Friday, November 19, 2010

These Scales Ain't Made for Measurin'.

This piece, titled "Monstrous Scales," was the result of a writing exercise where we had to combine odd phrases and develop a story around it. Mine happened to be "An old lady with monster scales" or some such. I took some creative liberty with it, though, trying to base it in realism. Enjoy.

When I married Janine, I also married her family. Her family is very ritzy, coming from a wealthy background of successful barters. Despite my middle-class caste, they were more than eager to welcome me into their enclave. Janny’s mother was especially welcoming. She is a very sophisticated woman, always wearing dresses and keeping her salad forks in order.

One weekend, we drove out to Janny’s mother’s house. She is a widow and tends to get lonely in her tiny mansion. At one point that Saturday, Janine left for a grocer to purchase some items for the dinner she was to prepare. It was just her mother and I left behind. We sat in the den to chat while we waited. We were having a lovely discussion until she crossed her legs. Her dress hiked up a tad; it was just high enough for me to see something grotesque.

Now, she is an attractive woman and I am not slandering her by any means, but I now know why she always wears long dresses (though she should be wearing pants). What I saw then was so horrific that I could hardly continue the conversation. In fact, from the expression on her face, it was evident that my own was being offensive.

It didn’t take her long to realize why my face was distorted. She promptly uncrossed her legs and straightened the hem of her skirt. She blushed a bit and became flustered. She made a remark to excuse herself and went into the kitchen to begin preparations for dinner. I, too, excused myself from the room and proceeded directly for the lavatory, wherein I got well acquainted with good old American Standard.

When I re-emerged, I tried to avoid the kitchen, lest I make eye contact with the mother-in-law and be forced to remember what she hid in her undercarriage. I wandered into the living room where she has a high definition television attached to a wall. I figured I’d watch a sports event until Janny returned. Or maybe even for the rest of the weekend, skipping dinner, especially. I wasn’t in the mood to eat anything. I could still taste my lunch.

I skimmed the channels and found nothing of interest. Figures with a satellite connection there would be nothing on anywhere in the world. I grew anxious. I grew desperate. I stopped on a cartoon channel. I did not care what was airing. It would get my mind off of that horrible image and maybe even get me laughing. I was mistaken. It was a dumb cartoon and it was unfunny. That network used to have decent programming.

After what seemed like hours of this drivel (it was actually more like eleven minutes), Janny finally returned. I dashed for the door to greet her, but was unwilling to carry anything into the kitchen.

“Why not?” she inquired, a bit confused.

“I’m afraid I’ll get sick again if I see your mother,” I replied. I had no inhibitions about it.

“Wh-what is this all of a sudden?” She placed her hands around her hips as she readjusted her stance.

“I saw it. I saw her secret.”

“Her wha—oh. Oh, my…”

I nodded. My hand clasped my mouth as I did so.

“You saw her—“

“I saw her varicose veins.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

This piece was written for an assignment in CW. The objective was to take the first line of any story from one of our texts and write our own flash stories from them. The line is extracted from Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Trip to Florida

The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. The salt in the air made her knees hurt. But the granddaughter pleaded, so the grandmother complied. The daughter was reluctant to bring the grandmother, knowing that her mother’s knees were bad, but she went along with it at the granddaughter’s behest.

The drive to Florida was long and cramped. The granddaughter grew antsy after seven hours. The grandmother’s butt growing irritated from the upholstery, and thus she grew irritable. The daughter continued to drive, becoming ever more flustered from all of the complaining and trying to maintain her patience as they threatened to try it.

They were in Georgia when it happened. Just south of Atlanta. At least they had made it out of the city, the daughter said. The grandmother was now completely irritable, swearing at the granddaughter and blaming her for the trouble. The granddaughter cried and clung to the daughter, detracting her from focusing on changing the tire.

The towman came because the spare tire was flat. The grandmother swore some more while the granddaughter clung to her mother and continued to implore the grandmother to stop. They were all cramped in the cab of the truck. The grandmother fussed because she had to hold the granddaughter in her lap and because her knees were aching. The daughter flirted with the attractive driver. The driver maintained his driving so well because he ignored the daughter.

One-hundred and seventy-five dollars, the grandmother exclaimed at the daughter. One-hundred and seventy-five dollars wasted because the granddaughter wanted to swim with some dolphins who did not care about her, anyway. The daughter cried. The granddaughter also cried, but at the sight of her mother crying. The clerk just wanted the money for the job.

The daughter continued to drive to Florida. The grandmother continued to gripe and show hostility toward the granddaughter. The granddaughter continued to cry and plead for her to stop and ask her for forgiveness. The grandmother ignored her and simultaneously insulted her. Five more hours, the daughter thought. Only five more hours.

It was five hours later. Their vehicle was stuck in traffic. It was the middle of summer. The grandmother nagged about the heat and about the skanky teenagers. The daughter’s eyes were affixed upon those skanky male teenagers. The granddaughter’s lips trembled as she tried to stop herself from crying.

Two more hours passed. They had finally reached their destination of Destin. The grandmother refused to leave the car. The granddaughter begged with her to come along. The daughter was distracted by teenage boys in trunks. The granddaughter grew fed up. She stormed away and into the souvenir shop. The daughter figured that she had better follow along.

The granddaughter skimmed and perused, looking for something specific. The daughter remained distracted. The granddaughter finally found what she was looking for, something she had remembered from their previous excursion without the grandmother. She approached the counter and asked for a price. She asked her mother to pay for it, but the daughter was short from paying for the tow and the tire. The granddaughter began to cry again. The clerk cut a deal out of sympathy. The granddaughter became giddy.

The granddaughter pulled some things from her pocket and set them into the souvenir. She raced back to their sedan. She asked the grandmother to roll her window down. “I got this necklace for you,” she said. It was a locket shaped as a heart and held within it two photographs cut to fit: one of the granddaughter and one of the grandmother.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Automatic Summaries are a Breeze.

The first chapter of my work-in-progress novel Totem auto-summarized in Microsoft Word to ten sentences:

Adily replied.

“Koin! Koin, behave.”

Koin inquired.

Koin inquired.

Adily replied.


Koin whined.

Koin groaned.

Koin inquired.

The Spruce Goose is in Oregon.

Thursday night, we at CMU were treated to an extraordinary reading performed by Davis Schneiderman. He is a revolutionary writer, even releasing a book entitled Blank which only features chapter titles, leaving the rest to the readers' imaginations. As my current creative writing professor said, "I'm not sure how he's going to read this stuff." After the show, that professor remarked to me that one of his pieces had no punctuation.

He read snippets from various pieces, including his latest publication Drain, which is set in a world where the Great Lakes have dried up and people move in to inhabit. The excerpt he read involved a machine which takes in human waste from its posterior and regurgitates it from its mouth as the pre-digested entities it once comprised. So if someone had expelled the remains of a candy bar, the bar would be restored fully. He read each piece with such animation and vocal patterns, especially giving life and vibrance to this piece.

This is the cover for his latest novel:
After this and a few other pieces, he performed a reading where beforehand, he passed a rope along through the audience and had them pull on him as he read. He resisted, of course. Schneiderman was quoted as saying he wanted to make his readings more engaging and forcing audiences to pay attention. Quite frankly, he didn't need the gimmicks because he read with such power and emphasis that you couldn't help but become engaged. He read a summary of Alice in Wonderland constructing using Word's auto-summary feature. It was interesting. He also did this for a play, which spat out mostly characters' names.

At one point, he passed along some books which had been sawed into shapes. One was in the shape of a gun. I believe the purpose was to chop off a chunk of a book and read what is left, forcing a new perspective. Afterward, he honored me by gifting me what he called "his favorite one."

He closed the performance with a piece of "prose poetry," recanting various lines both relevant and irrelevant to the Spruce Goose while chanting "THE SPRUCE GOOSE" before each one.

Certainly, he is an author to look out for.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blinded by the Flash.

This is a piece written for a journal put out by the Fiction Collective, of which I am now president. The journal followed a theme, which each member wrote a flash piece on. This volume's theme was "jumping bridges." There were many interpretations of this, including a story which involved bridges literally jumping about. AubrieAnne designed the cover for this print and it came out fantastically. Glad I knew to get in touch with her. Here's a draft:


Anyway, I decided to take a less literal bridge-jumping. Something more akin to "jumping the gun." So enjoy, please.


Tim nervously fiddled with his tie and the silverware on the table. This would be his first blind date and he was worried that it would not go well. He glanced at his cell phone; she was five minutes late. Small beads of sweat pushed out from his pores.

“Would you like an appetizer, sir?”

Tim jumped in his seat as he had been too preoccupied to notice the waiter’s approach.

“Uh…uh, yeah. Some bread, please.”

“Right away, sir.”

Tim slumped down in his seat and wiped the perspiration from his brow. He snatched the towel which had wrapped the wares and wrung his hand through it. His anxiety turned to mild frustration. He pulled his sleeve back to look at his watch; she was now seven minutes late.

He had made certain to reserve a table within view of the host’s station so that he could see anyone and everyone who entered. He perked up when he saw a short-haired brunette woman enter. She was alone. When the host pointed to him, Tim immediately adjusted his posture and re-aligned the utensils on the table.

The woman smiled politely as she approached. Tim raised a corner of his mouth in a shoddy attempt to return the favor.

“Hello, Tim?” she asked.

“Yep, that’s me, Timothy,” he laughed nervously. He knew it was a dumb rhyme. He felt more assured when he heard her chuckle, albeit politely.

“Well, I’m Betty.”

“It’s a pleasure.” He offered his hand to shake hers. She awkwardly accepted. There was a pause afterward as Betty tapped the chair before her expectantly.

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry!” Tim stood from his seat, neglecting to push it out first. He nearly stumbled to the floor.

He regained his composure and reached for Betty’s chair. As she stepped aside, he pulled it out.

“There you go,” he said with a smile.

“Thanks…” She ran her hands down the skirt of her dress to straighten it as she sat.

Tim tried to push her in to the table, but the chair’s legs were held fast by the carpeting. He gave it a shove and it skipped across the carpet, thrusting Betty into the table.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!”

“It’s fine, thank you.”

Tim pulled at his collar as he walked around to his seat.

“So, Betty, tell me about yourself.”

“Well, I’m in college, studying to become a nurse.”

“College, huh? When I was in college, I had to pay for every semester with loans. I’m still payin’ them back,” he laughed. “Know what I mean?”

“My schooling is paid for with grants and scholarships.”

“Oh…You must be pretty smart, then?”

“I suppose,” she smirked with pride.

“What else do you do?”

“I love to read.”

“You would have to to read all those medical texts,” he laughed again.

“Yeah, right…” she laughed awkwardly.

“I have to say, you look be-a-utiful.” He smiled nervously.

“Well, thank you. I just kind of threw myself together.”

“Is that why you’re late?”

There was an awkward pause as Betty stared at him wide-eyed.

“Um, no, actually. If I am late, it’s because of traffic.”

“Oh, yeah. Who drives a car in New York? I don’t…”

“Hmm…” Her mouth shifted to one side. “Tell me about yourself, Timothy.”

“Well, what can I say? Tim’s just Tim. There isn’t much to say, really.” He looked down at the table. Betty anticipated more, but it never came.

“Well, what do you do for a living?” she asked.

“Oh, a little of this, a little of that…”


“I take on odd jobs. They’re mostly short-lived.”

“I see.”

At this time, the waiter returned with the bread.

“Would you like a beverage, miss?” inquired the waiter.

Betty hesitated before finally confirming.

“I’ll have a beer.”

“Whoa,” Tim remarked. “We got a partier here.”

Betty smiled reluctantly.

“Very well, miss.” The waiter swiveled in place and returned to the bar.

“So, here’s a crazy thought,” Tim proposed. “How do you feel about marriage?”

Betty closed her eyes and sighed in disbelief. She pushed out her seat and left.

Tim grabbed his head in both hands and placed his elbows on the table.

“Aw, dang. Mom’s gonna be so disappointed.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wave Your Banners.

So Aubrie was nice enough to make these banners for me. I like the top one best. So in return, I'm plugging hers.

Can't get the image to link, so copypasta. It's delicious.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Flashy Piece of Sci-Fi.

This piece was inspired after having watched Titan A.E. for the first time. If you're not familiar, it's an animated film set within the expanse of the universe which focuses on a lad and his companions' attempt to find this "ark" that is the last remnant of life on Earth. Showcased in the film was a space station that seemed to form a central hub for trade and whatnot. I drew from this idea and came up with the following.


A trade ship docked into the port of our space station today. I say “today,” though there is no really discernable way to indicate the beginning and end to a day in space. I don’t even know how many years it’s been since Earth was devastated by the invasion. Everyone was displaced after that.

People jogged, serpents slithered, and insectoids scurried to examine the product lineup. I was in no particular hurry. Nothing these alien races owned catered to my interests. I couldn’t even understand their languages.

I perused each kiosk with moderate regard. As expected, there was nothing of value. Everything was foreign to me. There were even some weapons. Utterly useless merchandise used to fuel equally useless endeavors.

I had nearly turned to leave when a kiosk in a distant corner caught my eye. Or rather, something on display caught my eye. I approached the station. It was “manned” by an insectoid. His mouth pincers clicked as his head twitched about. His antennae wobbled in my direction; he was smelling me.

What had initially drawn me to the table was a tall soccer trophy plated with golden paint. The inscription read: Regional Soccer Winners; Carlson High School; 2007. This bug had scavenged his “goods” from Earth’s ruins. I felt a little annoyed, but I knew that this bug was not to blame.

I gazed over his wares scrawled across the table. A pink case for Bubble Tape, a bent baseball card, a roll of Scotch tape with no dispenser, an empty Pepsi can, a silver chain necklace, a football helmet labeled “SSHS Panthers,” a damaged iPod, a scuffed and bent pair of glasses, a pair of ragged Adidas, and so on. All of these items would have been considered junk back in the day, but now I suppose they were a nostalgic luxury.

Then I saw one item. An item that should have never been there. Something only the gods would place before me. I saw this item and I wept. I wept and fell to my knees as I grabbed the item. The insectoid chirped with curiosity. I looked at the item in my hands through blurred eyes. Tied around the plush bear’s neck, the red ribbon with the keychain hanging from it, the engraving on the gold token.

“To our beloved son, Jimmy. May you live a fruitful and enduring life. Love, Mom and Dad.”

There was an issue with the copypasta that screwed with the formatting, hence why the opening is not double-spaced and the font is off. One paragraph pasted in large bold and another in small font. I couldn't fix this to my liking. Anyway, the piece was initially titled "Trinkets," but I was informed during workshop that this term was less applicable.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remember the Word "Doodle"?

I've decided to share some old sketches. I'd like to share more than what I have on my Photobucket, but I've no accessible scanner. You'll have to click on some of the images to expand them.

This is concept art for a scene in a series which comprises every world and character I had conceived of at the time. The series was called "Dimensia," which is a word play on "dimension," which refers to the sci-fi element of inter-dimensional travel that is the series' driving force, and "dementia" because the whole series is pretty demented. (Well, not completely, but it's a fun portmanteau.)

From left to right: Sir Jay, an audio-bot (perhaps named "8-Track"), Super Cool, Marshall, Jarvis, and Vlad.

The series' premise stems from an original idea involving the characters Marshall and Jarvis. Events involving a self wish-granting individual named Markal transpire differently in this continuity, forming and alternate timeline. Markal opens a wormhole and Marshall and Jarvis are thrust into it. They then chase Markal to each world, meeting the likes of the others along the way.

Here's a sketch of the aforementioned characters. Since I can't draw very well and have no depth perception, the product you see here is different from my initial plan. All the words and lines are color indicators. I had wanted to turn this into a signature image for use on message boards and someone had volunteered to color it for me. It fell through. The person who is not present in the prior image is Markal.

My concept for a Pokémon. Meet Scariboo. It's a ghostly caribou.

And finally:

I took this on a golf course. I've been told I have a knack for capturing landscapes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Like a Phoenix, Perhaps?

Well, at the nudging of a friend, I've decided to continue this project. Things have changed since the previous post, many being dropped or neglected, but many new ones have arisen in their place. Maybe my new objective will be to post snippets of pieces I've written, as drawing is not a fashionable niche for me. I'd love to have a collaborating artist sketch up some concepts, but my primary consideration is unreliable. Any volunteers?

So I guess I'll post a scene from one of my pieces here. If anything, most of my posts would be predominantly flash fiction, as they are more prevalent.

Here's the opening for a piece I'm writing for an assignment in my creative writing course. The assignment calls for students to write a "risky" story, meaning something out of your comfort zone. Mine would be something with pure drama and serious tone. So I've had an idea for sometime and decided to use this project as a medium for which to express it. The initial idea was for a murdered boy's father to take the murderer to the son's funeral. It will develop into him defending the murderer, who is just a boy, himself. This portion was written for another assignment which called for us to begin our risky pieces. I wrote the final line as a clencher and am not certain if I want to retain it.


We had advised Justin against working at a convenience mart. They are the most prominent candidates for hold-ups. But Justin insisted. Said the hourly wage was higher than at other places, that it was convenient to drive there because of his fuel discount, and that its suburban location was peaceful. That last one was bitter irony and only proved our advisory. He wasn’t there a full month.

What I know of the incident, I’ve heard from police reports, witness testimony, and security footage. None of that matters. The “how” is not so important as the “why.” But, since this is my memoir, I might as well relay what happened.

It was a Friday night. Justin was scheduled for the graveyard shift. No pun intended. At 1:13am, according to the camera footage, Wallace Darper entered the store dressed in a baggy orange nylon coat and immediately strolled to the back, near the coolers. He lingered for a while before finally opening one of the units and procuring a 12-pack of beer. The brand is unimportant. He slowly and hesitantly approached the counter where Justin was stationed. Justin had been eyeing Wallace since the latter entered the store. After greeting Wallace, he promptly asked for identification. Wallace set the beer onto the counter, removed the glove from his right hand, and reached into his inner coat pocket. What he removed was certainly identification, but only forensics would be able to read it.

Wallace shakily aimed his handgun at Justin, who complied with raised arms. Fortunately, he’d had the foresight to activate the silent alarm. It might have been his naivety or his nerves, but that premature profiling would save a life. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be his. Wallace demanded the money from the register. Justin declared that he could not open it unless he made a sale. Out of frustration, Wallace thrust the gun into Justin’s face while screaming profanities. Justin pleaded with him. Wallace’s hand trembled more violently. He was just as afraid as Justin. Perhaps it was the shaking that caused it or maybe he did it on purpose. I don’t know, the point is moot. At 1:37am, Wallace shot Justin in the face, effectively killing him. He was nineteen. My wife couldn’t watch the video. She had left the room before this part happened.

Wallace, in his own surprise, dropped the gun immediately after it fired. He stepped back, staring in shock at where Justin once stood. He backed into one of the snack displays and spun around, startled. He moved his head around frantically, I guess looking for witnesses, before dashing out the door. You could hear and see police sirens in the video as he exited. From the outdoor cameras, it is made clear that Wallace gave up without a fight, throwing his arms into the air. Authorities promptly detained him.

I was slightly taken aback by the officers’ quick presumption. They had known nothing about the scene beforehand, only that an alarm was tripped. Probably another example of profiling: you see a black kid running out of a gas station where an alarm had been set off and you assume they’re the culprit.

This is as much as we were permitted to see by our lawyers. That much wasn’t even shown in court. What I later learned was that paramedics arrived some thirty minutes after because the police pussyfooted before calling them. Thankfully, Justin died instantly or else he’d have been forced to suffer. The police lingered around the scene for several hours, shooting the breeze and taping off the area. Even though they had caught the perpetrator, they still felt the need to call in CSI. I could only think about one thing: how bad I felt for Wallace Darper.