Shopping (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit:

In a daze, she pulls a cart from the tangled lot, and metal crashes down as it breaks free. Slowly walking into the store, she leans on her elbows, and the empty cart wheelies under her weight. She wonders why she bothered grabbing one at all. There’s no need for it. Maybe it’s habit.

Maybe it’s the weight of the moment.

With a spinning front wheel as her guide, she passes down the aisles. The search is a charade. Though no one watches, she feels as though the whole world fixates on her movement. In her pocket, her phone buzzes with the arrival of another text. The message is left unread. She knows it’s from her best friend. She knows what it probably says.

omg when? or Do you know who the father is?

She turns the cart down the only aisle that holds what she came for. The selection is overwhelming, and she wonders, does it even matter which one? She makes three indiscriminate choices, and the pregnancy tests fall into the empty cart. Inside their metal cage, they look just as she feels: trapped.

She leaves the aisle and heads toward checkout. She sees the lines, the people waiting. The reality of it all freezes her in place. An overwhelming urge comes to her, one of filling her cart with random items in attempt to cover her fate.

In her pocket, her phone buzzes with another message. She doesn’t reach for it. Like the waiting pregnancy tests, she already knows what it’s going to say.

I’ve Committed My First Murder

In all honesty, it went better than I expected even though I didn’t know what to expect. I built him up. I followed his footsteps and learned about his life, his love, his loss. I found his strengths. I exposed his weaknesses.

Then, while his friends slept mere feet away, I took his life. I turned his own ego against him and snatched all that was left of his life, the pieces he’d managed to reassemble, in one immediate stroke. His friends saw the last of remnants of life leave his body. They clung to him and begged him to stay and wept, and I took his life away all the same.

I could have stopped it all, but I didn’t.

No, this isn’t Flash Fiction.

But it is the first character I’ve killed in my book 😉

I hope others come to enjoy it as much as I did. At the very least, they had better learn to enjoy it. Though first to fall, he won’t be the last. Something more powerful than fate has deemed it necessary—my outline!

Came Home (Flash Fiction)

Sitting on the front steps, her thoughts stop when she sees the coming car. It’s dark red and new, and its tires crunch over worn gravel. Afternoon sunlight glares off a clean windshield. The license plate is marked exempt from registration, the tell-tale sign of a government vehicle. Her heart waits, and in that moment the concerns of her life are suspended, the medical bills past-due, her disabled husband coughing in the living room, an aging car in the garage needing fresh tires and an oil change.

The passenger door opens, and dust from the dry lane attacks black shoes that shine in the sun. A young man in dress uniform sees her and smiles.

Before she can cover her mouth, a shudder escapes, and tears flood her eyes. She calls out to her husband, saying only his name before her voice locks with emotion. She yearns to say more but can’t. The unsaid words sing in her heart, in her head:

He’s come home.

She stands and hurries down cement steps, rushing toward her baby-boy, her grown man, her proud and brave marine. When she buries her face into his decorated chest, all weight from her heart is lifted.

Mourning has been stayed.

Piling bills can continue to pile, and their collectors can continue to wait. Age can come and time can go, for beyond that all is trivial. They’ll be no giving of sincerest condolences today, no reception of ceremonial flag. No casket of unparalleled beauty and price need be chosen and committed to the ground, no ultimate sacrifice made.

Freed from her true worry, she weeps with absolute joy.

He’s come home.

It’s Going, It’s Going (Flash Fiction)

He walks beside railroad tracks, long abandoned, curving through rolling hills of golden, dying grass. The tracks lead to nowhere, a destination he’s already visited, and with gravel crunching underfoot he travels there again. A hint of ocean air whispers over the low hills and through the open fields, through rusting barbed-wire fencing and around dying valley oaks reaching to the sky with long and twisted limbs. The scent it carries causes his eyes to close and his mind to envision the cold and endless Pacific.

But it’s going, that day and that dream, that opportunity of a promise to keep. It’s going, and he knows it, and the melancholy weighs heavily on his heart. But he keeps walking with gravel crunching underfoot along those oil-soaked railroad ties.

Gloomy fog, the cloak of June worn so well by the west coast, floats on the horizon and dances with the setting sun. After a day of walking so long under the central valley heat, sweat turns to chill and trembling shiver. He watches as the sun tucks itself away behind that blanket of gray, tucks itself in and prepares for the night.

And it’s going, that sun and that hope, that available chance to be the man he always could be. It’s going, and he chooses it, and the bitterness streams easily down his weathered cheeks. But he keeps ignoring what’s over his shoulder, behind him, in the house he has chosen to abandon.

And it’s going, it’s going, that love he swore and another chance he never deserved. It’s going down tracks to nowhere and it goes with reasons born from senseless despair. The cold ocean air sighs over the hills and begs him to look back, to try again and allow this emotional kidney stone to pass. But he keeps going, never stopping, never pausing for even a glance.

Away it goes, that day, that chance, that dream. Away it goes with regretful sigh, and the darkness settles over the hills, over the valley below, and over the fog so gray.

A Thin Barrier (Flash Fiction)

He kneels down over a still pond and sees. Below, the water stares back. A blue sky hangs above worried and tired eyes. A wisp of white cloud drifts by. With heavy heart, he sighs. The veil hangs heavy over his mind, and the weight buries him.

Through the thin barrier of water, a small fish drifts by. Its golden scales reflect the light from the sky and shine. The eyes of the fish search in earnest, young and sharp and bright.

As he kneels, seeing the fish, he sighs. “Oh, if only my eyes could be so young and my skin so vibrant, all the of the world would see me for who I am and who I ought to be.”

The fish, hearing the man’s strange words, flutters its tail to stall its motion and observes the man’s sadness. It looks up and the man looks down and for a moment, the veil is lifted. The barrier fades away.

You are the light, says the veil, and you are the youth in your skin. The sky above you hangs forever in waiting for all of the possibilities within you bound, and the wispy cloud drifts by with the idleness of time in your waiting.

The man, startled, slips and slides his hand into the water in recovery. The fish darts, and a ripple spreads across the stillness of reality. The man sees the waves, sees his impact on the world around him, and sighs heavily with a heart unsettled.

The vibrant fish vanishes, the water settles, and the clouds of wispy-white above continue their movement by.

45k

I did a total word count on my book to see where I am at the end of May, and I’m just a touch over 45k. Things are going well. Honestly, things are going very well. Story aside, I’m very happy with myself for sticking to this schedule of 3k words a week. Some weeks have been challenging, others not so much, but it has gotten easier as time goes on. Writing is normal. It’s something my brain needs to do, wants to do, not a drag or a chore. At this rate, it feels like the book will complete at around 90k, maybe shorter.

Onward.

Death and the Doctor (Writing Prompt)

The link from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/68xdw5/wp_you_are_the_worlds_most_successful_doctor_upon/

On a dull afternoon and with little fanfare, he slipped away.

Dying met few of his expectations. In many ways, its simplicity made life itself and the fear of losing it a disappointment. Only a handful of memories flipped by in random order and of nothing particular: washing the car with the children on a Sunday, the one baseball game attended that went into extra innings when most of the stadium had trickled out to the parking lot in disappointment, snow in early May.

All of these passed by like billboard advertisements on a forgettable highway.

When he came to the place of consciousness, he did as we all do; he smiled. Not a joyous smile over a life lived or one of having avoided terrible damnation, but the smile one gives after being reminded of a struggle experienced, endured, and concluded.

“Hello, Bill,” Death said.

“Hello. I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Are you?”

Bill gazed. The dream of reality still dripped from his mind like water falling from fingers pulled from a fresh stream. “I guess so. I don’t know. Should I be?”

Death smiled, seeing Bill’s expression. “You’re still coming to. Give yourself a moment.”

Bill exhaled with relaxation and bathed in the warm glow of existence. “When do I have to go back?”

“There’s no set rule,” Death said. “Take as much time as you like. You’ll soon jump back in again. You always do.”

“I don’t feel like you normally meet with me in transition,” said Bill. “I was right the first time. This is surprising. Why are you here?”

Death extended his arms and allowed himself a slow spin in the beauty of being, a fleeting bit of freedom away from continual duty. “Your most recent life resulted in your achieving tremendous stature in your profession. Can you still remember?”

“Yes,” Bill said. “I was a surgeon.”

“You were indeed, one of the best.”

Bill smiled larger as the stream of life temporarily overflowed its banks and refreshed his memory. “It was wonderful,” said Bill. “Those looks of gratitude. I remember those the most.”

“As you should,” said Death, “as you should. You earned them, one and all. Tremendous work, Bill. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you.”

“And I want to thank you,” continued Death.

“Oh?”

“Of course.” Death paused, knowing the fate of the world below, and relished the warmth around him for one moment more. “Your hand postponed my own from coming down. So often my character is misjudged. I find no pleasure in seeing despair in those eyes, but no one wants to admit to my having sympathy.”

“Wasn’t there a song about that?”

“I think the context was a little different,” said Death with a scoff.

“Why didn’t you visit me?” Bill asked. “After all I had heard during that life, in that line of work, they convinced me of your existence, despite my upbringing. When you never appeared, I wondered if perhaps you were mad.”

Death paused, knowing his own time was up. Those in pain now called. “I couldn’t bear it. When things are ugly, I despise removing beauty.”

Bill felt the twinge of sadness in his friend and felt it in himself too. “I know. I forgive you.”

“I must go now, but again, I thank you. Have you decided on your next life?”

“I have,” said Bill.

“What will it be?” asked Death.

“I’ll be a composer. A musician of some kind.” Bill smiled, seeing the memories of his future life already falling into the hands of destiny. “I’ll make music in a time where it will be forever preserved. It will be beautiful, and it will last well beyond my lifetime. It’ll be a beauty that can stay.”

Death smiled with sincerity. “It’s wonderful music, Bill. Truly. I’ll visit you this time.”

Bill filled with the warmth of being. “Yes, I know. I look forward to it.”

Progress Report

I can tell it’s been awhile since I’ve posted because the WordPress page layout has changed. Anyway…

The book continues. I currently have just over 30k words written. That accounts for seven chapters. So far, so good. Those that are reading and providing feedback seem to be legitimately enjoying the story. That’s a nice feeling and helps to keep my momentum. If I were to guess, I’d say the book is at the 1/3rd point. Right in that neighborhood.

I’m still on track to finish by the end of the year, and now I disappear again 🙂

The standard line applies: bla bla bla, something about flash fiction if it strikes me.

Hesitation

Writing continues. An idea for flash fiction made a cameo in my mind but then disappeared in quite a hurry. Apparently it wasn’t worth the bother.

Something I’ve found to be peculiar about myself and writing this book—and specifically this book as this never happens with flash fiction—is that every session begins with climbing over a wall of hesitation.

Before I begin writing, I go through a ritual of finding any little thing I can to prevent myself from starting. It’s like a writer’s version of a dog that turns and turns and turns before laying down. I’ll grab a snack so I won’t feel peckish. Better get the bathroom break out of the way before hand. Grab a beverage. Oh, purge out the junk email. Quick stroll through Reddit. Make sure my phone is charging.

Anything.

It’s so prevalent that I’ll literally scold myself. “Sit down. Write. Start writing. Stop screwing around. Open the folder… good. Now double-click the file.”

I share this mostly because I find it funny, that writing transforms me into a new version of myself that must be managed like a child, but also in the hopes that maybe someone else will see this and realize they’re not alone.

Right? I’m not alone on this one?

Another aspect I find interesting is the feeling. Not only am I putting it off, but I can feel the hesitation within me. It’s an emotion I experience, enough to cause me to think on it further, to find a comparison, for I’ve felt this type of hesitation before.

It finally came to me the other day.

I used to ride motocross. My dad got me into dirt bikes in my teens, and it was amazing. Most of our riding was out in the Mojave desert where you can literally ride for hundreds of miles. There are races that run from Barstow to Vegas still.

One thing I enjoyed while riding was hill climbing. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You point your bike at a nasty mountain and see how far you can go. The intention is to make it to the top, but that doesn’t always happen. Either way, when you made it to the top or as far as you could go, that meant it was time to turn around and ride back down.

Going down was always a bit more nerve-racking than going up. Going down was the motivation for making it to the top. From the top, you could usually choose which trail you took back. If you didn’t make it… well, figure it out.

The hesitation I feel before writing is the same hesitation I felt back then, sitting on a dirt bike on the side of a hill looking down at rocks and ruts and cactus, knowing I’d being traveling over these things quicker than I wanted to with no no choice otherwise.

Strange.

Am I to assume there’s some physical harm waiting for me at the end of a session if I perform poorly? Does my mind care this much about the story? I don’t know, but I certainly find it interesting.

Anyway, just thought I’d share. Time to begin the ritual again. After all, this is yet another example of hesitation.

Checking In

It’s been a month. I figured I’d let those that randomly pass by know that I’m still alive and kicking. And writing, of course.

I’m currently glaring at Chapter 2 of my new project. It’s a bit of a mashup of genres, it mostly being a survival-horror story set in a fantasy/western type setting. I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far. It allows me a lot more freedom with language than my previous book did. While the decision to place the other project on hold was difficult, it was also the right one.

I’m glaring at Chapter 2 but not for any particular reason. Sometimes I must glare at stories. Sometimes stories glare back. The feeling is a bit mutual right now as I tackle a few paragraphs that need better wording. Fortunately for me, distractions are readily available 🙂

This project has one goal: Finish. To help meet that goal, I’ve given myself some tools and some requirements. First, I’m logging my daily progress. Words written each day are tracked, as are total words for the book. With that, I’ve required from myself that I will write a minimum of 1k words a day at least 3 days a week (my days off—I work shift work). If I hold to that requirement, I’ll write 12k words a month, putting me at 120k words in 10 months (November). Depending on the story, 120k words is roughly one book.

Finish the book by the end of November.

The only thing stopping me is me. Everything else is in place. One day at a time. One word at a time. Off I go then (work, work).