Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Kids of Saint Anthony (Flash Fiction Friday I-02)

Photo by TrippyBeth
It's amazing how wonderfully huge the world can be through younger eyes. A hedgerow is thick, dense forest. A row of suburban houses is a castle wall. By the same token, it's amazingly tragic how much the same world shrinks in the eyes of an adult. A hedgerow is something to trim. The row of suburban houses, a wall meant to keep the public unpleasantness out and the private unpleasantness in. To the young, impressionable eyes that first set eyes on Saint Anthony's Home, it's facade is a castle filled with the tales of valiant knights and beautiful princesses. To the more mature eyes of the ones who spent her fair share of years there, Emily now sees it as just another old building filled with stories that she would just as soon forget.

There was a brief moment of time in Emily's life where she thought it would be a wise idea to join a convent. Her personal demons whispered in her ear for most of her late teens, and she felt the only way to get them to stop was to give her life to the Sisterhood, which she did, for a few years. Because of her young age, and late indoctrination into the faith, her responsibilities mainly revolved around the well being of the children and not much else; feeding, cleaning, learning of grace and reader of the occasional bed time story. It wasn't long before her demons left her alone. After ten years of acting as a surrogate, and realizing that she wasn't going to progress any further, she packed her belongings and left the home in search for a more fulfilling life, and perhaps, if time permitted, a child of her own.

Years later, she returns to these halls. This time as the Home's most loyal social worker. Although the stone walls are still high and the tile floors still amplify every heel from every step, they no longer hold the ominous wonder they did when she was younger. It was no longer a castle, it was just another office building.

Being an adult sucks.


~***~


Photo by Vesinia from Deviant Art
"Ah, it's good to see you again, Emily." Sister Mary Margret was always so cheerful; a smile seemed
permanently attached to her face, followed by the grasp of her cold, bony hand. It didn't matter that Emily walked out on her so many years ago, Mary's calling was to nurture and offer charity to an otherwise cruel world.

Emily tried to smile as she took her hand. The memories of every horror story from every child beginning to creep into her mind and pollute the otherwise Christmas Morning-type greeting that her former mentor doled out for free. "Afternoon, Sister Mary," was all she could muster through a forced smile. As a teenager, she would open up her entire world to her. As an adult she is always all about the task at hand. There was little room for small talk or pleasantries, except when it came to Sister Mary. Emily would always allow a small concession. "How've you been?"

"Oh, I could never complain, child. It wouldn't do much good," said Mary with delicate cackle of a grandmother's laugh. "I trust you've taken a moment to go over the files?"

"Yes," said Emily as she flipped through the folder that was on the top of the pile, "Although, I'm a little confused. When we talked last, you told me that there was something wrong with this set of siblings that came to you recently."

"Yes, dear."

"Okay, well going by their most recent medical records, you had them go through physical and mental evaluations. First opinions, second opinions and even a note from the clergy, all giving clean bills of health."

"Yes, dear."

Emily has endured years of the tales of abuse from the runaways and orphans. Every story devolving into more horrific tales as the years went on. She has put herself through college and suffered the years of indignation from every male colleague and professor to finish in the top percentile of her class. She has survived a failed marriage. She even managed to live through her own daughter dying in her arms. She has survived. And yet, she still gets a chill down her spine whenever her former mentor would not be as forthcoming as she normally would be. It usually meant that something was beyond her grasp, and that usually meant trouble. Emily studied her poker face. She knew her expressions. The more dire the situation, the quicker her familiar smile would leave her lips. The Sister's face was a few degrees above dire. Emily closed the file, took a deep breath, took a step forward and whispered at Confessional level, "I'm not going to like what I'm about to hear, am I?"

"Well, yes... and no, dear. Look, you and I have heard stories of the worst evil imaginable, in the case of these children that came into my protection, it doesn't appear to be the case. There was no abuse, no trouble with the authorities, just three children without much of a past."

"Oh, well then it's just a case of tracking down their parents and their records and..." before she would let her come to her obvious conclusion, Sister Mary reached out with her cold, boney yet loving hand and placed it on top of hers. "I don't think it's going to be that easy, dear. Perhaps you'd better come with me." They walked down the hall together, towards the familiar rooms where all the children lived, played and slept.




©2014 Anthony Payson/The Writers Bloc

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Whatever I Want Wednesdays: Where Is Fancy Bred? (Caution: Rant in Progress)




Okay, to be honest... I thought it was "bread". I always thought that Benvolio was looking for a specific baker that made this particular loaf of Pumpernickel. Which was rather odd because he was gambling for his life at the moment. Maybe picking the right casket made him...hungry...what was I talking about?

Anyway, this quote:
"...Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?"
-William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)         


Forget for a moment that this quote is more noted for being in a certain movie, this question basically asks: "How should we love? Passionately, or wisely?" Implying, of course, that never the twain shall meet. As with many things attributed to the bard, this quote could easily be applied as a life lesson for many things other than amorous crushes. Would it be too far removed to ask, "How should we live?"


I never gave too much credence to any so-called "Self-Help Gurus", or "Life Coaches". Perhaps it was the jaded nature of my generation that casts a wary eye to these individuals. Our childhood dominated by experiencing the Vietnam War on a nightly basis, the ripple effect left by Watergate, and the seeds of the Cold War being planted and cultivated may have also formed our mindset. I remember being herded into our high school gymnasium on a yearly basis to be screamed at wowed by these "Motivational Speakers"with their big hair, loud Cosby Sweaters and go-get 'em attitude telling us to be MOTIVATED!!....apparently for the sake of being....MOTIVATED because your typical high school teacher had no idea how teach it themselves and had to get someone else to do it. Someone else that was hired by...I don't know...let's say Texas school text book publishers. Someone who thought that getting some dude in his forties would be the perfect candidate to communicate with the kids, because they're cool and rad too! THEY know how to reach the kids! THEY know what they want...because we tell them to like what they want...

Look! He's singing along with a Foreigner song! He MUST be one of us! He's so relatable! I mean, forget that its a band made up of old dudes and the only people listening to them are your crazy uncle who blares it from his 8-track in his customized van, forget that a kids in the 80s (the cooler kids) are more inclined to listen to Van Halen than to a band that came out 10 years before we got old enough to appreciate it!....I wish MTV would hurry up and get here...but YEAH! He's rockin' out and telling us to be good little subservients! And he's got concert lighting and smoke machines! I wish he were MY friend.

If the iPad was invented thirty years earlier, I guarantee you every face would be pointed towards the floor as every student Tweeted about how much of a poser this guy was. We didn't have that back then. All we could do was give him the blank stare and fidget in our seat and wait for the lunch bell. For some, the result of having to sit through this painful ordeal had a positive effect and made (somewhat) of an impact that lasted a day or so. For the rest of us, we regarded it is bullshit window dressing designed to waste time before some of us went to vocational school. The people in the office buildings would say that their efforts paid off. The kids that it was directed it had a different opinion.

The 80s kids never listened to this, because we failed to see the point in it. We failed to see the point in it, because we felt we were being talked down to, and dressing it up in loud clothing and putting a cocaine induced smile on its face wasn't making it any better. For all our trappings and our ambivalence, we failed to see the point in it, because your message still wasn't reaching us, and we're not that stupid.

But, no matter. We leapfrogged from the days of Leo Buscaglia and Deepak Chopra, and graduated to Tony
Robbins and motivational posters when we entered adulthood. Soon, the backlash happened. We figured out that we could buy our own platitudes for encouragement. We figured if we were at the point of needing help, and were motivated enough to go to the bookstore to by motivational poster or a self-help book by some New York Times Bestseller...then we are pretty much motivated to do...well...anything.

Soon, the Motivational Speaker craze gave way to a different animal. Soon, the Cosby Sweaters were replaced by slick, 80s throwbacks with their supposedly expensive suits, sitting on their Lamborghini that's parked outside of their palatial mansion and telling the late night television viewing audience that they have the secret to success as bikini-clad models drape over their arms. These men have claimed to make it big in real estate and flipping houses, or knowing the right algorithms of the stock market, or some other far-fetched scheme, and they could give their knowledge to you...that's right...YOU! All you have to do is sacrifice your entire weekend, write out a check for $1500 while you let this guy scream at you to buy his book while you fidget in your seat at the convention center while you check the clock and patiently wait for the time when you can go to the bathroom.

Where is fancy bred?

We are not that stupid. We failed to see the point of it because what you were selling has fallen on deaf ears and empty wallets...


"Can you personally build a better business system than McDonald's?"

No, Mr. Kiyosaki, I can't. But, I suppose you could distill the essence of attaining an MBA into one weekend retreat? Oh...also, thanks a bunch  for trying to make me regret not getting accepted into Harvard where I may have had a chance to build a better business system were my proclivities drawn to such a direction. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us are successful. Not all of us can afford to buy and sell real estate to flip for a profit. If we could afford it, then we wouldn't plunk down hard earned cash to listen to you drone on for days.

I don't mean to pick on the guy, but I don't get the people who try to hammer his point home either. As if I needed any help in understanding a principle.


Well, that's just it. Isn't it? We have to redefine what "quality" means. When it comes to McDonald's churning out a quality product, McDonald's is way down on that list. Consumer Reports had them practically at the bottom. But since the individual experience doesn't matter, and we're talking a macro level model, then yes, you've got me that McDonald's metrics on cranking out the same "quality" food on a consistent basis. I mean, they employ such winning tactics as that whole "Pink Slurry" thing as well as exploiting their workers to maximize profits, I think the question should not be "can I build a better system", but rather should be, "can I build a better system that I can in good conscious live with myself after implementing?"

But, just for a moment, consider that all the consistency in the world isn't going to do you much good where you're churning out crap. Saying that, "McDonald's customers aren't really expecting that much" is saying something to the effect of: "...where the common customer had a choice from the dollar menu or consuming a shovel full of dirt with cheese on it, the customer will almost always pick the dollar menu..." It's like they considered the shovel full of dirt. Does anyone else see this? Implying that McDonald's is the only kid on the block is also pretty ludicrous. Sure, the field is a little smaller as of late as Burger King flies the coop to Canada, but they're on the same level of crap slinging as its rival is. If an American institution pulling up stakes to head north to avoid paying taxes like a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War isn't enough to get you to stop patronizing these places, maybe waking up one day and realizing that much closer to diabetes every time you eat there will? Maybe? No? Oh...okay....Oh LOOK! The McRib is back!!!

"Take a number? Yeah, sure. No problem."
The Big Two of McDonald's and Burger King aren't the only kids on the block. Quality may not enter in the equation now. You may not see it now. But what about the long term? If these guys are placing at the bottom of the list as far as customer satisfaction goes, pretty soon that little nugget of infomation will catch up to them. 5 Guys, In-and-Out, Fatburger, White Castle, all consistently crank out an infinitely better product, and their business isn't hurting either. Are they using the same model as McDonald's? Their product is more expensive, and yet there's a line out the door at my local 5 Guys and nobody seems to mind, myself included. The lines are quick at any one of the dozens of Mickey-D's in my town, and I see red every time I order a burger that has been obviously been microwaved. Is that a better business system? Is that something I should try and emulate?

I guess what's really getting to me is that people still confuse quality over quantity. Success isn't necessarily a numbers game. Yes, there is about 10 McDonald's and Burger "Great White North" Kings to every one 5Guys, but that doesn't mean that those restaurants are any better. It just means that people don't know any better. And don't give me that whole, "well, it's cheaper" argument. That's another discussion for another time. Cheaper doesn't mean better either, it just means people can't afford to take a chance on anything else, and we suffer for it.

Personally, I could care less. I can't stomach fast food anymore, but that's not the point. What's really getting to me is that most people will always go for the dollar menu and not be bothered to take a chance on anything of sustenance, like cooking something for themselves that doesn't involve a microwave, or reading a blog that doesn't have a list on it.

Where is fancy bred?

It will always be the heart. But I'm trying really hard to feel it from the head.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Motivation Monday: Neil Gaiman



Hello everyone, hope your Monday has gone swimmingly.

For this weeks Motivation, I chose the always quotable, Neil Gaiman. Some day, I hope to achieve the same dream-like images his illustrators conjured up for the Sandman series. But for now, I'll be happy with what I got.

Do not lose hope...

...never lose hope



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The Kids of Saint Anthony I-01 (Flash Fiction Friday...Belated)

 Good intentions are getting in the way a little too much with this one.

The whole purpose of flash-fiction is that it's supposed to keep you limber as a writer. My intention for Fridays is to tell a story with as little word count as possible.

This project is not turning out that way.

This project wants to find roots and grow. It doesn't want to be raised in a cage to be cut down early in its life. There are options I haven't found yet, possibilities yet to be discovered, characters not yet formed. There is something there, and it needs to be fleshed out.

Now, I realize the Friday entry is two days too late in posting, and for that I apologize immensely. I wanted this to be quick, but this is not turning into a one-off situation. This is the kind of thing where I need to pack a lunch. So, as a result, I will be posting sections of chapters as they come, while making room for the occasional challenge from prompts that I find. If you're as interested as I am to see where this story will go, please feel free to subscribe so you won't miss a thing.

Please enjoy.
Sorry so late.
Will do better.
Hugs and kisses.


~***~


"No, I won't be able to take a look at it until Monday. I'm with a client all weekend."


Rain spotted her windshield as she sat in her idling car in the parking lot, waiting for the clock in her dash to read 3:00. She would normally have this conversation on the road. Talking on the phone while driving was never her strong suit. She could never get the hang of it. Her phone would always slip from her cheek as she drove, and almost always the conversation would end abruptly as her newest sleek and stylish smartphone would wedge itself between the driver's seat and center console. This would happen repeatedly until she finally discovered Bluetooth and never leaves home without her earpiece.

"Yes, Richard, we've been over this. All weekend." Her voice remained as civil as it could be as she buried her forehead in the palm of her hand. The voice from the other end of the conversation was none too pleased to be reminded of what he should have remembered, and proceeds to make his opinions known about it. Without stopping. "Yes...YES we....I...Richard...Richard! Calm down. I've informed my lawyer and she'll be contacting you tomorrow, would that be okay?...Yes, Richard. Of course, I think of everything, why can't you?" With a single, purposeful tap to the earpiece, the conversation ended abruptly. Seat cushions would not have this day.

2:54. She turns off the engine, removes her earpiece and gathers up her paperwork in the front seat. Reports with typed information, handwritten affidavits, photos of the children, all neatly paper-clipped and placed securely in manila envelopes. She pauses before she clasps up her briefcase, as she normally does, to stare at an old photograph of a young girl with a sad face. It's the expression that all children give when they don't want their picture taken. She stands board straight and bored stiff just long enough for the flash to go off so she get out of that dress she thought was ugly and into her street clothes where she could feel normal. This photo is of her daughter on her ninth birthday. This photo was taken as she was just getting off a merry-go-round horse. This photo was taken 10 years ago. This photo was taken two weeks before she died.

2:58 as she shakes the rain from her lapels and throws the lanyard name tag around her neck that reads "Emily Mason-Wright, BSW". 2:59, the guard gives her a familiar nod, and buzzes her in.


~***~


©2014Anthony Payson/The Writers Bloc

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fresh New Logo for the Fall Season

Yep! It's a fresh, new look for the fall 2014 season.

Well... for ME, anyway.

I'd like to say I'm experimenting with a new look, but in all actuality, this style (some would call it "Hipster") has been out for a few years now.

Last week I was dry, nothing was coming, so I decided rather late in the day to change my look. So I added to my font collection, studied a few designs, consulted from a bunch of tutorials and came up with this...



Considering that I'm trying to cultivate a brand, I think I'll stick with this one for a while.

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whatever I Want Wednesday: In Vino Veritas (A "Tell Me A Story" entry)


Let's see, the last time I actually wrote dialogue was...(counts on fingers and toes)...I don't remember.
Honestly, I don't.

But, this is a good thing, right? I need to dive into the deep end of the pool if I want to learn how to swim, right? Dialogue isn't my strongest suit and in so recognizing it, it can be something I could and should work on.

This is my first entry in my "Whatever I want Wednesday" as well as another contribution to +MJ Bush 's "Tell Me A Story" series of writing prompts. I apologize in advance for the slapdash nature of this entry as I was wrestling with making this a Single or a piece of flash fiction. There is a difference, right? One's longer than the other? Oh well, in any case, I am heeding the word of my heroes and writing it until it's finished...which it...kind of is.

Anyway, here is my short, Hitchcock-inspired piece, "In Vino Veritas".

Enjoy...


~***~



Link to the post
"You always were a pain in the ass, Maurice."
"Oh just...just shut your mouth and get on that...thing...over there!"

"...Thing? Oh. Oh you mean, 'the chair'?"

René has made it a point to return every year to the same suite at L'Hôtel sur la Seine to celebrate yet another successful year. Every year, he would set his away message on his phone and email, lock up his office, pack a weekend bag, and head straight to Paris for his yearly rendezvous with his beloved Lilly; a striking woman with impeccable taste. Every year, they would act out the same scenario of "accidentally" bumping into each other on the elevator, sharing a polite but tense trip to the fifth floor only to find out that the hotel "accidentally" booked them into the same room at the same time, to which they would try and make the best of the situation by feigning their gentility and refinement, only to wind up making mad, noisy, crazy, messy love in every room of the suite until the sun rose the following morning. The next day would see them part as convivial strangers. This was his vacation. His escape from the corporate life. His one of very few vices. René would be enjoying this right now, in fact, were it not for Maurice, Lilly's Husband; a bear of a man with a short temper and even shorter wits, not-so-accidentally met him in that very suite with a fully loaded pistol.

"Same old Maurice," René smirked. "Using brute force to accomplish what your limited vocabulary could not. I still remember the first shiner from you. We must have been what, eight years old at the time?"

"We were six," said Maurice. "I remember because it was the first time I saw Lilly."
"Ah, yes." said René recounting all the years of this triangle. "It would appear that you have finally caught wind of our liaison. It's only taken you...oh...thirty years to finally catch on that she never loved you?"

Maurice was not known for his patience. Especially when he felt that he was being slighted, cheated or denied what he wants. Maurice was also not known for his language comprehension skills. Which might explain René's bafflement as Maurice sat up straight, smiled and laughed. A warm and hearty laugh. It was the kind of laugh that you would expect from a grizzly bear of a man waving a pistol around in your face. "Please, René," said Maurice catching his breath, "please stand on the chair." His weapon trained on René's head as he walked into the other room and procured a length of thick rope from a satchel. "Here," said Maurice as he tossed the rope, "tie off a noose and then tie one end to the foot of this bed."

"You don't expect me to do this willingly, do you?"

A smile crept back onto Maurice's face."You see, that's always been your problem is: you are over confident. You've always thought that you were better than everyone else, and you always had to prove it, and you always felt the urge to rub my face in it. But what you never counted on was that I might be smart too. I'm not easily fooled and I am not the guy you want to fuck with." he placed the cold steel of the barrel against René's cheek as a knock rapped against the door.

"And just who the hell is that?" said Maurice through clenched teeth, his face turning five shades of red.
"That would be room service," said René calmly. "Considering the current situation, it would probably be best if I spare you the details. They know me. I told them to come up at this time."
Without hesitation, Maurice pulled back the hammer of his pistol and raised it to René's head, "Get rid of him. Make it quick."
"I'll take care of him, but would probably be wise to put away your gun so as not to raise suspicion."
"I'm not that stupid. I will be behind the door just in case there is any funny business. Hurry."

René took one moment to collect himself. He took a deep breath and flew open the door, nearly crushing Maurice's nose in the process. "Bonsoir, monsieur. Voici vos articles comme vous avez demandé." said the young voice on the other side of the door.

"Ah yes, right on time. Thank you very much, Bernard. I trust the family is doing well?" said René as he slipped a €20 note into his gloved hand.

 "Oh, c'est pas mal. Merci de demander. La petite Marie se rendra à l'école l'année prochaine," said Bernard while Maurice grows quietly impatient behind the door.

"How wonderful is that, eh? They grow up so fast. Love to the wife." René called out to the porter as he shut the door with his hip. His left hand held a bouquet of flowers while his right held a bottle of red wine.

"Oh for me?" asked Maurice, "you shouldn't have." It's amazing how confident one gets with a gun in his hand. "Get back to it," he said with a motion towards the chair with the rope.

"Yes of course," said René with an easy smile. "It seems rather tragic that this fine bottle of vintage should go to waste."

"You're not talking your way out this time, old man," huffed Maurice. 
"I wouldn't think of it, sir, and I must concede that you have the upper hand in this conversation. Here, take these. Pour the wine and tell me how you knew about Lilly and I while I set the stage of my own demise."

Maurice stood for a moment to let that sink in. He was expecting blathering, pleading, maybe the soiling of underwear. Not this calm demeanor. Not from him. Eventually, it caught up to him that René is who he always was, and truthfully shouldn't expect anything less from him. He strolled to a table, placed his gun down when he saw his victim happily fumbling his way to tying a 13 loop noose, uncorked the bottle and poured. "It was simple, really. I knew something was going on, but I couldn't quite figure out who or what or..." he sipped his wine before finishing his thought. It had been a long time since his lips tasted wine. "when...Mon Dieu, this is a good wine."
"Yes. It's your wife's favorite, did you know that?"
"I know everything about my wife. She just never told me about this. Anyway," he continued as he poured another glass, "I knew because I was going through her purse to find her keys and I found your name on a piece of paper, one thing led to another, and it brought me here." 

"My, my. Your deductive skills have improved since we were kids, I see. Kudos to you, sir. They must come in awfully handy in....beg your pardon, what is it that you said you do again?"

"Shipping and receiving," Maurice answered, his brow heavy with sweat. "'t's honest murk..."

"I'm sure it is, old friend," said René with the jauntiest of smiles. "I'm sure you've worked so hard your whole life to claw your way up to middle management. How exciting that must be!"

 "Hey!" Maurice squawked as he flopped in his chair not handling his third glass very well, " 't's a helluva lot better'n what you do. At lease Lilly don't complain."

Silence fell between them as René slowed his pace at feebly tying a not he had no intention of finishing. He glared at this monster slowly losing his grip on his words, his breathing, his gun. "Actually, Maurice, she did." his words heavier than stones. "She complained a lot. Mostly about you, about your job and how you came home late. How you never did anything to satisfy her. Oh, and how you fly off in a rage and beat her. That was a big one. You put her in the hospital, Maurice, and I cannot let that stand. She has always loved me, and I have always loved her. From the very beginning. She only married you because she was in fear of her life. She was sure that you would kill her if you married anyone else."

"At least I work," was all Maurice could muster.

"As do I, Maurice. You see that bottle? Did you happen to see who's name is on the bottle? I'll spare you the suspense, it's mine. I built a vineyard up from nothing, and today I ship globally to discerning clients. I don't like to brag, but I do well. Well enough to buy this hotel. Yes, mine too." René tossed the rope away and slowly approached Maurice. "Did you know that many wines today are mass produced in huge metal vats and packed in crude boxes?" René genuflected himself as if to remove the sin of it. "I'm what you would call a traditionalist. I still age my wine in solid oak barrels."


" 'nd watsat got to do with me?" Maurice spewed forcing a grin.

"Maurice? How's that tree nut allergy of yours?" Maurice's grin fades slowly. "Oak has been the traditional method and preferred wood of many wine makers since the dawn of civilization. Oak is also a fruit bearing tree. Acorns, to be specific. As I remember, you would land in the hospital if you so much as sniffed a peanut when we were boys. It would probably explain your demeanor. Always a bully."

"I... not...bully..." Maurice began to struggle. He grabbed his tie to allow himself more room to breathe.
"You hit Lilly, Maurice. I cannot allow that to happen ever again. What you're feeling right now is not intoxication, it's the beginning stages of anaphylactic shock. Your body is rejecting just the minutest amount of acorn found in the barrels. Soon your airways will tighten, and judging by the amount of alcohol you've consumed, you will suffocate peacefully and eventually die. You see, Maurice," René whispered in his dying ear, "I buy and sell shipping clerks like you for breakfast. Your fists may have saved you many times before, but you were always forgetful, prideful, arrogant, ignorant. And while I must respect your prowess in getting what you want, you hurt the woman I love. Your fists are no match for my brain. I," he whispered with great relish as Maurice struggled in vain to breath, "...I am the guy you...comment avez-vous dit don't want to fuck with." And with that, Maurice went stiff.

A moment. A moment was spared to remember a fallen human. One who, although led a life of violence and intimidation, must be remembered at least as a human being. The moment ended as soon as there was a knock at the door. "Come in, Bernard." said René.

"Is it done, Monsieur?"
"Yes, my friend. It's finished." said René smiling that smile. "Have the cameras been rolling this whole time without a problem?"
"Oui, Monsieur. No problem whatsoever. The police are already on their way."
"Splendid, Barnard, absolutely splendid. A perfect job as always. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make a phone call."
"Of course, Monsieur. Pardon."

He walked; Strolled, to be more specific towards the elevator. Taking the time to make sure he could hear her voice. "Allo?" said the voice at the other end of the line.

"Hello, my love. It is finished." Stainless steel elevator doors polished to a mirror shine shut with a whisper behind him.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Motivation Monday: Ray Bradbury


Welcome to the first Motivation Monday!

This was done as a favor for my girlfriend. There are a few things that I could change had I the time. Like, the reflection of the quote and how it refracts with the ripple in the water, but perhaps that's a new project for another time. Also, the quote isn't so much motivational as it is inspirational.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Inaugural Flash Fiction Friday...#Writingeekery

Let this be this inaugural post to something that will go on for a while...

For the past week or so, I've been doing a little soul searching. I've been looking at my lackluster stats and wondering how I can increase my viewership. In the course of doing so, I let the blogs with titles such as "Top 10 Reasons Why Your Blog Sucks" get to me. The more I read on the topic, the more I realize that I might be blogging wrong.

The blogosphere can be broken down into two categories:
  1. Blogs That Are Basically Online Journals. What you had for dinner. Where you went on vacation. How your bowling league is doing. All credible in their own right, but it's something I'm trying to evolve from. My posts are mainly fictional accounts of my past life as seen through a kaleidoscope. Entertaining? I suppose so, but it's nothing really useful other than for me working out my writer's muscles...such as they are.
  2. Blogs That Impart Knowledge. How To... Top 10 Things That... Amaze-Balls Solutions To... Approximately 90% of all blogs out there start out with any combination of these words in its title. Why? Because subliminally, people are satisfied with lists, and are drawn to countdowns and are constantly searching for answers.
That's all the internet is, apparently. A repository for lists. A repository for lists that are based on lists that were based on other lists. They all say the same thing, offer the same information, and I let it all get to me. I let it stain what I'm trying to do.

"...Well, what am I trying to do?" I would ask myself over and over again. I was at a loss for an answer.

What have I got? A collection of editorial ramblings that are of little value to anyone but me. And that's a stretch to call it that too, depending on the subject. I need to write. I'd like to write well. I'd like to influence people. I'd like to stick in people's imaginations. Sometimes, the tank is on empty and I have nothing. I'd like to write well, but sometimes I fall on my face. And it's been happening a lot lately.

What would I like? I would like to write more. If I have taken away even the slightest kernel of knowledge from the blogs that tell me to employ a CTA, the one thing they all have in common is to be consistent. Always post, even if it's on a weekly or monthly basis. Be consistent. Bebe...consistent. It doesn't matter if I'm posting the latest in SEO news or how frequent my son's diaper changes are. Just keep writing. Just keep posting.

For a week, I've been looking for a place to start. When I should have been looking for a place to stop. By that I mean, I'm looking for structure; a guideline, anything to reign me in a little and force me to focus on what I'm doing. I needed something that looks an awful lot like a deadline. It's hard to be herded into the barn when you've been out in the pasture for so long. Well, that changed last night with a firm resolve and the opening of a Wordpress account.

Starting now, I will be posting (trying to post) 3 days a week. Since I'm using a framework to prop up my writing, the days will be broken down thusly....
  • Motivation Monday: These posts will be focusing on my desire to work in Photoshop and Illustrator as well as fulfilling the need to contribute to my Inspirational & Motivational Quotes Community. These are generally time consuming projects so focusing on these will more than likely drive me to do better work in a smaller amount of time. Also, motivational quotes are good to me...well...motivated.
  • Whatever the Hell I Want Wednesday: Interesting news article? Posted. A how-to piece that I found extremely helpful? Posted. Cute Cat pictures? Posted. Random commentary? Posted. Helpful? Maybe...we'll see.
  • (Flash) Fiction Friday: I've been scratching things out in my lonely notebook and hatching out a tale told in chapters. I have a few more in queue once I finish in that, and something tells me that I'll never truly be at a loss for inspiration to keep going. Friday's post will be all about stories, but occasionally I will happily put on my flash-fiction hat and see where that takes me. Although I'm one to consider my "flash" fiction more like tiny novels and less like the quick scenes they should be, I need to do the occasional flash fiction to again, reign myself in. I'm teaching myself to be disciplined. There is a bounty of writing prompts out there.
And today was no different...

~***~

Today is Friday, and I just happened upon a posting by writing coach and editor extraordinaire, +MJ Bush and her continuing writing prompt challenges entitled "Tell Me A Story". Today's challenge is as follows...

Don't worry about not seeing the rest of the picture, it's included below.


Capping it at 200 words was just the motivation I needed. I have included my contribution as well as the picture. Please, you're support an feedback is always welcomed. Thank you very much for all of your encouragement, so without any further ado, here is my flash fiction piece.


~***~





"No no no, mother no...stay WITH me!"
The dead twigs and crimson leaves were crushed under heavier foot than when she was a child.
"STAY with me, mother. It's only a little further..."
Memory drove her. For the forest had grown larger and more dense from her childhood. She only had a vague recollection and had to draw from as she paused to catch her breath and hold her dying mother close to her.
"Please be here," she pleaded to no one, "Please be here, please be here, please be....is this it, mother? Is this the clearing you brought me to when I was sick? Is it? It must be...it has to be..."
She frantically dragged her mother's heavy, dying body to the center of a ring of sprawling Ash trees. There were words. Words that her mother tearfully spoke when her daughter was dying of pneumonia and she brought her to this very clearing.
"What were they...it...I can't remem.." Fear and desperation filled her lungs as her mother's wilted inside her chest.  Then a spark...
"...LORD OF THE ASH, HELP US!!"

The trees whispered. The leaves glowed as they flew up to meet them.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Upon Losing a Force of Nature (Don't Be Afraid)

The heat from the day, such as it was in southern Maine in late September, lifted away as the ocean breeze lurched in and took over. It was 1991. My twenty-first year on this planet. I could have spent that entire year blitzed out of my head on cheap keg beer because that's what you did when you finally reached the legal drinking age in Maine; you stayed drunk. You stayed drunk from the end of summer to the beginning of the following spring. You stayed drunk because the ghosts loved to play amongst the trees, in the floorboards, in the attic, in your head, and you needed something to quiet the voices, to quiet their shrieks, to quiet the fear. Darkness came to stay for a few months like some unwanted house guest, and the only way to deal with it was to swallow your poison of choice until you could no longer recognize them.

Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. It's extremely unfair of me to allude that Maine is inhabited entirely by raging alcoholics. Everybody knows that it's only partially inhabited. The rest is made up of self righteous vegatarians (xoxo, Maine. Miss you..)

It's also unfair of me to allude to act of imbibing as the only way to stave off demons, or the boogey man, or the impending darkness that will swallow the world for the entire winter. But make no mistake, when that darkness does come, it will test your soul, and the best thing to do is to keep yourself occupied.

Some read books.
Some stock up on winter fuel.
Some get in at least one more round of golf.
Some get a head start on Holiday plans.
And yes, some drink. Some more than others...

Me? I found my own way to cope. It was good friends, good company and wholesome activities like going to the movies. All of these things were noted, remarked and reflected upon as we passed yet another spliff around the three of us as we loitered in a beat up Volvo waiting for a show to start.

"What do you want to see tonight?" We hadn't planned on anything. Some nights, you go just to go. Some nights, you get lucky and you're treated to a really good film. Other nights you get really lucky and stumble into a film is so bad that you get kicked out for laughing just a wee bit too hard and it really doesn't matter because you're stoned.

The question still hung in the air, lingering with the smoke. What were we going to see? No amount of pretending to look at your watch was going to change the fact that we all really wanted to see one movie: The Fisher King. I think what tipped us to that direction was that the three of us saw "Good Morning, Vietnam" when it came out on video and us remembering that we had a pretty good time watching it so, anything with Robin Williams in it was going to trump everything else. Especially if the only other choice that was showing at that hour was "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man".

"Okay then. That's answers that." One of us said as another one of us carefully put out the joint and stashed it for later. "And look at that, we're right on time."

All three of us de-vehicled...de-vehicled?...de-carred?... All three of us de-Volvoed, walking that walk that shows everybody that we are not under the influence of anything at anytime. The fact that we were weaving and bumping into each other had nothing to do with anything. We just had to make sure that our money was easily accessible, and our words were well rehearsed so as not to confuse and offend the ticket taker.

The guys I went with were both big guys. Which isn't saying much. I'm Hobbit-sized, so everyone is taller than me. But these guys were manly men. Geeky to the core, but manly men. Which is why I scrunched up my face when I saw these two manly men turn to absolute mush when this scene came around...


Follow this link to view the clip...
"What?" said one of the guys with tear-stained cheeks. "don't laugh, man," he added with a fist hitting my arm for emphasis. These guys were absolute wrecks, and I must admit, so was I.

To this day, this scene still kills, still has me reaching for a tissue box. To this day, the movie remains in my top ten most favorite films. To this day, this movie is one of a small and exclusive club films that divided the viewing audience; you either got it, or you didn't. From what I observed the one's who didn't get it were extremely practical people, the kinds that were good with numbers, but the one's who did were all poets, performers, artists, authors, the one's who couldn't balance a checkbook to save their life. I found my tribe with the latter.

I, like so many others, grew up in a world where the unstoppable genius of Robin Williams would never stop. He would always be there and we would always be regaled with his spirit, his mind and his humor. He would always be there to deliver a good night speech such that would make grown men crumble. And of course, he would always be there to bring down the house at the drop of a hat...



Yesterday, this force of nature finally left this world. Way before his time, I'm afraid. Battling the demons for your entire life would take a toll on anyone, but he did it with grace and style and great, great humor.

Make no mistake. When that darkness does come, it will test your soul.

There is a great hole that has been made in his absence. And it's not because he was a great comedian, and it's not because Aladdin was pretty cool for kids of all ages. No. This man was not a comedian; any schmuck could tell a joke. This man was not an actor either. No.

It would be more correct to say that this man was an Alchemist; One who could spin gold from absolutely nothing, and probably more to the point, the last of a mythical order.

It would be more correct to liken him to a jazz musician; One who could construct incredible compositions with a finite number of notes. One whose voice was unmistakable, indelible, timeless. One who will be responsible for spawning countless legions of imitators for generations to come.

I am a fan. I still am. From his early days as Mork from Ork to the album I wasn't supposed to listen to as a child, but ended up memorizing it anyway. From Popeye to cloud busting with Perry in the Fisher King. From Good Will Hunting to The Crazy Ones, I am a fan. I grew up in a world where he would go on forever.

The Darkness may come, and it may take the best of us. But it can't take away the influence that was left behind. Thank you, Mr. Williams, for teaching us to keep just a spark of madness, and to take chances with your craft. Your light may be gone, but that's the thing about being a force of nature.

It will always find a way to live on.



"Don't be afraid." Ever notice that in many interviews he's done and in some of his stand up, a certain refrain of his was always, "Don't be afraid"? He said it so much that it just had to be his own personal mantra. It was probably the only thing that kept him going through some darker stuff that we'd rather not think about.

Depression isn't a mood, it's a disease. Remember, there are people in this world who love you and care for you, but you have to reach out to them, not the other way around. Please, don't be afraid. If you are near the edge, and you need someone to pull you back, please don't hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Love to you all.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top 3 Reasons I'm Sticking With Almond Milk (In response to a Salon.com article).

Photo by John Phelan
I don't normally talk about this, but years ago, when I was in college...

...I...experimented. 

Call it being a product or a victim of my environment; it was all around me and it was only a matter of time before my impressionable, young mind succumbed and joined the hive. I kept it private at first. Stealing a moment or two while no one was looking, just to see if I liked it. It wasn't long before I brought it out into the open. I was half expecting to suffer the consternation of the general public, waiting to see the looks of, "oh look...another one." roll across their eyes as they take my lunch order. But it never happened. I was part of a collective. I was comfortable in my own skin for once, and soon there came the time where I could stand in a crowded room or walk out into the street and declare to the world...



 
..."I AM A VEGETARIAN!!!"



Yes. I was one of those pain-in-the-ass, holier-than-thou, non-meat-eating bastards that would flaunt their newly found lifestyle choice any chance they got...

"Ugh...you're gonna eat THAT? Man, some people will put ANYTHING in their body!"

"Do you realize how many turkeys were murdered to make that sandwich?"

"Sorry, I can't go out tonight. I have to put in some time at the co-op and then I'm scheduling a meeting for my local Greenpeace chapter."

I had all the passionate trappings of your typical contrarian; I would get in peoples' faces about my choice of diet and lifestyle, and yet I smoked and drank like a rock star...so, there that is. 

It went on like this for years. I graduated college and still managed to tow that crunchy, patchouli-smelling line. There was a time though where I was at my darkest and almost went full Vegan. That is, until I met this girl...



Since that time, if it flew, crawled or swam, I was putting in my stomach. First it was sandwiches. Big, meat sandwiches. Then I soon graduated to Filet Mignon, braised rabbit, shark, alligator, sushi, pulled pork. I was eating meat and there was no looking back.

...Still though...

Some habits die hard and to this day, I still carry at least a crumb of that previous life style. Make no mistake, I have turned to the dark side and found my protein from a once oxygen breathing source, it does not mean that I won't appreciate a decent vegetarian meal every so often. Yes! Bring on the firm tofu and legumes! Make a spaghetti dinner made with Quinoa pasta. Bring it all on! I fear no plant! I look forward to it. I look forward to it to cleanse my pallet. I look forward to alter my perception and change my mood, at least for a few moments. I also look forward to it, ultimately, because my heart depends on it.

That's right, I am predisposed to have a bum ticker. Heart disease pops up in my family every once and a while and the wheel of misfortune just happened to land on me this time. I lived a life of excess and I almost cashed in my chips in my mid-thirties when I suffered a mild stroke. Nobody is supposed to suffer a stroke in their thirties. So as a result of almost dying, I had to make a few adjustments in my life. Removing red meat from my diet has proven to be beneficial, but to remove it completely is unacceptable to me. I eat a vegetarian breakfast almost every morning; glass of juice, bowl of Kashi with rice milk and I'm ready to go. Coffee would come later. This was my Monday through Friday routine and it was fine. At least, that's what it was until recently when I discovered almond milk. Then it got...marginally better.

I started with soy milk. Awful stuff, I don't recommend it. When you add milk to your recipes or your cereal, you don't expect to have a dominant MILK flavor. Soy milk has a tendency to move in and take over like a multinational corporation. It does not work and play well with others. Rice milk quickly took the place of it; it resembles skim milk in more than one way, save for the lactose aftertaste. It is much more palatable. It wasn't until recently that I gave into the latest food hype and gave almond milk a try. Almond milk is closer to whole milk, which is a lot more satisfying when I pour it on my cereal, and in the end, it's all I use it for anyway. I'm not lactose intolerant, nor do I worry that I ever will be. I use a dairy alternative not to rub it in anyone's face or to feel superior, I view it as a form of penance. I just want one meal, everyday, that I don't have to hate myself later for eating. And of course, there's that whole issue of the "trying not to clog arteries" thing.

As it turns out, I'm doing my body a world of good using this. If I can't be careful by what I put into my body, I can at least be mindful about it. Here are my top three reasons for sticking with my choice:
  1. It Helps Keep My Weight Under Control:  Big deal, right? When moderation is a applied to everything, weight loss is a cinch. Granted that outside of the occasional baking product that I produce, the only other thing I use milk in is cereal and I don't use that much anyway. But considering that a typical serving of almond milk is 60 calories compared to 86 calories in skim milk, even in moderation, the numbers make a difference.
  2. It's Good For My Heart:  I almost went completely broke a few years ago trying to sustain my gym membership and vitamin regimen at the same time. I used to smoke a lot of weed, now it's the Vitamin Shoppe that's acting as my pusher. I remember swallowing copious amounts of Omega-3s as a way to strengthen my heart and aid in repair of my blood stream. Apparently, all I needed to do was pour almond milk on my cereal. It is loaded with Omega-3s and contains no cholesterol or saturated fat. Everything a growing heart needs...
  3. There Is Little to No Impact on Blood Sugar Levels: Hallelujah, I get to keep my leg. Get lost, diabetes. Take a hike, heart disease. Almond milk has a low glycemic index, which is a fancy term for food that allows my body to burn through carbs first before sugars have a chance to get stored as fat.
These top three reasons are the absolute LAST things I think about as I graze peacefully leaning against the kitchen sink. I like it. It tastes good. That it's good for me is a bonus.

Bu bu bu bu buuut wait! What about them crazy carregeenens? Thems are bad for you!

Absolutely not true...depending on who's reporting it and who's palms are getting greased. Either way, yes, it's going to harmful to you if you drink a gallon of it everyday. It's like the time when I had to stop drinking Diet Coke because it turned my pee brown. I switched to drinking water, no more brown pee! Amazing how that works. Yes, there are studies out there that link certain kinds of manufactured almond milk to certain kinds of cancer. I'm sure aspirin has the same detractors. It comes down to this, I would rather risk maybe getting cancer because of some packaging flaw than definitely know that I'm clogging up my arteries with something I have a hard time digesting.

I started this post about two and half weeks ago before I had to pack up everything in my house and move. I started this post a while ago with full intention of retaliating against some random article I read on Salon.com with their typical snooty, elitist journalism. But after I made the list, I made my point. For the record, I do agree that most food fads border on the ridiculous. For instance, the Great Vanilla Brainwashing of '98 and the Cranberry Invasion of '02. But to say that all of a type of food is overrated and possibly harmful based on anecdotal evidence just isn't fair. Sure, it might be a fad and it might be more beneficial to make it myself, but seriously, Ms. Abrams used one brand as an example for the whole thing. Just because you didn't like it, doesn't mean all of it is awful.

It's almost as if she just turned vegetarian or something....




List based on research conducted by +Krissy Brady