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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Han Solo is in my grasp!

In front of your car, the dump truck stops. Your heart nearly does, too, when you see what's poking out of the back of it.

We are completely stopped. I release my fists and sink into my seat. My heart was racing with the adrenaline of a bloodthirsty Mongol for a minute. Now the body attempts to return to normal. It takes a while. I chalk it up to the family blood pressure problem, which may or may not have something to do with our quick tempers.

The green corn fields around me are at hip height. I try to think about how much they’ve grown since last week, but I really don’t care. My focus returns to the dump truck in front of me. Out of nowhere this jackhole just stopped in front of me. I can’t see a thing beyond this bulky tank of a questionable stench. What the hell is going on? My frustrated fist finds the steering wheel, discharging a small honk.

The garbage is overflowing. Bags upon bags of refuse just wait to be opened, a raccoon’s wet dream. I hope they all stay in the truck and off my car. There is a healthy mix of white and black bags, a couple of vacuum cleaners, random pieces of wood, and a life-size replica of Han Solo encased in carbonite. My eyes widen, my posture becomes upright and attentive, my hands start to sweat, my heart explodes from my chest. Han Solo’s frozen hands are held up to me, his mouth slightly open. The off silver and pewter of the casing looks identical to the one used in Jabba’s palace. Not so much Cloud City, it was much more metallic and fresh there. But oh my sweet baby Jesus! I must have it, no matter how bad it smells or whose cat peed on it.

I unbuckle my seat belt and slowly let it pass through my hand. Traffic doesn’t show any signs of moving. The cars are lined up as far as my mirrors can see. I put the car in park and steadily open the door. I try to stay focused, blocking out the curious faces behind me. Crouching and keeping one hand on my car for balance, I slowly sneak towards the imprisoned Captain Solo. A few horns go off behind me, but they are merely the John Williams orchestration of my own Star Wars adventure. Play on my friends, play on.

It stinks worse than I imagined. I try to breathe through my jacket sleeve, but I need both hands. I grab the rectangle replica on opposite sides and pull. It won’t budge. Wiggling it does nothing, but I keep trying anyways. I am so focused that I don’t even hear the sound of air brakes being released. More sound effects to me. The dump truck backs up suddenly before jerking forward. Those tiny movements send me backwards into my car. My hood makes the horrible sound of caving plastic as I slowly lose consciousness. I’ve let Han Solo down. Looks like it’s up to Lando and Chewie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Newest Prompt-o-matic

His father said it once when he was a kid, and it had such an impact on him that it became his mantra, his catchphrase, his go-to quote. For better or worse. Write a scene in which he uses it today.

“Come on.”

Disappointed pause.

“Get it right.”

Ethan is well known for saying those lines with the same pause between them. Every time a project is just slightly underdeveloped or a detail missed, his phrase emerges. We have never brought it up to him. We kind of assume he knows.

Ethan Kath is the managing director of Mock Your Sins, the online guide to mockery and hilarity. When the site was in it’s contemplative stages, we discovered that we all wear moccasins, thus the name. His signature line is the only constant in the MYS environment. It hurts a little more each time he says it. I think it’s because we’ve known each other so long and his disappointment has grown proportionally.

It had been two weeks since his last uttering and work was going fine. My stories and essays each passed his desk with nods of approval. Life was good. The site even seemed to be getting more hits than usual.

Then, of course, shit hit the fan. Ethan walked in this morning ten minutes late. It wasn’t necessarily weird, but it sure wasn’t normal. The Beatles on his tie stared at us in their post-1967 way, the same as the day before. His bedhead was definitely not intentional, as opposed to his usual Joaquin Phoenix style. He was usually the epitome of trendy professionalism, aside from the moccasins. We were all taking our first of many coffee breaks, standing around the ole water cooler. Silence took our work-related gossip by the throat.

“What’s up Ethan?” my bravest coworker asked after half a minute of silence.

Ethan dropped his briefcase. His gaze left the floor to scan each of our faces.

“I called all of you last night.”

We dared not check our phones. We knew we ignored his calls. There was no point faking it.

“The biggest story of our generation and you guys can’t answer your damn phones?” He didn’t sound angry, just exhausted.

“I’ve been up all night trying to get a hold of you all. I needed help.”

We all wanted to ask what had happened. Each of us had a work iPhone and were notorious for searching the web at inappropriate times. How did we miss it?

“You have all let me down.”

I knew it was coming and braced myself for the signature Phrase of Ethan.

“Come on.”

Ethan picked up his briefcase. The disappointed pause was longer this time.

But he didn’t finish it. He just turned and left.

I never thought that not hearing that line would be worse than actually hearing it. Guilt ran through me. It hurt. It still hurts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday's Promptly Post

Been having a lot of trouble concentrating. Usually I can think of a story to go with a prompt within 15 minutes. Lately it's been taking days. I think I need to keep the music side and writing side of my brain separate for a while. Here's Friday's prompt, which also happens to be the first line of the piece.

The sign said "No shirt, no shoes, no service"—but that didn't matter. He had to get inside.

The sign said, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”-but that didn’t stop him. He had to get inside. He looked like a rabid wolverine, yet harmless. The bags that were strapped to his feet, once used to house Wonder bread, were now his shoes. His shirt, a paper bag with arm and head holes, like we used to do when we were kids. I envied his beard a little, unkempt and free. The blue in his eyes was as piercing as McQueen’s, maybe more so considering the circumstances. My heart went out to him as he walked into the café.

“Come on Joe. You know you can’t come in here. We’ve been over this,” an agitated barista yelled.

The other patrons turned, glared for a moment, then ignored him. Joe just stood there, his fingers twitching with some sort of anticipation. His eyes were as wide as a meerkat’s.

“Get out of here Joe!” The agitation escalated to anger. But the barista’s words bounced off him. Like a prayer that has been memorized and recited too many times, they meant nothing. I decided this man needed help, and for some reason I was the one to give it to him. The barista was moving around the counter when I grabbed his arm and said, “He’s got shoes, and a shirt.”

His angry eyebrows moved to me.

“I’m a psychiatrist,” I lied. “Let me buy this man a scone and tea. I’m sure he’ll leave you alone.”

My eyes said please, but his didn’t care.

“Ok pal, but if he starts wigging out I’ll make sure the cops get you too.”

“Fair enough.”

The barista went to his register, eyeing my new friend and I. I walked slowly to Joe, looked him in his amazingly blue eyes and said, “Care to join me?” He nodded.

His scone and tea arrived. I figured tea would be better for him than coffee. Joe stood at my table while I sat, eyes darting back and forth.

“Take a seat,” I invited. And he did.

“So your name is Joe?”

He wet his lips and slowly opened his mouth, closed it, then tried again.

“No. That’s just what people call me.”

He took a tiny bite of his scone, wiped his beard of crumbs, and folded the napkin.

“Well, what do you go by?”


“Of Nazareth?” I said half-jokingly.

He smirked slightly. “Not this time.”

Jesus took another tiny bite of his scone. He sniffed the tea and sipped it. I stared, almost inspecting him. He did kind of look like the Aryan portraits of Jesus that hang in white people’s homes across America.

Suddenly he stood up. He took the scone, set it on top of the teacup and reached his hand to me.

“Peace be with you.”

Mouth open, I let him shake mine.

“Where can I find you?”

“Letters work. Just send it to Jesus, in care of the Pentagon.”

Jesus walked out of the café and I sat there, thinking.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yesterday's Prompt...TODAY

This was my third attempt at this one, still didn't jive as it should have. Just to clarify, these are supposed to be in 500 words or less, so that's why they're so short. Hooray!

You realize the boat is sinking, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. That happened last night.

Most men fear whiskey dick like it’s the Grim Reaper himself. Death can come and go as it pleases as long as everything works down below. Viagra users are the modern day male lepers. If discovered, they are cast out and dismissed. But I don’t have that problem. That’s a lie. It’s happened a few times, but that’s normal despite what they say. But what happened last night is much worse than the dreaded whiskey dick. To make matters slightly worse, the cruise ship is now sinking.

A cruise is not my idea of a good time. My family decided it would be a great idea for me to take time off and go on a long, relaxing cruise. Too bad I get seasick and can’t even drink my beloved Irish whiskey without passing out. The pills and alcohol make for a wild five to ten minutes before losing consciousness. I had just been laid off and my girlfriend dumped my jobless ass. The cruise was supposed to take my mind off everything and allow me to come back renewed, like a vampire after a good day’s rest.

My friends urged me to get laid, but cruises are unsurprisingly filled with couples. And not just any couples, incredibly attractive couples straight out of Playboy/Playgirl. I could only imagine the amount of sex that was happening without me. What a terribly depressing cruise. No booze and no sex.

After a week I accepted that maybe odious amounts of alcohol would cure my seasickness. It sort of worked. Instead of seasickness, it was just booze-sickness. The cruise bartender and I became quite close, but I can’t recall his name. During my last overnight drunk, I found a beautiful woman who did not appear to have an escort. She stood alone. I put on my charming face, grabbed two mojitos from my nameless friend, and attempted walking towards her. Five whiskeys go a long way.

She had an average build, straight and long brown hair, and dressed like a hippie. Her tank top had a pot leaf on it and her skirt a faded brown. She also sported some rad looking moccasins.

“You know I’m 1/64 Native American?”

She barely looked at me. The booze made me continue.

“Yeah, I’m part Ojibwa. Hunter/gatherers. No big deal.”


“So I have a mojito for you,” I said pronouncing the hard J.

“Listen,” she said, “I’ll give you half an hour. If you impress me, we’ll see.” Her expression was incredibly stoic.

I took a swig of the mojito in my right hand. It tasted delicious. It was so delicious that I threw up all over her pro-pot top.

My bartender carried me to my room, away from my screaming hippie. I puked the down the entire hallway, leaving a trail.

It is now the next day and I have awakened to the sound of an alarm. The ship is f-ing sinking. Why couldn’t I just get whiskey dick. Worst cruise ever.

Last Wednesday's Prompt

You're downtown, and see graffiti in an unlikely place—graffiti like you've never seen before, concerning someone you know.

I decided to walk home, as I usually do on those days that aren’t quite rainy, but are far from sunny. The air felt so fresh on my skin. My car stayed at work. It didn’t seem to mind. The slight breeze made me thankful for my olive corduroy sports jacket. It always protected me from cold and visible pit-stains.

The usual graffiti was on display: a lot of bubble letters that were impossible to decipher, but lovely to look at. I walked at a leisurely pace, smiling whilst looking them over. I thought to myself,” Thank God for graffiti. This warehouse would be so ugly without it.” I ventured on. As I passed the police station, I saw it. My smile erased from my face like an etch-a-sketch.

“When the hell did this get here?” I thought. “I walk this path almost every week, yet this mural looks so old and aged.”

It was my girlfriend’s face with the words “Mi Amor,” etched in beautiful blue and white letters. The graffiti had her eyebrows, nose, smile, even her eyes. It had to be her. Was she cheating on me with some talented Hispanic dude? My hand turned inwards as all my digits got well acquainted. I prepared to punch the wall but thought better of it. Looking into the wall version of her eyes I said, “How do you accuse someone of cheating based on graffiti?” It seemed so nonsensical, but I sure as hell didn’t paint that.

Finally, I went inside the police station to report the graffiti. It was pretty dead, only one frumpy looking officer on dispatch. I wondered if he had misbehaved, but my mind quickly jumped back to the task at hand.

“There’s graffiti on the police station wall,” I said.

“Oh yeah. It’s been up there a few days now. Pretty nice, huh?”

“But it’s illegal…isn’t it?”

“Well, yes and no,” he breathed at me. His eyes told me that I was bothering him during his solitaire time. I turned from Officer McFrumpy and had a sudden burst of artistic inspiration. I would cover it up! The police clearly didn’t care if there was paint on their building. The hardware store had what I needed. I briefly considered getting primer, but an employee talked me out of it. I returned and peeled the lid off the can. It nearly flew out of my hands as I hurled the paint at the wall. Success! The only visible letters were “i or.” I felt good with myself as I started to walk home. I was tapped on the shoulder two steps later.

“That’s defacement of public property son,” McFrumpy said rather frumpily.

“But there was already paint there, I merely added to it.”

“Nice try pal, I’m taking you in.”

Five hundred bucks and a night in jail later and I still don’t know if she’s cheating on me. She dumped me when she heard what I did. What a waste of a phone call…and a gallon of paint.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic Promptness

Turned out rather Vonnegut-ish, but here's the prompt:

Take two of your favorite songs, and match up a line from the chorus of one with a line from the chorus of the other. Then, write a scene that starts with the first lyric, and ends with the second.

They say, “Jump!” So I jump. I try not to be a follower, but demands usually get the best of me. I would have been a terrible terrorist negotiator. We stand in line, waiting patiently for our turn. It has been three days since the distribution of our rations. Even that fattest of us have turned to skeletons. So it goes.

They treat us like circus animals. We could care less. They control our sustenance, our means of survival. When they tell us to jump we were originally supposed to yell back “How high?” Then they realized that shouting would require giving us more water to restore our throats. They needed to keep us alive, and we wanted to live, for whatever reason.

They say, “Jump!” So we jump. The food could be worse. The water couldn’t. We are all very thankful that Soylent Green is not distributed and that Soylent Green is not people. Our caretakers are not apes either. Heston was way off. My commune and I live in a small village that contains the means to work and sleep, but not to eat. That’s how they engineered it. We wander back to the towering metropolis whenever they tell us to, which is really when too many of us start dying of hunger and exhaustion. So it goes.

Humans enslaving humans. That is the way of life, always has been. Contrary to popular belief the Jews and Blacks have not been the only victims of slavery. It’s been happening to everyone for as long as one guy has had bigger biceps then his neighbor. It happens. It just so happens that my fellow humans and I are weaker than our caretakers. For some reason, being enslaved makes me think of that old Seinfeld joke about how aliens see us picking up our dog’s poop and think that the dogs are in control. I wonder if we look like we’re in control.

I finally get my bowl of mush. Today’s flavor is despair. Just kidding, it has no flavor, just nutrients. Jokes keep me alive, even though I only joke in my head. Words have no use for us anymore. We understand them, but no longer speak them. It’s not allowed. Doesn’t bother me much, but I could use an audience.

The mush is demolished quickly and remnants stay in my beard for days. I think they might be good for facial hair too, keeping it nice and moist instead of dry and coarse. Overall, my life is not too different than when I wasn’t a slave. It’s all the same in the end. We live, we die. End of story. So we take our food and then we head back to our village. We wander for a while, without a purpose, out of nowhere.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Promptly Prompt

Prompt:Write a story about a couple on their first date—on the last day of something. (The last day of the year? The last day of a marriage? The last day of the world?)

“Beautiful night,” I said.

She gazed past me to the street lamps that illuminated the park. Parks at night have always enticed me, so I took Melinda to Lincoln Park for our first date. Melinda looked happy enough, not distraught by any means, but content. Her ear length black hair had those weird little spikes and swoops that are usually reserved for women over forty. She made it look good. The moon reflected off her glasses as I stared into her eyes, despite her not looking into mine.

Melinda finally turned to me, clearly searching for the right words. Her thumb came to her mouth. She had a terrible habit of chewing her stumpy digit when something wasn’t right. I braced myself.

“Why did you wait till the day before I go home to ask me out?”

Her tone wasn’t angry, but felt exhausted. I could tell she was annoyed, but still glad to be with me. I didn’t have an answer for her. Melinda was British and had apparently worn out her welcome in the good ‘ole U.S. of A. We had been friends for months while I built up the courage to ask her out, beautifully seductive accent and all. It was probably one of those things where you sabotage your own happiness.

“I’m sorry. My timing is terrible. But I’m happy you’re here.”

“I am too, but why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Her accent was so charming.

“Fear, I suppose. Fear of rejection from a gorgeous woman.”

That made her pale cheeks blush a bright red, like a mime. Melinda took my hand gently. She held it close to her heart. I briefly thought about the proximity to her boob, but then felt her heart beat.

“Jonathan,” she started, “You’ve always been wonderfully kind to me. And you’re far better looking than you think. We could have been great together.”

The words “could have” told me what she really meant. I was too late and this would be as close as we would ever be. My chance was blown. The water in my eyes begged for release, but I said no. I wanted to get down on my knees and beg her to stay, but that would be useless. The only way was for her to be married to a citizen and I was too much of a coward for that kind of gesture.

“Let’s just finish this evening. No more talk of what tomorrow brings. We’ll pretend we’re a perfect couple, finishing a perfect date,” Melinda said with a tearful smile. I loved her smile. I loved her.

From there we walked hand in hand to my apartment. She undressed and put my boxers and a dress shirt on. I told myself to kiss her, but for some reason I just watched. We pretended we were a real couple. We were beyond sex. So we cuddled close to each other till the morning. Melinda went home and I let her go. I was a coward.