like a month had passed. Last night, I had a bitch of a time falling asleep.

It was just to the point I was dreaming, but was still conscious and uncomfortable in bed as to keep moving around. It was something more akin to hallucinating and I woke up with heavy mind and body. Cool dreams, though, from what I recall. I was going to call out today, then, and take the point, but the iPhone 6 launches in two days and my store is in a tizzy trying to prepare. I didn’t want to be that guy, perceived to be slacking on top of having a shit sales month.

I’ve been reacting to the mood the way I typically do: too much spending of money, too much drinking, sleeping around. None of it makes me feel any better, and I know that as I’m doing it (well, the sex is alright, actually), but it takes my mind away from things. I almost spend $40 on movies, caught myself, realised I didn’t actually need them. So I put them back and proceeded to spend $40 on liquor and another $7 on the cab ride home. Brilliant.

On a separate note, I signed up for Tinder over the weekend. I wasn’t at a point where I was full-on, Match.com ready to pursue online dating, but Tinder seemed like a relatively easy, zero-pressure option. Maybe I would have more luck that way. Anchorage is small and as expected, I’ve come across several people I know already, a few I’ve already been with physically, and a man. Which, hey, I applaud his determination, because I had certainly selected women only as my search parameters (I double-checked).

So I’ve got a few matches already (swipe left if you’re not interested, right if you are; if you swore right on each other, it opens an option to begin dialogue), a couple of which seemed fake the more I looked at them. One girl messaged me at 4 this morning to ask for companionship. I tried to get back to my shitty sleep instead, determined to discuss details in the morning. By the time I woke, she had unselected me as a match. Oh yeah, you can do that, too.

Well, that’s probably for the best. But now there are a couple matches sitting there on the app that seem legit, and I choked. I haven’t said shit. Am I shy? Is it because I’m depressed that I’m shy? Honestly, I think the problem is that it’s been so long since I’ve been in a serious, committed relationship that I don’t know what to do to start dating again. I don’t know what to say. I find myself utterly uninteresting, the most fascinating aspects of my life being familial experiences and relationship disasters that I don’t feel comfortable talking about.

I’m really good at making friends with women. I’m pretty decent at seducing women with no strings attached. But I am fucking terrible at opening up enough to try and start a relationship. I freeze, I choke up, I avert eye contact.

So that’s what’s new with me, anyway. Figured you guys could use an update and I suppose I could benefit from writing out some of these issues. This blog is my pro bono therapist. He doesn’t offer any sort of advice, but I guess you (don’t) get what you (don’t) pay for.

There are a couple of fiction things I want to start working on some, so I’ll try to update with those soon. Fly on, free birds.

Remembrance

I did not want to write about 9/11. I haven’t really talked about it, I never planned on talking or writing about it, and I don’t plan on touching on the subject again. I did not know anybody in the towers or the Pentagon or on any of the planes. I don’t have a personal connection to any part of the tragedy, no matter how peripheral.

That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the magnitude of what happened. It doesn’t mean I’m devoid of empathy or that I don’t weigh the tragedy heavily. Such an unwarranted, astonishing loss of life from pointless malice is enough to render anyone speechless. I felt that any commentary or observations I had, from the opposite end of the continent and with no personal ties, would ring lesser. Borderline narcissistic.

I remember where I was. Sleeping. I was in bed, in 8th grade at my middle school. My grandfather woke me an hour or two before I was scheduled to wake up and I recall being bitter at the loss of sleep.

“What?” I asked.
“Come downstairs.”
“What’s going on?”
“Come downstairs,” my grandfather said.

By then the first plane had hit the tower and we were watching the news as it unfolded. I only vaguely realised then that I was watching one of the most pivotal acts of the century and one of the greatest acts of terrorism ever successfully executed on a country. I think often about my grandparents and the milestones, the life-changing events they witnessed, lived through and took part in. Slowly, it sunk in that what I was witnessing was a horrendous act of cruelty and wanton destruction, one that would plunge my country and several others into over a decade of a loosely defined war.

My middle school, God bless it, tried to stay with the curriculum for a day but ultimately, the teachers succumbed to the overwhelming necessity for honesty. The lessons stopped. The TVs, typically reserved for the middle school news reports, was turned to the national news. 12-15 years of age, we were witness to both plane collisions and the collapse of both towers. We saw the loss of thousands of lives and we knew, in our youthful naivete, that things had changed forever.

I grew up in a world where you could walk your loved ones to the skybridge connecting the airport to the plane. Loved ones kissed each other at the gate. Airport people-watching was a prevalent, beautiful thing. Now there are extensive security scanners, x-rays, “random” frisks… you have to take your shoes off for God’s sakes. You say goodbye to your family members hours before they leave because they have to check in hours early to avoid the lines but they can’t kill the time with you because you cannot pass.

We live in a country where our police are abusing and murdering innocent people because of race and class and while we got the general people responsible for the terror attack, we don’t really know what we’re doing now in the Middle East.

We waged our war under the pretenses of…justice? But it was revenge. We got it. We got it against the mastermind of the terror plot against us and most of the generals in charge. We apprehended and subsequently (on a global scheme) had executed a psychotic and sadistic dictator that we sort of helped into rule.  But fixing a government? Telling a people how to function? Now there’s ISIS running around committing atrocities and we’re trying to figure that out…

It’s easy to lose track of where it started. The one clear-cut thing: the 9/11 attacks.

For all its faults, for its wide range of leadership strengths and cons, we (America) didn’t deserve an unprovoked attack that cost thousands of innocent lives. No country deserves that.

The thing that brought me to write this is because I wanted to remember, in this bleak moment of humanity, the one gem it did show us: countries the world over, even countries we weren’t friendly with, showed us love and support for the loss we suffered during the attacks by a specific group of zealots. Our own news is full of stories of rapes and murders and brutal assaults, but in the wake of 9/11, everyone banded together. We weren’t black or white, we weren’t men or women…shit, at that point, it didn’t even matter if we were Statesian  or international: everyone was digging through rubble, risking their own health, breathing in toxic dust and gases, just trying to save lives.

We banded together as a species. As humans. To try and help others, to heal others, to save others, to be there for others.

There was a group we banded against, a group of people dedicated to striking fear into the hearts of others. As time passed, the group became blurred, as did people’s opinions on their race and religion, and ignorance spread that blurriness into terrible generalizations. But at the beginning there was a group. And for a time, the world agreed as a whole, a collective of homosapiens that that group was the cancer to be excised.

…It has been a 13 year war with shifting directions and a new crop of enemies everywhere. Where did we go wrong? Terrorists became everyone with dark skin, everybody who worships a different God or the same God with a different name? Despite a century without slavery and decades with other races providing art, laws and speeches that have irrevocably changed our country for the better, racism is still experiencing an unprecedented resurgence. The United States of America has no official language and was constitutionally based on the idea of peoples from all countries, races and religions forming a melting pot of freedom and yet we force white-ism and English upon everyone.

Native Americans and Native American language and culture have a far stronger claim to indignation than some backwoods hick from Arkansas that manages to string six third-grade English words together into a sentence of displaced frustration.

This is a time where we need to remember that there are good people in this world and bad people. That good is not predicated on race or religion but on the idea that they will help their fellow person, at risk to themselves, because acting violently and hurtfully towards each other is a poison. Bigotry, fear and superstition are our enemies.

Love one another and accept them, despite their differences. Do not expect the worst of people, for those perpetrators are the few and by judging all, you hurt the many.

We came together as a people. As a country. Hell, for the most part we came together as a world. Such a monumental loss of human life is unacceptable. We are human. We want to live and love and be loved and be remembered. That is our global truth.