Monday, March 12, 2012

Full Circle

Drinking to sleep... to forget.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Walk to Remember

Tonight was my official last class at Flying Object. This week's prompt was a continuation of an in class exercise we did last week. We were to take the first page of a piece of fiction and continue on with it. Only three of us completed the assignment this week. One of my classmates chose a Eudora Welty story while the other picked The Dog of the South by Charles Portis.

And I... I also went the southern route. But as they chose fine, upstanding writers, I selected what I might least likely want to read. As I saw it, I was to put my spin on someone else's beginning. Perhaps it was serendipitous that I saw the collection of softcover Nicholas Sparks novels in the lunch room at work. I grabbed at the lot and came up with A Walk to Remember, a book which I believe was made into a movie starring Mandy Moore. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

And so it begins:

In 1958, Beaufort, North Carolina, which is located on the coast near Morehead City, was a place like many other small southern towns. It was the kind of place where the humidity rose so high in the summer that walking out to get the mail made a person feel as if he needed a shower, and kids walked around barefoot from April through October beneath oak trees draped in Spanish moss. People waved from their cars whenever they saw someone on the street whether they knew him or not, and the air smelled of pine, salt, and sea, a scent unique to the Carolinas. For many of the people there, fishing...

And which I continued:

...was both recreation and livelihood. The innumerable salt marshes and brackish creeks provided an abundance of shrimp and crab and in late Fall, six dead prostitutes as well.

The first one was found by Billy Swanson, out in his father’s motorboat without permission. He was fishing for reds and came across the body, or what was left of it, of a young, blonde girl hung up in the mangroves where the high tide had left her. The crabs had done a pretty good job on the body, but her dress was pulled up over her head and Billy lingered, at once repulsed at her condition and aroused by her nakedness.

Sheriff Thompson was eating a chicken salad sandwich from Pearl’s when Billy flung open the door.

“I found a dead lady out near Wells’ Creek,” Billy said.

The Sheriff put down the sandwich and looked at the boy, with his obvious erection, and decided that he’d have to keep an eye on him in the future.

“Don’t fool around, son,” said the Sheriff.

“Honest, Sheriff, she’s dead and the crabs have been eatin’ on her.”

“Boy, if you’re havin’ me on, I’m gonna nail your hide to a tree.”

Billy told the Sheriff where he’d seen the body and convinced him that the story was real. He grabbed Billy by the arm and dragged him out to his car, a black Dodge, and threw him in the front seat. He got on the radio and called his deputy, who’d been hiding behind the Piggly Wiggly sign on highway 21 catching speeders all morning.

“John, get your ass down to the dock at the marina. Billy Swanson found a body out in the marsh.”

“Sure thing, Sheriff,” crackled Deputy Paul’s voice over the radio.

After Billy showed them where the body was and they’d returned to town, Sheriff Thompson called the County Medical Examiner’s office and arranged a larger boat to go retrieve the body. There was no doubt she was dead, but the marks around her neck indicated she’d been strangled. It didn’t take the Medical Examiner to prove that. They brought the body back to the morgue and put her in the cooler until they could do the autopsy.

That was the beginning. Over the next several months, they found more bodies in the marsh. The first one turned out to be Charlene Walsh, who worked in Savannah. Ten days later a shrimp boat crew found the body of another girl, blonde, but not enough left of her to identify. Three days later an oysterman found the third, another prostitute from Savannah, named Jenny Shoemaker. That was when they decided they had a serial killer on their hands.

I'm fairly certain that I went in a different direction than Mr. Sparks. I don't believe there are dead hookers floating in any of his other books, but I haven't read Message in a Bottle, so I could be mistaken.

Rachel gave us all books and I received, in a cosmic joke sort of way that would only mean something to me, a book called Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth. Fucking hilarious, universe... I see what you did there.

As I said, it is my official last class, but there will be one more meeting, on Monday, November 21st from 5:30 - 7:30 where we will be giving readings of our work. So if you'd like to come out and see me possibly (undoubtedly) make an ass out of myself in public, feel free. The address is 42 West Street, Hadley, MA.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Our Past Future

I need your help. I really, really need your help.

I'm working on a project that involves creating some objects representative of the future that we thought we'd be living now, when seen through the eyes of 1930-1960's society. I don't want to go into a lot of detail, because I want to keep it slightly secret agent, but I need some assistance getting started and this is where you can help.

The first thing I need... Drills. Old electric drills. A lot of them. They don't have to work. What I had in mind were these:

I also need old vacuum tubes.

If you see something like this in your basement and you want to get rid of it, or you're out someplace like an antique store, yard sale or flea market, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! You'll be a part of making a cool art project.

email me at or text me at 413.271.4041 and let me know what you have or where you saw it. I will greatly appreciate it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Work Stories

This week Rachel gave us a prompt to write eight stories, each comprised of only fifty words. 

I haven't really felt like writing. As easy as all of the other assignments have been, this one was difficult. It wasn't a difficult assignment, but the act of sitting down and writing was hard. There's so much going on right now and none of it seems like it's turning out right. Trying to be creative under these circumstances is nearly impossible. I don't play the tortured artist well.

So if writing is going to be work, I decided to make them all about work. Some are real... some are fiction... some are a mix. All I know is that I want to fling my macbook into the river right now so I'm not reminded of things.

I'm tired. I'm glad I don't write about my personal life in my blog any more. My life doesn't need any more editing.

Work Stories

Tim pulled on the gorilla suit and mask in the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror through the eye holes and wondered how much longer the “Going Out of Business Sale” would continue. Feeling his hot breath reflected at him, he picked up his sign and went to work.

A lady came up to the front desk and told me her friend hurt her finger in a deck chair at the pool. She had her hand wrapped in a towel and when she unwrapped it, the tip of her index finger was snapped off at the first knuckle.

Everything Ted touched turned to shit. We asked him to help unload the bronze sculpture from the truck. When we placed it, the pedestal collapsed like a house of cards. The rest of us just looked at one another and knew we could only blame ourselves for bringing him along.

The sun beat down on me and I picked up the sports bottle and took a large swallow. The Seagram’s Seven and Seven was the only thing that made calling BINGO on the pool deck tolerable. Their vacations to the beach were my misery, but they never discovered my secret.

There is a certain look to back roads in the south, where asphalt fades to a unique light grey. By day you count remains of the previous night’s armadillo casualties and note the occasional snake or gopher turtle. Once he’d even seen an alligator belly up in the hot sun.

“You’ve got a long row to hoe.” doesn’t make sense to anyone that has never had to do it. He gripped the rough wooden handle, conscious of the blisters forming at the crook of his thumb. From this vantage, bent over at the waist, the foreshortened rows stretched on forever.

Mornings before work he’d go for a swim. He wasn’t a strong swimmer, but he’d continue through the waves until they became slow swells and he couldn’t make out people on the beach. And on some mornings, it was all he could do not to swim to the rising sun.

Dad chopped that tree all day. It was a huge sweetgum, with big branches that liked to snap off in a windstorm. He cut it with an axe, as though a chainsaw was an insult to either him or the tree. With a final squeal of protest, it crashed down.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy _ _th Birthday, Mom!

Best mom EVAR!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The prompt for this week was a little unusual. Rachel gave us a choice of two options. The first was to use the same word in each sentence of the exercise. The second was to make up a word and write about it, but never overtly define it.

I took a while to decide which direction I wanted to go. I was leaning toward the first option, but the idea of making up a word fascinated me. I read an article about the unit of measurement called the smoot today, and that made the decision for me. It seems that one Oliver R. Smoot, while performing a fraternity pledge prank at MIT in 1958, used the length of his prone body as a measuring stick. He and his fellow pledges proceeded to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge by picking him up and laying him down across the entire span. Each smoot was duly marked on the bridge. The marks are repainted to this day by MIT students. Incidentally, the smoot is 5'7" or 1.7018 meters and the bridge measures 364.4 smoots. MIT grads are wont to utilize the smoot anywhere they can and the smoot is a unit of measurement for both Google Calculator and Google Earth.

With the smoot as my guide, I decided to invent a word. I thought about making up a unit of length or time, but neither seemed to work for me. Then I recalled something that Superbomba Lucy Diamond-Philips posted on Facebook one time. It was just two words, but brought back all sorts of memories and the kind of universal good feeling that I ascribe to very few things in this world.

So I had the definition, just not the word. I wrote the entire piece out, but struggled for a while on the word. I translated the English into several languages, looking for words that looked authentic. I finally found something that I modified a bit and it sounded... real... to me. It had the soft, round, earthy sound that I was looking for. I had welpa, a word to describe something everyone knows, something that is fleeting, but unmistakable, something that stays with you your entire life.


    “Some people can’t stand it, you know,” Stacey said. “Welpa. Some people hate it.”

    “Nobody I know,” he said. “It reminds me of the beginning of things.”

    “I hate welpa.”

    Ben stared at her for a moment. “You don’t like welpa?” he asked.

    There were things about her that he would never understand. In all the time that he’d known her, she’d never once shown any sense of nostalgia... any evidence that she’d ever lost something or someone she’d cared for.

    “It’s filthy and gross. It makes me want to vomit,” she said.

    It was plain to see that she was telling the truth. She did hate welpa. This wasn’t just her being contrary or trying to pick a fight. She did that at times. It was usually late at night when he was too tired to think. They would go around and around, Stacey growing more angry and Ben losing steam, but knowing that he couldn’t actually sleep until the disagreement had been resolved.

    Stacey sat back on the bench and folded her arms over her chest. Ben sat quietly beside her, unsure of what to say.

    They’d had this dog, Angie, when Ben was a kid. She’d been named after the Rolling Stones song, which was strange, because he never recalled his parents actually listening to the Stones. Angie got pregnant by some dog roaming the neighborhood and had three puppies. The first two were stillborn, but the third came out healthy. Angie nursed that pup and he grew fat.

On Sunday afternoon, Ben cleaned the box in the corner of the porch where Angie kept the yet unnamed pup. He ripped up the week’s newspapers into long strips and used them for bedding. He removed the puppy and lifted him up to his face. Its tongue curled in the shape of a “U” that seemed more natural than anything he’d ever seen. His eyes, just starting to crack open, were blue like the ocean and the ears were just flaps and wrinkles. The welpa enveloped him. He set the pup in a small cardboard box and removed the old newspaper, smeared with puppy poop, and put it in a big plastic garbage bag. He then wiped the floor of the box with a soapy rag and let it dry, before putting the newspaper and puppy back inside.

    Sunday night he came back and found Angie curled up with her legs hanging out of the box and the pup dead on the floor. She had eaten the top of his head, leaving intact the lower jaw and the tongue... the tongue that had been a perfect U, but was now flat.

    Sitting there beside Stacey, he recalled the welpa and the smell of the newspaper and the soap. And he remembered the way Angie jumped up and wagged her tail when she saw him, having already forgotten her pup.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daytime Television

This week's assignment was to write something from the perspective of someone we know. I thought about writing it from the perspective of one of my kids or my dad, but that just seemed like it would end up a little too self analytical. So I finally chose to fictionalize a family based on a real family that my dad used to see on house calls. As a kid, I used to go with him to this house, set in the middle of an auto salvage. It was one of the more bizarre experiences of my childhood... and that's saying a lot.

Daytime Television

“Carl!” she yelled. “Carl, come here!”

The sullen faced boy appeared in the doorway. “What?”

“Get me a Coke,” she demanded.

Carl turned and went into the kitchen. From where Carlene sat in the living room she could hear the fridge door open and cans rattle as one was removed from the plastic six pack holder. The door to the cabinet where the glasses were kept squealed open.

“Shut the goddamned fridge!” she said, and was rewarded with a ‘thud’ from the other room.

Carl returned from the kitchen with a glass of Coke in his hands. He stepped over his brother, Scott, who lay contorted on the floor, drooling. “Here, Ma,” he said, handing her the drink. Carlene sat in a flowered armchair beside a table covered in half empty glasses and an ashtray crammed with cigarette butts. She took a final drag on her cigarette and crushed it out in the ashtray, dislodging some of the butts already there.

“Pick that shit up,” she said to Carl, pointing to the butts on the floor. “And wipe your brother’s face.”

Scott had rubbed his face into the carpet where there was a pile of cat litter and it stuck to the saliva on his cheek. He hadn’t been right since he was born. Scott had muscular dystrophy and his hands were curled up on his forearms and back was shaped like a question mark. He was skin and bones.

Carlene turned back toward the dead console television with the smaller television on top. Rod Roddy was telling Elaine Norwood to COME ON DOWN! and a skinny bitch from Pasadena came tearing down the aisle. Bob Barker looked pleased with himself.

Carlene drank from the glass as Carl ran through the front door. She looked out the window into the yard, such as it was. The house was surrounded by junked cars, some stacked as high as the second story windows. A path led from the front of the house to the back of the salvage yard office made of old car radiators set into the sand. Everything in the house smelled of old, burned oil and grease.

Carl was halfway to the office when she shouted, “I want you back here by five o’clock!” He waved to her before disappearing through the back door of Martin’s Auto Salvage. She looked down at Scott and saw the cat litter still clung to his cheek and his tongue lolled from his mouth. She made a half-hearted attempt to get up, but realized she had nothing to wipe the boy’s face with and settled her considerable weight back into the chair.

“$2,301,” Elaine from Pasadena said to Bob. The Marine wearing his dress blues beside her had just bid $2300 and looked like he wanted to shove a bayonet into Elaine’s neck.

In the enormous, filthy fish tank on the wall adjacent to the televisions, one of the huge oscars emerged from the murk to place one eye against the glass. It looked at the boy on the floor, then to Bob Barker and then finally settled on Carlene, who was lighting up another cigarette. His gills pumped a couple of times and then with a wave of his fins, he settled back into the gloom of the tank.

Scott squalled a bit and she looked down at him on the floor. With her foot, she slid a bowl of dry Captain Crunch over in front of him. Scott immediately began pinching bits of cereal between his two hands and up to a mouth filled with crooked teeth.

Carlene turned her attention back to The Price is Right and saw that fool, Holly,  trying to close the door on a dishwasher. It kept falling open.

“When are you gonna fire that girl?” she asked Bob. Carlene was convinced that Holly was just trying to get attention ever since the time her nipple poked out of her dress back in 1981. Bob paid no attention to Carlene and kept on going with the showcase showdown. Elaine was bidding on a brand new kitchen and appliances from Whirlpool and a Hoover vacuum.

“$4570,” she told Bob.

“$5100,” said Carlene.

Scott grunted and spit out bits of Captain Crunch, disgusted with Elaine’s poor estimate of the value of the showcase.

Carl hollered outside as he cut his leg on the rusty fender of a Karmann Ghia.

Elaine jumped up and down on the television because, despite the fact that she was not as good as Carlene in guessing that the actual value of the showcase was $5213, she was better than the Marine in his dress blues who had overbid.

And one of the fish, the female this time, appeared. She pressed against the glass and looked out the window at the junked cars and then at Bob and Elaine. She then stared at Carlene for a bit before she finally settled on Scott, who had given up on using his hands and now ate from the bowl like a dog, but kept his horsey-eyed gaze on the television. A single bubble emerged from her mouth. Then she swam back into the darkness, and remembered when she was just a small fish, and lived in the Amazon.