Fiction, Fifteen Minute Fiction, Writing

15 Minute Fiction: Acoustic Starscape

Rita’s first ship was called the Blackbird. It was a simple name with little pomp or circumstance, and it fit the freighter for what it was: modest on the outside but smooth and perfect as it cut its way through space.

What she never talked about was that the name didn’t come from the Earth animal, but a song that her father sang when she was younger. “Blackbird fly. Into the light of the dark, black night.” He played it on an ancient instrument made from wood and string, his weathered hands somehow turning the box into something magical and mysterious, that emitted a melody that trailed into her dreams each night.

When her father died, Rita took the instrument on board her ship. Several times, custodian bots would try to take it out with the craft’s garbage. “Don’t touch that!” she screamed, and they would turn their round servos at her, curious as toddlers. “Not that,” she said, quieter, shameful. “Everything else can go.” Nothing else mattered.

She tried to play it on more than one occasion, pushing her fingers into the metal bits in the wood, running the back of her nails down the strings. They let out a dull intonation at that, as if in affront to her blasphemy. When she accidentally broke one of the lines, she stopped picking it up except to let it sit in her lap.

“Hey, is that a guitar?” When she was at a drop, Rita turned to find an older woman pointing at her father’s whimsical box. Her face was long, old, as worn as the canyons on a desert planet. “May I?” she asked, reaching out her hands as if asking to hold a newborn.

Rita wasn’t sure why she didn’t deny the woman her request. But she wanted to see what she would do with it. Would she actually know how to handle it? Would she pretend it was something other than what it was? It didn’t matter. She picked it up – the priceless gift that the woman called ‘guitar’ – and placed it in her bony hands.

The old woman pulled the string back into its spot – “Just slipped out. Ain’t broken yet. You’ll want to be careful,” she said – and then she strummed, three times, in three notes. And then, her fingers moved like they were dancing across the thing, plucking and pressing and creating a song, a song for joy, a song for glee.

“Teach me,” Rita whispered, the tears spilling down her cheeks.

And she did. She showed her until Rita’s fingers tingled painfully, until the three suns had aligned and dropped to the horizon.

“Come with me.”

“No,” the woman said.

“I still don’t know how to use it. Not like you.”

“You know enough,” the woman said, as she collected her box from the cargo bay of the Blackbird. “No one can teach you all the songs that have passed through the universe. Write some of your own.”

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Essay, Fiction, Personal, Writing

A Writer’s Nightmare

Oh God.

Last night, I had a dream of a lush storyscape. Full of characters and beautiful scenery. There were accents and glorious tension. There was physical attraction, and oh the dialogue: natural and unique, the likes of a Hollywood-Dickensian lovechild.

I rose from my bed, grabbing an old book. A library book, bought at a used book fair. I opened to the pages and started to write in the margins, over the words themselves. It felt dirty. It felt so wrong, but I was so happy. Happy that these wonderful characters and their wonderful-er world hadn’t slipped from my nocturnal fingers.

And as I watched the ink bleed through each aged page…as I studied it, relieved that I had it all down…

That, dear reader, is when I actually woke up.

I woke up, realizing that not only had I not, in fact, captured this tale from my slumber but…

It was just a Harry Potter knock-off.

Fiction, Writing, Writing challenge

Flash Fiction Challenge 2015: Round #1

I’m currently taking part in NYC Midnight’s 2015 Flash Fiction Challenge. During each round, you are given a genre, a location, and an item on which to write. For the first round, I was given action adventure/waterfall/clip-on tie. This was my story.

Severed Ties

Sibling rivalry takes on a new meaning as a brother and sister are locked in combat at the summit of a waterfall. To make matters worse, they both have different ideas about what they are fighting over.

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The spray of the waterfall left a slick sheen on Riki’s face. When she reached up to wipe away the moisture, she found her arm was just as soaked. The wood remains of the bridge creaked uneasily beneath her boots, creating a series of angular, shoddy platforms between the rocks. She bent her knees to find better purchase and shot forward, throwing another punch.

Taylor jerked out of the way. “Whoa!” he yelled. “Riki, you almost hit me that time. You wouldn’t want me to drop the statue, would you?”

Taylor smiled cruelly as he held the small fertility goddess out over the rushing water just below them. It was only a mere three yards to the sheer drop of the Crying Death Waterfall, where the round stone woman with her ruby bellybutton would plummet 500 feet.

Riki wasn’t looking at the statue, though, or even the perilous fall. Her eyes were fixed on Taylor – her brother, her twin brother – and the horrible clip-on tie affixed to his tan shirt. It flapped in the air around them, and he would occasionally raise his other hand to flatten it.

She came at him again with a short, tight kick to his midsection. He dropped his free forearm to block it, and when he did, she swung around with her elbow, connecting with his face. His nose started bleeding as he shoved her back. “Dammit, what the hell is wrong with you?”

What was wrong with her? She should have been focusing on the task at hand, but all she could focus on was that damn tie, cheap-looking and awful and just like…

Some of his long, dark hair had come loose from the ponytail he had tied it into. She was glad for her bobbed cut, especially when he came roaring at her, his hands grabbing and swinging at her face. She braced herself against a rock and got a hold of his wrists. He loomed over her as they fought for dominance.

“Stop it,” he growled. His glaring brown eyes, thick eyebrows, and tanned face this close made her feel like she was looking at a mirror. “Just give up and get back to–”

Riki sidestepped him so suddenly that his weight and momentum sent him right into the boulder. His feet slipped, and just as he was about to fall into the powerful stream, she grabbed the tie. It pulled taut, the fabric keeping him suspended. The flimsy metal fastener started to give, and she grabbed his collar with her free hand. He tried to pull himself forward to safety, but she kept her arm rigid.

    “Where is it?” Riki yelled as she tore through the storage container.

    “Where’s what?” Taylor asked. He had his jeans on and hadn’t changed yet for the wedding, even though it was in three hours.

    “My something blue.”

    “Your…what?”

    Riki was starting to sweat under her suit coat, and she took it off along with the dress shirt. Elizabeth would never forgive her if she came to their wedding looking like she had been doing yard work. In only her undershirt, she dug past records, art, bottles of scotch, and framed photos. “There was a box with ties and socks and stuff. Dad’s old clip-on blue tie with the swirl was in there. Do you know where it is?”

    Taylor was silent, and when she turned around, his shoulders were shaking. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he finally laughed.

    Riki felt her heart fall into her stomach. “You didn’t.”

    “Riki, there’s an entire collection of Asian silk ties and handkerchiefs. How the hell was I supposed to know that you wanted some piece of shit clip-on tie?”

    She was starting to shake. How was she supposed to tell him about when she had just started to feel different and confused and panicked about who she was, their dad had let her wear the tie? “So, when you want to be you,” he had said, “you can go in the bathroom and put it on. And if you get scared, you can just take it off. Easy peasy.” She had worn it to prom with her first girlfriend. She had worn it when she had proposed to Elizabeth, a month before he passed away. She had forgotten about it in the mix of wills and grief. It was supposed to be here waiting for her!

    “Why didn’t he just give you the thing, if it was so important?”

    “Because it was ours!” she screamed, sending a stack of old books across the dirty floor.

“I can’t believe you threw away Dad’s tie,” she whispered.

There was a beat where all they could hear was the water. “Is that what this is about?” he finally asked, his jaw tight. Then, he laughed, uneasily. “There’s no way you’re serious. There is no way you would let anything happen to me over a stupid clip-on tie.”

The look on his face twisted as she let the material slide from her fingers. For a single second, she saw him fully in the air, falling away from her, and then he disappeared.

“Cut! What was that? Riki, you cost us the damn shot.”

Coming back to reality felt like being startled out of a dream. Someone was yelling at her. They were filming on location and had been rolling. Her brother’s safety harness hoisted him back up, out of the river. His eyes were white with panic, his mouth open slightly and taking in ragged breaths.

It had all been so real – the finality of the decision she made – and now the only thing that tied her to that moment was the falling water, the feel of it still on her face. She had ruined the take because her character was supposed to grab her brother’s hand at that last moment, pull him to safety. That was the resolution. The memory of Taylor’s last look gut-punched her.

Either way, it would never be as easy as that.

5 Things, Fiction, Poetry, Writing

Shameless Self Promotion! #sorrynotsorry?

So I don’t do these very often, but there are a few things that have been going on that I want to tell all my lovely new followers, readers, and fans about!

1. 2nd edition of Cape and Dagger is available on Amazon AND at Rickert & Beagle Books. You can also get it on Kindle if that’s your jam.
2. My poetry collection Pickled Miracles is also available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.
3. Did you know you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under bohemianonrye? It’s true. Ask all the cool kids who are doing it.
4. I’m shooting for 100 follows on Facebook. So tell your friends. Tell your enemies too. I’m not picky.
5. You all are super awesome and I love you.

Fiction

American Horror Story Freakshow = Black Carnival Alternate Universe?

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7240/14015785516_c0288fd455.jpg

I would definitely like to think that American Horror Story was inspired by my Black Carnival stories. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Week 1: The Beginning

Week 2: The Dolphin-Girl

Week 3: The Unicorn

Week 4: The Bearded Lady

Week 5: The Painless Man

Week 6: The Dollmaker

Does this count as a Throwback Thursday? Maybe?

Fiction

Reborn — reborn!

Happy Monday, everybody! I know things have been a little different around here. Unfortunately, I came down with a bit of a nasty throat cold that’s been throwing off my regular update schedule. I hope you all have been enjoying the poetry!

Looking for something to read? In April, my flash fiction story “Reborn” was published on Fireside Fiction. You no longer have to have a subscription, so now it is free to read! Check it out and tell me what you think!

Fireside Fiction is a great publication, and if you can throw any support their way, it would be super appreciated. Take a look at their Support page to learn more.

Fiction, Fifteen Minute Fiction, Writing

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Night Riders

You know the drill. Tonight’s prompt: Write about stealing time. And yes, it’s the character from last week. Because I can.

“What took you so long to respond?”

My fingers hover over the numbers on my cell phone. It’s awful. It’s so old that I still have to hit a number 2-3 times to get the letter I need. I have to be slow and deliberate with each sentence I write. “You know I’m not around until around six or so.” This time of year, anyway.

“Yeah, that’s right, you have that awful job, or whatever.”

I nibble on my lip a bit and look around. I know she’s in Canada but I feel like she’ll be able to tell I’m lying. That I’m always, always, always lying to her. “Haha. Yup. But it pays the bills so there’s that.”

“What are you up to for the rest of the night?”

I get comfortable in my seat on the bus. I just barely made it in time to board. I’m going to ride to the middle of nowhere, get out, find somewhere else to go and get checked in before dawn. If I have to find another ditch or, worse, dig a hole to get into, I’m going to lose my mind. “Just hanging out. Maybe watch some House re-runs.”

“I love that show. I can’t believe it ended.”

“It was about time.” Somebody boards with a dog in a little carrier. It looks at me and goes ballistic. The old woman shushes it and looks at me like I must have made it freak out, like it’s my fault. I drop my eyebrows and give her a nasty glare. It’s only when she disappears to the back that the piercing yips fade out, like the last dots of an ellipses.

“Want to watch it together?”

My throat tightens. I straighten up in my seat, feel very conscious of the fact that I was not expecting this. I try to relax. “Aw, baby. You and I don’t have the same channels. US, remember?”

“Oh yeah. I forget sometimes.”

If I had a pulse, it would be drumming. I let the brief panic pass. “I wish I was there.” It’s true. I do. But I think about what it would be like, all the explaining, all the words and restrictions. I try to imagine what I would be like, if it were the other way around. Having this strange girl who you knew once show up at your door, and she’s at once everything you knew about her and yet nothing at all.

“Me too. I wish you could come visit.”

I consider the logistics of getting a passport. Could you do that at night? Could I just do it online? I could still use my name, right? Maybe, but nothing else. I think about walking up the river from New York to Canada. Taking paths through the wilderness. But where could I bed down during the day? I don’t like the idea of ground so cold you can’t dig through it. I’m uncomfortable now. I try not to let that show. “Maybe sometime. When I have the money.”

“I could send you some.”

“Honey, I don’t want your money.”

“If it meant I could have you here with me, I would pay anything.”

I feel guilty. I feel deceitful. I feel…I feel…I feel…

I stare at the phone for too long. It buzzes again. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

What does that even mean, now?

As the bus pulls away, I’m grateful for poor reception, for shorter texts and longer waits. I hope she’ll get over me. I hope she doesn’t think about it too much, because all I have is time to think and it’s no good.

Fiction, Fifteen Minute Fiction, Writing

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Bright Blood

15 minutes. No editing. No fixing. Raw.

Write about something that made you cry.

I don’t cry quite as easily now. But when I do, watch out.

I’m out in the bushes, standing against dark, against dark. The light inside the house is bright, warm, a buttery yellow. I’m on the side of the house away from it, so the light spills out into the yard and not onto my pale face.

I tried to come back, once.

I knocked on the door, and my Dad answered. He didn’t say anything for a long time, but then he came out – never once inviting me in – and nearly knocked my off the stoop when he hugged me.

I was so cold that he seemed to be broiled. My first thought was, He’s sick, he has a fever, but that wasn’t it. I just wasn’t at that steady 98-point-some degrees. Not anymore. Never again.

“I can’t come in,” I said. Technically, I absolutely could. I didn’t have to be invited. But seeing the walls and the paintings and the mirrors and the bowls and the crystal-cut antiques…it would be too painful.

“No, no, I didn’t think so,” he said. “I saw. In the paper.”

I reached up then, poked a hole in the side of my head like I was fishing for a plum in a pie. “Two shots. Pow, pow, that was it.”

“When there wasn’t a body…” He started crying, his old face doubling up into folds and wrinkles, crushing itself with grief. “I knew.”

“I can go anywhere now, though,” I tried to say. I tried to will the side of my mouth up into a smile. “Texas, Utah, Nebraska. All the places I’ve never been. I have all the time in the world.” I wanted that image to comfort him, the thought of a hundred sleepless nights on the road, practically skipping through the stillness.

“There’s that,” he said, after he had rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.

There were other questions, then: could I turn into things? What did I do before dawn? How hard was it to stomach the taste of…?

“It’s not so bad,” I said. “If I close my eyes.”

“Where do you get it?”

“Farms.”

He had a look like I was using some sort of euphemism. I quickly said, “No, like, I go out into cow pastures at night. Like tipping. Only…” I moved my jaw up and down.

“You always did like burgers.”

We laughed.

I was glad, then. As much as I had hated becoming a young woman and going through high school and even a bit of college without a mother to tell me what was normal and what wasn’t, I really liked the fact that I would only have to say goodbye once.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked. He was turning around a bit, toward the kitchen at first, then back towards the hallway that led to my room. Well, what was my room before I went off to school.

I couldn’t bear to tell him that I didn’t need anything, so I said, “In the parlor closet, I have my good winter hunting coat. Can I have that? The one with the snap hood?”

He disappeared, and I hated myself for wanting to go, then. But even with the speed and the strength, I wouldn’t have gotten far enough away not to hear his anguish when I wasn’t there anymore. So I watched an airplane move in a slow blink across the sky, and he came back out in it.

I could smell every deer I had ever carried, every pheasant, every fox. I could taste the musk coming off of them, see the fading light in their eyes, the slow pilgrim’s progress of death.

“Bye, Dad.”

He hugged me again, all bear-fisted and red-faced.

I thought I’d be gone but I’m here. Pulled to the light of the life I used to have, so full of everything I never thought I’d miss. He’s in there, still. And I’m glad. But I can’t keep from crying.

Watch out.

Fiction, Fifteen Minute Fiction, Writing, Writing challenge

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Balls in the Canyon

Ugh! This is the first one of these I’ve done where I got to fifteen minutes and had to wrap it up fast. I’d love for this to become something more, but I like it how it is, too, so. Yeah. Anyway, you know the rules: prompt, fifteen minutes writing, no editing. Here it is.

The prompt was: Write about a summer night.

It was the summer of 1988 when my neighbor disappeared.

The dank, heavy heat of August sat on the town like a slab of fat. We sizzled, we stank, and no matter how many fans you thought you had, and even if you set them all up against a bucket of ice, you sweat and sweat. You slept in sweat, ate in sweat, watched the news in sweat and we were all sweating when the police came.

She was fifteen, a woman, practically. We had lived across the street from one another since her family moved there eight years before. I was four when her daddy’s truck came bouncing up the drive, kicking stones and dust into the air. The grass had died, and the small yard was a pale, stupid yellow. I had never, even that young, thought that someone could live in the house with its criss-crossy panels that were coated with the remains of mud and grit and mosquitoes. When they walked through the front door – the screen slapping shut behind the mother, the father, the four brothers and Chelsea – there was silence. It was like they had disappeared into a cave or a train car.

The brothers were Tom, Rosco, Jack and Dustin. They looked like copies of the same person but in different sizes. Like shirts or game pieces. They were all snub-nosed, square-headed, thick-armed guys who played football or kickball or baseball. If there was a ball involved, they were in on it.

I never saw Chelsea spend time with her brothers. It was either her outside or them. When they were outside, I stayed inside, too. Once, when I was six and didn’t know any better, I asked to play with them. We walked to a wall outside the playground at our school.

“We’re going to play wallball,” they said. It was never one of them, at least in my memory of it. It was like they were a hydra or some other nightmarish creature with too many heads and mouths that were always moving, sneering, leering.

“Okay,” I said. “How do you play?”

For a half hour, I stood like a doomed man in front of a firing squad. One by one, they would hurl a basketball in my direction. Sometimes they missed. Usually, they didn’t. And I would lose, because you won by staying still, and I could never, ever keep from even just slightly cringing.

It went on and on until the ball bounced into the ditch and was gone.

Chelsea told me that sometimes she would go in the ditch because she knew it was the only place her brothers wouldn’t go. “One time, one of them went down and got really bad poison oak. And my momma said that if they ever went down again, she would switch ’em. I think they just figured there were enough other places to go.”

I went down there with her, but only once.

The police came over, grim-faced, and asked if I had any idea where Chelsea might have gone.

And even though I cried, it just looked like sweat, which dripped onto my shirt when I shook my head ‘no.’

Fiction, Writing, Writing challenge

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Day 2

Something seemed different.

Sugar Town

Something seemed different.

When he stepped outside of his apartment building, the air was thick and sweet. It was like a bakery had blown up and the scent of its heavenly pastries, cookies and cakes had created an atmosphere of sugar-oxygen.

But it wasn’t just the scent. The people who walked the street were in this hazy semi-catatonic state: mouths slightly opened, eyes unblinking, their movement sluggish and syrup slow.

At least I’m not having a stroke, Ron thought to himself.

As he started towards his car, he could feel his head start to ache. The cloyingly decadent waves were starting to make him wonder if there was some sort of chemical spill — like a Gingerbread Man Chernobyl. He got into the Acura and turned the engine on, shutting his vents and backing out of his spot on the street. Even out of the open air, his seats – white leather – reminded him of vanilla iced cookies.

There was no one else on the road, which was not like a Tuesday morning in the city at all. Ron got to his office in a third of the time it usually took and ran inside out of the confection climate. The building was dark and quiet. No one – not any of his coworkers, the managers, not even a janitor – was there. He picked up his phone and was welcomed by the dial tone.

At least I’m not in a horror movie, Ron thought to himself. He started running several databases and compiling reports.

At lunch time, Ron took the elevator up to one of the top stories in the building. From the 34th floor, he looked down. The people who had been walking the street were all gone. From above, the city looked like a model, one of the planned design diagrams that architects use when designing a new installation or business or park.

Park. Far off, he could see a multicolored blob of heads, a crowd, gathered around the park. He couldn’t see anything more, though; there was no sign of tents or balloons or anything to indicate a gathering of sorts. Seeing all of them, the people gathered in their mass, made him go back to his salad.

At least there wasn’t some accident, Ron thought to himself.

The salad crunched in his mouth as a pink beam of light came down to the park, and since he was heading back to his cubicle, he didn’t notice all of the bodies floating through the air into a cotton candy cloud. He hit a button to start formulating grafts for a meeting in a week just as the beam and the cloud and the people puffed out of existence in a tiny, rose-colored explosion.