Journal of the Vague Years

I was thinking about re-titling this “Journal of the Plague Years” but that one’s already taken. Not that there’s anything much to journal. My day is pretty much like anyone else considered “nonessential” going through Corvid-19 lockdown.  Twice a week I drive First Reader to physical therapy, which she needs and as a medical function hasn’t been closed down yet. Other than occasional forays for essential supplies, that’s pretty much it. Cook when I want to, order takeout when I don’t. Intending to hit all the restaurants within range since they’re having a bad patch with this and we do what we can.

Trying to stay calm and centered, occasionally ranting about the stupidity of the governor of my home state who is going to get people killed. In a lot of ways I feel fortunate to be in NY state now, even with it being one of the hotspots. At least our governor has a working brain, whatever other human faults he may possess.

Working when I have the energy and focus. I know some of you have been waiting a long time for the concluding volume of the Laws of Power series. I am working on it, I promise, and assuming the virus or something else doesn’t get me first, I will finish it.

As for A Wizard of Earthsea above, It’s because I was remembering a Benedryl-fueled dream from last night. I was back in the house (long since torn down) I spent most of my growing up years in trying to fix a blown fuse. Only the fusebox had been mounted to the side of a tree which had long since overgrown it. Just inside I could see my copy of the Ballantine edition Le Guin’s book, now grown over, woke up wondering how on earth I was going to get it out.

I really should stop taking antihistamine before bedtime.

Liminal Conversation

Since I’m currently torn between conflicts and thus not able to concentrate properly on any of them, I’m posting a piece of flash fiction in lieu of having anything to say. Except in a story.

The key word, in case there was any doubt, was “liminal.”

 

 

Liminal Conversation

Tisha was looking thoughtful. That was nearly always trouble. Then she looked at me, and I knew that the trouble had arrived. “Why does no one use the word ‘liminal’ in normal conversation?”

Dinner was over. Dishes were done. Tisha’s focus was almost scary, but once we were finished with the mundanities of the day, then a brilliant mind has the chance to wander, and hers could wander further than most. There had been a time when such questions left me bewildered, but that was mostly because I had been both smitten and impertinent enough to want to understand the thought process going on behind those haunting green eyes. After a few years together, I had learned to just go with it. “I imagine there are people who do, yet I’m not surprised there isn’t more of it. You have to admit, it’s a fairly obscure word.”

“But why then? It’s so useful.”

I blinked. “Well, in the esoteric sense of useful….”

She dismissed that. “Rubbish. I’m not talking Schrodinger’s Cat, here, where you need to express whether the cat is in a state neither alive nor dead, but in a transitional non-state. I mean mundane things, like a bridge. Liminal is the best description for a bridge I’ve ever heard.”

“Because it’s neither one piece of land nor another?”

“Silly. Because it is by definition the transition from one place to another. Once you set foot or wheel on a bridge, you are literally in a liminal state, neither here nor there.”

“And that state doesn’t change until you reach one side or the other?”

“Exactly. And let’s not forget its cousin subliminal, which I’ll admit does get used more often, but only because it expresses a concept that is defined by the liminal root. Liminal in that sense meaning ‘barely at the doors of perception.’ Subliminal is something a part of your brain recognizes and acts on, even if the conscious mind has no idea why.”

“As in just below the liminal threshold, whereas a faintly red sky near sunrise is at the liminal threshold if you recognize that it’s red.”

“You got it. Now how about a dock? A transitional state between land and sea, or rather land and ship. Completely liminal.”

“Or a shading between the colors red and pink? Neither pink nor red?”

“Absolutely liminal. Or how else would you describe the state between one breath and the next? You’re probably going to take that breath, but if you didn’t then it’s not between one breath and the next, it’s between life and death.”

“Or a bottle that just needs to lose one more bubble of air before it sinks?”

She nodded. “Really, anything of that sort. See how useful it is?”

“I do.”

Tisha was looking thoughtful again. “Do we still have that bottle of zinfandel? I could go for a glass.”

“Me too. I’ll get it.”

Three repeats of “red” and one mention of bottle. Liminal? Very useful, but subliminal? Winner, hands down.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Getting My Tuckerization On

Do I have to explain Tuckerization? Probably not to this crowd, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s when you put a real person in as a character in one of your stories/books. Popularized by the late Wilson  “Bob” Tucker who made a habit of it. While there are all kinds of legal implications for doing such a thing of your own accord (like revealing a real embarrassment about a real person in terms so thin anyone could figure out who you meant), it’s usually just for fun and with everyone’s cooperation. Charities will even raise money on the chance to be immortalized by being killed horribly in, say, a Stephen King novel.

In all my time making up stories I’ve never felt the need to do one, because that’s not the way I work.  All my characters emerge from whole cloth. And by “whole cloth” I mean they’re amalgams of my own inner landscape plus bits drawn from  everyone I’ve ever met in this life.

That is, until now.

I’ve spoken about the local flash fiction group I belong to. Every week (almost) I have to come up with a piece of flash in addition to whatever else I may be working on. Lots of stand alones, but one or two have turned into new series. One of those is about a pub called “The Black Dog,” a place which is sometimes there and sometimes not, with a rather…different, shall we say, clientele, aside from the normal humans who through fate or good (or bad) luck stumble across it. They’ve been fun to write and I’ll likely turn them into a collection when I have enough. Regardless, our group leader likes them so much she asked to be made into a character in one of the stories. I was so astonished at the idea that someone wanted to be in a story of mine that I agreed.

So next week I’ll be keeping my promise, in a character who literally doesn’t exist in a pub that sometimes exists. Writing is always hard work, but it’s fun, too.

Sometimes I can use that reminder.

It’s a Puzzle

Every week (except this one, since the Library is being renovated) the Flash Fiction group meets and we read our pieces out loud, based around a “trigger” (word, not warning) from the previous week. Last week’s word was “comely.” Our group leader pronounced it differently than I always had, even though it’s an “archaic” word not used often these days.

I’ll also note that most of the writers’ work at these parties fits on a single page. Mine almost never do. Why? I’m too big a fan of dialogue to let that happen. So here is last week’s flash to illustrate my point, an almost completely dialogue driven, totally imaginary conversation on the correct pronunciation of “comely.”

It’s a Puzzle

She: “Thirteen down, six letters, ‘having a pleasant appearance.’”

He: “Comely.”

She: “It fits, but I believe it is pronounced with a long o.”

He: “Why in the world would you rhyme it with ‘homely’ when it’s the antonym of homely?”

She (shrugging): “Easier to remember. Besides, I think I’m right.”

He: (Pausing to Google): “It’s neither right nor wrong. Merriam-Webster says both are correct.”

She: “Rubbish. They can’t both be correct. One is right so the other has to be wrong. Ergo, you’re wrong.”

He: “Let’s not get Latin involved in a simple pronunciation dispute. Actually, now that I look at the definition again, I am wrong.”

She (Smirking the tiniest bit): “Told you.”

He: “I was only wrong when I said both are correct. There’s actually a third way to pronounce it, but it looks Swedish.”

She: “I’ll leave the Latin out if you’ll leave the darn Swedes out. It’s not a Swedish word.”

He: “I said it looked Swedish. I look Irish but I’m actually Italian on both sides.”

She: “You’re actually annoying on both sides. And there has to be a correct way to pronounce that word.”

He: “Nope. Merriam-Webster says all three are acceptable. You want to argue with Merriam or Webster?”

She: “I’ll argue with anyone I know is wrong.”

He: “Should have stopped after ‘anyone.’”

She: “Smartass. Besides, it’s not acceptable to me, no matter what Merriam or Webster say. They’re both wrong, and according to you I should say it as if it rhymes with cum-ly? That borders on obscene.”

He: “I’m saying I pronounce it as if it rhymes with ‘bumb-ly.’ You can pronounce it however your perverted little heart desires.”

She: “Did I ever say I love it when you talk dirty? Well, I lied. It’s pronounced ‘combly,’ and that’s all there is to it. As in comb your hair, if comb was an adverb and not a noun or verb.”

He: “Did I ever say I love it when you do crosswords, because it’s a relaxing hobby?”

She: “Not once did you say that within my hearing, so I guess you didn’t lie. That is where you were going with that little bit of business, wasn’t it?”

He: “More like a bit without the business. In the sense of a comedy bit.”

She: “Then that bit didn’t do the business. In the sense of being funny.”

He: “You’re never going to finish that puzzle at this rate, you know.”

She: “It’s never about the destination, it’s always about the journey. A good discussion beats a bad puzzle any day.”

He: “I thought we were arguing.”

She: “You also thought that word rhymed with bumbly, so what do you know?”

He: “Can we just move on? What’s the next clue, because I obviously need one.”

She: “When you’re right, you’re right. Fifteen across, nine letters: Unyielding or inflexible.”

He: “Obstinate.”

She: “That doesn’t sound right.”

He: “I’m staying out of this. Look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls’.”

 

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, Monday

Running late again because of a medical appointment in Cooperstown. It’s a bout an hour and a half away from here. The drive is pleasant enough, but I’ve managed to get the next appointment scheduled a little closer to home.

Oddly enough, though I’ve been here going on five years, this is the first time I’ve seen a frozen lake. Ponds, yes. Lakes, no. Lake Otsego is mostly iced over, but Summit Lake was completely iced over. First Reader suggested we go ice skating. Fortunately, she wasn’t serious. First, neither of us knows how. Second, no way the ice was safe. It was over forty degrees today. A bit warm for February, never mind ice skating.

I finished the rough draft of the new Yamada story yesterday. First Reader wondered if it was really the first chapter of a new novel. It isn’t. Needs some revision for unity, clearly, but it is a short story. Or will be by the time I fix a few structural issues. Sometimes a story almost writes itself and comes out fine with only minor adjustments. Here, I was trying to do something a little different, which requires more attention to detail. Like the old saying goes, “Writing is re-writing.” Anyway, need to get it done soon because I have two pieces of flash due, one for a local anthology and another for a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts on the 20th.

Then back to the not-Yamada book.