Life, Intervening

I spent most of the day in the repair shop, getting the Yeti’s snow tires swapped for summer tires and having the alignment corrected, which required new tie-rods, and etc. The point being I didn’t have time to do a proper blog post. So in an attempt to make up for that, I’m putting up a piece of flash done for this week’s meeting. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Professional

I’m one of those people who do what they’re born to do. Sounds ideal, right?

“’Follow your bliss” was the way mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. Yes, I thought so too, once, before time and experience kicked that notion in the ass. I learned bliss has sod all to do with it; the reality goes a lot deeper.

We’ve all heard stories of the four year old sitting at a piano for the first time and playing a complete song by ear.  That’s what it was like. Something inside me was dormant until that moment, a day I will never forget. One of my friends, Jack Thompson, came back to school after missing a week due to the death of his mother. He was still in a very bad way, and everyone was being extra nice to him, which in junior high probably made things worse. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just put a hand on his shoulder.

Just like that, he wasn’t sad anymore. His grief drained out of him like a sink when you pull the plug. It didn’t go away, though. Whatever he was feeling, I felt, and then he didn’t feel it anymore. As simple and profound as that. That very afternoon he was playing ball with the rest of us like nothing happened. I don’t claim to be the quickest mule on the track, but by the third incident I figured out what happened to the ones I touch, and to me.

It’s what I do, now. People find me. I’m not sure how, but when it’s too much for them, they come to me. Lisa was the most recent. She appeared at my door one day, unannounced, as they almost always do. Appointments are optional.

“I’m told you can help me,” she said.

I invited her in, got her a cup of tea, looked her up and down. Pretty, twenty-something, with the eyes of a whipped dog.

“It’s because—“

I stopped her. “It doesn’t matter,” I said, though I knew. That was part of my gift. Fear was holding her in a relationship she didn’t want to be in. Fear was in her posture, in her speech. We agreed on a price and I took her fear away and swallowed it.

When I was done, her face was like all the rest. Not bliss. Not joy. Not even happiness, only relief. Someone else bore the burden they could not or would not.  I want to hate them all for that, only I know two things they don’t—the fear, the grief, would always return, born anew, whatever the circumstances. I can ease their troubles but I can’t cure them, only they can do that.

Something else I learned, that first time. It was right before lunch. I was hungry when I touched Jack’s shoulder. Afterwards, I wasn’t. Maybe there’s always capacity for trouble, and I don’t really solve anything, even though I’d like to.

At least I never go hungry.

-The End-

©2019 By Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Muse and Writer Dialogues #13

Just so you know. This is the kind of thing that happens when I’ve got a piece of flash fiction due and the trigger word isn’t triggering anything:

 

 

 

Muse (Dressed as Biker Chick. No flowy robes or any of that crap):  Not Happy.

Writer: Are you ever? So where’s my inspiration for this story?

Muse (making obscene gesture): I got your inspiration right here. Step closer and I’ll emphasize it for ya.

Writer: See? That’s the problem. You’re supposed to be my Muse, and all you do is snap at me!

Muse: I do what helps you the most. This is helping.

Writer: No, it isn’t! I got nothing.

Muse: This is my fault…why?

Writer: What part of “Muse” do you not understand?

Muse: I should ask you that. Apparently, the answer would be “all of it.” Listen, chump—I’m not real. I’m a metaphorical device. I know it and you know it. I only exist as some whimsy in that twisted noggin of yours. I can’t give you what you don’t already have, m’kay? I may help you recognize the fact you already have…whatever it is you think you need. I may even help you focus on one specific over another. Past that, you’re on your own. Now, what was the word again?

Writer (sighing deeply): Yield.

Muse: In your dreams.

Writer (sighing even deeper): No, that’s the word.

Muse: And that’s a problem…why?

Writer: Haven’t you been listening to me? I got nothing.

Muse: You can’t lie to me, because I know better. You’re just afraid you’re going to put words down and everyone who reads it will think it’s terrible. The truth is, you could put down something random and then build on it.

Writer: You mean like, “Yield, varlet!” and then try to justify it?

Muse: Well, let’s not get crazy. You can do better than that. Word of warning, though: You start typing the lyrics to “Men of Harlech” and I’ll pound you.

Writer: Fine, but in my defense, it does have the word “yield” in it. As in never do it.

Muse: Stop stalling. You’re always like this, and frankly, you’re working my nerves. I’ve got other aspects, you know, beside “Biker Chick.” Should I introduce you?”

Writer: Ah…no, thanks. I’ve met a few already. I’ll be good.

Muse: Good is for second and third drafts. Just get started.

Writer: How about, “The last of the Ships of the Line was taking on water, its sails shredded. “

Muse: Who are you, Horatio Hornblower? Get serious.

Writer: I’m always serious. Especially when I’m not.

Muse: Don’t pull that zen crap on me now. Your bullshit doesn’t work.

Writer: Okay, fine, you win. You always win.

Muse: Sure, but it would be nice if you’d just realize that up front and save us both, meaning you, the aggravation. Now, get to work!

Writer: How about this: “Contrary to the myth, banshees have been known to laugh.”

Muse: I’m listening.

Writer: “However, they only laugh in very specific circumstances. This is what happens to someone who makes a banshee laugh.”

Muse: And?

Writer: And that’s 500 words.

Muse: You’re a bastard. You know that?

Story Time: Beauty, Wide Awake

Again I have to apologize for being late with this. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon cutting a hole in a wall and a good bit of time after that finishing a story for a writers’ group deadline. But at least I’m getting this out today, so this week’s Story Time is an original piece of flash fiction, “Beauty, Wide Awake.”

As per usual, “Beauty, Wide Awake” will stay online until next Wednesday, July 25th. Unless something else happens. Life is like that.

Story Time: Legends of the Singing River

A day late, but here is this week’s Story Time, “Legends of the Singing River.”  Since this is going to be a short week, I chose a short work, an original piece of flash fiction, and here is its first publication.

Assuming I get back on schedule, “Legends of the Singing River” will stay online until next Wednesday, June 20th. After that, not.

There Are Five Lines

As I’ve mentioned before, not terribly long after I moved north I joined a local writer’s group. I’ve belonged to a few before, and while the experience hasn’t always been a complete success, usually the presence of other writers and the sharing of works supplies a boost of motivation to get my own work done, and that’s something we all need now and again. The difference this time is that this group specializes in flash fiction, which is new(ish) for me and under the aegis of the local library, with links to the wider community.

In short, the library and a local theater group leader are collaborating to turn some of the work from the flash fiction group into podcasts. There are grants involved and other official stuff, but mostly it will involve the members reading their own work, either as part of audio anthologies or even single author audio collections. A lot of this hasn’t been worked out yet, but it appears promising. In preparation we were asked to list some of our favorite lines from the flash pieces we’d done within group.

I mean, sure, I’m doing it, but I have to admit these sort of listings make me a little uncomfortable. First, in any unified (I hope) work, a single sentence out of context loses…well, context. Some of my favorite sentences make absolutely no sense if separated from the sentences around them, so I had to take that into account. Then again, I’m reminded of Damon Knight’s opinion of “killer” first lines, in that the problem with those is that you spend the rest of the time trying to justify the line rather than just telling the F%%%#G STORY. So my openings tend not to be so killer, just, I hope, grabbing enough to get you to the next line, and the next, and so on until the end. So I couldn’t just pull out opening lines…except sometimes. Hey, no one’s perfect.

Regardless, and with all the caveats listed or implied above, here are the five lines I’ve chosen:

Sentence 1:

“There’s a crow’s nest in the crow’s nest, sir.”

Sentence 2:

“I wasn’t sure what a secret was, but apparently it was some sort of dangerous animal that needed confining.”

Sentence 3:

“I’m going to tell you three stories, only two of which are true.”

Sentence 4:

“Everyone dances…sooner or later.”

Sentence 5:

“Right, of course it was—all I had to do was tell the Queen of bloody Elfland to sod off and everything would have been jolly.”