Friday, May 26, 2006

462 words after a mini-edit. I'm not obsessed with numbers. Just wanted to get it right for those who may be counting.
I decided on a 500-word maximum. So this is more of an exercise, but I truly hope, at 456 words, it's still a story. Thoughts and comments welcome.

blue girl

The weirdest dreams I’ve been having lately. When I’m in the dreams, I know I’m in a dream and, in the dream, I’m okay with that. Lots of boxes. Fabric stretched over box-shaped frames. I’m standing in the middle of them, looking around. People are coming in and people are going out. Nobody is really noticing me and this is not a concern of mine, being noticed.

I wake up from one of these dreams and walk to the refrigerator in my pajamas. Cotton pajamas. I have to buy those for myself. When I get pajamas as gifts, they are the silky polyester blend pajamas and I’m not into those for sleeping. Cotton pajama pants and a little t-shirt, those are for sleeping. I’m at the refrigerator and I pour a glass of orange juice. Leaning my head against the cool metal door, I’m in the moment relieved.

I think about my father a great deal when I am unable to sleep. It is the thought of him, charismatic and handsome, that wakes me. He was, in my strongest memories, unable to keep his hands off any woman who passed him by. His favorite joke, talking about me, about how “we’re not sure who the mother is” caused uncomfortable laughter each time he told it with his insider’s wink, but I always thought it was funny. He would hold me at night, kissing my cheeks and smelling of the most wonderful blend of French wine, homemade bread and cigarettes, whispering that it was him and me against the world while a honey-of-the-moment slept in the next room.

My father named me Ali after the great fighting Ali, and he used to say I was just as pretty and just as strong. When strangers call me Alley at the sight of my name on paper, a seismic shift in tone occurs when I correct them to Ah-LEE. It’s a fight in perception, and I am always ready for that. When I was young, people were most curious at the discovery of a redheaded white girl named for a converted Cassius Clay. Today, the perception is all about religion, and no one gives a thought to boxing.

Back to sleep, the dreams begin again. My father, this time with me among the boxes, cannot stop moving. His fingers frantic and light against the fabric then the frames then to my face and lips. He looks confused and afraid just like he did when he knew he was dying, and I don’t know how to help. So I can’t. So I don’t. He kisses me goodnight, he kisses me goodbye, but I feel nothing against my skin, memory of his face to mine fading long ago. Not a person notices us before he falls away.

Blue Girl. Great working title. Even better: blue girl. Do not ask how the lower case letters change the meaning. I'm not sure, but I like it, so there it is.

Wouldn't you love to get your hands on the blog musings of your favorite authors? Why, God, why were we so late with this wonderful supplementary writing tool? Then we'd know for a fact the great ones suffered from the same dibilitating thought processes sometimes.

An entry from Chickens, Etc., the blog of Charles Dickens:

This is a story of two cities enjoying and enduring. [No wait. That's crap. Let's try it again.] There was happiness and there was sadness. People were walking, people were standing still. [Hey, I've got a theme going here. More after coffee...] There was hope among the lost [Shit. After the coffee break, I lost the rhythm. Won't get up again until I work it out]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

That should do it for the day. [Is anybody reading this? Going to check my stats again]


I'd love to see the blog musings of Van Gogh, but no painter I know has any idea how to power on a computer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

As usual, my friend Flood was right. I do need working titles for my fragments. It might be confusing, now that I have more than one going on at the same time, to refer to the fragments as this fragment and that other fragment. Until she rescues me by comment and suggestion, in this post is "a new fragment that has nothing to do with the Stillwater/Parker fragment". I'll work on it more later.

The weirdest dreams I’ve been having lately. When I’m in the dreams, I know I’m in a dream and, in the dream, I’m okay with that. Lots of boxes. Fabric stretched over box-shaped frames. I’m standing in the middle of them, looking around. People are coming in and people are going out. Nobody is really noticing me and this is not a concern of mine, being noticed.

I wake up from one of these dreams and walk to the refrigerator in my pajamas. Cotton pajamas. I have to buy those for myself. When I get pajamas as gifts, they are the silky polyester blend pajamas and I’m not into those for sleeping. Cotton pajama pants and a little t-shirt, those are for sleeping. I’m at the refrigerator and I pour a glass of orange juice. Leaning my head against the cool metal, I’m in the moment relieved.

My father named me Ali after the great fighting Ali, and he used to say I was just as pretty and just as strong. When strangers call me Alley at the sight of my name on paper, a seismic shift in tone occurs when I correct them to Ah-LEE. It’s a fight in perception, and I am always ready for that. When I was young, people were most curious at the discovery of a redheaded white girl named for a converted Cassius Clay. Today, the perception is all about religion, and no one gives a second thought about to boxing.

Confession. Not a confession. Just something I forgot to mention before now. The hold up is not that I cannot gets these cats out of the tub. It is, in fact, that it's time to focus on Parker, it's past time to focus on Parker, and I gots nothing. I don't know if that's because I'm so in tune with Stillwater or if it's because I'm detached from Parker. I know nothing about her. How she works on the inside. I don't know what she's thinking. It's time for her voice to emerge and I cannot find the voice. I think what I'll do is insert her into another, unrelated story. Write her, write with her, in a totally separate context. Forget about Stillwater for now. If all goes well, I can slip her back into that bathtub a fleshed-out, multi-layered and -dimensional character. Maybe without all those hyphens, though.
Too funny, too well-written for me not to share in this space. I would have sacrificed my life under the same circumstances.

Passengers Bravely Take Down Plane Showing Big Momma's House 2
Words I never thought I'd Google:

fake shaman

Found this entry on this really interesting blog.
I'm stepping back from the work for a while. That's not uncommon. I need a little space between me and whatever life force I'm channeling to help write the piece. I can always change my mind about certain things I've decided. In the original work, the destination for the characters' journey was the geographic middle of the world or of their country, I can't remember which. It may have not been specified. Anyway, for my purposes, I chose the geographic center of the 50 United States, which is somewhere in South Dakota. Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer. I'm sure it's a beautiful place. But this entirely changes the environment that I originally had in mind for the journey's destination. Is Parker's father a fake shaman? Hey, that's pretty good. Or is he a manager at the local Kwik-E Mart? I'm liking the fake shaman idea.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Silly me. I've already got a plot. Waiting for the plot mechanism fairy to visit my pillow and me. Tonight. Bring a friend, plot mechanism fairy. Bring a friend and something to drink.
Somebody call roadside assistance, I'm stuck. I cannot get Stillwater and Parker on the road. They are still in the bathtub, actually. Pruning. Waiting. For me. To get them out. And onto the yellow brick road, so to speak. Except this yellow brick road is Interstate Highway 29 that connects with I-90 through towns called Le Mars, Yankton and Kadoka. I should call the good people of Le Mars and tell them that they probably meant La Mer if they were trying to go all French on everybody, but forget it. What the hell do I know?

Waiting for the plot fairy to visit my pillow and me in the middle of the night...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On my daily writer's blog stroll, I found a fun challenge on Mr. Schprock's blog. Mind you, I don't know Mr. Schprock personally. He seems like good people, though, and he's a very smart, very funny regular-life writing kind of guy. So the challenge is this: he assigned me a letter as a prompt for thinking of ten things that I associate with that letter. Somehow, as I'm writing about it, I can admit that Mr. Schprock did a much better job of describing the challenge and encouraging people to play along. But, anyway, my letter is F and here goes. No editing, just writing off the top of my head.

1. Fringes--my anon user name for the blog chosen because I always feel as though I'm living on the fringes of someone else's life. Plus, didn't you like that soft, fringy feel of the fringes on the sleeves of your fancy dry-clean-only Easter dress when you were in second grade?

2. Forever--which nothing ever is. But we use that word a lot. Friends forever. Love forever. I'll be here for you forever. Fucking liars. It. Never. Happens. That. Way. Unless forever actually means until something better comes along.

3. Fuck--sorry, Mr. Schprock. Your blog seems so family-oriented. Mine is kind of not family-oriented. If anyone is offended by the f-word being used in a list designed expressly for f-words, my apologies. But it can't be left off even in polite society.

4. Furry--I have a friend who uses this word for "friends" he likes to "date". The furrier the better and he'll shout that from the mountain tops. I don't like my men furry. My, this is certainly Learn Everything About Fringes Day. LEAF Day, our new national holiday.

5. Finances--always worried about them. Always find a way to make them work.

6. Friends--love them. The three that I have.

7. Fabulous--one of my favorite descriptions.

8. Fantastic--used when I am being sarcastic. Overdrawn those finances again? Fantastic.

9. Fantabulous--combo of my second and third most often used f-words.

10. Finished--with the list. I had Fun. Thanks, Mr. Schprock, for letting me play.

42. That was my longest post ever.

43. I will resist the temptation to edit any part of the post or the list.

44. Even though I have already noticed several things that should be changed before the Earth can continue spinning correctly on its axis.

    Two separate incidents, both happened at a party. Two separate incidents, both happened at a party and made people say to me "That was you?" for years afterwards upon meeting me for a second time in a different place.

    Here's what happened. At these parties. The music is going and people are talking and dancing. I do not dance. I have danced, but people have laughed at me, so I do not dance, okay? And I like to talk, but not to people I barely know because you never know what they are going to do with the information. They could share it with others. Or keep it to themselves and think it over as they are getting dressed for bed. To be on the safe side, most of my personal information stays with me until I feel comfortable with that person. Which sometimes happens immediately and which sometimes happens never.

    So at these parties where people are talking and dancing, I am reading a book. The first party, I was in ninth grade. This was right after junior high, my days of carrying a small bag that held the key to the burglar bar gate protecting our lovely suburban, yet prone to burglary, home. The key to my house, two quarters and a book. I still had that habit by ninth grade, but maybe I also carried some form of ID. But always a book. And at this party, I pulled it out and laid claim to a spot by the punch bowl and started to read. And drink. Setting the stage for my life years later, but I digress.

    I confused people that night, those partiers. Who couldn't figure out why I was at a party reading a book when there were so many opportunities for almost-sex even though chaperones were going in and out of the room. But, see, I knew nothing about almost-sex or full on sex for many many years after ninth grade. And since I didn't dance and nobody was talking to me, and my ride was in the corner of the room having almost-sex with his girlfriend, I pulled out my book and was perfectly satisfied with whatever story was going on between its pages.

    The next time I did that was ten years later. Sure, I'd discovered almost-sex by that time, but I'd also discovered that I didn't like parties, and here I was at another one. But this one was a more intimate affair. Requiring that I talk to people for longer periods about things I was completely uninterested in. I'd stopped carrying books in my bag a few years earlier (why?) so I was forced to browse the party-giver's living room bookshelf for something to read. What was the name of Terry MacMillan's first book? I can't remember. But that was the book. And I read until my ride decided she was ready to go. Best lesson learned that night: drive own car.

    My social skills haven't seriously improved since those two incidents. I'm still the quiet girl in the corner of a crowded and noisy room. Sometimes, I need to be reminded of the importance of mingling and sharing things about myself within a welcoming community. Here's a list. I like lists. They make me look organized.

    Things about me I have decided to share on the Internet:

    1. I am older than 30 and younger than 40.
    2. I look younger than 30. This is genetical.
    3. I am unsure if genetical is a word.
    4. I never planned on working a full-time job.
    5. I have been working full-time for over 20 years.
    6. When a man properly references scenes from The Princess Bride, I like him.
    7. I asked for a train set for three consecutive Christmases and never scored higher than a ceramic tea set.
    8. I learned long ago to buy my own Christmas presents.
    9. My family is very much still doing the church thing. Me, not so much. They are confused about my non-attendance. I am irritated by their confusion. Do I ask them why they no longer shop at Wal-Mart? No, I do not. Do I inform them that their children will suffer if they switch from Goodyear to Michelin? I do not. I let adults make their own freaking decisions.
    10. I am flattered when someone wants to be my friend.
    11. I am much better on paper than in person.
    12. I watch Cops and American Idol. Religiously.
    13. I love National Football League games.
    14. The window has probably closed on my goal of having sex with an active NFL player.
    15. But, you never know.
    16. I fall in love easily.
    17. I am easily discouraged.
    18. I am the champion of others as they dream out loud.
    19. Tracy McGrady is my favorite National Basketball Association player.
    20. I have been a Houston Astros fan since the day I was born.
    21. I am impatient with adults who should know better.
    22. I am very patient with children who should know better.
    23. My musical tastes are varied and intimate. Listing favorite artists or CDs is like listing favorite lovers.
    24. Right this second on my jukebox: I'll Fly Away by Alison Krauss
    25. I am close to my parents and my brother and sister and their families.
    26. Favorite writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    27. Charlie Kaufman
    28. Anais Nin
    29. Gloria Naylor
    30. Alice Walker
    31. Pablo Neruda
    32. Shel Silverstein
    33. I don't know much about contemporary writers, although I did pay attention when Jonathan Franzen refused to let Oprah endorse his book The Corrections in 2001.
    34. I have never read an Oprah-endorsed book.
    35. My favorite Starbucks coffee is the vanilla bean frappuccino, mocha affogato-style. Don't forget the whipped cream.
    36. I am now in love with Mike's Hard Crisp Apple. Mike's Hard Lemonade will always be my first true love.
    37. After vodka.
    38. Movies are my new books.
    39. Favorite movies are too many to list.
    40. The best parts about my current job are deciding where to eat lunch, standing up from my desk to go home, and the paycheck.
    41. I am most excited when someone else's credit card is being passed to the cashier for my purchases. My heart gets warm.

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    I'm going to move on from this part of the draft. I think I have enough questions answered for now. I really think it's time for Stillwater and Parker to hit the road. They would have left Kansas City today, but I had the worst allergy attack and I didn't get anything done, writing or otherwise. So, tomorrow, the journey continues, if I feel better.

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    The rewrite:

    The aunt touched my hand. Then touched my shoulder. Put two hands to my face. There is barely space between us by the time she speaks to me again. “Not all of my life, Stillwater, but all of yours.”

    Close to me, in one ear, she whispers in mystical tongues. Words that soothe, compassionate words that demand, chants of praise and of calling. I knew her name to be Magnificent as she held on tight and promised me centeredness and freedom from confusion, my permanence restored. The house darkened and I was vaguely aware of Parker’s movements in and out of the room, but I don’t know how long she, Magnificent, held me and whispered to me. Hours. She kissed my forehead and I fell into a chair at the kitchen table, crying uncontrollably. I do not cry. Even after broken bones, always mine and always because of her, my mother would brag to our crazy neighbors that I cried not a single pussy tear. Walking away from her that last day, not even tears of relief. Here, in this house, I didn’t think the tears could stop coming. Magnificent wiped them away.

    I was born, I told her, seeing the lives of others, days at a time. I know things about people that they have forgotten or that they never knew. One look, one touch and I’m there, breathing with them, breathing for them. “It is my…”

    I search and Magnificent completes: “It is your divine destiny.”

    The irony makes me laugh to myself. Reliving the horror of some people being fucked over by the universe doesn’t feel all that divine most days. They pass by me on the street and transfer to me all their shit in all its shitty glory and, without knowing how or why, they can make it another day and another day, each day becoming less fucked up than the day before it.

    “Or you could say, Stillwater, that your power, your gift, makes their following days more bearable, more optimistic. Without knowing why, people follow you, yes. They look for you, they need you. Why do they talk to you and tell their entire life stories while you are buying bread in the grocery store?”

    Good fucking question, I say, but to myself.

    “Redemption. Everybody’s looking for it and you are its host.

    “It’s as though their spirits are floating wayward and unanchored, looking for you, looking for that shop, looking for the one person or thing that will remove from them the stain of being human. It is especially on this trip with Parker as you meet all kinds of people in all kinds of pain that your gift will at times seem more of a misfortune, but each day as you guide Parker nearer to what she needs, you’ll become more at peace with your own life.”

    But, Parker, I whisper to Magnificent, is completely closed off from me. Nothing she says brings her spirit closer to me and almost everything she says pushes it away.

    Parker is a carrier, reveals Magnificent. She absorbs nothing and, sometimes, being with her seems more like an affliction—she laughs and continues, “I’m being too harsh. It’s like this. When you catch a cold, you catch it from Parker. But she’s not sick. She’s not tired. Not a cough or a sneeze or one single symptom. You’re not sure why you know she gave you this cold, yet you do know she’s the one who brought the virus into your house and passed it on to you. You’re preparing to die from this, the worst cold you’ve ever had in your life and she, the carrier, gets to decide if she is going to care for you until you are well again or if she’s going to leave you behind to suffer and wonder why you allowed her into your life in the first place.

    “Her mother died when she was a little girl, and we were all heartbroken. My sister, Parker’s mother, was the youngest, and everybody in our family adored her. She had a bit of a public reputation of being maybe selfish, definitely arrogant, but we all knew that was a fa├žade. She had a generous spirit without knowing exactly how to show that to people she didn’t know very well.

    “It was an accident as are all deaths involving three-year-olds. And my heart tells me that Meran was already dead before the fire started, but I can’t seem to convince those who want to blame Parker for being left alone with matches and her curiosity. But our sister drank in dangerous quantities very dangerous cocktails, and if she hadn’t died that day in the fire, it would have happened sooner than later from a drug overdose.

    “English, Parker’s father, was incapable of taking care of himself and his family. He should have shouldered some blame for the fire, but he escaped blame that day simply because of his physical absence from the house in that moment. The first finger he pointed was at his own daughter--a baby--and I knew him to be insane.

    “Parker came to live with me that very day. I was the natural choice. I always had six or eight or ten little munchkins running around here and I had room for many more. She tried to find her way around here, but she never quite fit in. She felt persecuted in all absence of malice or ill will in the company of the other children. She became the least transparent of everyone in the house. But she was always the most determined to work well within her limitations.”

    “By pretending she has no limitations,” I said, now understanding the lies and the bravado and the little girl vulnerability all at once. I had to know: “Did you send Parker to me?”

    With a wry smile, with a beautiful and distant look, Magnificent considered her answer. “I guided her to you, yes. This is her home, she is always welcome here. I sent her your way knowing when she returned, you’d be with her. But, this is not the end, you know that. It’s barely the beginning. You’ll complement, insulate and protect each other along the way. Rest here tonight, then get going."

    Parker appeared in the doorway and waited. In the silence following those final moments, she led me upstairs to a drawn bath. Such a beautiful girl as she quietly asked should she stay with me or leave me alone. She asked, but she knew. I wrapped my legs and arms around her as we dipped ourselves into the warm water. “Tomorrow,” said Parker, “we mark our path.”