Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Twenty, Four, and Seven

This flash fiction originally appeared in Issue 9 of Dance to Death (Sorrowland Press) back in 2008. Dance to Death has since ceased publication, and no longer has a web presence.

About this piece: I wrote "Twenty, Four, and Seven" years after one of my social work professors made a quick reference to a case study about a woman who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The woman’s routine to walk to work eventually became so complicated that she lost her job. Living with this particular mental illness in its manifest state would be very difficult. 

Twenty, Four, and Seven                                                

            Today, step out front door to walk to work. Lock door. Unlock door. Walk back in. Check stove element. Turn it on. Turn it off. Step out front door again. Repeat six times.

            Twenty years ago, step out front door, help mother garden. Enjoy self at first. Count the tomatoes. Count his drunk beers. Count her bruises. Keep eyes down.
            Today, begin walk to work, step on cracks only. No matter, she is already gone. Stand at crosswalk. Push walk button six times.

            Seven years ago, leave home, go to college, fall in love once, marry him. Check his breathing twice to see if sleeping. Get up. Rewash all dishes in cupboards. Cry into dishwater when finished. One: the number of times he said he was leaving. Two: the days it took him to pack up and go. Twenty-four-seven: the time spent missing him.
            Today, circle block before entering building of employment. Repeat six times. When in lobby, push button with arrow pointing up. Six times.
            Four years ago, sit at home alone. When phone rings, pick up after three rings. Meet friend who does not understand it, but who tolerates it. Talk about life. Never talk about it. Go home. Rewash dishes. Weep. Sleep.

            Today, walk to desk. Watch as coworkers stop working and wait for it. Turn computer monitor on and off six times. Pick up phone after sixth ring. Walk toward boss's office. Turn doorknob six times. Increase to twelve times. Lower eyes to ground once inside. Three: the number of warnings generally given before being let go. Seven: the number of warnings received because boss has genuine concern. Twenty: the number of minutes to pack up desk and leave.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nests and Hatchlings

Today I’m feeling sombre. This could be the result of walking down our rickety old farmhouse stairs to the basement with my sons last night, in search of my bag of marbles from childhood, but instead, finding a picture of Amanda, a best friend who died young after being struck by a taxi. I am certain that my sombreness also has much to do with deciding to try my hand at a poem written specifically for a submission call for literary works dealing with money. Away from the bustle of my household, I quieted my mind to set down some words. Having no agenda, I was interested to see what would emerge; I penned the bones of a feral poem, and I was reminded that the adoration and pursuit of money can rip family apart, as it had my family, just a few generations before. Editing keeps me poring over this subject matter, which I'm finding makes me a tad heavy-hearted, but I hope that my voice adds to the conversation in an important way (if my piece is selected).

I'm beginning to realize that sadness has been a running theme in my writing for years--even to this day--though at thirty-six I'm somewhat of a happier person. A decade and a half ago I was in a band, and one evening during practice, one of my bandmates asked me when I was going to start writing happier songs. I said, "Probably not anytime soon." There are salt stains in my guitar from where my tears have fallen, and it adds character to the wood. I don't know if it's how I'm wired, or the fact that life's been meatier in the sadness department, but the good thing is, nothing has to go to waste.

From where I sit in sunshine on the bottom back porch step--simultaneously writing this post, and observing evidence that our chair cushion is being incrementally picked apart by a critter and converted into a nest somewhere--I feel compelled to draw a metaphor: The best stories that I've read are carefully crafted with the most important bits and pieces from a life or a perspective, whereby something important is hatched in the mind of the reader--a memory, a revelation, a lesson learned, a lesson lost, one scene chosen from thousands that broke someone down quickly, or built someone up slowly.

One day I hope to honour my fiery, freckled friend, and share the important parts of our story--like how we ran a very successful lemonade stand for the sole purpose of making enough money to buy poutine from a man named Stan, who hand-pressed potatoes into French fries for the dish, and always used real cheese curds; like how Amanda was roughed up by the teacher in front of the class, and how Amanda's mother, a sturdy woman who baked delicious lady fingers whenever I went for a sleepover, came to the school to lay down the law. 

That is all for today. I think I need to go cry in the corner, or harvest some rhubarb. I’ll do that latter and sing a song. Salty rhubarb, anyone?

 My friend, Amanda

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hello Six

It’s been six years since my last post on Writ and a lot has happened in between. For starters, my husband and I had four children, which now makes us a family of six. There are so many great days with our darling children, and there are days when we wholeheartedly agree with what comedian Jim Gaffagan jokes about: “You know what it’s like having a fourth kid? Imagine you’re drowning, then someone hands you a baby.” 

And yet, we wouldn't change a thing. In the last six years, I also had a cancer scare, but in the end, I got a clean bill of health. Whew! 

Needless to say, writing took the back burner for a while, but I never stopped. My writing habits changed, however, and dare I say, for the good. Where once I had hours and hours--pre-children--to work on whatever I chose, now I have to be more purposeful and economical with my words because it’s the only way I can complete anything. When there’s an overlap in naptimes, I hunker down and tap out a quick creative paragraph or poem, or I study writing by reading. I carve out three hours a week away from my happy, loud house and go to a breakfast bar where they serve food that reminds me of my mother’s cooking. It is there that I write my best. My dream-come-true of having a large family and staying home with the kids when they are little doesn't mean that I had to give up writing. On the contrary, I think my large family has made me a better writer. 

I'm reclaiming Writ as a place to reflect on the journey of writing. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Raising a Pointer

So. Water Rings, the novel I wrote for the 3-Day Novel Contest didn't place. But… (holding pointer finger up in the air), I’m looking forward to polishing it up. I made a few mistakes during the contest, one of which was time management. Next time, I’ll sleep a little less and make sure there are no distractions--*cough* family members present who are not participating, though I love them. On average, a 3-Day Novel entrant writes 100 pages within the 72-hour window. I completed a 64-page novella (and I type fast) but spent some of my precious time poring over the first chapter when I should have been typing until my fingerprints burned off. Lesson learned. Time to edit!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting Started

Hi. Welcome to my blog. 

Here's the plan: I'm going to write and post from time-to-time to keep the creative juices flowing. It's good to have goals, so my goal this year is to write and polish three short stories, finish the final edit on my first novel, The Language of Thunder (switching to first person) and clean up my 3-Day Novel Contest entry, Water Rings. I took part in the 33rd Annual 3DN Contest with my dad this past fall, and it was an intense, exhilarating, sleep-depriving experience. The results will be out in a few weeks, and I can't wait. Thanks for stopping in.