I realized, gentle readers, in my vomitus bloggaria attack of last week or so, that I probably need to post this and that from my writing collection. To better remind the few and dogged that I am, indeed, something of a writer. To reveal my hits, misses and downright head-scratchers so that we can continue our friendly ways.
[[This is a pic I took. Possibly baby starlings. Not sure.]]
So, aye. Here’s a sampling. I shall even annotate them. Or make something up if I can’t remember just why I bothered in the first place.
Below is a poem I wrote for a contest. They provide a picture and you have to come up with something inspired by said picture. Now. Not much came to me. So I finally called it a day and sent the following in. Because I was doggone determined by that point, no matter what dribbled out of my fingers after days looking at some bland lanscape smeary thingo. I was going to submit something!! Yeah. I think I called it Whale Clouds. I’ll let you know when they name me Poet Laureate of the Planet. Yay! Happy face.
I looked at that picture and went, whale clouds.
I saw clouds full of whales above a landscape
I’d seen since a child.
Dust and yellow fields of wheat and duty stones
and houses full of dull good people
living dull good lives.
I’ve been trying to write something poetical and deep.
It comes across as trite and laughable
so I will just write this.
Poetry is honest little nibbles, yes?
Or it’s supposed to be.
I should hope that someone reads this and wants to
quote it or make a poster around it
to tell them something they wish to hear or
that sparked some ‘ah, there it is!’ moment.
Is that not a moment, to see a whale
in those careful or careless cloud smears?
Or do I see what I want?
And before I can descend into something
I’ll end this little shriek
with something about hawks and panting coyotes
and a black fence that
seems quite aggressively divisive
and old man ‘keep off my lawn’.
Probably just me. Probably just me.
[[the image is from Tara Leaver]]
The next offering in my Fragments tour is Mouse Bones. It was written for some little contest that gave you a single word and a word limit. I think the word was ‘Jars’. I rather liked this and might ‘do something’ with it.
Her fingers scrabbled against the jar, stuck far back on the high shelf in her mother’s closet, behind the shoe box full of receipts for the Dollar Store and every purchase made at Dave’s Second Chance Thrift Emporium. The shoe box had gone into the big hefty bag, to be put out on the curb. As her mother had gone into the earth, to await Jesus dropping by for her soul. There, just an old Mason jar. Oh. A mouse skeleton rested in the bottom. How long had it tried to climb those slick icy walls? How long? Just tufts of fur left here and there on the delicate little bones. The tiny skull where those ink drop eyes had once regarded the world with such suspicion and terror. I’m sorry, mouse, she thought, as she dropped the jar into the garbage bag. Receipts, mouse bones, some sort of lesson.
[[Matinborough Musings for pic.]]
Below, now, was written for some humor contest. Also had to be only so many words. This is where I, as a writer, cannibalize some family tale for my own selfish uses. See Jellyfish Gravy and Zombies where I said I do that. Stranger and the Bear is prob’ly the name for the following…
Gran’pa looked over at me. “It’s time to tell the story.” I groaned, just the right groan because Gran’pa so enjoyed me groaning. He settled his skinny butt on the seat, braced his feet; this was gonna be good, he was telling me already. “That bear was a big bear. A great big bear. I says to your dad, now your dad was a wet little squirt yet, didn’t know his shirt from Shinola.” Gran’pa meant to use another word but Gran’ma gave him the stink eye. And Gran’pa does what Gran’ma wants, it’s just easier all around on everyone and he’s a wise old coot in some ways. “I says to your dad–look at that, it’s a bear! We was hunting out there in the Blues, way up back, you had to walk in or take a horse. We hadn’t seen any elk but we saw a big ole bear. Now, we had your dad’s ole dog, Stranger, who’d bite a friend and curl up with a thief, Stranger who once brought home a skunk for us all to enjoy. He was a big red hunting dog with a chewed up ear.” Gran’pa took a long suck of his pipe, let the smoke curl out, making me wait, making me wait to hear what came next. I let out a big sigh, just as Gran’pa liked it. He nodded, tapped the table to show the good part was seconds away. “Now, your dad and I stared at that ole bear, a black bear, grizzlies ain’t been around in those mountains for years now, but it was big enough to be a grizzly. Then we saw Stranger. Stranger and that bear were about to tangle. There’d be dog all over creation in a bit! I admit I started feeling real bad for that dumb idjit dog, that was an idjit dog, I’ve never met a dog stupider and meaner than Stranger. I got my rifle up, your dad had tears in his eyes. You bet we were expecting that ole bear to just rip that dog in two before our eyes! Welp,” Gran’pa paused, eyes wide. “There was this big ole pine tree. The bear walked past it heading south. Stranger walked past it heading north. They plum missed each other! I ain’t never seen the likes of it. That bear went one way, Stranger went another.” Gran’pa’s eyes came to me. “A’course, Stranger chased after a farm truck not a week later and lost. But that dog had the devil’s own luck that day, up thar in the Blues. I don’t believe in miracles, but I saw one, when that bear went one way and that dog went the other.” He laughed, and let smoke rings drift up. It would be at least three days before he told that same story again; perhaps he’d add another bear. I hoped so. Maybe he’d add some wolves, too. And a dragon. “Stranger and the bear, it actually happened.”
[[Black bear from Wikipedia ]]
The following rather grim little tale I wrote for Halloween, obviously, for a writing class I was teaching. To high schoolers in China. Now. I did not, obviously, share this with them. I wrote something else for an example. At least I don’t remember sharing the following with my class. Sigh.
THE IDAHO DEVIL
The devil works in a dingy café in the middle of Idaho, on one of those backwoods roads that come from nowhere and end nowhere in particular. He cooks fried egg sandwiches and deals for souls. I know, I made a deal and I’ve traveled here to make another.
My name is Rusty. I’m a little bit of sawed off nothing to look at, about the same weight as a sack of taters and I ain’t never had any luck come my way. I been kicked around and beat down, sure, been in and out of the system here in the Gem State, been beat up for looking at a guy wrong, sure. He broke my fingers one by one while the other boys just laughed in that one home I lived at for almost two years. They took me to the hospital but it didn’t do no good. Cause I got something wrong with my bones, they don’t heal so well. So my fingers are all crooked and knotty and no woman likes to hold my hand.
Now before you start sobbin’ over my life, you gotta know I ain’t no saint, I never rose above or made lemonade out of the rotten lemons that got chucked at my head every day of my life so far. I’m as mean as a broke-back snake. And when I heard the rumors about the devil working the grill at the Sawtooth Café up there outside a Stanley, well, I had just gotten out of jail in Ontario for breaking a beer bottle over this woman’s annoying head. Called it assault or some such you know what. I was real glad when she kinda slithered to the floor, all bloody-headed, with a piece of glass sticking out of her forehead. Real glad. You see? I ain’t no saint.
So I got a ride up into the mountains, it was summer, there were tourists and I acted real friendly and harmless. I wasn’t intent on hurting anyone, people can pick that up.
They get jittery, then you know you gotta get what you want or back off.
Anyhoo, I got dropped off on that little nothing of a road and there it was, the Sawtooth Café, all weathered and worn down and looking, well, evil. Some places just have this look. You know you’re risking something more than your life walking through the door. But I was already long gone lost, if you know what I mean.
There were big hogs parked in the dirt parking lot, a few pickups with Idaho plates, so all local flavor. No shiny scrubbed tourists here to look down on the local warts.
And there he was, the devil. I sat at the counter, the scratched red counter, and the waitress, with her nametag reading Shawna, pinned to her flat chest, came over after a bit, eyeing me like one might eye a giant slimy pile of chicken guts left to steam in the sun. “ Yeah? Whatcha want?“
For a moment I was too busy staring at the devil, who was a good-looking Indian guy, Shoshone or even Nez Perce, but with these pale colorless eyes that flicked to me, his black hair in two braids hanging over his thin shoulders. Sorry, Native American-looking, right, gotta be all PC now cause of the Lib’rals. Thin, tall, his hands around that spatula flipping burgers sure and easy. He wore a white apron over his white-t-shirt and regular old Wranglers and cowboy boots.
“ Hon? You gonna order? “ Shawna asked, her eyes going carefully and respectfully to the devil flipping burgers and adding yellow cheese slices to some of them for the group of bikers in the corner who were drinking coffee and wearing leather, long filthy hair and sunglasses.
“ Oh sure. Coffee. You got any pie here? I’ve been hankering for some pie. “
Oh how full of it I was.
“ Sure, hon, we got pie. “ Shawna told me and the devil turned his head my way as if he sensed I wanted to do some wheeling and dealing. I was just the sort the devil loved, all out of luck and full of desperation and bullspit. “ We got apple, coconut, blueberry and peanut butter, banana and custard. “
“ Peanut butter. And that coffee. “ I told her, not really wanting pie, but I had maybe five on me and pie was two twenty five a slice, plus coffee, would just about bankrupt me. But I acted like Joe Moneybags and she never called me out on it, just brought me some bitter, black as hell coffee, and about the best slice of peanut butter pie I’d ever had. She drifted over to refill coffee cups for the bikers and the devil spoke to me from that greasy, spotted, dim kitchen.
“ You know me, Rusty? “
Not even pretending he was anything else but Lucifer or whatever the devil calls himself in private these days.
“ I do, “ I told him, deciding if the devil already knew my name, then he knew I wanted to deal. And probably already knew what I wanted to deal over.
“ I can give you seven years. “ His voice was low, smooth as new cream. Sweet as a promise you know won’t get kept. “ You can start over. “
My biggest wish. To just…erase my past.
To not be a tiny, broken, ugly, pathetic mess. To not be me.
“ Sure. I have to sign anything? “
“ You just have to shake on it these days. “ The devil smiled and his white teeth gleamed.
I took his hand, his cool, smooth, lineless hand. No lifeline, the devil had never been born and would never die.
So I’m back.
He made me a child. My parents lived past their accident, and my memories did not support this, I still saw the State cops in the door trying to tell me my mom and dad were smeared over the Interstate like human puddings. I played with toys they bought me at Christmas while my real mind screamed that it wasn’t real, wasn’t real…so the devil left me with my old life, just put a new face over me, made me a child again. And for seven years, seven years, I tried to cut those real memories out of me, the broken fingers, the jail time, the stealing, the just trying to live another day, get through another day.
It was all the same.
The same Sawtooth Café. The same waitress. The same man cooking burgers on the grill. And this time he had eggs frying. And he looked at me and grinned. “ Rusty, time has been kind to you. “ And how he laughed as the waitress kept her eyes down, her heavily black-rimmed eyes that said she had made deals, too.
“ I want my life back. I brought you a gift. “ I had had a dream. A horrible, wonderful dream about what I needed to do.
“ Did you. “ The devil did not wear a hair net, but I doubt the Idaho Health Inspectors came here to check out the rat and bug situation. “ I do like presents. “
I lifted the bag onto the counter. I beckoned him over. Shawna kept her eyes down, poured coffee for a local wearing an Obama Sucks! pin on his Boston Red Sox cap. The devil peeked in the sack and then reached in, and took out the human heart I had brought him. “ My, my, “ he said and the smell of him, for a moment, sizzled in my nostrils. Something of heavenly cinnamon and something of hellish ash, like apple pie and burned popcorn. “ A baby heart. “
“ Yes,” I said, meeting those pale eyes, the eyes that had looked into the eyes of God and smirked. Or wept. “ I want to make a new deal. “
“ And? “ His fingers caressed that lump of muscle and lifeless tubes. Caressed it like one might pet a puppy, I could not stop watching the motion of his hand.
“ I want my life back…I want my life back. “ Oh the despairing cry of those in the pit. But I cried it, I cried it anyway.
“ Bring me a heart a year. A child’s heart. “
And so here I am, with a new deal, and my luckless life back in place, with that other ghostly visit to what could have been a strange smear in the back of my hot, aching brain.
You understand now why I have to kill kids? I just take the unwanted ones, the ones that are like I was. Those kids nobody gives a shit about. And only one a year, I can live with that. I can live with that just fine.
[[That’s the shape of the state of Idaho and the post card is from Stanley, Idaho,gov.There probably are more elk than people in Stanley, by the way.]]
Yeah, okay. Human sacrifice, the devil frying eggs, that’s pretty tame stuff for moi, truth be told. Let me find something a wee bit more cheerful to end this with…mmm. BRB as the kiddies text these days.
Ah. A bit I wrote for some submission asking for essays on places you love. For a travel site, I think. I never finished this and this is a first draft. But. It’s just me trying to get down what I feel about one of my favorite places on this planet. A place that’s rather sacred to me. A place of comfort and succor. The Owyhees of Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho.
I turn over a rock. There, in the heart of that rock, are crystals and caverns, a thunderegg. The air holds whiffs of dust and sagebrush, the buzz of insects, hawks screaming. The Owyhee River, nothing mighty, curves at the base of the stark reddish hills, to feed this harsh, pitiless land with a bit of moisture. Wild mustangs still roam here, leftovers from periods of history Americans still glorify and deny with equal rancor. The sun beats down, I can hear rustles in the tall weeds. Rattlers or birds or some little life pausing to wonder why I’m turning over rocks, why I’m there at all.
This is perhaps one of my favorite places. This wild little blip in my own backyard, as it were. The Owyhees, up near the dam, the narrow twisty road, the river flowing despite the hideous drought that has plagued Eastern Oregon for so many years now. Perhaps second place would be Venice Beach, out in the surf with a boogie board and big waves indifferently attempting to drown me, over and over and over. But here, amid the noisy silences, amid the primeval formations carved by volcanoes and ancient lakes, I find my feet touch the earth, my skin settled on my bones and my eyes are content to just look. There is no need to put on masks here, to pretend, to subvert or play a part. No here. The falseness of society falls away here. There is only air and earth and water here, and at times, fire, when the dry grasses catch from lightning strikes or careless or malicious humans.
People are trying to mine the land here, turn it into some dystopian nightmare, into some ruined paradise. Where only a few pictures will exist to remind one of what it used to look like. Protesters of this get treated like vermin and kicked in the teeth, yet people don’t want the Owyhees destroyed. Environmentalists are next door to monsters here in Malheur county, after all. They ‘don’t get it’. They’re ‘city folks’. Pointing out that clean air and clean land is a good thing gets you some side-eyes and a label here. It can get you hurt here, if people get riled up enough. And yet…
Fisherman come up here to fish. Campers come up here to camp. Lovers of rocks and geology come up here to love the rocks and geology. Surely, this place will be protected and not sold off…surely.
[[A picture I took of one of my fave places on the planet, the Owyhees. ]]
All righty! Some fragments, some flash fiction-y offerings, even a bad poem. Hope this makes up for the Danger Noodle Trilogy of Terror. Oooh, remember that movie?? With the evil little doll? Ugh a bug! I still get chills.
[[A picked over cow carcass. Owyhees, up around Succor Creek, Idaho. ]]
[[Here’s what Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho look like, kids!!]]
[[Riding into the middle of nowhere on a Side-By-Side, about to plunge through an unknown creek. Succor Creek area, Idaho ]]
[[And of course, from Trilogy of Terror. That thing is still scary.]]