Adults say the darndest things

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I had it made as a kid.  My parents were co-owners of a coin laundry, a bakery and then a Sub shop that also served ice cream.  There were a few arcade games in the sub shop and Defender and Asteroids ate many of the quarters that were once my allowance.  I was the living version of a kid in a candy store.

My dad also sold real estate during the same time period, so to say he had many irons in the fire is a gross understatement.  His office was located conveniently up the street from the sub shop so I would bounce back and forth from each business and soon became a runner for the agent’s ice cream requests.  I will never forget Ken Robinson.  He was in his seventies, had white hair like Santa Claus and a severe penchant for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  He and I became quick friends once I learned that he shared the same love for that minty, chocolate deliciousness as I did.

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Every day, Ken would hand me his money and I would gladly run down the street to retrieve his afternoon treat.  I ran in to the office one hot summer day to find Ken’s desk unattended.  I asked the secretary where he was and she could not look me in the eye.  Instead, I was told to talk to my father.  Ken had died of a heart attack the night before.  I was devastated.  Ken had been the first person I had known who had died.  After many days of tears and avoiding the office, I finally gathered the courage to go back.  Carl was there with his ill-fitting sport coat and bad seventies mustache.  I will never forget how nonchalant he was when he spoke to the 11-year old me and said, “You musta killed him with all that mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

I carried that burden with me to Ken’s funeral and for many years after.   We went to the service as a family and I can still remember the dress I wore.  We paid our respects to his family and approached his open casket.  I was terrified that Ken’s wax-like body was going to sit upright, point at me at scream, “you did this to me”.   I could barely breathe.

Now, as an adult, I still have difficulties at open-casket funerals.  The logical side of my brain assures me that a deceased body cannot move, but the young girl and the writer in me still have that nagging doubt.

I can only hope that Carl eventually outgrew his horrendous mustache (and Herb Tarlek wardrobe) and learned to think before he spewed any further erroneous judgement on young, impressionable minds.  Either that or he has had ten children and countless grandchildren of his own and Karma has finally paid him a visit!

Mortar envy

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From the moment the sky scraper was built, it was jealous.  The small church paled in comparison to its size and newness, but somehow the recently built monstrosity knew it had none of the character and charm that this relic had.

A myriad number of people came and went each day through its newly built foyer and, although the monolith felt important, the new tower knew it could not compare to the importance of the little church that it shadowed.

Each day, the looming fortress would watch people enter and leave the hallowed sanctuary.  Their emotions were strong and were easily expressed.  Family and friends held hands, locked arms, shared their joy or comforted each other as they entered and left the century-old building, tears staining their cheeks after a funeral or smiles etched into their faces following a wedding or christening. The more the new fortress watched the feelings and sentiment shared by the patrons of the old building, the more its resentment grew.

“St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC” by Amy Light

The tower watched the expressionless faces of the people entering through its revolving door.  Most had digital devices in their hands and not one person acknowledged any of the other people in the building, lost in their sad world of technology.  The building paid attention to the people in each of its offices, noting their lack of enthusiasm and utter disdain for their existence.

The cafeteria was the same.  The only noise that was heard within the four walls of the dining hall were the sounds of the cash register and the din from the kitchen as the cooks continued to prepare the lunch items for the day.  Nobody smiled.  Nobody had even the smallest conversation.  Ear plugs were attached to mobile devices so each person could tune out the world around them.

The fire started in the furnace room long after everyone had left for the day.  The fortress could feel the heat from the fire and was satisfied that the slow burn would not be detected.  It had systematically dismantled all of its alarms and fire suppression systems so the alarm company and the fire department would not be alerted until it was too late.

The flames turned into an inferno and windows began to break as the heat became unbearable.  Smoke billowed through the shattered glass and the building breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it would no longer have to bear witness to the emotion the church was blessed to experience.

The final explosion was small in comparison to the fire.  Chunks of concrete were launched in all directions and a few small pieces came to rest at the back of the church.  The remainder of the structure fell to the ground leaving behind the metal carcass.

In the weeks that followed, those few small pieces watched as the clean up began.  The debris was taken away and the skeleton of the building was broken down and removed.  From their vantage point, the concrete remnants breathed a sigh of relief as they were left untouched to enjoy the rest of their existence as part of the church that they had admired for so many years.

Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge

 

 

 

Being written up for insubordination

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The human brain never ceases to amaze me.  Out of a simple idea that inspired my mind many years ago, I have recently penned, in the short span of three weeks, what could easily amount to half a novel.  I have had moments when the words just seem to flow out of a long-buried well of ideas and I feel like the vessel being used to convey someone else’s words.

I have been roused in the wee hours by the voices of my characters, longing to continue our journey and last night was no different.  But once I was awake, my mind simply spun in circles and my thoughts had nothing to do with the book.

If I could calculate how many thoughts went through my brain from 2:00 am to 4:30 am, the number would be astronomical.  I had mentally cleaned out my car to get ready for my new car, planned my entire week at work, organized five weekends of volunteers for my food bank project, put together my next shopping list, and quite possibly have solved world hunger.  My neurons were firing on more cylinders than I even have in my head.  After three hours of rapid cranial activity, I finally drifted back to sleep and woke this morning to continue writing.

That sound of crickets was all I got.  I had nothing on my mind.  It was mutiny.  There were no whispers from the characters, no idle nudges from them asking me to go in the direction they saw fit….nothing.  I couldn’t even formulate a thought about my day-to-day life.  It was like my cerebrum had decided to enjoy the last day of March break and left me behind.

Only now am I starting to regain the mental aptitude to be able to string together these sentences.  The characters are still nowhere to be found so the book remains idle.  I now truly understand the phrase ‘feast or famine’ and can only hope they will be back tomorrow and ready to get back to work.  We have a book to finish.

 

The writer within

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‘There is something wonderful in feeling the presence of the writer within you, of something wilful that seems to have a plan’ … George Saunders

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Until I began writing my blog, I had never actually called myself a writer.  I dabbled in poetry as a child and thrived in it as a teen, I began to write short stories in my early twenties and thirties but calling myself a writer felt like a lie.  A few of my poems were published many years ago but that moderate success never brought with it the title of ‘writer’.

 Blogging opened up a narrow passage for me that eventually widened into an avenue.  The more I blogged, the more I found my voice.  And the more I found my voice, the more confident I felt about my words.  I had to master that voice before I could ever be convinced that calling myself a writer was even close to being accurate.

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Now my writing avenue has blossomed into a two-lane highway.  I am drawn to that macadam and travel the road with more confidence than I ever have.  The voice that I hear in the back of my head telling me I can write IS wilful and does seem to have a plan.  The book that I had envisioned years ago, the one that sat lifeless in the obscured corners of my brain, now seems to be writing itself and using me as a vehicle to record its story and the nuances of its characters.

Feeling that writer within me come to life and feast on words is a feeling I can only liken to euphoria.   There is something deeply intoxicating about being able to lose yourself for hours and create four thousand words of text that seem exciting and suspenseful.  I can only hope that when I finish writing the book someone else will share my passion for the story and help me promote myself from the title of writer to published author.

Where the hell were you guys 10 years ago?

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I have had my book idea for well over ten years.  Every so often, I open it up, dust it off and think ‘this is going to be it’.  I write a few paragraphs, get distracted by  life (or a rerun of a good sitcom) and the book just seems to close itself up until next time.

But something has drastically changed this time.  I purposely suspended my satellite service for six months in the hopes that I would read more but what has happened has been mind-numbing.  In just over a week, between working full-time and volunteering a few hours a week to make meals for the food bank, the characters have come to life and are pushing each other out of the way to tell their story.

In the past decade of developing this idea, I have come up with its inception, general direction and 9,000 words.  In the past week, the characters have become extensions of my brain and I have feverishly typed 16,000 more words and they just keep coming.  If I can keep this up, this book could potentially be finished by the end of April (because I periodically take time to write a blog post or two and work so I can pay my bills).

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It is an exciting process.  I have written my fair share of short stories, but getting involved in something as detailed as this is fascinating.  I get excited when a new idea pops into my head that weaves into the novel to give it a bit of a twist and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.  I have a general outline but when I sit down to write, I just go where the story takes me.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Gotta go….the characters are calling.

Always

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“Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion” ~ Arthur Koestler

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His face was etched in my dream,

and it seemed like he waited for me.

Every night as I drifted into sleep,

he was there, eager for me to be in his realm.

His hand would reach for mine

and we would lose ourselves in a world

where time stood still,

where anything was possible,

where we could be together.

He was my forever.

But my forever changed,

minutes shifted,

seconds were altered,

and what once seemed like reality

slowly devolved into fantasy once again.

Where once he was my future,

he quickly became my past.

And in my last dream,

there was no hand to hold my hand.

His smile no longer reflected mine,

and my illusion of always

changed.

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The road already travelled

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“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” ~ William Gibson

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  When you least expect it, what began as a glimpse into your subconscious suddenly floods your senses and overwhelms you with thoughts of the past.  It could be a song lyric, a smell or an old picture that triggers the trip down memory lane but, regardless of how the journey begins, the open road to your past looms behind and begs for you to follow it.

 

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On occasion that journey can feel like you have stepped through a portal into the time-space continuum and have completely ensconced yourself in that moment so many years ago.  You can visualize the wallpaper on the walls that no longer exist in reality but feel like they are an arm’s length away if you reached out to touch them.  You can inhale fragrant scents and feel the presence of the person who used to wear that particular perfume or cologne.  That one song can play and transport you back to the time and place you have associated so strongly with those lyrics.

That road that stretches behind us still waits for us whenever we feel the beckoning pull of sentimentality.  Venturing down that protected surface serves to remind us where we’ve been but will always afford us the opportunity to turn around and forge ahead into the future.

Understanding and embracing those things from our past can only motivate us to continue.  We carve the paths of our progressive journey knowing that the moments that have shaped us will always be there to remind us of where we have been and where we have since chosen to go.