fiction

Keep It Simple, Stupid

I’ve been reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor in the order she wrote them. I picked up the book because I liked the cover: it’s an illustration of a peacock with elegant black text (I learned from the introduction that O’Connor kept peacocks on her property). O’Connor is a product of the Old South, and you can tell immediately, but I didn’t let that get in my way. Her writing doesn’t feel like it’s trying to escape you, which is exactly what I feel like reading right now. I’m picking up themes of morality and the danger of self-absorption, but mostly I’m just enjoying the unexpected experiences of these interesting characters. I can just pick it up, read a story or two, and put it down.

I wish I could say I’m working on a collection of essays, but I’m really only working on the first one, which for all I know could end up being the only one. I already had an idea for a collection by which each entry features a different moment of happiness, but I’ve been inspired by O’Connor that each entry can have a feeling like the others, but can also stand simply and on its own. When you try to make an idea too big, it’s tough to even get started. I wrote this poem to get the juices flowing for my first essay, which I think I will call “Champagne In The Pfister.”

Champagne in the Pfister

There’s a heat in my heart
Literally, a heat inside my chest
Flashes of the day blast across my head,
But all I can think about is how important this moment is
And I can’t waste it.

Wasabi peas and sesame sticks in a little silver dish
Perched on a low round table
Gold champagne to wash it down
My lipstick leaves a matte stamp on the flute
And i can see a crumb or two stuck in it,
Like dust marring a fresh paint job,
But it didn’t matter

A 3-piece jazz trio played a song about rain,
Maybe it was called rain,
But it made me cry.
Something without words
So i could make up my own words:
Something about how his left hand,
Now decorated with a sliver of silver,
Is the most wonderful thing i’ve ever seen.
And I’ll always have this moment.

The Girl: As Observed from Inside the Refrigerator

Day One: Been empty over a week. Turned to Cold, stinks like Clorox. Hear girl’s voice, she’ll be the one, but it’s dark.

Day Two: Lights on. Girl hefts case of Miller Lite on the bottom shelf, slides it in, grit from floor now on cardboard case, screeches on glass shelf. Later, beer joined by two slices of pepperoni in grease-stained Luigi’s box.

Day Three: Lights on. Holding door open with foot. Then, carton of eggs, gallon of milk, Coca-Cola. Is taking forever. Open, closed, open, closed. Then, chocolate diet shakes, fat free yogurt. Veggies – celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes. Something gross, comes in brick form. Weird.

Day Three/Four: Lights on, dark kitchen. Grabs Coca-Cola, wearing flannel pants.

Day Eleven: Lights on, grabs last chocolate diet shake. Celery smells rancid. Weird brick never used, starting to ooze.

Day Twelve: Milk expired, didn’t drink past handle.

Day Fifteen: Lights on, dark kitchen. Grabs Coca-Cola, wearing flannel pants.

Day Ninety-Five: Lights on, Chinese take-out leftovers. Hear guy’s voice. Later, TV blaring, Chinese eaten.

Day One-Hundred-Two: Lights on, leftover Reuben and fries. Hear guy’s voice. Later, radio blaring, grabs Reuben from container, fries spill, left two dead under Crisper drawer.

Day One-Hundred-Nine: Lights on, leftover Shrimp Scampi. Hear guy’s voice. Later, smiling, grabs Coca-Cola. Later, smiling, grabs Scampi.

Day One-Hundred-Ten: Lights on, naked, grabs cheese. Lights on, adds 7 eggs & half-drunk orange juice. Lights on, adds slimy opened bacon pack. Later, flannel pants, grabs Coca-Cola.

Day One-Hundred-Eighteen: Lights on, he grabs Coca-Cola.

Day Two-Hundred-Six: Lights on forever, tossed all food. Found dead fries. Wiped shelves. Left one Coca-Cola, jar of pickles.

Day Two-Hundred-Seven: Lights on, shopping trip. Lots of frozen food. Can’t tell.

Day Two-Hundred-Fifty-One: Lights on, leftover pepperoni from Luigi’s, garlic bread.

Day Two-Hundred-Fifty-Two: Lights on, takes bite of garlic bread, puts back.

Day Two-Hundred-Sixty: Lights on, leftover fried chicken, eats piece while putting away.

Day Two-Hundred-Ninety-One: Lights on, shoots Reddi-Whip in mouth, puts back.

Day Three-Hundred: Lights on, shopping trip. More chocolate diet shakes. More veggies. Diet Coke. No weird brick.

Day Three-Hundred-Eight: Lights on, he adds Coca-Cola.

Day Three-Hundred-Fifteen: Lights on, she grabs Diet Coke.

Day Three-Hundred-Sixty-Four: Lights on, tosses everything. Wipes shelves. Wipes light. Looks closely at light. Later, he wipes
shelves again.

Day Three-Hundred-Sixty-Five. Dark. All day.

98 x 98 Challenge: Hot & Cold

Microfiction Challenge: 100 words or less

I wanted to write a microfiction piece to submit to Microfiction Monday (yesterday…) and had the idea of using the word cold, because, honestly, it’s literally freezing in Wisconsin! When I finished, I felt like I only told half of a story, so I added “Hot.” I’m curious which is better, or if anyone else is up to the challenge!

Cold

“I’m cold,” he said. He crooked his elbow around my arms—dug his hand between my breasts. He twined his leg over my knee and tucked his heel under my ankle. His face he buried deep in my hair except for his noisy right nostril. His torso pressed skin to skin on my back. I sniffed loudly and shifted my weight. My shoulders pinched in, my arm dangled off the bed, and my head tilted up over his arm, layered with my pillow. I rested, still. He matched my breathing, exhaling warm on the back of my neck.

Hot

“I’m hot,” I said. He pressed the back of his hand to my forehead, shaking off his fingers in mocking as though he’d been burned. My feet and palms were clammy and damp, my sheets and t-shirt and hair clung to my skin. My brain stung and swelled in my skull, my nerves in knots behind my eyes, my limbs heavy and stiff about me. I kicked my comforter, flipped my pillow, rolled over. He brought me a cold glass of water. I sent two chilled gulps down my throat, drenching my dry mouth and cooling my chest.

A Sample Chapter of My Novel

1962

The first time Pop brought Amy to open the bakery was the first time she remembered waking before sunrise.

“Come on, Miss Amelia,” Pop said, as he squeezed her little shoulder over the thick, pink quilt she slept under.
She sat up in bed, her pink striped pajamas pulled up and twisted around her little torso. Pop turned on the lamp next to her bed.

“Get dressed, Peanut. I’ll wait downstairs.”

Amy crawled out of her covers and looked down on Lawrence Avenue from her second story window above the Lincoln Square Post Office. The street was so different without any people on the sidewalk or motors humming, no sunlight glaring in from the windows across the street. (more…)

Terry & Lisa – 2

Terry stared at the barbecued chicken legs roasting on the grill, glistening with thick brown sauce, charred just so near the bones while the hot, tangy smoke surrounded him.

“So Terry, how are ya holding up at Schmidt’s?” Mike asked, interrupting his view by prodding at the chicken with a pair of long barbeque tongs.

“Oh, it’s good. Same old shit.” He took a long gulp from his sweaty bottle of beer.

“Yep, we got it good, don’t we?” Mike grinned as he looked down at the chicken. Mike had Terry by eight or nine years and eighty or ninety pounds. On couples night he always wore large Hawaiian shirts that draped over his round shoulders like a muumuu, with long, loose khaki bottoms that could hardly be described as shorts because they only exposed a few inches of ankle above the Velcro-bound sandals. (more…)

Terry & Lisa – 1

Lisa ran the plump tip of her middle finger all the way around the plate, gliding through the cream cheese mixture to make a perfect ring a half inch inside the edge. Then she sucked her finger clean, just like her mom used to, lips puckered out and away so she didn’t ruin her make up. After a sprinkling of dried parsley flakes, the lid of the “Dip & Go” covered the crab dip and she popped it in the fridge.

Her one-month-to-go belly couldn’t be covered by her pink terry bath robe anymore, as it would gradually peep out from under the belt, tied tight at the band of her bra. At home that didn’t matter, and she smiled when she caught the bump’s reflection in the window of the stove.

“Terry?” she called out softly to the man lying on the couch. Legs crossed, shoes on, he laid with his eyes closed but kept his brows and forehead scrunched tight. “Baby?” She leaned over and softly combed her nails through the curly blonde hairs on his arm.
(more…)