Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twitter Tale 2

He says. She says. He writes. She drinks. Midnight, and the floors are spattered by the agonies of both.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blindsided - Flash Fiction (Re-post)

Yes, I'm cheating. I'm swamped with work the next 2 days (the kind that pays bills) and the A-Z is coming up, so I'm taking a few days off from blogging. In the meantime, I'm re-posting an older piece; presumably the new followers I've picked up (welcome!) haven't read it yet. If you have, well, move along then, nothing here to see. ;)  Until Friday, Li


"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am." - Sylvia Plath

     She was 10 the first time it happened. So delighted that she'd managed to catch, and hang on to, the ball, that she forgot to run.
     A crushing blow, and then she was on the ground, looking up at a sky so incredibly blue that she wondered if it had always been so. There was no pain, then, only the shadow of it crouching close by;  her entire being was fixed on her next breath, which would not come. Is there any other feeling to compare? Time, the most slippery of our perceptions, expands to infinity when the body cannot draw breath. We hover somewhere on the brink of reality, everything else ceases to matter, and the world as we know it is now of no consequence. Once experienced, it is something that we never want to feel again, and know we will never forget.
     And so she lay there, eyes fixed on the circle of faces which had now appeared above her. They wore concerned expressions, their lips moved, but their words were lost somewhere on the way down. She wanted to say something, anything; but it proved impossible. There was nothing to do but wait. Alone.
     Finally, it arrived, one shuddering gasp, and with it a cacophony of sound and suffering.  She struggled to her feet, brushing off the assistance of others, pasting a smile on her face and walking off, albeit shakily, to take stock of the damage by herself. She would not cry.
     Thirty years later, and here she is again, trapped in that forever moment. Once again, it comes. One breath. Then another. She will walk away from this as well. She will not cry.

     She hangs up the phone. And she cries.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Suburban Renewal - Flash Fiction

This is actually the end of a story about a woman who lived "the perfect life", all the while enduring life with an alcoholic husband. I was unhappy with the first half, but I like this portion, and the phoenix aspect of it.

     I built myself a lovely little house, and from my newfound vantage point, I can see everything that is wrong with it. The windows are hidden by heavy coverings which give it a hooded gaze. Gingerbread trim and pastel paint lend it the appearance of trying too hard. And the foundation - ahhh, the foundation. There are cracks, and it has been sinking into the welcoming ground for years. Inside, plaster is falling off the walls revealing the riddled lathes inside.
     The others, who also have viewed it from afar (I would never let them close; PRIVATE: KEEP OUT), nevertheless judged it to be aesthetically pleasing and correct. It was neat, underwhelming, and did nothing to detract from their own overburdened monstrosities. They were happy to accept it as part of their landscape and blow kissing noises at me from the other side of the street.
     My lovely little house, dusty and illuminated by the filaments of lies, with all of its dark corners and sweet geraniums and hoards of mementos, is going up in flames. I set the fire; it was a necessary act of cleansing violence. To live in that artificial creation which was built to alien specifications, kept up simply to meet the standards of others, and providing only the illusion of protection - well, that was no life at all.

     I have a new home now; I am happy in my own skin. When I look in the mirror, I no longer see that painted facade and those unseeing eyes. I am clean and bright and new; there are no more closets stuffed with guilt and remorse. My foundation is solid as a rock. And the garbage gets taken out daily.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Regret - Flash Fiction Prompt @

Kenney Mencher (blog entry here) who has an interesting art and flash fiction blog (check it out), had a post today inspired by a prompt he found on . Kenney often has contests and such going on tied to his artwork.  looks like a great site to follow if you're looking for prompts, suggested reading, and tips on flash, poetry and prose. Thanks Kenney!

The prompt: 
Under a bench in a park is a duffel bag with an old photo, a cd player, a flash drive, and candle inside. Whom do these items belong to, what do they mean to this character, and how did they end up in the park?
Here's my shot at it.

     I waited for you that day until dark. Then I cursed you for a coward and threw your duffel bag into the creek.
     When you asked me to meet you in the park, so that we could say goodbye properly, the childish part of me wanted to scream and cry and tell you to go to hell. Rejection is seldom easy for any of us, and though a sliver of my soul hoped that you would at last be happy, the bulk of my being wanted your new wife to be a heartless shrew who would drag you in the dust. Still, I wanted to follow your lead and do "the adult thing". So I gathered up the book of poetry, the ticket stub from Coney Island, the first rose that you gave me (now a sad, dead thing), put them in a paper bag, and scuffed my way through the city and down to the park.
     I recognized your old Army duffel at once. Since you were nowhere to be found, I assumed that once again you couldn't manage without a cup of coffee, and I took the opportunity to rummage in the bag. The usual assortment of things; a CD of "our" songs along with the player I gave you for Christmas, my favorite photo of us, taken at your Uncle Ed's infamous picnic, and the candle you'd swiped from the restaurant on our first date. A USB drive, which probably had the rest of our photos on them. After all, why would you (or she) want them around?
     You never showed up, of course, and I assumed that you hadn't the nerve to see me again. You just left those precious things in an unguarded, unwanted heap, just as you'd left me.
     The next day's newspaper told the story. You, and another man, gone, casualties of yet another thug on the streets. All you wanted was a cup of coffee. Were you buying one for me too? Would you have come back to me, would we have talked, and wept, and finally parted as less than lovers, more than friends? How utterly stupid I was to have misjudged you. And to have destroyed the last remnants of something that was, for a time, beautiful. In my proud and foolish pain, I threw away all that we had been along with the duffel bag.
     I will always wonder what was on that flash drive. Perhaps I can find someone who can recover it.

     It will be up to me to recover my memories of you.
     Of us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Signposts - Flash Fiction

     Some of those trips we took seemed endless; it was probably the same for you. My brother and I fought viciously and relentlessly in the backseat of that old Bonneville. He sat too close to me, I couldn't bear the wet slurping sound of his gum chewing, and our bare legs stuck to the naugahyde seats. Dad never did pull the car over, and I was wrong; you could, indeed, smack me from the front seat.
     Whether it's true, or whether my memory has painted things in terms of fevered dreams, the last leg was always in darkness. My head heavy and thick, eyes gritty, and skin feeling scraped and somehow raw, I would ask "how far?" and you would point out the landmarks and signs along the way. The water tower, with bulbous belly, spindly legs and solitary blinking red eye. The barn, with slatted stars in its sides, crumbling by day and ethereal by night. The last sign on the overpass, the final exit, a slender ribbon of asphalt which would finally lead to our door.
     Now I am leaning my head against the cool glass, and the man sitting next to me is snoring in a wet, bubbly manner which sets my teeth on edge. I did not want to make this trip, Mom. It has been too long, and I'm afraid it has taken too much out of me this time. I just want to lay my head on a cool pillow in the room that you have kept for me all of these years.
     Please help me, and point out the signposts for me one last time.
     I am on my way home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Is In the Air - Photo

Lancaster Polo Club, Forney Field 2010
Copyright Lisa Vooght 2010
 It's still chilly and wet outside, but the freezing weather and snow appear to be gone for the year. The local polo field is boggy, but the trees have a telltale green fuzz to them and the horses are shedding. One of the things I look forward to during late spring/early summer is tailgating at the local polo matches. If I'm lucky, some of the premium members don't show up for the game and after the first hour I can creep up into their space and get a better view of the action.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Already Know How It Ends - Poetry

We can perch upon life's high places
unless, of course, we look down.
We can walk on an ocean of silence,
until one of us speaks, and we drown.
We can dance in synchronicity
and the world, in its envy, will stare.
That is, of course, till the music stops,
when I will be left with no chair.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Night On the Town - Flash Fiction

The four of them always got together on Saturday nights. Well, some would call them afternoons, but when you've seen the sun go down 30,000 times or so, bed calls you early. Besides, if you want to get in on the Early Bird Special at the Cross Keys Diner, you'd best get there around 4PM. Wait till 5, and you get canned clam chowder instead of the luxury of vacillating between chicken corn and beef barley. Wait till 6 and you'll be paying another dollar for the same special, and the pie's already been cut, left, and liable to have overtones of fried fish or liver-n-onions.

El and Evelyn used to be twins, still are I guess, although they don't look much like two peas in a pod anymore unless one pea's been pecked a few times and the other left in the sun too long. They were friends with Jame and Bobbie since grade school when they all walked the mile to school barefoot, carrying their shoes with laces knotted and slung over their shoulders. The four used to be eight at the Cross Keys, but their “worst halves” as they referred to them had caused one disturbance too many, and Big Joe laid down the law.

“This here's a fine eating establishment and I won't have trouble. Y'all find somewhere else to go, or leave that rabble you call kinfolk at home when you come in.” The four had gotten together and thought on it and crafted a plan whereby the WHs would spend Saturday evenings with their own kind at the Fire Hall. It'd do 'em all good to be apart for a while anyways, seeing that old age was like a Zerox copy of youth when the toner runs low. When they were courting they were glued to each other out of want and need; now they were glued together mostly out of boredom and habit.

“So how much did Sammy get outta ya tonight, Ev?” asked Jame with a wink.

“50 smackers. And you know how Sammy is, it won't go far, especially since the Fire Hall started serving beer.” Ev sighed. “You know, the Robinson's split up last week. Old Tom ran off with his secretary.” Ev poked around in the soup hopefully.

Jame grinned. “Knew about that days ago. What else you got?”

Evelyn grinned. “The new librarian had a little surgery done. Spotted it a mile away.”

El, sitting up straighter, chest thrust out, called out in a high voice “Oh, boys! Boys! Come into the book stacks and do a little research!” A trucker at the counter turned to look at them.

“Oooooh, El, you've got an admirer,” said Bobbie, shaking with laughter.

El winked. “More your type than mine, my friend. I like 'em a little more refined.”

“You wouldn't know it by what you're hitched to!” sputtered Jame, spraying them all with a dusting of cracker crumbs.

“Hell,” said Ev, glancing outside. “Look who just pulled in.” They all peered through the window, filmed with grease and flyspecks.

“It's the Law,” said El in a stage whisper. “Here to arrest Big Joe for not wearing a hairnet.”

But El had a sinking feeling, which proved right enough when the sheriff heaved his bulk up the steps, through the rusting aluminum door, and planted it right by their table.

“There was a fracas going on down at the Hall, so your partners are cooling their heels down at the municipal building. Which means,” he said, looking pointedly at his watch, “you have about 10 minutes to get down there before they become overnight guests of the county. You'll be billed for the damages just as soon as the insurance adjustor gets out of the hospital.”

And so the four men rose, paid their tabs, and went off to collect their wives once again after Bingo Night.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Immortal - Poetry

Beware! They say; for whatever
follows the sometimes hesitant press
of a particular plastic key
can never be undone, recalled or erased.

It takes up permanent residence,
caught in a sticky, man-made web
alongside struggling butterflies,
empty shells, and other remains.

But drops of dew are also found
creating prisms, capturing sun.
If mistakes are solidified forever,
then so are the marvels which we find.

I will never have the pleasure
of looking upon you; never touch you
with my hands. But I write for you;
and, unwittingly, make you immortal.

Friday, March 11, 2011

60 Words In 89 Seconds - Flash Fiction

He slips behind another's eyes, wends his way through exotic mazes of thought, dreams another's dreams, takes strange words into his mouth and expels them, whole yet somehow changed. He skulks about the perimeter, always watching, dissecting;  taking them apart and cobbling them together into angels and monsters which only he can see. He is a voyeur. He loves art.

Well, I tried to get 60 words in 60 seconds, but I had to redo the first line, which cost me. (A title probably would have cost me another minute. Is that cheating?) This is an entry for a 60/60 Blogfest sponsored by Nahno McLein (read about it here ). Why not give it a shot yourself? The theme is "art" in some shape or form.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

To Taste the Clouds - Nonfiction

     They taste like rain smells. They feel like the mist of a dream, there and yet insubstantial, here and then gone, leaving the faintest of impressions. I close my eyes and I can still feel them on my skin.
     The power of the engine travels through the plane's skin and into my own. The throaty roar of 600 hp and the wind flying by is reduced to a throbbing hum by my headset. I shift my weight, the seatpack parachute feeling like a slab of concrete under me. An odd feeling, to be suspended in the sky, trusting in tons of metal and a large bundle of fabric and silk should that metal fail.
     We are out of the clouds now, and the patchwork of earth is visible below. The radio is quiet and I am content to look from side to side, keeping an eye on the controls and gauges.
     The throttle inches forward and then we are diving, hurtling toward the ground, and it is all I can do to not whoop for the sheer joy of it. Then it's up, up, smoothly and effortlessly;  the sky is a shocking blue and I am pressed into my seat.
     It is only during the split second that we are upside down and I feel a little "light in the seat" that I realize my canopy should not be open. I wait until we are right side up and back to straight and level flight before inching the greenhouse glass along its track.
    The pilot radios back, with a smile in his voice, "Well, how'd I do?"
    I reply with perfect aplomb "Pretty good. Luckily I had my harness done up, else I might be dropping in on some very surprised spectators right about now."
    Dead silence. "Bloody hell, you mean you had the canopy open the whole time?"
    "Well, yeah. I didn't know we'd be doing loops, I thought it was just demonstration flybys this morning; you should have warned me first. Anyway, I wanted to see what clouds felt like."
    "You wanted..." Apparently, words failed him at that point. We finished the flight in silence except for the radio transmissions to the tower. I knew I was going to catch all kinds of hell when we got down, but it didn't matter. Some things in life are just worth it.

The answer, of course, to the Memetastic Award post Liar Liar is #1. I never pretended to be an author, never worked in a funeral parlor, thought about sitting at the vacant author's table but had enough sense not to, and wasn't actually run into by Dick Cheney and his shopping cart, although he was behind me in the checkout line one evening. And, by the way, the pilot and I both caught hell from the Air Boss at the show that day because, according to regulations, he wasn't even supposed to have a "non-essential" passenger along.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Liar Liar - Personal Post

The Mask, AKA The Blogger Formerly Known As was kind enough to pass on this award (which she received from Caterpillar at Musings and Confessions Of A Wandering Mind
Thank you to Mask, who has been so very encouraging to me, a newbie. And to everyone who takes the time to visit here and comment...thank you.

So, I need to tell 4 lies and 1 truth and you decide which is which. Here goes.

1. During an airshow performance, I inadvertently left the canopy open while we were upside down. Thank goodness I had my harness on.

2. While grocery shopping one day, (then) VP Dick Cheney ran into me with his shopping cart.

3. To help pay for college, I worked part-time in a nearby funeral home doing "cosmetic" work.

4. While working at a bookstore, I sat down at the author's signing table for a minute. Someone asked me to sign their book, and I did. Pretty soon, there were dozens of people lining up. When the manager found out, he fired me.

5. While snorkeling on vacation in the Bahamas, I lost track of how far out I had gone, and couldn't get back because of the tide. They had to send someone out to rescue me.

Good luck!

I'm going to pass this award to Turquoise Moon for her blog: thoughtful and inspiring words, quotes and ruminations at Words To Live By.

And, as a random plug (just because I can) check out the prose and the gorgeous paintings of Richard Moisan .

Twitter Tale

Snow. A park. Footprints, two pair, nearly inseparable; one pair stops, and turns back. Smashed phone on a park bench.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dearly Departed - Short Story

“Mortimer is dead.”

Sam looked up from his books. His little brother was standing in the kitchen doorway, and Sam saw that he was precariously balanced between the urge to cry and the excitement of such a novel occurrence. He opted to nip any histrionics in the bud.

“Well then, I shall do a full examination and postmortem.” Sam wanted to be a vet, and dissecting a rat would be an interesting exercise, although he was inclined to think that Mortimer had simply run the natural course of a rodent's life and died of old age.

“Right, I'll be up to your room in a minute. I just need to collect a few things. I wish I had some proper equipment. Would you like me to get him out of his cage for you?”

“Oh, I have him right here,” replied David, reaching into his pants pocket and producing Mortimer, who was obviously well beyond suffering from the indignity.

Sam suppressed a smile, and assumed the business-like demeanor he'd been practicing in the mirror.

“Right, if you'll just place him on the table, I'll have a look. Any symptoms or previous medical problems?”

David thought for a minute. “He's been sleeping a lot. And he hasn't wanted any biscuits lately. Those were his favorite. He mustn't have felt too badly, though, 'cause he's smiling.”

“He looks that way because his teeth are overgrown from not being able to gnaw, and because when you die your body stiffens up. It's called rigor mortis.” Sam was rummaging around in the kitchen for a suitable dissecting tray. He selected a small roasting pan, and felt the edge of a paring knife with what he felt was professional aplomb.

“Aren't you going to make sure he's dead, Sam?” asked David with just a hint of reproach. His brother hid his annoyance. “Yes, yes, of course.” He laid the rat in the pan and very carefully touched a finger to its eye, pulled back the lip, and then laid two fingers on its side.

“Yes, I'm afraid he's gone. Shall we proceed?” He brandished the knife. David was torn between interest and discomfort. Normally he wasn't squeamish, but he felt there was something a bit off about gazing at the internal organs of one's friend.

“Alright,” he said, voice quavering. Sam sighed inwardly. Then he remembered one must always be patient with clients. Perhaps a distraction was in order.

“Really, in my professional opinion, Mortimer just slipped away in his sleep. Rodents only live for a few years. And he has lead a happy and fulfilling life with you. Maybe we should just bury him in the garden?”

“Oh yes, we'll have a funeral!” exclaimed David, clapping his hands. “And we'll invite people and sing songs and have the Vicar come and speak and Mum can bake a cake!” Nothing brightened David's life like a party.

Sam mentally kicked himself. Now he'd have to play the big brother and “spoil” things by pointing out that Mortimer's demise was not going to be the social event David thought it would be. The little boy had already spotted a stack of hat boxes by the door.

“Mum said she's getting rid of these. We can pick a nice box to bury him in, and I'll go and get some flowers and make a little cross to put up in the garden.” He chose a small box, removed the hat inside and set it on the counter, then placed Mortimer inside the box and fit the lid on.

“Perfect!” he cried. “I'll be back, then we can go invite some people.” He left the box on the table and scampered out the back door. Sam gathered up his books and papers and trudged up the stairs to his room, wondering how to distract his brother from this new folly. Perhaps a new pet; tortoises were easy to find, and they lived such a long time that Sam would be well out of the house before it met its end. Yes, a tortoise would be just the thing.

Sam was hot and disgruntled. It had taken quite a bit of effort to convince David to leave off his new duties as undertaker to look for tortoises; Sam had imagined that they would spend just enough time to divert David, since he had a short attention span anyway. But, the little boy had proven both contrary and stubborn and they had spent a full hour traversing field and stream in search of a new boon companion. Finally, he had given up.

“I don't want one anyway. They can't play or do tricks or anything.”

“Then why have we been out here so long?” asked Sam in an irritated manner.

“You wanted to!” David snapped back. “It was your dumb idea. I just wanted to....oh no! We forgot about Mortimer!”

“I somehow doubt he's gone anywhere,” said Sam dryly. “Can't we just go home and get on with it?”

The idea of a funeral party had long since faded; David was tired, hungry and, to be perfectly honest, just a little bored with the whole proceedings. As with most small boys, the tragedy which had loomed large in his mind hours before had already become a distant memory. He tucked his grimy hand into Sam's. “Mum's promised lamb for dinner. I'm hungry.”

Sam smiled down at him. “You're always hungry.” He breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, they could get the dearly departed into the ground before dinner and call it a day.

He should have known that things were never that easy. They passed the church on the way home; the doors were open, and a few people were milling about. Sam saw the wheels turning over in David's head before he even opened his mouth. He had half a mind to simply sling his brother over his shoulder and march home, but David was already pulling at him.

“Let's ask the Vicar!” he said excitedly. His brother wearily followed him into the church, which was having one of its rummage sales. David spied the table of refreshments immediately and headed in that direction, all thoughts of Mortimer forgotten. Sam idly wondered if there were any nice girls about.

He spotted Mary Beth, a vivacious blonde, chatting with another girl in front of one of the tables. He sauntered over, and was just about to make a witty comment when he spotted what was on the table,

Hat boxes.

One in particular.

As Mary Beth reached for it, he snatched it away. She looked at him reproachfully.

“Sam, don't be a tease,” she said, giving his wrist a smart slap. “Now give it back.” He was at a complete loss. She gave the box a tug, and he clung to it, grimly and silently, wishing that the ground would open and swallow him. The Vicar, raising an eyebrow, walked over to them.

“Now, then, let's not have a ruckus. Surely you're not fighting with the girls over a hat? Or, perhaps,” he said with a wink, “you've chosen it as a gift for someone special?”

Sam felt his face growing hot. Mary Beth had turned away, and Sam with one quick movement lifted a corner of the box so that the Vicar could view the contents.

“Oh dear,” the man stammered, looking from the box to Sam's face. Just then, Sam felt a tug at his hand; looking down, he saw his brother, a ring of icing around his lips, looking up at him dolefully.

“Sam, I'm going to be sick.”

He wondered, not for the first time, why it seemed as though his brother existed simply to torture him. He looked about for a waste can and, finding none, came up with a solution. Turning his back, he deftly opened the hat box, snatched out the rat, stuffed it in his pocket, and used the box to catch David's offering.

“Ewww,” exclaimed the girls, backing away. Several women clucked sympathetically. “Poor boy,” “where's his Mum,” “shame, poor thing”. Sam felt no such emotion. “You silly little sod,” he hissed, “you've made a pig of yourself eating cake.” He proffered his handkerchief. “Blow your nose and let's get out of here before you do anything else to humiliate me.”

Sam wondered what to do with the hat box. The Vicar, who hadn't had such an interesting rummage sale in years, indicated the door. “The incinerator would be the best place for that, I should think,” he said, smiling. “Nothing wrong with cremation.”

“It's in my pocket,” whispered Sam.


“It's in my pocket,” he whispered again, more urgently. “You know, the...what was in the box.”

“Oh, that's MY BOX!” squealed David, fully recovered by now.

Sam had clapped his hand over his brother's mouth and was now hauling him out into the hallway. The Vicar followed, thinking what a remarkable day it was turning out to be. A grand story to share over a whiskey in future.

“Where's Mortimer?” shrieked David. Sam produced him.

“We wanted to have a funeral, with flowers and people...” David began. Sam cut him off sharply.

“OH, DO STOP GOING ON ABOUT THAT!” He passed a hand over his face and cleared his throat. “Sorry.”

The Vicar smiled at him and winked. Then he stooped down to David's level. “Shall I see that he gets a Christian burial?”

“Will I be able to visit him?”

“Certainly. You may visit him any time, especially after each Sunday's service.” Well, it was part of his vocation, encouraging regular worship. “How about near the roses, in the far corner of the churchyard?”

That would be nice,” said David thoughtfully. “He liked flowers.” Sam rolled his eyes.

“Then it's settled. He stood up and dusted off his knees. “See you in church Sunday.” he took Mortimer, now wrapped in his own handkerchief, and carried him at arms length toward the back of the church. David began to follow.

“Time to go home. I don't think you should watch.” Sam thought quickly. “It might make you sad, and Mortimer wouldn't want that. He would want you to remember him happy, climbing around his cage and sitting on your shoulder.”

David looked up at him. “You're right Sam. You're so smart. Let's go home. I'm hungry.”

The smell of roasting lamb greeted them as they returned home and opened the front door. Their mother sent them straight upstairs to clean up. “What have you been up to?” She sniffed audibly. “And change those clothes!”

They scrubbed up accordingly, and sat down at the table. David was already attacking his plate, shoveling in food as though he hadn't eaten in weeks. As Sam reached for the plate of lamb, his gaze went through the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen, and settled on the roasting pan atop the stove. He paused for a moment, and cast a surreptitious glance at his brother. Then he shrugged and helped himself.

“So, what did you boys do today?” asked their mother brightly.

David wondered if he'd be in trouble for throwing up at church. He guessed he would.

Sam wondered if any harm would come of eating dinner cooked in a pan in which the body of Mortimer had recently reposed. He guessed not, although he doubted he'd convince Mum of that any time soon.

The two boys looked at each other. “Nothing,” they grunted in unison.