309 Extracted Words – The Tease – March 2017

March 2017

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story involving a mountain cook.

The wind gusts sideways. Sleet cuts into his cheeks like a sandblaster. He sees the boy pull his sister ever closer. They aren’t equipped for this weather. The boy is wearing a leather coat over a hooded sweatshirt. The girl has an oversized Minnesota Vikings jacket on. They are both wearing jeans and dangling snowboards. The wind turns even harsher, twisting flurries as it whistles through the cables. Hypothermia weather, he thinks to himself. He has to get these kids off the mountain.

He reaches for his radio. “Getting anywhere?”

There is no response. The call button is stuck, frozen solid. He taps it lightly on the rusty chair rail. Nothing. He taps it again and on the up stroke accidentally catches a slat edge, grazing it just hard enough to flip the radio out of his giant mitten. It spins for a moment on the chair’s edge and then drops away. He watches helplessly as it plummets and then splinters on the rocks below.

“Fuck!” he yells without thinking.

The girl giggles.

“Sorry,” he apologizes. “Hey, you guys got a cell phone? Of course you do. All kids have cell phones.”

“Not on us. Mrs. Mathers won’t let us take them skiing. Thinks we’ll lose them.”

“Mrs. Mathers. That your teacher or something?”

“She’s our foster mom. She takes us up here at the end of each season when everything is half off.” The rest of the boys words are swallowed by another brutal gust.

The girl shrieks.

“Hey, it’s all right kiddo. If they don’t get it running soon, they’ll just send out a snow cat to get us down.”

There’s no device on the mountain that can get them down from the Witch and he knows it. Their only hope is for the lift to resume running. But he isn’t about to tell them that.

 

 

 

 

Desire

A heron finds its perch at a fish hatchery.

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309 Extracted Words – The Tease – February 2017

February 2017

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story.

 

He looks out at the hills across the lake – dark, static mounds that lay waiting for the North Idaho suburban concrete that creeps closer every year. The mammoth, green-gabled condos squatting below on Arrow Point fade between the folds of wandering mist and sleet. A kettle corn glow radiates from the walkway of the nearest timeshare. Electric moose.

He returns his tools and runs a bath for Danny. The little boy usually loves a warm bath, but today he protests, stiffening his legs and then flopping like a wet fish, turning over and over in the tub. He must be pinned against the far wall to finish the rinsing. The anxious child slaps his own head repeatedly and screams – a shrill bellow that simultaneously infuriates and saddens Aaron.

His ears ringing, he tries to remain calm. “Hang in there little guy, we’re almost done. Just a little more. I don’t want it to get in your eyes. Oh buddy, don’t hit yourself.”

He swaddles Danny in two large towels and rocks him on his shoulder until the boy calms – a wilted mass of wet hair and tear-streaked cheeks. He dresses him in a pull-up diaper under sweats, rewinds the video in the VCR, pulls a small globe down from the hallway closet and points to Uzbekistan. “Santa ought to be right about here now. Above the Aral Sea. Probably head west from there.”

The little boy reaches out and whacks the globe, spinning it on its axis. He kicks his feet in delight as the multicolored nations of the world blend in a dizzying blur. When it stops he whacks it again, kicks and whacks it again.

The phone rings. Wrong number. He looks outside at the cross, unwound into the portrait of a one-armed, one-legged stickman, his head bent, lights twisting brilliantly against the black, paintbrush trees and darkening sky.

“I should call her, just to check.”

 

 

 

557 Extracted Words – The Tease – January 2017

January 2017

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a novel in progress.

As they approached the sleek Swedish-made supercar, she wondered if she still had time to bail, just run, truck on out, get on her Ducati and scorch the canyon road. Or she could take Austin up to his favorite place, Crater Lake. He called it “park”, when he requested it with his computer. Her big boy, always with her, even when he wasn’t, a byproduct of her guilt for leaving him with the Harris family on a day when she could have been with him. But he didn’t mind staying one night because Mr. Harris always made egg toast for breakfast. And she needed her time away, periodically, for their mutual sanity.

Perhaps her escape fantasy was hatched from anxiety about this trip to the ocean. She really didn’t know Max Mann and was taking a chance. Of course, some would say, he was the one taking the chance, letting her drive, letting her near his wallet. Let them talk. When was the last time she cared what other people thought?

They started down the road toward Eagle Point, then followed the river toward Upper Table Rock where they pulled off onto a gravel wayside and switched seats. He had taught her what she needed to know and she took that knowledge out on the interstate.

“Instead of the ocean, we should take this thing east, around Steen’s Mountain. It could open up some real possibilities,” she jibed, gaining a feel for the supercar’s handling.

“And if you get arrested, you won’t have to worry about tonight’s sleeping arrangements,” he warned.

“Not my concern at the moment,” she smiled, crooking her crooked nose.

“Oh really?”

“Hold on to your belt buckle, counselor,” She downshifted, jerking him forward against the three-point harness.

“You’re riding a horse per kilo. Don’t be flippant.”

“No shit?” It was the first time she remembered seeing anything but cool control in his face. She considered backing off for a moment, then slapped the carbon shift knob with a hard palm and pushed it into sixth. They swung south out of Grants Pass towards the state line and then up the grade past the Oregon Caves, toward the Siskiyous and California. They were higher than Deadman, and with the windows down, she felt cooler and lighter than she had in weeks. The Koenigsegg launched them over the divide and as they dropped over the south side, she throttled down and cruised just above the speed limit, knowing that the state bulls tended to gather near the junction with Highway 101, just outside Crescent City.

“Smart girl. You’ve driven this way before?”

“Not for a while, and on the bike. It’s a little different. No shotgun,” she smiled, catching some sandy strands in her open mouth.

“Shotgun? Yeah, I guess I’m not used to sitting on this side either.” He pushed his sunglasses up his tan nose.

As they approached the ocean, she felt the temperature continue to drop. Even with August heat, the air grew dense, almost visible. She wanted to run into the surf, chase an Irish setter, screech like a seagull, skip a sand dollar, sidestep a crab, see her reflection in a tide pool, light a campfire, spot a whale spout, listen to a seal bark and eat clam chowder. Unfortunately, most of California had the same idea, and they were greeted with a traffic jam as they headed north along the coast.

 

 

The Rabbit and the Owl.

A Menominee legend echoes my parent’s way.

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In the Menominee legend explaining the origin of night and day, Owl and Rabbit have a contest to decide whether it will be perpetually dark or light. Owl repeats “night” and Rabbit repeats “light” until finally, Owl accidentally says “light” and Rabbit wins the contest. He has the right to make it only light, but for the sake of everyone, he allows some dark as well.

In my opinion, Owl messed up on purpose, to allow Rabbit to have his way.

I can picture my mom and dad having this contest. My father rarely lost a battle of wits. My mother, highly intelligent as well, might have given in a time or two, for the good of all. And she was known to read until one or two in the morning. A true night owl.

After my father’s memorial, we spotted a rabbit in the grass near my parents’ house. This was not unusual. Rabbits abound in the area. But two nights before my mother passed, we had an owl land in a tree behind our house. We had never spotted an owl in our backyard before.

What does this mean? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. But to blindly disregard such coincidence would be a mistake. The hardest lessons to learn in life are the ones we choose to ignore.

Learn more about Menominee legends.

214 Extracted Words – The Tease – December 2016

December 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story.

 

The lift rumbled forward once again. A newbie tripped trying to make the last ride, he figures. Graphite tinted clouds curl over the divide to the north. A good blow is coming for sure. Perhaps more rain than snow. He’s managed to stay dry, buttoning up the hilltop restaurant for the season’s end. Getting soaked now, just before driving home, would be annoying. With the old Land Cruiser’s weak defrost, he’d be wiping the windshield all the way back to Lolo.

The lift passes by an intermediate tower, bounding over its sheaves, vibrating his molars. After two decades of riding up in the morning and down in the afternoon, he knows those bumps like puddles in his driveway. Another season over, another year until he gets where he’s going, wherever that is. One thing he knows, flipping burgers at sixty-five hundred feet isn’t going to cut it much longer. He’s been telling himself that for twenty years, so it must be true.

He pulls his hat to his sideburns and his bearded chin to his chest. Dropping over the next cliff is a run called the Witch’s Broom, a black diamond rockslide that is more elevator shaft than ski slope. And it’s always windy. When the sleet comes, it’s like opening a freezer door.

 

 

91 Extracted Words – The Tease – November 2016

November 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a non-fiction piece.

Under murky skies, on a labyrinth of trails laced between boulders, bogs and the West Branch of the Little Spokane River, one can explore the DNR land southeast of Horseshoe Lake. In Autumn, tamaracks light the way, flaunting their acid-yellow diversity against a chalkboard of evergreens. Cross paths with white-tailed deer or dusky grouse, thumping their escape through the misty forest. Discover a beaver pond, complete with lodge, built by the flat-tailed woodland engineers.