Available: One writer. Slightly used. Warranty still good. Greying but no significant exterior dings, scratches, dents, or cracks. Mercurial movie lover and unabashed nerd (genuine, not a faux Lisa Loeb glasses-wearing cool-because-it’s-trendy poseur) with science fiction and creature feature tendencies. Proficient in DaVinci Resolve, Final Draft, and Affinity Photo. Comes equipped with a subversive and wicked sense of humor. Able to subsist solely on NutriBullet smoothies, grilled chicken, rice and beans, and ginger tea. Will perform stupid human tricks for bacon double cheeseburgers and Guinness. Optional accessories include three rotating personalities (one of whom is rumored–but not yet confirmed–to have defeated a Dalek in hand-to-hand combat and thereby is in line to become the Fourteenth Doctor). If writers are your thing, you’ll like the cut of this one’s jib.
Writing prompts are not my cup of tea.
Not that I have a snobbish attitude toward them, anything that gets the creative juices flowing and entices a person to write is okay in my book. Hell, I’ve even participated in a few hashtag games on Twitter, but none of the suggested prompt words, sentences, paragraphs, or pictures ever truly inspired me.
Until I stumbled upon the Noriyoshi Orai artwork shown above.
Blindsided by an idea, I began scribbling notes of an alien invasion futuristic war that keeps pushing its way further and further into Earth’s past with the intention of creating a zugzwang (a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage) story using a fairy tale twist.
Why a fairy tale?
Because the old ones are replete with heavy messages, drenched in the misfortunes of the world, and yet faith, perseverance, and sometimes sheer luck, can turn the tide in overcoming life’s trials. I wanted to present it as an old story, told in archaic language, laced with a subtle message still relevant to the modern world.
If you ever want to hear your muse laugh, tell her your lofty goals for a story before you’ve actually written it.
“Rise of the Fallen 722nd” began life as a story examining patriotism, loyalty, ingenuity, and the enduring human spirit in the face of the ultimate no-win scenario. The outline wasn’t difficult to put on paper. The story itself? That’s a different matter altogether. This little darling of mine went through the draft mill forty-nine times, each revision drastically different from the one before. Only one patch of dialogue survived from the original piece.
Futuristic war? Check. Progressing forward into the past? Check. Zugzwang? Double check. Fairy tale twist? Not so much. The fairy tale elements weakened the integrity of the overall structure and sadly had to be put down like Old Yeller. Still, it’s been fun (and frustrating) to write. And I’m not done with it. They say the fiftieth time’s the charm, right?
Wish me luck.
Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…
In my sock drawer, there is a hiding space behind a row of what my father calls grave socks as in one foot in the grave because they either do not have a match, are riddled with holes, threadbare at the toes and heels, or the ankle elastic has given up their hold on life. In that hiding space, there is a letter written carefully in a mixture of cursive and print. In that letter, are words, feelings, emotions, and admissions that a boy would never say directly to a girl’s face, not even on a double-dog dare.
On a bicycle, there is a shy paperboy who, even though I have not responded to his first letter yet, would write me another letter, I am sure of it, reminding me of our time in the park. In that park, there is a rum cherry tree under which I made a promise to the shy paperboy of seven minutes in heaven.
In my closet, on an afternoon when no one is home, I make good on my promise with the shy paperboy. In the dark, my mind is filled with a sort of scary, sort of awkward fireworks that I can see but cannot hear because my heart is pounding so fast and loud that I swear the shy paperboy can hear it.
In that kiss, there is something I do not have words for, something that drops my guard completely, makes me feel truly comfortable with the shy paperboy and I am desperate to let him see me in my entirety.
In that feeling, I am crying harder than I ever have before, harder than I even knew I could, crying past the point when I run out of tears. In the tearless sobs, my breath is hitching and I realize that this is most likely the happiest and most terrified I will ever feel in my life.
In the silence, after the kiss and the tears, the overwhelming and slightly painful joy is replaced by the sound of a key sliding into a lock, the tumbling of a bolt, and the jangling of a woman’s metal bracelets.
In the house, there is a mother who will tan not only my hide but the shy paperboy’s as well, if she ever finds out I have company without permission and especially if my room door is closed and that company is a boy who is in my room.
In the window, there is a scared paperboy climbing out and mumbling a prayer that he does not hurt himself or make a sound when he drops a story to the ground below.
In my mother’s eyes, there is suspicion when she opens the door and enters my room, catching me rushing to shut the window, cutting off the cool breeze even though I am dripping with sweat.
In my mind, there is a list of excuses that I cannot find in the clutter of thoughts so I just stare at my mother as innocently as I can manage, as she walks past me and opens the window, about to stick her head out to inspect the backyard.
In my mouth, there is a fib, “A wasp!” I say just a bit too forcefully and I build on it by telling her there was a wasp in the room so I closed the door to stop it from getting into the rest of the house and I managed to chase it out and shut the window behind it.
In the moments that tick by too slowly, my mother glances at the window again, then at my face before turning to leave but as she reaches the door, she stops and says, “You should probably find a better hiding place. Your father’s been talking about throwing out your grave socks and you wouldn’t want him finding that letter, would you? And the no company without permission rule stands no matter how sweet a boy’s words are or how much your heart aches for him, understood?”
In the end, I realize I am not as clever as I think I am, nor is my mother that foolish or unreasonable and I discover a newfound respect for her as I answer, “Yes, ma’am.”
Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…
Naiara was a precocious child and at the age of 10 her intelligence quotient tested at 443, far above that of her mother, who was the smartest woman Amador had ever known, and he himself lagged behind them both, for on his brightest day he was merely averagely smart at best.
That hadn’t stopped him from trying to stimulate her voracious appetite for knowledge with books, magazines, and family-friendly websites. Amador encouraged questioning and anything that stumped him was turned into an adventure of learning the answers together.
They visited museums, attended concerts and live events to help to expand Naiara’s knowledge and ignite curiosity and excitement about a variety of areas of potential interest. Amador also made sure his daughter got an ample amount of playtime with children her own age to help her develop proper social skills.
Naiara inherited a love for a good yarn from her mother, Viviana, so Amador made a habit of spinning fantastical tales in order to keep her mind occupied, which sometimes backfired as she would poke holes in his story logic, and sometimes worked like a charm when she joined in on the worldbuilding of the fable.
Then there were times when her boredom was such that no story would assuage her desire for the acquisition of knowledge, so he began providing her with challenges. The latest one was designed to keep her occupied for a while.
“There are a number of global challenges that exist today: food insecurity, refugees who often lose their lives during dangerous journeys in the hope of finding a place to live that offers safety and stability, climate change, gender discrimination, and child abuse,” Amador paused, caught his daughter’s eyes and asked, “Do you know what I mean by child abuse?” He knew she understood but the father in him had to make certain.
“Yes, Papi,” Naiara nodded. “Child marriage, child labor, and trafficking.”
“And you understand what these things are?”
Her expression saddened, “Yes, Papi.”
“Then your assignment is to find solutions for these problems.”
“Written or oral?”
“All right then,” she said, her brow knotted as she walked away, the telltale sign that Naiara’s mind was already on the case.
And for the following eight days, apart from mealtime, Amador scarcely saw his daughter as she confined herself to her room and devoted herself to the project at hand.
On the ninth day, Amador and Viviana were called into the living room, where Naiara decided to deliver her presentation. She was proud of the solution she came up with, he could tell by the flush of her cheeks and how tightly she gripped the index cards in her little hands.
Naiara cleared her throat and began, “The Universe is not infinite. It expanded just wide enough to allow worlds to form. And those worlds were meant to spawn beings. And those beings were meant to learn the ways of the Apparatus Universi in order to keep the universe running, for The Universe is not a living thing, as most intelligent people have postulated.
“The Universe is a machine constructed by the Vetus Mundi Tinkerers, a race of cosmic free-thinkers and craftsbeings who, though long-lived, are not immortal, and eventually succumbed to the end fate that awaits us all, while waiting for their successors to arrive to remove the heavy burden from their weary shoulders and carry on in their stead.
“But the changing of the guard never occurred. Somewhere down the line, the sacred knowledge meant to be handed down the generations until the various races sufficiently evolved to the point when they were ready to transition into tinkerers, had been mistold, mangled, and eventually forgotten.
“Now The Universe is winding down, beginning to fail because a piece is missing. Some small, yet vital part has somehow come loose during millennia of daily operation and is set adrift on the spaceways, with no one to find it, no one who even knows what to look for. This has caused an imbalance in the way of things and the ripple effects are responsible for the illogic that led to our global challenges.”
What on Earth was she talking about? When Amador presented these challenges, he had no clue what solutions his daughter would come up with but this was certainly not the response he was expecting. It sounded more along the lines of one of the stories he invented to distract her. Did his daughter not understand the assignment?
As if sensing his confusion, Naiara said, “I know you have questions and comments but I ask that you please reserve them for the end of the presentation. And now, if you would please join me on the roof for the conclusion.”
Amador was about to protest but Viviana squeezed his arm and whispered, “Let’s hear her out, I’m sure this is leading somewhere.”
They made their way onto the rooftop patio, where a pale crescent moon shone like a silvery claw amidst the blanket of stars that stretched to infinity, and the occasional barking of faraway dogs broke the silence of the night. Naiara stood dangerously close to the roof’s edge.
“Be careful, mi Amor,” Viviana warned.
“I’m fine, Mami.” Naiara smiled, but something about her demeanor had changed now that they were out in the open air. Before her parents could question it, the young girl continued her presentation.
“The answer was here all along, hidden in plain sight amongst the stars, and all it took was the proper mathematical equation to tumble the locks set in place at the beginning of time to limit human perception and knowledge. Now it has made itself visible to my mortal eyes, making me gravid with omniscience and I know what I must do.”
“Madre mía,” Viviana exclaimed as, before their very eyes, the stars in the sky began to shift and move but it wasn’t the stars themselves, it was a cloud of stardust that twisted in upon itself like a murmuration of starlings until it formed a circular platform that lowered itself to the level of the roof near Naiara’s feet.
Viviana was about to protest but this time it was Amador’s turn to squeeze her arm. He whispered, “I understand all this less than you, but this is something she was meant to do. I know you feel it, too.”
Naiara’s impressive vocabulary consisted of over 95,000 words, yet Amador could tell by the way their daughter’s mouth opened and closed in silence that she found none of them suitable for the occasion.
Finally, she settled on, “Thank you, Papi, for setting me on my path, and Mami, I promise you I will return and together we will go about setting things on the planet right.”
The young girl motioned for her parents to come to her as she extended her arms to cuddle them both. Amador had been hugged by his daughter before but never like this. Her embrace was stronger than anything he had ever known, as if a lifetime of hugs had been compressed into one single act…and he knew what it meant. This was goodbye. So, he snuggled in and squeezed a fraction tighter pulling his precious angel and his wife closer together, trying to merge them into a single being.
Though time looked the other way to allow the hug to be indefinite, after all the tears had been shed and everything that needed to be voiced had been said, Naiara slipped from her parents’ arms and kissed them both on the cheek.
“I love you both so much,” Naiara said as she stepped off the roof and onto the platform. The stardust swirled around her petite frame, enveloping her like a cocoon and she was lifted up past the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere, past the thermosphere, ionosphere, exosphere, and finally into space, where the tiny particles that made up solar wind swarmed around her stardust cocoon.
Although air and breathing were no longer a necessity, she sighed a young lifetime of relief and drifted peacefully amidst the cogs and gears of The Universe.
Naturally, Amador and Viviana were concerned for their daughter’s safety in the face of the universal unknown, but Naiara’s parting gift to them was expanding their minds with just enough understanding to allay their more serious fears and causing their already loving hearts to open like a cosmic flower so that she could establish a tether with them. Now, they would forever remain connected to her as she went in search of the missing piece.
Not The End.
As we put the second COVID year to bed, everyone and their mother is doing a “Year In Review” so I figured why not be a literary lemming and follow suit? Submitted for your perusal are some of my blog posts from 2021 that might not have gotten the most views or “Likes” or inspired the most reader interaction, but they’re the stories I most enjoyed penning and sharing. Without further ado, here are
MY TOP TEN FAVORITE POSTS OF 2021
In which I revisit my days of being a background actor on the set of Grey’s Anatomy, where I encountered a perplexing being known to me as Okra Sex Smell Girl.
In which young Joanie Hayden recounts the events that occurred during her school break.
In which a lesson is learned in the heeding of pick-up warning signs.
7. The Pier
In which a young man discovers that sometimes help doesn’t always come when you ask for it, but when you need it most.
In which a potential suitor learns that some relationships require more effort than others.
In which we walk a mile in the shoes of the Mad Mother of Main Street.
In which we find out that sometimes hair, tales, and friendships are woven at the same time.
In which I relay the story that came to me during my hospital stay after a heart attack.
In which I reveal my not-so-secret addiction.
In which the question is asked: What price would you pay, or be paid, to get a fresh start?
In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who visited this blog, my little corner of the universe, in the past year, the lurkers, “Likers,” and commenters alike. Your participation helped me through a less than stellar year, so please join me in raising a glass to toast a bright New Year and a fond farewell to the old; here’s to the things that are yet to come, and to the memories that we hold.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, ONE AND ALL!