Author: Jim Reader

Speed Writing 12/3/16

so, in spite of the inclement weather (temp above freezing, but rain off and on all day), we had a good turnout Saturday AM.

prompt: ‘the forgotten room’

what the hell? uncle morgan’s house, day after the will was read. i inherited the place, which sounded really cool, until i saw it.
fifty thousand dollars, six month’s work, it might be good enough to be condemned.
the inside… even worse. i won’t say morgan was a horder, not quite that level of clutter, but it looks like a rat’s nest… a bitter, angry rat’s nest.
seems morgan was a conspiracy nut, and innumerable notebooks are filled with the secret history of the world. lizard people, alien greys, atlantean survivors in a hollow earth, faked moon landings, and it seems the real question for morgan was who didn’t kill kennedy.
then i found it, behind a stack of moldering newspapers, a door.
tiny room, maybe 5 x 10, spotlessly clean, and a simple metal desk and comfortable chair at the far end.
i sat, bent forward, and a keyboard appeared on the desk top, and pictures hovered in the air above it…

prompt: a quote about a cage being finished whose author escapes me…

“what the hell am i gonna put in that? what am i huntin’?”
there’s nothin’ that big, lookin’ at the thick ol’ bars, or that angry i wanna mess with.
i’d answered an ad from the Vacaville Ledger, wantin’ someone fer critter control, five hunnerd dollars.
don’t seem near enough, lookin’ at the cage.
“oh, don’t let that scare you,” Daniella, my new boss, said. “that’s just in case…”
“just in case whut? dineysaurs done come back?”
“funny, beau… you’re a funny man. no, not dinosaurs. just an abnormally large… well, call it a gopher.”
“a gopher… you need that much cage for a gopher?”
“a large gopher, yes.”
there’s a squeal… loud, rolling like thunder… squeally thunder… from the woods.
“seven hunnerd, or you can go find your own gopher, lady.”
“six hundred.”
“seven hunnerd fifty.”
“but that’s more!”
“yep, it’ll keep bein’ more, you keep negotiatin’…”
“fine. deal.”
another squeal, an’ i’m wonderin’ if this here net she give me is gonna be big enough.
something big, movin’ through the trees, an’ i’m lookin’ at the tranq gun an’ wonderin’ the same thing.

prompt: a half-full bottle

brandy, large bottle, 1862. needless to say, edward saved it for special occasions.
not that he’d think today qualified.
he’s dead, finally, and that’s a reason for two snifters of the good stuff, perhaps three.
we drank the night of our wedding, and he drank the night i gave birth to our daughter.
he drank from it the night my father died, and the family’s money became mine, which really meant it became edward’s.
i think he had two the day of my miscarriage.
again, the night he killed my young paramour.
the day he put the shackle and chain on my ankle.
he took some the evening of our daughter’s wedding, though i did not. he had another snifter the night she died, and again, when her husband was convicted of murder.
today, i watched him choke on his own blood. the police have come and gone. i’m confident the autopsy will show nothing.
i think i might just finish the bottle tonight.

prompt: a quote about the past being a different country where they do things differently

i watch her, every day, a little lower on the pole.
the crowd was decent, i suppose. she’s wearing a course-spun robe, but how obscene is a naked body, or a clothed one, compared to the poll forcing its way through her bowels?
she suffers, obviously, but everyone says she deserves it. three days so far, and i imagine it won’t be much longer. i’ve heard those who have been impaled die of suffocation sometimes, thicker poles disrupting their breathing.
her dirty blonde curls aren’t so curly anymore, and every day shows the sham of her tan, as she discovers the real power of the sun.
the pole is dull, well-rounded at the tip, so theoretically, it could make it all the way through her digestive tract, come out her mouth, without tearing anything.
i’m reminded of the passion of the christ, or maybe, more accurately, the thieves who hung beside him.
what could she have done that was so evil?
(this piece is titled “with love and kisses, to Debbie Wasserman Schultz”)

prompt: a mysterious cupcake

not even my birthday, and there’s a cupcake, with an unlit candle atop it, on my desk.
i waste the first quarter cup of coffee trying to remember if there’s an anniversary or something else work-related, but to no avail.
i’m still full from my breakfast bagels, so i put the cupcake aside, and watch my co-workers for any sign or clue.
it’s lunch before i know it, and a bowl of soup later, i’m full again, so the cupcake remains undisturbed.
by mid-afternoon, the little candle is leaning over to one side, and i’m pretty sure this was put on the wrong desk. i don’t want to ask anyone about it, end up looking stupid, so here it stays.
four in the afternoon, i eat the damn thing.
vanilla cake, chocolate icing… i forego lighting the candle, and as tasty as the cupcake is, it’s gone in three bites.
feeling woozy…
i want to get up to go to the restroom…
can’t move…
slump to the floor, hit my head on the desk leg…
“god, i thought he’d never eat the damn thing.”
carl, next cubicle over.
“don’t worry, i’m told it’ll be painless. but you’re dying for a good cause. now everybody moves up a spot, instant promotions.
“sorry, buddy…”


listening to: “Blues in A Minor” – Modern Jazz Quartet
mood: okay, overall


Speed Writing 11/5/16

prompt: ‘harvest time’

they’re restless in their pens, they can mark the passing of seasons, the gradual cooling of the nights, more temperate days, and they know what’s coming.
we feed them, nurture them, fatten them, and when they’re at their optimum age and weight… it’s slaughtering time.
hang them in the smokehouse, preserve them for the long winter to come. folks get hungry ’round these parts, no matter what the weather does.
i don’t even hear their mouth noises as speech anymore. i mean, if i make the attempt, i can understand them with near-perfect clarity… we do speak the same language, just different dialects, but it’s easier for everyone if i don’t.
oh yeah, easier for them as well. if i talk to them like people, they believe there’s hope. cruel, all things considered…
better i don’t.
so it’s not language… they’re not people, they’re cattle.
they’re just cattle.
it’s easier if they’re just cattle.

prompt: “honoring our dead”

he wasn’t worth a bucket of piss. honest-to-God, my uncle Calvin was a waste of flesh, a waste of everything. i can remember, growing up, when times were hard for my family, my mother, his sister, would grit her teeth and growl.
“i will not call him for a loan. i will not…”
she said she’d tried once, when i was just a baby.
that’s all she’d say about it.
she’d tried.
nobody in town liked him either. he’d made his money in rental properties, letting someone else be the public face of the business. and he was quick to evict. we joked he kept a crew of leg-breakers on speed dial to facilitate the eviction process. it wasn’t really a joke.
and he was frugal, to the point of being a cheap bastard. we never visited him, mom’s choice again, but i passed by his house almost every day of my life, and it was small, shabby, overgrown yard, high wrought-iron fence. i couldn’t even see in the windows, not just because of heavy curtains, but the thick layer of dirt on them as well. it looked to be an inch-thick from the street.
the will gets read this afternoon. i expect he left his money to indigent hamsters, or the sour-old-men of america, or somesuch.
of course, i could be wrong.
“my uncle Calvin, beloved by all, was a pillar of the community, and a true philanthropist. i, and my family, cherished him in life, and will miss him now he has passed.”

prompt: “attack of the evil _______”

three hundred feet tall… a roar like a thousand jet engines… feet the size of Volkswagons… claws like scythes… teeth like swords…
“yeah, yeah, i get it. so how do i kill it?”
no, no, you don’t understand the worst of it…
“don’t know, don’t care. it has to have a weak spot. what is it?”
really, you must let me explain…
“fine, explain already!”
it’s only vulnerable spot, the only place you can damage the Marlovik, the only place…
“yeah? what?”
it’s sphincter.
“okay, ass shot. easy!”
no. it… defecates… lava…
lava… molten rock… constantly…
“what the actual fuck? where’d this… Marlovik… come from? who makes a creature like this?”
Ampature, the Volcano God, of course.
“Volcano God? perfect. so we’ve got to hit it up the… lava tube… while the lava’s flowing. all the time? even when it sleeps?”
Marlovik doesn’t sleep.
“great. just great. okay, where do we find an invulnerability spell? anyone have a line on an indestructible spear-like weapon?
“i wonder if we could find a plug of some kind… maybe it would explode, or something…”

prompt: “time to bring out the chainsaw”

“the Holy Chainsaw of Cletus? you want me to attack the Marlovik with a chainsaw? i’ll have to be right up there. there’s no Holy Missile of SAC, or Holy Nuke of Manhattan?”
no, i’m sorry, but you’re being silly, and disrespectful. the Holy Chainsaw of Cletus is your only hope.
“so, what about protection? any luck on an invulnerability spell?”
not as such…
“what’s that mean?”
there is something… well, two somethings…
the Teflon Suit of Reagan.
“okay, that’ll do it?”
oh, it will protect you from the lava, but not the ambient heat.
“so, the lava won’t burn me, it’ll just cook me?”
that’s why you’ll have the Ice Cubes of Nicholson in your mouth. they’ll make you cool, no matter what.
“are you sure that’s ‘cool’ as in lower temperature? or is it ‘cool’ as in the most stylish roasting corpse anyone’s ever seen?”
definitely both.
“so, Holy Chainsaw of Cletus, Teflon Suit of Reagan, and Ice Cubes of Nicholson… remind me why i’m doing this again?”
wealth beyond imagining, fame beyond reckoning, non-stop offers of a sexual nature…
“RIGHT! okay, let’s get me dressed! i’ve got a Marlovik to kill!”

prompt: haiku, using the word ‘boo’

down darkened stairway
only a candle… a breeze…
my shriek at the “BOO!”

boos per minute. great!
a horror film’s quality
measured at long last.

Friday the 13th
drinking game. a shot of booze
per boo on the screen.


why, yes, i was using left-over Halloween prompts. why do you ask?


listening to: “No Woman No Cry” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
mood: relatively mellow 

Why I Despair When Discussing Steampunk Films

So, let’s look at three lists that come up first when searching for “steampunk films” via Google…

One: The City of Lost Children (because… dream stealing?)
Two: 9 (because post-apocalyptic?)
Three: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (because Victorian fashion?)
Four: Going Postal (because ‘steampunk costumes’?)
Five: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (because submarine?)
Six: Hugo (because automaton?)
Seven: SteamBoy (because it IS steampunk)
Eight: Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (because… I got nothing)
Nine: Wild Wild West (because it IS steampunk, no matter how bad it may be)
Ten: Treasure Planet (because Victorian fashion?)


The Prestige (because it’s Teslapunk… eh, close enough? Not really…)
Hellboy (because it’s Dieselpunk?)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (because we want it to be?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (because it IS Victorian SF, and therefore ‘steampunk’)
Van Helsing (because it IS steampunk, at least as far as the technology)
The Golden Compass (because airships? and maybe this one IS steampunk as well, i’d have to rewatch it)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (because… I got nothing)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (because it IS steampunk)
The Time Machine (2002) (because… time? it at least begins in the Victorian era?)
Sleepy Hollow (because science?)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (because balloon?)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (see above)
Howl’s Moving Castle (because… I got nothing. I’d have to rewatch it.)
Treasure Planet (see above)
City of Ember (might actually be steampunk)
Hugo (see above)
Stardust (because… airships?)
The Great Race (because it may well be in the gray area between ‘steampunk’ and ‘dieselpunk’)
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (because it might be in that gray area as well)
Brazil (because… I got nothing)
Kin-dza-dza! (because… science?)
Perfect Creature (because… vampires?)
SteamBoy (see above)
Metropolis (1927) (because airships? well, there is that strict caste system…)
Metropolis (2001) (because… automatons?)
Around the World in 80 Days (because… Verne?)
Sherlock Holmes (2009) (because Victorian?)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (because Victorian and big guns?)
The Illusionist (might be steampunk)
John Carter (because planetary romance and steampunk are essentially the same, but not really?)
Sucker Punch (because… zeppelins?)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (because… pretty toys?)
Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (see above)

and finally…

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Prestige
Van Helsing
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Time Machine (2002)
The Golden Compass
The City of Lost Children
Wild Wild West
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (because… Victorian?)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (because the list’s creator has no clue as to the difference between steampunk and dieselpunk?)
From Hell (because Victorian?)
City of Ember
Young Sherlock Holmes (because… Holmes? Victorian?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Brothers Grimm (because… I got nothing)
Time After Time (because it involves time travel and Jack the Ripper? begins in the Victorian era?)

so, maybe the problem is the very vague and ill-defined definition of ‘steampunk’… everything from ‘features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology’ to ‘Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery’ to ‘With a backdrop of either Victorian England or America’s Wild West at hand, modern technologies are re-imagined and realized as elaborate works of art, fashion, and mechanics’.
So, definition could well be a problem.

But let us, for the purposes of this discussion, say ‘Victorian, Science, Steam, Machinery’ – those, perhaps, we can agree on as a bedrock upon which to build ‘steampunk’. And they need to be Major Story Elements, not ‘gears glued on a hat’, as it were.

Now, look at the lists again.

Airships don’t do it. Submarines don’t do it. Costumes and fashion don’t do it. (Unless you’re first and foremost, and primarily, a cosplayer, in which case… whatever. Go play in fields of daisies, li’l fairy folk. Style over substance be thy honeydew.)
I swear to God, I could write a story with atomic-powered spaceships, robotic pirates sailing on lava seas, continents populated with gleaming crystalline cities inhabited by flesh golems wearing Victorian costumes, and some goddamned idiot would proclaim it ‘steampunk’, because it has Victorian fashion.

Okay… I’m almost through being curmudgeonly.
The problem is indeed one of definition.
I’m gonna go kick these johnny-come-latelies off my grass, and beat them with my cane.
Steampunk’s just jumped-up Victorian SF&F. It’s been around since, oh, let’s see… the Victorian era!
And it’s damn hard to find in movies. Many films get called ‘steampunk’ for purely aesthetic reasons, regardless of the story or setting. Some get labeled ‘steampunk’ out of wishful thinking.
And if you want to say “it’s steampunk to me!”, feel free to do so…
Somewhere far away from me.

(This disgruntled mental meandering was inspired by our recent Wastebook launch party for “Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires”.)

listening to: peace and quiet
mood: curmudgeonly


Wow, I Suck At Blogging Regularly

so, i was watching 1970’s “Patton”, and when it came to the intermission, i got to thinking ‘when was the last time i saw a movie in the theater which had an intermission?’
i know branagh’s “Hamlet” had an intermission, and ye gods an’ wee fishies, my butt appreciated it, i think “Titanic” did when we saw it, maybe Jackson’s “King Kong”…
i’m not a big fan of forcing films to stay under a certain length, so more showings can be run in a day. if your film is big, epic, you should feel free to make it the length you feel it needs to be.
now, if it’s “the hangover 4: the bile speweth”, no – keep it under 90 minutes… preferably about three minutes, which would be a trailer, and a big ol’ “Just Kidding” at the end of it.

elsewhere in the news, work continues on a number of projects, blah, blah, blah… y’all know the drill. the september short story ended up being the first part of a three chapter novelette (please, dear Creative, don’t let it grow to a novella). chapters 11, 12, & 13 of “oil of roses: beyond the wall of thorns” are still getting sections written rather higgledy-piggledy, so it feels like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. “falling angels” is slowly having plot holes patched, and every time i think i’ve got the whole of the plot worked out, something else rears its head and utters the hated words “what about…”.
and then there are the other little projects which occasionally get patted on their punkin’ heads an’ told “i’ll get around to you… soon”.

something i’ve come to realize lately, in part courtesy of a conversation with Cap’n Double-Mama Rachel Brune, is that stories are often helped by ‘breathing room’. unlike the rest of reality, where everything tends to enjoy an entropic descent into a low-energy state, if you give stories some time – not forever, or we’d never get anything done – they can develop a greater complexity. all the threads you’ve already got can, as you get a better grip on them, and the possibilities they provide, evolve into a deeper, and more satisfying story than you’d originally envisioned.
of course, being me, there’s still room in my schedule for “holy-shit-last-minute-mad-dashes-for-the-finish-line”, where the story barely has time to be written at all, much less grow and mature into a better story.
but i’m rather amazed by the story that’s evolving in the novelette. threads i put in for no apparent reason other than they sounded good at the time are weaving themselves into a larger tapestry.

and finally, both Dorris’s and my job hunting continues. finances are getting ever tighter, and i’m really hoping we don’t lose this house. it has its problems, but it’s been home for a lot of years.


listening to: Dorris wash dishes
mood: anxious

Speed Writing, 9/3/16

He was too young to be so old… and too jaded by his years in the brothel. There was nothing in human experience that could shock him, or move him.
Then he met Jaylyn.
She was rather plain, and her dress and mannerisms didn’t fit anyone who’d be caught dead in a brothel.
And he’d never had a jane who just wanted to talk…
Still, she’d paid her money, and he could use the rest.
She said, “Tell me about yourself,” and he saw her eyes clearly for the first time.
Deep blue, not like ice, more like the blue just before black.
In spite of himself, he began talking. He told her truths about himself no one else knew, he revealed sides of himself he hadn’t known existed before the words tumbled from his lips. He laid  himself bare, and hated himself for his weakness, hated her for hearing his confession.
When he was done, and empty, she smiled.
“Don’t you feel better now?”
“No, fuck you, I don’t feel better.”
“Then do what you have to so you do feel better.”
And she left.
The water was slowly turning from pink to red, and he thought, as such things went, slit wrists weren’t a bad way to go.
Damn her to Hell…


Twenty-eight dead, slicker than owl shit.
It was like his mother said, “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”… or their lives.
Hell of a thing, industrial accidents. OSHA is a joke, and making sites a little more dangerous was easy… easier still.
His ad on Craigslist was subtle, and he got a lot of people looking for something other than his specialty… but enough of his kind of business to keep body and soul together… and feed his nest egg in Credit Suisse.
The client wanted the drilling sites shut down.
Easy peasy…
He watched from a hill, back to the sun, so no glint off his binoculars…
The workers hadn’t a clue… and any minute…
The explosion was bright, and oh-so-loud. The burning spray of oil like an offering to the heavens.
He smiled.
Third well that month.
Thirty-six dead.
Easy money…


I always liked Ed… whenever I needed to feel better about my life, I’d get together with him over drinks, and listen to him talk.
Ed’s life was never better than a bucket of suck, and no matter how bad things were for me, Ed had it worse.
But this… this was different, and I was pretty sure Ed couldn’t top this.
Divorce, not a community property state, and he took me for everything. I kept my car, and if I watched my money carefully, I could keep my bare bones apartment for another month or two.
Ed and I sat, drinking cheap Denny’s coffee, and I found I was wr0ng.
Ed had it worse.
“So, I left my keys at home, and yeah, I stayed out drinking late, but that’s why I took the bus, so I wouldn’t drive drunk.
“I got back around three, no keys, and knocked ’til I woke her up.
“Better I should have slept outside, on the ground.
“She was pissed, really pissed… told me I owed her a nice something from the jewelry store.
“Like we got that kind of money.
“So, I found out you can get real good money for a kidney…”
Thanks, Ed, you’re a lifesaver.


There wasn’t any reason to be a virgin at twenty-five. He was okay-looking, not Adonis,  but far from Quasimodo. He had a nice personality… good manners… his Mama had raised him right…
Just one little problem…
He froze when he tried to talk to girls.
Not ‘had problems putting words together’ – unless you took that to extremes, as in ‘said nothing at all, just looked at the ground, and shook’… seriously, not a single word.
So, his friends had to help.
“Look, Mandy, I know you like him, you’ve been mooning over him for the last six months, you even asked him out…”
“Yeah, and that was a disaster.”
“This is just taking your efforts a little step further.”
“Carl, I’m not putting that costume on…”
“Mandy, don’t be that way. The whole reason for the costume is to override his issues about whether you’re serious about… you know…
“You wear that, he won’t doubt your intentions. It’ll work, trust me.”
“Fine, all right, I’ll wear it… he really likes ‘Sailor Moon’ that much?”
“Yeah, and don’t talk. If you don’t talk, he won’t try to, so no embarrassment.
“Just meet him in the bar for drinks, leave no doubt you want to jump his bones, haul him up here, and do him.”
“You’re awfully good to him…”
“Listen, it’s self-preservation, Mandy. If we have to listen to one more lament about him still being a virgin, we’re gonna scream.”
“Okay… let me go get dressed… if you can call it that.”


“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I am impure in thought, word, and deed.”
“Go on, my son.”
“I have killed for money, I have murdered from rage, I have ended lives for no reason at all, just because it was Monday, another time because my coffee sucked balls.”
“You mean the Denny’s massacre?”
“Bingo, Father. Whole damn restaurant, full of corpses.”
“Didn’t you know the coffee would be bad going in?”
“Know it? I was counting on it. I woke up feeling bloody that day, just needed a trigger.”
“My son, I don’t think you’re feeling any remorse about any of this… why are you here?”
“Good question, Padre. Shit, I’m not even Catholic. I was raised Baptist. Lemme tell ya, those are some unhappy damn people. Not a laugh in the bunch.
“As to why I’m here… Padre, you remember hearing Johnny Matizone’s confession?”
“I can’t comment on who, or what, I’ve heard in the confessional.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ve got it on video. You go in on your side, he goes in on this side, you talk for a long while… well, Father, you can guess he doesn’t come to confession often.”
“I don’t know what you’re getting at…”
The silenced pistol coughed eight times, punching holes through the thin confessional screen.
“You guys aren’t supposed to talk about confessions… but my bosses, they just aren’t that trusting.”


listening to: “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard
mood: okay, all things considered


Speed Writing 8/18/16

some nights i’m on top of my game, other nights i struggle, other times it’s a mixed bag.
this last wednesday night was a struggle. (i really wish some of the other folks would post their stuff, because they came up with some lovely pieces…)

the only exercise i’m happy with is one where we’re given a word a minute (roughly) and we have to fit each new word into what we’re writing.
typically, for the evening, i started out with crap, and after two words had been given, started all over again, coming up with something i’m rather proud of.

He plays with his blocks on the floor, and I’m supposed to pretend it’s normal that they float in the air, a pair of them, yellow cylinder and green triangle, dancing around his head.
He made the stove explode one day, all because he doesn’t like the cheap store brand biscuits. Blew the kitchen windows out.
The men from the government say I have to stay with him, it’s my job, I’m his mother… and I don’t care anymore.
He refuses to go to the potty, just lays in it, and I get stabbing chest pains until I come, and change him.
I would leave if I could.
I’ve thought of killing myself, but I’ve killed him three times, and they keep bringing him back.
Why do I think they’d let me die?

listening to: Tina S. shred Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”
mood: barely awake, but okay

Speed Writing 8/6/16

prompt: something or someone “out of control”

i’ve heard of biological clocks, but Maisie evidently had a timer to armageddon. we’d gone from fuck buddies, to a relationship, maybe thinking of marriage…
and the buzzer in her womb had gone off.
i’m not averse to the idea of kids, or a family – i just wasn’t planning on a schedule.
“i’ll be pregnant in a month, after that i want to have a kid a year.”
“you’re kidding!”
“okay, every year-and-a-half, until we get to five, then i want to start spacing them out a little…”
“do you want children or a goddamned sports team?”
“there’s no need to be so hostile!”
“Maisie, i want a wife, not a brood mare!”
“but what about what i want?”
i remembered my father, and his wisdom.
i smiled.
“whatever you want.”
i thought her plans would die with the first pregnancy. she glowed.
i was wrong.
Jennifer was a happy baby, and Maisie was ecstatic.
second pregnancy, a little less glow, a little more exhaustion.
Carl was a joy – a colicky joy, but a joy nonetheless.
surely her mania would subside.
ten kids so far, i’m married to a crazy woman… but the kids are good at soccer. we can start our own team.

a ‘found object’ exercise, where items were in the center of the table, to use as inspiration as we saw fit. i used a domino and a wine cork

Southern Baptist upbringing, cards were frowned upon.
we played dominoes.
so, even after the denomination and i parted ways, i kept my love of dominoes.
Ed had never played the game in his life, so when we got together, and past the ‘sex is all we do’ stage, i taught him to play.
“Sara,” he said, one evening at a party with our friends, “let’s play dominoes.”
everyone agreed, and away we went. after another bottle of wine, or two, that cow Maisie, who’s always had a thing for Ed, suggested ‘strip dominoes’.
not exactly something i ever considered, a bunch of couples playing strip anything.
but i was feeling no pain, and agreed – vowing to myself that if Maisie laid a hand on Ed, i’d bitchslap her all the way to the hospital, and not the maternity ward this time.
buncha marks at that table, lemme tell ya.
now, everyone’s naked, except me – trust me, not something i ever wanted to see – and i have a lot of clothes by my chair.
and Maisie’s staring at Ed.

prompt – ‘loss of innocence’

when you’re a kid, parental figures are on pedestals – well, if you’re lucky enough to have ones that aren’t complete shitheads – and there’s a purity, a sanctity to that. for better or worse, they’re the gods of your world, and it’s a blessed time, seeing only their shine, not the clay feet, the stumbling steps, their plain wrongheadedness.
i was raised by my maternal grandparents, and my mom, when she wasn’t working, and i remember the day my grandfather fell off his pedestal, as he told me, in all seriousness, that the only reason any black person ever amounted to anything was because they had white blood in them.
i knew better.
and i also knew this was an argument i couldn’t win. in our family, there was the Holy Trinity, and right below that, my grandfather.
it took over two decades for the echoes of that fall to fade to silence.
i learned to see him as just another person, trying to make it through life, and came to love him as a human rather than a god.
but that fall…
i view it as my first step toward maturity, toward rationality, and the death of automatic reverence.

prompt: “it was a dark and stormy night”

more rain. it’s falling faster than before, and we’re running out of sand bags. Tommy’s putting our files and records in the attic.
what good they’ll be, if the monsters get us, i’ll never know, but they’re his thing, so we don’t say anything.
gunfire from the south wall. the damn things scream whether they’re hit or not, makes nails on a chalkboard sound like Mozart. Pat punctured her ear drums with an ice pick rather than listen to them.
in the inescapable dampness, everything squelches, so i don’t notice when part of Calvin plops down in the mud.
pretty sure the south wall’s been breached.
fucking rain. i can’t see shit… well, except for Calvin chunks, no sign of what did it. i clean my glasses, talk about futility, and go back to peering through the downpour.
Maisie, that cow, lights up her flamethrower. must be nice to have a handy spouse. Tommy’s a clerk by nature, and i have yet to see how the apocalypse needs records kept.
have to wonder why we’re even bothering. more of them than there are of us, and that ratio keeps getting worse.
who knows, maybe Maisie will outbreed the end of the world.
i’m looking at the rest of Calvin.
how’d i get here, across the yard?
where are my arms?

prompt: ‘unexpected justice’

growing up as a juvenile-delinquent-in-training – i didn’t go pro until i was 16 – i hated Robert Blake’s short, cockatiel-loving ass.
‘if you do the crime, you do the time.’
stick that bird up your ass, Baretta!
i think my father’s love of that fucking show directly contributed to my criminal career. i had to get out of the house before i put my foot through our ancient RCA.
out on the streets… well, fuck. (that, of course, was the one thing we weren’t doing… yet.) our options were limited. too old to play? it was be bored, or get into trouble.
i never handled ‘boring’ well.
that was my apprenticeship – broken windows, graffiti, stolen hubcaps, shaking little kids down for money.
it was when my fuck-up of a father brought home the goddamn cockatiel that i went pro.
and shortly thereafter, i shit a way to live elsewhere.
i saw Dad a couple of times over the years, but no more than i had to.
i guess you could say he died of senile dementia.
thought the cockatiel was a chicken, tried to cook it. pissed the bird off something fierce. it took out his right eye, the old man fell, hit his head. two weeks before they found him.
the bird fucking starved.
i laughed my ass off.

listening to: “The Galapagos”, Christopher Gordon, “Master and Commander” soundtrack
mood: pretty good

Speed Writing 7/20/16

we had 11 people, which is a damn good turn-out, and a lot of folks wrote some really good stuff.
and there was the phrase “Fuck the Yoo-Hoo!” and the word “fucktrumpet”.
(as you can tell, we’re a high-brow, literary bunch…)

haiku, must use “fish”

flow the peaceful stream
fish swimming and frogs jumping
fuck this placid shit!

fish too small to eat
frogs too goddamn fast to catch
I’m fucking hungry

cattle in pasture…
peace is way over-rated
conflict brings us lunch

our last exercise had to involve a lie, and since I’d promised Cathy a fairy tale…

the King told the Witch he loved her, and would be with her until death did they part.
and being a witch, she was sure he would die long before she even grew old.
so she taught him such magic as he was capable of, and she was happy, gradually growing secure in their union.
she decided to give him the child he craved, and stopped taking the herbs that kept her from conceiving.
unknown to her, he used what magic she had taught him to summon a creature from the other side of the Veil, and put her into a deep sleep, so she did not see what lay with her.
the child she carried was a monster, and when it was birthed, it ripped her apart, for her magic protected her from others, not something from within herself.
so she died, and the King was happy… until the monster made him squeal like a pig, and split him apart.
King Monster ruled the land, and everywhere was peaceful, and quiet, because the dead make no noise.
listening to: Dorris job hunt
mood: mellow

This Saturday’s Speed Writing

today’s speed writing exercises definitely show i’m odder when i haven’t had enough sleep.

Nobody likes a smart-ass… my father’s favorite saying.
I give him the finger every time I race. Easy to do, we start by the cemetery.
Wait for the signal to turn green… five blocks away. Roar off the line, light’s guaranteed to be red when we get there.
Generally, that’s the first point possibility of the day.
Little, fiberglass, fuel-efficient, commuter cars getting t-boned by reinforced, steel-chassised V-8 death machines.
We call the results “accordion with strawberry jam”.
Scoring conventions… hard to remember when the adrenaline is pumping.
That’s why we have navigators.
“Bob, no rules, head for the park.”
No rules – minimal points, go for quantity.
“Florida rules! Nursing home, take the next left!”
Florida rules – old people worth double.
“Texas rules! Playground, right two lights down!”
Texas rules – triple points for kids.
I’m not saying I like killing… but I do like racing, I love the competition…
You know, fuck that.
I love the killing.


welcome to my home
candied children, fresh and hot,
don’t eat until cool

sandpaper couches
enjoy my electric chair,
nation’s finest thrill

first door on your right,
parallel razor toilet
potty overload


Of course we put the clowns away. Can’t have their kind roaming free.
Have you ever seen one of them actually entertain someone? If you have, you’re the first.
Ought to move the clown college right next to the asylum, shorten the trip.
And we put all the hunchbacks, dwarfs, and midgets under bridges.
Didn’t tell the kids… more fun that way.
But back to the asylum… not just clowns. We put the politicians there as well. Electro-convulsive therapy twelve times a day.
Last week one of them burst into flames, and his gold crowns flew out of his mouth like popcorn. A hell of a lot more fun than goddamn clowns.
We thought about putting the clergy in there, too, but relented. We just keep packing the preachy motherfuckers into Kansas. The wall is so high and thick, no one can hear them anymore.
Don’t be silly. We’ve set up cameras, and we’re waiting for them to start Holy-Communing each other.
Congress is now a petting zoo… helps the kids with their bridge-trauma.
Lawyers… great huge ranches in Oklahoma and Texas where they run free… with bombs planted in their asses.
Periodically, we randomly detonate one, and watch the stampede.
Speaking of which, pass the popcorn.


First thing… the alligators weren’t my idea. You can thank Ed for that.
I had no idea how to get rid of the body. I thought dumpster… then thought about cutting him up, and leaving chunks of him in all the office trash cans. They don’t run the AC in the office over the weekend, would have gotten real fragrant.
But Ed just sat on the back of his truck, bouncing his kid’s basketball, and shaking his head.
Waste of goddamn money, buying Jr any sporting equipment. Kid’s a natural-born victim, and pretending otherwise is living a dream.
But anyway, good ol-what’s-his-name… I pleaded with him. I need this job.
New owners of the company, must make cuts, my position’s been outsourced.
So I called Ed. He and me, we’re gonna drive ol’… lemme find his name tag… Stewart. We’re gonna drive Stewart out to the alligator farm, and they’ll take care of the body, no muss no fuss.
Then Ed wants to go get Jr a skateboard.
Waste of goddamn money, if you ask me.


There are mothers who react to everything their kids do with a tranquil and implacable calm… I think of it as “the vegetative vibe”.
There are mothers who seem little more than cheerleaders for their children’s every endeavor. I call those the “rah-rah ma’s”.
There are mothers who push their children into potentially lucrative activities. I call them “profit pimps”.
Then there’s my Mom. The explosively inappropriate. Every day is doomsday.
“You call that a haircut! What, did she charge me $40 to cut three hairs? I’m going in there and getting my money back!”
“Did you read that editorial your friend Ricki’s daddy wrote to the paper? Man’s little better than a communist! You don’t hang out with Ricki ever again!”
“I saw that paper you had to write for your so-called ‘science’ class! Galaxies! There’s something you’ll never need to know in real life! You’re taking shop next year!”
I don’t count the years or months until I turn 18 and can leave… I count the goddamn hours.
26,283 hours to go.

listening to: “The Sixties: The Vietnam War”
mood: tired

Please, No New RPG Systems!

i might get some flack for saying this… not sayin’ anything, just sayin’…
i’ve been working my way through my file of RPG pdfs, prolly about two hours now, and i got to say…
i know, lots of very smart gamers want to put their own individual stamp on gaming, have their own systems, and are proud of them.
but folks, the market is SO goddamn saturated with systems from everybody and their grandmother (why do i want to publish my own gaming system under the imprint “Everybody And Their Grandmother”? insane, i must be), so any new system, no matter how well thought out, is trying to break into a market where everyone pretty much knows the system they like, and things in that system they don’t like, they’ve adopted house rules to make it taste right.
unless you are ready to keep supporting your idea with a steady stream of supplements and adventures, don’t publish. you’re aiming for heart-ache. and yeah, if you can pull off a successful crowd funding campaign, you might have enough people interested to keep the game profitable, but from what i’ve seen, don’t bet your own money on it. also, don’t beg/demand/guilt trip your friends and acquaintances to help you finance your dream. if they don’t support it willingly, remember – it’s YOUR dream, not theirs.
a better idea is to adapt your ideas to an existent system, and see if the owners of said system want to publish it, or to get a license from the owners and self-publish, or if the system is open source, publish that way. 
in my files, i’ve got so many little (and not so little) RPGs that released their core book, and promptly disappeared. the rules for these are, for the most part, variations on a theme, no real originality, at best an interesting setting.
and if an interesting setting is all you have, better you adapt it to an established system. then you can tap all the people who use that system, instead of trying to interest people in learning your whole new shiny system so they can play in your setting.
really, if you are not undeniably bringing something new and exciting, keep your rules as a house system, have fun playing it, and don’t set yourself up for the heartbreak of breaking into a flooded market.
listening to: “Eye in the Sky” – Alan Parsons Project
mood: pretty good