261 Extracted Words – The Tease – July 2017

July 2017

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

 “Will I see you later?”

“I’ll be around.”

He followed her out the door and then watched through rose-colored sclera as her Tucson rolled down the steep asphalt driveway, dotted with pinecones and needles, to the canyon road below. He could hear her SUV accelerate as she rapidly attained highway speed and was gone.

He scratched the emerging stubble on his neck before sitting down on the front steps with his coffee cup. The mug had acquired a crack across the handle he hadn’t noticed before. He set his coffee on the wooden porch and leaned back, cradling his throbbing head in his palms. His gut, empty and jittery, gurgled in protest over the last remnants of tequila and salsa from the night before. He yawned and stretched, popping the cartilage in his elbows. The vibration from his shifting rump created concentric circles in his drink, like the rings on a stump that reveal its years. He felt as if his rings were amassing at an accelerated rate. Another year, another bevy of conquests. Another ring.

Trees retained scars in their rings. Fire, disease, infestation. His rings no longer displayed scars. His impassivity deflected such penetrating injuries.

He thought about the waitress, the one with the octopus tattoo, the one that had chided him about his car. He wondered if that was what he sacrificed, or even more deflating, who he sacrificed, by bagging a plenitude of Tucson-types over the years. Is that what maturing amounted to, finally seeking a meaningful relationship over a bottomless cistern of vapid encounters? Or did aging simply equate to regret toward the choices he had made?

 

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168 Extracted Words – The Tease – May 2017

May 2017

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

So they were scum. That didn’t mean they weren’t doing something good.

“Now, we requested a picture from each of our honorees, something showing what the marshes mean to them. What we didn’t tell them was … those pictures will be used as background for the informational kiosk at the entrance to the main trailhead. We have brought enlargements of the three pictures on stage here tonight.” She again utilizes her thin hands, directing the gathered eyes toward the edge of the stage where three easels stand, covered with canvases that might once have belonged to a dry walling firm, large white blotches, like vitiligo, blanching their forms. As she introduces the first honoree, the tainted canvas is pulled from her picture, revealing a moose with water and camas dropping from its jowls. The dark brown mass of fur is a blunted cigarette burn against the early morning sunrise igniting marsh mist and arrow pines. The crowd acknowledges the exemplary effort.

As she steps to the microphone, he straightens his beard with his hand and shouts, “Bravo!”

111 Extracted Words – The Tease – May 2017

May 2017

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

Rock stars want to be poets. Poets want to be writers. Writers want to be rock stars. The circle of strife. We can’t always have what we want. We rue the choices that have made it so.

Rue. Now that’s a word.

They would rue the day. He rued the day. He even rued the night, the intention to write, when he was blocked this bad, stuck like a porcupine on a cork board. There was only one way to break this ice-cube dam. Pour some vodka on it, over it, through it. Perhaps add some cranberry. Well, that was four ways, but he was stuck so it didn’t matter. No one was counting anyway.

 

 

Spokane’s Get Lit 2017

Get Lit delivers yet again.

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Get Lit, Spokane’s annual literary festival, concludes today. Once again, the event delivered poignant readings, insightful panels and the severe revelry of pie and whiskey, all with low (or no) fee for admission.

The week long celebration included such names as Sharma Shields, Sam Ligon, Kate Lebo, Jess Walter and Laila Lalami. Participants could choose from tasty items on a literary menu that included panels, workshops, readings, slams and, of course, bookmarkers.

Our favorite event was, once again, the Pie and Whiskey Readings. The electric evening of performance and tastings has grown so popular that the venue had to be moved to Terrain (in the Washington Cracker building) in order to accommodate the burgeoning crowds.

Naturally, we look forward to next year’s festival, April 23rd through the 29th, 2018. This will be Get Lit’s 20th anniversary. It’s never too soon to start planning.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.