Tag Archives: writer

A Story Begins with an Idea

Who is this man? Why is he dressed all in white? Where is he going? What is he waiting for? Is he alone? Is he from this time period? What is the time period?

The man was all in white dressed like an old fashioned milk man. He leaned against the bus stop waiting. He did his best to ignore the smell of pizza mixed with fast food and garbage. He was hungry and simultaneously nauseous, but he kept his discomfort well hidden.

A

story always starts with an idea, but where do we get ideas when our imagination feels drained and exhausted? How do we generate good and great ideas? Many times we find inspiration from our dreams, and of course our lives, but sometimes nothing comes. It can be a frustrating moment sitting in front of your notebook or your computer as you look at the blank page or screen and nothing, nothing comes to mind.

Sometimes (most of the time) I need some help and the following 11 points help me to come up with new things to write about. I use them for exercise purposes like running to prepare for the marathon. I don’t keep every story or go with every story, I’m usually just running laps on the page.

I often set a timer for 10 minutes and pick something to write on for that amount of time. I try to extend the time each day to build up my writing endurance.

11 Sources for a Great Idea

  1. Your life- Well of course! Write what you know. It’s the classic go to. You are a world of stories.
  2. News stories events- In the movie Bad Education by Almodovar, the character who was a writer would search through news articles to find ideas for stories. The film goes into some personal journey for the character, but this idea is great. This is like a meta story teaching writers where to find ideas for writing. If you can make it relate to you great, if not, let your imagination tell the story.
  3. Historical events- I once had the idea to write a short story about a young man who was a tunnel rat in Vietnam. I had gotten the idea from reading real life accounts of American soldiers who fought in the Chu chi tunnels during the war.
  4. Fantasy- We’ve all been kids- remember sitting with your legs straddling a low hanging branch pretending it was your pirate ship, and the twig in your hand was your sword? You raised your sword as winged monsters flew towards your great vessel. Look to your dreams. Write them down and revisit them. There is something in your dreams.
  5. Memories-I say this also falls under your life although it could be someone else’s memory. It can be a brief fleeting memory- the story doesn’t have to be truthful. How truthful are memories anyway?
  6. A single image- at Write Around Portland, a place where I used to teach creative writing, we would often take pictures from magazine and add the image to a prompt. For example, an image of a single tree in a desert and then a prompt: “by this time next year”. Now write. You don’t have to use a worded prompt or magazines. You can use your own photos. The photo above is a picture I took from the hip many years ago while I was visiting New York.
  7. A philosophical idea- this could get one going on a really wild story- I love science and philospophy- since both have a belief that our universe is finite then our stories can be too.
  8. A situation- two men walk into a coffee shop together one is holding a child. The man with the child recognizes the woman behind the counter for some reason there is an uncomfortable tension. There are many sites that can give you a random collection of scenarios, characters and situations- you just put them all together in the plot generator.
  9. Adaption of another story- I’ve always wanted to do a film adaptation of Under a Cruel Star and also I want to write a story about the love affair between Nikolai and Alexandra before he became the Czar of Russia.
  10. Adaptation of other media- The news, music, youtube, twitter, instagram, another blog; media has gotten bigger and your access to ideas had also grown.
  11. Overheard dialogue- I once overheard a two women on a greyhound bus talking about how it shouldn’t be against the law to pick up road kill, after all it’s just a waste of good meat. Now imagine the story.

If you’re feeling a little unimaginative try one of these techniques to get you going. Happy writing!

 

Talking about writing

I’m returning to my drafts. This was something written …I’m not certain, maybe 2011. It was summer when the events took place; the conversation in the bar in New York. I don’t know the season when I wrote it or when I read the books I had mentioned, but I’m fairly certain I was in Portland, Oregon. So many mysteries. So much to review.

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I remember sitting in a bar in New York city, maybe three years ago, talking with my friend about writing. It was an English pub. The type you see all over New York and every major city. Some people may know the difference between an Irish pub and an English pub, (flags are a good indicator) but do they ever notice that the wood on the bar is different, I swear. I think English pubs’ wood finish (or the wood itself) are darker than Irish pubs. It was just an observation, but this is not about the difference between an English or Irish pub, it is about having a conversation about writing, in New York, and having this conversation over a pint of beer (something Belgium).

My friend is a good writer, an intellectual writer, he went to Grad school. There is no tone of cynicism in the above sentence. He worked hard, and has always been an intelligent critical thinker. He worked hard to get into and out of Grad school. It was the subject of Grad school that garnered the conversation about writing. I was in New York to see another friend’s art opening. She had just Graduated from Pratt’s MFA program in painting. I was there to see her art show, but also to check out some grad schools for myself. I went to Columbia and sat on the green lawn of the white college with its false Corinthian columns and early American colonial moldings. I knew that Kerouac and Ginsberg had dropped out of this very prestigious school (well Ginsberg graduated, but not without a suspension first). For me, the school symbolized everything not “meant” for me: “Ivy league, rich, and prestigious”. I’d never get in, and if I did I’d never be able to pay for it, and honestly, it wasn’t about the program as much as it was about the name. Still the school was on my wish list of desired schools, along with Brown another not “meant for” me school. I also visted to the New School and spoke with an entrance advisor and she gave me a tour. It was spread out among Greenwich in lower Manhattan and felt very urban. Although, it has its own set of prestige it wasn’t Ivy league which felt more accessible. Both Columbia and The New School are great schools, but I didn’t apply to either. I didn’t apply to anything. I have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to education, and my ability to get into a program, and then my ability to pay for that program tends to get ahead of my attempts at trying. Plus, I am an excellent self saboteur. All I need is a few moments in my head and voila the dream dissipates into apathetic wishes! Still, at the time that I was in New York I was telling myself that I was actually going to apply, and I wanted to talk to my friend about his experiences as an MFA writing student.

Back to the English pub in New York. My friend, who went to the New School,  had mentioned that while there he really felt that he was finding his voice. This subject of voice had come up a lot in my writing classes as an undergrad.  Voice and audience. A lot of the time this is what is talked about, isn’t it? What are you saying, how, and who are you talking to? I think in many instances this is not too difficult when you are dead certain who your audience is and what you are writing. Say it’s an essay or an argumentative paper, or maybe you are a genre writer, and you are writing a romance; a thriller; a mystery or so on, and you have a formula that you follow, and a voice that makes your formula unique from other formulas. You’ve got your voice. But what if you don’t know? Or worse yet, what if you don’t want to have to even abide to an audience or have a set voice? Is that ignorant? Naive?

I’m reading Let the Right One In, (the English translation), and I have been noticing the simplicity of it. Small short simple sentences, short chapters and short descriptions. I’m reading through it fairly quickly, and I am a slow reader. It is a genre story a vampire story which is a popular genre, but it has its own unique voice, and is creepy more than scary -so far-. I am also reading The Grapes of Wrath. The sentences are long and descriptive. The chapters are long and it is taking me forever to get through, and not because it isn’t interesting in fact, it is riveting and beautiful. But it takes longer, Steinbeck is in no hurry (and why should he have been, reading was what people once did for entertainment).  It has taken 160 pages before the Joads have even left for California and that is what the whole thing is about; the dream of California. It has taken 103 pages in Let the Right One In, and there has already been two murders, some terrible information about child prostitutes, and horrible school bullies. Don’t for a second think I am comparing the two, there is no comparing, but there is a definite difference in style and who the writers are talking to. So, as a writer am I supposed to pick between these audiences? “Obviously”, in this fast paced marketing world no one wants to take the time to read, The Grapes of Wrath, but I don’t completely believe that because I am taking the time to read, The Grapes of Wrath. I am also reading, Let the Right One In; who so far in the vampire genre tears the throat out of Twilight, but John Ajvide Lindqvist (it may or may not be translated) isn’t Stephenie Meyer and their audiences are not the same.

All this rambling is coming to one thought, why can’t I write to both? I am obviously reading both. I read Jane Eyre, and I loved it, but, I also loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I also like to read the Walking Dead graphic novels. Why do I have to pick this magic solo audience? So I can make money? This shit just tears me up. I know when I meet with my “teacher/mentor” in September I am going to have to say who my audience is and possibly talk about voice. I hate it. I just want to write short and long descriptive sentences that tell a story that may or may not appeal to people, oh and yes I’d like to make money so that I can write another story with long and short descriptive sentences that may appeal to old and young audiences alike or may not be liked at all. The truth is and the reason I struggle is because I haven’t found my voice and I think the real frustration lies there.

What did I learn from my writing conversation in New York? That my friend is awesome and knows his voice, and I assume he has a good concept of audience. I also learned that I have far too much of a hang up about it. A hang up that impedes the process of finding it. I know I can never market my writing if can’t tell someone what the hook is. I have to stop worrying so much about the market and the audience because when I am worried about the market and the audience and who is even going to bother reading the shit I write, something happens, and what happens is I don’t write.

I didn’t come to this conclusion while I was in the bar in New York, three years ago, I came to it right now, because I was thinking, about the incredible structural differences between the two books I am reading and the fact that I, a non intellectual, non ivy league,  low-income woman from the foothills, is reading both books and enjoying them both. Perhaps just perhaps, our commercial marketing world does not give the audience much credit for having a wide range of interests, but that is not their job.

Anyway, and but, for the sake of POSTERITY, and bringing this post full circle let’s say I did have this conclusion in the English pub in New York. Better yet, how about I had it after I said good-bye to my friend, who is currently living and writing in another country, as I stood on the platform in the subway station. I watched my friend’s train leave and between wondering which train I needed to take to get me back to Brooklyn, I thought about how I need to ease up on the worrying about the market and the agents and just focus on the love of writing for writings sake. I like that visual better because when I put it in that setting it seems so much more profound. They say you can rewrite your history. So I just did.

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Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs talking, talking, talking and discussing.

 

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I originally wrote this post in 2014, but I never posted it. So why am I posting parts of it now, a little over five years later? Because I didn’t do what I said I was going to do, and that, in and of itself, is why I have failed and continue to fail as a writer.

True failure is inaction. Good writing, bad writing, it’s all writing and that takes action; takes courage; that takes faith; and gumption; and effort; and stick-to-it-ness otherwise known as endurance. Failure is not about the verb to try. Failure is: talking about it, and then fucking it off. Failure is giving up on the race before you even leave the house to get to the track.  I failed. I failed myself.

Reading while on break from my waiting tables job.

We are all our own worst critic, but I’m not trying to just beat myself up and take a look in the mirror and say, “Look at you you are a failure!,” And then start crying myself into a deep depression. I’m not into self-flagellation at the moment (I do have my moments). What I’m into is dissecting this illness, and yes to me to constantly choose to fail by not doing is a sickness (my definition), and try to combat it. I dissect it by looking at what I said I would do, but didn’t do. And take it from there. I believe this is called self-reflection.

Let’s Get Started

It is interesting that I wrote this, according to the time stamp, in 2014, because the event took place in 2008. Writing this in 2014 was six years later yet, the narrative is written as if it is in the present. I’m not sure what was going on in my head at the time. Let’s plunge into the tale.

I quit my job to finish my book. What really got me started on this whole, take control of your life-just do it attitude, was a book. I’m sure a series of events in my life, and aging, and all that life stuff had a factor, but what finally solidified it was a book.

This was true. I did quit my job in 2008. It was also true that I had decided that I wanted to hold off looking for a job for two months so that I could finish a book that I had been working on for about 8 years. I remember this decision distinctly. I was working at a software development company as a receptionist. I made decent money but I wasn’t really into the lifestyle of the office worker. I had saved up some money and I was in a position to take a break. I’d never had that opportunity before, so I thought the time is now. Timing is everything.

It was Ariel Gore’s How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. I thought the title was funny so I picked it up. I didn’t expect any miracles or expect anything I didn’t already know, but while reading it I was struck with a now or never kind of thought. I mean Ariel started writing as a teenager and nothing stopped her or anyone else that wanted to be a writer for that matter. So as soon as I finished her book I made my decision. I’m quitting my job and I’m going to be a writer.

This is true. Gore’s book did inspire me to take the jump. She had travelled and her book was about her life traveling. I had traveled and my book was about traveling. Seemed like kismet.

Alright. I say a lot of shit though. So the next steps? I decided not to tell my parents. I’m an adult, I don’t have to tell them anything, but sometimes I have this deep wish that they are going to be supportive towards my ventures even though I know they wont. In their own special unique way they will fill me with fear and doubt. So I dashed the fantasy of a supportive family, and kept my mouth shut.

So, this is where stuff get’s a little sad. I didn’t tell my parents, who were not together and hadn’t been for over 40 years’ at that point. I didn’t tell them for different reasons. My father wouldn’t have called me foolish or stupid exactly, but his disapproval would be along those lines, and at the age I was at the time, I felt tired of his disapproval and I didn’t want to deal with it. My mom, well, that reason was more complex. I grew up raised on welfare and we never had any money. My mom had spiraled back into drug addiction and poverty which led to her eventual disappearance which was because she was homeless for three years. After time she managed to pull some semblance of structure back into her life and she returned to NA and found a home through section 8 housing and life was just tough, but she was coming out of it. She felt secure knowing I had a good, practical, stable job. How could I tell her that her only child was about to quit a good job just to chase a dream? It was immature to not just be honest.

I told my friends, my best friend, and all my acquaintances. All approved. Still, I didn’t really believe it. I could still back out.

I did tell my friends and now, reading this I feel a little embarrassed about it, but wait a moment… I’m over it.

While on a train ride back from visiting my friend in Seattle I shared a seat with a man. I had my laptop out, and I was staring blankly at some words I wrote-AGES ago. He asked me if I was a writer.  “Yes”, I told him, “unpublished.” I added, as an excuse. I was preparing all my disclaimers- but I first told him about my decision to quit my job, and write full time for two months. He pulled out a book from his bag and tapped the cover- “well that’s me”, he said, “I’m a writer and if you have any questions we have three hours together to talk”.

This all really happened.

His name was David Guterson, and I did know who he was. He was indeed a writer. A published writer. His book Snow Falling on Cedars had been made into a movie a few years ago. I had seen the movie, but never read the book. Here on the train, at the moment I had decided to quit my job to be a full time writer, I had a famous writer at my side for three hours, and I had nothing writerly to ask. What I did learn was that he was a nice man who had five kids, and they were all homeschooled. He himself was a teacher, and his wife did the homeschooling.

I still haven’t read read his book. It is in my reading future. I promise myself. Not for him, but for me.

One word of writing advice he gave me was to make observations.

This too is true.

Tell me about that man.” He said nodding his head in the direction of a man that was talking on his cell phone.

“I can only see a part of him,” I had said, “but he is very black. His skin is dark like pure chocolate, and it is smooth and shiny. He works out or he does something physical that he uses his arms. His muscles are defined and big. He is wearing a tight solid black t-shirt and he has a gold watch. He is eating bright red licorice. There is something intriguing about him, about the cadence of his talk. He sounds charming. He is talking to someone, a person he is dating or married to. I have the impression he is a straight man, but I don’t know for certain. The strongest part of him as an image are all the colors; his chocolate skin, which isn’t actually black but a deep dark brown, and the black t-shirt, his gold watch, and the bright red licorice that he isn’t eating but holding like a pointer in his hand.”

This is what David Guterson told me to do. To observe. To watch and to listen, and then find the way to put the images and the thoughts onto the page. 

What’s interesting to me about revisiting this writing from 11 years ago, is that I can’t remember what David Guterson looks like. If I were to look him up or see him on the back of one of his books, I’m sure I’d remember, but just trying to think back to that time, I can’t picture him at all. He was white, average build and height, and maybe dark blonde hair, but I don’t know, I’m just assuming. Who I do remember in vivid detail is that black man on the train. This is crazy to me. I observed that man for a total of 5 to 10 minutes, and although I had noticed him earlier because as I recall he did have something noteworthy about him, it was still a short observation from 11 years ago. I sat on a train next to a famous writer and spoke with him for three hours. I sat side by side with this man talking for three hours, and I can’t remember his face. So, there’s something special about observing for the sake of writing. It emblazons an image and perception onto your mind-as a writer this can not be taken for granted. Its a necessary exercise.

My next day at work I told them I was leaving in September.

Oh boy, do I remember this. My first work free day was September 8th, 2008 and my new writerly self turned on NPR to the news that the financial markets had dropped 20% and it was the start of the market crash of 2008. I was not able to find a job for 6 months and the job I did finally find was a miracle job, but that’s another story. To make a long story less long; It was bad timing.

I’m not being completely honest about being a failure. According to my previous definition of failure I didn’t fail at my initial intension for quitting my job. I did finish my novel during this time. I sent it to two, maybe three places, but after three rejections I put it away. I gave up on the publishing part. So, perhaps this isn’t about the failure to write but the failure to publish. Intention matters. Later, I gave up not only at publishing, but writing too. And, that’s the biggest problem for now.

The last time I wrote on this blog was June 18th 2018. Over a year ago, and I’ve done many extended breaks through my writing life. I think at this point I don’t even want to be a writer in the published sense, but if I can just consistently write daily for at least a year, if I can do that I will be accomplishing so much. Beyond that year, I’ll worry about later, but for now just to be consistent and to take it seriously, truly seriously regardless of publication or notice that would be a huge accomplishment. Hell, I’m self published on this blog, that’s enough; but let’s make this a routine. Daily.

What does this have to do with short stories? This is a workshop. The Short Story workshop and figuring out a way to get back to writing is the part of the workshop. I have started and stopped so many times it’s unbelievable. My intention is to do a timed writing daily, and to start small. In fact I had already started. I started a week and a half ago. I started with a timed 3 minute write, and I’ve written every day slowly building that time. Today was 15 minutes. I included editing this blog post as a part of that 15 minutes. Tomorrow with be 16 minutes. There’s no excuse not to sit down for 16 minutes. What’s 16 minutes? For a writer trying to get back to writing 16 minutes is a life line. Intention matters. Intention really matters.

The Perfect Couple: Writing prompt 5 mins

Prompt: The Perfect Couple
Timed writing: 5mins

Time:1986

The first days of snow had come. It was a Sunday and my grandparents were at church. They had given up forcing me to go after I had a huge fit in the church parking lot screaming about how if God was so great why did he take away everyone in my family. I don’t think it was so much that they didn’t have an answer, but that all their church friends were watching us, and they were embarrassed. It is very important to my grandma that everything looks perfect and happy. This was something that both my dad and his brother used to complain about whenever they would get together. On all the family holidays when we would be together, grandma would always do something to make one of the parents mad. She would follow our moms around the kitchen cleaning up after them, and criticizing about how or what they were cooking. Or she would comment on how my uncle was dressed or that his kids were not presentable enough. She thought my dad was the perfect son, but he had made one huge mistake, and that was marrying my mother.

My dad had had a pretty blonde girlfriend when he was in high school, and she came from a rich family that had a lot of connections in the town where my dad had grown up. She had been a cheerleader and was, as my dad called her, traditional. She always had her hair perfect, and her clothes always ironed and starched. She wore the latest conservative styles. White butterfly collared shirts and pink cashmere sweaters with delicate embroidery that she did herself. I knew all these things about dad’s high school girlfriend: butterfly collars and embroidery and that her favorite color was pink,  a lady’s color, because my grandmother would talk about her almost every time she was around my mom. Mom had told me that grandma even brought it up at their wedding. My grandmother was crying because she was actually heartbroken that my dad was not going to get back together with his high school sweetheart. My dad said, he had liked the girl that she was nice enough, and a good person, but that she was exactly like his mother, and if there was one thing a man did not want to do it was to marry an exact replica of his mother.

He said they had met at a business function where his father was meeting with the girl’s father, and grandma fell in love with her at first sight. Dad explained it like grandma wanted to marry her herself. It was pretty much an arranged courtship. Grandma constantly inviting the family over for dinner and arranging the meetings. Her family was liked dad’s family, and he was certain that both parties involved were planning a wedding. Since they were business people, and as dad called them the new salesmen rich, it was not acceptable to get married before college. So both dad and the girl were sent off to separate colleges. He was to get prepared to be a businessman, and she was being groomed to be an educated wife who could host respectable dinner parties. Since it was important which school you went to, the girl was shipped off to a private girls’ school on the east coast, and my dad went to Stanford. Dad had said that he had felt sorry for the girl because maybe he would have liked her if it was allowed to happen naturally, but because it was forced he began to resent the girl, especially because the night before the business function where his father had dragged him along, he had finally built up the courage to ask Sally Renton out for a date. He had had a crush on her since the fourth grade. That night they were to go out to a movie. He said the movie was called Dr. No, and he was so upset that he had to cancel just so his father could show him off to a couple of his work colleagues. He said that it had ruined his chance to ever go out with Sally Renton. My mom said she was glad that his mother had ruined his future plans for love because without her meddling they would never have met.

Obviously, my mother was  not Sally Renton.

Outside the Window- 3mins

Three minute write.

Writing Prompt: Outside the Window.

Outside the window Fredric could hear the wind blowing although the alarm from the house across the street was ringing as loudly as if it was his own house. He had wanted to look out the window to see what was going on, but at the same time he hated to be one of “those people”. He wasn’t a nosey neighbor.

“It isn’t nosiness when it is your neighbor’s alarm blaring. It’s neighborly concern.” His wife was addressing him from the kitchen. “What if they need some help.” She was leaning in the doorway in her usual manner of pressing her fist against her hip. There was flour on her apron from baking. She was making biscuits. Fredric did love his wife’s biscuits, nice flakey, and sweetly buttered, but she herself could get on his nerves from time to time. “Look out the window, and see what’s going on.” She said wiping her hands on her apron.

“It’s none of our business.” He grumbled as he shook out the newspaper and settled into his old leather armchair.

 

3 minutes up.  

How To Be A Writer: Be A Reader.

Years ago when I was in college, and studying English literature and writing, I took a course called, How a writer reads. It’s been many years since the course, and I can’t even remember which professor taught the class, but there were a few key elements that I took away from that course that I think are useful when working on a book, or a short story, a screenplay or even a poem.

The best teachers in writing are the books that you read. It took years for that to sink in, but it’s true. You want to be a romance novelist you read romance novels. If you want to write YA fiction you read YA fiction. If you want to write literary fiction but all you read are crime fiction you’re not going to write a very good literary fiction piece, but you’ll probably write an awesome crime novel. If you know how to read, and if you can teach yourself how to read like a writer, then you can skip the college course and learn everything right at your own finger tips. I’m in serious debt for this information so let me share it with you freely. It’s all there for you for the taking- you want to write a book read the kind of book you want to write, and then, read some other genres of books to get your well-rounded, well-read education. You want to write a memoir read memoirs, but also read some fiction, and read some non-fiction non memoirs, but read more memoirs than anything else because that’s the class you are taking.

No one can tell you how to write. You just have to write, and then write again, and again, and again, and again. You get the picture. Books though, they can show you how to write.

A reader reads. Writers write mainly for readers, unless you are James Joyce, or William Faulkner then you write for writers. If you are Toni Morrison you write for writers and readers, and if you are Ernest Hemingway you write for readers, and writers, and journalists. If you are Stephanie Myers, or Charles Dickens, or Suzanne Collins you write for readers. Most writers write for readers. A reader wants to loose themselves, to be enlightened, to learn something about the subject, to hear a story, to be entertained, to be a part of the story. A reader picks up the book and reads it till they finish and then puts it down, and picks up a new book.

A writer reads like a reader too, but a good writer reads like a writer. A writer may read a book that is not fun to read because it is work to read. A writer takes notes then pulls the book apart—not in a criticizing way because the writer is not interested in writing reviews (unless you are a critic and like to do that)—a writer pulls the book apart in order to figure out how the author put it together. How did the author craft the book? What is the trick to their magic? The writer is looking for the tools that build the nuances, mood, tone, structure, the plot and so on. There is always something below the surface. One can even argue that something shallow can be more than it appears just by the very fact that it is shallow.

You don’t always have to know the academic language behind crafting a story in order to learn how to write one. It can be useful. It’s easy enough to find online. Type in how to craft a story and there will be hundreds of possible links. Or, take a class. Classes are good because a teacher can introduce things to you in a way that you may never have looked. They will make you write because you have to for the class. You’ll have the opportunity to meet other writers. Workshops are great too and cost less money (sometimes), but if you can’t afford school or workshops it doesn’t have to stop you from writing, and writing well. A book can teach you how to write even from the very first sentence.

It was a queer, sultry, summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. –The Bell JarSylvia Plath

I love the first line from the Bell Jar. Even if you haven’t any idea what the book is about you have the sense that something ominous is coming. It’s a hot, queer sultry summer and you know the character is in New York, but doesn’t know why. It is also the summer that the Rosenbergs were executed. You don’t have to know the significance of the Rosenberg executions to understand the book ( but it does gives you a better understanding of the cultural climate) just having the word execution in the first sentence tells you death is coming or has come, and obviously not a natural death. As I mentioned before you don’t have to know about the Rosenbergs to understand the story (you should because it’s a very important part of American history) but it does give you a time of reference. It is the summer of 1953. If you do a little info check or you are already familiar with this part of American history you know that the Rosenberg’s were executed on June 19th 1953. We don’t know exactly when Sylvia Plath’s story takes place but it’s at least the duration of 3 months. Isn’t that a great first line? We know the time, setting, temperature, temperament, and we have a character that doesn’t know why they are where they are, a character that is basically admitting she is lost. All that in 23 words. It’s a great first line. Sylvia Plath didn’t just throw that sentence together. She crafted it. She could have said it many different ways:

  1. I didn’t know what I was doing in New York the summer that the Rosenberg’s were executed, but what I did know was that there was something odd about the feeling of the place, and it was hot. 
  2. The weather was hot and humid the summer that I lived in New York.
  3. The Rosenberg’s died the summer I lived in New York.
  4. The summer that the Rosenberg’s were executed was strange and humid, and I didn’t know what I was doing there.
  5. I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
  6. The summer I lived in New York the weather was queer, and sultry. The Rosenberg’s were executed during the time I had been living there. I wasn’t sure why I was there. 

The first sentence sets the tone. Here is another great first line:

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.- The Sound and the FuryWilliam Faulkner

What? Your English teacher would roast you for that sentence. What’s happening? Someone is speaking or thinking out loud to themselves, and they are looking at some people or things. They are describing the action of hitting. This narrator also looks through the “curling flower spaces.” Who actually notices something through the curling spaces of flowers? Unless they are hiding, maybe? The Sound and the Fury is written from the point of view of different characters in the book. Benji is the first character and he is mentally disabled. Faulkner chose to write in how he believed Benji’s thinking and pattern of speech was. Benji thinks and notices things differently then an average person, but if you look carefully at the sentence you’ll see he thinks things in the order he sees them. 1) Through the fence. 2) Between the curling flower spaces. 3) I could see them hitting. 1) I am standing at the fence. 2) I am looking. 3) I see them hitting. Benji is not with whoever he is watching. He is on the other side of a fence peering through the slats or a hole maybe. There is a lot of description without even using a properly formed sentence.

They’re out there.- One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kesey

Whose out there?

 

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.- On the Road– Jack Kerouac

So, we know that the narrator is recently single. Ready for a road trip!? Whoo! Sex, drugs and Jazz!

If you understand the value of the first sentence then you can imagine the importance of the last sentence. Dickens’ book, A Tale of Two Cities was so good it has one of the most well known and quoted first lines and last lines.

Stay on the Path- if you want.

Stay on the Path- if you want.

Not too long after ending my class I picked up two small pocket sized journals. One journal I titled: Beginnings. The other: Endings. For every book I’ve read I have copied the first sentence in to beginnings, and the last sentence into endings. I do this for me to study. I am gathering my lessons like investigations.

Another thing I do that is a fun practice, and I learned it in this class, is I try to write something in the exact voice of the author I am reading. Maybe something like directions:

Head to the house on the left, and if perchance you should see my fair maid on the corner, it is a right that you must take from there, and if you keep walking for a fortnight or so, you’ll see the blue colors much like the color of my mistress’s eyes, and that my fine sir will be the post office.

(My weak impression of Shakespeare, but you get the idea).

The point behind this practice is not to plagiarize, but to feel how the author writes, do you notice any technique from the writing? How do they create images. Are they heavy into dialogue? What kind of metaphors do they use and how do they put them together? What about their use of vocabulary? Never ever forget vocabulary. If you don’t know a word- look it up- it will enlighten you and increase your own vocabulary. Words are your tools. The more tools you have the better houses you can build.

In the end when it comes to writing your own book or short story, no one can tell you how to write one. Not really. The only way to write a is sit down and write. Besides, the real work is in the re-write, so you might as well get that first draft done.

Next time you pick up a book to read and read it like a writer. You’ll get a really low cost lesson- maybe even free, and read a book.  Or don’t, just read it, and enjoy it, but know that you have all that knowledge at your finger tips.

 

Testing. Testing.

Chuck PalahniukSurvivor

Cut-Up Method for Creating a Short Story

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William S. Burroughs was the first writer I had ever heard about that did something called “the cut-up method“. I think it is a well known practice by now, and in fact, many famous songwriters and modern writers follow the same example of writing or exercising of the writing mind.

I had tried it in the past, and never got too far, but looking back on the experience I think my obstacle had to do with control. I really wanted to craft the “perfect story”. A story that could be award winning, and because of this need of perfection when I wrote I could never really let go. This cannot work when doing a cut up. In the art of the cut up you must let go. The cut up can be likened to staring at clouds, only when you relax your eyes can you see the multitude of images and stories rapidly unfolding above you. 

I didn’t follow Burroughs guidelines exactly but I followed the basic idea which was to see what could be created out of what was already there. It isn’t plagiarism, the story is completely new, it’s just the words that are taken from a context or source and then put together like a puzzle.  The following short story is completely created from the cut up exercise I did recently using the same concept as the cut-up. I had taken and article from a magazine and I began placing words next teach other based on how they sounded in a sentence. Sense did not matter to me. In fact, the more illogical the more freedom I had in the creation. When I did I revision that is when I put in a little cohesiveness and order, but not much. I worked quickly, not allowing myself to “craft” a story and just allowed the words to find the best fit. It was the most fun I had writing in a long time.

As I had mentioned in the previous paragraph, the story posted below is a cut-up story.

Lessons From Hilla

Passing Hilla on a street in Potsdam, a visual figure came to the stages of my mind, and because of this image of a figure, I decided to follow her on her lifelong postwar journey.

You may ask me what war is she post of? She is post all wars. She is the story teller of struggles, she is the recorder of our destructions, and she holds the secret to our peace. Her oeuvre is inextricably fused to her backbone like a lamppost, and I walk secretly beneath her light. If she had been a photographer trained in the art of lighting she would have noticed my shadow as it swung beneath her feet or off to her side, but she was not, she had studied typography, and had no interest in looking at what blocked the light. If you are asking yourself with a snide sharp snuffing that comes from the top your nose, “how can a topographer have an oeuvre?” I say to you: ask yourself, if you can not see the subtle and sublime in the surface of the earth then how can you say you know what art is?”

Hilla hopped from one region to another like jumping puddles the primacy of which was to discover at what point of oppression does the artist reveal itself to a person if that person never believed they were an artist in the first place. Hilla believed great works of art came from the oppressed as a form of final expression of the human condition.

 

You may wonder how one can survive when they spend their life following in the shadows three to five feet from another human being in order to find the answer to the great questions because one, myself as the one, believed with reverent faith that no other than Hilla could carry those answers. It may seem an unusual occupation to you, but I had obtained labor in the business of carrying umbrellas on particularly bright days. I will admit that in the moment I had found the proposition unusual, but it payed me well enough to survive and it did nothing to interrupt my followings. All I had to do was await a call early in the dull light of the day that would inform me of what umbrella to carry, and where to procure the chosen umbrella of the said day. I had never thought, under my obligations of carrying umbrellas on days that it never rained, that is was Hilla who hired me to carry the umbrellas. I was under the impression that I was stealth and invisible. I often muttered thoughts out loud because  Hilla never listened to me because I was not really there. I was invisible and had always been so.

“All my future friends are artists who comprehend the complexity of a simplified map situated between historical contradictions of east and west,” Hilla was speaking her voice hard and Germanic in accent, “—notice how no one ever says North or South, other than the Americans of course because that was their only on-soil war. If you listen carefully you will hear people say that all the wicked witches are from the east.” Hilla was giving a lecture to the pigeons, and I was taking notes under my umbrella. Obviously, it was a bright and sunny day and my unknown employer had requested I carry the light coral satin umbrella which coincidentally matched Hilla’s shoes. Remember reader, I did not at this time know who my employer was and therefore still felt that I was a man hiding in the shadows inconspicuously holding a light coral umbrella on a sunny day.

I had just written down the words, all wicked witches are from the east, when I muttered to myself, “she wasn’t the most wicked; she was heartbroken, after all her sister had been murdered by a house.”

“Halt-“ Hilla barked. “Stop with the melancholia of cultural continuity and bring me some euphoria of resuscitation— you post-fascist cosmopolitan.”

 

I must clarify that at the times that Hilla did speak to me I only believed she was speaking toward me as if I were a photograph that she did not take. She spoke to the aspect of me which in her limitless archival of archetypes broke down to her speaking to herself or the pigeons or whatever she was standing beside. This is what I believed. Paradoxically, I was aware she was speaking to me by the architecture of her language, especially when she built sentences with words like post-fascist. I thought she had often mistook my compassion for misused communism commonly regarded as socialism and never looked at as pacifism, but truly was only compassion —wasn’t it compassionate to see the witch as mourning her sister’s death? The ruby slippers were only a side-note.

“You are making excuses for pedophiles and murderers because you like their paintings.” Hilla shouted. “He makes great literature, he diddles children. It is yes indeed great literature, but he still diddles children there is no excuse to make for the behaviour of that madman or her cruelty accept that you love the work of a pedifile. The art and the deed have been done and neither can be changed regardless of how influenced and inspired they had at one time made you. Were you inspired by the crime or the art? Lines in the sand, lines in the dirt everyone drawing lines for others, for themselves and no one being honest.” Hilla threw a handful breadcrumbs to her rapt audience of pigeons each one flapping their wings in grand applause. They always gave her standing ovations.

I had supposed she may have been correct.

 

As I continued to follow Hilla through the industrial mapping of her language I noticed my own structure of vocabulary was beginning to breakdown or perhaps it was already broken and crumbled; washed away by a chromatic ocean searing tonal cliffs and swallowing too many sailors. It came over me like a prophetic revelation that Hilla was rigorously imposing enforced limitations to my thought patterns and therefore she was creating a little oppression in my mind, perhaps to test the capacity I had for finding expression under her personal regime. She could do all this without ever acknowledging my existence.

“You should learn to spell.” She said as she made drawings of bees gathering pollen. “Your writing looks like a holocaust of the English language; each misplaced vowel and consonant is a massacre of the alphabet. You should be accumulating languages not slaughtering your own.” Hilla was at the top of her game in the absence of humans and often criticized the pigeons and bees of their misuse of the English language. I had always thought this was a little insensitive since english was not their first language.

 

I have yet to describe Hilla. What could be so compelling in a woman that one would follow her across a post war world while suffering at an angle her slings of insults and accusations of post-fascist beliefs. Physically she was a goddess of imagery. She was built like a water tower and had hard nipples the color of coal that you could see through her light colored and often times white linen blouses. Her nipples may have been pink and soft at one time only darkening when touched by the cold or excited fingers, but she dyed them black so many times they stained and eventually hardened. I had heard her say that it gave her great pleasure to watch the leering faces rotating in lust to get a better look at her breasts only to quickly dissolve in expression to that of horrored discomfort with the realization that there was something very unnatural about a pale white woman with onyx volcanic nipples. If those uncomfortable with the discovery didn’t quickly avert their faces with their potential quips stuck in their throats, but instead lingered on her appearance a little longer they would realize that she was really very white, but not that of a natural skin tone. She had painted her skin the color of canvas so that she was blank and new and always ready to create herself. The average man and woman did not understand this and you could see it written on their faces. Often times, since I was a few steps behind, carrying an umbrella of whatever color was requested for the day, I would quickly pass on the following comment, to a person who had completely taken in the look of Hilla, as I wanted to contribute to the novel on their face.

“You should see her vagina.”

It was a marvel to me as I think she would sometimes hear me, this was of course before the days that I had discovered my employer, and she would turn to the overly shocked and pre-disgusted person and say, “You should see my vagina. It is the most beautiful cerulean blue like a deep sea waiting to swallow too many sailors. I have a penis as well and it is as grey as a whale.”

She always used the words vagina and penis so that she could easily create the acronymic anagram VP for very perfect. It was a part of her architecture. No one knew what was true because her lovers never spoke about her they only blushed at the mention of her name.

 

“A minimalist in thought is a minimalist in the mind, but a minimalist in space is a purist of ambivalence.” She said tossing more crumbs to her loyal birds. I continued to copy word for word her lectures. It occurred to me that I was recording- in my own dystopian way, a catastrophe of enlightenment. I was on a mnemonic journey after a woman with nipples like coal and a vagina with a whale of a penis. Very pretty.

 

“It is no longer adequate for you to appear so uncannily close to my shadow.” She said. This time I knew she was addressing me, in fact I felt quite, certain as she turned to face me and looked directly into my face. It had been many years’ since I had passed her on a street in Potsdam, so many that I had forgotten how old I was and where we had traveled. I was struck with dumb sentiment when she had demanded me to hold her umbrella directly above her as she was tired of the sun. She was aware of me, so much so that she had been my benefactor. My keeper.

“Tell your own stories”, she said. “Mine are the literalization of my heart and mind. You may inquire clear-eyed with unrestrained curiosity to the sources and inspirations of my literature; you are even welcome to decode them, but don’t fool yourself into believing any of my thoughts are your achievements— after all is said and done, when everything’s right with your world you’ll uncover your authenticity of your fetishized trauma and lick the scabs of your wounds till they heal. I propose you find you your child-self.”

And with that, she knocked the umbrella out of my hand and left her puddles of regime for me to reflect. She turned on her heels like the Morton salt girl, my childhood crush, and faced the streets of music of which she followed all the way to Latin America where the colors are brighter, and left me on a monochrome street on a day of heavy rain in Stuttgart where the tanks had once rolled in and out.

 

“Don’t fool yourself about the tanks”, she had once said, “they are everywhere.”

 

I was wounded and plagued at her sudden parting. Assemblages of my twenties self that had shattered while I was attempting to tell my child self what to do, confettied the ground at my feet. I felt my fear of a million years flood my face in an ephemeral shower, and that’s when I saw it– my enlightenment- suspended between water and concrete; those were not regimes they were only puddles spinning out my illusions of desire.

 

A Lost Novel

I had that moment when you lose everything that you’ve written, and I survived it.

Those of you that followed my postings of my novel Zizkov, have probably noticed I stopped posting the chapters. Part of it was my instability and then moving to a new country, and then, well, I lost it. Not my mind but the document.

I needed to make room on my computer in order to update my software… I put it on my external hard drive… erased it from my computer…updated the software…and then the external hard drive crashed. I do have a copy of an older draft on google docs, but it’s an older draft and I had changed the ending.  I have some hard copy somewhere also with the older ending and none of the editing, but the final draft is lost, at least at this point before getting to a computer place to see if any data can be restored. Basically, the final draft is lost.

I spent a really long time working on that novel. Years. The funny thing about losing it is that I remember talking with a writing instructor about my book and the possibility of it never being published— actually he was talking about the possibility of it never getting published, and he used his own first novel as an example. He had said, it was okay, and that first novels are not meant to be published they’re for practice. I insisted that that was not the case for my first novel. Oh, no. A person does not spend years on a book and then just willy nilly say, eh, that was practice.

That was about four years ago. I think the novel was for practice. I also think the novel was a block. A block from writing other things. I’m okay with losing it. I think there was some really good parts, and that the story was interesting, but I rewrote it so many times, and it was never right. Maybe, one day I’ll write it again. I don’t know.

When I realized that the disk was corroded I was surprised by my reaction. It was, “Welllll shiiit.” And, that was about it. I think it’s okay that it’s gone. I can never again use the excuse of perfecting my novel as a way of not writing new work.

Speaking of new work. I’ve been pretty quiet for awhile. I was thinking maybe I just didn’t have the energy to write anymore, and then I got a little spark here and there, and have been sketching some new short story ideas and crafting another, and fooling around with a script. I’ll go back to posting random excerpts and stories and ideas here as I “play around”.

I recently finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and I am currently reading The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. It’s fun to go from a classic to a modern style of reading and really see the difference in the use of language and structure to tell a story. In the non-fiction world I’m reading a book on the brain called The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel which is slow going for me, but really fascinating, and also I’m racing through Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story.

In the poetry realm I’ve finished Patti Smith’s the Woolgathers. It doesn’t necessarily fall under the genre of poetry as it is written in prose, but it is so poetic in tone and rich in language to me it is poetry. It was a peaceful and calming read and I could read it again and again.

I hope everyone had a good November novel month. I did not, but that’s okay.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 209-214

Feste’s was raucous and crowded, and most of the commotion was coming from our area. I looked at my beer. I didn’t think I could take another drink. I was pretty drunk. We’d started in the morning and the whole day just turned into one extended shot glass of Bekerovka. It was like we were swimming in it. Eight or nine of us were gathered around a table near the bar. We met up with Koontz’s band, whose lead singer was a screaming, aggressive, brown dreadlocked man with a permanent scowl. He had a thick goatee and huge unkempt lamb chops. He wore black and torn hand-stitched clothing, and every sentence he said was punctuated with a fist slamming against the table. Marco sat between the singer and another band member, dwarfed by their size and staring into his beer. I felt disengaged almost high. I knew it was because I was tired, and I just wanted some quiet. I didn’t know exactly how we had gotten from the apartment to Feste’s. There had been so much drinking, and yelling, and spitting. I couldn’t figure out why I was still there and why I wouldn’t just leave. I’d gone numb. My fingers clasped my pint and I vanished into the swirling bubbles floating at the top. Occasionally, I would look over to Marco and start giggling at him, at the way he sat, expressionless, between the two Norwegian giants. He was probably wondering how the hell he had gotten there in the first place. I was wondering how he ended up in the middle.

Francisco, who had been wandering indiscriminately around the bar, brought a Czech girl named Ruby to join us at our table. He was in his element, matching the lead singer with every yell and slam of pints and fists onto the tables. Ruby, who was just as loud, shook her head when she yelled and her bright pink flapper bob shook wildly like it was on fire. Her wiry arms were covered with self-made tattoos, burns, and scars, and multiple black plastic bracelets and silver bangles that dangled from her wrists. She preferred to stand and swing the heavy wooden staff that she was holding in her hand. Francisco whispered into her ear. She pushed him away from her and slammed her staff onto the table. I looked at Marco who remained seated in a seemingly catatonic state.

“Hello Annnnnna.” Endres fell into the chair next to me. I wondered why he was so thin and quiet while his fellow countrymen were so big and loud.

“Hey, Endres.” I said. I was relieved to see him. To imagine the drug angel as the calm in the sea of giants was comical, but I couldn’t have been more grateful to see his throbbing and dilated pupils.

“When you left Annnnna, I fell back to sleep, then when I awoke I had time to think of you.”

I looked at him as he swayed forward and then back in his chair. “I thought,” he said, “about how you left and how nice it was to be near you. A girl I lived with back home her and I did what we did last night, what do you call it?”

“Sleeping together?” My words came out slowly and hesitant like a question. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about. He was confusing me. Every moment felt heightened and confusing.

“Sleeping together.” He said, “It was nice. I think it was good Annabelle. Not making love but sleeping together.”

I felt my head spin a second, and I sat up straight. There was a loud bellowing yell as the Norwegian death metal singer slammed his fist on the table. With every outburst everyone in the bar turned to look at us. Canada Mike looked at him with a nervous expression as he wiped down a wine glass. Endres stood for a moment unfazed, and said something to me, but his voice was drowned out from all the sounds. I looked over at him swaying. He looked as drunk as I felt. I gave him a meaningless nod of my head and then looked back to my beer. I couldn’t hear anything. The room had turned into a giant single rumble, and my eardrums were humming. I slid the beer onto the table, and then slowly turned away. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going but my body wanted to move. I didn’t feel sick, but I needed air. I walked past the table. Koontz grabbed me, and pulled me down onto his lap. He squeezed me tight around my waist. I didn’t have the strength or energy to fight him off.

“I like you.” He said looking up at my face. “I don’t mean I want to sleep with you; I just like you.”

Endres stumbled back to his seat.

“You like him?” Koontz asked me.

“Sure.” I said, sighing. I just wanted Koontz to let me go and leave me alone. I was tired. I hated people pulling and grabbing at me.

“You should go to him.” He said giving me a gentle push toward Endres. “Get off me.” I said swatting his hands away. I was annoyed and drunk. I shuffled back to my seat forgetting why I got up in the first place.

Somewhere between my swatting Koontz’s hand and returning to my seat pandemonium had broken out. By the time I sat down the singer had Koontz by the neck and his back on the table. He was screaming in Norwegian into Koontz’s face as he shook him. Koontz had his arms out holding his hands up in submission. Everyone had left the table except for Marco who held his drink closely to his body, as he stared emotionless at the wall across from him.

“What happened?” I asked Enders, but he didn’t seem to notice the choking that was taking place a few feet away. This was how waitresses got their throats slit in alleyways next to telephone booths.

Ruby started laughing and jumping up and down cheering the singer on. She swung the staff around. I waited for the cane to make contact with any one person’s head. I couldn’t seem to react as the bar blew up into absolute anarchy. It all felt so wrongly normal. Marco was vacant. He had no reaction to the chaos that was ensuing around him. He was centered between the two death metalers. The dreadlock guy had to reach over Marco’s body in order to grab Koontz’s neck. I wondered what Marco was thinking right at that moment. Suddenly, Ruby began singing to Marco, and dancing. Like in a striptease act she dropped to the ground, and carving figure eights with her hips, holding the staff between her legs like a pole, she slithered up the staff then slammed it onto the table as she climbed onto it and starteed crawling across the table toward Marco. The singer had Koontz by the shirt and had pressed him up against the wall, which gave Ruby tons of room to crawl as people quickly grabbed their beers before she knocked them off. Koontz and the singer screamed at each other in a slicing language. I knew things were happening in a rapid succession, but every moment had been condensed into what felt like an extended minute; a time-elapse, it was like watching thunder storms fly over a midwestern sky. I looked back to Marco. He looked bored. I looked at Endres. He looked stoned.

“I’m gonna make love to you all night long… Gonna make love to you…” Ruby crawled onto her hands and knees and leaned into Marco’s face, nose to nose, and sang louder.

“I’m gonna make your juices flow.”

He shook his head like he was done. He took another sip of his drink then set it quietly onto the table.

“I’m gonna make you sweat.” Ruby straddled Marco who promptly stood up with her legs still draped around him. She hung on Marco like he was pregnant with her. He turned to Francisco, peeled her off, and held her out as she squirmed and kicked.

“Can you take this please?” He handed her to Francisco.

Francisco held her trying to avoid her fisted swings and punches.

“Get the fuck off me! Where is my goddamn it fucking American boyfriend!” She said thudding her open palms against Francisco’s broad chest.

“It’s not me.” Said Marco. He climbed over chairs that had been tossed to the ground during the fight and drunken band members who had returned to the table to watch and cheer the fight on.

“I’m going home,” he said to Endres and me.

“I’ll be home in a second.” I said.

“Suit yerself.” And he left the bar.

“Would you like to go outside?” Asked Endres.

“Yes.”

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 204-209

The man grabbed three shot glasses from the shelves above my head and immediately poured the liquor into each one. He turned with a drink in each hand one for me and one for Marco.

“I see you’ve met Koontz.” Said Marco looking with disgust at the shot. “Mutherfucker didn’t you hear me in there puking out my spleen. I’m dead man. My shit is fucked.”

“You’re funny, Marco.” Koontz said as he pressed the drink closer.

Marco relented and took the shot. With a resigned moan, I grabbed my glass. I knew how this day was going to go. Friends in town, even ones we don’t know, and it’s a celebration. I sneak in from not shacking up in a dorm room, it’s a celebration. Marco throws up from the night before, it’s a party. I was getting to know the drill. I felt a little laissez-faire to the whole thing. I really just wanted to go to bed. Koontz picked his shot up from the table and held it up high over his head. “We toast. To friends and crazy days.”

Marco and I glanced at each other. We both had the look of defeat: drooping eyes filled with water and down-turned mouths, not that we put up much of a fight. With simultaneous shrugs we knocked back the sweet powerful shots of Becherovka. I was already wondering why I made such a bad decision, and so early in the morning too. I usually wait until noon before making such a bad choice.

Koontz howled, his head bent back toward the ceiling, and slammed his glass on the table. He pulled the glasses out of our hands as Marco lurched like he was about to gag but managed to just release a short convulse.

Koontz poured three more shots.

“Oh fuck.” Said Marco, and he rushed into his room and slammed the door. Leaving me alone with Koontz. I looked to the door shocked and dumb. Why would he shut the door? That bastard.

Koontz turned to look at me. I rushed to sit in the chair as if sitting in the chair was the safest place to keep from getting an embrace. It was about the equivalent to putting my head under the covers. As Koontz moved toward me I grabbed the shot glass and held it to his chest, stopping his forward motion.

“To American pants! ” I said and swallowed my drink with a throat-burning gulp. With my thumb I pointed back toward the shower room. “So I think I’m just gonna-’

Before I could finish he spun my chair out to the center of the kitchen and climbed onto my lap.

“Marco!” I yelled. I also laughed because I could not believe this scenario was actually taking place. I had just consumed two shots of hard liquor before eleven a.m. and now I had a pygmy wrestler sitting in my lap. What were the odds? I just wanted to sneak into my bed.

He put his head to my chest like a child. “I want you.” He said.

“Oh. My. God.” I moaned. “Listen,” I said trying to get up from the chair. “I just want to go to sleep. By myself.” He moved his hand toward my face and I grabbed it with a firm squeeze. He looked at my clenched fingers like it was a romantic gesture and then back to my face and placed his other hand on the back of my head, like he was petting my hair. He smiled showing several crooked yellowing teeth. The entire act was non-threatening, but it may have been that I was tired and already felt buzzed, so any fear I should have had over some stranger creeping all over me was lost, but if he tried to kiss me I was going to punch him. I figured he’d probably like that, though.

“Marco!” I barked. “God Damnit! Come out here!”

Marco pulled the door to his room open and stared at us for a moment. “I’ll leave in a second so you two can be alone.”

“No!” I yelled, and I shoved Koontz off my lap. “No, no non no. What the hell? Do you think this is mutual? Koontz is trying to molest me here. Aren’t you? ”  I said turning to Koontz.

“Yes! Yes! I like a lovely woman.” He roared out a laugh.

“Some friend and protector you are.” I said crossing my arms.

“Shiiit girl—” I never got to hear Marco’s response since Koontz interrupted him by jumping up and lifting Marco off of his feet, and spinning him around.

“Put me down mutherfucker! I ain’t your goddamn girlfriend.” Marco struggled against Koontz’s embrace.

As funny as it was to watch him swing Marco around the room, I decided to make a break for it. I made a quick dash for the door, but Koontz grabbed me by the back of my shirt and pulled me into an embrace with Marco. “I like you both.” He said squeezing us both tightly and nuzzling into us like we were pet bunnies.

“Oh Christ.” I moaned.

Marco looked at me from over Koontz’s shoulder, the edges of his eyes wrinkling into a narrow scowl.  “This is your fucking fault.” He said.

Koontz let us go and grabbed the bottle to pour more shots then pulled a couple more beers out of the paper bag.

“My fault?” I said rubbing at my arm. “I didn’t bring him home. You knew his name.”

“I didn’t bring him home either.”

Koontz raced around the kitchen like a spastic child.

“Did you load him up on Pixi Sticks before bringing him home?” Marco accused me.

“What? Me? I told you I never saw this guy till I walked in a few minutes ago. Then next thing I know he’s putting my hand to his heart. Where the fuck were you last night anyway?” I said.

“I don’t remember. To his heart? Hmm girl that weren’t his heart.” He looked me over and a mild smirk danced over his face. “Where were you? Comin’ in this mornin’ mm chil’?”

“Do you remember this guy?” I pointed at Koontz who beamed a smile at me then held out two shots.

“Yeah. He’s with some Norwegian Death Metal band.” Marco said taking the shot glass and holding it in his hand.

“What? You mean like burning churches and eating each other’s brains?” I grabbed my shot.

“What the fuck is you talking about?” He swallowed the shot.

“Something I read once.” I drank my shot and threw my head back.

“That’s some sick shit.”

We both handed our glasses back to Koontz . He immediately poured two more shots and held them out. We stared at the shots.

“There’s so much fucked up about this moment, Marco,” I was beginning to whine, “I cannot even bring words to my mouth.” I grabbed my shot from Koontz’s hand and spilled the liquid over my fingers.

Marco grabbed his glass and mumbled something about being sick.

I watched as Koontz stuck his head out the window and began to howl.

“So if you didn’t bring him home, and I didn’t bring him home, how did he get here?” I asked still watching Koontz bark and howl at the construction workers.

Marco and I heard a moan from behind us. We turned to see Francisco standing in his tiny boxers and stretching in the doorway, his body filling up the entire door space.

“Whaaaaaat’s going on here?”  He said with a yawn.

“Put some goddamn clothes on man.” Marco’s face was contorted and pinched, “Nobody here wants to look at your package.” He threw his shot back. “Shit’s disgusting.”

Francisco chuckled as Koontz ran to hug him and then brought him a drink and they toasted. Francisco drank then threw the glass into the sink and it shattered against the metal.

“Goddamn it.” Marco tossed his arms into the air. “Now I gotta steal more glasses from Feste’s.” He let himself fall back into the recliner and pouted.

I was starting to feel loopy from the last couple of shots mixed with the drinks from the night before. I looked at Marco. “There’s no escape.” I really wanted to feel sober right at that very moment, but I knew the day was lost. I had a choice, I still had a choice, but I was swept up into the early morning madness. It was senseless and I knew it.

“No goddamn escape.” Yelled Francisco spitting out the window.

Koontz danced around the room stomping and howling and spitting.

“Don’t leave me alone with that guy.” I whispered to Marco.

“Don’t you leave me alone wit’ em.” He whispered back. “My shit is fucked.” He said as he dropped his head into his hand, and closed his eyes.

I looked at him curled up in the chair and I stared at the CDs circling his toes. The potential for this day was lost. I knew it. Marco knew it. I watched Koontz and Francisco drinking and spitting out the window, occasionally howling toward the morning sky. This was Francisco and Koontz’s day, and the potential had not even been breeched- they were the minions of chaos. It wasn’t hard to figure out how Koontz got into the apartment. I didn’t know where this day would end up. I hoped it would be in my bed, by afternoon, and alone.

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