Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Evening At the Mop and Pail - #FridayFlash

Part 1: From A Holler To Here

   The blonde in ISO-6 is slowly and methodically licking the viewing window.  It could be a side effect of whatever she's taken this evening, a deliberate bid for attention, or an attempt to rattle me. Every employee at the Washburn County jail knows that at some point they'll witness an event which will haunt them. But tasting the infrastructure is pretty tame compared to the usual Saturday shennanigans.
     "Git yer hands offa me, you fat-assed Mexican."
     "Over to the counter, sir. Feet on the blue tape. And I prefer to think of myself as husky." That's Officer Ramirez, who's Peruvian but has given up on mentioning it.
     We all get our lineage, our physical aspects and our mothers' marital status questioned. I happen to be part Native American, which elicits everything from offers to smoke a "peace pipe" (the guy actually pulled a crack pipe out of his ass) to war whoops and unsteady performances of Sugar Hill Gangs's Apache (Jump On It). 
     The best piece of advice I've ever been given came from my brother; "consider the source". The source is more than the mouth it came from.  The source is the history, the family, the home and the combined experiences of a lifetime. Drink from a dirty well and you get good and sick. And there's plenty of dirty wells in Washburn County.
     When the jail was built during the Depression, most of our business came from the Holler.  Drunks, petty thieves and the occasional moonshiner showed up on a pretty regular basis. We locked them up, dried them out, gave them a Bible and shipped them out to the judge by 8 AM the next morning.  Nobody held a grudge; the dude who tried to head butt you one night was fixing the steering on your truck a week later.  Hey Earl, can you check the pressure in the tires while you're at it? Sure, Chief. Might charge ya for the air though. Ten bucks a pound. Wink.
     Nowadays the menu has changed to include drug dealing, domestic violence, corruption of minors, mail fraud, burglary and cyberstalking. Yeah, that last one. Got a young man in here for violating a restraining order - he "liked" the girl's Facebook posts. Lots of the oldtimers chalk it up to newcomers moving in, people with too much money and time, big city problems and big world attitudes. You don't have much crime when nobody has anything to steal, when everybody knows who you are, where you live, and is ready and willing to sic your own grandma on you. Which might make you smile until I tell you that my own dear Grammy clobbered a bear over the head with a shovel while Pops ran to get the shotgun.
     "Hey JoJo."
     That's me she's talking to, Joseph Harjo. I'm not big on nicknames, but it beats most of the things that people come up with. You can just imagine. Everything from Chief Runs From Dogs to Squats In the Woods.
     "JoJo, quit starin' down the corridor.  You're creepin' out the inmates.  Remember that missing girl, Paisley Meadows?"
     "Yup. Her family still calling?  I feel bad for them, but she's 19.  No sign of foul play.  It's not a crime to leave town and not call your parents."
     "True.  But somebody else is looking for her now, and that IS gonna be our problem."

Author's note: The phrase "Mop and Pail" in the title refers to rhyming slang for "jail" used back in the thirties (US).  I don't know if it's still used today.
This is part of a series about the inhabitants of the fictional towns called Norgood Hollow and Pascutt Shores. I am clueless right now about where things are going - it might end up being a series of character portraits, or a murder mystery, or a really confusing mess completely lacking in plot or continuity. 



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Breath Of Kanaloa - #FlashFiction #WEPFF

Photo: Public Domain, NOAA, via Wikimedia Commons

     There are those who are sentenced to death, and those who greedily chase it with every penny, every thought, every heartbeat.
     I have tried to do the math. One cubic meter of ocean equals about one ton. A wave ten meters high, a horizontal portion twenty meters wide, that's some 400 tons barreling along at who knows what speed, chasing you down, curling over you, enough power to rupture your organs, slam you to the seabed, snap your bones in half.
     You say that you are never so "alive" as when you are cheating death.
     I say that I am never so dead as when you are feeling "alive".
     You share an intimacy with this colossus which confounds and exasperates me.
     Go, if you must, and call forth your dreams. 

     "Ku mai! Ku mai! Ka nalu nui mai Kahiki mai..."
         (arise, arise you great surfs from Kahiki)

     The waves have swallowed "us";  may they not swallow you.

All of my blog posts are "FCA"
Word count: 166
 Written as part of the WEP Spectacular Settings Challenge. We are to "share a paragraph from a novel, or an extract from a poem, or a photograph that stopped your heart with a spectacular setting etc", describe what we liked about the setting, then share our own "setting piece" (new or from WIP). I chose to write a flash.

Big wave surfers pit themselves against one of the most powerful forces on earth. There are better photos available, but this one...well, those surfers look like tiny little stick figures.  It showcases the frailty of humans and the magnificent power of nature.

Thanks for reading! There will be more challenges in the future, so check out the link to WEP if you'd like to join the fun.

Click here to join

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Revising A Boring Opening at Fiction University

    Fiction University - a blog by Janice Hardy - is one of my favorite stops on my weekly reading agenda.  It's jam packed with writing tips, guest posts, and prompts as well as articles covering everything from initial planning of a novel to publishing and marketing your work.
    I recently took a stab at one of her prompts;  "revise this boring opening page".  (Janice purposely created the opening, BTW, so it wasn't as though she was inviting us to rip apart some poor aspiring writer's infant novel.)
    The contest is closed but if you'd like to see what we did with that opening - or would like to privately have a go at it for practice - you can check it out HERE. The winner was Laura Rueckert (congrats!) but I'm pleased me to say that I at least made the cut to the final three.
     Fiction University is a tremendous resource for writers, so I urge you to check it out and browse through the archives.
     Also, if you're looking for a prompt this week, Write, Edit, Publish has a blog hop kicking off this week with the theme "Spectacular Settings". 
     Choose a setting which has inspired you/taken your breath away.  It can be a photo, artwork, poem, or bit of prose.  Then you may share something inspired by that work, write something that incorporates it, post a bit of a WIP...rules are fairly flexible. 
     That's it for now.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

From A Holler To Here - #FridayFlash

      I can remember the walk to the train station.  Fields of corn rustling and creaking, alive with chirping and buzzing, the night/day interface soft, heavy, with a hint of damp. Air like a thick warm quilt, fever-soaked, somewhere between comforting and suffocating.  Near the borough line a sign shot full of holes announced The Churches Of Norgood Welcome You and there was somewhere for everyone if you were a Protestant. I always assumed that the Catholics let the nuns do the recruiting, although the various phrases associated with the convents - Adoration Of the Blood Of Christ, Perpetual Sorrow, Our Lady Of the Snows - always brought to mind the Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons.  Maybe one day I will visit a nunnery, ring the bell and ask if I might have a look around.
      They will ask me where I'm from, and I will be tempted to say "NoGod Holler" which is what some folks called it instead of its official municipal name, which started out as "Norgood Hollow", but then they dropped the Hollow because only dirt-poor country places with shotgun shacks and barefooted, crust-covered kids had names with Hollow tacked on the end.
     They will ask me my name.
     Others did that before, but I first made the mistake of saying I don't have a fucking clue and so any moniker which I subsequently produced was instantly viewed with suspicion.  But it was easy to just walk away, took my clothes from the drawer and joined in the cattle call visiting hours are now over and once outside to find a bench, sit down and consider my options.
     It's funny, not ha ha funny but funny in that peculiar way you look at a three-legged dog or an old woman plastered with aquamarine eye shadow and fire engine red lipstick, that my memory encompasses a finite channel from the Holler to here. That comes of catching a beating from someone, somewhere prior to catching the train.  The bad thing about trains is that they require you to present ID.  The good thing about trains is that nobody bothers to enforce it.  You buy your ticket at an automated kiosk at the station (because no one wants to pay a body to sell maybe two or three tickets before 7:00A.M.), you board the train, you pick a seat - not too close to anyone, not in the first car (if there's a derailment you'll die) and not in the last car (if there's a derailment you'll die) and not in the middle car (because everyone else who's afraid to die will sit there, along with their cellphones and screaming kids) - and you put in your headphones, pull down your cap and stick your ticket under the little clip on top of the seat in front of you.  The conductor isn't going to shake you awake to look at your ID.  He's going to punch your ticket and sway along the line to the next and the next, a marginally better job than building sandwiches at Subway because the pay and benefits are higher.
     Maybe one day I will be a train conductor.
     But then I will be forced to choose whether I will ask for ID or not. I will scrutinize each face and if it bears the telltale signs of bruises or the swelling of tears or the lackluster gaze of the lost, I will ask them questions and I may or may not know what to do with the answers.  I will never even make it past the first few seats and so I will not be employed very long as a train conductor.
     Besides, here is where I need to be for now.  Here is a postcard-perfect town with a summer Chautauqua and a year-round community of artists. Here is a place where someone with nothing can get by on dreams and sweat and a pinch of luck.  Here is where all of these things are printed on glossy brochures and lying on just about every available horizontal surface.  And even if it seems just a little too desperate, just a little too much like a going-out-of-business sale, well it has to have its basis in something.  Every bit of advertising has a speck of truth in it, somewhere.
     A well-fed couple strolls by, the woman sailing along with a prow barely restrained by fabric, waves of decaying rose overwhelming the natural sea air.  They stop at the town fountain, and the man reaches a hand into his pocket, rummages around, examines the withdrawn contents and then tosses them into the basin.
     Their wishes grant mine.
     Perhaps that is the natural order of things; that what we wish for is given to others, and what someone else desires comes to us.
     When they have moved on, I nonchalantly make my way to the fountain, take a seat on the edge of the concrete basin, and dip my fingers into the water.  People have either made extravagant wishes, or they have left all of their pennies in jars at home.  The fountain is filled with silver and I carefully scoop the coins and put them into my pocket.  When I have as much as I deem safe to carry, I stand up and realize that my pants are soaked.  And so I extend my arms in the fountain, and whoop, and loudly display a manic enjoyment of the water on my skin.  The few people still walking in the area take note of my exuberance and are relatively unmoved.  They perceive me as a fellow vacationer, not a thief or a drunk.  Thieves are quiet and slink about in darkness; drunks take off their clothes, or curse, or fall face down in the fountain and then stagger out and off into the night. I retrieve a fragment of information from storage.
     It's very hard to kill a drunk.
     So I am here, I have money, and I have a name.  Not mine; that appears to be gone for now.  It is yours, written in silver metallic Sharpie on the insides of your shoes, it is here, written in purple ink on the outsides Pascutt Shore Or Bust!, the dot at the bottom made into a little flower, the treads still clutching grains of red clay from home, the pull tabs rubbing my heels raw as I walk.
      If I don't find you here, there is always another train. Always another road.
     Always another way.