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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Red Sun in Morning

Be prepared for white squalls. When the question is do you or don’t you, will you or won’t you, it’s time to trim the sails, pour a whiskey and batten down the hatches.

This weekend  are asking for exactly 33 words including an idiom somewhere within.
Also, 31/3/13 today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Dabbler's Tale

Artists call them happy accidents. A blob of cobalt blue grabs onto the paintbrush when you were dipping into the cerulean, turns into an awesome lake below that Provençal sky, and rocks the watercolor landscape. Never mind that you were going abstract. The painting has a life of its own.

So it is when this guy you have lined up for a quick fuck turns out to be Prince Charming. You make a grab for the red lace but end up with a maternity bra and elastic-waist undies. Mortgage, braces, college tuition. You wish you could say you’d had it planned, but we all know you just caught a lucky break. And of course you flaunt it. Who wouldn’t? Only someone who’d actually deserved it would be humble and self-effacing. Not you. In your face, betches.

Now, and here’s the unforgiveable part, you’ve bought it, hook, line and sinker. Benevolent universe bestows wealth of love and inner peace upon walking disaster. What’s not to love? So you begin fiddling with the cornerstones of your life, changing the very shape of your existence to reflect this incomprehensible gift. It’s scary, but Prince Charming is right next to you, laughing his ass off, setting out the cement mixer and stacking up the bricks.

You forget about the things artists don’t mention. Some are called Canvas in the Fireplace or Manuscript in the Toilet. Others have headlines like Barbiturates in the Vodka or Razorblades in the Bath. Prince Charming’s oncologist called it the Luck of the Draw. You can call it anything you want, though. It’s still just the fat lady singing.

So, the landscape you were painting goes all abstract on you. The sky that’s supposed to be cerulean turns a yellow paisley, and the lake you want to drown in skates away, leaving skid marks on the checkerboard floor. When all you ever hear anymore is one long, sad aria, there’s nothing left to do but yawp that fat bitch off the fucking stage.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

May 4, 1971

Cross-legged on the patio after recess, they sit in a circle and chant: ‘Hell no, we won’t go!’
Mr. Parker cringes in embarrassment over the sixth-grade rebellion, loath to remember his brother in the Asian rain.
This time  want 33 words plus these 3: remember, rain, rebellion.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Shadows fill the courtyard where Suzy waits. She has no business out there, and is unhappy with the cold stone slab that is currently leeching the heat from the seat of her pants. She uncrosses, then recrosses her stiffening legs. She should have heard the scrape and scuff of Jeff’s hard-soled office shoes against the paving stones a good hour ago. Has her neighbor met with some tragic accident? Suzy glances at the super’s office, which is dark and silent. She fears the super and Jeff may be sharing a drink down the road.
The super has it in for Suzy. She’s not sure when his antipathy began, but all signs point to Jeff’s arrival in the building. Old Miss Harris died, Jeff moved in, and a malaise seemed to seep through the door jambs and infect the goodwill of all the residents. Even the academic couple –the Deerfields on the top floor- have withdrawn from Suzy. She can feel them watching her now from their kitchen window as they peel potatoes and speak in low voices. Below them, Hambone Johnson sits in his threadbare bathrobe counting coins, or screws, or nuts. The window is dark in Davy Hanson’s apartment, and the hi-fi is silent. Maybe he’s out with the super and Jeff, buying a round of beers for a bunch of college girls.
Suzy uncrosses her legs. She will have to get up now, despite the sneer of victory that will crawl across the face looking out from behind the frilly yellow curtains. Mrs. Deerfield will let the water trickle over her husband’s squeaky-clean dinner plate while Suzy stands, brushes herself off and avoids looking across the courtyard and into the road. The streetlight is already warming up for the long night. Suzy thinks she hears Miss Harris’ old terrier whining at the back gate. There’s a good chance it will whine all night.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Memory (Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux)

A crisp, kick-the-can silhouette glares

in the forefront of her aquatic mind.

Out of reach, shadows emerge and

fade like trick lighting on a stage

edged in wisps of names, places,

long-ago emotion.
33 words inspired by the photograph. Photo credit: Bérenger ZYLA / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


No one actually says ‘It’s time’. No one has ever said those words to me. In fact, people are still hesitant to send me pictures. They’ll email a scanned photograph from his childhood, adolescence, youngmanhood and excuse themselves.
Sorry, they say, we don’t want to open up any wounds.
What wound? I think. Oh, this gaping hole?
Don’t worry, I reply, the picture is sweet. I love it.
They cannot imagine this wound ever healing.
Once a friend told me a friend of hers felt a huge relief at finally scattering the ashes. She looked hard at me. She smiled. I made an attempt to smile back. I nodded my head. I’m guessing she bit her tongue, because she never mentioned time.

At first it is the hours that pass, then the days. Weeks, let’s be honest here, nobody marks time in weeks. Weekends, maybe; Fridays or Mondays. (You’d be surprised how weekends can lead you to understand certain religious concepts like purgatory and limbo.) Months, seasons, a year. The days marked off as firsts. First non-birthday, first light bulb changed, first holiday, first appliance broken down. One day you realize you haven’t cried for two days in a row. Another day you realize he’s been gone longer than you were together.

Still no one uses time to accuse me. They talk about how long it’s been, can’t believe it. Sometimes they will look at me – I can read the look – but still no one ever suggests that it might be time. They cannot imagine. It might even be on the tips of their tongues to say, Found someone new?, wishing to see me happy so they could stop being terrified. Then their look softens. They cannot imagine. I could tell them, but I don’t. It will never be time.

   TIME (noun) 3a : an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recording the Future

(Entry for Round 10 of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction. Mona Simpson asked for 600 words in the form of a voice mail message.)
    [Sounds better when read aloud]

Hello, sixty-five-year-old me.
I wonder if you recognize your own voice. I know you won’t remember having done this. How impressed am I over this technological feat of mine? Have I hung up on myself yet?
I assume you’re standing at the front window while you listen to this message. Is it arrogant of me to assume I’m still alive? There’s no particular reason why I shouldn’t continue on this earth, in this house, at this number. But if the past five years have taught me anything, it would be how fragile life is. How tenuous our hold on it. I can see me nodding my head. We still understand each other. Good.
I was going to wish me a happy retirement. Wishing me a happy birthday might be just another kick in the pants, right? But I doubt I’m anywhere near retiring. Even if the economy has bounced back by now, I was never more than a minimum wage kinda girl, was I?
There are some questions I won’t ask, in case the kids want to hear this later. I know you know what I mean, and I hope I’m answering with a smile. If so, then I’m glad I called. I hope I’ve found some more people to love. I know it’s tough. Still, I hope.
No need to ask about the kids. Those worries are always the same, aren’t they, and they never stop, do they?
What was so important that it had to come back and bite me fifteen years later? I guess I want to make sure that I finally got my act together. After all the mortgage payments and school books, all the career moves and trips to the dentist, have I found time for me? To do what I always wanted to do? If not, it’s okay. I want to remind you that there’s still time.
Have you allowed yourself the time to create that work of art? You know you have it in you. You can still feel it, I’m sure. Have you sat down, one entire day after another, and let it wash over you, under you, around you until you can feel it move you?
Did you buy the divan I dream of? The plush burgundy one that’s just as suited to being softly ravished upon as to reading?
Did you line the hall in shelving to hold all the books, or are they still in towering columns crowding the chair and desk, waiting for the right moment to topple in and imprison me forever?
Do I still want sometimes so desperately to be gently ravished?
Have I finished the Complete Works of Shakespeare?
Am I acting my age?
Have I lost my eyesight? God I hope not. Scary thought. Sorry.
I can’t seem to formulate the questions I thought I needed to ask. I’m standing here by the window, wondering why I needed to call. I guess I want to make sure I’m okay, in case I’m feeling that there’s no one left. In case we never did get over him. In case things turned out worse than I expected. If that’s the case, I’m sorry. In that case, I do know what you’re going through.
We’ve been here before. You’ll get through it. I’m persevering.
I hope I’m still drinking. If so, have one on me. I’ll be having one on you later.
Bye now, and please take care of yourself. I’ve got another twenty good years in me yet.
Okay. Bye.

Here's the winning story: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/09/173873714/three-minute-fiction-the-round-10-winner-is

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rites of Passage

Mom used to call him Betsy. With his soft voice, bowtie and gentle handshake, Dr. Stone was not the proper harbinger for the shock of the metal speculum or the forceps’ searing pinch.
 want 33 words that are serious, deep and include the word "stone", because Lithium is the 3rd element.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bethany's Lament

Bethany has reached that point in many women’s lives when reading becomes a luxury indulged in only on the subway. The stuffy cars, packed with people she doesn’t know and whose eye contact she wishes at all costs to avoid, are ideal for elevating the act of reading in public to the status of sacred rite. Like the goddess of the temple of Bethany, she is respected, even venerated, and held slightly in awe by her fellow commuters. This is her firm belief.

Yet Bethany’s firm belief has been wavering lately, especially when riding a crowded train that tends to accommodate wandering hands. At first she thought the hands might belong to perverts interested in her nether regions, but she soon discovered her error. A jacket draped casually over a forearm might flash in the corner of her eye about two seconds before she thinks to check her purse. Her investigative fingers invariably come upon a half-opened zipper at the very same instant the casually draped jacket disappears from view. So often has this happened that Bethany is being forced to surrender her goddess-like aura of self-absorption.

And Bethany is not happy about this circumstance. Already the entire trajectory of the first stop is spent in the effort of finding an acceptable spot within comfortable reach of a pole to hang on to but with enough breathing room to hold a book. Once that is accomplished, Bethany must find her place and read the sentence three times before it can take precedence over the gym suit Carla forgot to take to school, the chicken Bethany forgot to thaw for dinner and the clothes that have been hanging on the line since Friday.
 As if these inner distractions weren’t hard enough to juggle, now she has to add the physical demands of keeping one hand at the ready to grab the pole or her purse, keeping one eye on her purse without losing track of her stop, and oh yes, reading that sentence again.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Third Definition

I am a transplant. My roots do not nestle easily into this hard, dry soil. I shake my seeds about me and wait for the rain, mildly longing for the taste of home.
                                                  wanted 33 words in a first-person narrative for this community-judged weekend.
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