Author: Jim Reader

A Backlog of Speed Writing

Speed Writing, 2/15/17

prompt: ‘fork’, ‘slight’, ‘slowly’, ‘sail’

Dad’s using nautical language again, and I’m humming Mozart to drown him out.
“Raise the sails!” he bellows, while I’m humming the “Deus Irae” of his last Requiem Mass.
Both the car, and I, have reached a fork in the road.
Left to go home, and take care of him myself. Right, up a slight rise, Summer Sunset Assisted Care Facility.
“Bring us around, into the wind!”
I slowly make a right turn, and switch to humming “Don Giovanni”.

prompt: don’t remember

The priest asked to converse with me. I almost hit him, before Al told me it meant he wanted to talk.
Sure, like I’d refuse a priest. He knew my mother, might get her upset, make my life a living hell.
I waited by the door while he sent the school brats out to recess.
“So, whaddaya want?”
“My son, I received a letter for you, from your father.”
“Shut the fu… uh, you sure, Padre?”
“Yes. He lost track of your mother, but figured I’d know where she, and you, could be found.”
“Other side of the interchange,” I said. “Not that far down from where the creep left us.”
“I know, and I’d be happy to pass the letter on to you… if you’d convert. Return to Mother Church.”
“No can do, Padre. Hare Krishna for life. Fuck the clown, don’t care what he has to say.”

prompt: don’t remember

he stands by the road,
the world in opposition,
and cries, “No, you move!”

the world always wins,
grinding him down into a thin paste,
he goes down fighting

another day dawns,
from nightly grave he rises,
draws his line in sand

defeat is certain,
yet he stands, in pain, wounded,

Speed Writing, 3/1/17

prompt: ‘industry’, ‘the Black Bird’, ‘profane’

John Calvin Carlisle had come west, looking for his fortune. Like thousands before him, he’d found nothing worth keeping, nothing he wanted to remember, and the only wealth was the wealth of things he’d have paid good money to forget.
As if he’d seen anything like good money.
In the end, he’d taken up banditry… and proved as inept at it as he’d been at everything else.
The weathered man riding shotgun on the stage had been every bit as good with his weapon as John Calvin wasn’t with his. The driver hadn’t even stopped, leaving John Calvin by the side of the trail, bleeding his life out into the dust.
He had passed out for a while, and only came to courtesy of a brisk slap on his face.
“You’re in sad shape, my friend.”
John Calvin couldn’t see much but a faint shape, outlined in the glaring sun.
“You want help, do you? Glad to, my friend… thing is, nothing in life is free.”
“I’ll… whatever… whatever I have…”
“Fair enough.”

prompt: ‘health’, ‘gluttony’, ‘harmony’

Eight-hundred-and-twenty-three pounds… not his weight, although he was fond of the buffet at Kowloon Kelly’s Quichery.
No, 823 pounds of tumor, growing from the side of his beloved, Dolly. His wife was still a lovely woman, swollen and festering growth aside. Her “unwelcome friend”, as Dolly referred to it, only joined her arm through a five inch by two inch patch, and would have been easy enough to remove surgically… if only Dolly had believed such a procedure wasn’t counter to the will of God.
Edgar had tried to talk her into surgery – the most she’d allow were the monthly doctor’s visits.
Doctor Campion was amazed at how healthy she was, given the tumor’s size, and every month renewed his pleas to let him remove it before it seriously affected her health.
Dolly remained steadfast, believing God had sent this affliction to her as punishment for her vanity, her pride in her appearance.
Edgar, love her as he did, was sure she was crazy as a bitsy bug.
Most days, so long as she remained nestled up to the curtain shielding the growth from his view, he could pretend their life together was normal.

prompt: ‘the Counselor’, ‘the Hidden’, ‘infidelity’

“Annette, I knew you were a tramp when we first started dating, but I always thought that would change over time.”
“Stop with the slut-shaming, Van! So I see other people? So what?”
“Were you paying attention during the wedding vows?”
“You call them vows, I view them as suggestions.”
“Obviously. You have a lot of nerve referring to it as ‘seeing other people’! The private detective has film of you with eight other men, three other women, and a goddamn lacrosse team! In one week!”
“Van, you’re exaggerating.”
“I wish! Your antics with the lacrosse team? Seven hours of video. I didn’t think there were that many ways one woman’s body could be…”
“I was thinking ‘violated’, but let’s not mince words. I understand now why you got twitchy about a pre-nup…”
“Nonsense, Van. I simply saw it as a bar to our future happiness. If you were more open to new experiences, this wouldn’t be an issue!”
“Annette, buggered by a lacrosse team while practicing my sword swallowing isn’t on my bucket list!”
“Your loss, darling. Now relax. If you calm down, I’ll get you someone nice to play with for our one year anniversary.”

prompt: ‘wrath’, ‘rebirth’, ‘envy’

I’d loved him like a brother… first mistake. I should have loved him from a distance… a very long distance… say, twenty or thirty light years.
Not loving him wasn’t an option. He was bright, funny, charismatic… not that I was a shlub or anything, but he just… shone brighter, I guess.
We’d gone through a lot together, and while I knew he’d been a backstabbing shit to others in our circle, I had the foolish belief I was different. He’d never betray me.
And he didn’t… until Sunny and I.
She and I weren’t love at first sight, more like ferret-frightening lust at first sight. Just one of those things, you know? It had developed into love. Then had come the engagement, and the wedding plans.
And the bachelor party, which my best friend planned.
Now, I’m in a Mexican jail, arrested in possession of a thousand tabs of ‘El Saguaro’ LSD.
My asshole is stretched, and bleeding, courtesy of a donkey named Pepito.
I have no ID, no money, and no prospects of getting out this side of the Second Coming.
Of Jesus, not Pepito.
And my best friend? He’s comforting Sunny.

prompt: ‘the Gamble’, ‘belief’, ‘the Mentor’

“You should consider it… there’s a real possibility for getting an ‘A’.”
“Fucking Professor Hampton is not an option, Hal. It’s a one-way ticket to getting laughed on campus. Nothing’s private, anymore – wrinkled bastard records his conquests. I’m sure sooner or later some smart young thing in the computer sciences is going to hack him, and twenty percent of the women on campus are going to become YouTube stars.
“Count me out.”
“Not necessarily, Devon. You set the terms, get him away from his office, and that mausoleum he lives in. Get him to a seedy hotel room, bring in some of boys of Pi Lambda Lambda. Compromising video, you get an ‘A’, and he gets what’s coming to him.”
“There’s got to be an easier way to pass his course.”
“You could… study…”
“Are you kidding? The course text? He wrote it, it’s as incoherent as he is.
“Come to think of it… Hal, could you front me the money for a seedy hotel room?”

Speed Writing, 3/4/17

prompt: ‘trust’, ‘wrath’, ‘the Black Bird’

It is immense, twenty-two feet tall, and dreadfully monotone.
My grandfather wanted a monument for his grave, put it in the will. As he had established our family’s fortune, the rest of us were okay with it.
He and my grandmother were very private people, very distant, so while grandmother planned his monument, we wondered what it would look like.
Came the day of the great unveiling, everybody gathered at Eternal Dreams Memorial Park… because the will also said anyone who didn’t show lost any claim on the family’s funds.
8:00 AM, it was raining, it was cold. Believe me, none of us wanted to be there, and a common thread of sotto voce conversation was the location of the nearest coffee house. They were going to be swamped once the show was over. Thirty, thirty-five of us at least…
So grandma totters up to the microphone – she got to stand under an awning.
“This is for you, Carlton. Rot in hell, you piece of shit.”
She pulls the cord…
A beautiful representation of a turd, standing on end, a uniform burnt umber color. Twenty-two feet tall…
Later, at the coffee shop, we discussed whether the cemetery would let it stand. We figured grandma has enough money to make sure they will.

prompt: ‘defeat’, ‘compassion’, ‘clarity’

No matter how many times I’ve been told ‘relationships take work’ and ‘you just have persevere’, there came that day when I realized my relationship with Eliza was eating me alive.
When she was on her meds, we were good – hell, we were fantastic.
But the meds made her feel… well, depending on the day – dull, slow, lackadaisical.
I didn’t see it, she seemed perfectly normal to me. She insisted she felt ‘wrong’. This isn’t to say she was wrong, merely that I didn’t see it.
So, needless to say, she skipped her meds far more often than she took them.
Eliza off her meds?
Manic didn’t begin to describer her… manic/psychotic was far closer to the truth. It was never boring, I’ll give you that.
We went to the theater… and she interpreted the play into dance in the aisle. While the play was ongoing. Until we were ejected, and asked not to come back.
Going to a restaurant was a nightmare. Nothing would taste right to her, and she’d disgust our server, and the kitchen, by sending everything back, repeatedly. We had a long list of restaurants we were no longer welcome at.
If we stayed home, she’d read to me, adding to the story, deleting the parts she didn’t like. So, lots of near-incoherent rambling.
And no matter what went wrong, it was on me, my fault, until the end of the world, forever and ever, amen.
I realized I just couldn’t take it anymore.
Love is great, love is grand, but I don’t feel it’s worth my sanity, or my life.

prompt: thanks to a new attendee, Clay, who constructed the prompt from found objects on the wall.
‘octopus’, ‘grave stone’, ‘noose’ 

When I was young, the land was so inviting. I’d gaze at the lights of Inniswich in the night, my head barely above the waves.
Mostly, I’d watch their comings and goings, and wonder what it would be like, to be on the land instead of in the sea.
To be dry… if I held my head out of the water for a long time, on a sunny day, I could imagine ‘dry’ felt like that, only more so.
Walking… how do they not fall down? It doesn’t seem to be a problem for them, but I cannot fathom how they manage it.
That’s not all I did, of course.
I’d sink the occasional fishing boat, just to keep the sacrifices coming – a child, given to the sea, every five years.
It’s a really touching ceremony. They bring the child out to the end of the longest dock, where they’d erected a gallows. The townspeople tie weights to the sacrifice’s feet, and then hang the child.
I can hear the neck snap, even out from shore, over the sound of the waves and gulls.
They take off the weights, put them body on a wooden raft, with the child’s name, and age, and let the tide take it out to sea.
Out to me.
So tasty.
Afterward, I wrap the bones in my tentacles, and dance them around my cave, remembering the flavors.

prompt: ‘disguise’, ‘virtue’, ‘poverty’

For a thousand days, and a thousand more, and longer still, Avanna lived in the cave outside of town, serving as their Wise Woman.
The previous Wise Woman, Laegda, had bought Avanna at a slave auction in the capital city, eight day’s walk away, and brought her to the cave when Avanna was barely six years old.
“Are you going to teach me to be wise, like you?” Avanna had asked.
Laegda had laughed, then she’d struck Avanna many times with the crooked stick that helped the old woman walk.
It was an oft-repeated scene, occurring whenever Avanna spoke. Laegda believed spoken words were slippery, apt to lie, an illusion of communication, so she used them rarely.
She slowly taught Avanna to read, and thereafter never spoke to her at all, writing Avanna’s lessons out.
All the lessons shared a common theme.
Be Quiet, and Listen.
Listen to the wind, the rain, the birds, the animals. Listen to storms, decipher the thunder.
Most of all, listen to the soft voices of her own mind.
It took Avanna the better part of fifteen years, but she learned. One day, Laegda wrote she was please. Avanna was ready.
That night Avanna killed the old woman with her own walking stick.
Avaana looked forward to the day she’d train her own replacement.

prompt: ‘power’, ‘misfortune’, ‘epiphany’

Most people don’t think a truck breaking down is a Major Catastrophe.
Then again, most people weren’t driving a Tacoma filled to bursting with uncut cocaine, their plastic packaging further protected by a tarp, spread over the load in the bed of the truck.
And most people wouldn’t be stupid enough to take such a load on a short cut through the wealthiest part of town.
You know, where the local police are hyper aware of Who Belongs and Who Doesn’t Belong.
So, Eddie Ray Perkins was an idiot.
An idiot with a load of coke, what he suspected was a cracked engine block, in the middle of Highland Hills.
The truck could definitely be traced back to him.
His fingerprints, all over the packages of cocaine, were on file after the little incident with the three hookers and the bicycle.
“Cal… c’mon, Cal, pick up the phone… Cal? Okay, Calvin, when you get this, haul ass to the corner of Evenfall and Driftwood, in Highland Hills. I have the… the package… but, uh… my truck’s broke down. Hurry!”
There was no way Cal would get there before the cops.
Eddie Ray looked at the houses on the corners around him.
Might be time for a little home invasion, recruit some help to hide the coke…


listening to: “Searching For A Heart”, Warren Zevon
mood: pretty mellow

Goodbye, Willa.

Lemme tell ya a story… first part will set up the second, just give it time.
Before the last half of my eighth grade year, I passed everything with flying colors. Never really needed to study. Didn’t understand studying. You were in class, right? You listened, right? Why didn’t you learn it then, like I did?
Second half of eighth grade year… well, it was hellish. Moved to Del Valle. New school. Being the new kid was being a ‘fag’. Being smart was being a ‘fag’.
‘Fags’ got the bullied every goddamn day, and got beat up once or twice a week.
I took to eating lunch in the bathroom, sitting in a stall. Might not have smelled great sometimes, but it was a fuckload safer.
(Side story – eventually, when I stopped being the new kid and stopped revealing any intelligence? I was no longer a ‘fag’… until they found out I didn’t smoke. If you didn’t smoke, you were a ‘fag’.
I started smoking, oh, you betcha. Thus started my 27 year addiction.)
So, I trained myself not to be smart. That manifested as passing anything I was interested in because it was easy – it had to be. I was stupid and I passed it without trying. (Still had no conception of studying.)
If I wasn’t interested in it, I failed. Because it was hard, and I was stupid. (Remember, studying was not an option.)
Moved back to Smithville after that stretch in Del Valle. Started High School. :: duh Duh DUUUUH! ::
Freshman year of high school, Algebra class.
Mathematics, never a big fan. Was failing by mid-year, so Ms. Baker gave me an Introduction to Algebra workbook. If I handled that, I’d get half-credit for the year.
Three weeks in study hall, I finished it with flying colors, spent the rest of the year goofing off in study hall. Win/Win!
Sophomore year, once more into the Algebra breach, dear friends!
New teacher, Willa Smith, who was also the sponsor of the school paper. Beautiful woman… and, as I was a socially awkward teenage boy, that meant I had a semi-sorta-kinda crush on her. Spent a lot of time at her and her husband Doug’s house, just hanging out. Several other students did as well. Pretty much, as long as you acted like an adult, they treated you like one. I got a lot of my appreciation of classical music from them, and our discussions ranged over almost any topic you can imagine. I used to call their house “Wild Willa’s Waystation”.
Willa and I were great friends… so long as it wasn’t that hour a weekday I was in her Algebra class.
During that hour… I was a disappointment for her, and she was a thorn in my side.
Failed Algebra, Sophomore year.
That summer, we were having a full-blown argument about something – the fact that I was furious means it was probably another “Why aren’t you performing up to your potential?” kind of thing. Very little else in those years could get me that angry.
We’d been sitting at their dining room table, and I’d had enough. I had to get up and walk away.
Willa followed me. She wasn’t ready to drop it, and followed, continuing her side of the argument.
My hands balled up into fists, and started to draw back… and I stopped myself.
See, in those days, boys and girls, there were things You Did Not Do. Period. End of Statement.
And physically threatening a teacher/adult/friend was Very High On That List.
She saw me do it, and restrain myself… and then I had this short redhead up in my face.
Willa: “Do you want to deck* me?”
Me: “Damn right I do!”
Willa: “Fine, you pass Algebra next year, you can deck* me!”
Me: :: gesturing toward her husband :: “What about him?”
Willa: “I’ll deal with him, you just pass Algebra!”
I passed Algebra my Junior year, flying colors, no problem.
Never took her up on it, of course, because there are things You Do Not Do.
(Short side story: One of the things I did in Algebra that Junior year, during the section on ‘flow charting’, was create a flow chart entitled “How to Assassinate Your Algebra Teacher”.
She loved it, gave me an “A”. See, this was back in 1976-77… it wasn’t viewed as a threat, it was just me being a smartass.)
No one was happier than her when I won an Interscholastic League Press Conference award for a story I had published in the school paper. She was a tireless supporter of my writing.
Willa was never able to inculcate in me a love of math, but I learned so much from her in other ways.
She was a friend, and a teacher who made a difference in my life.

Starting about twenty years ago, I started thinking about getting in touch with her, and letting her know how much I appreciated her, and the role she’d played in my life.
But, you know, one thing and another, life being life, never got around to it.

Yesterday, I found out she passed away back in 2015.
Goodbye, Willa. I’ll always remember you.
Time… Time’s a vicious bastard, and if you don’t pay attention, and reach out to those people you want to reconnect with, Time will take them away from you.

(* = from the Urban Dictionary.  “Deck” – To punch someone very hard, knocking them to the ground in some cases – hence “deck”, to “decksomeone as in putting them on a deck.)

listening to: snoring dawgs
mood: more than a little melancholy

Speed Writing 2/4/2017

prompts: The Prodigy, The Doctor, Destruction

They wanted the perfect child… Evelyn swore if she was going to go through the whole primal experience of birth, she’d be goddamned if she’d put up with that for less than perfection.
Ed… well, whatever Ed thought, he kept to himself, courtesy of a long exposure to Evelyn.
So, with the help of some geneticists, who had a pretty good idea what they were doing, and some absolute quacks, who talked a good game, and a metric butt-ton of money, they got little Amber.
She was speaking at six months, complete sentences by nine months, reading a month later.
Graduated high school at twelve, had two PhD’s by the time she was sixteen.
There was no stopping her insatiable curiosity, and backed by her family’s money, she went wherever that curiosity took her.
Amber proved the existence of alternate dimensions when she was barely twenty.
Traveled between them a year later.
Discovered the Elder Gods when she was 22. Three months later, they followed her back to our universe, resulting in its chaotic destruction.
She was barely 23 when her insatiable curiosity destroyed everything.


prompt: Delusion, Pain, Alliance

It’s quiet here… you wouldn’t think that of an asylum, but the nurses sedate anyone who makes a fuss, and the neanderthal orderlies enthusiastically help.
So, quiet. I mumble to myself a lot, but I keep my voice to a whisper, so Nurse Clapham doesn’t use the big needle again. Clapham’s the most sadistic of the lot, and has been known to perform spinal taps as a form of punishment.
State oversight of this place is a joke. The current inspector gets paid off in sex with his choice of the patients. The one before him, Mr. Hobson, I think, couldn’t be bribed… but his brake lines could be cut. Probably Vanner did it, a real gorilla of an orderly.
Vanner licks Nurse Clapham’s naughty place most nights.
I’d rather stick my tongue in a meat grinder.
I try making friends, but with old-fashioned shock treatments, and the odd lobotomy here and there, people don’t stay themselves very long, so what’s the point?
Wednesday night!
Mystery Meat Surprise! If it isn’t rat, it’s a surprise.
Maybe we’ll get jello!


prompts: Harmony, The Wolf, Strength

There are nights to just let it all out, and howl at the moon…
This is one of those… nothing on my schedule, the fiancee is busy, just me, some guys from work, and Mr. Jose Cuervo.
They want Scaryoke, and after a few shots, I agree. What the hell – Jose and I can do a duet!
We’re all on stage, mangling the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, when my phone chirps at me… the chirp I’ve selected for texts from my fiancee.
Then it hits me. It’s Thursday, not Friday.
Working hungover tomorrow? Not a problem, done it plenty of times.
Missing dinner with my fiancee Valerie, and her parents?
Moments later I’m flagging down a cab.
“The Montclair! For the love of my ball sac, hurry!”
Cabbie looks at me strangely, but steps on it.
Formal attire, de rigueur.
I’m in my work clothes, reeking of tequila, with a fresh nacho stain on my shirt.
“Hi honey, Mr. and Mrs. Compton… sorry I’m late…”
Valerie’s giving me that look – the assassin look.
Her parents’ opinion of me is confirmed. I’m shit to be scraped off their shoe.


prompts: Denial, Health, Law

When we were kids, we specialized in ‘dumb shit’. If you listened to our parents, they’d swear not a day went by without us excelling at our specialty.
Bottle rocket fights? Check. Kenny fuck near burned two fingers off.
BB gun wars? Check. Took a week for the swelling around Alan’s eye to go down.
Jumping our bikes down at the gravel pit? Check. I walked funny for a week after I flipped, and tried to drive a handlebar up my butt.
Annoying the neighbors? Check. Baseballs through windows several times a month.
Mucking about places we shouldn’t? Check. Cops brought us home so many times we knew them all by name.
We paid for our indiscretions. Spanked butts, broken limbs, cuts and scrapes and the infections that sometimes went with them, glasses repaired with electrical tape, teeth knocked out… parent-teacher conferences.
We were just kids, and kids live forever… nothing was too high a price to pay for following a bad idea to its logical outcome.
The worried expressions on our parents’ faces just made we young immortals laugh.


prompts: The Leech, Ignorance, The Assassin

He had learned to read. He tried to  hide it, but the Bureau puts written signs up, with hidden cameras to catch the reactions of those who see, and understand.
He was good, but we’re better. It’s what we do.
No telling if he’d passed the skill on to his family, so I overrode the locks on their home, and set it on fire.
The loss of two proles, and their child… unfortunate, but necessary.
When I started with the Bureau, I used to feel guilty about such things. But one outbreak of literacy, printed pamphlets preaching insurrection, cured me of that guilt.
We had to cordon off three square miles of tenements, and burn the lot of them.
Desperate times, and all that.
Getting rid of books was easy. The rise of electronic media did most of the work for us, albeit slowly. Making ebooks disappear merely required killing the entire internet. Easy.
Now, education by cartoon, and simple stories from the highly redacted and rewritten Holy Word of the Commerce God.
Blessed are the wealthy, righteous is their every whim.
Tomorrow I’m to chase down a writer who’s been preaching an end to the theocracy.


listening to: the whir of my desk fan
mood: pretty mellow

Speed Writing 1-7-17

prompt: crashing a wedding

a wedding.
my ex… well, two of my exes… girlfriend, and best friend.
i don’t really need to go into details, do i?
so, no. no wedding invite for me.
and i was okay with that, i really was.
until Jose Cuervo and i had a long talk the day they were getting hitched.
i didn’t drive… saving grace, that, as i would have wrecked, no doubt about it, no telling who i’d hurt and how bad.
i was sober enough to give the Uber driver the address for the reception – her parent’s place. i figure i told her everything… it was a rather long drive. i seem to remember the driver trying to talk me out of the incredibly stupid action i was committed to.
no, i was determined. she dropped me off, asked if she should wait. she felt sorry for me… i told her that would be nice, i’d see her in just a bit.
i was quiet… subtle… stole one of the bridesmaid’s gift bags, took a crap in it, lit it on fire, and threw it on the buffet.
then… things get fuzzy… i got beat up some, that i remember all too well… but i broke away, ran out the front, and was thankful my driver was still there.
she had the door open, i dove in, and off we went.
we started dating a few weeks later.
she’s very understanding about my lack of funds – damages, still paying them off.
and i’m absolutely sure if she and i ever marry, it won’t be announced anywhere my exes might see it.

prompt: three wishes

cliched genie, pale pink, not blue, looks nothing like the one from ‘Aladdin’, or Barbara Eden, androgynous, but yeah, harem pants, small vest, sort fez-like hat.
“you rubbed the magic 8-ball. you have three wishes, master.”
“you were in the magic 8-ball?”
“i angered my previous master most grievously.”
“must have…”
“your three wishes, master? i was watching “ellen”…”
“oh… can i get back to you on that?”
“whatever… rub the 8-ball.”
so, hours later…
“you ready?”
“yes, yes i am.”
“first wish…”
moments later, Elizabeth Warren was the Queen of the United Kingdoms of the Americas.
“second wish…”
it’s nice having a serious bank balance… twelve figures… that’ll last me a while.
“third wish…”
so, the good news – no one will ever be sick or infirm again. bad news – at some point, for no apparent reason, people will drop dead.
sorry, guys, best i could come up with. now, i have to go…
dinner date in Paris…

prompt: “Are you listening to me?”

he was angry.
seems he gets that way a lot these days. i’ve tried to keep him calm, happy… but in the end, there’s only one thing that will… oh, call it ‘reset his mood’.
so i get in the van, and drive him around to all ‘those’ parts of town, and he makes his choice. it takes a while, sometimes several trips, but he always finds someone.
we stop, it’s quick, no prelude, courtesy of the drugs, usually ketamine, no fuss, into the back of the van they go.
then, in the barn out back of the house…
he takes his time… he’s a perfectionist. i watch, no matter how long it takes… depends on if he grabbed one or two.
first time, i wanted to vomit, but i’ve gotten used to it.
we’re gonna get caught, sooner or later, and that won’t go well. we might not live through the arrest process.
we turn them loose, of course. we’re not killers!
he just likes tattooing abusive police officers, full body, in interesting pastel colors.
they rarely stay with the force afterward. wonder why?

prompt: inheritance – a rug

“probably braided from the crushed hopes and dreams of her students…”
my wife was not a fan of my family… my aunt Cassandra in particular.
i hadn’t expected anything from her estate, but i’d always liked the rug in her study, and now it was mine… well, ours.
“no, the crushed hopes and dreams rug went to cousin Evelyn. this is the smart-ass comments of nieces-in-law rug. that’s why we got it.”
“it’s hideous!”
my wife and i have disparate tastes in furnishings.
“fine, i’ll put it in my office.”
“long as i don’t have to look at it…”
so, yeah, it was a pain moving my desk and filing cabinet out – i have a very small home office. the rug itself barely fit, and then it was move furniture back in. but finally, lime-green flooring disappeared under the deep and rich earth tones of aunt Cassandra’s rug.
i was working on a story late one evening, i was tired, and i wrote ‘they’re’ instead of ‘their’.
“Edward! You made an error! Correct it, immediately!”
aunt Cassandra’s voice…
fingers trembling just a bit, i fixed it.
“thank you, auntie…”
“You’re welcome. Perhaps you should go to bed, it’s rather late.”
“yes, auntie…”


listening to: St. Matthew Passion – Bach
mood: okay, overall



She Took No Shit…

i’ve told the story before, so i’ll give the short form…

saw the marvel comics… looked interesting (wondered why they didn’t use a better artist)
read the novelization… seemed interesting… i was hopeful
made a flying trip to San Antonio with a friend so he could borrow money from his credit union to buy a betamax vcr to record the footage channel 7 out of austin was going to show the night before
watched that brief clip (the millenium falcon fight with the tie fighters) countless times before finally going home to sleep… a little…
opening day, Capital Plaza Cinema, first (and second, and third) showing of “Star Wars”, May 25, 1977

who is this ‘Princess Leia’? cute…
and she took no shit.
not from Han, not from Luke, not from Tarkin, not from Vader (although he did make her fearful… which i always put down not to the little syringe-wielding droid, but to Vader’s cybernetic penis… and wouldn’t that have pre-dated a theme of accidental incest established in “TESB”?)
along comes “Empire”… yet again, taking no shit from anyone. you could capture her, but you couldn’t break her.
“Jedi”… the metal bikini that launched a million masturbations (not any of mine, mind you… too skinny, even that early in my life. again, cute, but not sexy as far as i was concerned). strangled a Hutt (with the help of the Force, according to the novelization), made friends with ewoks (okay, yeah, they should’ve been wookies, but Lucas was busy selling toys), and took no shit from anyone, at anytime.
a princess who got her hands dirty… wasn’t above killing…
then the gun-wielding ex in “the blues brothers”…
the nun in “jay and silent bob strike back”…
her books (oh my, the brilliant, painful genius of her books), her interviews…
Carrie Fisher took no shit.

ever since her heart attack, i had feared the worst. this year has felt like a malignancy, waiting for any chance to spread sorrow, and so, when i heard the news today, i was merely sad.
until i read this, posted by someone on the Alamo Drafthouse Wastebook feed…

“There has been a disturbance in the Force.
“RIP Carrie. We love you.”

and i fuckin’ lost it. still losing it, whenever i read it.
this year cannot be over soon enough…

listening to: whatever Dorris is watching on tv
mood: teary

Speed Writing, 12-7-16

prompt: use “hospital”, “sore”, “pace”, “lavishly”

“You’re hung over, it’s not a goddamn tumor…
“No, I don’t care how sore your head is… not a tumor, just tequila! You don’t need to go to the damn hospital!”
I pace the floor, phone to my ear, rolling my eyes at the lavishly, and obscenely, decorated bordello.
“No, I will not come take you to the ER!”
I mute the phone, and tell Reynaldo, “She’ll do… dress her in pink leather, seriously sharp spikes, and send her in.”
Unmuting the phone, “No, Vic, I’m at work, I don’t have time for your shit. Goodbye.”
Husbands… seriously more pain than they’re worth.
“Now, the next girl…”

prompt: haiku, using ‘salt’

the salt of the earth
thick veins of hypertension
high magma pressure

Judas spilled the salt,
so we dragged him out, hung him.
Christ betrayed himself

assault, battery,
panic, bloody bludgeoning,
Black Friday shopping

chili and saltines
she throws in onions and cheese.
yuck! unwashed heathen!

“don’t look back,” he said
i didn’t listen… camels
lick on me daily

marching on Moscow
naught but burned and salted earth,
war’s own welcome mat

prompt: okay, this gets confusing. pick a letter. list 15-20 words that start with that letter. write a sentence using each word. choose one sentence as title, organize others into some form of coherent narrative that works with title. i don’t think anyone, including our moderator, who gave the prompt, followed the rules. we just muddled through as best we could. i chose “J”, and after all was said and done, used the only word i’d forgotten to put in a sentence as the title.

I went for the jugular.
“Mom, your marriage is a joke! He’s a talentless jack-off, a marital Janissary you’re just renting.”
“You’re too judgmental! You’re jaundiced by your relationship with that Jamaican son-of-a-bitch!”
“No, Mom, you’re a cougar. No, worse than that… a jaguar, letting yourself get jerked around by another pretty face, who was nice enough to let you rescue him from a jam. He plays the victim, and you, the needy jackass, tired of jilling herself off, takes the opportunity to bring home a little jelly for your lonely bread.”

prompt: a list of eight words, revealed one per minute, to be worked into a coherent whole

The entrance of the dungeon was rather off-putting… four impaled bodies was simply gauche! One would have been sufficient!
Not that I have all that much room to talk. The bar in my inn is so baroque, why, the naked angels alone are a visual overload!
Oh my god, would you look at that! Shackled slave girls, just inside the door? Naked? Far too much, far too soon. If I had a gun, I’d put a bullet in the decorator’s knee, then watch him crawl around in a circle.
Crystal chandelier, first actual room, over red and black everything?
Too jarring, I want to throw up just to augment the interior color palette!
Whomever’s responsible should be out front, another body for the impalement palisade.
I swear, someone got roofied by the Heinous Fairy before approving this decor!
I simply must leave. Winston, find me a route out of here that won’t offend my eyes, there, be a dear, won’t you?

prompt: two packages arrive at your door at the same time

She gave the UPS man a treat, opening the door in her sheerest negligee.
He lowered the large package with his hand truck, and, mouth agape, put the much smaller one atop it.
“Thank you sooo much,” she said, as he backed away from his bad porn movie moment.
She put the smaller package on the coffee table, then threw on a house robe to wrestle the larger one into the house, and onto the plastic sheeting.
Rika whapped the side of the 4′ x 3′ x 3′ package with her hand.
“Are you awake in there, you venomous scum?”
There was no answer…
Rika pouted. Drug doses were an inexact thing. He’d wake up sooner or later.
She poured herself another cup of coffee, sat on the couch, and opened the second package. Rika fondled the 9mm Glock.
She could wait…


listening to: the heater kick on
mood: kind of numb 

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