Saturday, November 10, 2007

~Start-up by Cynthia~

Driving home, I thought about the presentation I made to a potential client. The group included six men, three women; five gung-ho company people, two wanna-bes, two know-nothings. Nine skeptics. Nine people who could make or break me. Nine I needed.

As I was reassessing, and doubting, my effort to drum up more business, I saw a pick-up truck in front of me.

"No, it couldn't be. I haven't seen one of those in decades."

Speeding up, I got close enough to see it was the same kind of truck my father drove to take us fishing.

Suddenly, I was eight years old again. My father was starting the engine, my brother and I were sitting in the front seat with him. This truck was finicky; you had to start it just right, or else it defied you. After the third turn of the key, it sounded like it was ready to go. Instead, the cab of the truck filled with a thick, acrid smoke. We bailed, leaving the doors open to clear the air.

My father waited a few minutes and tried again. The truck started up fine.Looking at us, dad said, "See, just keep trying. It'll work."

We made it to our fishing spot. We were quiet as we watched the lines - didn't want to scare the fish away. But when dad cleaned the fish, he'd talk. That's when we learned about his childhood, his dreams, his real world, his way of getting by.Now, as I passed the pick-up truck, I didn't look at the driver. I wanted my father to be driving. One more time, I needed him to tell me, "It'll work."

***What fine work all writers did on this piece. Please read Cynthia's gorgeous piece, then continue on to the additional writers' pieces in the comments section.***

~Ivan by Dragon~

I knew Uncle Ivan's shell, a withered corn husk wired to boxes that beeped and scratched evidence of his half-life. The few words he spoke were obscene. I filed those expletives for further examination even as my mom hustled me out to the candy machine.

He hung on for a decade.

And then, knowing there is nothing a teenage boy likes better than cleaning, Mom sent me to Ivan's abandoned cabin. Angry at the loss of my summer freedom, I threw dust-covered artefacts willy-nilly onto the lawn, delighting in the sound of broken glass. Then I stopped to look.

There was a 12-inch-long hunting knife with a keen edge and a bloodstained handle. Guns, countless guns in the bathroom, the kitchen, the foyer. A wardrobe holding 6 moldy tuxedos. A box of women's underwear. Used women's underwear. Desk drawers stuffed with stock certificates, land deeds, smoldering love letters dated 50 years ago. Large diamond rings for men's hands. Pornographic German magzines. Animal bones. A full set of mechanic's wrenches. Eight identically bulky and ancient walkie-talkies. Now I excavated the past, tripping over a child's rocking horse and life-sized framed photograph of a naked woman, until I reached the motherlode, the vein of precious metal: in the bedroom, 100 notebooks, neat handwriting, a life.

Diamond mines in Africa, gold mines in Canada, opal mines in Austalia, Uranium mines in the desert. Smuggling in South America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East. Political leaders and mafia bosses, merchants and marines, professors and scientists. Women on every continent, including Antartica.

There was nothing Uncle Ivan had not seen, nothing he had not done. The sum total of all that drives a man filled the lined pages. On the filthy bare boxspring, I read until the light failed, and dreamed myself an adventurer pursued by the French Legion, the mob, a thousand woman, state secrets locked to my wrist, a fortune in gemstones sewn into my collar, until my cell phone buzzed me back into my own prosaic reality.

My mother worried on the other end. "This could take a while," I told her. The power had been cut years ago, but I found a kerosene lamp and read on.

***Such wonderful, telling, chewy details.***

~Bastard Bill Kowalski by Al E. Yus~

Long about last August that bastard Bill Kowalski moved his sorry ass in. Parked his mattress at the top of the stairs, set his TV on a couple of cinder blocks and called it home. He'd sleep through the Today Show, but wake in time for Truth or Consequences and the soaps. Then he'd nap until the cartoons came on.

He had a little kitchen set up there in the hallway; a mini-fridge with a hot plate on top. This is him chowing down to his favorite meal, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. See that lady's leg? It's a cardboard cutout he fished out of a dumpster behind some porn shop. His idea of art.

His rent money dried up by October and we had to kick him out. I heard he's living at the Rescue Mission now. We couldn't peel the naked lady off the wall, so she's still there.

***What makes Bill a bastard? We are so curious...***

~Together by Guy Anthony de Marco~

Bob loved taking Carole to the lake. Their whole history together could be seen etched in the shoreline like rings in an ancient redwood.

Here's where they first met, arguing over who owned a particularly abundant fishing hole. His hat glinted with lures tied by his father. Her overalls rolled up to expose ballet-strengthened ankles.

This is where they drove off together, shedding Prom clothes as they chased each other across the sand; where their first fumbling lovemaking stripped away virginity. Bob proposed to Carole over by the worn flat rock jutting from the surface, their heads rising and falling rhythmically to their dogpaddling, until he slipped the ring on her finger under the surface.

She would laugh for years, claiming he duped her into marrying him. Their children would beg for the story to be retold, and they passed it on to their progeny like rings rippling out from Bob and Carole's exuberant presence in the water.

And today, Bob and Carole held hands until the sun set over the trees, staring out over the liquid book of their lives. With her final breath, he kissed his wife of sixty years and carried her out, buoyant with the help of the spirit of the lake, the water closing over the couple, welcoming them home.


***A big life in so few lines.***

~Marc Antony by Dragon~

Kira told Devon that Joni was going as Cleopatra.
"That bitch thinks she's so hot," Kira told him. "Think I'll go as a snake and bite her stupid ass."
Of course, we knew that Kira was going to go in sexy lingerie with some kind of fluffy ears and tail. But it gave me an idea anyway. I got together this great Julius Caesar costume, with laurels and everything. And when I saw Joni at the party, beautiful even under that awful wig, first thing, I called out to her.
"Your majesty," I said, and she looked me up and down and started to shimmy right there.
I might have had something too, but that punk, Devon just had to nose in. We thought he wasn't even coming. He didn't actually show up until the party was practically over, but he went all out with the costume anyway.
He came as Marc Antony.
***We love that bit about the snake. Other whimsical pieces in the comments.***