No Peace; Tasteless Beer

Nagging.  I hear my wife’s insistent voice, but the words are far away and…mushy, like.  Sometimes it’s like that. I dunno why.  I hear almost everything else fine.  The birds outside the windows.  The steady hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. But sometimes her voice sounds like it’s coming from real far away…or through water.  Now, I can’t hear exactly what she says, but after 34 years of marriage, I know that tone well enough.   I just want to sit in my chair and drink a beer, watch the game.  I’m a simple man.  I’m a simple man, and like most women, she’s a complicated woman.  I love ‘er, Lord knows I do, but sometimes I just wish she’d stop talking.

I give up.  Can’t taste the beer anyhow.  So I get up and drift to the bedroom.  I feel tired, but I’m not sure how that can be. Why can’t I taste the beer, but I can still feel tired?  Dead tired.  Hardy har.  Maybe it’s on account of all that nagging.  It always did wear me right out, squabbling with her, even when she did most of the talkin’.

Now that I’m in the bedroom and just wanna sleep, all of sudden, her voice is clear as a bell, like she’s whispering right in my ear.  How can a man sleep like that?  Oh, well…at least she’s not nagging anymore.  But this may be worse because now she’s crying softly.

Why did you leave me?  I miss you so much… I’m so lost without you.  I’ll never let you go.

I tell her to hush, that it’ll be okay, but she doesn’t hear me, which seems to set her off to nagging again.

Why won’t you talk to me?

I should be aggravated, but now I’m sad, because, dammit, I miss her too.  I can’t touch her…but she won’t leave me alone.  And somehow that makes it worse, having something or someone so close, but you just…can’t…reach ’em.

Somehow the thought makes me more tired.  So I wish she’d just stop talking altogether, just for a while, so I can get some rest.

Jesus, woman.  Even dead, I can’t get no peace.

Reddit writing prompt:

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Made for Each Other (Fiction)

1/2015

Marisol stared at the dirty plate and single set of flatware in the sink. Yesterday had been Jerry and her first anniversary, one year married after a whirlwind six month romance. Her friends said they made a perfect couple, no doubt secretly cattily dismayed by the brevity of the courtship. Her mother was ecstatic, no doubt secretly relieved of the fear of having her only daughter turn into a lonely old spinster because she was too busy wasting her youth on a pesky career to find a man. Marisol was happy.

Yet while she couldn’t exactly say the honeymoon was over, that plate grated on her nerves. She had made Jerry an elaborate and romantic dinner the evening before, complete with candles and a cheap bottle of wine she’d picked up on a last minute’s inspiration, from the convenience store down the street. Jerry hadn’t drunk any of it, but he seemed pleased enough with his meal, and afterward, she had cleaned up, done the dishes, and they cuddled on the sofa for a bit. Then a quickie, and off to bed. Thank you, ma’am.

Tonight Jerry was in the den, in the recliner watching TV, and the dirty plate in the sink was mocking her. She had already made dinner and washed all the dinner dishes, along with Jerry’s breakfast dishes. Today had been particularly busy at work; Marisol was a paralegal for their town’s most prominent lawyer. Her boss was the closest thing to a local celebrity the town had, and though Marisol never divulged much, even to Jerry, she found out much juicy town gossip working in that office. Who was divorcing whom for cheating, who was on probation for drinking and driving. Who had a TRO for domestic assault or was being sued for back child support.

And though Marisol was aching to sit down and maybe have a glass of that cheap wine from the night before, she had done all the accumulated laundry, made dinner, and even had time to run the vacuum through the small ranch style home. She’d hopped in the shower and finished up just in time to greet Jerry with his meal. She’d felt satisfied, as if she’d had a fairly productive day, and she was ready to relax.

But that dish rankled her. It was a wart marring the face of her immaculate kitchen, but more than that, it represented more work to her. And Jerry was on the couch watching TV.

Of course he deserves a break too. He just got off a work, Marisol told herself.

So did I, but I made dinner and then I did all the dinner dishes. Why can’t he wash his own damn dessert plate, instead of leaving it for me to do? she answered herself, in what she had come to think of as her Other voice. This was the voice she heard more often now, although she tried to quell it. That voice was trouble. It was an argument waiting to happen, and Marisol hated arguments, though she and Jerry had never actually had a significant one to speak of.

It’s not a big deal, she told herself, not worth nagging over. Marisol didn’t want to be one of those wives that nagged. She wanted that even less than she wanted to argue.

But the Other voice persisted. It’s not a big deal. Not by itself. Unless you consider all of the other ways he takes you for granted too.

It’s a not a big deal, she repeated patiently.

No, but if you bottle it up, these things add up until it is a big deal.

She had nothing to say to the Other. She just stared at those dishes, dismayed in the recognition of the first tiny seeds of resentment. Her lip curled unconsciously at the chocolate drying to a blackish crust on the tines of the fork.

Just then Jerry came into the kitchen behind her. He was heading to the cabinets, no doubt to rummage for another snack, and only seemed to notice she wasn’t actually doing anything, when he had to walk around her idle form.

“What are you doing?” He sounded slightly annoyed; why that should be she didn’t know. He’d been sort of sour ever since he had gotten home from work.

That note of annoyance in his voice sparked her own. She opened her mouth and a bit of the Other came out. Yet even that was tempered by her desire to keep the peace. When Marisol heard herself speak, she was irritated at the supplicating tone of her words. “Nothing. It’s just, well, I finished all the dishes, and it would be nice if you could wash your own dessert plate so I don’t have to later.”

Pain exploded in her face in a white hot flash, and when it subsided and she could see again, she was sitting on the cold linoleum. Through watering eyes, see could see Jerry looming over her, his face calm but hard.

Don’t tell me what to do, Marisol.”

Her mouth hung open and she sat immobilized, vaguely wondering what would happen next.  Jerry stared at her a moment longer before wordlessly helping her to her feet and then walking out of the kitchen.

Marisol raised a hand gingerly to the her lips, which were already swelling. Still, when she withdrew her hand, she stared at the blood on her fingers a moment before the full realization of what had happened descended upon her like a black wave. She felt a creeping numbness spreading up from her feet and down from her neck, so that her bruised face was the only feeling of which she was aware. The voice of the Other was whispering ceaselessly in her ear, but she couldn’t make out the words. Marisol went to the sink and retrieved the dirty plate. From the dish drainer, she took cast iron pan in which she had cooked that night’s meal. A few beads of water still clung to it, shining like black eyes on the matte surface of the pan.  Her mind felt strangely blank and she stared at those tiny black eyes and walked calmly to the den. She did not expect Jerry to beg forgiveness, and he did not. He didn’t even look away from the TV. She brought the pan up, and with as much strength as she could muster with one hand, swung a vicious arc at his head. The sound of the pan hitting home was like nothing she had ever heard, a hollow and unforgiving sound. Marisol dropped the dirty plate on his still chest. She turned back to the kitchen and, on legs that felt as numb as her mind, she went to the phone on the wall, picked up the receiver, and called her boss at home.

Note: this story started out as a single moment in my mind, along with a question; “What would it feel like in that moment (of complete shock) when a woman is hit by her abuser for the first time?” Somehow, though, the story morphed and took on and even darker tone. I blame Stephen King. Darn his subversive influence.

The Cycle (V)

*I like doing segments of the same story for my prompts.  Maybe they will equal something like a whole novel one day.  More likely I’ll have to hack away at them, cutting and pasting until I get a useable short story.  Today’s prompt (“I’m being followed”) is courtesy of BareKnuckleWriter.   I just started following her.  I think I’m gonna like ‘er! 

The Cycle (V)

Many criminalists, and probably most anyone else who a longstanding career in most any aspect of criminal law enforcement, would probably agree that a woman should follow her instinct in regards to “bad feelings.”  If you feel like you’re being watched, you likely are.  If you think you’re being followed, it pays to be paranoid.  As the great author Joseph Heller once said, Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.  

Kurt Cobain agreed, and look how he ended up.  He chuckled at his own tasteless joke with evident self-approbation.

The women he had followed had no idea they were being watched.  When he finally approached them, disarming and all smiles, they had no idea they had likely seen him before.  He took no great pains to avoid being seen.  That was how you got noticed.  Someone trying to hide behind a hoodie or a menu, or surreptitiously slip into a doorway appeared suspicious.  His great talent was blending in.  He knew he was too classically handsome, too good-looking, to go unnoticed entirely all the time, but he had perfected the art of looking nonchalant or preoccupied.  Too busy to notice anyone, let alone be approached.

Even still, every once and a while, a woman would approach him.  Not usually the one he was observing, thankfully, but some clueless, brazen bitch who had no idea that the inconvenience of her advances far outweighed any minute ego boost which he might derive.  Yes, sometimes the shyer ones would just try to catch his eye, offer a tentative smile.  But then there were the ones who practically sauntered over.  Try to buy his coffee, make small talk, perhaps actually thinking they would leave with a phone number or a date.  He was usually able to shut them down quickly and effectively, without hurting their pride too much– a wounded woman would remember him– but he always had to abort whatever mission he was on so as not to draw any further attention.

Even those instances where he’d been “spotted” did not concern him greatly.  He’d had plenty of practice over the years, plenty of time to perfect the art of the hunt.  There had been plenty of times when he’d followed people just to see if he could.  There had been many times when he had no intention of doing anything but following.  He didn’t consider it time wasted.  Rather he thought of himself as an actor learning a part.  Like those prissy Hollywood types they called “method actors.”  Only he didn’t get so involved in his work that he wanted to go home and swallow a bottle of pills or drown in a bottle.  He liked his work.

And after his work became less random, more focussed on what came next, he began to be more selective about the object of his attentions.  When he finally moved on to phase two (what he was scarcely aware that he mentally referred to glibly as “the meet and greet,”) he was pleased to discover an unintended result of his “blending in.”   Often the women he engaged had in fact noticed him, but were largely unaware that they had noticed him.  Sometimes they said things like, “Do I know you? You look so familiar…”  The fact of his having been an unobtrusive presence in the background of their local grocery or coffee bar had resulted in a sort of false sense of familiarity, of which his targets were not consciously unaware.  In his efforts to learn master his craft with minimal mistake or misadventure, he had unintentionally perfected the art of being present just enough to be familiar, but not enough to be creepy.  The end payoff was that the women were often easier to lull into a false sense of security.  Their early warning systems, their “bad feelings,” had essentially been short-circuited.

The Cycle (IV): Kintsukuroi

I’m going make this week’s prompt another short story in the same series.  You may find all the previous installments under the title “The Cycle,” with a theme and number, in the Hive Index.   I’ve been lazy about my fiction, and lately a reader has asked me about this story series, so…here goes. 

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The Cycle (IV):  Kintsukuroi

Angela had spent the whole weekend with her husband’s journal.  That journal and not much else.  She took the phone off the hook.  She didn’t eat.  Her path through house consisted of a truncated and zagging path between the armchair by the cold fireplace, the refrigerator where she kept multiple bottles of Evian, and the bathroom on the first floor.  It had been hard enough to sleep in the bed her and her husband had shared, ever since his crimes were laid bare…literally.  After she found the journal and read the first few entries, Angela gave over the idea of sleep completely.  Every time she closed her eyes, a fusillade of gruesome images kept her from achieving anywhere near the peace of mind required to relax into sleep.  Most of the images were montages conjured by her own mind– the few details the detective had shared with her from the crime reports , and the faces of the women as they had been before her husband had “fixed” them.  With these details, and the sickly ambiguous writing in her husband’s journal, prose that were somehow equal parts self-important, saccharin, and terrifying, Angela tortured herself with vivid scenarios of what had happened to each of the women.  In these scenarios, she recognized her husband’s face, his handsome face, but his eyes burned with the light of insanity, practically glowing, like the eyes of a comic book demon.

That he thought of these women, his victims, as finished products– as his art– was sickening.  That he thought he was “fixing” them, making them better somehow, like a craftsman repairing a piece of broken pottery with powdered gold, was untenable.   But his vanity and the truth of his hedonistic pursuits were revealed by the fact that all of the women had similar characteristics.  Petite, pale blonde hair, tiny aristocratic nose…   Fragile looking, yet with an undefinable verve.  Like a flower.

Like her sister.

Jill.  It was impossible to tell if the obsession had started with her, or ended with her.  Were all his victims merely substitutes, or were they practice for his endgame?

Or had Jill’s disappearance merely been a result of her conveniently fitting his ideal victim type?  No.  There she was, fooling herself again.  At the very least, he knew who Jill was when she had taken her.  She figured in to all of this somehow.

All of these horrid images and ideas chased one another through her mind, keeping her restless and nauseous, and wearing at her sanity like an angry dog wearing a groove in the ground at the end of its leash.

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Hairy Pits and Stinky Breath: A Love Story

I love fiction.  Love to be immersed in a good book…or book series.  Love movies, especially horror films. I’m one of those people that will suspend disbelief over things like dinosaurs jumping through rifts in time, and massive pandemics killing off entire populations…

And yet I can’t quite seem to get through a show without nitpicking the little things.  I think about things that a lot of people either don’t consider, or choose not to consider.

Like, I love a good period piece just like most other people.  I totally got sucked into Game of Thrones, along with everyone else…

And yet those steamy and/or romantic sex scenes…

GOTclinch

Yeah, those…  All I can think of is how not only did hardly anyone have perfect, white teeth like they do in these shows, without modern dental care, most people were likely missing teeth, and what teeth they had were probably half rotten, and all bucked and twisted.  And can you imagine what their breath would be like?  I guess they had to ignore such things if they wanted to, you know, propagate the species.  But I’m betting there weren’t nearly so many passionate kisses or face-to-face close embraces as the writers of this type of story like to imagine.

250px-MaterCars

And if I’m lyin’, I’m cryin’!

I mean, I don’t know specifically what era Game of Thrones is set in, however if one were to infer anything from the clothing styles, type of ruling party, and customs, it could likely be anywhere between the 14th and 18th centuries.  Personal hygiene likely left a lot to be desired back then.  Apparently, people in medieval times actually did bathe quite often, and it wasn’t until the renaissance that people began to fear that frequent bathing might be “unhealthy.”  Often, only visible body parts were washed, and the remaining “odors” from infrequently bathed people were covered by perfumes and the like.  Now…without being too vulgar, you can just imagine which parts went unwashed.  And then we’re supposed to believe in hot, steamy, romantic sex???

But let’s set that aside for a moment.  Let’s focus on the visual aspect of hygiene.  We are always being told that “men are visual” creatures when it comes to sex, but I’d wager both women and men take for granted some of the anachronistic hygiene practices seen in most period pieces.  Like shaving.

Aside from dictates written by the Prophet Muhammad regarding  hygiene and codes of conduct for those of Muslim faith, historically speaking, cosmetic shaving/hair removal was not a widespread practice, and made its way to the West around 1915. (source)

Take these hot chicks for example;  I’m not picking on GOT specifically (hey, even I would probably bang Daenerys Targaryen); it just happens to suit my purposes as far as examples go.  I mean, people seem to be naked a lot in this particular period piece.

"I've got this unidentifiable lump right...here..."

“I’ve got this unidentifiable lump right…here.  DO you think it’s an ingrown hair?”

They’d likely have looked more like…

this :

(wikipedia)

(wikipedia)

TO be fair, this isn’t the only type of stuff I nitpick.  Having at least a small knowledge of criminal justice, I love  to pick apart police procedural dramas.  One of the biggest pieces of crap almost all of them try to sell is the idea that one small team personally goes through every step of crime solving, from collecting their own evidence, processing said evidence in their own lab, conducting often aggressive interviews with suspects and witnesses, and finally solving the crime and (in some cases) participating in the prosecution.

Likely I don’t have to tell most of you that not only is this not the case, it’s not really even feasible, let alone in the unusually short time span which these TV detectives clear their cases (a few days.)  Oh well.  I suppose if they portrayed it at the snail’s pace which some murder cases plod along, they’d lose viewers to comatose boredom.  Also, if they included the real number of people it likely takes to solve most crimes, viewers would not be able to keep track with, or more importantly, “bond” with the characters.  And that would never do since a lot of TV shows are successful, I would wager, because of the viewers’ attachments to certain characters.  So I just have to suspend my disbelief.  And it’s really not that big of a deal for me.  As I may have mentioned before. I really don’t ask for much when it comes to “entertainment” TV or films.  I just want to be immersed in a different kind of place for a short period of time and be…well, entertained.

So, what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to TV inaccuracies?

The Cycle (III): Meraki

*in keeping with the past two segments of Prompts For the Promptless in which I participated (courtesy of Rarasaur,) I’m going make this week’s prompt another short story in the same series.  Here are the first and second shorts in the series.  I kind of like doing it this way because it allows me to keep to the same story idea, but frees me from having to worry too much about pacing and tying together chapters.  It allows me to play with different styles of writing with each segment.  Plus, Rara’s prompts give me a theme to work with.  So without further pontification on my part…

The Cycle: Meraki

She didn’t find the journal until several months after he’d been in prison.  It didn’t seem as if he had taken great pains to hide it from her.  Rather, he’d likely felt confident that she had no reason to mistrust him or to snoop through his belongings, so complete was his hold over her.

And, damn him, he’d been right.  A simple leather bound book with a snap, the journal was right in his car console, masquerading as a benign looking day planner, or maybe a forgotten address book.  In fact, she thought that’s what it at first, and only opened it in a sort of distracted and automatic way.  At least that’s what she told herself.

Only were the contents nothing like what she expected.  Still, had she found the journal a half a year ago, she might have passed off the contents as nothing more than lines from some obscure film, or perhaps her husband’s attempts at some creative writing.  But now the lines of obsessively neat script seemed damning–not to him.  He’d already confessed when he knew he could no longer make any reasonable claims to innocence, and yet here she was, knowing she would have given him the benefit of doubt with almost eager self-deception.

(photo: courtesy of Immortal Longings on Etsy)

(photo: courtesy of Immortal Longings on Etsy)

…It’s my art. The first thing I’ve cared about in a long time.  First, the woman- she is a blank canvas, and I paint her with blood.

But there’s more- the performance art.  All the world really is a stage, and everyone I meet is a bit actor, but they don’t know it.

Or a chess board, and they are all pawns.  I’m not the king though.  The king is weak, with no freedom of movement.  I am more like the queen- I move, silently and lethally, and the pawns never see me coming.

Is “That Kind of Language” Really Necessary?

Those of you who are faithful followers, or who know me personally, know that I am something of a potty mouth.  I could give you examples, or mention all the variations of the title question I’ve heard, but that’s not really what the this post is about.

Today, I finished another Dean Koontz novel, The Funhouse.  Despite Koontz’s tendency to include thinly veiled moral/religious connotations in most of his work, and his even more irritating tendency to overdo it on the metaphorical descriptives, I do like his stories.  The Funhouse, one of his older novels and based off another author’s screenplay, is in my opinion, one of his more entertaining pieces.

But what really struck me was a passage from the “new” afterword.  The novelization was originally penned in 1980 (a year before I was born, incidentally,) and the language is gritty and (to me) realistic to a bunch of rebel teens from the ’80’s.  Koontz had this to say in his newest afterword written this year.

If I were to write the novelization […] today, I’d leave out most or all of the explicit language, since I’ve learned it’s always a crutch and that it diminishes rather than enlivens virtually any story.

I immediately took issue with this statement.  To be sure, I am picky about my writing, and critical about the writing in the books I read.  For instance, Patricia Cornwell is an extremely popular crime novelist who has sold more than 100 million copies of her novels.  And I don’t like her.  Sure, her stories are fine, but I find her writing style so irritating that I just don’t buy her books.  I can’t recall specifics because it’s been a while since I read anything of hers, but I seem to remember her as one of those authors that feels like she has to “explain” everything to audience, to the point where it causes the dialogue between characters to sound disingenuous and phony.

Which brings me to my point.  One of the major things that determines a novel’s success is the ability of the audience to relate to and care about the characters.  Nothing detracts from that faster than a disingenuous character or one who does not seem realistic.  While I concede that there are people that don’t use profanity, and writers who may eschew the use of it in their work, I believe it is a writer’s job to be true to their characters.  If their characters are typical 80’s teens, as in The Funhouse, they more than likely swear at least a little.  Even if there is a token “good girl” or “mama’s boy” in there somewhere, more than likely, the rest will curse at least a bit and more than possibly like sailors.

Nothing is more irritating than to hear (read) a character tip-toe around bad words, or worse, substitute lesser exclamations as if they were the most natural thing in the world.  “Oh, crap.”

Anyway, I just think, as successful as Koontz is, on this point, he’s…well, wrong.

What do you think, my fellow writers and book worms?

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